Getting the Most out of D6 Weapons

Jacques Callot Dwarf Dual Wielding Daggers
Sketch by Jacques Callot

As mentioned previously, I’ve been running a very rules-light game for my younger brother, which I’ve been calling D&D&LB. I was inspired by Brendan of Untimately to use the rules in the three little brown books. Accordingly, many of the gaps and weaknesses in those rules have been filled with the same innovations Brendan uses in his Pahvelorn campaign. I sketched out the rules in about an hour and a half, and they’ve served us well for about two months. But the players are starting to ask about crafting items, dual wielding weapons, and their XP is getting dangerously close to second level. It’s time for the rules to be expanded a bit, and I thought it would be a fun exercise of my game crafting abilities to come up with those expansions myself, rather than pulling them from books.

One of the oddities about the three little brown books is that all weapons have the same damage dice. Everything from a dagger, to a great sword uses 1d6 for damage. To my knowledge this is the only version of the D&D rules which doesn’t use different dice for different weapon types, which is too bad. I think all weapons using the same damage die is an idea with a lot of merit, because it has synergy with another of the game’s old rules: all characters have 1d6 hp at first level. That means any blow, for any character, from any weapon, has the potential to be fatal. And for first level characters, I think that level of danger is thrilling.

The only problem is that the differences between weapons become a lot less clear. What’s the value of choosing a long sword, when a short sword or a dagger is functionally identical? For the most part I haven’t seen this become an issue. Players choose whatever weapons they find the most interesting as a matter of preference. It becomes important, however, when the players must make a sacrifice for a given type of weapon. If, for example, the weapon is two handed, the player cannot use a shield. The same is true if the player is using an off hand weapon.

But then, since everything uses a 1d6, you can’t very well balance things with more or different dice. That would ruin the synergy between the 1d6 weapon damage and the 1d6 hp which I so love about the game. Nor do I want to add simple bonuses and penalties to choices between mundane weaponry.

Here’s the solution I’m going to run with for now:

  • When using a one handed weapon, the character’s THAC2 is equal to what their class prescribes, and they deal 1d6 damage.
  • When a character uses a shield, their Armor Class is improved by 1.
  • When a character uses a light weapon in their off hand, their THAC2 is improved by 1.
  • When using a two handed weapon, the character’s THAC2 is unchanged, but they roll 2d6 for their damage, dropping the lower of the two results.
  • Fighters, when using a one handed weapon, roll 2d6 for damage, dropping the lower of the two results.
  • Fighters, when using two handed weapons, land a critical strikes on an attack roll of either 19, or 20.

I think the above should work out well for this game. I particularly like the synergy between the well established idea that shields improve defense by 1, and the idea that offhand weapons increase offense by 1. I’m 99% certain that I can’t take credit for coming up with that idea, though. I’m sure I read it somewhere before. If you know where it came from, let me know so I can give credit. And for the record, two handed weapons dealing 2d6 damage, drop the lowest, is another one of Brendan’s ideas.

So no real innovations from me today. Fail.

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3 thoughts on “Getting the Most out of D6 Weapons”

  1. I’d have suggested you make certain weapons more deadly or versatile than others in some regards.

    There’s the old Slashing/Bludgeoning/Piercing thing which you could ad-hoc based on the enemy type and how you feel each would effect them.

    You could also give deadlier weapons higher threat ranges or multipliers on critical hits, or cool effects for crits (like bleed damage, or a crippling strike that hampers mobility?).

    Lastly, in the same vein of making things deadlier than others, maybe some more exotic weapons have the “Deadly” quality. Still only do 1d6, but you re-roll any 1s rolled, or immediately shift 1s to 2s or even 3s. All deadly all the time! :O

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