Self-Sealing StemBolters are better!
Now that we’ve looked at how to build a Space Marine, we can take a look at their equipment.
Well, first they pick up guns and shoot things. Sometimes they grab melee weapons and hack at things. Sometimes they even carry very big guns and shoot things. On very rare occaisions, they climb into an armored vehicle and shoot really big things. This is a not a broad range of career choices. You have to qualify as a heroic-champion-in-training just to be able to do things like repair machinery, use basic medical equipment properly, or use the innate psychic powers you were probably born with. Note that many armies in the game consider those skills and abilities the domain of support personnel in some form or another. Space Marines focus so tightly on combat that anything outside of it rests with a few special individuals in each Chapter.
They have very good armor and lots of guns, but those aren’t character abilities. Well, not normally. We could model those as being special innate abilities. That’s functional, but not really like SPESS MEREENS(!) get depicted. They need actual gear, instead of summoning it from the ether. Ergo:
First, let’s take the Bolter. While it’s a fairly hefty gun, it’s also a gun. According to 40K lore, it shoots .75 armor-piercing explosive rounds. This does not make sense for multiple reasons. It’s also supposed to be an incredibly complex piece of machinery, but individual examples can last for eons as actively-used military weapons. This really does not make sense for numerous reasons but we’ll ignore that for now. As it happens, it’s actually only “ok” as far as being an effective weapon in the game, easily surpassed by a wide array of armaments.
On the upside, however, the Bolter has a good chance of killing or incapacitating any more-or-less humanoid enemy. It has a 67% chance (I’m not going into repeating decimals here) of doing so (the Bolter does have enough armor penetration to get past most human-wearable armor). It also has a 25% chance of killing or incapacitating a Space Marine, counting armor. We probably can’t get exactly those values, but can get close.
First, we’re going to assume that ordinary humans are level 1 characters – probably Fighters. That gives them 10 base hit points. Space Marines are hardened veterans of many campaigns, so they are… level 2 Fighters.
What? End of the day they’re still generic, nameless mooks in the game and get slaughtered by the dozens in big battles. It also gives them 14 + 1d10 hit point (+4 for Con bonus included already). Even making them level 3 would be pushing the lore considerably. No matter how “badass” they supposedly are, Space Marines still get one and only one wound.
Crit: 19-20 / X2
Range Increment: 30 ft.
You might quibble with such a short range increment, but unfortunately most firearms in Warhammer have ludicrously short ranges, and ranges are always hard-capped. Since range in d20 isn’t hard-capped, it needs a short increment to roughly match up. One aspect which won’t match up is that Bolters have the “Rapid Fire” modifier, which allows the user to unleash two attacks within a short range. In d20, this is a character ability. We could put this on the Bolter itself if we treat it as a relic. That’s not totally out of character for the setting, but also not really an attibute fo the basic item. If you want a Relic version, go right ahead, but as with other incredibly cool toys it would be a special item, not every Bolter.
However, Space Marines Bolters would be properly Masterwork weapons. At the very least, they’re supposed to made by master craftsmen and received a great deal of care. It makes sense they’d be counted as Masterwork, where an ordinary soldier’s lasgun would be a mass-produced tool. This also neatly matches the Space Marine’s improved combat skills in ranged battles compared to ordinary soldiers. Marines don’t have super-dexterity, but getting a +1 to-hit has a significant effect at low levels.
Either way, it’s reasonably close to what we need. With a damage range of 2-20, averaging 11 per shot. Crits average a 10% damage increase, but will tend to increase damage in a very spikey and unpredictable manner. A Space Marine with low hit points can take 18 points of damage before being incapacitated in a single hit (that is 14 +1 (lowest hp roll) +3 for the DR). A particularly tough marines could have as much as 24 hit points, and could probably eat around 33 damage – or three solid hits. That’s fairly close to their actual in-game performance compared to a human grunt: A Space Marine will survive roughly between two and three times the punishment, depending on the exact weapon being used.
Note that this doesn’t include armor. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to relate d20 armor to Warhammer armor. Partly because d20 characters earn a great deal more hit points relative to armor, we have to count that in our calculations. Partly for that reason, they won’t have especially good armor values in d20 terms. We’ll get to that in a moment.
For comparison, we can also look at the LasGun, too. Lasguns are quite similar in firepower to a modern assault rifle, although they do have a number of advantages. They’re fairly lightweight and strong, quite durable, carry much more ammunition at a lower weight, and can even amp up the shot to deal with heavily armored targets. (Also, it’s extremely convenient that most energy weaponry can use the same ammunition.) However, for the purposes of looking at damage, it’s basically the same. And that damage is… 2d6 or 2d8. This matches fairly close to the game statistics we need and matches d20 Modern values at the same time.
Now let’s complete our look with a view towards armor. As we mentioned before, the actual armor values involved aren’t that high. The major reason here is that armor in Warhammer is fundamentally percentage based evasion. Space Marines have a 67% of soaking a hit on armor if it even applies – and the more powerful weapons simply punch straight through. And Space Marine armor is about as good as it gets for anything short of elite, customized gear for champions or heroic figures. So we’ll back up to the basic armor of human troops and work from there.
Common guardsmen wear flak jackets, and those give a 33% armor save. Sure, we can go on about the incredible super-technologies that go into it… but it’s just a flak jacket. That would barely rate as medium armor by d20 standards. In fact, the closest thing is probably leather armor. Space Marine armor, for all its supposed impermeability, doesn’t keep them from getting hit and injured. Ergo, it’s not that much better and can probably be modelled as a Breastplate.
Granted, it’s a Breastplate which is environmentally sealed, has built-in communications gear, and lots of awesome pounches that you can put things in and look like a 90’s comic book badass. And evil versions can have spikes and tubes and things!