See, this expectation that they must be slow to fire but pack a punch is another one of those "compromise" solutions I was talking about, as it's usually applied in conjunction with "requires an exotic weapons feat or a specialist class". I mean, it turns out military crossbows are quite slow to fire in real life, too, because they require complex mechanisms to reload. And yet that becomes a move action in D&D, because the image in player's minds is that you can pull the bowstring of any crossbow one-handed in a second. I see no problem with making early guns faster to reload in the game than they were in reality.It's not one hit kill, but if we're talking about guns that would coexist with bows, crossbows and melee weapons, they do have a "slow to fire but pack a punch" dynamic. Which D&D just doesn't support. Crossbows have the same problem. Bows too, really - playing an archer in D&D has always involved rapid fire more than precision.
Well, realistically the main reason people switched from bows to guns was because guns were far easier to use. The same time and money required to train an archer could train a lot more musketeers. Making them was also easier in the time frame we're all thinking about, since bows require very specific types of wood and such.Yes, and guns wouldn't be weapons there if they weren't good at something other than selling splatbooks. That was what I'm trying to get as an issue.
So going that way, you could maybe say everyone has pistol proficiency, and that anyone who can shoot a crossbow also can shoot a long arm. You could make them load faster than in real life, or maybe you could say that you can fire a pistol as a minor action. That way people would have an incentive to go sword-and-pistol, or to carry whole braces of the things for that age of sail vibe.
For longer weapons (muskets and rifles and what not), you could have them be about equivalent to crossbows in damage, but with greater range in exchange for the increased noise. Rifles would be more accurate than either muskets or crossbows as well. More expensive too, but that won't matter for higher-level PCs - IIRC, rifles were thought of as the weapon of choice for small units of elite marksmen, which have "Player Character" written all over them.
And of course you can outfit them with bayonets, so you don't need to fiddle with the action economy to draw a melee weapon when the enemy closes in.