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D&D 5E Why do guns do so much damage?


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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
IIRC fast reloads were about 20 seconds, so that's like 3 rounds of time I think?

The last site I was on suggested that a really good soldier could manage 6 rounds a minute, which is essentially a shot shot per round. Average was closer to three, so every other round. I might even go to a two round reload if I were making the weapon list from scratch, but add in abilities by level to cut that down. In all those cases accuracy was mostly junk past about 100 yards (a very loose and general number). So maybe something like 100/300 with a -3 to hit at long range. Again, abilities could cut that at higher levels.

I'd rather an adventurer have a musket and a brace of pistols than have to faff about trying to make people happy with starting reload times for the long gun.
 

Um D&D has plenty of minions, NPCs, and other critters knocking out high quality magic items. Plus gawds of knowledge. So I would say Caspar, Jasper’s no magical brother, could corner the market on high end smoke powder. Why in the world do these threads reach for ancient tech when your pc is living in a world which has magic as tech?
My question is can I mount a 50 cal on a red dragon? and if so what location?

Probably.

From drawings of how a dragonlance works, it appears to attach to a pintle mount. The shield which is traditionally attached to protect the rider would stay and become the blast shield. Most of the tech to attach the M2 is already there; just swap out the lance with the M2.

Further, if you have someone who knows a little bit about the inner workings of the M2, you could mount two of them side-by-side by reconfiguring each M2 to feed from different sides and expel the brass out the bottom. If you plan to do a lot of firing, I would probably figure out a way to make a bigger saddle for a second rider, so as to allow for a barrel change during combat.
 

And if you had the numbers for archers versus swordsmen you would result in more people being killed by arrows than swords.

No I don't mean TOTAL numbers.

I mean [injured (by X)/ died (by X)] expressed as a ratio.

If 100 people are injured by swords and bayonets and 50 of them die, that's 1 in 2 die for a 50 percent fatality rate.

If 1000 people are injured by arrows, and 100 die, thats a 1 in 10 ratio, for a 10 percent fatality rate.

More died by arrows, but edged weapons were more lethal.

Im sure if I dug around I could find after action reports on casualties by type, broken down into injured/ KIA.
 

Getting stabbed in the chest by a longsword is going to be just as deadly (probably more actually) than getting shot by a gun in the chest.
No, it's really not more deadly.

Musket balls do all the same damage as a thrust to the chest with a longsword (punch a large hole and cause serious bleeding), plus the extra trauma to surrounding tissue and organs caused by your body near instantly decelerating a .69 cal lead ball traveling at 400mps, and transferring that energy to the surrounding tissue.

A long sword thrust with a roughly 3lb longsword traveling at 5' per second is 15 pounds feet/second of momentum:

Momentum of an arrow or a sword thrust?

Its roughly the same energy generated by a 400 grain arrow fired at 250' per second. (15 lbs per foot second) by a modern 65lb Hunting bow, which delivers 55.5 ft/lbs of energy on target (75 joules).

By comparison, a .69 caliber smoothbore musket ball has 463 grains, and is fired at 1,200' per second, delivering roughly 1480 ft/lbs of energy on target, or over 2000 joules.

The difference between your body decelerating a projectile with 75 joules of energy (the arrow), and it stopping 2000 joules (the musket ball) and the effect this energy absorption has on surrounding tissue, is immense.

The arrow and the sword punch a hole in you and bruise the nearby tissue. The musket ball literally turns nearby tissue to pulp, and dislodges organs hit (in addition to pulping them)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
No, it's really not more deadly.

Musket balls do all the same damage as a thrust to the chest with a longsword (punch a large hole and cause serious bleeding), plus the extra trauma to surrounding tissue and organs caused by your body near instantly decelerating a .69 cal lead ball traveling at 400mps, and transferring that energy to the surrounding tissue.

A long sword thrust with a roughly 3lb longsword traveling at 5' per second is 15 pounds feet/second of momentum:

Momentum of an arrow or a sword thrust?

Its roughly the same energy generated by a 400 grain arrow fired at 250' per second. (15 lbs per foot second) by a modern 65lb Hunting bow, which delivers 55.5 ft/lbs of energy on target (75 joules).

By comparison, a .69 caliber smoothbore musket ball has 463 grains, and is fired at 1,200' per second, delivering roughly 1480 ft/lbs of energy on target, or over 2000 joules.

The difference between your body decelerating a projectile with 75 joules of energy (the arrow), and it stopping 2000 joules (the musket ball) and the effect this energy absorption has on surrounding tissue, is immense.

The arrow and the sword punch a hole in you and bruise the nearby tissue. The musket ball literally turns nearby tissue to pulp, and dislodges organs hit (in addition to pulping them)
I don’t have the historical numbers handy, but they don’t bear this out as well as you’d think.

One thing you’re missing is that a longsword is a tapered blade, and creates a quite large hole that will bleed someone out very quickly. Another is that historically, bad medicine is the cause of death more often than the inciting injury itself, with both weapons.

If the musket “pulped” the body like you suggest, the vast majority of people shot in the torso by a musket would die pretty quickly after being shot. That isn’t the case.
Flintlocks can range up to 550 or 600m/s. Just curious, but is there a reason for the 250m/s cutoff here? If we're talking black powder fantasy I don't see why that should be the break.

I'll happily elide modern guns if no one's talking about them.

It was in part intended that way. Guns are modifiable in ways that swords or the like aren't, so why not lean into that? Players love tinkering with their kit. The real trick will be to find a happy medium where there's enough widgets to be interesting, but not so many as to be boring or over-whelming. I'd probably start with a list of 'common' upgrades that any competent gunsmith can manage (including PCs) and add the rest in (the higher level/more rare ones) organically as story elements. You'd think that master gunsmiths would be very secretive about their craft, tools and ingredients, so the result on the player side might feel more like trying find new spells does for a mage (in a game where your can't just pick whatever spells you like of course). You want to know the secret of Al'hazar's famed long barrel rifles? Go find one or meet the man. That sort of thing. I think has promise as an idea, and is certainly far more interesting than just adding a list of firearms to the PHB.


That said, you'd be amazed at the number of medieval war dead that are missing hands and arms. That's down to swords and whatnot.
Out of the fight is out of the fight . That’s what I focus on in my homebrew system, and what Trauma represents. Is the blow enough to knock you out of the fight, or not?!
Modern stats on gun violence and mortality are pretty useless for the topic at hand, no offense to anyone in particular.
They’re useless for anyone trying to “prove” that guns should do way more damage than swords. For those of us saying that most weapons should just do close to the same damage, it’s pretty useful. Gunshot survival rates are really very high, and most people who get shot aren’t even maimed by them, much less killed. And that’s looking at vastly more advanced weapons.
TI'd rather an adventurer have a musket and a brace of pistols than have to faff about trying to make people happy with starting reload times for the long gun.
I’d much rather just have fun and let guns be reloaded “unrealistically” fast, and just basically be better crossbows. I’m happy to assume easier advancement of better gun tech due to magical materials science and better chemistry.
 


One thing you’re missing is that a longsword is a tapered blade, and creates a quite large hole that will bleed someone out very quickly.

If the musket “pulped” the body like you suggest, the vast majority of people shot in the torso by a musket would die pretty quickly after being shot. That isn’t the case.
Hmm:

Within a 12-year period ending in March 1984, 1109 patients with penetrating thoracic injuries were treated at King-Drew Medical Center located in south central Los Angeles. The average age of the patients was 28.1 years. There were 607 stab wounds and 502 gunshot wounds. Antibiotic prophylaxis was prescribed only for the 428 patients who had laparotomy, thoracotomy, and pulmonary contusion with hemoptysis. Of the 1109 patients, 105 had cardiac injuries. All patients with cardiac trauma underwent thoracotomy, and the mortality rate was 18.1%. Specifically, the mortality rate of gunshot wound of the heart 24.5% and that of stab wound of the heart, 11.5%.

Unusually low mortality of penetrating wounds of the chest. Twelve years' experience - PubMed

Gunshot wounds of the heart result in higher mortality than stab wounds to the heart.
Penetrating chest wounds: 24 years experience - PubMed

Patients with a Gun shot wound (GSW) were ten times more likely to sustain a cervical spine fracture than those with a stab wound (SW) and more than six times as likely to have an associated spinal cord injury. All patients in the GSW cohort with a spinal cord injury had an associated fracture compared with only 50% in the SW group. The incidence of an injury to the brachial plexus was four times more common after sustaining a GSW compared with a SW and the incidence of ischaemic cerebral or cerebellar infarcts was twenty times as high.

Once the mortuary data were included, the total mortality rate of PNI was found to be 27% for GSWs and 16% for SWs.

A comparative audit of gunshot wounds and stab wounds to the neck in a South African metropolitan trauma service

  • One hundred ninety perforating gunshot and 146 perforating stab wounds of the abdomen have been reviewed.
  • The mortality for the entire series is 51 per cent for the bullet wounds and 14.1 per cent for the stab wounds. The operative mortality is 48.9 and 13.8 per cent respectively.
DEFINE_ME

Gunshot wounds are significantly more lethal than stab wounds.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Are people being stabbed with battle axes and claymores on a regular basis? Are knives in South Africa 3-4 pounds with blades 3 feet long or longer being wielded by trained soldiers? Are people being shot with blackpowder muskets or muzzle loading pistols? Is this a fantasy game? Is D&D particularly realistic? No?

Why do you think these numbers are particularly relevant?
 
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That's not at all how that was intended, sorry. I was just pointing out that D&D is not particularly granular or historical in terms of weapon options, rules, or damage (like, at all). That makes projects that want to work it like that a lot more work. If you want nuance, which is a fine goal, you'd need to expand and revise the entire weapon table and add a lot of elements.

More specifically, the game as it stands is not the product of any kind of nuanced investigation of how actual weapons hurt actual people. At best it's a very general reflection of that, and even with that notion you'd get a lot of arguments and pushback from people who actually know weapons and combat.

So no, not a strawman, nor a PA snipe, just the reality of the rules set. YMMV about how much faffing about you want to do with things, of course.
I accept the apology, and apologize for my own part in the miscommunication. Text is a difficult medium, sometimes.
The reload rule is probably key. If you want differentiation, up the damage, and maybe the crit range, but push the reload time to start and maybe up the fumble range as well. Just my two cents there...

In the case of an entire Black Powder setting, I'd definitely start monkeying around with the above, as well as the crit multiplier. In general, less attacks, but massive damage potential. That seems fun. Also less prone to abuse.
I'm not sure upping the Crit range is the best idea. But giving it a particularly nasty crit result could be the way to go for it?

Something like a x3 to represent that when it hits a vital organ it can be a -particularly- savage wound, but most hits that aren't to immediately lethal "No more Birthday Buttons" aren't drastically more devastating than strikes from other weapons?
Are people being stabbed with battle axes and claymores on a regular basis? Are knives in South Africa 3-4 pounds with blades more 3 feet long or longer being wielded by trained soldiers? Are people being shot with blackpowder muskets or muzzle loading pistols? Is this a fantasy game? Is D&D particularly realistic? No?

Why do you think these numbers are particularly relevant?
Because he's not interested in the damage done to the human body by the weapons, which is the topic of the thread, but instead interested in proving without question that guns are vastly more lethal than any melee weapon whatsoever. I've tried to steer him back on course, directly, tried to discuss the damage shown in videos he's actively posted, himself... And he just ignores it to declare victory.

Because it's not about the damage, for him, it's about the quantity of body bags.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
...
Because he's not interested in the damage done to the human body by the weapons, which is the topic of the thread, but instead interested in proving without question that guns are vastly more lethal than any melee weapon whatsoever. I've tried to steer him back on course, directly, tried to discuss the damage shown in videos he's actively posted, himself... And he just ignores it to declare victory.

Because it's not about the damage, for him, it's about the quantity of body bags.
But it's also comparing apples to oranges. Modern firearms versus knives is not the same as early firearms versus ... well virtually any weapon in the PHB.

End of the day, if you enforce the loading property and require proficiency I don't see a problem with firearms doing significantly more damage. Crossbow expertise hasn't come up in a home game yet, but much like that feat I do have an issue with the gunner feat taking away the loading property.

If your tech level is high enough to include semi automatic weaponry (or even bolt action) I think there are some issues.
 

But it's also comparing apples to oranges. Modern firearms versus knives is not the same as early firearms versus ... well virtually any weapon in the PHB.

End of the day, if you enforce the loading property and require proficiency I don't see a problem with firearms doing significantly more damage. Crossbow expertise hasn't come up in a home game yet, but much like that feat I do have an issue with the gunner feat taking away the loading property.

If your tech level is high enough to include semi automatic weaponry (or even bolt action) I think there are some issues.
It's definitely a thing.

But yeah... I'm ultimately gonna go with the gunner/crossbow expert thing and just call early firearms breach-loaders for the purposes of the setting so that if someone wants to play a pistolero they -can-... But still give them damage more in line with other weapons in D&D for balance and personal satisfaction purposes. 'Cause D&D's early firearms do too much damage off the rip.

And then give the players who use guns the ability to improve their weapons with time and gold, same as any wizard with a spellbook or item they wanna enchant. I think it'll create a nice parallel. Especially in a setting where power is largely maintained by a small group who actively seek to keep other larger groups from accessing that power.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's definitely a thing.

But yeah... I'm ultimately gonna go with the gunner/crossbow expert thing and just call early firearms breach-loaders for the purposes of the setting so that if someone wants to play a pistolero they -can-... But still give them damage more in line with other weapons in D&D for balance and personal satisfaction purposes. 'Cause D&D's early firearms do too much damage off the rip.

And then give the players who use guns the ability to improve their weapons with time and gold, same as any wizard with a spellbook or item they wanna enchant. I think it'll create a nice parallel. Especially in a setting where power is largely maintained by a small group who actively seek to keep other larger groups from accessing that power.
I keep thinking about introducing firearms in an experimental campaign just to see how well it would work. Play a few sessions with different options, all the way up to 19th century firearms. Maybe make a new blunderbuss/shotgun (or even machine gun) type weapon that's strength based because controlling the recoil is more important than overall accuracy.

Depending on how proficiency is handled I can see firearms being most useful for caster types that would rely on tech instead of cantrips.

In any case, good luck!
 

I keep thinking about introducing firearms in an experimental campaign just to see how well it would work. Play a few sessions with different options, all the way up to 19th century firearms. Maybe make a new blunderbuss/shotgun (or even machine gun) type weapon that's strength based because controlling the recoil is more important than overall accuracy.

Depending on how proficiency is handled I can see firearms being most useful for caster types that would rely on tech instead of cantrips.

In any case, good luck!
For Machine Guns and stuff you'd probably need to create some sub-rules for area attacks and strafing fire type maneuvers.

Though if you take a look at LevelUp/A5e's combat maneuvers one of the archery ones could be adapted well for Covering Fire. Basically you pick a target and any time they'd provoke an attack of opportunity from someone by moving you spend ammo and they no longer provoke that opportunity attack.

Of course for a fire-arms focused game you'd need ranged opportunity attacks for that to work against! Maybe some sort of "Field of Fire Cone" that characters can toss down as "This is my threatened area for guns"?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Modern gunshot wounds vs a sample of overwhelmingly knife wounds, sure.

No one is walking around a major city anywhere in the world with a dagger as thick as a sword, nor is a knife as heavy or as long, nor do they have the reach, and are thus much easier to turn an attack into less major injury.

The two aren’t even comparable.
 

King Babar

Explorer
To stray of topic just a little, I do really like the idea of fantasy firearms that operate using something besides gunpowder, like the steam-powered muskets from Last Exile.

To DnDify it, I imagine a particularly mad artificer binding a steam mephit into a gun and hoping for the best.
 
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Honestly, it's possible that one could up the damage of blackpowder firearms or something, having them be balanced by issues like keeping the powder dry, and the difficulty it takes to reload powder, wad, and ball.

You have one shot, and after that, unless you have the time or speed to do a reload, best to use it as a club.

And in the case of pistols, just have multiple pistols loaded so you're ready for action.

Of course this is probably all at earlier levels. By later levels, I suspect a lot of weapons just aren't damaging enough to players generally unless magical or enhanced in some manner.
By mid levels you'd be looking for magical guns, which would of course exist, and without deciding first on what the rules for those should be it's impossible to speculate.

IMO, the gun rules from the DMG area good enough. The cost keeps them from being too common, but they're also not game-breakingly powerful in any sense. High damage + long reload times (ie 1/encounter weapons) could work, too. But trying to compare the relative lethality of guns and swords is both a big enough question for a PhD thesis and not useful to the goal of having more fun at the table.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
To stray of topic just a little, I do really like the idea of fantasy firearms that operate using something besides gunpowder, like the steam-powered muskets from Last Exile.

To DnDify it, I imagine a image a particularly mad artificer binding a steam mephit into a gun and hoping for the best.
I’ve used the idea of an explosively expanding liquid in small vials before, which was fun. You can allow for stuff like spending spell slots to overcharge the shot, and developing better chemical mixture, etc.

I mean you can do so with gunpowder too, but for some reason people take to it more with alchemical concoctions.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
To stray of topic just a little, I do really like the idea of fantasy firearms that operate using something besides gunpowder, like the steam-powered muskets from Last Exile.

To DnDify it, I imagine a image a particularly mad artificer binding a steam mephit into a gun and hoping for the best.
I like such implementations myself. I suspect that players more readily accept "magitech" guns that don't fit their perceived notions of how guns ought to function in the game, versus rules that attempt to simulate historically accurate firearms.

For an upcoming campaign I'm planning to include guns that utilize a special alchemical preparation which produces a non-Newtonian fluid. This substance "freezes" when struck, rapidly releasing stored energy that propels a piece of the frozen substance like a musket ball. It's basically an alchemical dead end that was discovered in the search for the Magnum Opus, but became popularized for its military applications.
 

To stray of topic just a little, I do really like the idea of fantasy firearms that operate using something besides gunpowder, like the steam-powered muskets from Last Exile.

To DnDify it, I imagine a particularly mad artificer binding a steam mephit into a gun and hoping for the best.
Brilliant!
I’ve used the idea of an explosively expanding liquid in small vials before, which was fun. You can allow for stuff like spending spell slots to overcharge the shot, and developing better chemical mixture, etc.

I mean you can do so with gunpowder too, but for some reason people take to it more with alchemical concoctions.
Brilliant!
I like such implementations myself. I suspect that players more readily accept "magitech" guns that don't fit their perceived notions of how guns ought to function in the game, versus rules that attempt to simulate historically accurate firearms.

For an upcoming campaign I'm planning to include guns that utilize a special alchemical preparation which produces a non-Newtonian fluid. This substance "freezes" when struck, rapidly releasing stored energy that propels a piece of the frozen substance like a musket ball. It's basically an alchemical dead end that was discovered in the search for the Magnum Opus, but became popularized for its military applications.
Brilliant!

I'm only using guns for the visual aesthetic and social commentary about the throttled control of power through a magical allegory, so firearms that are by function alchemical or outright magical work plenty well compared to real world weaponry.

It would also give me the more comfortable design space to do things like unique ammo types to separate the function of a crossbow from a gun, such as alchemical acid rounds, goo-shots, and other control-centric functions.

Though I am a little worried that such options would wind up pigeonholing firearms as an "Alternate Magic" route, rather than weaponry. I'll have to examine my options.
 

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