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Experimental Canister shot rules?

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Experimental Grapeshot rules,
A bag containing eight/ twelve/twenty* small metal balls, when firing into a crowd roll to hit as normal then roll a d8/d12/d20 to see how many of the balls hit the crowd then roll for damage as normal (adjust for caliber) for any that hit.

Light, medium and heavy cannon.


Is this a workable and fair adjustment to the rules when using Canister/Grapeshot in a cannon?


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Not sure to be honest, to speed things up if its a big attack the red shirts get auto hit and depending if leading from the front or not the N.P.S's get a dodge roll to dive to the ground/side to avoid the shot. Roll a D12 for medium cannon, rolls up a six so six men hit five are cutthroats and get hit whilst Hell Hath no Fury Jones a named N.P.C who was leading the charge gets his dodge roll as he see's the Roundheads touch flame to the cannon. Going to be a little vague and up to the G.M really I guess in most cases and Players will have to be fairly clear on where they are in relation to any barricade and cannons.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Seems reasonable, although you might allow an easier attack roll for the initial aim since it just has to hit the area of the crowd, not a single individual. I'm not sure what light, medium, heavy corresponds with in regards to real life cannon. I found a reference that says cannon targets in the 18th & 19th century were often 3 yards high by 30 yards wide. This was the approximate size of an enemy infantry company coming straight on to the cannons. A man on a horse being approximately 9 feet tall, not the height of individual soldiers. 😊  


I don't know that you care to get this far into the weeds, but there is an actual difference between Grapeshot and Canister.



If you do...


Grapeshot was primarily a naval round which used a smaller number of large (usually iron) balls, typically nine 2" to 2.5" balls sandwiched between 2 iron, bore diameter sized plates. They were typically bound together with wire and / or cloth. The name came from their resemblance to a cluster of grapes. Some very large guns like the 42 Pounder used balls as large as 3 1/4".


Canister was primarily an anti-personnel round more common in field guns. It fired a much larger number of 1/2" to 1 1/2" iron or lead balls. Musket balls were sometimes used as well, being of a handy size and readily available. These were usually packed into a thin metal can, resulting in the name case or canister shot. Canister was devastating at 100-200 yards, but quickly lost effectiveness past 300 yards and was considered ineffective beyond 500 yards.


Shrapnel came along around 1790, so I'm assuming later that the period you are playing in. It differs from Canister as it is a hollow ball filled with smaller balls and a bursting charge. It is fused to detonate at range releasing its contents, which then act much like canister. Since it stays together until the bursting charge goes off it has a significantly longer range.  


For reference I found details for a 12 Pounder of the 1800s which was considered light as a ships gun, but heavy as a field gun. Loaded with Grapeshot it used nine 2" balls each weighing about 1 1/6 pound. Loaded with Canister it fired 27 balls of approximately 1.5" diameter, each weighing about 2/5 of a pound.     


Navies preferred Grapeshot because the larger balls would do more damage to a ships components and rigging. They also were better at penetrating the light cover a ships deck provided to the crew. Armies were generally firing at men lined up in a field where there was minimal cover to worry about, more balls meant more chances to hit a target. 

Grapeshot seems to have been limited to 12 Pounders on the smaller side, but Canister was used down to at least guns of the 3 Pounder (2.9") size.


For damage it seems reasonable to consider a hit from a canister shot roughly equal to getting hit by a musket / rifle, while grapeshot is more like getting hit by a small cannon. 

Edited by Toadmaster
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