Tuesday, August 25, 2009

D&D: Variable Weapon Damage

I graduated to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons very shortly after it's release in 1977. Of all of the features of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, one that I particularly disliked was the weapon damage table.

My quibble was this: variable weapon damage on that table encouraged min/maxing, which, along with rules-lawyering, were the banes of good role-playing.

As a player, it made little sense to choose a hand axe as your preferred weapon for your character. At 5 lbs, and doing 1-6/1-4 damage, the handaxe was inferior to a shortsword, at 3.5 lbs, doing 1-6/1-8 damage. Therefore to maximize my effectiveness, I would select a weapon that did the most damage, within my class options. This led to nearly every fighter choosing the bastard sword as her prime weapon, even if the player would have preferred a handaxe.

Not surprisingly, this disease has infected every version of D&D since 1978, including 4E: it is expected that a player will min/max, and it is considered bad form to create a sub-optimal character, since you are disadvantaging the entire party by doing so.

For people in the OS community, it's easy to see the solution to this problem. Change the damage table so as not to penalize interesting weapon alternatives. But as an eleven year-old playing with other teenagers, at the time the 'rules as written' were sacrosanct. If Gary said a horseman's flail weighed 3.5 lbs and did 2-5/2-5 damage, who were we to argue?

1 comment:

Jesse Carter said...

Agreed. I used to use variable weapon damage, but it's a treacherous road to travel down. Where does it end? It also doesn't make much sense, in that, a man can be killed with a hand axe just as easily as he can be killed with a bastard sword.