Rampant Games - Weapon Stats in RPGs
The thing is, D&D’s weapon tables kinda-sorta made sense in terms of the abstract, wargame-y combat system from which it was derived. A combat round represented a full minute of fighting and represented multiple attacks. Gygax even suggested that weapon damage might not even represent actual injury so much as “near misses” representing the defender’s luck running out. (The abstraction went even further afield with armor reducing the chance to hit, rather than reducing damage on a hit).
But of course, players usually treated it as literal damage. And later games did the same. And while a big ol’ bastard sword might represent a bigger threat than a dagger over the course of a long fight, an individual hit is a different thing. With any lethal weapon, damage comes down more to being where it hit than the size of the weapon. Whether it’s a .45 bullet or a crowbill hit to the head, the lethality chance is pretty dang high. And then there’s the whole added factor of how people (and animals) can continue to fight or function after being mortally wounded. Even in a life-or-death struggle, it is about taking the fight out of the opponent rather than causing instant death.