In response to reading this article, headlined “Roman sling bullets
used against Scottish tribes 2,000 years ago were as deadly as a .44
Magnum”, I was thinking about slings in RPGs.
I've often thought that sling bullets are woefully nerfed in many
RPGs, especially D&D. In D&D 5E, for instance, they're only 1d4,
while a short bow is 1d6 and a long bow is 1d8. For comparison,
daggers are 1d4 and longswords are 1d8. In OD&D using Greyhawk's
“Damage Done by Weapon Type” table sling stones are 1d4, and the
same in B/X D&D's optional “Variable Weapon Damage” table. AD&D has
sling bullets as 1d4+1 and sling stones as 1d4. D&D 3.5E has them
as 1d4. So the D&D editions pretty consistently have it as
1d4. Definitely nerfed. Except in 3-book OD&D and B/X D&D without the
“Variable Weapon Damage” table, where all weapons did 1d6 damage.
In Savage Worlds slings are Str+d4, while a bow is 2d6. For
comparison, a dagger is Str+d4 and a long sword is Str+d8. Nerfed.
In RuneQuest 2E they are 1d8, similar to a Composite bow at 1d8+1
and broadsword at 1d8. In Elric! (a member of the Stormbringer line
of games, appearing between 4th Edition and 5th Edition, but the rules
were substantially equivalent to Stormbringer 5E; It is relative of
RuneQuest mechanically, part of the Basic Roleplaying (BRP) family
of games) a sling is 1d8+1, similar to a Desert Recurve Bow at 1d8+2,
and a broadsword at 1d8+1. So in the BRP games they are not nerfed.
In DragonQuest their Damage Modifier is +1, while a dagger is +0, a
long bow is +4 and a broadsword is +4. Nerfed.
In Talislanta 4E a sling's Damage Rating is 4, as is a dagger, while a
long bow and broadsword are 8. Nerfed.
In Hero 5E, sling damage is 1d6+1, same as a medium bow or a light
long bow, while a medium long bow is 1 ½ d6 (that's 1 and ½ d6)
and a heavy long bow is 2d6. A dagger is 1d6-1 and a broadsword is
1d6+1. Note that strong enough characters add damage to this based on
how strong they are. Not nerfed.
In GURPS 4E, damage is based on your strength, and the only dice used is
d6. We'll use an average Strength 10 character as an example. Their
Thrust damage is 1d-2 and their Swing damage is 1d. An opponent's
Damage Resistance (DR) is subtracted from the rolled damage and any
damage left is multiplied by a modifier for each type of damage.
Piercing damage has a ×1 modifier, cutting has a ×1.5 modifier, and
impaling has a ×2 modifier.
So, sling damage is swing piercing, and the damage for that for our
average character is 1d. A longbow is thrust+2 impaling. and the
damage for that is 1d, and whatever makes it past DR is doubled. A
regular bow is thrust+1 impaling, and the damage for that is 1d+1
(minus DR) ×2. A dagger is thrust-1 impaling, so that is 1d-3 (minus
DR) ×2. A thrusting broadsword is swing+1 cutting (1d+1 (minus DR)
×1.5) or thrust+2 impaling (1d+2 (minus DR) ×2). I think that's
nerfed a little.
(I'd like to note that when actually playing GURPS I think this is
simpler to do at the table than it sounds like. The damage values for
each attack is figured out at character creation :-)
In The Fantasy Trip, which like GURPS only uses d6, slings do
1d-2, small bows do 1d-1, longbows do 1d+2, daggers do 1d-1, and
broadswords do 2d. A little bit nerfed.
In Big Eyes Small Mouth (BESM) 2nd Edition Revised, slings are not
listed, but a long bow does 5 damage, a longsword does 10 damage, and
a dagger does 5 damage. In BESM 3rd Edition, an average person has an
Attack Combat Value (ACV) of 4 and a Damage Multiplier of 5. Each weapon has
a Level, which is multiplied by the Damage Multiplier and added to the
ACV for the final damage. Slings are Level 1 (1 × 5 + 4 = 9), as are
daggers. Longbows are Level 3 (3 × 5 + 1 = 16), as are longswords.
Definitely nerfed. (It is the same in BESM 4E.)
In HarnMaster, weapon impact (damage) for Melee weapons has three
Aspects, Blunt (B), Edge (E), and Point (P). A dagger's impact is B
1, E 2, P 5, while a broadsword is B 3, E 5, and P 3. A Missile
weapon's impact depends on the type of missile weapon and the range:
short, medium, long, and extreme. Slings are Short 4, Medium 3, Long
2, and Extreme 2. Shortbows are Short 6, Medium 5, Long 4, Extreme 3.
Longbows are Short 8, Medium 8, Long 6, Extreme 5. Nerfed. I'll note
that these weapon or missile impacts are added to a Strike Impact is
decided by a table indexed by how well the attacker did on opposed
rolls of attack skill against the defender's skill in Block,
Counterstrike, Dodge, or if the defender ignored the attack. For Melee
attacks this can result in the defender having blocked the attack,
either the attacker or the defender fumbling or stumbling, the
defender gaining a Tactical Advantage (a free action), or either or
both having made a Strike, which generates from 1 to 4 d6s. For
Missle attacks this can result in a Miss (with a chance to hit an
adjacent combatant, a Wild (a fumble roll), a Block, or a Strike,
which generates from 1 to 3 d6s. The Armor Protection value is
subtracked and the result is the total Effective Impact, which is then
referenced on the Injury Table to determine where the on the body the
injury is and how serious it is. There are no Hit Points like D&D or
Wounds like Savage Worlds. Instead the character accumulates injuries
like “1 Minor Slash Left Upper Arm, 1 injury level”. The total injury
level determines the difficulty of the character staying conscious and
penalty to any skill roll. Some of the injuries may immediately kill
the injured character.
There is a good thread by Robert S. Conley (1, 2, 3) on RPG PUB
that talks some more about HarnMaster combat.
In West End Games' D6 Fantasy, attributes are measured in d6s and 2D
is an average human. Bow and sling damage and melee damage as d6s
added to a number of d6s determined by your Strength Damage, which is
determined by your Physique attribute or Lifting skill (both measured
in d6s), drop any adds, divided by 2. So our average human's Strength
Damage is 1D. Then longbows add +2D+2, shortbows add +1D+2, and
slings add +1D. For comparison, daggers add +1D and broad/long swords
ad +2D+2. So, nerfed, although it is hard to make precise
distinctions at this level of resolution.
Tunnels & Trolls only uses d6s and weapons are measured in “Dice +
Adds”, that is the number of d6s to roll and the number of points to
add to the dice total. The common sling is 2d. A very light self bow
is 2d, a light self bow is 3d, a medium self bow is 4d, a heavy self
bow is 5d, and a extra-heavy self bow is 6d. These all have
increasing Strength Required to use the weapon. For comparison, a
Dirk is 2D+1 and a broadsword is 3d+4. Nerfed.
In Dragon Warriors weapon damage has two parts: an armor
penetration die (measured in dice: d4, d6, d8, etc.) and damage
points. The armor penetration die is rolled against the Armour Factor
of the defender's armour: a Gambeson has an Armour Factor of 2 while
Plate has an Armor Factor of 5, and the attacker has to roll higher
than the Armour Factor to inflict damage.
A sling has Damage (d6, 3 points) while a Bow has Damage (d6, 4
points). For comparison, a dagger has Damage (d4, 3 points) and a
sword has Damage (d8, 4 points). Slightly nerfed.
When I GM games that I think nerf slings, like D&D, I often use a
house rule that sling bullets are higher damage than sling stones, and
more similar to the damage of a short bow, 1d6, for example. I may
have been underestimating them and should consider them closer to a
long bow, 1d8, as Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying (BRP) variants
(RuneQuest, Elric, Stormbringer) do.
Classic Traveller's Supplement 04 Citizens of the
Imperium (1979) has a section on bow weapons, on p. 16! A sling does
2D wounds and a long bow does 2D wounds also. For comparison, from
Book 01 Characters & Combat (1981) on p. 47 on the “Range Table” (?)
dagger, blade, cutlass, and sword all do 2D wounds. Not nerfed.
Cepheus Engine (C1, C2) doesn't have slings, but a bow is 2D6.
Sword of Cepheus, the fantasy variant, has sling as 2D, short bow
as 2D, long bow as 3D, dagger as 2D, and sword as 3D. Maybe a little