Sunday, 10 January 2010

OD&D Weapon Damage - Response

Looks like the last post supporting OD&D's use of d6 damage for all weapons seems to have struck a chord and even warranted a mention on the mighty Grognardia (a surprisingly large impact bearing in mind that I don't participate in any of the Old School forums and therefore lack any real promotional outlet for the blog). A few points were raised that are probably best answered in another post.

Two-Handed Weapons
There's a glaring problem with d6-for-all in that it disadvantages the two handed weapon wielder. Why lose the single point of AC bonus for omitting a shield when your weapon will still only have the hurty-squealy potential of the short or broadsword that is accompanied by a shield?

Personally, I'm not too bothered about PCs not taking the two-handed weapon. For a start, they aren't really practical underground. A quick scan through the insanely complete weapons list for Tunnels and Trolls lists a few sizes for two-handed weapons;

Flamberge, Greatsword - 6'
Two-handed Broadsword - 5'
Spontoon - 8'
Bardiche - 9'
Billhook - 11'
Demi-lune - 12'
Partisan - 8'

These are not handy weapons underground. In fact they weren't handy weapons above ground on the mediaeval battleground unless they were wielded by bodies of men drilled to complement each other. Swinging an eleven foot long pole with a spiky bit on the head in the middle of a confused, underground melee in a rough tunnel is just asking for trouble.

Anyway, good luck sheltering under your greatsword or halberd when the arrow traps are going off left, right and centre and acid is dripping from the ceiling. You'll wish you had the shield then. :)

Magic Weapons i.e. Swords
Put simply, only Fighting Men can wield magic weapons. There are a number of reasons for this thusly
1 - The weapon's ego won't tolerate being inexpertly waved around in the general vicinity of the enemy by a weedy academic. They have their pride and need to respect the wielder - which means they won't work properly unless handled by a professional warrior
2 - It's fair to say that when the Gods create magic swords they do not do so with any old length of pig iron. Maximilllian the Magic-User's sword is an old hand-me-down shortsword with most of the rust polished off that Grandfather was forced to accept when he was conscripted into the Great War Against Whatever (before he deserted and went home to Grandmother). Flaybreath the Fighting-Man's sword is a proper job, heavier and with a greater reach and probably beyond Maximillian's skill to use safely - he'd probably lop his own ear off. Maximillian trying to use the sort of pointy length of tempered steel (rolled on the naked thighs of Immortal Vestal Virgins) that Flaybreath dreams of being handed down to him by the Gods on the slopes of their holy mountain would be akin to giving him a Ferrari to go to the shops with when he'd be much better off with a Ford Fiesta. Maximillian should be frightened of any decent-looking sword.
3 - Demons in the sword argue with the demons in the Magic-Users head and start sulking and then don't work. (The DM's hand-waving excuse).

Following the comments on here and Grognardia, I am seriously tempted by the idea of damage, not by weapon, but by class. That's a wee bit similar to the idea in Tunnels and Trolls where Warriors rate their armour as double that of any non-Warrior wearing the same armour because they know how to use it to turn blows.


  1. "In fact they weren't handy weapons above ground on the mediaeval battleground unless they were wielded by bodies of men drilled to complement each other."

    Not true for the 2-Handed Sword. :)

    Deadiest Warrior: The Claymore

  2. Sorry, this video is not available in your country. Bastards, in Britain we invented the bloody thing!

    Highlanders were not known for drill and fighting shoulder to shoulder though - I still believe that you had to give any friendly warrior with a claymore a fairly large space to work in otherwise he'd catch you on the backswing.

    I am starting to think that if you actually had to wield a sword underground "for real" you'd regret taking something long and end up (if you survived that mistake) going for something like a Roman gladius instead.

  3. The video has some footage of a guy spinning around the Claymore showing that it's not slow and unwieldy. Also, consider that a Samurai Sword (Kendo) is also "2-Handed" and is quite fast and wouldn't take more room to use than the Knight's "Long Sword" (which was often used with 2 hands, with a hand up on the blade for thrusting).

    It also really depends on what sort of dungeon you're talking about, and how wide the rooms are. Some classic dungeons have some pretty big areas in them. A two-handed sword in the Shrine of the Kuo Toa wouldn't suffer from any lack of space.

    Now, if you're crawling through some Kobold warrens then you might want a dagger. ;-)

  4. Demons in the sword argue with the demons in the Magic-Users head and starting sulking and then don't work.
    This is my favourite, and the one I would use.

    That Deadliest Warrior thing is hilarious. It's like Mythbusters but without any sense of fun.

  5. I know Geoff Desmoulin (one of the hosts) -- it's all definitely in good fun, even if they give it that faux-serious vibe on the show. :)

  6. I agree with every weapon doing the same damage, since I don't believe in hit point damage as physical damage. But of course this means that the base hit die should be the same as the base damage die: 1d6 starting hit points for everyone, fighters get a +1 at first level, and magic-users gain a d6 as they increase in levels the same as fighters do, but at a slower rate.

    1. Why have HP if one hit will kill? We could handle it like Chainmail: people have just 1 HP, and weapons deal just 1 HP. Randomness in combat can be handled adequately by just the to-hit roll, and more advantageous weapons can have a bonus to hit.

      With higher HP (or HD), if most HP loss is not damage, then it should represent either being fatigued, or being manoeuvred into a situation where the final blow can be made. But while all weapons might (might) be equally good at dealing the final blow, they are not equally good at engineering that situation.

      Consider two fighters, one with a dagger, one with a longsword. The one with a longsword is at a clear advantage (reach, speed, power), and is much more likely to end up making the killing blow. If we factor in HP, setting up for the final blow, then the longsword will get through those HP quicker. We can model this either by giving a better to-hit, or doing more damage. I think the latter is more interesting.

      I think the route of making more effective attacks do more damage was the correct one for D&D to take. It doesn't necessarily have to correspond exactly to bigger weapons = bigger damage, but the general concept works.

  7. I like your explanation for magic weapons arguing with mages and clerics. Not something I would have thought of.