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Sling skill Edit
The sling is the only launcher to use sling skill. The following types of ammo use it:
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.
In the first version of Hack, slings instead fired sling bullets, which dealt 1d4 versus large monsters, and 1d6 versus small (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 the 3.4.3 release, incidentally making slings a useless weapon.
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.
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.
Improving sling skill is generally a waste of skill slots.
- Gems and glass deal the same damage as 1d3 (avg. 2) rocks, and weigh only 1 unit, compared to the 10 units of rocks. By the time the player has access to enough gemstones to make this feasible, they've no doubt already moved on to the 1d4 (avg. 2.5) of darts, or the 1d6 (avg. 3.5) of arrows. These items may furthermore be enchanted and poisoned—making slings even more of a waste.
- Flint stones deal 1d6 (avg. 3.5), on par with arrows; despite this, due to their great rarity, and that they still have considerable weight, this is not advisable, and slings remain a generally worthless weapon.
- Cavemen start with a sling and a goodly sized stack of flint stones. Despite the fact that flint stones deal d6 damage, and that Cavemen can advance in sling skill, and that rocks are the most plentiful projectile, this is still a waste.
- It can be a life saver in the very early dungeon, however, though the sling should be ditched as early as the Gnomish Mines.
Real-world Shepard 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 spear 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.
Encyclopedia entry Edit
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.