Without knowing it, you may already be a dad. But don't panic. The good news, unless your attitude to contraception is shockingly lax (in which case definitely do panic), is that I don't mean that you have literally sired a walking money pit who will someday demand you pay its tuition fees. However, open up your inventory in the shooter you're currently playing, and there's a good chance you might already be using a Dad Loadout.
The Dad Loadout meme originated in the Destiny 2 community, where I spend so much of my time that raising an actual child would be dangerously impractical. Like most shooters, Destiny 2 has an established meta of the most powerful weapons. In PvP, elite hand cannons rule because they reward a precise shot with a lightning fast time-to-kill. But they aren't forgiving to use. So players who want to tryhard, but not too hard, often turn to 'dad' guns—particularly if, like me, their reactions are on the wane. But what constitutes dadliness in a gun? Let us consider three criteria:
- Is it easy to obtain with good perks?
- Can it hold its own in competitive play?
- Is it easy to use in pretty much all circumstances?
Let's consider a couple of examples of quintessential D2 dad guns. First up, the Blast Furnace. It's a pulse rifle, which is a great start on the road to dad-dom, because almost every pulse rifle enables you to sit back and land easy headshots unmolested by opponents. Pulse rifles fire several shots in a burst, so it barely matters if a couple miss. Great job, pops!
The Blast Furnace also has outrageous range and a strong set of potential perks, including Kill Clip, Rampage, Steady Rounds and Feeding Frenzy. You can get the gun by playing the Izanami Forge on Nessus with a completed pulse rifle weapon frame from ADA-1. Do it enough times and before too long you'll snag a god roll.
Note that the ability to target their grinding is key to dads, who often have limited time to play. In the energy slot, dads love a fusion rifle because it enables them to kill in the mid-range without worrying too much about niceties like aiming or, uh, movement.
The Jötunn exotic fusion rifle is another classic dad pick. Not only does it have almost no drop range drop-off, its solar rounds also home in on targets and kill guardians in a single shot. Perfect inducing rage quitting in Crucible and Gambit.
The king of PvP fusion rifles currently is the Erentil, which again can be guaranteed as a loot drop, this time by playing the Menagerie activity on Nessus with the correct rune combo in your chalice. (Use a rune of Excess in the top slot, any blue rune in the left, and any green on the right to ensure a range masterwork.)
Range is key on the Erentil in order to map opponents from such a ridiculous distance that they immediately Whisper you with IRL death threats. Perks to look out for include Range Finder, Projection Fuse, High Impact Reserves and Under Pressure. The goal is to stack as much range, stability and bonus damage as possible for the cheesiest one-bang kills. Oh, and for peak dad, slap on a counter-balance mod to make the recoil nice and vertical.
In terms of power weapons, dads are either going to pick easy-to-use exotics like Wardcliff Coil and Tractor Cannon, or machine guns, which for reasons best known to the balance team at Bungie come with enough range and ammo in PvP to shoot the moon out of orbit. Honestly, I can't overstate how much dads love LMGs. The satisfying DAKKA, DAKKA sound as they ventilate a team of much better players is surely a factor too.
A big part of the appeal of the dad loadout is that though these guns aren't the best in the game, they're very much more than good enough. By which I mean that a player who is a surgeon with a sniper rifle and hand cannons like the pre-nerf Not Forgotten is still going to have an advantage, but the dad loadout's ease of use helps narrow that skill gap. I asked Destiny 2 YouTuber FalloutPlays, whose specialty is in-depth weapon reviews, how good the dad weapons are. "They can definitely hold their own in the competitive playlist though," he told me. "Especially at low to mid-levels. Any motivated player can get a feel for these weapons and put them to work right away without much fuss."
I also asked him if there are ways to recognise that you might be a dad without realising it. Aside from making cornball jokes in Discord, he says play style is a factor: "Do you like to hang way back on the map, safely away from the action, and take shots at the other team with long range weapons that aren't sniper rifles?" I feel attacked by this comment, but also understood.
Fellow YouTuber and PvP expert CoolGuy agreed that this mindset is a determinant of dadliness. "If you are trying to get better with a loadout such as handcannon/shotgun, and it isn't working well, and your immediate thought process is to change to Bygones/Erentil to 'show them', you might be a dad." Goddamnit, the Bygones—another pulse rife for babies—is my favourite gun. Because of course it is.
Though the joke began life about PvP, the dad concept (which of course applies equally to mums, but the pipe, slippers and affordable saloon car vibe fits the meme so sweetly) can easily be expanded to PvE. Again, there's very much an established 'best' loadout in PvE, which includes the Mountaintop grenade launcher, The Recluse sub-machine gun, and Anarchy grenade launcher. When combined these can shred through mob enemies and do nutty DPS against bosses, but all three of those guns are relatively hard to acquire.
Mountaintop is hidden behind one of the most heinously designed quests I've ever encountered, and requires playing a ton of the unloved Competitive Crucible playlist. Anarchy is a random and very rare drop from the last boss of the Scourge of the Past raid, which one of my clanmates has run over 70 times without receiving one. He's currently playing The Elder Scrolls Online and refusing to come back.
However, the reality is you don't necessarily need these guns, because smart dads know they can achieve similar results from a much smaller time investment. Though it's not labelled as a dad loadout, check out this PvE build by Ehroar, which uses the Huckleberry SMG, the Loaded Question fusion rifle and the Wendigo grenade launcher:
The Huckleberry has been around since D2 launched, and sold multiple times by Xur, so you really ought to have one now. Its ability to reload itself while also stacking Rampage for bonus damage makes it a perfect replacement for The Recluse. The other two weapons are Vanguard 'pinnacle' weapons, meaning they each come with powerful unique perks and can be earned in a weekend simply by bashing out a bunch of strikes.
That's really what I love about the dad loadout. It enables players to feel powerful without necessarily taking the game on as a second job. "There's no real shame in the dad loadout!" agrees Fallout. "If you're an aggressive crackshot pulling off sick plays with the highest skill weapons, then good on you. If you feel like you don't have the time to reach that level, I get it. Dad away, my friend."
The search for more dads
What I'd really like to know is whether other games have equivalent dad builds. Stuff that's easy to obtain and delivers almost-but-not-quite peak performance. FalloutPlays thinks so, but CoolGuy isn't so sure, citing D2's relatively slow TTK and large weapon fool as factors.
"The average Call of Duty TTK is a little over 200 milliseconds," he says. "Players of all skill levels gravitate to weapons that hit that mark or are slightly faster. In Destiny, when you see that The Last Word has a TTK of 0.53 seconds, you wouldn't think Bygones at 0.93 would be able to compete, but it does. That's due to engagement distance and the flinch applied."
Image via /r/shittyrainbowsix
The point again is the ease, and relative safety, of use. Before writing this, I asked the team for examples of dadliness in other shooters, and Evan Lahti (who's very much our resident killer-in-chief) cited Rainbow Six Siege's Rook—a passive, heavy-armor defender whose special tactical gadget is a duffel bag. Rook's only responsibility is to press a button at the start of the round to place the duffel bag (which is filled with five armor-boosting plates) somewhere on the ground to make it available to his teammates. Whatever the Rook player's skill level, his buff is guaranteed to contribute to the match. A great dad choice.
I'm sure there are other examples out there, though, and I want to hear about them. "I know a lot of players look down on dad loadouts," says CoolGuy, "but players shouldn't be bothered by that kind of talk. Be yourself and have fun with it." As Adam Ant so sagely noted, ridicule is nothing to be scared of. Mums and dads of the PC gaming world unite and let me know what loadouts you're rocking out there (at the back of the map, of course).