Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts on non-variable weapon damage.

I'm thinking of using non-variable weapon damage for tonight's foray into the Forsaken Halls. I'm sure by now you've probably read JB's in-depth essay on the subject (and perhaps even Alexis' characteristically irascible response), but I don't really have any deep reasoning behind the decision. I just want the focus off the damage a weapon does, and more on the iconic nature of the weapon itself. I'm hoping to see this help to develop the narrative of combat a little more - every weapon is devastating in its own way. I'm hoping the players will have fun with it, if not, its easy enough to go back to the way we've been doing it all along.

My only point of difficulty is with two-handed weapons. Why sacrifice a shield bonus to AC if you're not going to do more damage? It seems like the whole reason to pick up a two-handed weapon is to be able to bring more of your natural strength to bear on the matter-at-hand. So my idea is that you get double your strength bonus (or penalty!) to damage when wielding a two-handed weapon. So the damage chart with two-handed weapons looks something like this:

3 (-6)
4-5 (-4)
6-8 (-2)
9-12 (+0)
13-15 (+2)
16-17 (+4)
18 (+6)

Or 3-8 (-2); 9-12 (+0); 13-18 (+2) with Swords & Wizardry.

So, someone with three strength is completely useless with a two-handed weapon (d6-6) and someone with 18 strength is devastating (d6+6).

Or, I could just go with a flat +1 bonus to damage with 2-handed weapons, but that seems a little off, for some reason. Alternately, I could let the player choose between a +1 to AC, or a +2 to damage, which is similar to how I use two-weapon fighting (choose +1 to AC or +1 to damage).



  1. Actually, I like your idea and might have to steal it ;). It makes sense that a person with a negative strength modifier would suffer a penalty trying to weild a two handed weapon, whereas someone with high strength could not only wield it, but would be able to do more damage.

  2. The thing is, not all weapons are the same. Someone posted a link to this video a while back:

    Thats got to be worth more than a few extra points of strength bonus-related damage.

  3. That's my general approach. My house-rule is you only get strength bonuses of +2 or higher with a two-hander, otherwise just 1. Likewise, anything but a two-hander has a maximum penalty of -1. And a dagger observes neither penalties nor bonuses, making it good for low strength people.

  4. "The thing is, not all weapons are the same."

    I don't think anyone disputes the point. The question, rather, is the extent to which the differences matter vis-a-vis the rest of the system.

  5. What I would do for 2H Weapons is allow them to roll 2d6 and take the highest of the two. Maybe include a +1 to damage over and above the strength bonus.

  6. Like Rob, I've been thinking about using 2d6 and pick the highest of them (like "impact" weapons in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2). The only thing that's got me hesitating is that the same mechanic seems pretty commonly used for fighting with two weapons.

  7. I'm using d6 for all weapons but daggers/darts -- they do d4. Two-handed weapons do d6+2 in trade for the lack of shield. (Shields add +1 to AC -and- I use the "Shields will be Splintered" rule too). Fighting with two weapons is best of 2d6. This all seems to be working for my group. YMMV.

  8. Thanks for posting allowed me to see Alexis's post (which I completely missed the first time around!).

    Personally, I used the "double strength bonus" for 2H weapons in my games for several sessions, but found it unsatisfactory. The last six or seven sessions have simply used D6+1 for two-handers and I've found this much easier...however, it may not be enough to offset the "strikes last" penalty and I am re-thinking least on an open battle field.

    However, PCs LOVE the ability of polearms to srike from "back rank" in tight dungeon corridors.
    ; )

  9. I am a big admirer of JB's class based damage as he explains in his blog and in his B/X Companion. I like it so much I can't stop tweaking it. What I like is: it encourages variety in weapon choice; it liberates the cleric and magic user; it makes sense and it is still abstract and simple (especially if you put the class based damage onto the character sheets).

    My tweaks are to allow more choice. I wanted to have rules for wielding most one-handed weapons two handed. I give them two-handed damage but strike last. To make two-handed weapons remain special I give them Reach as per JB or Intimidate (-1 to opponent morale). I'm also playing with Weapon bonus vs Armor Class, to further encourage weapon choice. If interested my tweaks can be seen here:

  10. I use non-variable damage and my players absolutely love it. They really enjoy picking weapons based on aesthetic choices rather than always having to take the 'best' weapon. One of the characters in my game is a knife fighter, which is something I've never seen before and he is able to do all the cool cinematic things you see in movies and books, like kill the fleeing bad guy with a thrown knife.

    With respect to two handed weapons I use Philotomy's method of rolling 2d6 and picking the highest roll. For dual wielding I allow the player to make a single attack at +1 to hit. This gives players the option of using a shield for +1 to AC, wielding two weapons for +1 to hit, or using a two-handed weapon for greater chance of weapon damage. It works really well and my players use all three options quite happily.

  11. Thanks for this, great ideas here -- and also for the link back to JB's excellent essay on the same topic.

  12. I've been playing with the idea of dividing weapons into three categories: light, normal, and heavy. Light weapons roll two dice and take the lower, heavy weapons roll two and take the higher. In addition, though, I think that it's important, when using non-variable damage, to use hit modifiers vs. AC type. Using those modifiers, I might even just roll a d6 for all weapon damage.

  13. Doubling the bonus or penalty is a very elegant way of taking the heaviness of two handed weapons into account for low STR without having wonky minimums or whatnot.

    I liked constant weapon damage in Feng Shui. Of course there, it was somewhat affected by the result of your to-hit - a weapon would do STR+2 damage, for example, but plus one per point you beat the to-hit with. That die mechanic was a lot less swingy than a d20 though, so it would be hard to adapt.

    But yeah, I often think about going to a simpler d4/d6/d8/d10 weapon kind of setup to avoid all the weapon obsessing and min-maxing.

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  15. One situation I see with doubling the strength bonus is arming a bunch of weak (-1 str) peasants with spears. If spears only two-handed then are the peasants better off with clubs? If spears can be used one or two-handed do all the peasants just use one hand on the spear instead? Not sure how do you do initiative or bonuses for longer length weapons, that might make the spear more appealing despite the doubling of the -1 for damage?

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