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D&D General Mithral v Silver

Greenfield

Adventurer
I normally play 3.5, though I've played 5e, 4e, Pathfinder, and every earlier version of D&D back to the three saddle-stitched books.

This question is more general, and the answers might vary depending on the rule set you prefer. What I'm hoping for is to prompt a bit of discussion

I've seen more than a few players who like to list Mithral weapons an their character sheets. They say that "True Silver" hits like silver, with regards to hitting/bypassing DR on some creatures.

What's your opinion?

My own take is that Silver is Silver, and hits like Silver. Mithral isn't Silver and hits like lightweight steel.

One argument is that Tolkien, whose works first mention this metal, has Elves refer to it as True Silver.

My counter, I suppose, is that I've never seen a D&D rules set that used that term or reference.

In 3.5, Silver weapons do less damage because the metal is relatively soft. It's a balance thing, at least to me.

So tell me how you feel, and give some reasons why.
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The closest thing to mithral is probably titanium. It's lighter than steel, can be polished, doesn't corrode, it was the new "wonder metal" when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit.

However, mithral is also an inherently magical metal. If it was not, Frodo would have been killed by the cave troll's spear.

So I have no problem with it functioning like silver, it gives people a reason to make mithral weapons.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I can’t read your players minds of course, but at a guess, sliver would be a terrible material for making weapons out of, and “silvered” steel weapons is kind of vague - are they silver plated or something? Wouldn’t that wear off quickly? A magical metal that has the DR-bypassing properties of silver but the structural qualities of steel is a bit more appealing. Plus, mithril armor exists, so it makes sense players might want mithril weapons too.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Not sure if it's what you're looking for, but here's what I did.

I house-ruled that mithral weapons have a +1 non-magical bonus to hit and damage rolls. They aren't magical, they don't detect as magical, and they don't bypass damage reduction like magical weapons do...but they are +1 weapons, and continue to function like +1 weapons even when they're in an anti-magic field. Similarly, adamantine weapons have a +2 non-magical bonus, and titanite weapons have a +3 non-magical bonus.
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
Another possibility (if you're going for real-life metals) might be alumin(i)um. It was more expensive than gold for a while and makes hard and light alloys. Of course given its extreme abundance in the crust there's always the risk someone figures out how to mass-produce it...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What's your opinion?

My opinion is that (in D&D, at least) the players don't get to say what it hits like. My D&D game is not taking place in Middle Earth, so what Tolkien and his elves call it there isn't relevant.

In 3e, the rules are pretty clear as to what metals have what effects.

In 5e, I generally run it that the special metals are the special ingredients in making magic weapons, by Xanathar's crafting rules. Your normal smith makes a sword out of mithril using their normal techniques for steel, if they manage it at all, it is just a sword, maybe a bit lighter. If they have the recipe and the metal, you get a magic sword, and then it hits like a magic sword.
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
You are the GM. YOU decide what mithril weapons do. Players can't just write that their weapons are mithril for shits and giggles either, same way I can't "decide" that the sword my level 2 fighter has just happens to be a vorpal sword.

Personally I see it as better armor material than sword material. There is a reason why there is titanium armor when weight is at a premium, but no swords made out of titanium (it's not a good sword material, it has high strength per weight, but not high strength per volume). That being said, you may see it differently, and you may feel that mythril has some kind of "spiritual" power (the way silver does)... or not. .

Realistically silver is a poor metal for most weapons, but would be good for (sling) bullets, hammers and the like.
 

Not sure if it's what you're looking for, but here's what I did.

I house-ruled that mithral weapons have a +1 non-magical bonus to hit and damage rolls. They aren't magical, they don't detect as magical, and they don't bypass damage reduction like magical weapons do...but they are +1 weapons, and continue to function like +1 weapons even when they're in an anti-magic field. Similarly, adamantine weapons have a +2 non-magical bonus, and titanite weapons have a +3 non-magical bonus.
That is about how we did it in 2nd edition. I am not sure if those nonmagical bonuses stacked with magical ones, but we were really eager to get them.
 

jgsugden

Legend
In my setting: In my setting the special metals are:

Adamantium weapons (adamantine to you folk, but I grew up on Marvel comics and took the name right off the bat when I first used it in my setting) are heavy and the second hardest substance in my setting. They count as inherently magical, and their near indestructible nature has often been used by PCs to jam something open, etc... It is rare, but not that rare. It is mined in the Elemental Plane (I combine all the Elemental Planes into one, and have regions of elements).

Mithril weapons are light weight, but nearly as hard as adamantium. They do strike as silvered weapons, and they do count as magical weapons, inherently. It may be ingested (usually with silver) to create a supernatural argyria effect, giving the one that ate it a reflective sparkly skin (please - I came up with this long before Twilight) and silver eyes that see in the ultraviolet spectrum (ultravision from the old rule sets). They're

Chrysteel, also known as Diamond Metal, is translucent metal (transparent when perfectly refined) that is harder than adamantine and insanely precious. It can damage anything other that Chrysteel, so it can be used to sunder Adamantium weapons. It is inherently magical, and can damage artifacts. It is insanely rare.

Vibranium (Marvel again) is useless for making weapons as weapons made with it have muted damage, but it can be used to make armor which gives you damage resistance. It is inherently magical. It is found in my Underdark only, which is more of a Dyson Sphere.

Astrapi is metal that inherently crackles with energy. When crafter into a weapon, it inherently deal lightning or radiant damage (depending upon the method used to craft the weapon). It is very rare, but has been used to craft engines for magic vehicles. It is found only in places that are insanely cold in my Prime Material Plane, primarily around the Prime Material world's great temple to the Raven Queen which is essentially surrounded by 8000 miles of ICE (my primary planet has roughly 12 times the surface area of the Earth).

Uru (Marvel), when crafted into a weapon, inherently draws in magic. You can easily give it an enchantment, and it will absorb one on its own if you do not place one within it (I have a table that I roll on, although it was created a long time ago and I have to wing interpretations of the results). It is mined from the Positive Energy Plane and the Feywild.

Infernum is only found in Nessus, the central region of Hell. In my setting the 9 Hells are the Diabolic section of the Hell plane that is surrounded by the Abyssal regions controlled by Demons. Nessus is surrounded by 7 regions of Hell, and then Avernus surrounds those 7 regions. Nessus, in my world, looks like a nearly abandoned Greek paradise that surrounds a monolithic red metal structure. At the very core of Nessus is the place where the Far Realms collided with the Known Universe. A Gate connects Nessus to the Far Realm, and it is sealed with Infernum. The Blood War is a product of the Far Realm infected Demons (Demons are Devils corrupted by the Far Realm) attempting to fight their way to the Center of Nessus to tear open the gate. Most Infernum is built into the gate seal, but a small amount has been used for very special weapons and one suit of armor. Those weapons and armor are terrifying creations that can twist and distort beings when they're in contact with them. It is believed that all Infernum comes from the Far Realm, but the only being in existence that knows where it originated is Asmodeus and he doesn't tell his secrets. When an Infernum weapon strikes you, you roll on a chart. Then, usually, you make a saving throw or suffer a permanent change - and those changes are really insane. So far, PCs have only faced off against Infernum weapons or armor in the last chapter of a campaign before PCs are retired.
 

I think I remember True Silver coming up in D&D back in the 70's or early 80's. But no idea the source, canon, 3rd party, or Tolkien! Anyone know?

As for me, I hate material specific immunities and resistances. I find them cumbersome and annoying as a player. Lets see; my sword is silver, my mace is adamantine, my hammer is holy and then I have pair of daggers, one lawful and one anarchic! Now which weapon do I use when fighting an adamantine flaming skeletal Archer?
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I think I remember True Silver coming up in D&D back in the 70's or early 80's. But no idea the source, canon, 3rd party, or Tolkien! Anyone know?

As for me, I hate material specific immunities and resistances. I find them cumbersome and annoying as a player. Lets see; my sword is silver, my mace is adamantine, my hammer is holy and then I have pair of daggers, one lawful and one anarchic! Now which weapon do I use when fighting an adamantine flaming skeletal Archer?
I like them, as long as there aren’t too many. Silver for lycanthropes. Magic weapons for incorporeal creatures. Non-magic weapons for fae (as opposed to “cold iron” being a special material). And, since Adamantine weapons in XGtE auto-crit objects, I like giving constructs vulnerability to them (or ignore resistance if they resist BP&S).
 


I've houseruled that Mithril weapons gain the finesse property. Weapons that already have the finesse property gain the light property. Weapons that already have both gain the Off Hand* property. If a weapon has all three, it doesn't gain any other benefits.

The off hand property is a homebrew property I added to most 1d4 light weapons. You can use it for TWF, even if your other weapon is not a light weapon. This allows for sword and dagger style without spending/wasting a feat. Mathematically, it helps TWF keep up at higher levels if you don't use feats (Great Weapon FIghting and Sharpshooter blow Two Weapon Mastery out of the water).
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I can’t read your players minds of course, but at a guess, sliver would be a terrible material for making weapons out of, and “silvered” steel weapons is kind of vague - are they silver plated or something? Wouldn’t that wear off quickly? A magical metal that has the DR-bypassing properties of silver but the structural qualities of steel is a bit more appealing. Plus, mithril armor exists, so it makes sense players might want mithril weapons too.
"Alchemical Silver" is the alloy referenced in 3.*. And yes, it's a terrible metal, hence the -1 damage from silver weapons.

There's also a mix called Silversheen that can be applied. I makes the weapon "silver" temporarily. It does wear off.

In AD&D )Edition 1, 2), you needed "silver or better" to hit, say, a werewolf. Silver itself was quickly rendered obsolete, since magic weapons were considered "better".

It wasn't until 3x that Silver began to mean something. Maybe that's why I want to keep it that way.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Not sure if it's what you're looking for, but here's what I did.

I house-ruled that mithral weapons have a +1 non-magical bonus to hit and damage rolls. They aren't magical, they don't detect as magical, and they don't bypass damage reduction like magical weapons do...but they are +1 weapons, and continue to function like +1 weapons even when they're in an anti-magic field. Similarly, adamantine weapons have a +2 non-magical bonus, and titanite weapons have a +3 non-magical bonus.
Hmm I seem to recall that special metal weapons are automatically "Master Worked" in 3.X, so they would get +1 to hot (doesn't stack with magic). No bonus to damage, at least in 3.X
 

Wolf72

Explorer
Pretty sure you are correct on that MW component of getting +1 (or -1 ACP) that doesn't stack with anything but is there.
 

the Jester

Legend
In my game, mithral is not silver, and while it has its own properties, it doesn't substitute for silver.

Mithral is extraordinarily rare and valuable. A mithral piece, a very rare coin indeed, is worth 10,000 gp. So you won't see mithral weapons casually laying around. In fact, I can't recall ever having one in my game- though I could see it.
 


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