Friday, May 09, 2008

Spears Shall be Shaken

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

Battle axe: 2d4

Club: 1d6

Dagger: 1d6

Hand axe: 1d6

Lance: 1d6 (double on charge)

Mace: 1d6

Pole arm: 2d4

Short sword: 1d6

Spear: 1d6 (double when set to receive charge)

Staff: highest single die of 2d6

Sword: 1d6

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.

5 comments:

onefreeman said...

There's certainly an elegant simplicity to it, but one or two chances could surely be made - a dagger doing the same damage as a full-sized sword?

How about 1d4 for 'small' weapons? Perhaps throw improvised ones in that list too - a carving knife, broken bottle, hefty branch, fist-sized rock... All of which can certainly do some serious damage (and potentially kill someone at the weaker end of the HP roll, which makes sense of course, but if a dagger does 1d6 why would anyone bother carrying a longsword?

trollsmyth said...

but if a dagger does 1d6 why would anyone bother carrying a longsword?

Yep, that is a problem. I'm toying with some ideas for having your weapon dictate initiative, as it cuts down on another dice roll and most folks use the same weapon in every fight. In that case the sword would be preferable to the knife because it would allow you to go before the knife-wielder.

I'm hesitant to go with 1d4 for knives and daggers only because they are hideously dangerous weapons, but yes, not quite as deadly as a sword. But if I up the damage, then characters are going to be dropping dead left and right. Still, it's something to keep in mind.

- Brian

onefreeman said...

Well true, they can be very lethal - but the chances of getting that lethal blwo in are much less. I suppose 2d6 and take the lowest roll could work, as it does allow high damage in rare cases, but that's another layer of complexity that you probably don't want.

Initiative decided by weapon... Do you mean just the longer the weapon, the higher your initiative? Because I'm sure a dagger can be wielded faster than a broadsword but that that could make sense, as he'll get hit before he gets within range.

Niall

trollsmyth said...

Initiative decided by weapon... Do you mean just the longer the weapon, the higher your initiative? Because I'm sure a dagger can be wielded faster than a broadsword but that that could make sense, as he'll get hit before he gets within range.

Yep, that's what I'm toying with now. And you're right, a dagger is much faster, but you first have to get past the point of your foe's sword.

Lowest of 2d6 is an interesting thought, but yeah, we're starting to get a bit complex. And where do you draw the line? Is a short sword 1d6 or worse? How about a war hammer? Or a club?

Eventually, you just have to embrace that D&D doesn't have that level of granuality (Is that a word?) and live with the fact that weapons blur together a lot when you have 10 second rounds and hit points. At that point, you step back, decide what sort of feel you want to have and what's important to your game and its themes, and choose from your array of sub-optimal choices.

I'm going to keep tinkering on this, because you're absolutely right; why lug a big sword when you can be just as lethal with a dagger? But I might have to go outside the damage rolls to find an answer I like.

- Brian

Terry L said...

why lug a big sword when you can be just as lethal with a dagger?
I think you're on to something with the initiative idea. You're exactly right that a dagger can ultimately be as deadly as a sword...the place where it is not as good is in the reach. This would either mean any roll it has 'to hit' should be less that the sword...or go with an initiative rule like you have proposed.