The problem with weapon damage resistances.

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The main explanation I remember hearing from the designers was that material resistances just resulted in a golf bag of different weapons. Players would have their silver weapon, their cold iron weapon, their adamantine weapon, etc. This was considered not ideal for multiple reasons: it increases reliance on items instead of abilities, it prevents players from relying on a favored weapon, it makes players more likely lug around a mobile arsenal of weapons, etc.
How bizarre. Isn’t encouraging players to have different weapons for different situations and preventing over reliance on a singles favored weapon the point of material resistances (and weapon damage type resistances, for that matter)?
 

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Staffan

Legend
This was a big discussion in the 3.0e to 3.5e update. In 3.0 you needed a specific material to overcome resistance, in 3.5 a magical weapon overcame all material resistances.
It was the other way around. In 3.0, the scale of weapon awesomeness went: various materials, +1, +2, +3, +4, and +5 (I think bonuses above +3 were pretty rare), and resistances were usually pretty high. 10 was a low resistance, and I remember seeing things like DR 50/+3 which is essentially the same as immunity.

3.5 lowered the resistances so 15 was considered very high, but presented materials (as well as alignment) as separate from "magic" (which in turn is no longer separated by plusses, so a +4 and a +1 weapon are equally good at penetrating DR except for the 3 points of damage extra the +4 weapon does). The idea here was that even if you didn't have the right weapon, the DR would be low enough that it would be a speed bump and not a wall. This is what gets you the "golfbag" warrior – a concept I personally like where a professional warrior would use different weapons for different foes ("the right tool for the job"), but I recognize that many didn't like it. Then you get Pathfinder 1 which adds in the concept that certain pluses count as different materials as well.
 

It was the other way around. In 3.0, the scale of weapon awesomeness went: various materials, +1, +2, +3, +4, and +5 (I think bonuses above +3 were pretty rare), and resistances were usually pretty high. 10 was a low resistance, and I remember seeing things like DR 50/+3 which is essentially the same as immunity.

3.5 lowered the resistances so 15 was considered very high, but presented materials (as well as alignment) as separate from "magic" (which in turn is no longer separated by plusses, so a +4 and a +1 weapon are equally good at penetrating DR except for the 3 points of damage extra the +4 weapon does). The idea here was that even if you didn't have the right weapon, the DR would be low enough that it would be a speed bump and not a wall. This is what gets you the "golfbag" warrior – a concept I personally like where a professional warrior would use different weapons for different foes ("the right tool for the job"), but I recognize that many didn't like it. Then you get Pathfinder 1 which adds in the concept that certain pluses count as different materials as well.

Yes! I had it backwards. That's what I get for posting without enough caffeine.
 

Staffan

Legend
I think your changes are just fine, and better than RAW. Thumbs up.

Increasingly, I've been trying to get into the story of what's going on with a specific monster's resistances, and then use that story to create more nuanced resistances/vulnerabilities (including sometimes a new trait) that don't just apply to weapons but also to some spells.
One of the cooler examples of this I saw in 3.5e was the adventure Shadows of the Last War. In that adventure, you will encounter a village that was subjected to some form of magical experiment during the war, killing the inhabitants and fusing them with glass while raising them as undead. As a result, they have DR 5/bludgeoning until they reach half their hit points, at which time their glass shells crack and they instead revert to the normal zombie DR of 5/slashing.
 


How bizarre. Isn’t encouraging players to have different weapons for different situations and preventing over reliance on a singles favored weapon the point of material resistances (and weapon damage type resistances, for that matter)?

You're not wrong, but it's also a problem for certain types of play. If you want to play a character that has an ancestral sword, or disdains excessive wealth, or any number of other reasons, carrying around a collection of a dozen swords for different enemies doesn't really fit the character concept. Considering how much 5e is focussed on allowing almost any character option, it makes sense to me that they would avoid this. Also, note that Staffan has corrected my edition numbering

In general, the designers felt that 3.5e suffered from what was referred to as a "Christmas Tree" effect, where players (especially at high level) were too reliant on multiple magic items (effectively wearing magic items like ornaments on a Christmas Tree). How much of a problem this is could be debated, but it's definitely true that multiple material resistances adds to the effect.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
It also has the unfortunate side effect of a magical weapon being a one stop shop for all your resistance and often times immunity needs.
Yes, this bothers me too. Once you get a magic weapon - or whatever ability that considers something as magical for the purpose of bypassing damage resistance and immunity - you can pretty much ignore having to deal with resistance to BPS damage ever again.

And as for bludgeoning, piercing and slashing differentiation, I tend to agree with @Yaarel; for what the game makes of it, it's not worth the design space.

...or physical space for that matter: shortening "bludgeoning, piercing and slashing" to "weapon" is an economy of 21 characters (or savings up to 77.777%)! In many places, the space taken by "bludgeoning, piercing and slashing" is half the whole sentence.
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
3.5 lowered the resistances so 15 was considered very high, but presented materials (as well as alignment) as separate from "magic" (which in turn is no longer separated by plusses, so a +4 and a +1 weapon are equally good at penetrating DR except for the 3 points of damage extra the +4 weapon does). The idea here was that even if you didn't have the right weapon, the DR would be low enough that it would be a speed bump and not a wall. This is what gets you the "golfbag" warrior – a concept I personally like where a professional warrior would use different weapons for different foes ("the right tool for the job"), but I recognize that many didn't like it. Then you get Pathfinder 1 which adds in the concept that certain pluses count as different materials as well.
I really did like the PF1 enhancement to DR. 3.5 made an important shift away from needing a specific plus to hit something, PF1 added back in notable benefits of having a higher plus.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
In general, the designers felt that 3.5e suffered from what was referred to as a "Christmas Tree" effect, where players (especially at high level) were too reliant on multiple magic items (effectively wearing magic items like ornaments on a Christmas Tree). How much of a problem this is could be debated, but it's definitely true that multiple material resistances adds to the effect.
IIRC during the 3.0/3.5 era the Christmas Tree effect was debated right here on these very boards. As you might expect everyone here was of one voice about how good/bad it was in 3.5 and how much it was/was not like earlier editions of the game :)

4e's design was definitely trying to react to some level of discontent that some folks had over mid-to-high level parties carrying around substantial collection of magic items, but from that came limitations on magic items/level which eventually was re-written as attunement rules in 5e.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
You're not wrong, but it's also a problem for certain types of play. If you want to play a character that has an ancestral sword, or disdains excessive wealth, or any number of other reasons, carrying around a collection of a dozen swords for different enemies doesn't really fit the character concept. Considering how much 5e is focussed on allowing almost any character option, it makes sense to me that they would avoid this. Also, note that Staffan has corrected my edition numbering

In general, the designers felt that 3.5e suffered from what was referred to as a "Christmas Tree" effect, where players (especially at high level) were too reliant on multiple magic items (effectively wearing magic items like ornaments on a Christmas Tree). How much of a problem this is could be debated, but it's definitely true that multiple material resistances adds to the effect.
Yeah, I definitely understand 5e wanting to avoid the Christmas Tree effect. Just seemed like strange reasoning in the transition from 3e to 3.5e. Makes more sense with Steffan’s clarification though.
 

Staffan

Legend
And as bludgeoning, piercing and slashing differentiation, I tend to agree with @Yaarel; for what the game makes of it, it's not worth the design space.

...or physical space for that matter: shortening "bludgeoning, piercing and slashing" to "weapon" or is an economy of 21 characters (or savings up to 77.777%)! In many places, the space taken by "bludgeoning, piercing and slashing" is half of the whole sentence.
PF2 uses "physical" as a super-category of bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage (as well as bleed damage). There are still monsters as well as certain character options where the distinction is relevant, but those with a general resistance to weapons have something like "resistance physical 5". If the resistance can be bypassed by certain weapons, it's instead written as something like "resistance physical 5 (except magical)" or "resistance physical 12 (except adamantine or bludgeoning)".
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I don't see silver as doing any more damage, just that it can hurt them when normal weapons can't. So the idea that magic+silver gets double damage is actively against matching the lore.

As a mechanical solution it's fine-ish. Could be confusing to new players or to a DM who doesn't realize the interaction and stops after applying one line. Lore-wise it does not model what I want.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
While vulnerability is a bit strong, something I've done in the past is to slightly boost the damage of special materials against various creature types. A truesilver (mithril) weapon can deal d4 extra damage to lycanthropes, an adamantine weapon can deal d4 extra damage to constructs, and so on.

Cold iron would do the same, but I don't really have "cold iron" in my games, since there really isn't any such thing (don't bring up cold forging, please), but I have other materials for that. Similarly, I don't have silver weapons because they are a bit fragile, instead, as indicated above, there's a rare metal called truesilver (basically mithril).
 


Sulicius

Explorer
Some great discussion here so far, everyone.

As a relatively new DM (4 years of weekly 5e), the nonmagical weapon resistance was real problem for me. It started when I made a demon boss using the DMG rules, and as a low level monster with these resistances, it got shredded by my players. They all got a way to do magical weapon damage around level 5-6, and so all that power hidden behind b/p/s resistance was lost. I struggled to challenge my players by building encounters the way the rulebooks advised me.

Now I just max out the possible HP for enemies that are supposed to be any threat. My players are 19th level, and they have +3 weapons (when would they otherwise wield such artifacts?) and they are well optimized. They are not challenged by ancient dragons in their lairs. I have to do massive amounts of damage and double the HP of my bosses.

Magic weapons are just a toggle. There is nothing interesting about them. When I read about the struggles of older editions and their solutions, I can totally understand why the way things are as they are now. 5e wants to simplify things so players can spend more time rolling dice and less time doing calculations. With my high level players, they have all these bonuses and additional weapon dice and smite damage that it actually takes a little while to calculate all the damage. It is working like it is now, and the martials are almost overshadowing the spellcasters. So if you just play the game as it is now and use magic weapons, things sorta work out. Monsters do need a power boost. vincegetorix mentioned HP bloat, which is a numerical thing, but not a gameplay thing to me. There is a bigger problem with monsters not hitting hard enough compared to their CR, because all the "value" is pumped into their defenses, just so that they can get in a turn or two.

Do I want to calculate half of the damage more often? Maybe, it's not hard. Double it for vulnerabilities? Sure. Add bigger crit ranges, damage reductions or added dice? It would be more math, and I am not looking forward to it.

So the game as it is now works, sorta. Monsters are usually too weak as CR once intended it, even using Xanathar's rules. Resistance/immunity to nonmagic b/p/s damage will probably stay to show that some monsters can't be killed by farmers. It's more for flavour then, that these immunities and resistances are still there than for balance reasons. No cobbler will kill Orcus with a hammer. Also, DM's will have a mutiny on their hands if they don't hand out magical weapons soon enough. Published adventures tend to give magic weapons long before lvl5.

So what is the problem that we're trying to solve here? Do we want the game to become more complex and spend more time on what we already do now? Do we want flavor to have more effect on the rules? Do we want to make monsters stronger, as CR is a total shitshow?

In any case, I have learnt a lot about combat balance in my current campaign, which will finish up soon. I have a couple of fun campaign ideas lined up, and some of them might improve with additional rules for resistances/vulnerabilities to certain materials. If my players are interested in additional mechanics, I will look into them. I like the concepts of Leatherhead a lot, and I might expand on them.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
4e already did this. Bringing Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing back for 5e was a symbolic gesture to appease the anti-4e crowd, and skeletons were the token “see? We promise this will actually matter sometimes!” monster. There are a few others, but they all exist solely to gesture at the design space weapon damage types could open up, so the folks who want that complexity don’t get too upset by the fact that the design space isn’t really utilized anywhere else. Worked well enough for the playtest, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it gone next edition.
Hmmm...

I'm not sure they completely disregard damage types in the game as much as you think. I understand why you can get that impression, though.

Thumbing through the Monster Manual, you can see that basically a creature resistant against one physical attack is resistant to all of them. But if you look at player-facing options, its not completely as all-encompassing.

Barbarian's rage resists all physical damage, but Fiend warlock's resistance only let's you choose one. So if a warlock is expecting to fight, say, a snake, they can resist bludgeoning against their constrict or piercing against their bite but not both.

Magic items are the same. It's pretty easy to get a physical resistance, but it's fairly hard to get all three of them without using up all your attunement. Which makes sense. Most of these resistances don't discriminate against magical/nonmagical and even if they did, most creatures use nonmagical damage.

In other words, offensively, they're kinda monotonous but defensively, there is room for meaningful choices.
 

So what is the problem that we're trying to solve here? Do we want the game to become more complex and spend more time on what we already do now? Do we want flavor to have more effect on the rules? Do we want to make monsters stronger, as CR is a total shitshow?

The goal is simulation.

In the case of a skeleton, the goal is to simulate the logic that a mace is a more effective weapon than a rapier against enemies without flesh. In the case of classical monsters like werewolves and vampires, the goal is to simulate the common literatary tropes that these monsters are killed with a certain type of material.
 

Sulicius

Explorer
The goal is simulation.

In the case of a skeleton, the goal is to simulate the logic that a mace is a more effective weapon than a rapier against enemies without flesh. In the case of classical monsters like werewolves and vampires, the goal is to simulate the common literatary tropes that these monsters are killed with a certain type of material.
And how the rules work now is not sufficient? Should we change things as they are now?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
My own guesstimation with regards to the B / P / S differentiations-- but then not doing much with them for resistances and such-- is that I've always felt the entire armor, weapon, and equipment sections were written as a first draft for playtest purposes but then never really iterated on past that. None of them ever really got looked at again later on in the game's development and determined whether the bits they had were useful or fun or necessary. Weapon types and resistances/vulnerabilities seems like one of those things. As well as things like the goofiness of the spear and trident being the exact same weapon except one's Simple and the other is Martial and they cost differently for no reason. And how the three levels of the armor chart have prices set up such that there's armors on it that will never be bought or used (like Ring mail). These entire chapters really needed to be reviewed again and cleaned up before publication, and I'm only hoping someone actually does this for the 2024 edits, because it could certainly use it. Making the differences between B, P & S meaningful would be one of those things.
 


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