Weapons!

There’s been a lot of talk about variable vs. uniform weapon damage. I personally like both, and there are good reasons to use either. Here’s another system. It gives varying weapon damage by size but not by type, with optional special weapon abilities by type if you like that sort of thing. But it leaves open the choices of two Human Fighters so they can choose something other than Longsword.

Weapons are divided by type. Axe, Bow, Club, Crossbow, Flail, Fork, Hook, Rope, Sling, Spear, Sword. Give a base price and weight for each type. This is a Medium weapon of that type.

Then give a list of price and weight modifiers for each different size from Tiny to Large.

Now you can make a Tiny Sword (which you can call a Dagger or Kukri or whatever) or a Large Spear (Pike) or Medium Fork (Trident). The player writes down the size, weapon type, and whatever he wants to name it.

Weapon damage is based on weapon size. Tiny = 1d4, Small = 1d6, Medium = 1d8, Large = 2d6.

You can have varying weapon special qualities. For example, Rope weapons (Lasso, Whip, Net) could have a bonus to entangling. Fork weapons (Sai, Main-Gauche, Trident) could have a bonus to disarming. Spears can attack from the back rank if the spear is larger than the size of the person in the front rank. Slings can shoot easily available ammo (rocks) instead of bullets but at a -1 damage penalty.

You can use a weapon single-handed if it’s your body size or smaller (Humans etc. are Medium, Halflings and Gnomes are Small). You can use a weapon off-handed if it’s smaller than your size. If the weapon is one size larger than you, you must use two hands.

Range for missiles is based on weapon size. If you have special weapon class qualities you can vary range by weapon class too to balance them (crossbows have longer range but have a reload time, slingers can be interrupted like spellcasters, etc).

Compound weapons are problematic. A polearm could have a spearpoint, a hook on the back, and an axe on the front. I suggest allowing combinations but you must choose which part you will use in any round and the whole weapon has -1 to hit per extra part beyond the second. The total weight of the weapon is the combined weight of each part. This reflects how many compound weapons end up being too fiddly to use effectively. The size of the weapon overall is the size of the largest component, though each component can have a different size for damage purposes.

Some example compound weapons:
A pole-noose which can be used as a Spear to poke or as a Rope to entangle.
A Halberd which has a Spear point, a Club back, and an Axe front.
Kusari-Gama is a Hook and Club chained together by a Rope.
Dwarven Tunnel Bow is a Crossbow with a Spear bayonet on the end. (Medium Crossbow and Medium Spear)
Elven Hookbow is a Bow with a Hook on one end for desperate melee action. (Medium Bow and Small Hook)
Orcish Punchgauntlet is a Club (in gauntlet-form) with a trio of Wolverine-claw Swords built in. (Tiny Club and Tiny Sword)

You will also have some weapons which could fall into multiple categories. A Druid using a crescent-shaped Sickle might build the weapon as a Hook or a Sword. I think the Hook is more fitting for a Kama, but I don’t think of Hooks as slicing weapons. It’s probably best to use the compound weapon rules for these, calling them Hook / Swords.

The 3E D&D double weapons I’d construct as a pair of smaller-size weapons. For example, a two-handed Double Sword would be a pair of Small Swords joined at the pommels so they point in opposite directions. This fits the rules above: a Human can use a Small Sword in his off hand, and he can use it in his main hand, so even though the weapon is in one piece it has the exact stats as two Small Swords. I’d say the whole thing probably looks like a Large Sword especially since he uses it in two hands. But it has the reach of a single Small Sword because he can’t hold the blade of one end!

A Quarterstaff would similarly be built as a pair of Small Clubs. If you wanted a big honkin’ staff with one end big and the other end narrow, I’d call that a single Large Club. I guess it’s debatable whether the Quarterstaff-user should be able to swing two-handed baseball-style, but I’d make an ad hoc ruling that the item does damage as a Medium Club (1d8 damage single attack) or else just have the player roll for attack and damage normally (two attacks of 1d6 each) which is sort of the same as Large (2d6).

I like how this is balanced. Two handed weapons do more damage, your offhand weapon does less, small people’s weapons do less damage, but you can choose what your weapon looks like without regard to damage. The combined weapon rule could make for some creative cool things!

There are some downsides to this system. There’s no difference between two Medium Clubs, one made from wood and the other a professional Mace. Perhaps the Mace is actually more compact because it has a metal head and their weights are the same. They should still cost the same. If someone goes out into the woods and grabs a branch, I’d call that a makeshift weapon and say it breaks on a natural 1 or 20 attack roll.

For very small weapons, continue the progression downward to d3-1 for Diminutive (average 1 HP) and d4-3 for Fine (average 0.25 HP). For larger than Large, continue upward to Huge 3d6, Gargantuan 4d6, Colossal 5d6, and Colossal+ 6d6 (for a Colossal creature with a two-handed weapon). Consider the giants in your favorite edition of the game (probably Huge) and compare the listed damage to 3d6 one-handed or 4d6 two-handed.

Unarmed attacks should be two sizes smaller than your body size (so a Human does d4, a Halfling does d3-1). Monsters have different damage because their natural weaponry is better than a Human’s for their size. A nonmagical predator should probably count primary weapons (bite) as one size smaller than its body and secondary weapons (claw) as two sizes smaller. If you want a single attack from each creature (such as a single attack routine from a horse rather than two hooves and a chomp) then just use the damage equal to its size. Magical creatures could have higher damage.

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3 Responses to “Weapons!”

  1. Elber of Torou Says:

    Seems a little bit complicated, especially if you’re trying to categorise a whole bunch of weapons into overlapping categories.

    • 1d30 Says:

      Well try comparing it to the two other systems that are pretty common: all weapons are pretty much the same (so simple!) or you have a list of weapons (so … quite a lot of them). This makes weapons a little different from each other, but there isn’t a “best choice” like Longsword.

      But in general, I’d just do “all weapons do d6” and get playing.

  2. RMDC Says:

    I don’t think this is complicated at all – remember, you’ll primarily be using the normal, single-handed category, so it’s a simple matter of picking how the weapon works and how large it is. Adding on special benefits for type, as in the Rope weapons example, now feels less fiddly and individualistic (read: tldr rules), since you can just write up a compact list of weapon benefits in short paragraphs and assign them to your bloodletter of choice. In other words, a feat list for weapons. 🙂

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