I started work compiling various blog posts into a Vaults of Pahvelorn Player’s Guide, and the very first thing I decided to look at was my old weapon properties post. This is one of those topics that I think would really benefit from the accessibility of being included in a player’s document, because despite being designed mostly as bonuses, in play we still often forget many of the weapon features. One of my ongoing personal design goals is to make weapon choice just as interesting as spell choice, without relying primarily on variable damage dice (which promotes an overly numerical approach that I find lacks interesting trade-offs).
Of course, rather than just copying the old rules into the document and moving on, I immediately start to significantly revise them. Since I wrote the original version, I have been exposed to Apocalypse World and Dungeon World, which both take approaches to weaponry that have influenced me substantially. I think weapon tags are a wonderfully efficient way to remember the various features, and while yes you need to read the definitions once, it seems like once you know that dangerous-1 means backfire on a natural roll of 1, you are unlikely to ever need to look that up again. I think this version below is much improved over the original, and many of the rules have also been simplified (for example, riposte just automatically deals damage to attackers that miss and roll poorly rather than requiring another attack roll).
Weapon damage is 1d6 by default. Some weapons have additional benefits, as described below.
|Axe||melee, damage: re-roll 1, shield-smasher|
|Dagger||melee, quickdraw, throwable, range-2, concealable, grapple|
|Sword||melee, quickdraw, riposte|
|Two-handed sword||melee, two-handed, damage: 2d6 take highest|
|Pole arm||melee, two-handed, interposing, damage: 2d6 take highest, reach, awkward-2|
|Quarterstaff||melee, two-handed, parry (melee)|
|Spear||melee, throwable, range-3, interposing, reach|
|Javelin||melee, throwable, range-5|
|Shield||armor-1, parry (missile), damage: 1d3|
|Bow||missile, two-handed, range-7, reload-0|
|Crossbow||missile, two-handed, penetrating-2, range-6, reload-1|
|Sling||concealable, missile, insignificant, missile, range-4, reload-0, versatile ammo|
|Oilbomb||dangerous-1, flaming, immolating, penetrating-2, range-1, reload-1, unreliable-3|
|Powderbomb||area, damage: 2d6 take highest, dangerous-1, flaming, range-1, unreliable-3|
|Area||no attack roll, all enemies in area of effect take damage, save for half|
|Armor-N||+N armor class|
|Awkward-N||-N attack if not used at reach|
|Concealable||easy to hide in standard clothing (will not be noticed without a search)|
|Damage||damage inflicted is modified as stated|
|Dangerous-N||backfires (damages wielder) on natural rolls of N or less|
|Flaming||deals fire damage and flammable targets must save or be lit up|
|Grapple||future attacks auto-hit if a dexterity/strength contest is won|
|Immolating||save or ignite, continuing damage, additional save per round|
|Insignificant||does not count as an item for encumbrance purposes|
|Interposing||melee enemies must save to attack wielder, and on failure take damage|
|Melee||may only be used when engaged in melee (essentially, range-0)|
|Parry (type)||save to deflect one attack per round that hits (limited to type, if given)|
|Penetrating-N||+N attack versus targets with armor|
|Range-N||weapons of higher range afford a free attack round as enemy closes|
|Reload-N||takes N rounds to reload (reload-0 fires every round)|
|Riposte||deal damage if enemy misses and rolls 5 or less|
|Shield-smasher||defender with shield must save or have their shield destroyed|
|Two-handed||requires both hands to use effectively|
|Quickdraw||may ready and attack in the same round|
|Unreliable-N||does not function on rolls of N or less (overridden by dangerous)|
|Versatile ammo||may use any small hard object (coin, rock) as ammo|
- “Mace” includes warhammer and military pick.
- Wielding two weapons (where one is not a shield) grants +1 to the attack roll (credit to Philotomy).
- A flask of oil may be used to coat a weapon and then ignited to give a metal weapon the flaming property (likewise, arrows). This is a reload-1 type operation. On attack rolls of 5 or less, the fire goes out. Such flaming weapons will also go out after one exploration turn (or after combat).
- Target of a grapple may spend an action to attempt to free themselves (this is another dexterity/strength contest).
- Ranges: bomb < dagger < spear < sling < javelin < crossbow < bow
- Ranges are not measures, but are only used in relative comparisons.
- Shooting or throwing into melee: determine target randomly.
- Crushing/bludgeoning damage is sometimes important (skeletons, living statues, and so forth), but I decided that this is probably clear enough contextually, and thus doesn’t require a property (Google Plus discussion). I may change my mind on this, though.
- A strength/dexterity contest means: both contestants roll either a strength or dexterity check (their choice). This is a less than or equal to d20 check, and the one that makes it by the most wins the contest (ties go to the defender).
- I kind of want to add a great axe and maul (two-handed varieties of the axe and mace), but that would probably necessitate giving the two-handed sword an added benefit, and I haven’t been able to think of anything that I like.
Thanks to Robert G. on Google Plus for suggesting the property name interposing.