Tag Archives: fighter


Image from Wikipedia

The firebomb is a device that fighters can create given an appropriate recipe. The most common such recipe involves certain glands of a fire beetle. This is a first level concoction, following the potion crafting rules, and thus costs 500 GP of components in addition to the special ingredients. Crafting time is one week.

Firebombs inflict two dice of damage on a direct hit (standard thrown weapon attack), and one die of damage to all within a 10′ radius of the explosion (save versus breath for half damage; this applies to the primary target as well if the initial attack was missed). Further, flammable targets may be ignited. The market price for firebombs is around 1000 GP, assuming there are buyers and sellers.

Alchemists and apothecaries can sometimes craft firebombs as well, but they are usually not as well designed for combat purposes (for example, they may consist of liquid in two flasks that must be combined and thrown).

Fighters are generally the only class that knows how to make incendiaries, but, like all things, if someone really wants to play a hybrid class (like a magic user that can craft bombs), we can make that happen (probably in place of being able to create potions, for example).

Hero weapons

Image from Dark Classics

The weapons most receptive to enchantments are those wielded by great fighters. Unlike some weapons of power, hero weapons are often plain to the eye, deriving their power from the experiences and events surrounding their use. Hero weapons are most commonly swords, but may also be other types of weapon.

Advancing a hero weapon works like magical research. Attaining level 1 is as researching a first level spell, attaining level 2 is as researching a second level spell, etc. Sometimes expenses required involve reforging parts of the weapon and sometimes they are used entirely for the components required in the enchantment process. Upon gaining a level, the weapon gains a rank in an attribute (see list below).

Attributes may be rolled for or chosen. If chosen, they should have some connection to the character’s exploits. For example, if the sword was used to slay a medusa, petrifying might be appropriate. When advancing the weapon past first level, the same attribute may always be taken (this is encouraged, for thematic consistency). However, that said, effects may be mixed and matched, within reason (according to good taste and referee ruling). No more than one elemental effect may be chosen per weapon.

In most cases, a magic user with ability to cast spells of level greater than the sword must assist with the enchantment process (though occasionally simply defeating a powerful magical enemy may be enough to embue a weapon with power). The weapon level may not be higher than the fighter’s attack rank (or level / 2 if not using attack ranks). Max weapon level is 6, as with spells.

The powers of enchanted weapons only manifest to those with attack rank greater than or equal to the sword level. Sometimes, a weapon of power will even curse an unworthy character that dares to attempt to use it.

A bond develops between the sword and its wielder as its power increases. This doesn’t mean that no other character can use it (assuming the user has sufficient attack rank to be worthy of the weapon), but it does mean that the hero will always be able to find the sword if lost, though exactly what is required to do so varies based on the sword and situation. Perhaps the warrior will see a vision of a lost weapon in a dream.

No matter the attributes, hero weapons are considered magical for purposes of hitting monsters with immunities. The level of the weapon can be used in place of the plus value required to hit (so a level 2 weapon can hit monsters that might otherwise only be vulnerable to enchanted weapons of +2 or greater).

Ranged hero weapons impart their attributes to ammunition fired (when appropriate, or re-roll).


  1. Telekinetic. Weapon need not be held to be used, and may be used at reach (10′ per level of telekinetic attribute). Can also be used to trigger things at a distance, much like a 10′ pole. Weapon may be called to hand telekinetically at any distance (assuming there are no physical barriers). If thrown, the weapon returns automatically.
  2. Summoning. No matter where the weapon is, it can be caused to appear out of thin air. This process takes one turn and require concentration or some special process (decide on details).
  3. Protean. Weapon may change form as desired by master (only to other melee weapon types).
  4. Fire. Weapon will become wreathed in flame at the will of the wielder. +1 damage per level of fire attribute and all damage inflicted is considered fire-typed. Can be used to ignite flammable materials. Illuminates as a candle when ignited (magical fire is paler than torch-fire) — 5′ radius.
  5. Lightning. Weapon will crackle with electricity at the will of the wielder. +1 damage per level of lightning attribute, and all damage inflicted is considered to be electricity-typed. Serves as lightning rod (save to absorb damage from lightning attacks; this may be used a number of times per combat turn per level of lightning attribute).
  6. Frost. Manifests freezing aura at will. +1 damage per level of frost attribute, and all damage inflicted is considered cold-typed. Plunging weapon into water will freeze solid one approximately 10′ x 10′ area per level of frost attribute per turn of water to 1′ depth.
  7. Spell-thief. Weapon will steal prepared spells (up to spell level of spell-thief attribute, determine which spell randomly) from a spell-casting enemy on a successful hit. Stolen spells may be stored in the blade and cast by the wielder when desired. A number of spells equal to spell-thief attribute level may be stored. Magic-users that lose a prepared spell to a spell-thief weapon must save versus magic or go insane.
  8. Necromantic. Any living enemy of hit dice not greater than the necromantic attribute level slain by the weapon rises from death to serve the wielder. This process takes one turn. A number of creatures equal to the attribute level may be controlled (but note that further creatures slain will continue to rise, and will likely be hostile).
  9. Poisonous. A hit against a creature of hit dice not greater than the poisonous attribute level must save versus poison or die in agony. Creatures with hit dice greater than the attribute level must save versus poison or take an extra die of poison damage.
  10. Doom. Living creatures hit are cursed. Every following combat turn the curse does damage equal to the level of the doom attribute. The curse may be lifted with remove curse.
  11. Spirit-blade. Weapon exists simultaneously in another dimension and may attack the soul of enemies directly. The victim may save versus magic to resist the damage (no attack roll is required assuming that enemy is within melee range). Characters with less attack ranks that the overall weapon level cannot even grasp it physically (hands just pass through it). Soul damage is one die +1 point per level of the spirit-blade attribute.
  12. Energy. Weapon may attack at range using a ray of energy. No attack roll; enemy gets a save versus death ray to avoid (at penalty equal to level of energy attribute). On an odd damage die roll, the energy is temporarily exhausted (but will recharge after a turn while not in use). The ranged energy attack does not propagate effects from other attributes. The energy blast does one die of damage +1 point per level of energy attribute.
  13. Bane. Weapon does an extra die of damage per level of bane attribute against a certain kind of foe. Wielder can never be surprised by this type of enemy (decide how warning is manifested — perhaps a glow, or an audible whisper).
  14. Warding. An effect similar to protection form evil may be called forth. The warding is cancelled if the wielder attacks. The aura may be extended to effect a number of nearby companions equal to the level of the warding attribute.
  15. Alacrity. Wielder may always attack prior to initiative rolls (but can still be surprised). The weapon is so quick that it may be used to cut mundane missiles out of the air (save versus wands). The anti-missile ability may be used a number of times equal to the alacrity attribute level per combat turn in addition to the standard attack.
  16. Anti-magic. As a reaction, wielder may save versus spell once per combat turn to counter a spell (of level no higher than anti-magic attribute level).
  17. Paralytic. Those of hit dice not more than the paralytic attribute level hit must save versus paralysis or be paralyzed. If they make the save, they act last for the rest of the combat rather than following the initiative die. Just touching the blade to the skin of an enemy is enough to trigger the paralysis, and no save is allowed as long as contact is maintained. Enemies of higher hit dice must save or be slowed as described above.
  18. Petrifying. Creatures with hit dice less than or equal to the petrifying attribute level must save versus paralysis when struck by the weapon or be permanently turned to stone.
  19. Vampiric. Wielder gains one HP for every die of damage successfully dealt against living enemies of HD less than or equal to the level of the vampiric attribute. Wielder may be corrupted by long use.
  20. Terrifying. Living enemies with HD less than or equal to the terrifying attribute level must immediately make a morale check when presented with the bare weapon. Further, such enemies must save versus terror if struck or flee.
  21. Fortifying. Re-roll any HD that comes up less than or equal to the level of the fortifying trait (this probably only makes sense in my game where hit dice are re-rolled per session — maybe +1 HP per level of fortifying per hit die in other games).
  22. Whirlwind. Attacks may affect one opponent per level of whirlwind attribute as long as all opponents are adjacent to the wielder. This ability is not multiple attacks; only one attack and damage roll are required, they just potentially affect more than one enemy.
  23. Inspiring. In martial situations (e.g., recruiting retainers, intimidation, combat), +1 to reaction rolls, retainer morale checks, and charisma checks per level of inspiring attribute.
  24. Multiplicity. For each level of the multiplicity attribute, there is a copy of the magic weapon (but as one level lower). These lesser copies may be used by the fighter’s retainers or servants and are inert to all others (including other PCs, who have autonomy with regard to the fighter).
For example, a level 4 sword might be terrifying-2 and fire-2, meaning that it does +2 fire damage when ignited and also causes enemies of 2 HD or less to make morale checks immediately and save versus terror when struck. Such a sword functions as +4 for purposes of hitting monsters that can only be damaged by magic weapons.

Brewing Potions

The Love Potion (from Wikipedia)

Magic-users (and, to a limited extent, clerics) can brew potions. The same game systems also apply to creating poison (for thieves) and incendiaries (for fighters). These items have no special use requirements, though some classes are better at creating them than others. For example, anyone can imbibe a potion of gaseous form brewed by a magic-user or coat a weapon with poison created by a thief.

To brew a potion, a recipe is required. Every recipe specifies one or more special components that are required, in addition to mundane ingredients and procedures. There may be more than one recipe for the same potion (each making use of different special components). Recipes can be discovered in play much like scrolls or purchased from specialists such as apothecaries (who tend not to share the secrets of their livelihood) or sages (who often charge ungodly prices).

Potion recipes have a level, just like spells. In order to brew a potion from the recipe, the character in question must be able to cast spells of the equivalent level. Potion components cost 500 GP and one week per level (so a second level potion would cost 1000 GP of ingredients and require two weeks of work). Like magic research, brewing potions may be done during downtime punctuated by adventuring, as long as too much time (by referee ruling) does not pass. Characters do not need to spend money separately to establish a laboratory. It is assumed that as items are created, the character naturally accumulates the paraphernalia required, and this is abstracted into the cost of ingredients.

Fighters and thieves should use the magic-user spell progression to determine if a given character is skilled and knowledgeable enough to create a particular item. Costs are identical (500 GP for level 1 poison, etc). The only significant difference is that each “brew” of poison results in 1d6 doses (unless otherwise specified in the recipe). Different poisons may also have different application methods (also by recipe), so one poison may be contact, one poison may be injected (i.e., for coating a weapon), another poison may end up being a beaker full of gas that may be hurled like a grenade. Mutatis mutandis for fighters. In addition to incendiaries, fighters can create (or oversee the creation of) siege engines and siege works. Schematics for these work exactly as other recipes, and are rated similarly by level.

Note that though the ability to brew potions is available to characters of any level (given appropriate class), the costs involved (along with the fact that spending GP results in XP) means that characters that craft several items (be they scrolls, potions, or something else) will naturally end up becoming higher level, with no other constraints required.

Optional rule: cross-class brewing. One kind of class may create the type of recipe items appropriate to another class (assuming a recipe and special components are available), but the the costs are doubled due to unfamiliarity and the crafting is only successful on a d20 roll less than or equal to the intelligence score. Upon failure, the components are not wasted, but another week must be spent (and another check made) until either the brewing is successful or the task is abandoned. In any case, the spent GP results in XP (learning from failure!).

I’m thinking that maybe each class should begin with one basic first level recipe (love potion, healing potion, minor firebomb, and minor poison, perhaps).

(In Hexagram, provisionally, the ability to brew potions comes with the alchemy trait, the ability to brew poison comes from the assassination trait, and the ability to craft incendiaries or do siege-work comes with the ranged combat and melee combat traits, respectively.)

Lamentations of the monk

Quick sketch by Gus L. during play

Yesterday I ran a high-level (8 + 1d4) LotFP adventure play test. One of my players wanted to play a monk-type character that specialized in unarmed combat. To support that, I bolted on some of the AD&D monk powers to the LotFP fighter, and specified that the attack bonus would only be available with unarmed strikes.

These are the capabilities that the 10th level monk-fighter ended up with:

  • 2d6 + 1 open hand damage
  • 2 attacks per round
  • Self-heal 1/day 1d4 + 4 HP (takes one turn)
  • Wuxia jump (10′ vertical)
  • Saving throw to punch mundane missiles out of the air

The 2 attacks + high damage might seem like a lot in a LotFP context (and it is), but striking something with your hand opens you up to certain dangers that I would certainly run with (for example, punching something with acidic skin).

It worked out well, and I would use it again. Possible changes and additions:

  • Improve the self-heal, to 1d4 + level available from level 1.
  • Wuxia jump would also probably be 10′ + 1′ per level.
  • An ability for running up walls patterned after the specialist’s climb skill.
  • Rather than make two attacks, the monk could attempt a single stunning strike which would paralyze a humanoid target on a failed saving throw (recovery on 1 in 6, checked per round).

I gave no AC bonus and would not change that. Monks can wear armor if they want to, with appropriate penalties. The unarmed strike damage would be lower at the beginning and progress with level.

Postscript: rolling for appearance randomly is fantastic. The player opted to do that and the character ended up as: Mature Male, Immaculate, Obese. How many PCs do you often see like that?

Hexagram Path of Steel Draft

Image from Wikipedia

Here is the first of the Hexagram paths, for the warrior traits.

Traits all range from 0 to 6 and describe some core capability (broadly understood) of an adventurer. The design is built around the idea of niche protection, popularized recently by Lamentations of the Flame Princess. For example, characters do not get better at melee combat in any way other than taking ranks in the melee combat trait. That being said, unlike Lamentations, the ability to take off-path traits (with diegetic assistance) allows any character to get better at anything, though at a greater cost, and only up to a certain limit (that limit being 5 by default). Thus, a sorcerer can get better at using a sword, but at the cost of an entire level’s worth of learned trait progression (as the choice is between 2 path trait improvements or 1 off-path improvement).

The limit of 6 on any trait combats the tendency toward numerical inflation and keeps the range of any specific trait reasonable (preventing problems like falling off the RNG). E6 was one attempt to solve that problem that works okay in the context of 3E, but feats and multiclassing are not acceptable solutions to me (I believe the path, prototype, and trait system models the same thing with superior approachability and flexibility). Thus, hexagram emphasizes broad development at higher levels over deep development. A 20th level 3E fighter gets +20 to hit. A 20th level Hexagram path of steel character will have a collection of traits accumulated over their career.

You will note that the style of the traits is not a list of powers that can be used, one per level of skill, but rather a particular kind of benefit or talent that increases with the number of points in the trait. This is maintained, by the way, in the sorcery traits too. I think you will find that cool things to have or do are present in all the paths.

I’m still not sure exactly what the best term to use for trait units is. Points have an association with point buy systems that is connected to a “character build” style of play that I don’t want to emphasize. “Ranks” is another potential term (as in: 4 ranks of spells, 3 ranks of melee combat). In any case, in the final draft I’ll normalize the language to only use one term, once I decide what is best.

Many of these trait names are still insufferably bland and will certainly be improved. For example, certainly there is a better trait name than bonus HP. (Yes, toughness would work, but I don’t want to use the same name as a common SRD feat.) The exact number and ordering of the traits is also not final (the order is important as the table may be rolled upon with arbitrary dice, and the more iconic and common traits should be toward the bottom).

I think it should be easy to create either a generic traditional fantasy game fighter by concentrating improvement on the first few traits (this is encouraged with the prototype system and ease of advancement in starting traits). Further, using the guided randomness of rolling d6 (for example) on the trait table upon levelling will result in an interesting and viable character. And a large diversity of character concepts should be possible using this list of traits, all while staying within the domain of the traditional fantasy game (no need to resort to “melee spells” or something similar, as was done with 4E powers).

I am particularly happy with the implementation of tactical superiority (forced movement and mobility without the need to use a grid) and warband (a small group of fiercely loyal followers that derive their combat skills from their leader and also create obvious hooks into domain level play). And, if you just want a fighter that gets really good at hitting things, the first six traits on the path table provide 18 levels worth of advancement.

T is the number of ranks in the trait. So, melee combat 3 means T = 3 which means +3 to attacks with melee weapons (in this case). I think this is clear in context, but let me know if it isn’t.

The Path of Steel

  1. Melee combat. +T to attack rolls with melee weapons.
  2. Missile combat. +T to attack rolls with missile weapons.
  3. Damage. +T to weapon damage rolls.
  4. Bonus HP. +T HP on top of normal hit dice and constitution bonus.
  5. Defense. +T floating AC bonus (may apply to companions).
  6. Cleave. T extra attacks usable after taking an enemy down.
  7. Unarmed Combat. +T Attack, max damage T, and T cleaves while unarmed.
  8. Tactical superiority. T x 5′ worth of reaction/forced movement.
  9. Warband. Attract T loyal followers.
  10. Frenzy. Use berserk rage in combat.
  11. Animal companion. T HD worth of animal companions.

Image from Wikipedia

Melee combat provides +T to attacks with melee weapons. Melee combat is also used for improvised thrown weapons. Weapons designed for throwing (such as throwing knives or shuriken) may use the most advantageous of melee combat or missile combat.

Missile combat provides +T to attacks with missile weapons such as bows, crossbows, and slings.

Damage provides +T damage on any attack with melee or missile weapons (but not unarmed combat; see the unarmed combat trait below for details).

Bonus HP. +T HP on top of the normal hit dice total.

Defense. Experienced combatants learn tricks to more easily dodge blows and turn deadly blows into minor wounds, even when unarmored. +T AC. This bonus does not stack with armor, and using this bonus requires active engagement with combat (it is not, for example, useable when picking a lock or casting a spell). This trait allows warriors to fight effectively when lightly armored. Defense is a floating bonus that may be applied to companions as well. Assistance to companions must be declared on the warriors turn, and must make diegetic sense (for example, a warrior must be adjacent to a companion, or able to move into an interposition).

Cleave. +1 free weapon attack per round. A free attack may only be used after taking down an enemy.

Image from Wikipedia

Unarmed Combat. Training to fight without weapons. Allows more than 1 HP damage to be inflicted with unarmed strikes (max = T, re-roll any damage results higher than T), and damage may be lethal. In addition, functions as melee combat and cleave for unarmed attacks (i.e., grants attack bonus and cleave attacks when unarmed). Allows one free parry per turn while unarmed. If T = 6, parries of missile weapons may be attempted. See combat section for details about untrained unarmed combat and parrying.

Tactical superiority. Experienced combattants know how to move about the field of combat while keeping their defences up, and also how to force enemies into the position of their choosing. T x 5′ of extra movement per round, which may be applied to either the character or enemies the character is fighting (following a successful attack roll, which may also do damage as normal). Forcing a large opponent 5′ costs 10′ worth of forced movement (or more for even larger creatures). All uses of tactical superiority must make sense within the particular situation (no shifting through force fields or levitating across pits, for example, unless the character has some other method of accomplishing those tasks). This extra movement may be used in reaction to an enemy’s action, for example to become the target of an attack meant for a companion, but may only be used once per round (remember that everything during a round is really happening at the same time, so this should not be considered dissociated).

Image from Wikipedia

Warband. Warriors of repute often attract followers who wish to partake in the glory of adventure. Up to T warband members will gather to your standard. Warband members do not consume XP as normal retainers and derive the following traits from their leader (-2, minimum 0): melee attack, missile attack, defense (only personal), damage, HD, HP, unarmed. Thus, a master archer’s warband will also have skill with the bow. Slain warband members will be replaced gradually, at the rate the referee deems reasonable (for example, it may be several months following a great defeat before new warband members arrive). For very experienced fighters, warband members often become trusted lieutenants. Warband members are fanatically loyal, though they will not needlessly endanger themselves (by, for example, sampling random potions or walking forward to trigger a likely trap). They never desert due to fear or betray the warrior they follow for money. If mistreated (referee discretion), they may leave, but in time a warrior will be able to recruit replacements. Further, each warband member can lead up to T x 100 trained soldiers and hold a cleared 6 mile hex worth of territory. Warband members do not expect treasure (fighting alongside a great warrior is enough) though they will be more valuable allies if well-equipped.

Frenzy. Rage is a gift in combat to some. This may be mundane berserkergang or the channeling of dark spirits. Initiating a frenzy might require rituals, stimulants, or other forms of preparation (referee discretion). Characters will only use melee weapons or unarmed combat while in a frenzy. Minimum damage T with any successful attack. +T attack (does not stack with melee combat bonus). Intelligent enemies with fewer HD must immediately make a morale check when confronted with a frenzying warrior. Will not retreat or flee while frenzying. At the end of a frenzy, the warrior takes 1d6 damage and must succeed in a saving throw versus paralyzation or fall unconscious. All actions for the next 6 turns (one hour) take a penalty equal to the post-frenzy damage.

Animal companion. The character has an extremely well trained animal or mount. In some cases, there may even be some sort of subtle mind-link. One creature of T HD, with special abilities being worth 1 HD (such as poison or flight). Animal companions are not subject to normal morale rules (unlike standard mounts or dungeon dogs), but can only be given simple and direct commands, which they will seek to accomplish to the best of their ability (players may direct movement and attacks in most cases, but exact actions are always subject to the referee, as the animal companion is still strictly speaking an NPC). Animals slain may be replaced (diegetically). Animals are given the same saving throw versus death at 0 HP as are PCs (see combat section).

Weapon & Armor Strengths

Weapons table from the Ready Ref Sheets

I have written previously about redesigning the weapon versus AC modifiers as bonuses, and then making access to that table a fighter benefit. Basically, the idea was to reformulate the table as only bonuses, and then give that table to the players of fighter characters. As it would always be a good thing to use the table, players would be incentivized to pay attention to that sort of thing, and probably also be incentivized to carry more than one kind of weapon (so that they would be able to have advantages against different kinds of enemies).

Redoing the weapon versus armor class table is hard though, so I never managed to bring that idea to fruition. But what if we don’t change the numbers at all, but rather only read the parts of it that are advantageous to the player? We can still keep the negative numbers, but rather than weapon penalties against certain kinds of armor (players are not going to try very hard to remember that), instead consider the negative numbers as armor strength against particular weapons. So, for example, if you are wearing plate armor, you can impose a -3 attack penalty against someone attacking you with a dagger. I think this table is identical to the one in Supplement I: Greyhawk, other than the omission of the military pick.

(Aside: I believe that second column, the one that goes 1, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc is supposed to indicate weapon length. This could be used to determine space required or initiative. But that is a topic for another post.)

So here is a version of the data in the above table, displayed as benefits and by diegetic armor type rather than AC number. Players obviously only need to pay attention to the weapons they have. Unless otherwise noted, all penalties and bonuses are 1.


  • dagger: unarmored (+2), shield
  • hand axe: unarmored, shield
  • mace: plate
  • hammer: chain, plate
  • battle axe: chain, chain & shield
  • morning star: unarmored (+2), shield (+2), leather, leather & shield, chain (+2), chain & shield
  • flail: unarmored, shield, leather, leather & shield, chain (+2), chain & shield, plate (+2), plate & shield (+2)
  • pole arm: unarmored (+2), shield (+2), leather (+2), leather & shield, chain
  • halberd: leather & shield, chain (+2), chain & shield, plate
  • two-handed sword: unarmored (+2), shield (+2), leather (+2), leather & shield (+2), chain (+3), chain & shield (+3), plate (+2), plate & shield
  • mounted lance: unarmored (+3), shield (+3), leather (+3), leather & shield (+3), chain (+2), chain & shield
As an example, the way to read the first weapon entry above is that daggers are very good against unarmored combattants (a +2 bonus to attack) and good against leather armor (a +1 bonus to attack). You will note that there is no entry for swords. That’s because according the Ready Ref Sheets, swords aren’t good against anything. Same goes for spears and pikes.
I’m not sure I really like these numbers, so I might tweak them, but for this exercise I’m leaving them as is. It looks like morning stars, flails, and two-handed swords are the standout champions, probably too much so.


  • chain: hand axe, spear
  • chain & shield: hand axe, spear, dagger
  • plate: dagger (-3), hand axe (-2), sword, spear
  • plate & shield: dagger (-3), hand axe (-3), sword (-2), spear (-2), pole arm, pike
The way to read the first armor entry above is that chain armor is good against hand axes and spears, so if you are wearing chain you can force opponents wielding those weapons to take a -1 to their attack roll.
I find the presentation of those lists above far more approachable than the rather complex matrices that have shown up in various early books. Those just look like a mess of plusses and minuses. Using this format, a fighter with a hand axe just needs to look out for lightly armored targets and remember to apply their bonus.

Fighters & Weapons

There have been many proposals over the years for making the fighter a more interesting class to play. In OD&D, fighters can use any weapon or armor (including being the only class that can use magic swords). In addition, they can make one attack per round per hit die against enemies of 1 HD or less. Supplement I: Greyhawk added a weapon vs. AC table (pages 13 and 14). This applied to all classes, though fighters probably made the most use of it just because they were most likely to enter direct combat.

AD&D added weapon vs. AC, weapon space required, weapon speed factor (PHB page 38). Second edition added weapon specialization. This is another bonus mechanic that could stack with ability bonuses and magic bonuses (did AD&D have a specialization system, maybe in Unearthed Arcana?). Third edition added combat feats which allowed further bonus optimization and access to new powers (and recast weapon specialization as a series of combat feats). Fourth edition practically eliminated basic attacks (other than for opportunity attacks) and gave the fighter a stable of spell-like powers, including stances (buff-style persistent bonus powers, only one of which can be active at a time); 4E also retained maneuvers as combat actions such as bull rush, charge, and total defense (4E PHB page 286).

The class features that distinguish the fighter are:

  1. The ability to use all weapons and armor (*)
  2. The best combat attack bonus

Practically speaking, the ability to use all weapons and armor is quite formidable. Psychologically, “lacking penalties” is not very enticing. This advantage is further eroded when players (myself included, sometimes) chafe at weapons restrictions for other classes. While it’s true that probably all characters use weapons to some degree, it is the fighter that should, in my opinion, be the “weapons” class.

Regarding the fighter having the best combat attack bonus, every other class has a combat bonus (**), the fighter just has the best bonus. This is something of a problem, as, to use Second Edition as an example, a 7th level cleric is better at fighting than a 4th level fighter (THAC0 16 vs. THAC0 17, 2E PHB page 91). At no level is a fighter ever better at spell casting than a magic-user or cleric.

Returning to the idea that the fighter is the “weapons” class: why not bring back some version of the weapon vs. AC table, but only apply it to fighters? In order to do this reasonably, the modifiers must be all bonuses, as we don’t want fighters to be worse than other classes when using a specific weapon. This gets away from the simulation aspect of weapon vs. AC, but as simulation is not really my primary motivation here, that does not bother me.

As this post has already taken me long enough to write, I’m not going to try to put together a full table right now. Most approaches to such a table have been either by individual weapon (as in Supplement I: Greyhawk and AD&D) or by weapon class (as in 2E and most house rule systems I have found). Creating a separate entry for every weapon seems like overkill. It is both cumbersome to work with, and probably redundant. Do light, medium, and heavy lances really deserve different modifiers (as they have in AD&D)? Probably not. On the other hand, the slash-pierce-bludgeon trinity of 2E also seems less than satisfactory if what you are going for is tactical variety for fighters. So, I’m going to propose five categories, with some examples:

  • Slash (sword, glaive)
  • Pierce (spear, arrow, pick)
  • Bludgeon (club, night stick, staff, unarmed)
  • Crush (flanged mace, morning star)
  • Chop (axe)

Some weapons are versatile and can be used in more than one way. For example, a sword can be used as a piercing weapon or a slashing weapon, so the fighter can use whichever category gives the best bonus. I haven’t tried matching these categories against types of armor yet, but I can’t imagine that I would need more than 5 (multiplied by 2 due to shields): unarmored, leather, chain, light plate (encompassing scale and banded), and plate. I expect that this should be by named type rather than by armor class, which should allow it to be licensed under the OGL without needing to ape the SRD. Rob Conley took a similar approach in this Grognardia comment.

These bonuses are only applied against corporeal enemies. For enemies with some form of natural armor, the referee should just make a ruling if the player asks. For example, a bear could be considered as leather or hide armor, and a dragon could be as plate. Some enemies may be so tough that they have no tactical weapon weaknesses (such as an iron golem). There is no need to be too systematic about this, as different enemies of the same type can still have some level of uniqueness. There is also no need for the referee to worry about it; it is the player’s responsibility to make sure these bonuses are active (which even makes sense narratively, if you think about it, because a fighter would have to proactively attempt to exploit the weaknesses in an enemy’s defenses).

This approach has a number of practical benefits. One of the reasons that the weapon vs. AC modifiers are ignored is that if the rules are applied generally they add complexity to almost every attack roll. Since all the modifiers are modeled as bonuses, the fighter’s player has an incentive to keep track of them. It even makes sense under this regime for the DM to ignore these bonuses for most NPCs, since most NPCs are not classed fighters. Using this rule, I would expect that most non-fighter characters would carry one or two weapons to use in a support role, but that fighters would carry a whole host of weapons so that they would have one for each possible situation. This just feels right to me. Win, win, and win.

Weapon vs. AC bonuses can be used with either variable or constant damage dice. Delta said it better than I could:

I have no problem with weapon-vs-AC being used at the same time as variable damage dice. In D&D armor and hit points simulate different things.

I am actually considering using it with class-based damage. Characters will roll their hit die for damage (there is a similar idea in this Grognardia comment). Larger or two-handed weapons will be: roll two dice and take the highest. Thus, fighters would use d8, clerics d6, elves d6, magic-users d4, etc. A magic-user can use a two-handed sword, but it would only do 2d4 take the highest damage, and the magic-user would not be able to apply any bonuses for slashing or piercing. 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?

1975 Ryth Chronicle via Risus Monkey: Ryth Chronicle (1975-1977) Table on page 4
1976 Supplement I: Greyhawk Pages 13 and 14
1978 AD&D Players Handbook Page 38
1978 AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide Pages 28, 71
1989 Second Edition Player’s Handbook (weapon type vs. armor modifiers) Page 90
2003 05 12 Dragonsfoot Weapon vs Armor Type – Natural Armor?
2008 10 11 ODD74 Alternate Combat Matrix
2008 11 17 Grognardia Weapon vs AC
2009 02 06 Alex Schroeder’s Wiki Weapon Specialities
2009 02 09 Dragonsfoot Weapon Types versus Armour Class
2009 02 13 Grognardia Request for Assistance
2009 02 14 Delta’s D&D Hotspot Proposal: Weapon vs. AC
2009 02 24 Delta’s D&D Hotspot Proposal: Weapon Classes
2009 06 17 Akratic Wizardry Class-Based Weapon Damage
2009 08 19 The Wheel of Samsara Recreating the Weapon vs. Armour Class Chart
2009 09 05 Blood of Prokopius Another Weapon vs. AC Table (East Asian weapons)
2009 09 09 The Wheel of Samsara Some Ideas on the Weapon vs. AC Chart (for Spellcraft & Swordplay)
2009 09 24 The Wheel of Samsara Weapon vs. AC: Once More, With Feeling (for Spellcraft & Swordplay)
2010 01 30 Bat in the Attic Revisiting Weapon vs AC for Swords & Wizardry (by weapon class)
2010 02 01 Bat in the Attic Revisiting Weapons vs AC – Weapons Aspect
2010 10 14 Blood of Prokopius Weapon vs. AC (again)
2011 02 25 Dragonsfoot Weapons vs. AC table
2011 07 16 Huge Ruined Pile “Alternative Combat System” + Weapon Type vs. AC matrices – any interest?
2011 07 16 Dragonsfoot Weapon “To Hit” vs. AC Adjustment Question
2011 07 16 Dragonsfoot nagora’s Making Wep. Vs Armour easier to use
2011 07 18 The Aspiring Lich Decoding the weapon “to hit” vs. AC table
2011 09 29 Strange Magic Weapon vs Armor Tables for B/X D&D
2011 11 08 Grognardia The Articles of Dragon: “Should They Have an Edge?”

Things to check that I don’t have access to:

  • Oriental Adventures weapon vs. AC table
  • The Complete Fighter’s Handbook

One final note: the OSR Search Engine I put together was very useful in doing the research for this post.

(*) Well, in systems that use weapon proficiencies, fighters are not proficient with all weapons, but they do get the most weapon proficiencies by a large margin.

(**) – Excepting LotFP, where no classes other than the fighter ever get better at fighting. I think this is quite inspired for a number of reasons, not least of which is the way this rule combats bonus inflation.