#DMTip:
Remember that cover and concealment are two different animals when dealing with firearms in game, and that most buildings not made of brick, logs, rammed earth, or similar materials offer little protection from incoming fire. #DnD #ttrpg #blerd
If you're in a scifi setting, be cognizant that walls and whatnot probably are more effective against lasers and so on, said energy weapons are likely to start a lot of fires. Like, a distressing amount of fires.
Another aspect to think about as you run gun battles is that different groups respond to the firefight differently, depending on their training, morale, and the conditions they're in. Here's some broad examples:...1/4
2/4: Gang members and insurgents are unlikely to want to get stuck in; they're lightly armed, generally don't have great training, and their survival is less of "win the firefight" than "do some damage and GTFO before backup rolls up".
3/4: Police tend to be defensive in tactics and approaches, and are generally not used to dealing with tactically aggressive opponents (i.e.: the military). They'll get stuck in, but tend to react to things in a defensive manner until sufficient numbers show up.
4/4: Military (and more specifically, the combat arms) members tend to be more aggressive tactically and actively move and position themselves to better kill the enemy, and are more willing to take risks (like being exposed to fire), fire more, and be more accurate.
Now, things can change; for example, military members can become criminals, police, or be regular civvies after service. And any level of training and conditioning can make miles of difference in how your NPC opponents are going to engage or avoid the players.
A good example is reaction to a player initiated ambush:
Gang members: Likely to run, get out of the killzone.
Police: Likely to take cover, return fire, call for back up.
Military: Likely to attack the ambush, while calling for backup.
Another aspect to consider as you build a firefight encounter is range and visibility. The movies make look awesome, but in reality, the bulk of the start of a firefight is just trying to figure out what is shooting at you from where while trying not to be shot.
Once you've figured that out, the next question is whether or not you can actually do anything about it. This is especially true if you're dealing with things at rifle ranges. In Heavy Gear, my players were constantly checking their sensors and rolling to spot the enemy. Why? 1/2
2/2... Because the enemy was just as uninterested in getting smoked as they were, and were using cover and concealment, moving around, and working in fireteams to make sure they always had shots going down range. It's less OK Corral and more like this:
Now, unless you're rolling a cinematic game, let's talk noise. Firearms are crazy loud. So firefights and gun battles get loud fast because everyone is literally shouting to let everyone known what's happening, where the enemy is, and so on. Also, any listen relating things? No.
Fine hearing is pretty much gone, and that isn't even getting into perceptual narrowing and aural occlusion (both things that can happen). Are you running the fight inside? Magnify everything. Maybe have characters without hearing protection roll vs tinnitus.
Then there's explosions. Have you got hollow organs and a brain suspended in fluid? You're about to have a not so great time. In non cinematic games, stun the hell out of the players and NPCs alike. Explosions do more than just visible damage. Have them make some rolls.
If you want to add some realism to your mecha and vehicle games, work spalling into the mix. Spalling is when the hull is struck with enough force or with specific ammo (like HESH) that it causes the interior hull to fragment (and sometimes superheat), endangering the crew.
But things can get crazier! Playing a modern game or scifi setting and you have players enjoying the luxury of electronic communications? How about knocking that out with some ECM, immediately isolating everyone and heightening the tension. Bonus pts if they're in sealed suits!
Why bonus points? Imagine your players having to mime everything at the table to reflect that they can't speak to each other in game, because the badguys popped an ECM envelope over them and killed their comms.
Kick in some high threat, high danger opponents (who still have their comms), and some good mood establishment, and you've got a recipe for a memorable night of gaming.
So, let's take ammo now. We all love having it, but I know I've been lax in game (but borderline paranoid IRL) for tracking it. As a DM or GM, track that shit! Player tosses a half empty mag and reloads? Doesn't pick it up? It's gone! This may sound dickish, but...1/2
2/2... running low on ammo really changes the dynamic of a firefight. So does getting low on ammo. We all love scenes like the teahouse shootout in Hard Boiled, but unless you're running a cinematic game, you're missing out on a sweet game aspect!

Unrelated, if you haven't seen Chow Yun Fat's Hong Kong filmography, you are missing out and need to watch them. Like, yesterday.
Back on track though, ammo is life in the firefight. If your players aren't tracking it, you should, and don't be afraid to hit them with empty guns part way through a combat encounter. You'll be surprised at how they react and plan, and they'll grow as players.
Now, again for non-cinematic games, rifles. Rifles get the short end of the stick in games a lot. They aren't sexy like pistols or submachineguns, they don't have a cult of power around them like shotguns, and if it isn't a sniper rifle, what's the draw? 1/2
2/2 The draw is that rifles are AWESOME. Things that'll stop pistol and 00 buckshot rounds go down when rifles come out. They have range and accuracy. Most games play the "range band penalty game", but that's junk. Most rifles are solid to 300 or 400m against a human size target.
Playing an old west game where the players are all packing like gunslingers? Toss them up against a rifleman and see how their bravado lasts. Rifles can be literal game changers when the players are used to close quarters everything.
A great example of the sort of modern gunfight your players might be in comes from The Way of the Gun (2000). It's also a decent example of tactics, and how no plan survives contact with the enemy.

Now, if you want to add some high drama to the mix, and get a little cinematic, this scene from the Untouchables (1987) is, to me, a nice blend of cinematic styling and just enough realism to make it a bit gritty. For a lot of games out there, this is it.

So, one final note. Old firearms are just as effective at putting dicks in the dirt today (or in the future for scifi games) as they were when they were made. Let your players learn this the hard way if they pick a fight with opposition with older weapons.
The thing to remember here is that priorities were different back in the day, and your average bolt action rifle from 1888 to 1949 was based on military needs and hit hard with a full powered round, usually in the 7mm bracket. It also made a good club.
Also, when people got good with them, they really got good. The IRL Canadian Rangers were using .303's till recently, and were still competitive in service conditions competitions against modern military arms. This can go in game super easy.

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