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OD&D Hand Hurled Weapons

It’s no surprise to any familiar OD&D player just how deadly combat can be for low level characters. Using ranged weapons against the enemy can offer a huge advantage. The obvious choices are short bows, longbows and crossbows etc. But bows aside, what other weapons can be used in this way? The three little brown OD&D books don't tell us anything about how hand hurled weapons can be used. But with a little digging we can quite easily figure things out.

OD&D Hand Hurled Weapons

The basic equipment listing on Men & Magic doesn’t really clarify which weapons can be thrown but there is a some information in CHAINMAIL; The table which gives missile ranges for the various troop types gives Heavy Foot a 3” missile range followed by an Asterix. The foot note explains “Troops armed with throwing axes and spears [...] fall into this category.“ There is also another footnote that explains “Javelin armed troops [...] have a 6" range.”

Under the Missile Fire section of CHAINMAIL it says “Throwing Axes and Spears and Javelins: These missile weapons are treated as any other missile weapons except: They may fire only once per turn, they may always fire at enemy troops charging them, and they may not fire indirectly.”

So, we do have some rules regarding throwing weapons and we can conclude that types suitable for throwing are axes, spears and javelins. Further, the Man-to-Man section of CHAINMAIL tells us to “Treat hand-hurled weapons as short bows for purposes of hit probability (not range).” So we could quite easily say that axes and spears can be thrown up to 3” (or 30 feet), javelins up to 6” (or 60 feet) and all these weapons have the same hit probability as short bows.

The man-to-man rules also tell us to divide the range into thirds to calculate short, medium and long range, so axes and spears are at short range from 0-10’, medium from 10-20’ and long from 20-30’ and of course javelins would be 0-20’ short, 20-40’ medium and 40-60’ long.

When we look into the fantasy sections of CHAINMAIL there is also the following text under the description of the Halflings: “They can fire a stone as far as an archer shoots.” But what are they firings stones with? We can probably discard any type of seige engine because further text under the CHAINMAIL halfling description says “for every two Halflings firing count three on the Missile Fire table.” This text makes it clear that these halflings are firing as individuals. Some options then might be slings, sling staffs, handheld catapults or even possible bare hands?

We do know that the halfling was originally called the “hobbit” in early versions of the OD&D books. These were exclusively J.R.R. Tolkiens creation, so the obvious place to look is Tolkien’s fiction and in his fiction the hobbits do not use slings! They just threw stones. The equipment list in Men & Magic also does not include a sling. However, use of the word “fire” in CHAINMAIL when it refers to hobbits attacking with stones does imply some kind of weapon.
We can easily figure out how Gary Gygax saw it by having a look at the Monster Manual entry for Halflings, which tells us that 20% of them use slings.

In the AD&D Player’s Handbook a sling costs 15 sp (or 1 and ½ gold pieces) in OD&D all basic equipment is listed with prices in gold only, so we could round the cost to one or two gold if we wanted to add the sling to the OD&D equipment list. The AD&D sling comes with 12 bullets. A score (20) costs 10 silver, so some rough maths would mean the ½ gold is for the bullets.

The Tom Moldvay “edit” of the rules, more popularly known as Basic D&D, has the sling in the equipment list at a cost of 2 gp. This one comes with 30 stones.

So I think a reasonable approximation for an OD&D listing is 1gp for a sling and 1 gp for 30 stones. Encumbrance should be 50, as is all types of bows for simplicity.

Now let’s turn our attention to the dagger. In OD&D there is nothing said about the dagger in regards to it being a hand-hurled weapon and we have to remember that magic-users can arm themselves with daggers only, so should they have the extra benefit of having normal missile capabilities? This would make magic-user’s with high dexterity scores better fighters.

Well according to the AD&D Player’s Handbook, the way Gary saw it in 1979 at the very least was that the dagger can be thrown just as the axe and spear, up to 30’ and there is nothing to indicate magic-users can’t hurl them as any other class might. For lack of any other contradiction I think this is good enough for me to conclude that the dagger can be thrown and by any class except Clerics in OD&D. Speaking of the Clerics: can they make use of the sling? As long as they are not loading it with sharp edged ammunition (stones would be okay) then I don't see why not!


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