The problem with weapon damage resistances.

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
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)?
The problem is that the idea of preparing different tactics and logistics for various challenges sounds like a fun part of the game, but runs into the in-table reality that people mostly just want to hit things. And the players who really do like the preparation and logistical aspects of the game tend to play casters anyway.

Differentiating by equipment made more sense in the old-school eras because your ability to mechanically differentiate your characters was so limited; in modern games with multiple axes of customization it becomes much less necessary. Also, characters having "signature weapons" became a thing when weapon specialization became a rule, and is pretty much prevalent for warrior types across the broad spectrum of fantasy media.

So yea, sounds good in theory, but way too many trends push against it being a thing.
 

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payn

Legend
The problem is that the idea of preparing different tactics and logistics for various challenges sounds like a fun part of the game, but runs into the in-table reality that people mostly just want to hit things. And the players who really do like the preparation and logistical aspects of the game tend to play casters anyway.

Differentiating by equipment made more sense in the old-school eras because your ability to mechanically differentiate your characters was so limited; in modern games with multiple axes of customization it becomes much less necessary. Also, characters having "signature weapons" became a thing when weapon specialization became a rule, and is pretty much prevalent for warrior types across the broad spectrum of fantasy media.

So yea, sounds good in theory, but way too many trends push against it being a thing.
A damn shame really. I greatly dislike the idea of having a signature weapon that the character is absolutely screwed if its ever disarmed and/or destroyed. I kind of miss the days equipment had unique properties, but going gonzo on a single weapon wasn't built into the mechanics. I prefer that to be loaded into character side progression and stay off equipment so it can do cool things.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The problem is that the idea of preparing different tactics and logistics for various challenges sounds like a fun part of the game, but runs into the in-table reality that people mostly just want to hit things. And the players who really do like the preparation and logistical aspects of the game tend to play casters anyway.

Differentiating by equipment made more sense in the old-school eras because your ability to mechanically differentiate your characters was so limited; in modern games with multiple axes of customization it becomes much less necessary. Also, characters having "signature weapons" became a thing when weapon specialization became a rule, and is pretty much prevalent for warrior types across the broad spectrum of fantasy media.

So yea, sounds good in theory, but way too many trends push against it being a thing.
Oh, I understand that. It just seemed odd in the context of 3e to 3.5. Course, it turns out the person I was responding to got it backwards, which makes more sense to me.
 

Undrave

Hero
Can I just say I think it's dumb that a Skeleton would take less damage from a slashing weapon? You're still swinging at it with a chunk of metal! Almost every weapon should, realistically, have the option to deal bludgeoning damage. Heck, even just holding a dagger and punching should be like clocking someone while holding a roll of quarter in your hand.

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)?

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.

Magic weapons are just a toggle. There is nothing interesting about them.

See, I like the concept of a warrior with multiple options that brings them out when it's more favourable... but as a game mechanic in D&D it's REALLY boring. As Sulicius say, it's a toggle. It only comes up once in a while, if you have a magic weapon it all disappear, and the best thing it can do is have you waste a turn switching weapons.

In the end, it's not a true decision point, it's not in any way more interesting that just choosing between a club (single handed, d4), a short sword (single handed, d6) or a rapier (single handed, d8). If there's no incentive to pick the lower damage weapon then why would you EVER do that? That's not a choice, it's a speed bump. Itdoesn't make the experience of attacking with a weapon any more rich or engaging so it's essentially a wasted piece of design.

I don't know the solution to that, but I'm sure there's a way to make weapon types matter.

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?

That's a good question. Is there more to this weapon damage thing and the associated resistance that's not just nostalgia pandering? Is there a game design reason it's there?
 

Undrave

Hero
The problem is that the idea of preparing different tactics and logistics for various challenges sounds like a fun part of the game, but runs into the in-table reality that people mostly just want to hit things. And the players who really do like the preparation and logistical aspects of the game tend to play casters anyway.
That and the game mechanic doesn't actually reward you for thinking this way beyond a few corner cases, with the most common being "enemy be way over there=use ranged weapon I'm not as good with"

Even a Fighter's fighting style barely interacts with weapon properties.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
The problem is that the idea of preparing different tactics and logistics for various challenges sounds like a fun part of the game, but runs into the in-table reality that people mostly just want to hit things. And the players who really do like the preparation and logistical aspects of the game tend to play casters anyway.

Differentiating by equipment made more sense in the old-school eras because your ability to mechanically differentiate your characters was so limited; in modern games with multiple axes of customization it becomes much less necessary. Also, characters having "signature weapons" became a thing when weapon specialization became a rule, and is pretty much prevalent for warrior types across the broad spectrum of fantasy media.

So yea, sounds good in theory, but way too many trends push against it being a thing.
To be fair, players enjoying the logistical aspect of the game tend to play casters because we're removing every logistical decision-making from martials...

Personally, I like signature weapons both as a player and as a DM, but I accept (and ask that my players expect) that there will be times when that signature weapon won't be part of the solution to a problem at hand. I'm also fond of spells or alchemical components that can transform the properties of a weapon temporarily. But vulnerabilities could also come in different format than just the material or esoteric property of a weapon. As mentioned earlier, vulnerabilities could take more poetic/folkloric significations such as "while inside a circle" or "under moonlight at full moon", or "as long as the sun shines", or "while bathing in the high tide", or whatever.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Can I just say I think it's dumb that a Skeleton would take less damage from a slashing weapon? You're still swinging at it with a chunk of metal! Almost every weapon should, realistically, have the option to deal bludgeoning damage. Heck, even just holding a dagger and punching should be like clocking someone while holding a roll of quarter in your hand.
I agree. If you wanted to really get into the weeds with it, you could give each weapon a damage rating with each damage type. Maybe a longsword does d8 slashing or d8 piercing but only d6 bludgeoning, for example. But that would be a lot of extra details for not much benefit. Personally, I rule that you can use a weapon to deal whatever damage type makes sense for the weapon. If doing so would require you to use it in a manner contrary to its design, it might count as an improvised weapon.
See, I like the concept of a warrior with multiple options that brings them out when it's more favourable... but as a game mechanic in D&D it's REALLY boring. As Sulicius say, it's a toggle. It only comes up once in a while, if you have a magic weapon it all disappear, and the best thing it can do is have you waste a turn switching weapons.

In the end, it's not a true decision point, it's not in any way more interesting that just choosing between a club (single handed, d4), a short sword (single handed, d6) or a rapier (single handed, d8). If there's no incentive to pick the lower damage weapon then why would you EVER do that? That's not a choice, it's a speed bump. Itdoesn't make the experience of attacking with a weapon any more rich or engaging so it's essentially a wasted piece of design.

I don't know the solution to that, but I'm sure there's a way to make weapon types matter.
I agree with this as well. I think damage types can be made to matter, but it takes a lot more adventure design work. Just slapping some weaknesses and/or resistances on some monsters and calling it a day results in what you describe here. To make damage types really matter, you have to design adventures like The Witcher 3. Monsters have to be like puzzles, where brute-forcing your way past their resistances is very nearly futile, and finding their weaknesses is a quest in and of itself.
That's a good question. Is there more to this weapon damage thing and the associated resistance that's not just nostalgia pandering? Is there a game design reason it's there?
In D&D I think it’s mostly nostalgia pandering. You could make it matter, but it would take a lot of adventure design work and what you would end up with would look very different than your typical high-adventure D&D campaign.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
To be fair, players enjoying the logistical aspect of the game tend to play casters because we're removing every logistical decision-making from martials...
So much this. As a player, I’m absolutely the sort who prefers that kind of logistical play, and I generally find martial characters conceptually more interesting, in part because they should theoretically have to do more of that type of thinking to compensate for lacking the versatility of magic. But the actual mechanics don’t bear that out. The need for logistical thinking has been almost entirely streamlined out of the game, and even casters mostly don’t have to worry about it with neo-vancian casting.

Personally, I like signature weapons both as a player and as a DM, but I accept (and ask that my players expect) that there will be times when that signature weapon won't be part of the solution to a problem at hand. I'm also fond of spells or alchemical components that can transform the properties of a weapon temporarily.
Heck yeah! Crafting special oils to coat your sword with or whatever sounds like my kind of game!

But vulnerabilities could also come in different format than just the material or esoteric property of a weapon. As mentioned earlier, vulnerabilities could take more poetic/folkloric significations such as "while inside a circle" or "under moonlight at full moon", or "as long as the sun shines", or "while bathing in the high tide", or whatever.
Yeeeeeeeessssssss!!!
 

Staffan

Legend
Can I just say I think it's dumb that a Skeleton would take less damage from a slashing weapon? You're still swinging at it with a chunk of metal! Almost every weapon should, realistically, have the option to deal bludgeoning damage. Heck, even just holding a dagger and punching should be like clocking someone while holding a roll of quarter in your hand.
The idea is that the damage from a sword to a large degree is the result of a sharp object slicing into your soft flesh and organs (for the moment we're ignoring the debate about hit points being meat or skill), and if you don't have soft flesh or organs the sword is going to be less effective – so, half damage.

If you wanted to be more realistic you could look at a game like the Swedish RPG Eon, where most weapons can do either slashing, crushing, or piercing damage, but many do significantly more damage of one type. For example, a spear deals basic damage (a calculated value depending on your stats, usually 2d6 to 4d6) +1 when used to deal crushing or slashing damage, but basic damage +3d6 piercing. So unless there's a really good reason to do otherwise, you're going to deal piercing damage with your spear.
 

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.
That...would seem to be even less representation than the MMs. Based on what sources are available to me (which are reasonably comprehensive), as far as I can tell there are less than two dozen monsters in all of 5e that have only partial physical resistances (that is, they resist at least one of those three types, and do not resist at least one of the other two)--and that's counting unique named creatures that are just copying the base form (e.g. there's apparently a flaming skull NPC of some kind, that inherits those characteristics).

To be represented in all of one class seems even less relevant than it would otherwise be. You'd have gotten better results from citing the fact that a large number of spells do at least one of those types of damage. Meaning...spellcasters are now more deeply-invested in the physical damage types than melee characters are. Yet another case of "if you want to do it right, be a spellcaster," le sigh.

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.
The bigger problem, of course, is that attuning a magic item only to get resistance to one damage type is a huge waste. Like, you've shown that the limit is present, but because of that limit, almost no one is going to seek out that benefit. There are dramatically better benefits than "maybe taking less damage some of the time."
 

The idea is that the damage from a sword to a large degree is the result of a sharp object slicing into your soft flesh and organs (for the moment we're ignoring the debate about hit points being meat or skill), and if you don't have soft flesh or organs the sword is going to be less effective – so, half damage.
Which just emphasizes how unrealistic many calls for realism are. A crowbar should not have more ability to break bones than a sturdy, relatively wide-bladed rapier solely because it lacks a sharp edge, yet that's basically what "skeletons resist slashing damage and are vulnerable to piercing damage." The "realism" of "oh, see, this does damage mostly by cutting or poking, and skeletons have nothing to poke or cut" is undercut by the equally-valid realism of "...it's a long metallic rod, who cares if it's sharp, the force of the swing is still being carried along a lever-arm..."
 

payn

Legend
Which just emphasizes how unrealistic many calls for realism are. A crowbar should not have more ability to break bones than a sturdy, relatively wide-bladed rapier solely because it lacks a sharp edge, yet that's basically what "skeletons resist slashing damage and are vulnerable to piercing damage." The "realism" of "oh, see, this does damage mostly by cutting or poking, and skeletons have nothing to poke or cut" is undercut by the equally-valid realism of "...it's a long metallic rod, who cares if it's sharp, the force of the swing is still being carried along a lever-arm..."
I get kinda what you are saying, but I would so rather be hit with the blunt side of a rapier than a crowbar.
 

Which just emphasizes how unrealistic many calls for realism are. A crowbar should not have more ability to break bones than a sturdy, relatively wide-bladed rapier solely because it lacks a sharp edge, yet that's basically what "skeletons resist slashing damage and are vulnerable to piercing damage." The "realism" of "oh, see, this does damage mostly by cutting or poking, and skeletons have nothing to poke or cut" is undercut by the equally-valid realism of "...it's a long metallic rod, who cares if it's sharp, the force of the swing is still being carried along a lever-arm..."

Me. I care.

There's a reason no one else in this thread has used the world "realism". We understand that RPGs are an abstraction. Some attacks do more damage than others. Damage type vs resistance is one way to model that. So are the damage die of the weapon, AC of the target, class abilities, and attributes of the wielder.

But even though these mechanics are abstract, they can also be a simulation. The damage type/resistance model is a valuable way to numerically describe the narrative that a knight will generally do more damage to a piece of inanimate bone by using a heavy crowbar than a flimsy foil designed to poke between links of chainmail. And the same model can be applied to describe why a werewolf is extra hurt by silver. Or why a fire elemental takes damage from water but not from a sword.
 

CubicsRube

Hero
Supporter
It's worth remembering that the witcher, a huge IP has as a core element 2 different weapons and a variety of oils. It's far from the golfbag warrior a relatively few vocal people complained about and a very many people enjoy this style of play.

I have the TTRPG and am sorely tempted to run it for my next campaign.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
That...would seem to be even less representation than the MMs. Based on what sources are available to me (which are reasonably comprehensive), as far as I can tell there are less than two dozen monsters in all of 5e that have only partial physical resistances (that is, they resist at least one of those three types, and do not resist at least one of the other two)--and that's counting unique named creatures that are just copying the base form (e.g. there's apparently a flaming skull NPC of some kind, that inherits those characteristics).

To be represented in all of one class seems even less relevant than it would otherwise be. You'd have gotten better results from citing the fact that a large number of spells do at least one of those types of damage. Meaning...spellcasters are now more deeply-invested in the physical damage types than melee characters are. Yet another case of "if you want to do it right, be a spellcaster," le sigh.


The bigger problem, of course, is that attuning a magic item only to get resistance to one damage type is a huge waste. Like, you've shown that the limit is present, but because of that limit, almost no one is going to seek out that benefit. There are dramatically better benefits than "maybe taking less damage some of the time."
Hmm...you may have a point. The separation has helped me as a DM because I often have homebrew where the distinction is very important.
 

Me. I care.

There's a reason no one else in this thread has used the world "realism".
Um...
Almost every weapon should, realistically, have the option to deal bludgeoning damage.
If you wanted to be more realistic you could look at a game like the Swedish RPG Eon, where most weapons can do either slashing, crushing, or piercing damage, but many do significantly more damage of one type.
Unless you're going to go for the pedantic requirement that it be the literal actual word "realism" and exclude the adjectival form "realistic" or the adverbial "realistically," purely because they're spelled differently, no, I'm not the only person using this term.

We understand that RPGs are an abstraction. Some attacks do more damage than others. Damage type vs resistance is one way to model that. So are the damage die of the weapon, AC of the target, class abilities, and attributes of the wielder.

But even though these mechanics are abstract, they can also be a simulation. The damage type/resistance model is a valuable way to numerically describe the narrative that a knight will generally do more damage to a piece of inanimate bone by using a heavy crowbar than a flimsy foil designed to poke between links of chainmail. And the same model can be applied to describe why a werewolf is extra hurt by silver. Or why a fire elemental takes damage from water but not from a sword.
I'm not challenging the fundamental model. I'm challenging the idea that it is useful to narrowly specify physical damage types in this way.

I find it both more useful and more interesting to model weapon differences in tags or keywords. E.g., perhaps "bludgeoning" type weapons (clubs, maces, hammers, staves, maybe flails) have some kind of property in common that makes them more useful against certain creatures. Spitballing, it could be something that mitigates generic physical damage resistance (e.g. they all have "Relentless 2," which means they ignore 2 points of damage resistance on each attack, thus favoring repeat attackers rather than precision attackers). Or perhaps weapons with the Blunt tag do extra damage against creatures with the Fragile tag. This then sets the stage for potentially a whole host of interesting tag interactions between weapons, characters, and monsters.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
I think maybe this discussion needs a refocus.

What do you think of "Carrot" VS "Stick" design when it comes to dealing with monster weakness?

"Stick" design means everything else is made worse, and the abusing weakness lets you perform as normal.

"Carrot" design means that you can function normally, but there is also a way to perform better.
 
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Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
"Stick" design means everything else is made worse, and the abusing weakness lets you perform as normal.

"Carrot" design means that you can faction normally, but there is also a way to perform better.
Both options in some combination would give the widest range of effects, at the probable cost of more complexity.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Then you get Pathfinder 1 which adds in the concept that certain pluses count as different materials as well.
To add context here, Pathfinder had an optional variant where each plus of magic item could also be considered a certain material for the purpose of bypassing DR. A +3 weapon counted as silver, +4 as adamantine, and +5 counted as evil/good/chaos/law (as needed). So a +5 weapon effectively bypassed pretty much every type of DR except epic.

Ultimately to me, DR serves three purposes:
  • To create an interesting challenge to the players.
  • As a "riff raff" negator, ensures that hordes of commoners can't just beat the monster.
  • Weakens/nullifies summoned type creatures, who often don't have the same ability to negate DR as the party does.

The problem with damage resistance (half damage) is its often not that great for the second purpose. For example, as strong as the Tarrasque is, 1000 just absolute shlub archers (no bonuses or anything) will still do over 100 damage a round to it. 1000 archers might sound like a lot, but against a creature that a party of 20th level characters is supposed to have trouble against, its really not, any kingdom worth their salt should be able to supply that force easily against such a legendary monster.

The "damage threshold" concept is a much better fit for that purpose, it makes a lot of monsters "invincible" against your armies, which then requires specialized heroes to do the job. The damage threshold is also nice because unless its quite high, it doesn't come into play for a lot of PCs, and so you don't have to add in extra math. So I'm a big fan of damage thresholds on those key legendary type monsters.


The second issue is around an interesting challenge to the players, and this is where the binary problem comes in. Once players have a magic weapon (which in most games is going to happen), it throws off the math on a whole slew of creatures (as apparantely CRs do not assume magic weapons, and so high level creatures are supposedly much tougher than they are in actual practice). I much prefer gradients, monster X needs a +1 weapon, monster Y needs a +3. I am okay with material DRs if they are seperate from magic, I think magic or silver is silly. That said, I also think damage IMMUNITY needs to be rarer. The fact that werewolves are immune from nonsilver/magic damage is kind of crazy when you consider their CR, they should just be resistant. True immunity should be the purview of high CR monsters, where a party should be expected to have many ways to deal with it.

I also think the "slashing, piercing, and blugeoning" damage is quite a mouthful and very silly. Just add a new category of "weapon damage". Keeping your blugeoning or slashing for specific monsters like a skeleton that need them, but otherwise just say weapon damage. It will save a lot of real estate on the page considering how many monsters have it.


Lastly, I agree vulnerability needs a new look. Its so powerful that WOTC is terrified to use their own condition, and so it needs a tuning down. Later monster books have shown us a glimpse of what that might look like, where a vulnerability doesn't add more damage but applies a certain condition or penalty to the monster.
 

I think maybe this discussion needs a refocus.

What do you think of "Carrot" VS "Stick" design when it comes to dealing with monster weakness?

"Stick" design means everything else is made worse, and the abusing weakness lets you perform as normal.

"Carrot" design means that you can faction normally, but there is also a way to perform better.
As a rule, I favor carrot design with almost everything. I'm a huge believer in the power of "yes," and generally prefer to see subtractive/penalty-based things that are used as costs for failure or accepted consequences, rather than inherent and default states. Note, general preference, not universal.

Hence, I prefer things like the 4e way of encouraging people to consider various class/race combos. Not by penalizing off-archetype choices (e.g., half-orcs with a Cha penalty), but by giving opt-in bonuses to on-archetype choices (e.g. dragonborn and tieflings having cool opt-in Paladin features, like racial feats). I prefer a baseline of general, decent competence; from there, different classes, races, etc. have various quantities and qualities to throw at having an edge of some kind. The ideal, for me, is where on-archetype choices (e.g. "Dragonborn Paladin") get you an edge within that archetype but leave you weaker outside it unless you spend resources to make up the difference later, while off-archetype choices (such as "Halfling Paladin") start you out as a pretty diverse character, and you can choose to get an edge in any of those things later.

That's why I gave the example I did earlier. Something like: "all weapons work on skeletons, but Skeletons have the Fragile tag, which means you take the better of two damage rolls if using a weapon with the Bashing tag."
 

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