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D&D General Magical ammunition and weapons: Should they stack?

Greenfield

Adventurer
This is another attempt to provoke a little thought and discussion, in a system-independent way.

In D&D 3.0 magical bonuses to bows and arrows stacked. They ended that in 3.5

The difference was interesting. I pick these versions because the systems were similar enough that a comparison is fairly valid.

In both editions the maximum bonus on a weapon was +5 to hit and damage. You could add other properties like Flaming or Frost, but the base was limited.

But in 3.0 a person could get an effective +10 by using a +5 bow and +5 arrows. It gave missile weapons a severe edge.

In 3.5 they declared that magical weapons and ammunition didn't stack any more. Brought them into closer balance with melee weapons, but in the process they made magical ammunition all but obsolete. Why pay an extra 2k on 50 magic arrows when that same cash would get you a +1 bow, allowing you that bonus on every arrow you ever fire.

Some have suggested that the stacking effect was allowed in order to make up for the fact that Attack of Opportunity was available with Melee weapons, but not Missile weapons.

What are your thoughts? Should they stack? If not, is there any real reason for players to acquire or even care about magical ammunition?
 

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Greenfield

Adventurer
It depends on which edition you're looking at.

In 3.*, the ones I was comparing, the general rule was that a given spell or effect couldn't stack with itself. Thus, for example, a Ring of Fire Resistance couldn't stack with a Resist Energy - Fire spell, since they do the same thing, and the spell is needed to create the ring.

By the same token, Magic Weapon or Greater Magic Weapon spells cast on a bow couldn't stack with the magic already on the bow (they were both Enhancement bonuses), nor could they stack with Enhancement bonuses on ammunition.

By extension, magic bows and magic arrows didn't stack - They were both the same kind of bonus.

Now this topic is listed as D&D General, so the question isn't what one rules set says v another, it's what should the rules do with this, and why.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Speaking very generally....

Personally, I prefer magical weapons/launchers and mostly mundane ammunition. The exception is the rare or unique ammo that does seomthing special or has a particular purpose.

To me, ammo with a bonus is just kind of bland, and not terribly meaningful. I like it to have an effect, like "dragon-slayer!" or "explosion of frosty doom!" or whatever. On the other hand, I don't mind a weapon to have a simple bonus, though I rather give it an evocative name, so it's a "hunter's bow", rather than just a +1 bow. And i think it's fine for a bow to have interesting effects, too. (eg, setting mundane ammo on fire automagically.)

Separating the sorts of magics on weapons and ammo minimizes the functional overlap between the launchers and the ammo. That way, there's a reason to keep an eye out for both in the game. And as long as their bonuses/effects are functionally distinct, there's no reason not use them together.

So... I guess that's technically not "stacking" since they're all different bonuses and effects. In which case, I guess I generally come down on the "no, don't stack" side?

Anyway, that's how I tend to envision magical ranged weapon attacks working in fiction.
Not that that actually matters in D&D!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Now this topic is listed as D&D General, so the question isn't what one rules set says v another, it's what should the rules do with this, and why.

The quick, and correct, answer is- it depends on the edition.

Different editions have different rules for stacking. Those rules form the basis for, inter alia, the existence (and rarity) of magic missile weapons, magic ammo, and their respective bonuses.

If you are asking a more general, "Should they stack," question ... eh, not if the rules allow both the weapon and the ammo to provide significant bonuses, because in that case you could have problems. So it goes back to the original answer- depends on the edition.
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
This is another attempt to provoke a little thought and discussion, in a system-independent way. . .

What are your thoughts? Should they stack? If not, is there any real reason for players to acquire or even care about magical ammunition?
Should they stack in 5e? No. 5e is supposed to be mathless. (Except for those large hit-point totals...)

Should they stack in D&D? I'd be pretty disappointed, as an Venerable Arrow Enchanter, if magical bows rendered my magical arrows obsolete. Which is why VAEs have a little side hustle, stealing the bow-enchanting secrets of the Bow Enchanters of the Millenia. The result of generations of such competition is that fletchers and bow-carvers have separate shops, even when they don't deal in magical goods.

Even more system-independent: arrows shouldn't have damage or attack values. What they do is allow your bow, which is the actual weapon, to do its thing, which might grant increased archery skill or cause more damage on impact or some other cool thing.

This might, however, be a good case for magical arrows:
 

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