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Muskets in HERO


bpmasher
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So, I've been reading on the 18th century, and I started thinking about weapons of the era. I watched a couple of videos on muskets and I gleaned some useful information.

 

Firstly, the damage. A Brown Bess for example is said to shoot a load of .75 caliber ball with the amount of powder equaling a 11 gauge shotgun. That would round either way to 10 gauge or 12 gauge shotgun shooting solid slugs. I think a safe compromise in damage is about 3d6 of Killing damage. A pistol .51 caliber ball would do maybe 2d6 Killing damage.

 

The loading time. I saw a video of a guy shooting 3 rounds off a Brown Bess in 46 seconds. British soldiers were said to have fired at 3 rounds per minute. This rounds up to 20 segments in Hero terms. If a more heroic rate of fire is wanted, one could even round this to one turn per round fired, 12 segments. Depends on what you like best. The pistols of the era would use similar reloading times I think.

 

The utility of these weapons in Hero combat comes into question. Will the players prefer their muskets, or will they fire off a round and charge into melee waving swords and tomahawks. I think it depends on the player. One could create heroic super skills to allow faster reloading, and Champions -level characters could load their muskets even faster at ungodly speeds. Would a Champions -level character need a musket? I doubt it.

 

Now, I lack the Hero know-how at the moment to do a full write-up, but if someone wants to chime in and use these "tips" to create a point complete version, I would be happy to adopt it in my possible games for the era. 

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I have played in a 4th edition HERO campaign set in the 17th century (a golden age of piracy campaign, to be exact).  We used equipment write-ups from an old ICE-era combined Rolemaster/Fantasy HERO supplement.  I don't remember the specific stats for muskets, but they were broadly similar to your benchmarks. 

 

Certainly, for small-unit tactics across standard HERO system engagement ranges (i.e. 5-10 combatants per side at less than 20 meters in most cases), muskets and pistols were fire-and-forget weapons. The only times we bothered reloading our firearms in combat were when some environmental factor kept the range open between us and our opponents (such as firing from one ship onto another).  Based on my reading, this was fairly standard, historically, outside of mass combat.  If you're within charge range of the enemy, even 12 seconds is too long to be fiddling with a powder horn and a ramrod, much less 20-45 seconds. 

 

However, if you DID happen to hit someone with a musket ball, at Heroic point levels in a setting where body armor was rare...  Well, let's just say it was worth it to take that initial shot, despite any accuracy issues.  Particularly if you got lucky with Hit Locations or were confident in your targeting.

 

Tactically, you very well COULD design a character who would want to reload and keep firing.  In a Heroic level game, where people have low SPD scores, waiting a turn between shots isn't nearly as crippling as it is in Champions-level combat, where people routinely have SPD 5+.  But you'd have to shape your combat tactics around it, either using the rest of your party as meat shields or finding some way to reliably keep the range open, attack from cover, etc. 

 

Logically, of course, musket reload times really ought to be measured in Phases, rather than a flat number of segments.  If you assume that a minimally-skilled, SPD 2 guy can reload an ordinary musket in 46 seconds, that's roughly 4 Turns, or 8 phases.  A Heroic PC with SPD 3 or 4 would be able to cut that time to 2 or 3 Turns, just by having greater SPD.  If you further design a character with Talents that increase their SPD for purposes of reloading (or a house rule that Fast Draw allows you to subtract Phases from the reload time with a successful roll), or superior equipment that takes fewer Phases to reload, you quickly get down to that 12-20 second range. 

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Reloading times were limited by two things: mechanical constraints and the ability of the firer to remain calm and focused under combat conditions. A heroic character might very well have the latter well in hand, but even the Flash is going to be limited by the primitive mechanical design of such a weapon.

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Firstly, the damage. A Brown Bess for example is said to shoot a load of .75 caliber ball with the amount of powder equaling a 11 gauge shotgun. That would round either way to 10 gauge or 12 gauge shotgun shooting solid slugs. I think a safe compromise in damage is about 3d6 of Killing damage. A pistol .51 caliber ball would do maybe 2d6 Killing damage.

Well, amount of powder doesn't necessarily equate to projectile velocity or kinetic energy, especially if you're comparing slow-burning black powder to modern gunpowder. This site compares the KE of various ancient & modern weapons, which is a decent stand-in for damage potential; it says the KE from a Brown Bess was 1727 ft-lbs, which is roughly equivalent to a modern AK-47 (which Hero rates at 2d6K) but barely 1/10th that of a .50 cal sniper rifle (3d6K). So I'd probably go closer to 2d6K. That makes sense to me historically too, since most soldiers hit with musket balls weren't killed outright (which 11 BODY average would tend to do), but from infected wounds due to primitive/nonexistent medical care.

 

* [insert your own Size Matters joke here]

 

Certainly, for small-unit tactics across standard HERO system engagement ranges (i.e. 5-10 combatants per side at less than 20 meters in most cases), muskets and pistols were fire-and-forget weapons. The only times we bothered reloading our firearms in combat were when some environmental factor kept the range open between us and our opponents (such as firing from one ship onto another).  Based on my reading, this was fairly standard, historically, outside of mass combat.  If you're within charge range of the enemy, even 12 seconds is too long to be fiddling with a powder horn and a ramrod, much less 20-45 seconds. 

This matches my experience any time I've introduced muskets or similar slow-reload weapons.

 

Reloading times were limited by two things: mechanical constraints and the ability of the firer to remain calm and focused under combat conditions. A heroic character might very well have the latter well in hand, but even the Flash is going to be limited by the primitive mechanical design of such a weapon.

Training and familiarity count for a lot too; that's why armies drilled it so extensively.

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Actually thinking about it more, a Brown Bess would almost certainly do less damage than an AK-47 at anything beyond point blank range. A round musket ball is going to lose a lot more energy to air resistance, etc than a modern rifle round. I'm not sure how significant a factor that would be at typical "battlemat" ranges; someone else would have to run those numbers. And of course the penetration would be crap, but that matters less if armor is rare/none.

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yes it does improve accuracy

but it is also makes it twice as hard to load compared to a smooth bore
when mini-ball is invented just before the civil war

I'd expect to see PCs w/ a brace of pistols,a musket w/a bayonet and a sword
They would shoot the musket till the range was too close for reloading

The fight w/ fixed bayonets using the brace of pistols to take out enemy officer giving commands who are not in HtH range or to make / exploit an opening

Shifting to sword when speed is needed

 Did muskets have barrel rifling? I'm not a gun guy, but I thought rifling the barrel improved range and accuracy over shooting through a pipe.

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this is my take on a Brown Bess

 

Black powder burns a lot slower than modern gun powder(smokeless) so velocity would not be as high

this is why muskets have really long barrels compared to modern rifles

 

Brown Bess:  RKA 3d6 (45 Active Points);

16 clips of 1 Charge (Increased Reloading Time: 1 Turn; -1 1/4),

STR Minimum 9-13 (STR Min. Cannot Add/Subtract Damage; -1),

Required Hands Two-Handed (-1/2),

Extra Time (Full Phase, -1/2),

Real Weapon (-1/4),

Inaccurate (1/2 OCV; -1/4),

Beam (-1/4)

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The term "musket" generally refers to unrifled long-arms. This was one reason for their notorious inaccuracy. Another was windage - the ball (NOT bullet) would invariably be significantly smaller than the inside of the barrel, allowing it to "bounce" down the barrel instead of being guided in a straight line - I've seen one (slow motion camera) emerge fro the barrel at a good 15 degrees off true.

Rifles did exist - they were much more useful for hunting, and were sometimes issued to marksmen - but for those the ball had to actually be slightly larger than the bore of the gun, and was hammered into the muzzle (literally - a small mallet was required) so as to ensure the ball engaged with the rifling. While there were exceptions who could get it down to three times, the average rifleman could reload and fire only one fifth as often as his musket firing counterparts.

Beast, I agree with your write up with two caveats. First, I don't think it needs the Extra Time - Full Phase limitation - these weapons fired, once loaded, as fast as any single-action revolver, which if I recall correctly, doesn't have this limitation (I may be wrong - if I am, ignore that). Second, I would add double range penalties.

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Thanks Sundog

 

I've shot flint and matchlock

you pretty much need to prime the pan to shoot or set the match into the serpentine that is what I'm calling a full phase for

and as that is making a 15 seconds between shots(at speed 3 18 seconds at speed 2  is still faster than 3rpm

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So the damage might be a little too much. Maybe a compromise of 2½d6 would be optimal. I believe the huge ball the weapon shoots will justify the amount of damage, as it will break bones and at least disable a combatant. The damage to body only reflects the fact that the victim cannot carry on fighting, not necessarily a kill. Call it "realism". If hit locations are used, an arm shot or a leg shot would lead to impairing/disabling wound most likely.

 

Inaccurate: well yes, the lack of rifling definitely affects accuracy, so maybe better shooters can buy penalty skill levels to reflect their mastery of the weapon. I read that engagement ranges can be as long as 240 yards, which is respectable for an old weapon.

 

How about a long rifle next: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_rifle

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I read that engagement ranges can be as long as 240 yards, which is respectable for an old weapon.

But remember that's range for Large Group Of Guys shooting at Other Large Group Of Guys. Aiming was actually discouraged, as it was a waste of time. Just everybody point more-or-less at that formation over there and hope someone hits somebody.

 

For one individual trying to hit another individual? Forget it.

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Sorry, also meant to comment on this...

Maybe a compromise of 2½d6 would be optimal. I believe the huge ball the weapon shoots will justify the amount of damage, as it will break bones and at least disable a combatant.

That's more damage than a modern M60 machine gun round, and almost as much as a .50 cal! I think you're giving too much weight to the size of the round, which is only one factor and arguably the least important. A slow, round ball of soft lead is not going to do damage comparable to a fast-moving, steel-jacketed, rotating pointy-tipped bullet. Historically, most musket wounds were only immediately fatal if they hit something vital.

 

That's historically, of course. From a gaming standpoint, the correct answer to "how much damage should a Brown Bess do" is "as much as you want it to." :)

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So I happened to look in the Equipment Guide, which actually has stats for a Brown Bess. It pegs the damage at 4d6-1 with a +1 STUNx! That seems crazy-overpowered to me...but I concede that Steve's gun-fu knowledge generally exceeds mine.

 

It also gives it a -2 RMod, 400m max range, STR Min of 11 with 2 hands, 14- Activation Roll, 1/2 DCV, 1 Turn to reload, and can't use in heavy rain.

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Well, the size of the bullet is pretty huge, so I could see that amount of damage, although it could be modified for different campaigns.

 

In a 3 Musketeers derring-do sort of campaign, the damage could be lessened to 2d6 or around there. Dangerous, but not a Hero killer weapon. At 4d6-1, that seems more like the "realistic" damage such a weapon would do to a person. It's similar to a shotgun slug, I suppose.

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So I happened to look in the Equipment Guide, which actually has stats for a Brown Bess. It pegs the damage at 4d6-1 with a +1 STUNx! That seems crazy-overpowered to me...but I concede that Steve's gun-fu knowledge generally exceeds mine.

 

It also gives it a -2 RMod, 400m max range, STR Min of 11 with 2 hands, 14- Activation Roll, 1/2 DCV, 1 Turn to reload, and can't use in heavy rain.

 

Well the damage can seem overpowering, but the amount of powder that you use in these weapons combined with the size of the slug, it pretty much justifies the high damage ratings for these weapons. One can reason that a solid shotgun slug will do massive amounts of damage, even at slower velocities.

 

And from a game balance perspective, the insane time you need to reload pretty much balances out the high damage output. I would still used 3d6 (shotgun slug) and +1 stun multiplier. 4d6 would be a bit too much I think.

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Yeah, in general I have found that recent (the last 20 years? :D) products seriously over power guns in all sorts of ways...I'm not sure why...But I find it interferes in the "daring do". And I think 2D is a lot of Killing, that averages Most of a base NPCs Body! (basic dude 8 Body, avg on 2D= 7...)  So 2D+1 does on average a lethal injury.  3D sounds like Grape shot to me..."Style" I reacon...

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In a heroic campaign of derring-do in which wounds are just flesh wounds that the protagonists shrug off and deal with later, you can simply roll killing attacks as their Normal Damage equivalent, rather than keep them as KAs with reduced Damage Classes. So, instead of taking a 3d6 KA and lowering it to 2d6 (average of 7 killing Body), roll it as 9d6 normal (average 9 non-killing Body). And allow extra (non-resistant) PD to be bought as a kind of combat luck that such heroes always seem to have in abundance.

 

Of course, I'm assuming you just want to adjust for swashbuckling genre conventions, not rewrite the weapons because they seem overpowered regardless of genre.

 

I mean, what's the point of treating killing attacks as killing attacks if they aren't going to be truly lethal? Lowering their DC still leaves them pretty lethal because they bypass normal defenses, and hit locations (a common Heroic campaign option) can potentially take an average damage roll and turn it into a kill shot. Simply translating from killing DCs to normal DCs takes away much of the lethality without neutering the overall potential impact of the attacks.

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Yeah, I rework 'em...2D6 is a potentially lethal attack, of course I use Bleeding as well, so 7 Body to the Chest is a major big deal....for a real "Swashbuckling" adventure I just (strongly) suggest Combat Luck, that drops the Average down very nicely. :yes:

 

I honesty don't see where some of those numbers come from, a modern high velocity rifle is listed at 2.5 D6, +1 Stun...so how does a matchlock do 3-4 D6? :jawdrop:

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a musket ball is 1/2 to 1/3 the velocity of a rifle bullet

But it is like 4 to 5 times the mass and it is round and fat, not pointy like a bullet(start w/ a bigger hole then mush into something larger)
also back then they wanted to kill you not wound you so others would be out of combat getting you some aid
 

Yeah, I rework 'em...2D6 is a potentially lethal attack, of course I use Bleeding as well, so 7 Body to the Chest is a major big deal....for a real "Swashbuckling" adventure I just (strongly) suggest Combat Luck, that drops the Average down very nicely. :yes:

 

I honesty don't see where some of those numbers come from, a modern high velocity rifle is listed at 2.5 D6, +1 Stun...so how does a matchlock do 3-4 D6? :jawdrop:

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But it is mass times velocity Squared, so a more massive bullet would need to be something like 24x as heavy....to make up for the lack of velocity.  Ballistics tests are available for a wide range of weapons, and historical research is available for "old timey" weapons as well.

 

Hero's charts are not based on foot pounds of energy, but do serve as a general compare ...A Mauser 98k  is listed at something like 2.5 D6, it produces something like 2200 foot pounds of energy...saying a Brown Bess does 4400 pounds is Cra-Cra... that's an anti-tank weapon. You might want to kill your enemy, but that would likely kill the person firing it. The biggest gun I recall reading about was a 2-4 gauge duck gun, and that was mounted. Elephant guns do (or did?) combine large caliber, with fairly high velocity...but they never seem to have caught on....

 

If a modern .50 sniper rifle is listed at 3D6, the best a musket can do, is a lot less than that...

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