Sling

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) Sling.png
Name sling
Appearance sling
Damage vs. small d2
Damage vs. large d2
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill sling
Size one-handed
Base price 20 zm
(+10/positive
enchant)
Weight 3
Material leather

A sling is a weapon that allows you to throw projectiles such as rocks, gems, and gray stones. Slings are often dropped by hobbits; in addition, the Caveman role starts with one.

Gems, pieces of glass, and rocks can be multishot with a sling.

Sling skill

Sling
Max Role
Basic
Skilled
Expert

The sling is the only launcher to use sling skill. The following types of ammo use it:

There are no artifact slings, but the Heart of Ahriman is slightly more effective than a regular luckstone when slung.

History

Slings appear in all editions of D&D, where they're a common ranged weapon of clerics (who are not allowed to shed blood) and wizards (who are limited in non-simple weapons). The corresponding bullets deal 1d4 base damage.[1]

Slings existed in version three of Rogue, with its corresponding rock dealing 1d4 damage when slung, as in D&D.[2]

In the first version of Hack, slings instead fired sling bullets, which dealt 1d4 versus large monsters, and 1d6 versus small[3] (compared to the d6 in all cases of the arrow). In this release the rock item did not exist, and these sling bullets would weigh seven units (the same as arrows and bolts). Sling bullets no longer exist in 3.2.0 and subsequent releases, having been replaced by the more powerful flint stone which does 1d6 damage to monsters of all sizes.

Canonical D&D does have a rule that improvised stones (that is, non-bullets) do a size category less damage--which is to say, 1d3 instead of 1d4. This may explain the damage reduction in the current version.

Generation

Weapons comprise 10% of all randomly-generated items in the main dungeon, 0% in containers, 12% on the Rogue level, and 20% in Gehennom. There is a 4% chance that a randomly spawned weapon object will be a sling.

Strategy

Improving sling skill is generally a waste of skill slots, but you may wish to use a sling as an unofficial conduct or because a bad ranged attack with effectively unlimited ammo is better than nothing.

  • Gems and glass deal the same damage as 1d3 (avg. 2) rocks, and weigh only 1 unit, compared to the 10 units of rocks.
  • Rocks, gems, and flint stones can disappear when they hit monsters, but other gray stones cannot. None of these projectiles can be enchanted (which is the best way to prevent ammo disintegration), but they can be blessed. Blessed projectiles gain a luck-based bonus to avoid breakage. Blessed ammo used by a character with maximum luck and a luckstone will be very durable and will last quite a while.
  • Flint stones deal 1d6 (avg. 3.5), on par with arrows. However, flint stones are quite rare in the game so it is difficult to collect enough to make multishot useful.
  • Cavemen start with a sling and large stacks of rocks and flint stones. If they avoid using the flint stones until they have maximum luck, they can bless the flint stones rendering them durable enough to last for a significant portion of the game. Rangers can also benefit from using a sling on less threatening monsters in the early game, partially preserving arrows or bolts until they can be made almost unbreakable. However, it is obviously not worth dying because of unwillingness to use good ammo early.

Origin

Shepherd's sling

Real-world shepherd's slings, which are the most likely type of sling the DevTeam meant, are nowhere near as dinky as NetHack would make them out to be. Slings remained an important weapon in hunting and warfare despite the advent of the bow, where a skilled slinger could still easily trump the speed at which a skilled bowman could fire arrows. The hurled stones, themselves, were also nowhere near as puny as they're often portrayed—sling and bullet can often be as dangerous as bow and arrow.

This problem can be traced to most games, books, and any media, in fact, that contain a sling. Media portrayals of slings tend to greatly understate their abilities, viewing it as a pathetic weapon. This is quite far from the truth, and seen in most games that have any sort of sling weapon, least of all NetHack. This misconception may have come about from the fact that slings and bullets were, indeed, a much cheaper weapon than bow and arrow, using more common materials and less intensive construction. The trade-off, here, being that a sling is actually a rather difficult weapon to use effectively.

A large portion of the uselessness in NetHack derives from the large weight of the projectile, making it very encumbering to carry the necessary ammunition. The heavy weight of the stones violates much basic sense, where a flail weighs 15 units, and a simple rock 10. The arrows used in warfare tended to be very large—a fairer weight would actually have them about the same as arrows, crossbow bolts, or darts. Canonical D&D, from which NetHack is based, had the weights on par with the others. Though the damage was still puny, they at least weren't a counter-productive weapon as they are in NetHack.

Slings remain used to this day, though stones are no longer the primary fodder hurled. In the modern age, slings are instead used to hurl incendiary devices, such as Molotov cocktails, as well as grenades. Their primary function is no longer the kinetic force, but the added range they provide.

Variants

Many variants strive to make slings more useful, or at least not as much of a burden.

DynaHack

In DynaHack slings gain bonus damage from strength (usually reserved for attacking from melee or throwing weapons by hand) as well as the sling's enchantment, making slings much more viable as a ranged weapon.

dNetHack

in dNetHack slings also gain bonus damage from strength. Furthermore, there's a new type of sling stone: silver slingstones, which deal silver damage to silver hating monsters, and can be found is small deposits within rock or in large amounts on a certain level in the Neutral quest. Cavemen now also gain a +1 multishot bonus when using slings. Since the strength bonus maxes out at +8 at 25 strength, silver slingstones out-damage even +7 silver arrows. Because of these changes, dNetHack slings are sometimes called "portable meteor launchers."

Encyclopedia entry

And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and
drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward
the army to meet the Philistine.
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone,
and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that
the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face
to the earth.
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with
a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there
was no sword in the hand of David.

[ 1 Samuel 17:48-50 ]


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