D&D General Weekly Wrecana - A Next Division of Weapons.


Arcadian Knight
In memorum of Wrecan, Mark Monack

a speculation on what would be next written before 5th edition release with with a context and mindset of 4e
On February 2, Evil_Reverend, the screen name for Robert Schwalb, one of the developers for the next iteration of D&D;, wrote a blog on the D&D; Next Group called "Weapon Damage Types", where it was suggested that the game would bring back the three weapon damage types: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing, such that some creature might be resistant or vulnerable to one or more types of weapons. At the time of this article, more than half of the people who responded to the poll at the end of that article thought this was a good idea. So I have a feeling that weapon type damage will see a return.

Last September, I wrote an article called "
A New Division of Weapons", in which I describe some of the issues I've had with similar weapon categorizations. Specifically, I gave the example of the Dungeon Caddy, which I'll reproduce here for convenience:

Because each weapon had to be unique, weapons were given all sorts of traits and powers. Some pole arms gave you a bonus to disarming, others to tripping. Some did 1d8+1 damage. Some did 2d4 damage. Some were slashing weapons. Some were piercing weapons. Some were blunt. Some were wooden. Some were metal. Some were silver. Some were cold iron. And if you were going up against someone wearing armor you might get a bonus or penalty depending on the type of armor he was wearing. The result was the quiver of weapons, where you felt the need to have a weapon of every type (and a back-up in case of rust monsters) so you could switch in and out depending on who you fought. I always imagined fighters walking around with a caddy...
Fighter: What is that? A rust monster? Hand me my three wood.
Caddy: No sir. I believe that is a rust monster zombie. You need something slashing. Maybe a five iron?
Fighter: Rust monster zombie? Do they only eat iron brains? Hand me my wedge. I'm going to have to hit this one out of the bunker.

Accepting that weapon types will make a return, however, I have given consideration as to how this can be accomplished with the following parameters:

Challenging: Weapon type-resistance must offer some challenge to the party
Caddy-less: Weapon type-resistance need not require weapon0users to have a dungeon caddy
Cognizable: Weapon type-resistance should make sense.

Here's what I've devised:

Secondary Damage Types
What if each weapon imposed a default type of damage? And what if each family of weapons also had available to it a secondary type of damage, which could be inflicted by using the weapon in a nontraditional manner (possibly requiring the purchase of attachments or a more advanced form of the weapon)? This secondary damage would be available but at a minor penalty. Perhaps, for example, a small penalty to hit, or the inability to use any associated powers of the weapon.

This would allow a weapon-user to inflict two types of damage with his favored weapon. Damage types would still be challenging, but the weapon-user would only need one back-up weapon for the one damage type that could not be inflict with the primary weapon.

So, for example, is a longsword can inflict slashing damage primarily, and piercing damage secondarily, swordsman would only need a back-up bludgeoning weapon to cover all three types. The sword-n-board melee build isn't simply cliche; now it has real tactical sense. The sword-n-board fighter is built for versatility, being able to inflict any damage type without having to stow and draw a different weapon.

Bludgeoning, however, offers a unique problem in the trip of damages. In theory, any weapon with a handle should be able to inflict bludgeoning damage. Cocking someone on the head with the hilt of your sword or the butt of your crossbow is pretty standard fare in the fantasy medium. Wouldn't the aforementioned longsword be able to create slashing damage, secondary piercing damage, and tertiary bludgeoning damage? Why would we give a creature resistance to anything but bludgeoning if any weapon could inflict such damage, thus getting around resistance to piercing or slashing?

The answer I propose is that using the handle of a weapon to impose bludgeoning damage is the equivalent of an unarmed attack. Everyone has the ability to punch, and punching is going to inflict bludgeoning damage. Unless you are of a class built for lethal unarmed attacks (like a monk, or a fighter with some sort of pugilist or wrestler build), unarmed attacks should be fairly ineffective. We don't know what the designers have in mind for unarmed combat in the next edition, but I believe that however it works, improvised weapons should be incorporated into those unarmed attack rules.

I mentioned using a shield bash as a bludgeoning attack. This follows my earlier suggestion that shields should be considered a type of weapon. Shields, I propose, would have no "primary" damage type. Rather a "shield bash" would use the rules for secondary damage types. The shield's defensive bonus replaces any primary damage type. Adding spikes or razors to your shield may allow you also inflict piercing or slashing damage instead of bludgeoning damage. This allows shields to serve as a back-up "weapon" regardless of the damage type your primary weapon cannot inflict. Feats and other talents might allow someone to become primarily proficient as a shield basher.

Ranged Weapons
Archery generally inflicts only piercing damage. Slings generally only inflict bludgeoning damage. However, depending on the tenor of the campaign, one might allow for trick arrows, quarrels, or bullets that allow for different types of damage. A "punching arrow" might inflict bludgeoning damage, a "razor quarrel" might inflict slashing, and a "spiked bullet" might inflict piercing. This allows ranged attackers a variety of damage types and not be rendered less useful against characters resistant to piercing. I have less concerns about a dungeon caddy for ranged characters; after all, a quiver is already the medieval version of a golf bag.

Weapon Families
In the prior article, I also suggested dividing weapons into "weapon families". This works well with the scheme I propose above, as each weapon family can have its own designated primary and secondary damage type. The proliferation fo weapon families can ensure that every combination of primary and secondary damage is represented. I illustrate this in the following diagram. Please note that the damage type closest to the weapon family is the primary damage type for that family and the further one the secondary damage type. Thus, blades are slashing and then piercing, while axes are slashing and then bludgeoning.
Now, the damage types are merely defaults. A rapier may be placed in the blade family, but be piercing first, and slashing second. Some exotic weapons may only have one damage type, or may require special modifications to inflict a second damage type.

I also proposed in the prior article, that weapon length determine the damage die of the weapon. I measured length in terms of "hands". I still think this would be a good way to establish a good variety of weapons for each weapon family. In my prior article, I did not have "picks", having merged it with hammers because I had not intended to bring back weapon types. With damage types restored, I am bringing back picks, but eliminating flails. The flail family is now merged with the mace family by default, though specific weapons may given unique properties. The whip, for instance, may only inflict slashing damage, but could give bonuses to trip attacks. Following is the chart of weapon families and types:

I think this sort of categorization of weapons can give players and designers a solid framework for making diverse weapons that are useful and allow for challenging encounters against a variety of creatures with variable damage resistances.
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I think its just more a matter of multiple damage types and subtle distinctions between weapons are a bit overkill in a system where damage and hit point loss, and even hitting or missing, are abstractions of fairly high level. I'm reminded of the original LBBs where there were about 10 weapons listed, and there was almost no difference between them. Its not that a dagger and a flail aren't different, its just that in the end they all tire, expend the luck of, wound, and demoralize your opponent each in some measure.


Arcadian Knight
I think its just more a matter of multiple damage types and subtle distinctions between weapons are a bit overkill in a system where damage and hit point loss, and even hitting or missing, are abstractions of fairly high level. I'm reminded of the original LBBs where there were about 10 weapons listed, and there was almost no difference between them. Its not that a dagger and a flail aren't different, its just that in the end they all tire, expend the luck of, wound, and demoralize your opponent each in some measure.

Agreed we do have maneuvers that at first glance seem highl specific till you let them be properly favorable.... you can stab someone through the legs or is that slashing an important tendon or even hitting a stomache muscle in away that causes it to seize up slowing the enemy,
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Arcadian Knight
Heck a knock down assault makes for a good pommel strike to the
brain pan or a flying kick (done on the run)
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Arcadian Knight
The idea I considered was allowing a different set of maneuvers based on the weapon(s) you are using.

like maybe 3 maneuvers per weapon type or something

Yeah, well, that was the OD&D/AD&D concept basically (assuming you didn't use the tedious weapons vs armor thing, which was frankly not something we ever bothered with). Your pole weapons were good for striking over the front rank and setting for a charge, your mace was good for crushing skeletons, your swords were good for general fighting, daggers were (at least in OD&D) pretty much equal to a sword, etc. There were oddities, axes were good for nothing basically, and for some weird reason AD&D punished mace users with d6 damage (spears too), but mostly it was just 'use this weapon in this situation', though the actual idea of specific maneuvers wasn't very well developed. It was more like there were TACTICS for each weapon.

However, I think its fine to have maneuvers that are pretty much specialized to certain weapons or groups. So, for instance, in HoML you can pick up an 'axe mastery' boon that grants access to several powers that only work with axes. Its a 'one stop shop' basically, want to be a bad-assed axe-toting dwarf (or whatever) you pick Axe Mastery and select the powers it grants access to, now you can use that sucker quite well! Obviously you're going to be having a harder time of it if you wind up swinging a sword for some reason, it will be back to at-wills or even MBAs. You probably won't do that though, and if you really do end up with some reason you gotta start using a sword instead of an axe, you can always pick up Student of the Sword and retrain. The tactical choices of AD&D days can be reproduced easily enough with powers that are either part of these mastery boons or even just basic marshal powers.

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