D&D 5E Why do guns do so much damage?

rmcoen

Explorer
SO, after 22 pages of notes, this is what my takeaways are:
  • Firearms are Simple weapons, but one still has to be trained with them. (I.e. you don't get it just for having Simple Weapon Proficiency.)
  • Firearms are Loud. Pistol is thunderclap (100'), Rifle is thunderwave (300')
  • Firearms can be fired prone, like a crossbow; bows can't.
  • D&D Firearms should be considered breechloaders, with a small Short range and a less-than-longbow inaccurate Long Range.
-------- OPTIONAL: At half of Short range, penetration is very high; add a die of damage.
* D&D Firearms should not fire more than once per round - probably once per 2 rounds, but Game. In balance, increase damage with Extra Attack instead (to reflect increased skill). This is mirrored by combat cantrip increases.
-------- EXCEPTION: You can fire multiple loaded pistols in a single round... but then they must all be reloaded!
* Firearms don't like being wet. (In my game, +2 "fumble" range if gun or ammo is wet, +4 if both. I.e. "Nat 1" all the way to a roll of 5.)
-------- SIMPLER: Water + Firearm = Disadvantage.
  • If fixed with a blade, a pistol can be used as a dagger; a rifle as a Spear with Versatile (d8). [Without, either can be used as an Improvised club.]
  • Your fantasy setting will influence availability of firearms, and their effect on society.
-------- In my world, the Blackrock Clan of dwarves constructs sealed tubes powered by alchemy... and trapped to explode if opened. They work like firearms, with a receptacle for bullets, but you can only get them from the BCDs, and they can't be (haven't been) reverse-engineered. Imperial Nobles have them, the Imperial Navy has a few cannon... and that's it. And, by the way, the PCs aren't in the Empire!

And most importantly...
* D&D combat - especially 5e - is an abstraction! AC is not "armor and deflection", and HP are not "meat points". Don't worry about guns vs. bows, vs. swords!
-------- In my world, they are loud simple "crossbows" that can inflict hideous wounds (multiple dice, multiplied by critical hits).... Fighters eschew them for the quicker (skilled) bow and arrow, while Rogues and some Clerics cherish them for small powerful ranged weapons that take little skill.
 

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tetropteryx

Villager
I am baffled that no one has mentioned this, bullets are not poking holes through people, that's what it might look like on the outside but on impact hydrostatic pressure forces everything soft enough to get out of the way to open up into a temporary wound cavity, the is a ton of ballistics gel testing videos online for evidence, I love swords and axes and bows, but there isn't much comparison, If you've ever hunted with bows and guns I'm pretty sure your experience will reflect this. even black powder and round lead bullets cause damage way out of proportion to their size, its all about energy delivered, and speed gets a real world squared multiplier when calculating energy. i'm not claiming the dnd rules are perfect, if I wanted to design a system that reflected guns real damage potential for something like pistol, it would be 1d6 crit range 18-20 with a x3 for a critical hit. essentially giving a high chance of non critical hit like a graze with devastating effects when shots are well placed.
 

tetropteryx

Villager
I am baffled that no one has mentioned this, bullets are not poking holes through people, that's what it might look like on the outside but on impact hydrostatic pressure forces everything soft enough to get out of the way to open up into a temporary wound cavity, the is a ton of ballistics gel testing videos online for evidence, I love swords and axes and bows, but there isn't much comparison, If you've ever hunted with bows and guns I'm pretty sure your experience will reflect this. even black powder and round lead bullets cause damage way out of proportion to their size, its all about energy delivered, and speed gets a real world squared multiplier when calculating energy. i'm not claiming the dnd rules are perfect, if I wanted to design a system that reflected guns real damage potential for something like pistol, it would be 1d6 crit range 18-20 with a x3 for a critical hit. essentially giving a high chance of non critical hit like a graze with devastating effects when shots are well placed.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I am baffled that no one has mentioned this, bullets are not poking holes through people, that's what it might look like on the outside but on impact hydrostatic pressure forces everything soft enough to get out of the way to open up into a temporary wound cavity, the is a ton of ballistics gel testing videos online for evidence, I love swords and axes and bows, but there isn't much comparison, If you've ever hunted with bows and guns I'm pretty sure your experience will reflect this. even black powder and round lead bullets cause damage way out of proportion to their size, its all about energy delivered, and speed gets a real world squared multiplier when calculating energy. i'm not claiming the dnd rules are perfect, if I wanted to design a system that reflected guns real damage potential for something like pistol, it would be 1d6 crit range 18-20 with a x3 for a critical hit. essentially giving a high chance of non critical hit like a graze with devastating effects when shots are well placed.
And yet, the survival rate of gunshot wounds to the torso are quite high.

And I’m pretty sure this point has been brought up in this fairly old thread, and responded to.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
And yet, the survival rate of gunshot wounds to the torso are quite high.

And I’m pretty sure this point has been brought up in this fairly old thread, and responded to.

It has been a while so I don't remember if it came up before.

Would exploding damage dice help with the massive variability of some weapons? (roll a d6, if you get a 6 roll a d6 labeled 0-5 and add it, rerolling again if you get a 5, keep going until you get a non-5)
 

It has been a while so I don't remember if it came up before.

Would exploding damage dice help with the massive variability of some weapons? (roll a d6, if you get a 6 roll a d6 labeled 0-5 and add it, rerolling again if you get a 5, keep going until you get a non-5)

I think that did come up before, and I still think it's a promising idea for 5e guns.

I also really like the sound of the gun deck rules in Weird Frontiers (for DCC). From @robowieland 's review:

"The most inspired mechanic in the game is the gun deck. Each player keeps a deck of cards handy and flips over a card when they shoot. If they pull a face card, it’s a bonus to hit and damage. If it’s an ace or an eight, it’s a fumble. Jokers act as critical hits and misses. The deck trumps any critical hits or misses rolled. Players can reshuffle their decks by cleaning their guns during downtime. The gun deck is a fun way to increase the danger of firearms in a fantasy system which often struggle to handle their advantages and disadvantages when added to swords and bows. If I had to swipe one mechanic for DCC this would be it."

I know, playing cards do a better job of evoking a wild west setting than fantasy. But I feel like that mechanic, or something similar, could capture the randomness of guns, including making them unappealing for characters who crave the consistency and reliability of a good blade.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It has been a while so I don't remember if it came up before.

Would exploding damage dice help with the massive variability of some weapons? (roll a d6, if you get a 6 roll a d6 labeled 0-5 and add it, rerolling again if you get a 5, keep going until you get a non-5)
IMO that range of potential damage creates bad gameplay. I’d much prefer to just keep the damage ranges about where they are, and even tighten them up a bit.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Sure. It certainly would be an entirely different level of lethality, and be awful in a lot of game settings!
Yeah, maybe fun in others, but I definitely prefer players know the general odds of survival, and GMs be able to predict how many rounds it will take to take someone out.
 

I am baffled that no one has mentioned this, bullets are not poking holes through people, that's what it might look like on the outside but on impact hydrostatic pressure forces everything soft enough to get out of the way to open up into a temporary wound cavity, the is a ton of ballistics gel testing videos online for evidence, I love swords and axes and bows, but there isn't much comparison, If you've ever hunted with bows and guns I'm pretty sure your experience will reflect this. even black powder and round lead bullets cause damage way out of proportion to their size, its all about energy delivered, and speed gets a real world squared multiplier when calculating energy. i'm not claiming the dnd rules are perfect, if I wanted to design a system that reflected guns real damage potential for something like pistol, it would be 1d6 crit range 18-20 with a x3 for a critical hit. essentially giving a high chance of non critical hit like a graze with devastating effects when shots are well placed.
It would probably be good to notice which threads are old. Not because there is a rule against posting in them, but merely because most members of the conversation have likely moved on. Regardless, interesting point. However, honestly, this is one of those issues where the rest of the game has so much abstraction baked into it that doing this for bullet weapons won't actually increase the realism of the situation (kinda like getting the bullet speed down to 5 significant digits, but only having the bullet mass down to 2, or a similar analogy).
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Just swinging by the corpse of this thread to reiterate:

Being hit with a warhammer does a d8.

Having a pickaxe go into your soft, sad corpus does a d8.

But a bullet is totally more lethal than that guys. The 90's told me so.
 

Oofta

Legend
Just swinging by the corpse of this thread to reiterate:

Being hit with a warhammer does a d8.

Having a pickaxe go into your soft, sad corpus does a d8.

But a bullet is totally more lethal than that guys. The 90's told me so.
Bah, humbug. Just the other night I saw a guy on TV get shot but all he needed was a couple of stitches and a bandage because after all "the bullet went through and through".

Of course in D&D world 1d8 could be instant death or a minor annoyance. Just like bullets on TV and in movies.
 



Vaalingrade

Legend
I think it's about time we accepted that D&D weapon damage is based on a highly scientific rubric of 'how scary are they?'.

Like somehow the trusty dagger, favorite of assassins, jilted spouses and just plain wanting to delete someone without much of a monetary output is just 1d4 because it's not as threatening as a slightly sharp metal club as tall as a man and as cumbersome as hitting someone with a live cat, which gets 2d6 because it's the big one. Nevermind that swords are big daggers for reach and balance purposes rather than the idea that more metal is more power.

We don't need that. The scariness metric works for the genre and that's fine. Until you add a new weapon and every armchair expert with a membership to Shadversity's channel thinks we need to be accurate in representing the guisarme vs the glaive vs the naginata vs the live cat strapped to a long stick.

Live Cat Strapped to a Stick
Reach, Nightmares
1d10 Two-Handed Slashing and Yowling. No crit range or modifier because apparently we're too dumb to visualize critting on anything but a 20 or multiplying higher than 2. Simplicity!
 


Laurefindel

Legend
Since this thread seems to have revived...

A gun doing more damage than a melee weapon has more to do with the way we perceive hit points than damage proper. Part of the modern definition of hp is one's ability to turn a series of serious blows into lesser ones. The more hp you have, the longer you can last in battle. The more damage you deal, the shorter your opponent will remain in the fight.

We live in a society that is more aware of the lethality of guns than that of sword wounds, and are accustomed to medicinal science that can heal lacerations anmd superficial wounds that would have been lethal not so long ago.

It is thus understandable that we perceive guns as a weapon that is harder to turn a serious blow in a lesser one than, say, a sword. We can easily imagine how a sword can be parried, an arrow deflected with one shield, an armor taking the blunt of a hammer hit. Bullets are too fast to dodge and have too much penetrating power to be deflected by a shield or armor. People don't give a crap about realism in RPG, but many do insist on things being "relatable". Since it's easier to relate to a sword being parried than a bullet to be dodged, bullets do more damage than sword.

Does it have to be that way? Probably not, but "damage" is the main metric of a weapon's deadliness in D&D . Superior weapons deal more damage, and we know from history that guns made most other weapons obsolete for a variety of factors, but since D&D maily gives us one, the conclusion that gun = more damage is a natural one.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Weapons and damage are very unrealistic anyway. If they were realistic, any piercing weapon would be much more deadly than slashing and especially bludgeoning ones, with corresponding reflexion on how guns actually behave. The capability to hit a major organ without being dispersed by layers of skin/muscle/fat is fundamental in assessing damage.
 



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