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Blackjack damage


Gollum

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Hello everybody!

I don't know if it has been asked before, tried a little research in these forums, but obviously did miss my research roll... ;-)

So, here is my question.

Is the Blackjack damage just a typo or is there any good reason for such a destroying power?

To explain what I mean...

– Blackjack: 1d8+db

– Flail: 1d6+db

– Warhammer: 1d6+db

– Longsword: 1d8+db

– Heavy club: 1d8+db

Medieval knight would better use a blackjack than their usual weapons!

Here is another argument:

Average d8 result: 4.5

If the character is a bit strong: +1d4 (average result: 2.5)

Average blackjack damage for this very common kind of character: 7

Which means just two hits and almost every healthy man is dead.

So, there is a problem with blackjack damage, isn't it?

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I am not so sure. In German a blackjack is called a "Totschläger" (a combination

aus "tot" = dead and "schlagen" = to hit), which describes a weapon designed

to kill with a single hit or a small number of hits. Looking at the description of a

typical "Totschläger", basically a string of leather with a ball of lead in the size

of a golf ball at the end, I would really hate to be hit by this. Still, it does not

make a good weapon for the duel or the battlefield, it is rather short and the

leather is easily cut.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Haven't noticed that before. Another interesting fact is that the Blackjack have a higher HP than a flail.

Flail is a chain while blackjack is a leather sack. I agree it makes me suspect that the blackjack entry is completely wrong, but there is plenty of these errors spread around the book. Another commonly known one is the lack of the Lever-Action Rifle Stats in the tables.

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Yes...

I made a little more research... Successful, this time...

First, it is not just a typo. I opened an old Call of Cthulhu book and noticed that the Blackjack had exactly the same damage in the past. 1D8+db.

Second, the Totschläger looks very dangerous, indeed, but doesn't correspond to the weapon description in the BRP book (page 249): “A small sewn leather sack full of heavy substance like lead shot [...] Other terms for these are sap or cosh.”

After a glance to some Totschläger photos on the web, I'd rather consider it as an heavy club.

Having said that, thank you very much for your so rapid answers...

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I think the key point is that a blackjack deals non-lethal damage. It's a knockout weapon, not a killer, also it's very short (think of a short truncheon, maybe 5 or 6 inches long) and best used against unsuspecting or defenceless targets. The classic method is to cosh (another name for the blackjack, and also the verb for its use in England) someone across the back of head/neck to either knock them out or at least stop them fighting. Getting hit there with anything is bloody painful.

These days you get things like rubber truncheons that do the same thing but the classic design has been simply what could be described as a leather condom filled with lead shot. A sock full of sand has roughly the same effect.

A proper blackjack can be used to inflict serious amounts of pain as well, without causing much damage, smack someone's knees or kidneys with it and they won't be happy.

So no, it's not a really hardcore weapon. It does non-lethal damage, has bugger all reach and no defensive capabilities. In a fight, you'd want a knife instead, but if your target is tying his shoelaces then a blackjack is the way to go.

"Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing."

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[...] So no, it's not a really hardcore weapon. It does non-lethal damage, has bugger all reach and no defensive capabilities. In a fight, you'd want a knife instead, but if your target is tying his shoelaces then a blackjack is the way to go.

Thus, if I understand you well, you would use the 1D8+db, exactly as written in the rules, but always with the Knockout Attack rules (page 226).

That makes much more sense, indeed.

Thank you very much.

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Yep, but one should perhaps keep in mind this information from

the Wikipedia article (highlighting by me):

This weapon works by creating kinetic energy in the dense core, via the spring handle, during the swing. When directed at the head, it works by concussing the brain without cutting the scalp. This is meant to stun or knock out the subject, although head strikes from blackjacks are regularly fatal.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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@Gollum: Yeah, that would make sense. I've just read the entry for Blackjacks on the weapons table and I'm sure they meant to put something like that in, otherwise it just looks like a very powerful (if short) weapon.

Another option could be to have it deal damage to Fatigue Points (if you're using that system) instead of HP.

@Rust: I agree, the difference in pressure required to kill someone rather than knock them out isn't as large as you may think. Even if you don't kill someone you can easily do some serious nerve damage or just crack their skull. But, a blackjack isn't a very good weapon, not in the way that RPG fights work at least. If you're going toe-to-toe it's really not something you'd want to be stuck with. In the real world I'd rather not get hit by one ata ll, even if I did have a knife. They bloody hurt and taking a solid hit to the form is enough to kill all the feeling and make it useless. But that's not really how RPG fights work, they're more cinematic so a blackjack shouldn't be a really good weapon for that paradigm.

Edited by KingSkin

"Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing."

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Another option could be to have it deal damage to Fatigue Points (if you're using that system) instead of HP.

Right.

But I prefer the Knockout Attack rules. Indeed, in reality, it is very hard to knockout someone without wounding him. So, having a quite high chance to inflict real damage is important for realistic games like mines: Call of Cthulhu adventures, but with a lot of Basic Roleplaying rules that I find much more interesting...

I don't like Call of Cthulhu's barehanded combat damage, for instance. In my humble opinion, 1D6 for a kick is too much: a character with a damage bonus of +1D4 systematically kills an average guy with two or three kicks.

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That's why I like non-lethal damage rules. Reallistically, if I get in two or three good kicks on someone, that's going to end the fight. It probably won't kill them or even do any serious damage but it'll be enough to persuade most people to stop fighting.

"Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing."

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Yep, but one should perhaps keep in mind this information from the Wikipedia article (highlighting by me):

Yes. As a karate practicer, I perfectly know that blows to the head (or elsewhere, actually) are very dangerous. You can kill someone without wanting it...

To my mind, this is a very good result for a critical failure!

If the player character doesn't really care about the victim's life, or if the attacker is a non-player character, the fumbler remains a miss, as usual... But if the player character absolutely wants to knockout the victim without wounding him (or her), then death becomes dramatically interesting.

"Oh my God! You killed her! What will we tell his father?"

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That's why I like non-lethal damage rules. Realistically, if I get in two or three good kicks on someone, that's going to end the fight. It probably won't kill them or even do any serious damage but it'll be enough to persuade most people to stop fighting.
Realistically, if you really kick someone with all your strength, he won't only be hurt; he will be wounded. And he will have to go to the doctor, if not to the hospital... Unless you pull your blows, of course. Which is what most people instinctively do... News are full of stories where people were seriously wounded in street brawls.

Having said that I perfectly understand the interest of Fatigue points damage for more heroic genre... Or for blows that are not inflicted in a life or death situation...

Now, there is still a difference between being able to injure someone and being able to kill him in only two blows... Which is why I don't use 1D6 for kicks but 1D3, as written in Basic Rolepaying. 1D3 sounds more realistic.

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Is the Blackjack damage just a typo or is there any good reason for such a destroying power?

To explain what I mean...

– Blackjack: 1d8+db

– Flail: 1d6+db

– Warhammer: 1d6+db

– Longsword: 1d8+db

– Heavy club: 1d8+db

You haven't got those damages quite right (see the Table on p395 of the BRP Rulebook).

– Blackjack: 1d8+db

– Flail: 1d6+db

– Warhammer: 1d6+2+db

– Broadsword: 1d8+1+db

– Longsword: 1d8+db

– Heavy Mace: 1d8+2+db

Medieval knight would better use a blackjack than their usual weapons!

Or he could use a Broadsword, Bastard Sword or Heavy Mace, all of which do more damage. In any case, a blackjack is a weapon for thieves and brigands, or for policemen.

Here is another argument:

Average d8 result: 4.5

If the character is a bit strong: +1d4 (average result: 2.5)

Average blackjack damage for this very common kind of character: 7

Which means just two hits and almost every healthy man is dead.

So, there is a problem with blackjack damage, isn't it?

Or, I could hot you around the head twice with a blackjack and see how well you are afterwards! :)

It depends on what you mean by Blackjack. Wikipedia says it is a truncheon but also says it is slang for a cosh http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baton_(law_enforcement)#Blackjack - both are pretty dangerous. There is a big difference in what people see as being reasonable damage from weapons in a heroic game and what is realistic in real life. Two blows from a blackjack to knock me out is reasonable, maybe it would kill me as well, possibly reasonable.

But, as other people have said, if you use a blackjack for non-lethal/stunning damage then it should be OK.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Game mechanics aside, the blackjack is a staple of detective fiction, particularly the hard-boiled type. Nosy, strong-jawed, but not-too-observant heroes are forever being bashed over the head as they step into dark alleys or unlighted rooms or when they lean over an open car hood to help a "stranded motorist" who is actually lying in wait for them. Sometimes it happens multiple times in the same short story or novel. In the real world, of course, the victim would be dead or hospitalized. In the iron-tough world of pulp mysteries, however, the hero shakes it off with an ice pack and a cup of strong coffee and keeps on plugging away.

When we come back to game mechanics, the problem is the same one we encounter in attempting to simulate the superhero genre: BRP's default is that weapons, no matter how small or short, do lethal damage. There are optional knock-out rules, but you could still accidentally kill the victim (which, in Gollum's example above, does fit the crime/mystery genre well). So, all well and good if you're aiming for a realistic noir or gangster game, troublesome if you're attempting to model Michael Shayne, where the bone-headed shamus gets clobbered every other scene. In more cinematic games, such as Hero System, it is easier to just knock someone out since the rules assume a separation between knock-out and lethal damage. You could still kill someone with that sap, but you'd really have to work at it or just be unlucky.

Edited by seneschal
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You haven't got those damages quite right (see the Table on p395 of the BRP Rulebook).

I still read this page before writing my post... Almost everything I wrote is right: longsword and not broadsword, heavy club and not heavy mace...

But you're right about the warhammer. I missed the +2 – and I don't know why. Thanks for the correction.

Or he could use a Broadsword, Bastard Sword or Heavy Mace, all of which do more damage. In any case, a blackjack is a weapon for thieves and brigands, or for policemen.

That is perfectly right. My knight example was exaggerated... Having said that, a lot of medieval warriors or fantasy characters used long swords, flails or even heavy club against armored foes. Nobody, even a thieves, would never try to use a blackjack in such a situation... Which means that a blackjack is normally not as powerful.

To my mind, a blackjack, as described in the rules – see page 249, quoted above – is closest from a light club than from a heavy one for its lethality power.

Or, I could hot you around the head twice with a blackjack and see how well you are afterwards!

It would hurt me a lot, of course...

But would it wound me more than two butcher knife blows in the stomach? The rules, as they are explicitly written for the moment, still say than the blackjack is much more lethal than a butcher knife.

It depends on what you mean by Blackjack. Wikipedia says it is a truncheon but also says it is slang for a cosh http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baton_(...ent)#Blackjack - both are pretty dangerous.

The page 249 is very precise about the sort of blackjack which does 1D8+db point of damage. “A small sewn leather sack, full of a heavy substance”.

There is a big difference in what people see as being reasonable damage from weapons in a heroic game and what is realistic in real life. Two blows from a blackjack to knock me out is reasonable, maybe it would kill me as well, possibly reasonable.

It's always hard to know what is realistic in a role playing game and what is not. It would require a lot of statistics: how many killed by blackjack blow to the head? We lack such statistics...

So all what we can do is comparing weapons with other weapons in the same game system to see whether it is coherent. And this is this kind of comparison which made me think: “Wow! The blackjack is a very powerful weapon. As dangerous as a longsword or as a medium revolver!”

If I had the choice, I would still prefer to be hurt by a blackjack than by a longsword or a medium caliber...

But, as other people have said, if you use a blackjack for non-lethal/stunning damage then it should be OK.
Yes. Making it nonlethal is a good way to make it more consistent with the other weapons. Edited by Gollum
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Game mechanics aside, the blackjack is a staple of detective fiction, particularly the hard-boiled type. Nosy, strong-jawed, but not-too-observant heroes are forever being bashed over the head as they step into dark alleys or unlighted rooms or when they lean over an open car hood to help a "stranded motorist" who is actually lying in wait for them. Sometimes it happens multiple times in the same short story or novel. In the real world, of course, the victim would be dead or hospitalized. In the iron-tough world of pulp mysteries, however, the hero shakes it off with an ice pack and a cup of strong coffee and keeps on plugging away.

When we come back to game mechanics, the problem is the same one we encounter in attempting to simulate the superhero genre: BRP's default is that weapons, no matter how small or short, do lethal damage. There are optional knock-out rules, but you could still accidentally kill the victim (which, in Gollum's example above, does fit the crime/mystery genre well). So, all well and good if you're aiming for a realistic noir or gangster game, troublesome if you're attempting to model Michael Shayne, where the bone-headed shamus gets clobbered every other scene. In more cinematic games, such as Hero System, it is easier to just knock someone out since the rules assume a separation between knock-out and lethal damage. You could still kill someone with that sap, but you'd really have to work at it or just be unlucky.

I fully do agree with this post.

That is why, to my mind, using the knockout rules is the best way to use the blackjack. It can kill, but not too often... Even in detective fictions, where it is the most used.

Except if the character really want to kill with it, of course... In which case he would have to hit his victim a lot of time... Thus, the damage would have to be reduced... Nobody ever tried to kill someone with a blackjack. A lot of murderers killed others with knifes though... But a bad guy who read the Basic Roleplaying rules would inevitably say: "Hey, guys, drop your knife... Your blackjack would do the job far much faster!"

Edited by Gollum
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Another option could be to have it deal damage to Fatigue Points (if you're using that system) instead of HP.

Or, if using Hit Locations, an opposed roll (or resistance table roll) against the HP in the location. Target doesn't win the outcome, stunned, falls down in pain, etc. Specials use rolled damage as lethal, critical... well thats the cracked skull.

SDLeary

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I like that idea, as it also allows for stunning a location which is entirely apt.
Yes. I don't use the location rules (though I always locate wounds in my descriptions - that is just a descriptive effect depending on the amount of damage) but SDLeary's house rule is a very good idea.
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Yes. This is another problem of the blackjack damage as written in the rules. 1D8+db is able to wound despite armors or helmets... But a blackjack, as described in the book, is not able to do so.

It looks like an errata is really required here...

Oh, about errata, I have a question: is there any official errata for the BRP system?

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If you belt someone wearing a helmet around the back of the head with a cosh then it might hurt - it will certainly make their ears ring. 1D8+1D4 does, on average, 4.5+2.5=8 points of damage and a max of 12, possibly enough to knock someone out who is wearing a helm, but more likely to damage them a bit.

I don't think it is doing too much damage, but use 1D6+db if it makes you feel better, or disallow the damage bonus, either way makes it less effective.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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If you belt someone wearing a helmet around the back of the head with a cosh then it might hurt - it will certainly make their ears ring. 1D8+1D4 does, on average, 4.5+2.5=8 points of damage and a max of 12, possibly enough to knock someone out who is wearing a helm, but more likely to damage them a bit.

I don't think it is doing too much damage, but use 1D6+db if it makes you feel better, or disallow the damage bonus, either way makes it less effective.

4.5 + 2.5 = 7... And 12 points of damage - 3 (for a light modern helmet, for instance) = 9 points of damage, which is a major wound for a 12 hit point character. With the optional Hit Points by Hit Location rules, it is enough to crush completely his skull, despite of his helmet (and it occurs about 3% of the time)...

7 points of damage (the average) - 3 (for the helmet) = 4 points of damage. It represents one in third of the total hit points of an average character...

So, the blackjack as described in the rules is not really likely to "damage a bit"... It is likely to severely wound an average man despite of his helmet. Which is not realistic for a "small sewn leather sack, full with heavy substance like lead shot".

Having said that, this thread is full of solutions to correct this damage which is, in my humble opinion, an erratum. And your solution to reduce it to 1D6 rather than 1D8 (which lowers it from "like an heavy club" to "like a light club") is a very good one too for those who don't want to use fatigue points, wound locations or knockout rules.

Many thanks to you and to everybody for yours very quick and interesting answers.

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4.5 + 2.5 = 7... And 12 points of damage - 3 (for a light modern helmet, for instance) = 9 points of damage, which is a major wound for a 12 hit point character. With the optional Hit Points by Hit Location rules, it is enough to crush completely his skull, despite of his helmet (and it occurs about 3% of the time)...

7 points of damage (the average) - 3 (for the helmet) = 4 points of damage. It represents one in third of the total hit points of an average character...

So, the blackjack as described in the rules is not really likely to "damage a bit"... It is likely to severely wound an average man despite of his helmet. Which is not realistic for a "small sewn leather sack, full with heavy substance like lead shot".

Having said that, this thread is full of solutions to correct this damage which is, in my humble opinion, an erratum. And your solution to reduce it to 1D6 rather than 1D8 (which lowers it from "like an heavy club" to "like a light club") is a very good one too for those who don't want to use fatigue points, wound locations or knockout rules.

Many thanks to you and to everybody for yours very quick and interesting answers.

I think the most simple answer is that for those weapons that are primarily used for subduing should have a note saying so, and keep the damage as is, but note that the actual physical damage is 1/2 or 1/4. Then add a rule for subduing based upon subdual damage as rolled when compared to total HP or hit location (so a Major Wound in subdual damage or subdual damage exceeding the HP for a specific body part might require a CON roll to avoid knock out or temporary disabling of the affected part). Then optional rules to use fatigue points or knockout rules.

Ian

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I think the most simple answer is that for those weapons that are primarily used for subduing should have a note saying so, and keep the damage as is, but note that the actual physical damage is 1/2 or 1/4. Then add a rule for subduing based upon subdual damage as rolled when compared to total HP or hit location (so a Major Wound in subdual damage or subdual damage exceeding the HP for a specific body part might require a CON roll to avoid knock out or temporary disabling of the affected part). Then optional rules to use fatigue points or knockout rules.

I don't know if it is the simplest answer (many other house rules are very simple too) but it is another good idea. Thank you for it.

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