Making Weapons Interesting pt. 2

So, as I wrote here, I have a problem with how in some D&D weapons lists, the weapons are basically just a damage die and nothing more. Now, if you’re playing a very minimalist approach where every wepon just does 1d6 damage, it doesen’t matter that much (though the only reason to have a weapon list at all in that case is for flavor). No, I want the weapons to feel different to each other. Weapons are an important part of combat, and combat is an important part of D&D. Thus, this.

A recap

  • Slashy weapons (swords mainly) cut unarmored people very easily, but are literally worthless against heavier armor.
  • Stabby weapons (swords, spears, daggers) can do tons of damage if they hit the right spot, and are pretty good against textile armor.
  • Choppy weapons (axes) are decent overall, with a bit of an edge but also heft.
  • Crushy weapons (hammers, maces) smash armor decently.

Now, the real idea is a bit down, if you want to skip these other things.


The Olde Way: Weapons vs. Armor Types

Don’t be scared, this isn’t going to be as bad as it sounds (probably). Assuming you are using the regular old AC system, and if you don’t want to change damage values around that much, you can use this good (?) old stuff. Though this is hopefully less messy than the AD&D weapon vs. armor table… This is not by any means a new solution, but it might still be usable.

  • Slashing is +3 to hit against unarmored, +1 to hit against leather.
  • Piercing is +1 to hit against unarmored and mail, and +2 to hit against leather.
  • Chopping +1 against everything.
  • Crushing is  +1 to hit against leather and mail and +2 to hit against plate.


A Side Idea: Damage Die from Target Armor

This one is just a random thought I had… You could have a weapon’s damage dice based on what level of armor your target is wearing. It doesn’t seem to work out very nicely in a balanced table, though, so I’ll just leave this as an abandonded idea for now.


Using Damage Modifiers

This is the one I used in Disposable Heroes. It worked pretty well actually, but I’d like to run it through design again to make it better. This was used with armor as damage reduction, where you could rack up 4 armor points in full plate.

  • Slashing weapons dealt +1d4 damage, but counted enemy armor as double.
  • Piercing weapons dealt exploding¹ damage.
  • Chopping weapons dealt +1 damage.
  • Impact weapons ignored half the target’s armor.

(The large range of damage dice used, d4 through d12, had the peculiar effect of making properties more important for smaller weapons. That might need changing somehow.)

It worked pretty well. I calculated all the weapons’ average damage over 0-4 AP to make sure they were decently balanced from the start.

The new (untested) version of this might get its own post. It got large and math-y… Basically I wanted to change how the damage types worked a bit, while keeping their general effect the same.

The thing the average damage calculation doesn’t do however, is accounting for other weapon properties, namely durability, reach, and versatility. But I wanted these weapon’s overall damage to be the same so you couldn’t find a best weapon in pure damage.



  • Slashing, piercing, chopping, crushing, are damage modifiers.
  • Reach allows you to fight in two ranks, and to strike first upon closing melee.
  • Balanced halves the amount of encumbrance the weapon takes up.
  • Brittle and durable affect how easily the weapon is broken.
  • Versatile allows you to swap between two damage types.
  • Throwable means the weapon can be thrown effectively.
  • Small means the weapon is easily carried and concealed.

A list

  • Sword: versatile (slashing or piercing), balanced, brittle
  • Dagger: piercing, small, throwable
  • Axe: chopping
  • Warhammer: crushing, durable
  • Pole-axe: versatile (crushing or piercing), durable
  • Spear: piercing, reach
  • Javelin: piercing, throwable

You get the idea… Though I’m not sure what to do with pickaxes? I get this feeling that they should do piercing and crushing damage at the same time, and that seems far too strong…

1. Exploding damage is when you can roll another damage die and add them together upon rolling the highest possible result.

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