I was there. I've seen the dice fall and destroy huge amounts of digits. A critical hit with a light crossbow. It dealt 68 points of damage that day in the dungeon below the moathouse. Think what a heavy crossbow could do...
|Da Vinci did it [source.]|
The heavy crossbow is one of my all-time favorites, but especially so in HackMaster. An arrow of a heavy crossbow will deal S 1d8 / M 2d4+1 / L 3d4. The icing on the cake are the rules for exploding dice, though. Normally, rolling the highest possible number on a die will result in an additional roll with the same die and a -1. Roll the highest number again and keep rolling. But there is an expansion of that rule for crossbows. They explode as soon as the second highest number is rolled, which means a whole lot of trouble for large creatures.
One arrow doing 3d4 damage will mean 50% chance per die to create more havoc. Even for the reroll. I mean, this puppy will rip a hole into a giant, his grandfather will feel the punch. It's the heavy crossbow that kept all the civilizations of smaller creatures save from those big evil creatures hiding in the mountains. It's terrifying*.
Even if a character of mine was not proficient with it, he'd carry one of those. Loaded. Hoping that the first roll will be a hit and the first orc/goblin/kobold will be smeared upon the next wall. Just as a first impression. That's why they say "it's worth a shot". And I like an unfair edge in a fight (as a player**).
The heavy crossbow is the single most enjoyable mundane item in
*Try this in regular AD&D at your own risk. Only the 20 hp-kicker makes this work for HackMaster. A system assuming less hp per creature couldn't stand that kind of damage output.
**I don't mean cheating, of course.