I just recently started my first proper worldbuilding project and I've encountered an issue. Most of the races in my world are pretty standard height, but some of them are pretty short or even very tall (average heights include 3-3’5 feet for one, 4’4-4’6 feet for another and 7’8-8’4 feet for another). In lore, flintlock muskets have been popular for a while by this point, although medieval-style melee and armor is equally popular because of the threat of magic, and because a fully armored knight with a musket is sick as hell. But the issue I've found is that smaller (and in lesser fact larger) races would need guns more similar to their size, which in the case of races like the Gnomes, would probably cripple their chances at fighting another race with larger weaponry, wouldn't it? I'm hoping I'm wrong, and a smaller musket would be just as effective as a bigger one, but if it would be less effective, do you all have any ideas for work arounds?

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    $\begingroup$ Are your gnomes not just short but skinny (40-45 pounds)? In this case yes, carrying and firing human-sized musket would be a challenge for them. For stout dwarves, however, operating muskets would be only a minor inconvenience. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 12 '20 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ Are you kidding me? But seriously, the only thing that stops a short race from firing a human weapon is a bipod and the only things stopping the taller race are getting over their contempt and lengthening the stock. There's always a tech solution (even during medieval/fantasy periods) to allow the shift. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 13 '20 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ No, but the difference becomes less as time passes. Revolutionary War era muskets were five foot long rods made of forged steel and hardwood. Modern semi-auto rifles like the AR-15 are closer to three feet long (and also come in carbine and even pistol lengths), are made largely of composite materials, and the auto-loading mechanism absorbs a lot of the recoil. Much easier for women and children to handle. Maybe the "gnomes" are better engineers and can design firearms to be lighter and manage recoil better. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Aug 13 '20 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ I love the concept of a gunpowder fantasy world 🌎 $\endgroup$ – Destructive Wolf Aug 15 '20 at 23:38

Going Small

36-40" is not tall, but their build and stature will make a huge difference. With a human stature, you are looking at the frame of a 4-5 year old child which would might just barely be able to shoulder a .44cal musket. Depending on the quality of gnomish muskets, the recoil would be expected to be somewhere between firing a modern .22 LR and a 9×19mm Parabellum round. These guns could still be effective against unarmored human at close range, but since we are talking muskets and not modern rifled weapons, you will not have the muzzle velocity to penetrate human plate armor. Instead these races will probably rely on anti-material rifle like weapons. Weapons much to large to fire when carried, but something they can set up on a bipod to shoot. Since most of the recoil would go into the ground, they could then handle a man killing firearm. In this case your Gnomes would lose mobility, but their smaller profiles would make them quite hard to shoot back at.

Also, being small means you can support a larger population off of the same resources. If Gnomes weigh 40lb and Giants weigh 400lb, then when two kingdoms of equal size and resources go to war, the Gnomes may likely have a 10:1 numerical advantage. So, even if a Gnome can't pierce the giant's armor, they may still be at a huge tactical advantage. If the Giant has a 50% chance of shooting first and is 100% accurate, he can fire at and kill 1 gnome per reload, in the same time the gnomes can reload, then the Gnomes will get an average of ($\sum_{n=1}^{10}$ - 5) = 50 shots in per giant before being wiped out. Even against impenetrable plate armor, in an idealized situation like this, it seems likely that one of those shots would find an opening to exploit.

Going Big

Bigger races will generally have an easier time carrying enough firepower to punch through a smaller race's plate armor, but this comes at the disadvantage of being a bigger target. Also, being bigger does not necessarily give you a proportionally larger weapon. Because of the square-cube law, bigger animals are proportionally weaker than smaller animals. That said, 8'4" is still close enough to human sized that your giants would not exactly be frail.

Because being big may put you at a numerical disadvantage, larger humanoids may opt for fragmentation or shotgun type weapons instead of muskets when fighting smaller races. If a Gnome scale musket is a .44cal and can punch through Gnome armor, and a giant scale musket is 1.40cal, then a single grape shot could hold 21 balls able to penetrate Gnome plate armor with a proportionally similar round size. This might not clear out an entire formation of 10 Gnomes, but it might force them to spread out enough that they can no longer 1 vs many you.

Strength variance by size is HUGE.

All these factors assume your creatures are roughly human strength in scale, but many primates are proportionately much stronger than a human even without looking particularly strong. Chimps are not much bigger than your Gnomes, but 4 times as strong as an adult human, and Gorillas aren't just stronger than humans because they are bigger, they can lift anywhere from 4-27 times their own weight meaning your giants could conceivably carry full sized cannons on their shoulders. Because strength variance is such a manipulable factor, you can really adjust the strength of your bigger and smaller races to balance however you need it to for your setting.

Also, if your gnomes are just as strong as a full sized man, then the only difference between them and a man firing a musket will be ideal barrel length. The gnomes may want shorter barrels so they can get their hands under the weapon's center of gravity and load it more easily, or if this leads to accuracy/range issues they could opt for an over-the-shoulder breach-loader design and fire their muskets like an RPG.

Either way, you have some pretty extreme variables to work with so that you can balance these races in whatever fashion you deem most appropriate for your setting.

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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting that muskets are muzzle-loaded, so a shorter gnome will almost certainly need a shorter barrel length if they're going to load them in the same manner as humans load regular-sized muskets. Otherwise you might need to look at a different loading technique. $\endgroup$ – Kayndarr Aug 13 '20 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ good point, answer revised accordingly. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Aug 13 '20 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ Drummer John L. Clem was 12 years old and about 4 feet tall in 1863, and carried a musket cut down to his size. At the battle of Chickamauga he shot a mounted rebel soldier. A four foot tall human or non human would be able to shoot a musket that could wound or kill an unarmored human. A unit of short nonhuman musket users could be used to fight unarmored light infantry skirmishers. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Aug 13 '20 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding looking back at it, I messed up and made assumptions about recoil based on modern firearms. Muskets only have 1/3rd the muzzle velocity of modern firearms and they fired round shots which have less mass than modern slugs for thier diameter so a .22cal modern rifle would have a similar recoil to .44 calibre civil war era musket. Adjusted my values accordingly. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Aug 13 '20 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ A .44 round ball weighs about 140 grains (I shoot a cap and ball revolver in that caliber), and even in a revolver barrel can approach the speed of sound. That's similar power to a .38 Special or .38 Super with modern ammunition. Very reliably lethal on unarmored opponents, and capable of punching through light armor with a square-on shot (meaning effective armor must be heavier than, say, 1970s vintage auto bodies). Recoil, however, is more comparable to a mid-power handgun than to a .22 rifle. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jan 14 at 16:51

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