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D&D 5E Why do guns do so much damage?

BrokenTwin

Adventurer
I have to agree with the sentiment that D&D as a system isn't one that models the advantages (or disadvantages) of a gun very well. But then, I don't think it really models the advantages or disadvantages of any other weapon very accurately either. So in that sense, mechanical game balance is all that really matters. And in that sense... yeah, I'd make them simple weapons with a low short range and a high long range.
 

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@Oofta

Arming swords are pretty much the same dimensions as a longsword with a slightly smaller grip and a larger pommel to make up for the loss of weight to maintain balance.

Rapiers are, like... not even weapons. Like they are, they -absolutely- are. But they're not really the slashing clashing weapons you see in most movies. You basically hold it at a specific angle then crab-walk it into the enemy with comparably minor force.

They're hilarious and I have one, but yeah. WAY too long to be effective in most fights other than the nice looking basket handguard.
 


ECMO3

Explorer
That is -also- not a complete understanding of reality.

Force is a function of Velocity and Mass. A very tiny object with a very high velocity and a much larger object with a much slower velocity can impart the same, or similar, force.

Like the Pistol throwing out around 400J and the Longsword throwing about 300J. Even though the pistol ball is moving much faster, the amount of force either imparts is similar.

.
Momentum and energy are functions of velocity and mass.

A Joule is a unit of energy, not a unit of force. A 3lb longsword would need to be traveling at 20mph to have a kenetic energy of 300 joules (not considering rotational velocity).

In a collision it is momentum that one object will "impart" on the other. They do not impart similar momentum, even though one is 400j and one is 300j. A 400 grain bullet with 400j kenetic energy is going ~400mph and has a momentum of about 1lb-s while a 3lb sword traveling at 20mph has a momentum of 2.7 lb-s.

Force is not a function of velocity and mass and is largely independent of these. In a nearly elastic collision the force applied will be extremely high and it will be applied for an extremely short duration. In an ideal elastic collision the force is an infinite magnitude impulse, meaning the force itself infinity and the time the force is applied is 0.

A collision with tissue does not approach being elastic though, if a bullet strikes a 200lb person the force is going to be a lot lower and it is going to be applied for a lot longer than if the same bullet struck a 200lb steel plate for example.
 
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... okay... so 9.7kgm/s for the musket, 3.289kgm/s for the pistol, and 27.82kgm/s for the Longsword.

All from a Momentum Calculator based on weights and velocities. I averaged out the Musket to 300m/s 'cause it's what was provided.

One of these three seems WAY out of proportion, but that's what the Momentum Calculator says for a 21.4m/s swing of a sword, though I did use a Baseball Bat swing for that. Seemed about comparable for speed. Meanwhile your 20mph feels pretty slow... at only 8m/s.

Still. Even at 8m/s it comes out to 10.9kgm/s. Higher than the Musket Shot. Hrrrmm...
 

Guns do so much damage because…. HPs are narrative. Not meat. All D&D combat is narrative.

Why is this a question?
Combat is narrative until you get poisoned, or take ongoing damage, or are paralyzed or any other situation occurs that requires the PC actually be touched.
 

Ohhh my good lord.

3 inch diameter TEMPORARY. CAVITY. This means that it gets pushed out of the way by the forces involved, then falls back into place.
Do you have any idea what having a 3 inch diameter cavity suddenly appear in your chest cavity due to absorbing hundreds of joules of energy inside it (before retracting) in the space of a second does to the human body?

Here is a good discussion:

It is probably obvious from watching YouTube clips of ballistic gel being shot that the temporary cavity doesn’t last for very long. In fact it’s only a few milliseconds. What we see is the process of the energy contained within the traveling projectile being transferred to the target. In our case, the temporary cavity is the first stage of a successful kill. Anyone who has done basic physics will probably remember the law of conservation of energy, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred and transformed. Thinking of this in terms of terminal ballistics, all the energy stored by the travelling bullet has to be completely dissipated by the time it stops. Apart from the small amount of heat generated as the bullet passes through tissue, most of the energy is converted to elastic energy.

Tissue within the body of your quarry has a certain amount of elasticity. Pinching your own skin is a demonstration of this. In the same way that the ballistic gel expands and stretches as the bullet passes through it, so too will flesh (we will tackle the effects on organs later). The extent to which a medium will stretch is defined as its elasticity, which – for those engineers among us – is determined by Young’s modulus, which is a ratio of stress over strain. Intuitively, it is easy to see that the more elastic a medium is, the larger the temporary cavity will be, as a given amount of energy transferred from the bullet will push the medium more easily away.

Terminal ballistics: The wound cavity

Arteries dont exactly like stretching 3 whole inches. Organs get ripped out of housings in this cavity, or split or pulped. Connective tissue is torn. Organs are displaced.

Some organs (the brains, liver, kidneys, heart, spleen) are very inelastic. Some are very elastic (most muscle and bowel tissue) and will stretch and snap back relatively unharmed barring capillary damage.

You're acting like that rapidly displaced tissue just moves a few inches in every direction, and then falls back nicely into place around the wound channel unharmed.

That's not what happens. Depending on what tissue is getting rapidly displaced, the effects of a temporary cavity suddenly appearing in your chest or abdomen can be devastating.

Also dont forget the issue of penetration. Most thrusting sword attacks with swords we see on ballistic gel rarely penetrate more than 4-6 inches or so at max, and dont have a ribcage and spine to deal with in addition to the tissue. Bones are no issue to a musket ball, which smashes right through them in a way a sword thrust simply cant.
 

Do you have any idea what having a 3 inch diameter cavity suddenly appear in your chest cavity due to absorbing hundreds of joules of energy inside it (before retracting) in the space of a second does to the human body?

Here is a good discussion:



Terminal ballistics: The wound cavity

Arteries dont exactly like stretching 3 whole inches. Organs get ripped out of housings in this cavity, or split or pulped. Connective tissue is torn. Organs are displaced.

Some organs (the brains, liver, kidneys, heart, spleen) are very inelastic. Some are very elastic (most muscle and bowel tissue) and will stretch and snap back relatively unharmed barring capillary damage.

You're acting like that rapidly displaced tissue just moves a few inches in every direction, and then falls back nicely into place around the wound channel unharmed.

That's not what happens. Depending on what tissue is getting rapidly displaced, the effects of a temporary cavity suddenly appearing in your chest or abdomen can be devastating.

Also dont forget the issue of penetration. Most thrusting sword attacks with swords we see on ballistic gel rarely penetrate more than 4-6 inches or so at max, and dont have a ribcage and spine to deal with in addition to the tissue. Bones are no issue to a musket ball, which smashes right through them in a way a sword thrust simply cant.
Yup. Just what I figured.

1: The 3 inch diameter cavity presumes almost 3k Joules. Muskets didn't typically reach that except under ideal conditions. The average speed -you- provided is 300m/s, just about half the Joules at 1,440. So the damaged tissue channel would be commensurately smaller.
2: Individual components of the human body are inelastic. But they're generally attached to elastic stuff unless it's muscle on bone. naughty word can get pushed around inside your body pretty easily. Obviously not your brain, but whether it's a bullet or a sword to the brain you'll have to be very lucky to survive.
3: For the artery to stretch "3 whole inches" in the example the musketball would've had to pass through it. Meaning it has no need to stretch because it is severed. Most would be pushed to the side by the pressure wave, and at most move 1.4 inches. Whether that's laterally or vertically.
4: I have explicitly expressed that there will be damage to displaced tissues. However I've also explicitly expressed that it won't be "Destroyed". As a corollary, check out number 5, here!
5: The Temporary Cavity isn't "Devastating". The Temporary Cavity shows the elasticity of the medium. The PERMANENT Cavity shows the actual damage caused by the rapid cavitation. Any torn arteries or "Destroyed" organs are part of the Permanent Cavity.
6: I already posted a video which is explicitly focused on the topic that Ballistics Gel is a bad testing medium for Edged Weapons. And went over the reasons why. Another post you've ignored.

Even if we WERE worried about the "4-6 inches" of penetration (Giggity) the post that you quote-mined one tiny piece out of expressed that the heart is less than 3 inches from the surface when accessed by going under the ribcage, or 1.2 inches if you're going through it. And thanks to bones being -rounded-, any force that doesn't meet the flat of a rib, entirely, is going to deflect between the ribs and... you guessed it, into the lungs and heart!

That's assuming, of course, it doesn't just break or cut the rib. (Which swords are absolutely capable of, by the way)

Liver and Kidneys are also -right there- just under the skin and facia. Spleen, too. So your Ballistics Gel 4-6 inches thing is irrelevant on multiple levels!

Like. Seriously, Flamestrike. Are you reading my posts or do you just kind of skim for something you think you can handwave and ignore the rest?
 

Yup. Just what I figured.

1: The 3 inch diameter cavity presumes almost 3k Joules. Muskets didn't typically reach that except under ideal conditions. The average speed -you- provided is 300m/s, just about half the Joules at 1,440. So the damaged tissue channel would be commensurately smaller.
Depending on bullet size.
2: Individual components of the human body are inelastic. But they're generally attached to elastic stuff unless it's muscle on bone.
The Brain? Heart? Spleen? Liver? Arteries?

You reckon they can stretch and be displaced inches away from their housing and be fine?

And what about a bullet that penetrates any of those organs (meaning the expansion of the temporary crater happens around the organ, forcing it apart)?
 
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Depending on bullet size.

The Brain? Heart? Spleen? Liver? Arteries?

You reckon they can stretch and be displaced inches away from their housing and be fine?

And what about a bullet that penetrates any of those organs (meaning the expansion of the temporary crater happens around the organ, forcing it apart)?
Sure. Depending on Musketball Size. Since that 1440 assumes the .69 you keep referencing, other musket balls will have LESS kinetic energy and impart LESS force. Or did you not notice that part of the post you quoted last night, either?

"Inches away from their housing". Their housing goes with them. There's also the fact that any compression force (Caused by the cavitation behind the bullet) is going to follow the inverse square law because the total force is being divided across all directions and over distance. Meaning things closer to the 1.4 inch mark away from the bullet will barely move at all compared to the much higher forces closer to the wound channel.

If the wound channel passes through an organ the Permanent Cavity will be the damage created by the Temporary Cavity. Even with a 414m/s .69 inch ball you're not going to wind up with a 3 inch diameter hole in your liver. A sword strike to the same organ will probably do a similar job of ruining that organ.

So to recap for you:

1) Muskets carried wildly varied energy rather than 2,000-3,000.
2) Most muskets of a high caliber (.69) carried around 1,440J.
3) Most muskets weren't as high caliber as the Brown Bess of the 1700s and 1800s. (The ubiquitous Spanish Musket was .54, for example, in the 1500s)
4) Most muskets fired around 300m/s (A .54 at that rate would've had 675J and a momentum of 4.5 kg·m/s)

Fun note: The Spanish musket design was super popular in the 1500s because they sold a version made specifically for Japan everywhere else and people loved the style.
 
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OK. We know some basic facts about guns:
  • Guns were relatively easy to use. This is very much overrated as a reason for their adoption IMO.
  • Guns were slow. Good Napoleonic infantry might be able to fire four shots a minute but three was more normal and earlier guns took longer.
  • Guns were powerful. There's a reason armour was advertised as being bullet proof. Much sword-stopping armour wasn't (and guns basically turned chain links into ready made shrapnel and wooden shields into flying splinters).
  • Guns have a narrow penetration but cause damage outside that channel. Meanwhile sword thrusts don't cause much damage outside that channel - and sword cuts were a bad plan against armour because you had to cut through so much more metal - which is part of why long curved edges correlate with little armour in a society (other than the cavalry charge version of curved stabby swords working with the momentum of the horse).
  • Guns had a long range and massive amount of accuracy compared to bows with most of the attempts to claim otherwise comparing area fire from bows (aim at 45 degrees into the air and the arrows will land in the rough area if the target unit is big enough) with accurate gunshots.
  • There's a reason that basically every archery culture from the Mongols to the Native Americans switched to guns as the dominant weapon within a single generation when they became available.
  • Two inventions were gamechangers with respect to guns and revolutionised warfare; the bayonet and the breach loader or repeating rifle.
In warfare before the bayonet there was a standard counter to guns - the cavalry charge. You'd wait until the guns had fired, charge from out of their range, and hack them down while they were reloading - and swords were sidearms and not very good protection against armoured horsemen who could kill you with lance or swords. But horses aren't suicidal and won't charge onto close-packed spikes (like spears) so charging spears or pikes from the front is not going to happen. This is why arquebuses and early muskets needed pikes to defend themselves in the pike and shot era (while the muskets could shoot the pikemen on the other side because they moved more slowly). The bayonet changed that, turning the musket into effectively a third rate spear. But a third rate spear can still make a wall of spikes so horses couldn't charge muskets with bayonets either and they didn't need pikes to protect them. Skirmishers were still dead meat against cavalry and close order was needed.

Repeating and muzzle loading rifles on the other hand meant that even if you had fired you could fire again and again before what was left of the cavalry reached you so you didn't need to be shoulder to shoulder to create the unbroken wall of spikes. They were a gamechanger in another way too; in order to reload a muzzle loader you need to stand up to pour the powder down the muzzle of the gun (meaning that you're actually less able to use cover than an archer) while with repeaters and breach loaders you can lie down. And if you can do that accuracy suddenly becomes important because you aren't firing at huge densely packed blocks of troops.

Getting back to it, guns in modern D&D with six second combat rounds are nothing like muskets - and remember that the Three Musketeers were explicitly musketeers but did most of their fighting with swords. No one has time in a melee for a 20 second reload, and the closest to realistic pre-American Civil War guns I've seen in any system was in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay where a couple of characters had a pistol or two or a blunderbuss that they'd fire in the first round of combat as a nasty one shot weapon before drawing their sword. D&D guns if anything don't do enough damage but have reload speeds that put them starkly into the realms of fantasy.
 

Getting back to it, guns in modern D&D with six second combat rounds are nothing like muskets - and remember that the Three Musketeers were explicitly musketeers but did most of their fighting with swords. No one has time in a melee for a 20 second reload, and the closest to realistic pre-American Civil War guns I've seen in any system was in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay where a couple of characters had a pistol or two or a blunderbuss that they'd fire in the first round of combat as a nasty one shot weapon before drawing their sword. D&D guns if anything don't do enough damage but have reload speeds that put them starkly into the realms of fantasy.
I always end up headcanoning the D&D Renaissance firearms as breech loaders for this reason.
 



Statistically, no, they don’t. Not reliably at all. If they did so reliably, the vast majority of gunshot victims would die.
Now, now... As far as we know the vast majority of gunshot victims -do- die, because they don't have access to the medical treatment to keep them alive. We should look at -real- data, rather than our immediate reactions.
More than 32,000 persons die and over 67,000 persons are injured by firearms each year.
Oh. Look. About 1/3rd of all people shot in the US die while the remaining 2/3rds survive. Welp. That settles -that- debate...

Oh. Wait. That's not even the full picture. Of those 32,000 killed by firearms, 24,432 committed suicide by firearm in 2018.

So 7,568 deaths as a result of interpersonal gun use in the US that year. Compared to 67,000 survivors. Yeesh. Suddenly firearms are looking VASTLY less deadly on average.

Huh... I wonder how many bullets it took to get those 7,568 kills. I'm going to bet "Much more than 7,568"
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Now, now... As far as we know the vast majority of gunshot victims -do- die, because they don't have access to the medical treatment to keep them alive. We should look at -real- data, rather than our immediate reactions.

Oh. Look. About 1/3rd of all people shot in the US die while the remaining 2/3rds survive. Welp. That settles -that- debate...

Oh. Wait. That's not even the full picture. Of those 32,000 killed by firearms, 24,432 committed suicide by firearm in 2018.

So 7,568 deaths as a result of interpersonal gun use in the US that year. Compared to 67,000 survivors. Yeesh. Suddenly firearms are looking VASTLY less deadly on average.
Yep. Guns are deadly, mostly because of range and the fact the target can’t do much once they’re targeted, and the fact most people don’t wear body armor, etc. Most hits don’t hit vital organs.

Meanwhile, swords aren’t knives!
 

Yep. Guns are deadly, mostly because of range and the fact the target can’t do much once they’re targeted, and the fact most people don’t wear body armor, etc. Most hits don’t hit vital organs.

Meanwhile, swords aren’t knives!
And are almost never wielded by people D&D would consider "Proficient". Even guys who hold themselves as authorities, like Skallagrim, just kinda "Whack" targets with a sword rather than making any attempt to create a draw cut, even when they -talk- about making draw-cuts and demonstrate it on specific targets (Usually Tatami)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
And are almost never wielded by people D&D would consider "Proficient". Even guys who hold themselves as authorities, like Skallagrim, just kinda "Whack" targets with a sword rather than making any attempt to create a draw cut, even when they -talk- about making draw-cuts and demonstrate it on specific targets (Usually Tatami)
Yeah it’s very frustrating to watch pop media about swords and see abysmal form in their use.

And the thing is, if someone whacks your forearm with a sword, you’ll recover from that, but you aren’t using that arm in the same fight. So the “nasty defensive wounds” that certain posters want to dismiss are literally wounds that take people out of a fight. Which is what HP is!
 

ECMO3

Explorer
. Meanwhile your 20mph feels pretty slow... at only 8m/s.

Still. Even at 8m/s it comes out to 10.9kgm/s. Higher than the Musket Shot. Hrrrmm...
You are correct. Dealing with metric and english units at the same time inverted the conversion from kgs to lbs. A 3lb sword with 300J of energy would be traveling 47mph
 

You are correct. Dealing with metric and english units at the same time inverted the conversion from kgs to lbs. A 3lb sword with 300J of energy would be traveling 47mph
So by the look of it, a sword carries -massively- more momentum than any of the Musket or Pistol bullets we might take a look at.

Even the .69 caliber Brown Bess traveling at a blistering 414m/s (44m/s faster than Wikipedia's speed range for muskets) would only impart 13.248 kg·m/s. That's less than half what the sword imparts at 27.82kg·m/s.

Crazy that the musket would have so much -less- stopping power than the sword. And that's not even dealing with overpenetration and "Wasted" momentum.

And in case anyone thinks 47mph is out of order for a sword swing speed... http://swordstem.com/2018/08/22/how...tting surface of the,at approximately 70 km/h. People already did tests to find it.
 

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