Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Easy Weapon Mastery for your OD&D Game (a Proposal)

This is about the Weapon Mastery system in the Rules Cyclopedia. Every 3 level a character may advance his knowledge of one Weapon he has learned to wield, resulting in more damage, an additional to-hit and special attacks like disarming. If a character concentrates on one Weapon, he might be a Grand Master of it at level 12. There are even rules how a weapon expert is able to strike fear in his enemies. I like many aspects of this idea.

What I don't like:

  • The additional to-hit bonus (even with a secondary to-hit for another group of enemies, the weapon is not that suited for) is unneccesary and to much bookkeeping. Plus the characters get more powerful fast.
  • There are a few very powerful special attacks that throw off the balance of the game (deflect, I see you there lurking by the longsword!).
  • Every weapon needs an own portfolio. There are weapons missing and a DM might need to make them himself.
  • There are no suitable rules for Weapon Mastery and Monsters. Or damage adjustments for bigger Weapons, etc..
  • Weapon damage seems arbitrary. A longsword deals 1d8 damage at basic level, but with skilled mastery, the next level, it deals 1d12 damage. The bastard sword, on the other hand, deals, when used one-handed, only 1d6+1 and 1d6+3 with skilled mastery.

Why different damage for weapons?

The old chainmail rules gave all weapons just 1d6 for damage. So this is an old issue and I'll just quote Mr. Rients about how this might be a good idea to start with. My proposal is somewhat different, but the basic assumption is the same: basic damage for weapons, different damage per class. Weapon mastery applies (sort of).

How it's done.

Each class gets an own combat strength:

Magic User = 1d4 per level of mastery
Thief = 1d6 per level of mastery
Cleric = 1d8 per level of mastery
Fighter = 1d10 per level of mastery
Halfling = 1d6 per level of mastery
Elf = 1d8 per level of mastery
Dwarf = 1d10 per level of mastery

  • There are 3 combat categories: Ranged Weapons, Melee and Unarmed Combat.
  • Every 3 levels a character might add one die to one category (weapon mastery).
  • This dice pool might be used for damage or any other weapon ability regarding weapon mastery (but for every weapon used). You want a better to-hit in the next fight? Take one die from the pool, roll it and you have the to-hit you get and one die less for damage. Same goes for better AC (if you rather want to stay your ground than doing actual damage), deflect (roll the die and see how many attempts you have to deflect an attack), etc..
  • If there are no dice left in the pool, you do 1 point damage plus strength mod per attack.
  • No more than 3 dice for damage per attack.
  • Ranged weapons do one die damage per attack (exception being the heavy crossbow and any other large ranged weapon you might come up with).
  • When attacking with a ranged weapon, a character might use his damage die for a better to-hit with the next attack (aiming).
  • With Unarmed attacks a character has to assign one die to stun the enemy (result on the roll is the penalty for the save vs. paralyze).
  • Large weapons like the heavy crossbow or the halberd need 2 damage dice. So to shoot a heavy crossbow a player with level 1 needs to collect dice for one round and fires it every other round.
  • To attack with 2 weapons you need one die for each (so a character needs to be level 3 or more to do such a thing).
  • The distribution of dice being a tactical decision, it happens before the fight.
  • Rounds are 30 seconds.
This makes it very easy for a DM to assign weapon damage for NPCs and Monsters and the game stays tactical. It's also less bookkeeping for the players. Dice pools for bigger creatures and weapon restrictions will be part of two other posts I hope to finish in the near future.