Weapons & parrying draft

Dacian Draco weapons from Wikipedia

Dacian Draco weapons from Wikipedia

This is for a more complete alternate system that is in progress, but should also work with traditional D&D, clones, and simulacra. I know some people don’t like any kind of “roll for defense” mechanics, but these weapon abilities should still work minus the parry (which only comes up occasionally in any case). I’m still not totally sold on the parry mechanic myself; I believe it needs more play testing (but I am optimistic).


All weapons do 1d6 damage. Some weapons have additional benefits, as described below. The anti-plate weapons should obviate the need for a weapon versus AC table.

Melee Weapons

  • Spear: can be thrown, hold at bay, attack from second rank
  • War hammer, military pick, mace: +2 against plate
  • Dagger: can be thrown up to 50’, concealable, auto-hit grapple
  • Axe: re-roll damage of 1, may attack shields directly (and destroy them)
  • Sword: draw and use in same round, allows one riposte
  • Two-handed sword: 2DTH
  • Javelin, can be used as a melee weapon, longer range than dagger or spear
  • Pole arm: hold at bay, 2DTH, -2 when not attacking from the second rank
  • Quarterstaff: one free parry vs. melee weapons
  • Lance: 2d6 damage when mounted and charging

Missile Weapons

  • Bow: one shot per round, better range than anything thrown
  • Crossbow: +2 vs plate, one round to reload
  • Sling: light, cheap ammo


  • 2DTH: roll two dice and take the highest for damage.
  • Riposte: if an enemy misses you with a melee strike and rolls 5 or less on the attack roll, you get a free counterattack.
  • Parry: make a saving throw versus paralyzation to deflect an attack that hits.
  • Hold at bay: attacker must make a save to attack you, upon failure you get a free counterattack.
Or, in more detail:


Rather than make an attack, characters may choose to focus on defense. This is called “parrying” but should not be thought of as a single block or deflection (any more than a sword attack is a single cut or thrust). Any character may parry, but must be wielding a weapon or holding a shield in order to do so. Parrying allows you to make one saving throw versus paralyzation to avoid what would otherwise be a successful melee attack. Characters trained in unarmed combat may elect to parry even if not using a weapon or shield. Using a shield also grants you one free parry per turn (this may be used any time before the beginning of your next turn), and unlike standard parrying, shields may also be used to parry missile attacks. Quarterstaffs also allow one melee parry per round in addition to an attack (though note that a quarterstaff requires two hands to wield). No more than one parry may be attempted per turn.


Usable in place of a standard attack, must target one enemy, no attack roll, usable with spears, tridents, and similar weapons. If enemy attacks the spear wielder, enemy must save versus paralyzation or fail in the attack and be subject to a free attack from the spear wielder. Creatures bigger than large size require multiple spear wielders to be kept at bay.

Thanks to the people on G+ who contributed to the discussion that led to these rules, first here back in May and then here yesterday. Also see The Dragon’s Flagon regarding a similar (but slightly more complex) system for holding enemies at bay with pole arms. The flail is intentionally omitted, though if I did include it I would have it bypass shields and have a bonus to disarm.

18 thoughts on “Weapons & parrying draft

  1. Erin Smale

    Nice job on the Hold at Bay rules. This is something I’ve puzzled over before, and your solution–using existing mechanics–is elegant. Looking forward to trying it out.

  2. SAROE

    Two possibilities for 2DTH when you roll doubles.

    a) doubles adds +1 to the score of either die e.g. two 4s results in a 5 (4+1)
    b) doubles-both dice are the high die so add the together e.g two 4s = 8.

    1. Brendan

      Interesting suggestion. I’ll need to work out the probabilities for those two possibilities sometime. 2DTH alone has a rather dramatic skew effect.

    2. Ynas Midgard

      (Uh, sorry for flooding – just wanted to add that, of course, this probability chart is based on the b) alternative SAROE suggested (just in case it isn’t clear).

    3. Brendan

      No worries; thanks for the numbers. I think these would be a bit high for OD&D games, but then again waysoftheearth is also playing OD&D, right?

  3. Brendan

    Great ideas. I’d rather use a system like this than something like 3.x that just has damage and critical variances.

    I would also add “Club” No special abilities, but has the advantage of being cheap and is easy to make.

    1. Brendan

      Yeah, club is definitely an option, as is something like a scythe that is not really designed to be a weapon, but works okay if you’re in a pinch. I would assume that everything not on the list is either straight 1d6 damage or perhaps 1d3 if it’s somehow extra awkward or improvised (like a chair or a broken bottle).

    1. Brendan

      I don’t have the Mentzer books past Companion, but I do have the Rules Cyclopedia, which I think uses the same system for weapon mastery. The two pages that detail the weapon characteristics and special abilities have to be the most info-dense pages in any RPG book I own (there are single character codes for all kinds of different things).

      Thanks for drawing my attention to the list of special effects (RC, page 80, for those following along at home). There are a few good ones there that I didn’t think of including entangling nets that require a save versus death ray to escape.

      I’m not generally a fan of weapon specialization systems though, because they incentivize using only one weapon (since you need to invest the limited resource of “weapon choices” in improving your level of mastery). The attack bonus and damage inflation effects of the weapon mastery rules are also quite large.

      My goal is to create a system that incentivizes the carrying of several different weapons by making different weapons more useful in different situations (or versus specific kinds of opponents, like those wearing plate).

  4. Ynas Midgard

    I have used the following “weapon features”:
    slow (-1 initiative) – crossbows and two-handed weapons
    fast (+1 initiative) – slings and short bows
    short (-1 initiative) – daggers
    long (10′ reach and +1 initiative) – polearms

    I have considered introducing other features, but I always come to the conclusion that I don’t want to codify that many things, so other effects, advantages and disadvantages are determined on the fly.

    1. Ynas Midgard

      Thanks for the link, apparently I missed that post.

      Yes – there ARE gaps in my system, because I treat the whole initiative and combat phase thing very loosely and frequently rule things on the fly. Fortunately, with OD&D it is possible 🙂

  5. Red_Cardinal

    Generally excellent I think but I’m unsure as to why a mace should get +2 against plate. The mace was an effective weapon against Mail but fell out of use once plate started to become common. Polearms on the other hand should get +2 against plate being the weapon of choice by the time one gets to the C15th century.

    I would also suggest giving sling a bonus to hit against people in light armour.

    1. Brendan



      Regarding maces, I think the idea is that the flanges and spikes concentrate force and make the weapon more likely to penetrate plates. I am by no means an expert on medieval weapons though.


Leave a Reply