In my post “Shields Shall be Splintered”, I mentioned briefly my plans for weapons in my hack of Moldvay/Cook/LL. To the best of my knowledge Moldvay/Cook was the first edition of D&D to offer a wide array of variable damage for weapons. Most do 1d6, though a few do 1d4 damage. Two do 1d8 (the sword and battle axe), and two do 1d10 (the two-handed sword and pole arm).
It’s a simple system, and it works, but there have been many other options floated from time-to-time, including damage by class and a simple 1d6 for all weapons.
I’m going to wuss out and split the difference a bit, here. To keep things simple, the default on weapons is 1d6. Weapons built to be swung two-handed get 2d4. This keeps things simple and it’s easy to know what you should be rolling. Using one hand? 1d6. Using two hands? 2d4.
To get the two-handed bonus, you must be using a weapon made to be used with two hands. Using both hands to swing your dagger doesn’t benefit you.
A few weapons break the rules. Spears, for instance, can be used two-handed, but they still only do 1d6. They can, however, be set to receive a charge and do double-damage in that case. They’ll also get a little love when I talk about initiative.
Torches, of course, can light you on fire. Not sure how I want to handle that. An extra 1d4 ‘til you put it out?
Flails are not in the Moldvay/Cook books, but I’m adding them in. As an added quirk, they ignore shields. Why? Because that’s how they were designed to work; the length of chain allowed the damaging head of the weapon to swing around behind the shield and clobber your foe. I might still allow the target to sacrifice their shield in exchange for ignoring a successful “to hit” roll.
And then there are staves. Ok, I’ll have to admit a bit of prejudice here, I love staves and always have. I think they are among the coolest weapons ever devised, and this mostly comes from reading tales of Robin Hood as a boy. The back-and-forth of staff combat, its flexibility as weapon, and its easy availability have always appealed to me. So I’m doing something special with staves: highest die of 2d6.
What is up with that? Well, I couldn’t really justify the full-on 2d4 that halberds and two-handed swords get. I also wanted to represent the ease and flexibility of the weapon, how an attack could come from either end of the staff, or even the middle. The highest die of 2d6 represents that, giving a touch more damage due to the speed and sneakiness of the weapon. It’s also the damage roll for using a weapon in each hand.
So here’s what my weapons look like:
Bastard sword: 1d6 or 2d4
Hand axe: 1d6
Lance: 1d6 (double on charge)
Pole arm: 2d4
Short sword: 1d6
Spear: 1d6 (double when set to receive charge)
Staff: highest single die of 2d6
Torch: 1d6 + burning damage (1d4?) until put out
Two-handed sword: 2d4
War hammer: 1d6
And there you go. Simple and quick and intuitive, I hope. Since the average person has 1d6 hit points, this means every weapon can be fatal on a single strike, while the big, two-handed weapons are especially fearsome, as they ought to be.