Sunday, May 30, 2010

Selecting A Weapon In Dungeons And Dragons

One of the features of ADnD that has always left me unsatisfied is variable damage by weapon. I have commented on this in the past, and since I just posted about weapon quality, I thought this would be an opportune time to post my recent thoughts on weapon selection.

I like to see players selecting weapons based on role-playing, not roll-playing: selecting a weapon based on their character template, rather than how much damage the weapon inflicts. ADnD makes that difficult, as there are weapons in ADnD that are clearly better from a min-maxing perspective. Why use a battleaxe (1d8/1d8) with a speed of 7 (slower) when you can use a longsword (1d8/1d12) with a speed of 5 (faster)?

As usual, Avalon Hill's Magic Realm (and to a lesser extent, Metagaming's Melee) comes to the rescue. In Magic Realm, all weapons are classified by their weight, and characters that are strong enough, can wield those heavier weapons, therefore inflicting more damage. All weapons in that weight category do the same damage. Melee uses a similar approach.

Marrying the Magic Realm and Melee weapon damage systems with Dungeons and Dragons provides me with the following solution.

Weapon Selection Table
Strength : Damage : Examples and Comments
Str 3 - 4 : Negligible (d3) : Blackjack, Knife, Dart, Stone
Str 5 – 7 : Light (d4) : Club, Dagger, Javelin, Hatchet, Sling bullet, Staff
Str 8 – 10 : Medium (d6) : Mace, Shortsword, Spear, Axe, Hammer, Arrow, Bolt, Pick
Str 11- 13 : Heavy (d8) : Flail, Longsword, Polearm, Battleaxe, Scimitar, Warhammer, Pickaxe
Str 14 – 16 : Tremendous (d10) : Maul, Greatsword, Lance, Greataxe, Morningstar, Mattock
Str 17 – 18 : Overswing (d12) : Can Overswing Tremendous Weapons For d12 Damage

Weapons that characters can use in combat, without experiencing fatigue, is based on their Strength. In addition, characters can overswing weapons in a lower weight category, raising the weapon's damage to the next higher damage category. That allows those characters to do extra damage with a weapon in a lower class.

For example, a Strength 12 Character can use a Longsword (d8). That Character can also overswing a Shortsword to bring it up to d8, from d6; or, can overswing a Dagger to bring it up to a d6, from a d4; or, can overswing a Knife to a d4, from d3.

Players are not restricted to weapons in, or below, their Strength category. For example, a Character with a Strength of 8 can still pick up and wield a Greatsword. However, since I use the longer, one-minute combat rounds, that Character suffers fatigue from swinging, parrying and blocking with the Greatsword, equal to the number of levels above the character's normal ability. Since the Greatsword is two levels above that character's normal ability, she suffers two fatigue (deducted from her hit points) every round she continues to wield the Greatsword in combat.


Sean Robson said...

I've become disenchanted with damage by weapon type as well. I'd really like to see players pick weapons based on aesthetics and role playing, and I'm coming to appreciate the old OD&D rules where every weapon deals 1d6 damage.

I like Philotomy's house rules allowing two handed weapons to roll 2d6 and pick the highest roll, and allowing a single attack at +1 bonus to hit when dual-wielding weapons.

Jayson said...

I count myself lucky that I have at least one player who sticks with what he deems appropriate for his character's concept.

Trey said...

I've never really had much of a problem with this is my games, most player's I've gamed with tend to pick the weapon they think is "cool."

Anthony Emmel said...

I also tend to pick weapons that fit the character concept as well. Other players tend to roll their eyes at me.

GURPS handles weapns in a similiar manner. Each weapon has a damage code based on type of damage, but that merely modifies your base damage that is based off of one's Strength stat. Impaling weapons do more damage once they penetrate armor but have a tendency to get stuck.It all works out in the end and people tend to choose whatever that want in GURPS.

Rognar said...

Nice work. That's actually a pretty elegant approach to the problem. One of the issues I have with the very oldest of the old school games is that oversimplification leads to illogical results. For example, in Microlite 74, the dagger is the ultimate weapon. After all, you can wield one in each hand, meaning you can take the better of two attack results and it does exactly the same damage as a two-handed sword. The two-handed sword, however, doesn't allow the use of an offhand weapon or a shield, making it a poor choice. Statistically, the little guy with two daggers will beat the lumbering barbarian with the greataxe in a fight most of the time.

Zzarchov said...

I still like the tactical aspect of choosing weapons myself, I just ensure that no weapon is totally useless (using the tag system) unless its not meant to be a weapon. Someone using a broom for example can expect it to be garbage.

A battle axe for instance isn't better than a longsword, since each tag has a pro and a con, its just different.

Some characters may find certain weapons more useful than others (a strongman would find a maul more useful than a rapier)

Talysman said...

I once worked up an even more TFT-like weapon system for D&D, and in honor of your post, I've reposted it to my blog. But I'm leaning more towards d6-only damage with different weapons having different features, like weapon length.

Flip said...

Is there any downside to overswinging? Any drawback? Is there any situation in which a player would choose not to overswing?

Brunomac said...

In my games there are usually a broadsword or two picked by characters over the mighty longsword, so pretty good role play in general. Sure, a character will occasionally choose Longsword for the better overall damage, but as long as there is some variety I'm cool.

I wish more players would run characters who used spears and maces, but too much romanticism is linked to swords.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

The overswing feature is set up to give players more options for weapons. Thus, they can use their own weapon type, or the one immediately below, and still do the same damage. More weapon variety, essentially. No, there's no downside to overswinging. Could be an option if you used weapon speed rules, then lighter weapons might be faster.

There is a downside to using a weapon above your class, as it costs fatigue.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I like it when players pick a non-standard weapon, like, as you say, mace or spear.

I used to love the Harn system, since it had different weapons that were more effective against certain types of armor.

Clovis Cithog said...

what is your take on weapon restriction by class?

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Don't like it, as it feels too artificial.

Not that the proposed approach isn't, but I always figured that wizards didn't use heavy weapons because they were physically weak.

Roger the GS said...

Even later coming (missed this post somehow) but I highly approve of this system for groups that want really light combat.

Clovis Cithog said...

the way i deal with different weapon and armor types is
by the critical hits which weapons inflict
and which armor best protects against certain weapons

a version of my critical hit system was published in

the original article has been emailed to you

A Paladin In Citadel said...

@Clovis: Much appreciated!