Monday, September 23, 2019

Silly Rules -- Recovering Ammunition

I'm rolling up a new character for a 5E game I'm in, and I noticed that on the entry for sling bullets, there is the rule that spending a minute after a battle allows you to recover half of your spent ammunition. Boy, that's a ridiculous rule.

First of all, owning a bow and arrows, I can tell you that in a wilderness situation, even if your arrow doesn't go that far, it's pretty easy to lose it. I imagine sling stones would be even harder to locate, considering they don't have brightly colored fletching to make them stand out. Or maybe you use day-glo colored sling bullets for that reason. I have literally spent an hour trying to track down arrows after a round of shooting before I finally found them all. Usually the arrows were still in good condition, but they sure weren't easy to find.

Indoors, sure, it will be easier to locate the ammo. But still, impact with your target or with a wall is very likely to damage your ammunition. Arrows break or at least crack from hard impacts. Sling bullets will be warped by the force of the impact.

There was a video on YouTube that I watched a few weeks ago from Tod's Workshop -- some of you may know this channel, as he makes and discusses medieval arms and armor. They were testing fairly authentic Medieval arrows versus an authentic steel breastplate. None of the arrows pierced the armor, and the ones they could locate after the test were ruined. I saw another video from Tod's Workshop yesterday where he was testing the force of a sling stone and comparing it to a 9mm round. I don't think he even tried to recover the bullets. A third video I saw last week was of a guy shooting a steel plate from a tactical vest with shotgun slugs. Some of the slugs managed to put dents in the plate, but none pierced it. And he did recover a few slugs and showed how deformed they were from the impact. I assume a lead sling bullet would have a similar reaction to hitting a breastplate or even chain armor.

No, the idea of spending a "minute" to recover three or four arrows is ridiculous. Either the time it takes to locate the ammunition is way too short, or the amount of usable ammunition that can be recovered is unrealistic.

And ammunition is cheap anyway! If you're worried that you will run out, buy more before you head out adventuring.


  1. "1 minute" is just shorthand for "you can't do this during combat, but assume it doesn't waste a lot of time." It's not based on any model of reality.

    The 5e rule is a simplification to the 3e-era rule that each missile that misses its target has a 50% chance of being recoverable. Obviously, that's really tedious if you roll for each missile. It's especially tedious if everyone at the table misses the part about misses being recoverable while hits are _definitely_ lost.

    That, in turn, seems to be based on an AD&D 1e rule that a _magic_ missile that misses has a 50% chance of being destroyed/irrecoverable. That makes sense of the 3e version: they never expected people to quibble over every arrow, only the magic ones, and only if it was "wasted" on a miss.

    So we've gone from "you have a 50% chance of taking back a wasted magic arrow" to "just assume have about twice the arrows you actually have written on your sheet."

    1. Now that would make sense. I remembered the rule from back in the day vaguely. I don't think most people I played with bothered. Even for the magic arrows. But then when I was young, most archery-inclined characters were looking for magic bows so they didn't need to worry about the arrows.

  2. The only missiles I allow to be recovered are the ones sticking in a target. But maybe I shouldn't even allow that.

  3. I came up with a "recover up to half your arrows" rule, but then I assumed it would take at least a full ten-minute turn, and that's only for searching one target area. Also, it went hand in hand with using 1-minute rounds and rolling 1d6 per round of fire to determine number of arrows lost.

    I never applied the rule to slings, because I assumed a medieval slinger in many cases would be using stones they gathered themselves, anyways, so why would they bother recovering shots?

  4. I was literally about to write about this same topic. I also watched the longbow vs. plate video, it's what inspired me.