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I am in the process of doing a homebrew setting for 5e. That is based around a steampunk arabian aesthetic. My setting will include guns alongside magic, though both won't be common nor rare but somewhere in between and vary from region to region. I have to ask this one simple question.

What kinds of guns would be suited for such a setting? I know muzzle loading pistols and muskets like shown in the DMG will be available as potential starter weapons. But I also want to include breech loading weapons and early black powder cartidge weapons (though the latter are going to be less common than breech loaders and muzzle loaders).

This question is more aimed towards what kind of magical/magitech guns should be available to the players and be suited to the setting?

These questions are more to get a better grasp on what types of guns I could include that would fit in the world setting.

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Well - if you are doing Steam Punk - aka Victorian aesthetic - you have a lot of options:

Proper brass cased ammunition: 1840s-1860s
Smokeless Powder and a 'modern' cartridge: 1886 (8mm lebel)
Maxim Machine gun: 1884
Lever Guns and Revolvers: 1860 and 1872 respectively
Bolt actions: 1824 - but really became widespread in the 1880s

So in terms of mechanism - you can pick just about anything.

In terms of Arabic - I would look firstly at the Jezzail here - the notable features are a very long barrel length (compared to European rifles) and a lot of ornate engraving.

This is because at the time - they were much more nomadic and didn't have the settled heavy industries that the Europeans had. However, that all said - the Firearms I mentioned above all existed and its conceivable that through trade or capture that they would exist.

In terms of Capture - you have the Russo-Turkish War (The Ottoman empire spanned into Arabia) - so Berdan rifles, you have the British in Egypt in the 1880s - so either Lee-Metford rifles or Martini-Henry rifles. The Maxim Machine gun via the Scramble for Africa.

That's for realistic Firearms - for Magical Firearms - Anything based on the above + your magic system.

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Gunpowder in most of its forms is a combination of charcoal, saltpeter and sulfur.

While charcoal is not particularily difficult to get, the other two ingredients are trickier.

Sulfur needs to be mined somewhere. In Arabia, the source of sulfur is separating it from sour oils, a dirty and difficult process, which by necessity needs centralized power to achieve.

Saltpeter is even trickier. The traditional source of saltpeter is from animal droppings and urine soaked into sand pits. But Arabia-like environment does not have that much concentrated livestock, to have many stationary manure pits, their livestock is mobile. Its not like they could chase their horses, camel and sheep with a chamberpot to collect the urine.

Which essentially means: traditional gunpowder is tricky to get in a stereotypical "fantasy Arabia" world, steampunk or no steampunk.

Which leads us to some alternative solutions:

  • pneumatic guns. Some of those were made for RL explorers of Arabia and Africa. They need no gunpowder, just a pump to load. Note, Im not talking about simple BB guns or airsoft guns, these were powerful air-rifles that could one-shot a buffalo.
  • steam-guns. This is a Steampunk Setting after all! of course, a realistic steam-gun would be more like a one-shot cannon than a handgun, but still, badass.
  • gas guns. Arabia would be rich with oil and natural gas. Explosive flammable gas and/or gasoline can be used to propel a projectile, basically combining the function of a flamethrower with that of a short-range shotgun.
  • magical propellant. The desert is the home of the Ifrit, the spirits of the Smokeless Flame. You know what also depends on smokeless flame? Modern gunpowder. Maybe the best replacement for gunpowder is the residue Ifrits produce. Or maybe you can trap an Ifrit or a D'jinn inside the rifle, and have it propel the projectile with their magic.
  • Magic bullets. The Arabia is the origin place of Flying Carpets, mystical devices that can float on air. What if you took a single snip of thread out of that carpet and encased in inside a bullet? The bullet would defy gravity, and once propelled, it could fly far, far, far further than a normal bullet and hit a target way outside the normal range.
  • magic rifles. The Desert remembers the oldest magics. Magics that became part of the people's cultures. Sure, the modern advanced rifle of the Steampunk Empire might be a work of advanced technology. But that ancient looking, ornate Beduin flintlock had been in the hands of their people for centuries. Its barrel was forged out of mystical steel found by their ancestor in a forgotten temple of primordial gods. The stock was carved from a branch of a ghoul-tree that grew in the waterless land of dunes. The silver-inlaid carvings speak of blood, and sand, and the tradition far older than the arrogant knowledge of the Steampunks. This flintlock, when held by one of the Faithful, NEVER misses. In the hands of an Infidel, it misses every time.
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