Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Muskets vs. Longbows (Part 1 of ??)

I've been thinking about firearms. And D&D. And firearms in D&D.

From the historical sources I've heard, early firearms were crap compared to the simple bow & arrow. Terrible rate of fire, poor (accurate) range, even lower muzzle velocity. The only thing that sets the gun apart from the bow in the beginning is cost and training time. high quality longbows were more expensive to make than early guns, which were cast cheaply from iron. Teaching a man to load and fire a gun took weeks. The longbow was a lifetime pursuit.

Anyways, let's look at a few example characters. Alfred, Bertram, Claude, and Derek.

Alfred and Bertram are first level fighters. built using the Elite array. This gives each of them a 15 dexterity, and 14 strength. They are both professional soldiers who have been trained for several years to reach this point.

Alfred has Point-Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, and Precise Shot as feats. He carries a composite longbow which cost 300 gp, which can take advantage of his +2 strength bonus.

Bertram has Exotic Weapons (Firearms), Point-blank Shot, and Precise Shot as feats. He carries a musket, described on page 145 of my 3.5 DMG as a cost of 500 gp.

Alfred's composite longbow has a range increment of 110 ft, Bertram's musket has a range of 150 ft, which is perhaps overly generous, but I am sticking to Rules-As-Written. In RAW, the musket deals a d12 in damage, for an average output of 6.5/shot. The composite longbow deals a d8+2, also dealing 6.5/shot. with a higher minimum of 3 damage, and a lower ceiling of 10. In general I think this is better against low-level enemies.

Alfred, using a longbow which is reloaded as a free action, can use rapid shot to fire twice in a round, with 10% less chance of hitting on either. I don't know how to crunch probabilities, but I assume that two shots at 40% is better than one shot at 50%.

Also, next round Bertram will spend his standard action reloading, while Alfred is able to fire twice more.

Clearly the longbow wins this engagement, despite a slight range disadvantage. The musket was also much more expensive. This seems to bear out the concept of an experienced bowman being more effective than a rifleman at low tech level. The musket was also 200 GP higher in cost than the composite long-bow.

Claude and Derek are first-level commoners. They are built using the standard array and lack a dexterity or strength bonus. Their interests include rutabaga harvesting, animal husbandry, and appearing in Monty Python sketches covered in filth. Both have the endurance and animal affinity feats. They were both conscripted three months ago, and are marching into battle with only the basic understanding of how to operate their weapons and follow commands.

Claude, as a commoner, is proficient with one simple weapon. He wields a sickle as a weapon of self-defense. He is not proficient with the longbow, and therefore has a -4 penalty when wielding it, and deals an average of 4.5 damage when he does hit. He can fire every round, as reloading the longbow is a free action for him. His longbow only cost 75 gp,

Derek is also a commoner, and is similarly not proficient with the musket. He takes a -4 penalty when attacking, and has to take his standard action every other round reloading. However, his weapon still deals an average of 6.5 damage when it hits. This isn't enough to make up for his low rate of fire compared to Claude, and his weapon still costs a staggering 500 gp.

In D&D 3.5, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to equip an army with muskets. It's more expensive and doesn't deal a decisive amount of extra damage compared to the longbow with a professional soldier, or a conscripted commoner.

Next time, I take aim (ha!) at early firearms in D20 Past.

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