In the game we are playing right now, a character was a sniper who tried to kill a criminal, but failed because the criminal was actually a vampire.

Now, the sniper is a vampire too, and he's obsessed to be able to shoot a vampire dead. So, he's asking his sire to get incendiary or explosive ammunition.

Now, I don't know much about guns, so I need help with the effect these bullets would have on vampires. I have read about the damage they do (or used to do) on vehicles, but I don't know which effect would be on a human (or vampire) body.

  • What would happen to a vampire shot with this kind of ammunition?
  • What kind of damage (bashing/lethal/aggravated) would she suffer?
  • Can this ammunition be shot with a sniper rifle or a pistol ?
  • How hard would it be to obtain?
  • Is this ammunition dangerous to use?
  • I have found the ammunition in WoD combat, it says it causes great wounds, but they are only +1 damage, and type of damage is not specified. Are there any other source about the subject?

Please use understandable terms to someone who is not very knowledgeable in weapons.


3 Answers 3


Explosive and Incendiary ammunition is generally very exaggerated in fiction. Both usually have poor ballistics (ability to fly straight) and low penetration (ability to pierce armor/flesh/anything else). Also, the intention of using either is different from what you want to accomplish. Incendiary ammunition is usually paired with armor-piercing rounds to engage enemy aircraft - cause a leak in the fuel storage and then ignite it, and for that it starts flaming right after it leaves the barrel. Explosive ammunition is usually used against armored targets to blast away the armor a fraction of a second before the penetrator (a very hard core) of the bullet hits it. Contrary to the popular belief, none of those light up/detonate after the penetration.

What would happen to a vampire shot with this kind of ammunition?

A lot of damage, but not more than using a dedicated anti-personnel rounds. While incendiary will burn the vampire for a couple seconds if it stays in the wound, the explosive one is likely to just cause overpenetration - the bullet would make a hole in the enemy and fly right through him, without causing increased damage at all!

What kind of damage (bashing/lethal/aggravated) would she suffer?

For Explosive I would rule lethal. Incendiary - following the rule about flaming swords - aggravated, but that's just my opinion. Imagine a guy being shot with a gun and then having a firecracker sticked in the wound - that's the sort of situation we're looking at.

Can this ammunition be shot with a sniper rifle or a pistol ?

Most certainly, however you will have a problem finding such ammunition for a pistol - simply, these are designed for anti-materiel rifles and machineguns, not pistols.

How hard would it be to obtain?

Very hard, unless you have contacts in military. That ammunition is usually calssified as a destructive explosive device and unavailable to the public. Also, home production of this is very complicated and requires expert knowledge of chemistry, engineering, gunsmithing and uncommon tools and supplies.

Is this ammunition dangerous to use?

Yes, even more so if you're a vampire. While explosive rounds are simply a hazard, just like small grenades, incendiary rounds are known to damage the gun's barrel and make it prone for jamming. For drama, I would consider every botch a misfire that ends up with the rounds exploding dangerously close to PC's face.

I have found the ammunition in WoD combat, it says it causes great wounds, but they are only +1 damage, and type of damage is not specified. Are there any other source about the subject?

The duplicate question has better information about it.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, great answer. How big would be the fire of an incendiary bullet? Because my research so far is that the fire is meant just to ignite fuel on vehicles, for which you wouldn't need much fire. Do you think it's sensible to apply some lethal (or bashing to vampires) damage first due to impact, and then some aggravated due to the fire (and depending on the size of the fire)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 12:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think that's a great way to go. The fire from an incendiary bullet would be comparable to a candle or those funny cracker fires you stick on birthday cakes. It's more about producing a lot of sparks and very high temperature - but not a great amount of heat. You could treat it as if PC would slash a vampire with a sword and then cauterize the wound. \$\endgroup\$
    – eimyr
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 13:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ WoD: Combat was published during the Vampire/WoD 2nd Edition era. 2nd Ed Vampire only had Normal/Aggravated damage. The Bashing/Lethal distinction was added the following year in VtM Revised, so Combat's rules won't take that into account. In 2nd Ed guns did Normal, which was soaked like Lethal in Revised. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jessa
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 0:49

Based on my answer to the duplicate question you need to do 7 levels of damage to incapacitate a Vampire with a single shot.

With the 2nd edition and 20th anniversary rules it's pretty hard to do more than about 3 levels of damage at once unless you manage a fabulous roll.

So you've got to find 4 extra levels of damage from somewhere which equates to about nine or so extra dice with 'average' rolls.

The Barret 50 rifle and other similar 'anti-material rifles' are the biggest guns you can get that are remotely sensible in game but the only listing I found for one was in the 1st edition Hunters Hunted supplement where it does 4d (I assume its 4 extra dice). In the real world they can fire a variety of incendiary, high explosive, incendiary high explosive, and High Explosive Armour Piercing Incendiary rounds. This sort of round

is a suitable round for engaging helicopters, aircraft and lightly armored vehicles

so it should be more than a match for any Vampire's skull.

However there are no written rules for any of these rounds that I'm aware of so you're going to have to persuade your game master to either add some rules or allow you to role-play a situation where the outcome is a single shot kill.

Frankly its almost certainly more fun to do this via story telling than trying to write some sensible rules that cover these sorts of weapons without going overboard.

You'll need to stalk your target, work out their routines, hideouts and lairs, find a place to shoot from, wait patiently for the right moment and then finally take the shot. All of that is much more dramatic than simply being given a 'Big Vampire Killin' Gun' from your sire and blasting away.

For the mechanics of the kill shot I would rule that you need to effectively decapitate the target. i.e. Don't worry about the levels of damage or the damage type just work out the effect.

I'd start with a given that most creatures (including humans) can survive a rifle shot to the head (i.e. one that does 3 or so levels of damage) by ruling that this sort of shot does not penetrate the skull or damage the brain or spinal cord.

Thus what we need to allow for are shots that damage the vital areas of the head resulting in a kill on humans and a knockout on Vampires and Garou. at the very least this needs to be an Aimed Head Shot at difficulty 8 but it might be betterto make it a special attack with difficulty 9 but with any success resulting in a kill. There's a big difference in terms of chance to succeed between difficulty 8 and 9, see this question for details, so be careful about imposing this higher difficulty. It might be better to use a lower difficulty but require more successes.

I'd also say that in order for this to be successful then only certain weapon and ammunition combinations can accomplish this sort of kill against a supernatural target. Against ordinary humans and Ghouls then any sort of moderate to high calibre rifle will suffice but for Vampires and Garou it needs to be something more such as the anti-material rifles above coupled with high explosive and/or incendiary ammunition. Although an 'ordinary' sniper rifle with such ammunition might suffice depending on your needs.

In many ways though the precise weapon and ammunition combination doesn't essentially matter, as it's a flavour component, what matters is that such a weapon is not generally available and it's use is restricted by 'the elders' to prevent an escalation of weapons and/or to keep to the masquerade. If you espouse that sort of restriction in your campaign it makes their use much more playable than otherwise.

Thus the first thing your player will need to do is to ask for permission to assassinate their target, this in itself will make for an interesting session as the player needs to come up with a valid reason (or excuse) to use the 'forbidden' weapons.

I think that covers most of your points but to answer your point about safety - this sort of ammunition is safe to use (for the person with the weapon anyway) if it was dangerous just to carry around then it couldn't by used by real life military personnel, even considering their much higher accepted risk level than civilians.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, Robin, thanks for your answer. I'm not the player, I'm the GM. The player has asked his sire about it, and I want an informed opinion to give him the answer. I need to know how practical would be the idea, how suitable is to get such ammunition, and the effect on persons and vampires. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 12:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Another thing to consider is that the Barret and similar rifles are large weapons (google for pictures) and aren't things that can be carried under your coat. It might be difficult to get one of these rifles to a roof or something. Also, any sniper-ish rifle has to be test fired -- at the range it will be used -- to ensure that the scope is properly mounted and adjusted. Google the IRA's use of these rifles, I don't remember them being very successful and I imagine that training and setup was part of that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 22:08

Firearms do bashing damage to vampires, full stop.

The system does not support the kind of granularity required to do damage of different types based on ammo load. A machine gun does the same (type of) damage as a pocket pistol (though a machine gun is allowed to do more bashing than the pocket pistol). When ammunition of vastly different caliber is given the same rules, the intent of the system is clear - one squeeze of the trigger equals one bashing damage.

The horrific rules from World of Darkness Combat at least did a somewhat decent job giving you advice if you chose to go forward - the ammo type, if narratively important, does +1 damage. What type of damage? The damage the creature would take from a firearm in the first place - bashing for vampires, lethal for everything else that takes damage from getting shot.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Firearms do bashing damage to vampires from Revised onwards. \$\endgroup\$
    – eimyr
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 10:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Two Words: Head Shot \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 8:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Robin There are no special rules for shooting the head. There are special rules for damage to the head, but that does not have to come from firearms - a shovel would do the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 16:22

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