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D&D (2024) The rapier problem

Yaarel

He-Mage
I love swashbuckling characters, I do. But there should not be one best weapon in the game for a huge swath of characters. But right now, there is: the rapier.

If I want to make a genasi Thief of Bagdad style swashbuckler, I will be costing myself damage output (the main contribution swashbucklers bring to a party) by going with a scimitar instead of a rapier. Likewise a halfling thief with a short sword, or any other aesthetic choices that are, by the math, "wrong."

(See also no one using slings or a host of other weapons, because it's never the right decision to make.)

I'm not sure what the fix is.

Make weapon stats more similar, with only flavor between them? I believe there's an OSR game (maybe either the White or Black Hack) where every class does a set amount of damage, no matter what weapon they're using.

Make weapon stats far more complex, with every weapon being situationally good? The odds are that there will still be a "best" weapon and it'll just take the hardcore math types throwing everything into a spreadsheet to determine what it is.

What do you think? Is this a problem in your game? Have you attempted to fix it in some fashion?
The rapier is probably ok, but it has such a strong renaissance and modern flavor. It would be better if the mechanically better weapon has medieval flavor.

D&D has the longsword (such as a historical claymore) and the shortsword (such as the gladiator gladius). But there is no "normal" sword in between.

The knightly arming sword, viking sword, spatha, etcetera is this sword in between. It is an agile weapon, for both cutting and thrusting (slash or pierce). The stats are comparable to a rapier.

Where the greatsword is more like a historical zweihänder, it is more like a polearm with reach. I would do the stats as follows.



Martial Melee Weapons
Greatsword (2d6 slash) 6 lb. Heavy, reach, two-handed
Katana (1d6 slash) 2.5 lb. Finesse, versatile (1d10)
Longsword (1d8 slash) 3 lb. Versatile (1d12)
Rapier (1d8 pierce) 2 lb. Finesse
Shortsword (1d6 pierce) 2 lb. Finesse, light
Sword (1d8 slash/pierce) 2.5 lb. Finesse



Here the point is, the knightly "Sword" is as mechanically good as the Rapier. So if the player wants medieval flavor go for the Sword, and if wants the renaissance flavor go for the Rapier.



(Obviously, these swords could be more complex mechanically. For example the rapier would be less useful against armored opponents. The Greatsword wielder would be forced to "half-sword" against an adjacent opponent (1d6 pierce), as opposed to an opponent at reach that gets full damage. The Katana is worthless against chain armor. And so on. But D&D simplicity doesnt go there.)
 

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Horwath

Legend
Perhaps having the rapier in the game at all is a mistake, without also having the rest of the gear it's usually employed with (buckler, parrying dagger).
that is just setting bias, as rapier were a thing in 16th century and walking around town with a shield was not practical.
if rapiers were present in 13th century on a battlefield, you would always be better with a shield than a buckler or a parrying dagger.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
that is just setting bias, as rapier were a thing in 16th century and walking around town with a shield was not practical.
if rapiers were present in 13th century on a battlefield, you would always be better with a shield than a buckler or a parrying dagger.
You look a lot sexier with a buckler or parrying dagger, though.

Would Mercutio or Tybalt carry around a big nerd shield? No, they would not.
 

Eubani

Legend
I think the issue is both Dex the god stat and the weapon table as a whole. Finesse enables you to get good melee, ranged, initiative a good save and raft of good skills all because of Dex. The weapon table shows the lack of care in general put into martial characters. I loved 4e weapons, being defined by to hit bonus, damage and a large selection of properties (I do miss Brutal X).
 

reelo

Hero
The rapier is probably ok, but it has such a strong renaissance and modern flavor. It would be better if the mechanically better weapon has medieval flavor.

D&D has the longsword (such as a historical claymore) and the shortsword (such as the gladiator gladius). But there is no "normal" sword in between.

The knightly arming sword, viking sword, spatha, etcetera is this sword in between. It is an agile weapon, for both cutting and thrusting (slash or pierce). The stats are comparable to a rapier.

Where the greatsword is more like a historical zweihänder, it is more like a polearm with reach. I would do the stats as follows.



Martial Melee Weapons
Greatsword (2d6 slash) 6 lb. Heavy, reach, two-handed
Katana (1d6 slash) 2.5 lb. Finesse, versatile (1d10)
Longsword (1d8 slash) 3 lb. Versatile (1d12)
Rapier (1d8 pierce) 2 lb. Finesse
Shortsword (1d6 pierce) 2 lb. Finesse, light
Sword (1d8 slash/pierce) 2.5 lb. Finesse



Here the point is, the knightly "Sword" is as mechanically good as the Rapier. So if the player wants medieval flavor go for the Sword, and if wants the renaissance flavor go for the Rapier.



(Obviously, these swords could be more complex mechanically. For example the rapier would be less useful against armored opponents. The Greatsword wielder would be forced to "half-sword" against an adjacent opponent (1d6 pierce), as opposed to an opponent at reach that gets full damage. The Katana is worthless against chain armor. And so on. But D&D simplicity doesnt go there.)

If D&D was serious about medieval verisimilitude, it'd be all about spears, polearms, maces, and warhammers (the real ones, not the ones that look like a giant sledgehammer) The "arming sword" was a backup weapon.

It's a shame that a "modern" weapon like the rapier is arguably the best weapon in the game.
 

Horwath

Legend
If D&D was serious about medieval verisimilitude, it'd be all about spears, polearms, maces, and warhammers (the real ones, not the ones that look like a giant sledgehammer) The "arming sword" was a backup weapon.

It's a shame that a "modern" weapon like the rapier is arguably the best weapon in the game.
rapier and shield is a good shield wall tactic.
it would be more common in history if rapier did not come together with early firearms and complete evolution of plate armor.

one handed spear does not have much longer reach than a rapier, and rapier is more nimble to use than a one handed spear.
you also do not have a part of spear behind you for counter balance and your hand is better protected. there is zero hand protection on the spear.


shield is always the best addition to one handed weapon, if you do not mind carrying it around.
 
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Horwath

Legend
I would prefer damage reduction but a simple +|- 2 is not onerous and would I think encourage a broader array of medieval weapons.

Another issue is that attack stat (singular) is another issue.

An average of str and dex would be better for most melee attacks…
there can always be an option to have min str for all weapons.

then you can use str or dex for all melee weapons IF you have sufficient strength.

I.E. a shortsword for 1d6 damage might have min STR of 8 while 2Handed greataxe with 2d8 damage might have min STR of 18.
then if you have 18 STR and 20 DEX, use the DEX for attack and damage. with 18 STR and 20 DEX you deserved it.
 

G

Guest 7034872

Guest
There are some posters on here who know a lot about fencing and swordplay, for all of which I'm grateful.

In the end, I'm inclined to agree with Horwath and others that the rapier isn't the real problem: the way weapons in general work in 5e is the problem. When I say, "problem," I expressly don't mean, "thing I dislike." I mean, "thing that prevents the game from working as intended." We had a lot of these same weapons back in AD&D, but they worked very differently, IIRC (long time ago, though, so maybe I don't RC).

My memory of AD&D is that weapon use was much more restrictive, with the Fighter the only class that could use pretty much all weapons. They also had much sharper, more limiting trade-offs between weight, damage-dealing, number of attacks per round, etc. This made one's weapon choices much trickier, where I had to spend some real time figuring out which weapon(s) to use. Almost none of our options were ever genuinely interchangeable or replaceable by some other option that just flat out surpassed the others.

Today, it seems, weapon choice is almost reducing down to a matter of flavor, not a matter of affecting what happens in combat. Almost as soon as I got back into the game in 2018, I noticed a lot of options were mechanically redundant, yielding weapon choices that were more flavor than mechanics. Weapons tables that become ~50% flavor are not tables I will like, and I really don't think the designers intended this. Forget verisimilitude: I'm not worried about that. I just want to return to a set of tables in which each option compels a balancing act between various in-combat desiderata.
 

Yaarel

He-Mage
If D&D was serious about medieval verisimilitude, it'd be all about spears, polearms, maces, and warhammers (the real ones, not the ones that look like a giant sledgehammer)

It's a shame that a "modern" weapon like the rapier is arguably the best weapon in the game.
It gets tricky if the medievalesque is too Eurocentric. But I agree the Players Handbook needs to focus on the premodern flavor, themes, and tropes. Maybe focus on what exists around the real world in year 1000. The katana might not exist yet − as far as I know it emerges in late 1300s.

Then, the Forgotten Realms Guide can add early modern weaponry, like rapiers and certain guns, and other renaissance flavor.

But if the core timespan covers 400s to 1400s, then it is everything from King Arthur to Leonardo di Vinci.

The "arming sword" was a backup weapon.
It depends what era. Around year 1000, the "Sword", representing knightly, viking, spatha, etcetera is the main weapon, often sword-and-shield.

The Sword is only a backup when the Longsword becomes prevalent, from 1300s to 1500s (contemporary with katana). But there are earlier examples of Longsword existing experimentally and idiosyncratically.
 

glass

(he, him)
there are moments in fencing when blades "bind" and you are close to your opponent, then a broken bottle across the neck or face is better than a punch, and dagger would be even better as you can block with dagger, you cannot with a hand: I guess you can block once with a hand, but it is not recommended.
I am by no means an expert, but AIUI there were gloves with mail on the inside specifially for the purposes of grabbing blades. I think it was mostly your own blade, for half-swording techniques, but presumably they would also allow you to grab someone else's without cutting your hand.
 

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