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D&D 5E Why do guns do so much damage?

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
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.

The bullet is harder to dodge. Because it's faster.
You can dodge fewer bullets than axes before you die.

HP isn't meat points. HP is "Avioding death" points. Bullets are so fast you lose options to avoid death by them.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It’s often more important to meet audience expectations than to accurately reflect reality. In most modern people’s minds, guns are just seen as more deadly than swords, so they expect guns to do more damage in the game. It doesn’t really matter that much to most people that a larger damage die doesn’t accurately reflect the advantages guns have over swords.

All that said, I think it’d be neat if guns were like “martial cantrips.” Forcing the target to make a save instead of making an attack roll against them would be a neat way to express the “point and shoot” usability of firearms, and dealing damage that scales automatically with the level of the gunman instead of relying on Extra Attack would be a way to insure they’re effective at higher levels without having to hand wave the reload time (as much).
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
The bullet is harder to dodge. Because it's faster.
You can dodge fewer bullets than axes before you die.

HP isn't meat points. HP is "Avioding death" points. Bullets are so fast you lose options to avoid death by them.
AC is your "Avoiding Damage" points. It's already an abstraction. And then HP is another layer of abstraction. But it's your AC that determines whether you avoid getting shot. That's why you get your Dex bonus to AC in light and some of it in medium armor. It's also why Monks and Barbarians get their Dex to AC.

But once it's past that AC, it shouldn't be significantly different from a similar weapon. And if you saw the damage the Kilij can do to a body... Yikes. Even modern pistols aren't enough to chop someone in half with a single shot.
It’s often more important to meet audience expectations than to accurately reflect reality. In most modern people’s minds, guns are just seen as more deadly than swords, so they expect guns to do more damage in the game. It doesn’t really matter that much to most people that a larger damage die doesn’t accurately reflect the advantages guns have over swords.

All that said, I think it’d be neat if guns were like “martial cantrips.” Forcing the target to make a save instead of making an attack roll against them would be a neat way to express the “point and shoot” usability of firearms, and dealing that scales automatically with the level of the gunman instead of relying on Extra Attack would be a way to insure they’re effective at higher levels without having to hand wave the reload time (as much).
Oh... I -do- like the idea of having it be a Dex Save against guns rather than an attack roll!

But there are two smallish problems with that.

1) You're more likely to get hit against your AC than fail a saving throw because your proficiency bonus keeps climbing.
2) It makes certain classes better at dodging bullets and, really, no one should be much better or worse than anyone else.

Still... that is a pretty cool concept and would definitely work in some settings!
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Oh... I -do- like the idea of having it be a Dex Save against guns rather than an attack roll!

But there are two smallish problems with that.

1) You're more likely to get hit against your AC than fail a saving throw because your proficiency bonus keeps climbing.
2) It makes certain classes better at dodging bullets and, really, no one should be much better or worse than anyone else.

Still... that is a pretty cool concept and would definitely work in some settings!
Well, if the DC calculation improves the gunner’s proficiency bonus (e.g. 8 + Dex + Prof bonus), it would keep pace with anyone proficient in Dex saves, and get harder for anyone not proficient to avoid. If the idea of “dodging the bullet” on a successful save bothers you, you could have them deal half damage on a successful save. Obviously you’d want to reduce the damage to balance out the consistency in that case. But by the sound of it, that would probably be a plus for you.
 

Democratus

Adventurer
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.
A bullet can create a massive exit wound. Easily large enough to "fit your ENTIRE HAND IN", depending on the nature of the amunition.

But to the thread...I think guns work the way they do for game reasons. Not simulationist ones.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Depends on the level of firearm:

  • Muskets: Muskets are frankly weaker than crossbows and bows. They fire much much slower, and the soft metal round bullets do not have significant penetration. They also have poor accuracy, but do have a longer range.
Ultimately the reason muskets were useful is that they are "simple weapons". Bows can take years to master, you can drill someone to fire a musket semi competently in a few weeks. So muskets should probably be 1d6 simple weapon with a longer range than the longbow and does not have the loading property (aka no multiple attacks). If you wanted to really go full out, you could also half their dex bonus to damage to highlight their inaccuracy. Realistically the only person who would choose a musket over a bow is someone who has no other weapon training or who is very long range sniper.
  • Single Fire Rifles: With the advent of rifling, we get a large increase in range, accuracy, and penetrative power. They are still simple to use, however, they are still quite slow to fire.
At this point you could upgrade the weapons damage to represent its general ability to penetrate tough hide and armor (I think a d10 is likely appropriate), give it a very long range, but still without the loading property. A rifle would be good in the hands of a low level person, especially that make full use of the range. However, other armaments are still superior if you close the distance. PCs would still generally avoid firearms, though sniper rogues might find them appealing.

  • Rapid Fire Pistols/Rifles
At this point, the ability to fire multiple shots in rapid succession without reloading is a complete game changer. This is the point when firearms replace all other ranged and melee weapons.... there is no equivalent to being able to shoot 5-6 shots in a handful of seconds.

You can probably do this in a few ways, either a 2d8 or even 3d6 kind of damage...or maybe give them the loading and extra attack properties to allow for more attacks a round. At this point there should be no debate, no sane person should wield anything other than a firearm.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
AC is your "Avoiding Damage" points. It's already an abstraction. And then HP is another layer of abstraction. But it's your AC that determines whether you avoid getting shot. That's why you get your Dex bonus to AC in light and some of it in medium armor. It's also why Monks and Barbarians get their Dex to AC.

But once it's past that AC, it shouldn't be significantly different from a similar weapon. And if you saw the damage the Kilij can do to a body... Yikes. Even modern pistols aren't enough to chop someone in half with a single shot.

No.
AC is your "Limiting options for Damage" points

HP is your PC using its defensive resources: stamina, skill, speed, toughness, luck, blessings, to avoid damage.

Bullets deal more damage because is harder to avoid damage from a bullet than a sword.
It takes more resources and some resources don't even work vs bullets.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The bullet is harder to dodge. Because it's faster.
You can dodge fewer bullets than axes before you die.

HP isn't meat points. HP is "Avioding death" points. Bullets are so fast you lose options to avoid death by them.
Oh dear, the "what is HP" again...

A level 5 characters with a decent con score can jump off a 50 foot building every day with no long term consequences.

You absolutely can dodge more bullets than axes. People pray and spray all the time. You don't dodge a bullet by ducking out of the way of the bullet, you do so by keeping under cover and moving quickly and unpredictably so that your foe can't shoot effectively at you.
 

D&D firearms are overwhelming of the "pre-1600 AD" variety, which are far from "hard to dodge". In fact, early firearms were notoriously inaccurate. They were useful in war because they were easy to train and drill troops in, and massed fire delivered in proper formation was effective. If anything, D&D firearms should be terrible weapons except when used by a group of people, so perhaps some of the above posters are right, have them pretty terrible weapons compared to longbows, but get a dozen or so people wielding them and they get to the deadliness of a fireball.

D&D characters already use the armour (full plate) that's effective against pre-modern firearms.
 

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