Level Up (A5E) Improvised Weapons: Ever the Smart Move?

xiphumor

Hero
Let’s be generous and assume you have proficiency with improvised weapons. Are they ever the smart move from a tactical perspective, assuming a simple weapon is available?

The Caravaner’s Circusfolk trait helps a fair deal, but a short sword will usually get the job done. The Brawler adept can add an extra martial arts die on top of such attacks, but it costs exertion to do so, and that point would probably be better spent on Flurry of Blows.

There are a handful of specific improvised weapons such as acid or holy water that can be useful, but they usually aren’t just lying around.

I ask partially because I’m thinking of making an archetype that specializes in improvised weapons.
 

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Pedantic

Adventurer
Aside from the rare "you've been captured and lost your stuff" or disarming scenario, no, I don't think they ever make sense. The only situation I can see it coming up is if the player needs to switch damage types for some reason and has no access to other weapons.
 

VenerableBede

Adventurer
The problem with features that grant improvised weapon proficiency/incentives is they never do enough. As you mentioned above, there’s almost always an equal (or better) available option, making those class features almost always amount to almost nothing.
What the 5e family doesn’t have is a feature that grants improvised weapon proficiency and actually makes using an improvised weapon the better option often enough to be less niche than “I’m not an Adept and the Narrator took all of my equipment away.”
 

xiphumor

Hero
The problem with features that grant improvised weapon proficiency/incentives is they never do enough. As you mentioned above, there’s almost always an equal (or better) available option, making those class features almost always amount to almost nothing.
What the 5e family doesn’t have is a feature that grants improvised weapon proficiency and actually makes using an improvised weapon the better option often enough to be less niche than “I’m not an Adept and the Narrator took all of my equipment away.”
Agreed, which is what I’m trying to solve. Consider this:

Divergent Thinker​

All improvised weapons use a minimum damage die of d6 and have the finesse property for you, as well as either the dual-wielding or versatile (+1 die step) property depending on the limits of causality. (E.g. A spoon cannot gain the versatile property, and a fence post cannot gain the dual-wielding property, but a frying pan might have either). In addition, whenever you start to wield an improvised weapon, you may choose whether it has the breaker (choose material type), parrying, defensive (chosen shield size), trip, reach, or thrown (30/80) property, within the limits of causality. You may change your choice for any improvised weapons you are wielding at the start of each of your turns.

You can also improvise shields (without needing proficiency in shields) using an object one size category smaller than normal.
 

VenerableBede

Adventurer
I would need to look up the rules on improvised weapons before commenting on the damage die size.
As a low-level feature, and in campaigns where there's likely to be a fair amount of random junk lying around anyway, I could see myself using this. If magic items are handed out, probably would use it less and less as the levels came on.
The one issue I have is this primarily just brings improvised weapons on par with regular weapons. There is a buff in the sense that, within the realm of causality, I have a lot of flexibility to just grab a random item and give it the traits I might need for a specific situation, but I'm not sure that's enough to make me primarily use improvised weapons over regular weapons, or to quite bridge the gap between "Everyone else gets a feature that starts at baseline and gets a boost, while my feature focuses on something that starts well behind baseline and brings it roughly to baseline, maybe a little more." Still, I think this is the right direction.
Although since this basically turns improvised weapons into regular weapons with a little flexibility, maybe that's the point. I'll just put a bucket on my head, carry around a fire poker and a chair leg that function as a rapier and a bludgeoning long sword, and be a bargain bin Don Quixote.
 

xiphumor

Hero
I would need to look up the rules on improvised weapons before commenting on the damage die size.
As a low-level feature, and in campaigns where there's likely to be a fair amount of random junk lying around anyway, I could see myself using this. If magic items are handed out, probably would use it less and less as the levels came on.
The one issue I have is this primarily just brings improvised weapons on par with regular weapons. There is a buff in the sense that, within the realm of causality, I have a lot of flexibility to just grab a random item and give it the traits I might need for a specific situation, but I'm not sure that's enough to make me primarily use improvised weapons over regular weapons, or to quite bridge the gap between "Everyone else gets a feature that starts at baseline and gets a boost, while my feature focuses on something that starts well behind baseline and brings it roughly to baseline, maybe a little more." Still, I think this is the right direction.
Although since this basically turns improvised weapons into regular weapons with a little flexibility, maybe that's the point. I'll just put a bucket on my head, carry around a fire poker and a chair leg that function as a rapier and a bludgeoning long sword, and be a bargain bin Don Quixote.
I should mention that the specific class I’m designing for (the savant) doesn’t get martial weapons by default, so if I can bring improvised weapons up to the point of acting like a martial weapon, I’ll have given a significant bonus. Nonetheless, I intend to make this an optional feature with the alternative centering around more typical weapons.
 

Improvised weapons are basically never as good as purpose-built ones IRL, either. In a fight, which would you rather have: a pipe wrench, or a flanged mace? A box cutter or a tanto? A zip gun or a Beretta M92?

But the improvised weapons are still better than nothing. If your opponent has a knife and you can't get away, a pool cue, broken bottle, or table leg is definitely better than your bare hands.
 

xiphumor

Hero
Improvised weapons are basically never as good as purpose-built ones IRL, either. In a fight, which would you rather have: a pipe wrench, or a flanged mace? A box cutter or a tanto? A zip gun or a Beretta M92?

But the improvised weapons are still better than nothing. If your opponent has a knife and you can't get away, a pool cue, broken bottle, or table leg is definitely better than your bare hands.
This is true, but the character trope of the MacGyver-like character who snaps a toothbrush and fights as effectively as his prepared assassins definitely exists, and I think there should be at least one archetype that plays into that fantasy.
 

This is true, but the character trope of the MacGyver-like character who snaps a toothbrush and fights as effectively as his prepared assassins definitely exists, and I think there should be at least one archetype that plays into that fantasy.
Oh, I definitely agree. I'd go so far as to say it would be both easy and fitting to do such an archetype for no less than four different classes: adept, artificer, fighter, and rogue.

Heck, I could see it as a minor focus for an archetype for berserker or ranger for sure, and maybe even herald.
 


VenerableBede

Adventurer
Improvised weapons are basically never as good as purpose-built ones IRL, either. In a fight, which would you rather have: a pipe wrench, or a flanged mace? A box cutter or a tanto? A zip gun or a Beretta M92?

But the improvised weapons are still better than nothing. If your opponent has a knife and you can't get away, a pool cue, broken bottle, or table leg is definitely better than your bare hands.
This sounds in my ears like an argument that buffing improvised weapons themselves will never be as meaningful as situations within campaigns and adventures where needing to make use of improvised weaponry is meaningful.
I imagine the careful bit on the Narrator's part would be making such scenarios fun for the players. Most players I've played with (for better or for worse—I'm not arguing if this is good or bad, I'm just noting what is in my experience) get mad when their toys get taken from them. But they don't usually get mad in scenarios where they are asked to remove their weaponry themselves, such as a formal ball or whatever. Then they have two choices:
  • Play along
  • Figure out how to sneak their weapons in anyway
 


xiphumor

Hero
Don’t worry! I just assumed you had glossed over where I said savant. Also, I find that many people aren’t extremely familiar with the savant class, so I just expect them to be left off of lists.
 

Sepaulchre

Villager
The Adept’s Brawler also lets you spend an exertion to use a basic maneuver. That’s a pretty decent action economy leg up, but I’m not convinced it’s actually that good.
 

Bit late to this, but I'll add in my take.

I used to play a Palladium Books game called Ninjas and Superspies that had a huge list of martial arts that were just cool. Now the base rules for all of the games from Palladium Books were clunky as hell, but the flavor was great.

That said there was one martial art they used call Moo Gi Gong (of which I cannot find a real world variety so I'm assuming it's fictional, which is cool) that was based around using everyday objects as a weapon.

It's not a 1:1 transfer to 5E, but effectively taking this would give proficiency in all weapons and bonuses when using anything considered a weapon, along with special moves with improvised weapons.

Why am I bringing this up?

So this kind of stuck with me when thinking of improvised weapons and when I think of an Adept using improvised weapons I think of that martial art.

As a result I feel like there should be an option for someone trained/specialized in the use of improvised weapons to add to them.

I think an improvised weapon Adept should be able to consider them as Adept Weapons.

I think a Rogue that is trained in improvised weapons should be able to get sneak attack with them.

I think a character could add certain weapon properties (heavy, reach, thrown, trip, and versatile all come to mind) so that they can use the weapon better with maneuvers.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Bit late to this, but I'll add in my take.

I used to play a Palladium Books game called Ninjas and Superspies that had a huge list of martial arts that were just cool. Now the base rules for all of the games from Palladium Books were clunky as hell, but the flavor was great.

That said there was one martial art they used call Moo Gi Gong (of which I cannot find a real world variety so I'm assuming it's fictional, which is cool) that was based around using everyday objects as a weapon.

It's not a 1:1 transfer to 5E, but effectively taking this would give proficiency in all weapons and bonuses when using anything considered a weapon, along with special moves with improvised weapons.

Why am I bringing this up?

So this kind of stuck with me when thinking of improvised weapons and when I think of an Adept using improvised weapons I think of that martial art.

As a result I feel like there should be an option for someone trained/specialized in the use of improvised weapons to add to them.

I think an improvised weapon Adept should be able to consider them as Adept Weapons.

I think a Rogue that is trained in improvised weapons should be able to get sneak attack with them.

I think a character could add certain weapon properties (heavy, reach, thrown, trip, and versatile all come to mind) so that they can use the weapon better with maneuvers.
Sounds like Jackie Chan's signature style. I would love to have that be a viable option in A5e.
 

Jacob Vardy

Explorer
Current campaign, it is considered gauche to go about the big city while armed, that is something country people do. So improvised weapons have come up a few times. But i think that is the only time. As far as i can recall there has never been a "captured and disarmed moment", players have always preferred to go down fighting rather than surrender to the authorities.
 

kerleth

Explorer
I don't think this is in the spirit of what you are talking about, but it is a use of improvised weapon proficiency I noticed. Shields are improvised weapons, and the defensive property exists.

Circusfolk (improvised weapon proficiency plus increases to 1d6 damage) + proficiency with shield and either longsword or morningstar (Fighter, Herald, Ranger, and Marshal all work well here) = 1d8+Strength main weapon with a medium shield (+2 AC) that you can also use to make a 1d6+Strength attack as a bonus action every turn.

So I don't know if that's in the spirit of your question or not, but it is a pretty good low level build that you are unlikely to ever completely level out of. The other culture features are also nice add-ons to a warrior character, giving them some battlefield mobility, out of combat options, and a versatile backstory option. Also, fairly realistic as using a shield to simultaneously defend and pressure your opponent is absolutely a thing in real life, so it's not even some counter intuitive dual lances sort of thing that bothers some people.
 

lichmaster

Adventurer
Jumping in quite late in the thread, and answering with a question: "Should it? And why?"

Weapons, especially the ones requiring some training, evolved to exist for a very simple reason: a rock may hurt someone from a distance, but an arrow fired from a bow goes way faster, way further, and the average injury is probably way worse than the one caused by a rock. Same thing for a wood branch vs a sword, or a mace. Armors, shields and defenses in general also evolved to keep the pace with weapons.

So IRL there's little to no reason for improvised weapons to be ever the smart move if any other option is viable.
How this translates to your game is then a reflection of weather you'd like these kinds of considerations to be a thing, or you'd rather like to have a more cinematic approach where improvised weapons can be as good as normal weapons.
I think normal o5e and LU give the option to have something more or less viable for a character to use improvised weapons, especially at low levels, but very little in the way of making it comparable to actual weapons (and personally I think this makes total sense)
 

Yeah, I've always considered improvised weapon users to be the masters of fighting when a fight isn't expected, or at least a really serious fight isn't expected. Bar brawls are usually assumed to be non-lethal affairs, but a broken bottle or pool cue can raise the stakes to life-and death. Most people wouldn't think about throwing down at the ball, but that heavy candlestick lets the Jason Bourne-like character take someone out with the scenery. Etc.
 

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