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D&D 3E/3.5 3E versus 3.5E: Weapon Size

Which weapon sizing system do you prefer?

  • 3E-style: Fixed-size weapons. A sword-and-boarding ogre wields a greatsword.

    Votes: 23 41.1%
  • 3.5E-style: Scaling weapons. A sword-and-boarding ogre uses a Large longsword.

    Votes: 33 58.9%

  • Total voters
    56

Dausuul

Legend
Among the various changes between 3E and 3.5E, one was the shift in how weapon size is handled.

In 3E, all weapons had a fixed size. A greatsword was, by definition, Large. A shortsword was Small, and so forth. You could use weapons of your own size in one hand, and weapons of one size larger in two hands. So a halfling fighter looking for a two-handed sword would use a longsword.

This had the advantage of making weapons more accessible. If you killed an ogre wielding a sword in one hand, that sword was a greatsword and the party fighter could pick it up and swing it in two. On the down side, it limited the options for different-sized characters, and it offered no guidance for what happened when you cast enlarge on the fighter.

In 3.5E, each weapon could be scaled up or down to any size. A greatsword could be Small, Medium, Large, Huge, whatever. Human and halfling fighters would both wield greatswords, but the human's would be a Medium greatsword dealing 2d6 damage, while the halfling's would be a Small greatsword dealing 1d10.

This expanded the range of weapon options available. It did, however, mean that an ogre's longsword could not be picked up and used as a greatsword. A human fighter could use the ogre sword in two hands, but you got -2 on the attack roll, and you treated the weapon as a longsword for purposes of Weapon Focus and the like.

Which system did you, or do you, prefer? And why?
 

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Ahnehnois

First Post
I found the 3.5 system confusing when I read it. In practice, however it seemed to make more sense. Does a large creature wielding a short sword treat it as a dagger (and thus gain a throwing range and bonus to conceal it)? Neither system was 100% clear on those scenarios, but 3.5 was more clear.
 

TerraDave

5ever
Blast from the past! (at least for some of us).


Oh, and the 3.0 approach. Overall, maybe still the best take on weapons in D&D. Or it would have been if they left out the spike chain and double sword.
 

delericho

Legend
The 3.5e approach was more 'correct', but in practice I never ever managed to get together a group where everyone at the table understood it. That being the case, 3.0e wins every time. (Of course, 3.0e did have the quirk that a lot of weapons had to be listed as "quarterstaff, halfling", or whatever...)

However, ultimately I think the big mistake in 3e (both versions) comes in trying to deal with all of this at all. It might well have been best to just ignore the size difference between 'small' and 'medium' versions of the weapons entirely (as "not worth worrying about"). For monsters and NPCs, assign them a damage independent of the weapons they weild.

So, that Ogre carries "a massive sword and a huge shield", or "a huge club and shield", or "a two-handed club that might actually be a small tree", or whatever... but regardless, it has AC 20 and does 4d6+8 points of damage (or whatever). The players aren't ever going to see the behind-the-scenes math for all these things, and are unlikely to care at the finest level of detail anyway, so why go to the extra effort?

(Of course, this raises the question of what happens when the PCs kill the Ogre and claim its sword/club//tree. But there, the DM just has to make a ruling - either it's a greatsword/greatclub, or it's just too big for the PCs to use effectively. Oh, and the enlarge spell should give a flat damage bonus - it shouldn't cause the weapon damage die to change - that's way too much effort!)
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
3.0. Any system that opens an individual weapon to more uses for more people is better... especially when you start bringing magical weapons into it. So that +1 "longsword" the Large creature was swinging could actually be a +1 "greatsword" for the medium fighter character in 3.0. As opposed to it being another item to just be sold off in 3.5.

In order for any band of Large humanoids to have any workable treasure for a party in 3.5, you pretty much had to presuppose that those creatures just kept a useless magic weapon around in their packs for absolutely no reason.
 

Celebrim

Legend
3.0 approach.

Note that the 3.0 approach still allowed you to create a dagger for a Large sized monster. It would be a small rather than tiny weapon, have stats as a dagger, but one die higher damage.

The only thing the 3.5 approach gives you is a little realism, in as much as it is reasonable that a big dagger isn't exactly the same as a shortsword and that a medium sized creature might not find it fitted to his hand or balanced to his arm length. However, that's a very small gain in comparison to losing the elegance of the 3.0 system, and if you really need that realism back you can always write it into whatever custom weapons that you create that PC's are likely to use. Quite often of course, none of the bigger or larger weapons you create are even appealing to PCs compared to their own magical loot, so the issue of the extra realism is completely moot. Equally so, its easy to address the realism issue by noting that things which are not human, like halflings for example, don't necessarily have the same proportions as humans and don't necessarily therefore need weapons particularly sized to them. For example, Halflings might have oversized hands for their size, that lets them use human weapons quite easily without the need for specially sized weapons. (In fact, the Tolkien source material seems to indicate this.)
 

frankthedm

First Post
The other thing the 3.5 "upgrade" did was make sure someone couldn't get around not having martial weapon proficiencies but wind up swinging a large heavy mace for a 2-handed 2d6.
 

StreamOfTheSky

Adventurer
I prefer 3.0, I find 3.5's major contribution to the game has been screwing over non-medium PCs when it comes time to hand out loot, and effectively lower the base weapon damage from how it worked in 3.0. For example, iirc a Halfling Rogue with a shortbow dealt d6 in 3.0, but only d4 in 3.5.
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
The other thing the 3.5 "upgrade" did was make sure someone couldn't get around not having martial weapon proficiencies but wind up swinging a large heavy mace for a 2-handed 2d6.
That's true. Of course, weapon proficiences are also an area with a lot of room for improvement.

I prefer 3.0, I find 3.5's major contribution to the game has been screwing over non-medium PCs when it comes time to hand out loot, and effectively lower the base weapon damage from how it worked in 3.0. For example, iirc a Halfling Rogue with a shortbow dealt d6 in 3.0, but only d4 in 3.5.
Given how powerful small PCs are (and how D&D makes them much better at combat than a humanoid that size would realistically be), I have no problem with that.
 

Spatula

Explorer
Both takes have their issues. I like the 3.5 take in that small characters have the same weapon selection as everyone else, which did solve some issues. Personally, I would chose that system, except that characters should be able to use weapons within one size of themselves without penalty, and have that weapon treated as the appropriate type as far as proficiencies and feats go.

So for example, a human could wield an ogre longsword, but it would be a greatsword to him or her. Likewise a halfling with a human longsword. Or a human could use a halfling greatsword as a longsword. But a human could not use a Huge-size shortsword without penalty.

If forced to chose using one or the other as written, I would go with 3.0.
 



pawsplay

First Post
3.5 handles the more usual cases better, and results in more consistent damage. It also avoided the 3.0 nomenclature, which had weapons at a different scale than creatures or objects.

OTOH, the 3.0 approach was better for loot, better reflected a world where most player races were similar in size (halflings being at the smaller end, and perhaps ogres as the higher end) similar enough to wield similar weapons, and probably more realistic for weapons with very simple hafts or grips. Is there really any difference between a Large club and a Medium greatclub?
 

I prefered 3.0 on this issue. Prior to 3.5 none of my players had ever complained about this as a problem. So it felt like they were offering a solution we didn't need.
 


Stoat

Adventurer
I prefered 3.0 on this issue. Prior to 3.5 none of my players had ever complained about this as a problem. So it felt like they were offering a solution we didn't need.

I think that last sentence describes a lot of the changes between 3.0 and 3.5: not necessarily bad, but not significantly better, and just fiddly enough to make it hard to keep 'em all straight.
 

jeffh

Adventurer
OTOH, the 3.0 approach was [among other advantages] probably more realistic for weapons with very simple hafts or grips. Is there really any difference between a Large club and a Medium greatclub?
Funny you should mention this as an advantage of 3.0, because it's actually one of the reasons they switched. Your club/greatclub point is, I'm pretty sure, valid as far as it goes; but it doesn't generalize. A short sword (say a gladius) and a bastard sword (say the "longswords" I've practised with) differ in much more than just length and weight; they're balanced differently and intended to be used with different techniques (mainly thrusting, often from a stationary stance as part of a phalanx, versus slashing and always moving, respectively). Overall the "realism" point goes to 3.5, I would say, though you may have pointed out one counterexample to this.
 


pawsplay

First Post
Funny you should mention this as an advantage of 3.0, because it's actually one of the reasons they switched. Your club/greatclub point is, I'm pretty sure, valid as far as it goes; but it doesn't generalize. A short sword (say a gladius) and a bastard sword (say the "longswords" I've practised with) differ in much more than just length and weight; they're balanced differently and intended to be used with different techniques (mainly thrusting, often from a stationary stance as part of a phalanx, versus slashing and always moving, respectively). Overall the "realism" point goes to 3.5, I would say, though you may have pointed out one counterexample to this.

3.5 has the advantage when you at a shortsword versus a bastard sword. But if you compare a dagger to a short sword, or a hand axe to a battle axe, a spear to a long spear, 3.0's system looks a little better. I think a spear is probably going to be the thinnest, lightest thing for its length it can be and still be strong enough to flex rather than snap.

Ideally, I would like a situation where a human could use a halfling "longsword" as a shortsword, usually, but an ogre couldn't use it as a dagger. In theory, under 3.5, every halfling in Tolkien's books who used Sting was doing so at a -2 penalty to hit. Not only is it doubtful that such a difficulty was considered, but it's not clear that there is such a difficulty.
 

pawsplay

First Post
I picked 3e, but what I'd like to have picked was 1e.

All weapons have a size. In the case of some creatures, larger or smaller weapons might exist. Thus, a hill giant might have a huge club, or a pixie a tiny rapier, but for most purposes, you don't have to consider what size a longsword is "sized for" when you include it in a treasure hoard.

That said, for switching weapon sizes, Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved.


RC

This is basically my feeling.
 

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