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D&D 5E Why do guns do so much damage?

So a Flintlock Pistol in 5e D&D deals 1d10 damage. A longsword deals 1d8 damage, 1d10 if you hold it with both hands.

But if you've ever seen what a sword can -do- to a human body, you know that the damage difference is incomparable!

Yeah, a bullet can be really effective at killing a person by catastrophically randomizing a narrow line through their body. If you hit something vital, death is assured in fairly short order, and if you don't hit something vital there's a decent shot the person will still bleed out over the course of the next hour or two, depending on their activity during that time and lack of medical care.

If you hit something vital with a sword, your target will -also- die in very short order. But if you don't strike something vital they will STILL DIE IN VERY SHORT ORDER. This is because a Sword catastrophically randomizes a very large area of the human body on each strike. At least when compared to something like a Pistol.

Depending on your ammo type a gun is going to put a fairly small hole in the front of your target and a moderately larger hole out of the back of your target with a relatively straight line between the two. With the appropriate training, a sword will completely eradicate your ability to have intestines that remain both inside your body and intact.

Take a look at this video if you can/care to (TW: Dead Animal, Fake Blood, Violence)


This is a Kilij. Roughly the same shape as a scimitar, it's got a slightly weighted tip to increase percussive force. It would not be out of place in most D&D campaign settings. It cuts -through- that pig on the first strike. And the second. The third sets it spinning and the fourth cuts through, again.

Compare that to a single hole running through your torso.

You could of course argue that that was a fairly small pig and thus the sword could easily pass through it. But upscale that pig and the damage would -still- be significant even if the sword didn't manage to pass through the bones. And all the internal organs in it's very wide, very deep, path would be randomized and compromised.

Now I'm not saying that pistols aren't deadly. They flatly and -absolutely- are deadly. But compared to the damage that a -sword- can do? It's not even in the same ball park. And that's not even getting INTO things like two-handed swords, axes of any variety, or spears...

Now you could argue that they do so much damage because HP is an abstraction and it shows how well they punch through armor... but you still make the same attack roll with the same bonuses and the same AC to overcome. And AC is -itself- an abstraction accounting for both the deflecting and cushioning effects of a piece of armor between you and oncoming metal.

And it only gets worse when you get into Revolvers and Rifles that jump up to the 2d8 and 2d10 damage range.

All things considered... I just feel like guns should do damage in-line with the rest of the weapons available. 1d6 for a pistol, 1d10 for a rifle. Basically a Hand and Heavy Crossbow for all intents and purposes. And then making them repeating weapons or whatever should just increase the number of shots before you have to spend an action reloading. I think the designers, and many players, overwhelmingly inflate just how much damage a gun does to a human being compared to the weapons, and monsters, D&D characters face.

That's my take, anyhow.
 

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Basic physics. Bullets go faster.
... that's not how damage works.

If you want to damage a piece of paper as severely as possible, pushing a pencil through it "REALLY FAST" will not compare to the amount of damage you can do with a single cut from a pair of scissors across the page that goes, comparatively, much slower.
Don't bring a sword to a gun fight. You'll lose.
... uh... thanks? I tend to avoid gun fights in general...

But this is about D&D. Not the real world.
 

D&D absurdly overvalues firearms, particularly late medieval and early Renaissance firearms. Plate Armour exists to counter firearms, the conquistadors were staggering around with breastplates on while they had guns. The utility of early firearms was in their ability to be used enmasse. A single person wielding a blunderbuss wasn't actually that deadly.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
... that's not how damage works.

If you want to damage a piece of paper as severely as possible, pushing a pencil through it "REALLY FAST" will not compare to the amount of damage you can do with a single cut from a pair of scissors across the page that goes, comparatively, much slower.

... uh... thanks? I tend to avoid gun fights in general...

But this is about D&D. Not the real world.

Papar doesn't have internal organs.
 





D&D absurdly overvalues firearms, particularly late medieval and early Renaissance firearms. Plate Armour exists to counter firearms, the conquistadors were staggering around with breastplates on while they had guns. The utility of early firearms was in their ability to be used enmasse. A single person wielding a blunderbuss wasn't actually that deadly.
That's pretty much how I feel about it, yeah.
That kind of sinks real-world descriptions of how weapons work, though. We are left with game-balance and narrative-needs reasons.
I was referring to the poster ignoring the discussion about D&D weapon values and instead throwing off an off-topic catchphrase about knives and gunfights.

As to game balance and narrative needs... that's ultimately what I'm looking at, here. They're out of balance with comparable weapons and if they're meant to be in the setting there's no need to make them do damage significantly out of line with conventional weapons for D&D characters. It just seems senseless, to me.
I think to simulate how gunpowder helped end the era of armored knights in our timeline. Because D&D doesn't use armor as damage resistance, you have to make guns more powerful.
In a different system they would do similar damage but with a higher Armor Piercing rating.
D&D -does- use Armor as Damage Resistance. And also Deflection. That's why AC is treated as an abstraction and a Monk or Barbarian, wearing no armor, gains just as much protection from firearms as someone wearing Full Plate armor.
Because people think guns should be deadlier than swords
That's what I'm thinking.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Because people think guns should be deadlier than swords

Not quite.

The average difference between a d8 and a d10 is a single point of damage per hit. That is meaningful to a peasant, who only has a half-dozen hit points at all. But, it isn't a big deal to, say, a 5th level fighter, which is really the kind of target the rules are intended to deal with.

In the nominal use case, the firearm is merely as deadly as a sword - honestly the attributes of the wielder, and their feats and class abilities, will have far more impact on how much damage the strike does than a difference of one die step up.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
So, then speed, in and of itself, isn't the point.

A bullet that passes through the body does not deposit much energy or momentum in the target. What it does to the body roughly equivalent to a thrust with a fencing blade, no matter what speed the bullet was moving.

Well bullets decent at punching through armor as well. Hard to reflect in D&D rules (2E tried).
 

On the one hand I feel like bringing back "Exploding Criticals" and stuff might work, or the x3 damage values from 3e for crits...

But a critical hit from a sword is, likewise, going to do OBSCENE quantities of damage to whatever critical component it hits, so... it's still unneeded.
Well bullets decent at punching through armor as well. Hard to reflect in D&D rules (2E tried).
Through some types of armor, sure. So does an arrow. So does a Rapier. So does a Mace. Depending on the type of armor.

Rather than go into that detail, 5e just made AC both resistance and deflection. Which is why a Monk or Barbarian with an 18 AC takes the same damage from that bullet as a fighter wearing Plate Armor.
I mean, I guess you could do a system where guns get a huge bonus to hit, but do moderate damage. And give armor DR.
If we were talking about rifled rounds and stuff maybe... But a ball from a flintlock can be deflected by a helmet, or a breastplate, or trapped in particularly thick clothing or a book.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
On the one hand I feel like bringing back "Exploding Criticals" and stuff might work, or the x3 damage values from 3e for crits...

But a critical hit from a sword is, likewise, going to do OBSCENE quantities of damage to whatever critical component it hits, so... it's still unneeded.

Through some types of armor, sure. So does an arrow. So does a Rapier. So does a Mace. Depending on the type of armor.

Rather than go into that detail, 5e just made AC both resistance and deflection. Which is why a Monk or Barbarian with an 18 AC takes the same damage from that bullet as a fighter wearing Plate Armor.

Not complaining. They had to have them deal more damage otherwise they're useless. Bows can fire multiple times, xbows have a kickass feat.
 

Not complaining. They had to have them deal more damage otherwise they're useless. Bows can fire multiple times, xbows have a kickass feat.
I'm bringing this all up because I'm considering using firearms in my campaign setting... but literally just making them into Crossbows for mechanical purposes.

Hand-Crossbow for Pistol. Heavy Crossbow for Rifle. Complete with the Crossbow Expert feat, because I sincerely feel like the amount of damage they do to a person is quite similar.

Plus I love the image of a swashbuckler with rapier and pistol because c'mon... that's -classic-.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I'm bringing this all up because I'm considering using firearms in my campaign setting... but literally just making them into Crossbows for mechanical purposes.

Hand-Crossbow for Pistol. Heavy Crossbow for Rifle. Complete with the Crossbow Expert feat, because I sincerely feel like the amount of damage they do to a person is quite similar.

Plus I love the image of a swashbuckler with rapier and pistol because c'mon... that's -classic-.

I've used them, put in the cartridge ones.

Getting the ammo was a lot harder.
 


Cause bullets are faster.

If D&D was Anime or Star Wars based, swords would be faster than bullets and thus deal more damage.
The speed isn't important. It's the amount of damage done that matters.

A bullet puts a finger sized hole in your body. A battleaxe will put a hole you can fit your ENTIRE HAND IN.

The speed of the bullet is how it punches that hole in the body, but it's the size of the hole and the amount of damaged material that matters.
 

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