Category Archives: Weapons

Guns in ORWA

Saturday Morning GunsAs I’ve discussed before, my ORWA campaign was meant to be a very standard fantasy game, with a post apocalyptic paint job. It’s only because the players managed to join a secret society of technologists, called The Internet, that I was thrust into the position of creating a more Sci-Fi world.

None the less, guns are heavily restricted. The players are meant to be relying on swords and bows, so I’ve made a point of keeping guns rare. The only way they can enter the game is during a Haven Turn, when there is a 2-in-6 chance that the Internet  has managed to find & repair a gun. When this happens, the gun is put up on eBay, where any member of the Internet can claim it. The cost is always exorbitant, to the point that players will usually need to pool their resources in order to afford it.

But after 14 months of running this game, with my players approaching level 9, that scarcity has begun to break down. Which is appropriate, the game should change as you reach higher levels. Nowadays, each player is wealthy enough that even the most expensive guns can be quickly snapped up. And there have been enough of the gun auctions that the party has quite the private arsenal on their hands. Not enough to equip every hireling, but certainly enough that every PC has a gun, or even two.

Because the game’s setting has a Saturday Morning Sci-Fi flavor, I like to get creative with the guns. They’re not normal equipment, after all. They’re more like magic items, which should have special abilities, and little peculiarities to keep them interesting.

So, seeing as I’ve now written this arsenal of ORWA guns, I figured I may as well share it.

The Spandau (Inspired by stories I’ve heard from WW2)
A fast-firing machine gun with poor accuracy. The Spandau attacks everything within a 10’x10′ hit box. Those within its area of effect must make a saving throw versus Breath, with a bonus of +2 to their save for each increment of 30′ away they are from their attacker. On a failed save, they take 2d4 damage. On a successful save, they take no damage.

Regardless of success or failure, any creature within the hit area must also check morale at a penalty of 2. On failure, they will dive for the nearest cover. They will not necessarily attempt to remove themselves from combat, but will move only very cautiously.

The Spandau and its ammo box are separate encumbering items. Each time the weapon is fired, roll 1d6. If a 1 is rolled, the ammo box is almost depleted and can be fired only once more before it is empty. Ammo boxes are sold for 50cc by The Internet.

The Uzi (Inspired by most video games where there are Uzis)
A weapon which fires so quickly it can be easy to run out of ammunition without even realizing it. Before making their attack roll, a player should announce how many d6s of damage they are going to deal. They can choose as few as 1, and as many as 6.

After their attack roll, whether it is a hit or a miss, they should roll a d6. If they roll equal to or lower than the number of damage dice they had announced, then they’ve used up their current ammo clip.

Each spare ammo clip the character carries is an encumbering item. They cost 50cc, and are sold by The Internet.

The Grappling Gun (Inspired by Batman: The Animated Series)
A small weapon, the size of a flare gun, with a folded grapnel protruding from the end of the barrel. When the trigger is pulled, the grapnel will launch out of the barrel, trailing a cord created by a liquid, micro-filament cartridge. When the trigger is released, the rope retracts into the gun, returning to a compressed liquid form, and pulling the wearer up to wherever the grapnel hooked to.

If time is passing in exploration turns, a grapple can be assumed on any location up to 25 stories high. If time is being measured in rounds, a hit roll is required. The armor rating of the shot is 1, per story of the target. (So, a 12 story building would have an Armor of 12 for this purpose).

If the gun is used to create a zipline, the grapnel and micro-filament rope may not be recoverable. In this instance, new ones may be purchased for 25cc.

The Auto-Crossbow (Inspired by a YouTube video)
Weaker than a standard crossbow, but that deficiency is compensated for by the sheer volume of bolts it can put out each round.

The wielder can make 3 attack rolls each round, which each deal 1d4 damage on a successful hit. Unlike normal crossbows, these do not ignore any amount of defenses from armor. After each round of fire, the wielder must roll 1d6. On a 1, the weapon is either out of ammo, or it has become jammed. They must spend 1 round reloading/clearing it before they can fire again.

(The Auto-Crossbow is not actually a gun. It was created by a player using the Tinker skill, after he found the above-linked YouTube video in an old archive. None the less, it seems an appropriate inclusion here.)

The Lasorator (Inspired by Star Trek)
An advanced weapon with many settings. Before making each attack roll, the wielder may choose how high the weapon’s energy usage is set. The higher the setting, the more damage is dealt; but also, the more quickly the battery will be drained.

If the weapon is set to deal 1d4 damage, then the player must roll a d12 after they fire. On a roll of 1, the weapon’s energy cell is exhausted. For each higher damage die the wielder sets the weapon to, (1d6, 1d8, 1d10, or 1d12); it has a lower exhaustion die (1d10, 1d8, 1d6, 1d4).

So, if the weapon is set to deal 1d8 damage, it will have a 1d8 exhaustion die. If it’s set for 1d12 damage, it will have a 1d4 exhaustion die, etc.

The Lasorator can be set to “Wide Beam,” which is ineffective in combat, but useful for silently melting barriers. Weak barriers such as glass windows require a d8 exhaustion die. While more robust barriers, such as those made of steel, require a d4 exhaustion die.

The weapon also has a stun setting, which requires the most energy of any of them. On a successful hit, the target must make a saving throw versus Paralyzation. On failure, they fall unconscious. The exhaustion die for the stun setting is 1d2.

Extra power packs for the weapon are encumbering items. They cost 150cc, and can be purchased from the Internet.

The Derringer (Honestly, Inspired by The Simpsons)
A small, easily concealable weapon with two barrels. The derringer deals 1d6 damage at a range of up to 30′. After 30′, attack rolls suffer a -3 penalty. After 60′, the bullets are moving so slowly, they would not cause any harm even if they did hit a person.

After every 2 shots, the derringer must be reloaded (which requires 1 round). Each time the weapon is reloaded, roll a d6. If a 1 is rolled, then the ammo pouch is empty, and the gun cannot be reloaded from it again. Ammo pouches are an encumbering item, and can be purchased for 20cc.

Because the derringer is so easy to conceal, it grants a +1 to any Sleight of Hand checks made with it.

Tranquilizer Pistol (Inspired by Metal Gear Solid)
On a successful hit, targets must make a saving throw versus Poison. On failure, they will fall unconscious after 1d4 – 1 rounds, and will remain unconscious for 1d6 + 2 turns.

Attacks with the Tranquilizier Pistol made from steal receive a +4 bonus to their attack roll. If the attack roll exceeds the target’s armor rating by 6 or more, then the target has been struck in the head or groin, and does not receive any saving throw. Instead, they fall unconscious instantly.

The gun can only hold a single round, and must be reloaded after each use. (As with all guns, reloading requires 1 round). A box of tranquilizer darts has an exhaustion die of 1d4, which should be rolled each time the gun is reloaded.

Some targets may be immune to being tranquilized for a variety of reasons, at the discretion of the referee.

The Bazooka (Inspired by classic FPS games)
A massive weapon which deals 6d6 damage on a successful hit. It ignores most forms of hardness & damage resistance, including personal armor and shields. This allows it to easily blow holes through most walls or floors. However, moving targets gain a bonus of 6 to their armor rating.

Functionally, this means that the base armor for a living target is 18, plus any bonus they may receive from dexterity.

Even if the bazooka misses, however, it will eventually hit something and explode. The referee should determine where this happens to the best of their ability. Anyone adjacent to the explosion must attempt a saving throw versus Breath. On failure, they take half the damage that was rolled. On success, they take only a quarter of the damage.

The bazooka can only hold one shot of ammunition at a time, requiring a reload after each shot. Each shot of ammunition costs 200cc, and counts as an encumbering item.

If the wielder jumps into the air and fires the bazooka directly beneath themselves, they will take 2d6 damage, and be launched high into the air, where they will hopefully find something to grab onto before they plummet back down to earth.

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Figuratively +X Swords

JonTron's Brave Boy Bit, Gone through a digital dreamLast week I wrote a bunch of alternatives to +1 swords. I did this because I believe that +1 swords are lame. Not only are they uninspired, but they damage the fabric of the game by unnecessarily inflating numbers, and creating standard magic items that players learn to expect. But then someone had the sheer unmitigated gall to agree with me.

Plus X Weapons Suck - Papers and Pencils Comment Screenshot

So now, of course, I have to prove them (and by extension, myself) wrong by creating the greatest list of +X swords the world has ever seen.

Map Plus “X” A rapier of simple and sturdy make. The blade appears to be entirely indistinct, and yet the point always leaves an “X” mark on anything it punctures. If the wielder takes a map, closes their eyes, and stabs at the map with this weapon, the “X” will mark the location of some valuables.

Which valuables are marked is entirely at the discretion of the referee. They may be of high or low value, they may be free for the taking or guarded by horrible monsters. They may even be in a location within the bounds of the map, but not actually depicted by any cartography. In the margins, for example.

Attempting to use the rapier twice on the same map will result in the map being torn to shreds, rendering it completely useless.

Wielder Plus “X” During downtime, the wielder must meditate with their sword; sitting still in nature and studying the movements of insects. They must acknowledge the superiority of the insectile form, and strive to find the insect within themselves.

At the end of a game session, the wielder may add an “X” to the name they most identify with. This is the name they introduce themselves as, or the one they use to refer to themselves. They cannot extend this process by bringing in last names or middle names that they rarely use. This is about integrating the glory of insect kind within your own identity, not cynically grasping for ever increasing power. The sword will punish those who use its gifts so callously with horrible deformities.

The wielder must be able to pronounce their new name to the referees satisfaction; and they must always pronounce their name that way forever afterwords. Failure to do so results in the aforementioned horrible deformities.

When play resumes next session, the referee will reveal to the sword’s what new insectile feature their devotion has granted them. The nature of these evolutions, and the benefits they grant, are entirely up to the referee. Some suggestions that are in no way compulsory would be:

  • Wings
  • The ability to explode their body, harming anyone nearby.
  • A stinger.
  • A stinger which kills you when you use it.
  • A venomous bite.
  • A life which ends abruptly the first time you mate.
  • A hardened carapace
  • The ability to lift many times your body weight
  • The ability to climb sheer surfaces.

Plu Sex Sword: Once per day, the wielder may summon Plu. Plu is a horrid boor, and and Plu is horny. Plu has no distinct gender; nor any distinct sexual preferences. Plu just wants to fuck any intelligent creature that will let Plu at em’. None but the most deranged sexual deviants would accept Plu’s offer. Most would sooner vomit than allow the stubby, stinky, lard-beast that is Plu anywhere near their naked bodies.

The wielder has no control over Plu, they merely bring Plu into the world. Plu is a quick way to end any social gathering, or to disgust any decent folk.

Plus X-Beam The wielder of this sword may engage in a minute long ritual in which they slowly wave their blade through the air in a large “X” shape. Doing so summons a pair of well-fortified wooden cross beams. The beams will fill whatever space they’re summoned in up to 15′ by 15′, bracing against the floor and ceiling. In larger spaces the full sized beams appear, but are not braced against anything.

The wielder may do this as many times as they like, but only 5 beams may be in existence at any one time. Summoning a 6th causes the 1st one summoned to disappear. (And so on when summoning a 7th, 8th, etcetera).

Plus Your Ex A Claymore with a thick lens mounted at the center of the crossguard. Once per day, by looking through this lens, the wielder can attempt to deceive themselves with its illusory magic. If they succeed on a saving throw versus Magic, then the foe they look at through the lens will take on the appearance of the wielder’s ex for the rest of the day.

Not a good ex. One that broke the wielder’s fuckin’ heart, ground it into hamburger with malice aforethought. All attacks made against this foe roll double the normal amount of damage dice.

Plus eXtreme! A Zweihander of unnaturally bright colors: a stark white cross guard with hot pink wrapping, and a deep red blade. Once per day the wielder may hold the blade aloft and a beam of light will lance down from the clouds, obscuring all but the wielder’s silhouette. When they step out of this light they will be transformed, and will remain so for 1 turn.

The wielder’s muscles are now massive. Even muscles that do not normally exist bulge as though they’re trying to escape from the wielder’s own skin. This doubles the wielder’s strength score, and allows them to grapple as though they were four levels higher than they are, and to wield the Zweihander in a single hand.

Furthermore, the wielder’s clothes are now covered in pouches. From these they can remove any mundane, non-specific item that is small enough to be held in one hand by a non-transformed character.

If at any time the player of the transformed character smiles, laughs, or shows any sign of an emotion other than melancholy, anger, or rage; the transformation ends.

+ X to Y Sword When this weapon is first acquired, roll the smallest die already on the table that is large enough to include the wielder’s level. (If the wielder is levels 5 or 6, roll 1d6, if they’re levels 7 or 8, roll 1d8, etc.) The die’s result is the numerical bonus which the sword grants.

Next, roll 2d6 on the table below to determine what action that bonus applies to. This bonus remains unchanged until the wielder fails a roll while attempting the task they’re receiving a bonus for. When that happens, both the bonus and what the bonus applies to are re-rolled.

The bonus can never be used to make a roll a sure-thing. If it would, then the referee rules on what the failure conditions would be. They may opt to simply reduce the bonus granted, rule that a 1 is always a failure, etc. Similarly, if the thing you receive a bonus for is not normally rolled in your game, then for you it is rolled, until you fail at it.

2. Making handcrafted ceramic animals.
3. Gambling
4. Having a conversation without punching the other person in the face.
5. Seduction
6. Dancing
7. Attack Rolls
8. Caligraphy
9. Waking up on time.
10. Fishing
11. Painting
12. Writing Poetry

Jumping on a 2-Year Old Bandwagon: Replacing +1 Swords

maxresdefaultIn 2014 it was fashionable to post evocative alternatives to +1 swords. Gus did it. Courtney did it. Arnold did it. Errybody did it. I wasn’t blogging much at the time, but I really enjoyed reading those. I miss reading them. So I’m gonna write one.

The Mugger’s Choice:  On a natural 20, the wound dealt to the target becomes a geyser of money! 1d100 coins spray across the room, making a terrible racket. Literal blood money!

Sword of Justification: If used to slay a human or human-like creature, the Sword of Justification will cause the corpse to undergo a gruesome metamorphosis. It will contort itself into monstrous shapes, growing horns or fur, oozing black blood, and reeking of sulfur and brimstone. The specific shape will vary, but no one looking at the result will imagine it was anything but an evil creature.

Immovable Sword – There’s a switch on the hilt which locks the swords position relative to its environment. It’ll stay floating in mid air if you tell it to. Like an immovable rod, but a sword. Useful for setting impromptu traps.

Self Preservation Sword – Anytime a save v. breath is required, both wielder and sword attempt the save. (Sword saves as a 1st level fighter.) If the sword saves and the wielder do not, the wielder can make a strength check to hold on to the sword. If they succeed, the sword pulls them along with it and effectively makes their save for them. If they fail, their sword flies out of their hands.

Chewing Sword: Each miss with this sword deals 1 notch of damage to the opponent’s weapon. Standard weapons can take 6 notches before they break and become useless. Does not work against unarmed characters, or characters using natural weapons.

The No-Blade: A hilt without any blade. When the crossbar of the hilt is tapped against a material, a blade of that material grows from the hilt, and lasts for 10 minutes. All blade materials are functional, but most have quirks. Dirt blades deal 1d4 damage and only work for one hit, stone blades deal 1d6 but break on a 1, wood blades can be lit on fire to deal +1d6 damage for 3 rounds until they’ve been burned to the point of uselessness, metal blades work normally. Be creative. What do blades of grass, bone, crystal, clay, or flesh do?

Binding Blade: On a successful attack the wielder may choose for the sword to become a pair of manacles binding the humanoid target instead of dealing damage. Target may save v. magic to avoid. On a successful save, the sword does not transform, and the wielder may continue using it.

Spelltning Swo-Rod: Comes with a special lead-lined scabbard. If this weapon is drawn, then the wielder becomes the target of any spell cast within their general vicinity. Every “Cure Light Wounds” and “Fireball” will be centered on the person holding the Spelltning Swo-Rod, even if they are technically out of the spell’s range. Note that casters may not immediately catch on to this fact. The cleric may notice that their healing spell didn’t work, but they won’t instinctively know that someone else nearby was healed.

Charming Sword: On a successful hit, instead of dealing damage, the player may opt to make a new reaction roll. If the result is better than neutral, the enemy will be willing to forgive and forget the battle up to this point. If the party then resumes hostilities, their foe gains a +2 to all attack rolls due to their outrage at the bad manners of the party.

The Sword of Second Chances: The blade of this sword is the shaved finger bone of a titan, with sharp bits of steel inlaid around the edge. When it cuts an intelligent living creature, noises come from within the wounds. There’s someone behind them. They might speak, voicing their confusion over what is happening.

If the Sword of Second Chances delivers the killing blow, then the newly dead corpse will shortly be torn apart. A person will emerge, like a chicken from an egg. Within the last 25 years of your campaign world, this person died an unnatural death within 100 miles of the wielder’s current location. Whether or not they deserved it may not be immediately apparent. They’ve been stuck in the afterlife for who knows how long, and now they’ve got a second chance. Perhaps they’ll run off to find their family, perhaps they’ll join the party out of gratitude, or perhaps the players just resurrected a serial killer. Who really knows?

The Wall-Slidy Sword: When the blade is touched to a wall, the character can slide down it at a rate of 20′ per round, allowing them to reach a safe landing below. Using the sword in this capacity causes a shower of sparks to illuminate the character’s descent, and elicits screeching sound that’ll make the rest of the party want to act passive aggressively towards the wielder for a few turns. Also it may mimic the mating squawk of the Biting Leatherhorn. So watch out for those.

The Reflection Holding Blade: A wide blade polished to a mirror sheen. By use of a command word, the reflection on the blade can be frozen, causing whatever image is currently being reflected to remain visible on the blade until the reverse command word is uttered. Will eventually be made obsolete by camera phones.

The Useless Sword: Damage dealt with this weapon only lasts 24 hours. After that, wounds will slowly knit themselves back together, even to the point of reversing death or decapitation. Note that it is only wounds dealt with this particular weapon that are reversed, So if the corpse is burned after being killed with the Useless Sword, it’s not gonna un-burn itself.

The Blage of Empires: If two turns (20 minutes) are spent striking at a piece of stone, that stone will catch on fire and burn like wood. This fire can spread to other stones of similar composition, but it will not spread to wood or other typically flammable material. Nor will it spread to different types of stone. The Blage of Empires is never dulled or broken by striking at stone.

The Sword which is Not Yours – The wielder may summon a 7th level fighter in gleaming armor, who will appear from around the nearest corner or through the nearest doorway. When the fighter sees her “squire” in danger, she will hold out her hand and call for the PC to give her her sword. Once she has it, she will join the fray with wild abandon. When the danger is passed, she will thank her squire for caring for her weapon, and depart with the sword.

The Sword of Weeping Mothers: Though it appears normal, out of the corner of your eye this sword sometimes appears to, for lack of a better word, “pulse.” Any time this blade deals damage, eyes look out from the wound it opens. They appear bloodshot, and afraid. If anyone with one of these wounds drops to 4 hit points or less, the eyes bulge, trying to press out of the body, and dealing 1d3 damage. If this damage kills the target, a dozen screaming shadows rocket into the distance and fade into nothingness. Something bad happens in the nearest community. The referee is encouraged to be creative, but to be clear, we’re talking “pile of dead children” levels of bad. Whether or not the players ever know about it, it does happen.

Bit of a tone shift from the rest of these, I know.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess House Rules, Part 1 of 2

Jan2015_FencerWhen I was a Pathfinder GM, tinkering with and  changing the game’s rules was a pastime of mine. It was the primary driving force behind most of my writing back then. There were some downsides to it. I annoyed my players, who had to adjust to my frequent rules changes. And, occasionally, I would make the game’s rules lopsided, by failing to take rule interactions into account.

Since switching to Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I’ve had little to tinker with. I’ve done a fair amount of adding rules on top of the existing ones. But for the most part, LotFP’s rules do exactly what they should. They give me a framework to run the kinds of games I like to run, without getting in my way.

But no game system can ever be perfect for anyone but the GM who wrote it. After more than a year of running LotFP Rules-As-Written, I’d accumulated a small list of inadequacies I wanted to correct. So I’ve been experimenting with a few alterations that I’d like to share.

I’m going to break this post up into two parts. The changes to combat rules are here, and the changes to the skills system will come later.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

-Weapons, and use for the off-hand-

In RAW LotFP, there are four weapon types:

Minor: 1d4, -2 to hit v. unadjusted AC of 15 or better.
Small: 1d6
Medium: 1d8
Great: 1d10

Great weapons require two hands, while all other weapons use only 1 hand, aside from a handful of special cases (like the staff).  The only thing the player can do with the off hand is hold a shield. I’d like to keep this simplicity, but open up a few options for the player. My four weapon types are:

Minor: 1d4, -2 to hit v. unadjusted AC of 15 or better.
Small: 1d6
Medium: 1d8
Great: 1d12, -1 AC, Requires both hands.

If the player isn’t using a great weapon, they can use their off-hand in several ways:

Shield in off-hand: +1 AC v. melee attacks, +2 AC v. ranged attacks. (Unchanged from RAW)
Second weapon in off-hand: +1 AC v. melee attacks, +2 when fighting defensively or parrying, +0 v. great weapon and ranged attacks.
Free off-hand: +1 to hit, +1 to AC v. melee when parrying.
Both hands on Medium weapon: 1d10 damage instead of 1d8

I like giving players access to a 1d12 weapon; and I also like that great weapons come at a cost. I don’t think enough systems give players an advantage for focusing all their attention on a single handed weapon. I also like the idea of a player shifting between one and two hands with their medium weapon. Allowing them to swap between higher damage and higher hit chance.

I do think the benefit of having an off-hand weapon is too low, but I want to avoid making it too powerful. I want it to be an interesting option, not means to make characters “totally badass.”


Grappling has historically been a big problem for D&D. And, while LotFP’s “Wrestling” rules are adequately simple, they aren’t perfect. But, as I’ve recently learned, Gygax published a rule in Strategic Review which is pretty close to perfect.

I’m sorry I can’t find the blog which turned me on to this rule (and had a great variation on it), but thanks to Courtney Campbell for pointing me to the rule’s source. After some tweaking, this is what I’m going to try:

When characters grapple, both sides roll their hit dice as a pool. (So a single level 10 fighter would roll 10d8, and 20 1-hit-die kobolds might roll 20d4). The defender must always be a single target, but multiple attackers can attempt to swarm the target. The side which rolls the higher sum number wins. The winner can choose to do one of the following:

  • Knock their opponent(s) prone and stun them for 1 round.
  • Knock their opponent(s) 10’ back and stun them for 1 round.
  • Pin their opponent. (Only one)

A pinned character can attempt to throw off their attacker(s) by rolling half their hit die pool each round. Attackers can opt either to deal 1d4 damage to a pinned character each round, or to move the pinned character up to half of the attacker’s movement speed. A single attacker may also use a small or minor weapon against a pinned character–but not if they’re part of a ‘swarm.’

Aside from simplifying grappling enough that I won’t need to look it up again, the major benefit of this rule is the way it empowers swarms of small creatures. Traditionally, a mid level fighter can stand in the middle of a dozen first level foes, and slay them at leisure. Using this rule, large groups will always be a serious threat, because of their ability to overwhelm a defender.

Weapon Mechanics

He-Man Action Figure tries to choose a swordA lot of emphasis in Pathfinder is placed upon magical weapons and their properties. Since acquiring such weapons is one of the primary goals of adventurers, this is good and proper. But put magic aside for a moment. Magic can do anything, and it doesn’t really matter (save, perhaps, thematically) what type of weapon serves as a vessel for which magical effect. When we take the magic away, what are the fundamental differences between weapons? Why would a level 1 adventurer choose a spear over a trident, or a scimitar over a falchion?

As it stands, mundane weapons all have a few simple attributes:

  • Price, which may or may not matter. Personally I’ve been much happier since I started enforcing starting gold more strictly. But for many years I allowed players to select any mundane equipment they wanted, and I do see the appeal of that method.
  • Damage, separated into Small and Medium, to reflect the various sizes of player races.
  • Critical range, and multiplier.
  • Range, for projectile weapons, or weapons which can be thrown.
  • Weight, which nobody I’ve ever met, not even the grognardiest of grognards really seem to care about. Encumbrance is important. The difference between 11lb and 12lb isn’t.
  • Damage type, which can be bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage. Sometimes a combination of two is used.
  • Hands Needed, which can be Two, One, or ‘light.’ (One handed weapons can be used with two hands optionally, while light weapons cannot.)
  • Complexity Category, which Pathfinder uses to help determine proficiency. The categories are Simple, Martial, and Exotic.
  • Some weapons have special properties, such as being ‘reach’ or ‘brace’ weapons. Other weapons are easier to use with certain combat maneuvers, such as tripping or disarming.

It’s not exactly a comprehensive representation of the differences between various weapons, but aside from overly precise weapon weight, it works well. After all, Pathfinder is a game, and everything needs to be simplified to help the game run smoothly. Excessive realism has a way of making a game tedious. None the less, I wonder if mundane weapons could be made more varied and interesting.

Below is a list I’ve compiled of weapon mechanics. Some are ready to be implemented, while others would need their mechanics refined. Individually, I think each could be included in a game without making in overly complex. Collectively, however, they would probably be too much. I’d like to hear more ideas in the comments if you have any. I’m particularly curious to know if other games have mechanics I didn’t think of.

Various Medieval Weapons 1 - Artist UnknownTwo-Handed Damage: In Pathfinder, a weapon wielded in your off hand gains half of your strength modifier to its damage, one in your main hand gains your full strength modifier, and one in both hands gains 150% of your strength modifier as damage. Calculating the strength bonus with decimal places is both unnecessarily complicated, and insufficient to influence the player’s decision. Make it simple: Offhand weapons get no strength bonus, main hand weapons get full strength bonus, and two handed weapons get double strength bonus.

Throwability: Pathfinder’s throwing weapon status is binary. Either a weapon is meant for throwing, or it is not. It could be fun if there were three options. A dagger or javelin can be thrown with no penalties. A rapier or a scythe would take a full -6 penalty on any thrown attack roll. Some weapons, like a spear, battleaxe, or longsword would take only a -3 penalty to throwing them. They’re not designed to be thrown, but they’re similar enough to weapons which are that it’s a feasible tactic. Weapons like whips and flails should be un-throwable.

Finesse and Cleave Weapons: Credit for this idea must be given to D&D 5th Edition, and to Jack. He shared the idea in the comments for my post on the Wide Swing Dilemma, and it is largely his creation. He’s got a nifty blog where I’ve got a whole tag all to myself.

In Pathfinder, Finesse is a feat which allows characters to use their dexterity instead of their strength to modify an attack roll when using light weapons. Cleave is a feat which allows a player to attack multiple enemies in a single turn. The idea here is to remove both feats, and instead make them an intrinsic property of certain weapons. A rapier or dagger, for example, would always have its attack rolls modified by dexterity rather than strength. Likewise, a two handed waraxe would always enable a character to take a swing at 2 or 3 enemies at a time, so long as all of them could be hit with a single arcing swing.

Speed: Each weapon would have a speed number associated with it. That number would be the amount of iterative attacks it was possible to make with that weapon on a given turn. A two handed war hammer, for example, might have a speed of 2 or 3 at most. While a dagger might have a speed of 10. Note that these iterative attacks are not entitlements, they are maximums. A character would need to work hard and level up before they were able to make multiple attacks during a single round, but a two handed war hammer would never be able to make more than 3 attacks, no matter how high level the character became.

Various Medieval Weapons 2 - Artist UnknownSpace To Use: A two handed axe is not the best weapon to have in a 3ft wide cavern. You can make some use of it, but it would be at an extreme penalty. I suggest three types of weapons. First, those which require only personal space. These would work anywhere that a character could fit comfortably, and would include weapons like a dagger, blowgun, or rapier. Weapons with a 10ft space to use would require an area at least 10ft wide to use comfortably, and in smaller spaces they would take a -4 penalty to attack rolls. This would include any weapon like a longsword or axe, which requires a wide swing. Finally there would be 15ft or larger weapons. These would mostly be weapons with reach, such as a whip, spiked chain, or trident. They would take a -4 penalty in spaces less than 15ft wide. In some spaces they might be impossible to use. A whip, for example, is completely useless if you don’t have room to swing it. And a 7ft long trident isn’t much use when you’re attacked from behind in a corridor 5ft square.

Both Speed and Space to Use are included in AD&D 1st edition. I am not very familiar with the relevant rules, however, so the above are concocted from my own suppositions on how such rules might work in a game.

Strength/Dexterity To Use: Composite bows already do something similar to this. Each composite bow has a strength rating, and a character must be at least that strong in order to be proficient in the weapon. This would apply the same concept to other weapons. Using a rapier or whip proficiently, for example, would require a dexterity of no less than 14. While a two handed warhammer would require a similar amount of strength. A character without a sufficient ability score could still used the weapon, but they would never be able to become proficient in it.

Training Time: This would replace Pathfinder’s weapon proficiency system. Each weapon would have a pair of training numbers indicating how long it takes to become proficient in the weapon. A dagger, for example, would be 2/4. If a character wishes to become proficient with a dagger, they simply need to take it with them into battle. The character is considered non proficient with the weapon, and all attack rolls are made with a -4 penalty. Anytime the character gains at least 2 experience* from a battle where they successfully dealt damage using the dagger, they put a tally mark next to the weapon. Once they have a number of tally marks equaling the first number (in this case, 2) their attack penalty is reduced to -2. Once they have a number of tally marks equal to the second number, they are considered proficient with the weapon and no longer take any penalties associated with using it.

Each class starts out already being proficient with a number of weapons. For fighters, all training times are reduced by half (rounding up).

*This is in reference to the Simple XP System I use.

Weapon Vs. Armor Type: This is another 1st edition rule which I know very little about. I like the concept, and would be interested in seeing it in play, however I have no real original ideas on how to implement it (yet). Instead, I would direct you to a post over at Delta’s D&D Hotspot which proposes pretty much what I think I would come up with. (I seem to have a tendency to reduce everything to 3 groups).

Hold at Range: A few weapons, like a spear or a trident, naturally lend themselves to keeping someone at range. At the end of each turn while using such a weapon, the player may indicate that they would like to keep a foe they just attacked at bay. When the character does this, they gain a -2 Dexterity penalty to AC against all other enemies. If their designated enemy attempts to move closer, then the character gets an automatic attack of opportunity against their foe. If the attack succeeds, then the foe’s movement is halted and they cannot move any more on that turn.

Parry Bonus to AC: I’m not 100% convinced that this is a good idea. To some degree, the parry is already included in a character’s AC as part of their dexterity. However, some weapons lend themselves better to defense than others do. Neither a very short weapon, like a dagger, nor a very long weapon, like a scythe, would be well suited to aiding in defense. This, I think, has the potential to be the mid-sized weapon’s biggest advantage vs. smaller faster weapons, and larger harder-hitting weapons.

Weapon Damage and Repair: This is hardly a new idea, which never seems to survive long because tracking weapon damage is too much hassle. I’m not sure how that problem could be resolved, but I would very much enjoy seeing this element in a game if it were possible. It would be particularly interesting when combined with my new crafting system. (Which, I swear, I’m going to post eventually).

Alternate Attack Surfaces: The party encounters a band of skeletons. This is unfortunate, because they’ve all come equipped with spears and tridents. Since they only have piercing weapons it will be difficult to kill the skeletons, who have DR 5/Bludgeoning. Then the bard has a wacky idea: what if they turn their weapons around and hit the skeletons with the shaft instead of the points? Many weapons seem as though they would be simple to use in other ways, to achieve a different type of damage. It’s pretty difficult to use a weapon when you’re striking with the flat of the blade or the pommel, so I could understand if many weapons did not have alternate damage types. But what could be simpler than using a spear as a quarterstaff, or a scythe as a piecing weapon?

Why I Use Unearthed Arcana’s Weapon Groups

Cover Art for Unearthed Arcana High ResolutionSince purchasing the Pathfinder Core Rulebook earlier this year, it has almost completely replaced Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 in my affections. So many of the overcomplicated mechanics in 3.5 have been reduced to rules which are simple to memorize and enact. And many areas in which 3.5 was lacking (there were many times when “leveling up” only meant more HP) have been beefed up by Paizo. Resulting in, I think, a much more balanced and entertaining game. Pathfinder is not perfect, by any means. It even created a few new problems which 3.5 didn’t have to begin with. But the point stands that Pathfinder is an improvement.

So much so that I sometimes forget Pathfinder was designed to be compatible with Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 content. With a little tweaking, most of which can be done in the GM’s head, any D&D 3.5 supplement or adventure module can be used to enhance a Pathfinder game. So while Paizo is busy doing such a good job recruiting new players into our fine hobby, many of those new players may be interested in what D&D 3.x books are worth purchasing to add to their Pathfinder collection. It would perhaps be beneficial to construct a list of the best & most relevant 3.5 supplements. I would need to read the handful I missed before doing so, but I have no doubt that Unearthed Arcana would be damned near the top of my list.

Named for the AD&D first edition supplement of the same name, Unearthed Arcana is 218 pages of optional & alternate rules for D&D. You may recall the book from yesterday’s Colorful Characters 6. The Gestalt system I used in that post comes from Unearthed Arcana. Every page of the book is worth a dragon’s horde. It holds mechanics and fluff for anything from variations on race and class, to systems for reputation and sanity. A more descriptive title for the book might be “The Big Book of House Rules,” but it’s just not as snappy. It’s the book so nice, I got it twice. For serious.

One of my favorite segments of the book is a three-page alternate rule nestled in chapter three, called Weapon Group Feats. It has been included as an optional rule in every game I’ve run since, from D&D 3.5 to Pathfinder. The exact text of the rule, pulled straight from Unearthed Arcana, is available to read on HypertextD20 SRD, but I will sum it up here for clarity’s sake just the same.

Using the standard rules, all weapons are classified either as simple, martial, or exotic. Most classes begins play with proficiency either in simple, or simple and martial weapon types. Characters who attempt to use weapons which do not fall into a group they are proficient with take a -4 penalty on attack rolls. Exotic weapons are a special type which are normally more powerful than other weapons, but each specific exotic weapon requires a feat be taken in order to wield it without penalty. On the face of it, the system makes sense. Fighters obviously receive more weapon training than wizards do, so they’re able to wield more advanced and deadly weapons. Unsurprisingly, I have a number of problems with this arrangement, but I’ll go into them in a moment.

The weapon group system appears somewhat more complicated, but is ultimately quite simple. Essentially, the 3 weapon classifications are replaced by more specific ones which identify the weapon’s basic group. Examples of groups might be Axes, Bows, Heavy Blades, or Spears & Lances. Mindful of the increased effectiveness of exotic weapons, characters are still considered non-proficient with such a weapon, even if they are proficient with the weapon group it falls into. Characters must take Weapon Group (Exotic) in order to gain access to those weapons. Thus, instead of each class starting the game being proficient in either one or both primary weapon groups, each class begins play with the option to select a number of weapon groups they are proficient with. Barbarians can select three, Bards can select two, etcetera.

I resolutely believe the latter system to be superior for the following reasons:

Unearthed Arcana Warrior Studying Weapon GroupsIncreased Realism & Increased Simplicity Almost without exception, increased realism means increased complexity. Sometimes, this is an acceptable exchange, but with games like D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, complexity is already high. And while the weapon groups rule would seem to be more complicated than the basic proficiency rules, it’s much more intuitive. If a character who has been using a dagger up to now finds a +2 hand axe they may be tempted to switch, but in order to determine whether or not they are proficient they need to crack open the rulebook and find the chart which details which weapons fit into which proficiency group. Using weapon groups, the player need only look at his character sheet to know what types of weapons he or she knows how to use.

Allowing Player’s their Weapon of Choice You don’t have to be a GM to realize that players care about the weapon their characters use. It’s often one of the first parts of the character concept they come up with. “A dwarf paladin who fights with a trident,” “an elven rogue who is a master of the kukri,” “a halfling fighter who specializes in spear fighting.” If players are so interested in the weapons they get to use, why should the game pointlessly restrict them from using it? It’s not as though a wizard who uses a longsword is going to suddenly rival the fighter in melee combat. The wizard still has a -2 strength and the worst base attack bonus in the game. He’s never going to hit anything. There’s no reason to add a -4 “screw your character concept” penalty to that.

Makes Weapon Specific Feats Less Lame
There are a number of feats in the game which require the character to select a weapon to take them with, such as weapon focus, or weapon specialization. These are great feats which avoid all the pitfalls I hate about feats, players should be encouraged to take them. However, when you take Weapon Focus(Longsword), there’s always the nagging worry in your mind that you’re going to find a +5 Vorpal Scimitar in the next treasure pile. Replacing that with Weapon Focus (Heavy Blades) goes a long way towards reducing the player’s worry.

Treasure Hordes Don’t Seem Tailored
Often, partially because of the previous point, GMs feel obligated to include direct upgrades to a player’s weapon. If a player has invested a lot of time in their battleaxe skills, then eventually they’re going to want +1, +2, & +3 battleaxes. But it starts to feel painfully contrived when players just happen to find treasure hordes which include those things. If players can switch freely between types of axes without penalties, this becomes much less of an issue.

I do have one minor issue with the weapon group system as written in Unearthed Arcana. The number of proficiencies listed for each class to select at first level is far too low. There are 17 potential proficiencies listed there, yet the highest number of first level proficiencies is four for the fighter. And Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards benefit from the system not at all. I prefer to add 2 additional weapon group choices for each of the classes. This allows everyone more freedom. Classes with a small number of proficiency selections, such as the wizard, can still know how to use an exotic weapon (which they’ll still never hit with.) And classes which are supposed to be martial masters, such as the fighter, gain some depth to their weapons mastery.

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