In a previous post about fighters & weapons (and probably a few other places), I mentioned that I’m planning to have weapon damage by class, rather than by weapon. I think this deserves a dedicated post even though it has been much discussed in other places.
Here is how it works. There are no weapon restrictions. Any class can use any weapon. Characters use their hit die for weapon damage. If wielding two weapons or a weapon with both hands, 2DTH is used. That’s it. Modified for situational factors by ruling (though that should go without saying). Missile weapons too, though range is by weapon.
You might be wondering, if all weapons inflict hit die damage, why should I prefer one weapon over another? Why not just write “two melee weapons and a missile weapon with 20 shots” on my character sheet and be done with it? For one thing, weapons can be used outside of combat as well. For example, a quarterstaff might be used to span a hole and secure a rope. A dagger might be hammered into a wooden timber and used as a foothold (try doing that with a battle axe). A dagger is easy to conceal, a two-handed sword is not. Bulky weapons are extra-encumbering. Some longer weapons can attack from the rear ranks (such as spears & pole arms). Some weapons can be thrown. Some weapons may grant automatic initiative in a one on one fight (this would depend on the circumstances). And so forth.
As I said in the post on fighters, this incentivizes smaller (for encumbrance purposes) and cheaper weapons, which seems to make sense. Why spend extra money and backpack space on a military weapon if you are not trained to use it?
I think this system follows the spirit of OD&D, where all weapons do 1d6 damage. It makes weapon choice more about a trade-off calculation than about mechanical optimization. The question becomes: should I carry a weapon & torch, weapon & shield, two-handed weapon, or pair of weapons?
This scheme is very similar to one presented in this Grognardia comment. Akratic Wizardry also has a similar system, though it uses a base damage die for medium weapons based on class and allows you to go up or down a die for small and large weapons, respectively. For example, if the base damage die is d6, then down a step would be d4 and up a step would be d8). This breaks down if the base die is d4 though (if you want to stick with the common polyhedral dice), and Akrasia also adds in some special cases (such as the ability of magic-users to do d6 damage with a quarterstaff despite the fact that it is categorized as a medium weapon).
Akrasia also mentions that dispensing with class-based weapon restrictions potentially weakens the fighter (relatively speaking), as then all classes are able to use magic swords (though with a smaller damage die). However, I follow the OD&D practice of capping bonuses at +1, and further only allow this bonus to be active when wielded by a fighter. Other classes still gain the benefit of the weapon being magical for purposes of being able to damage monsters that can only be harmed by magic weapons.
For more reading, there are Dragonsfoot discussions of similar ideas here and here. And at The City of Iron here. Most of these systems use lots of different types of dice rather than just using the hit die, which seems too complicated to me. There is one interesting variation that I might try out at some point, which is to have more variety in missile damage as suggested here, and maybe distinguish between thrown weapons and other missile weapons.