Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Weapon Damage System ... Cause Everything Needs a System!

A system? For something as simple as weapon damage? Why?

Blog posts, baby. I need constant validation from you, the reader, and to get it, I have to make stuff up almost every day.

Seriously, though, when I'm writing bits and pieces for games or adventures and come across a weapon that doesn't show up in Blood & Treasure or Swords & Wizardry, I have to eyeball it. What's the weapon like - is it deadlier? Less deadly? Etc. This system works well enough - I'm never one to get hung up on the details when it comes to slaying dragons, but I have thought about doing something a bit more rational.

Weapon Damage

To start with, we need the most basic weapon known to man ... the fist. Depending on your system, a human fist usually does 1d2 or 1d3 points of damage. For our purposes, we're going to go with 1d2.

We're then going to rate each weapon on its physical characteristics, giving a weapon points based on these characteristics. Each point increases the damage of the weapon by one step. The damage steps are as follows:

Points / Damage
0 / 1d2
1 / 1d3
2 / 1d4
3 / 1d4+1
4 / 1d6
5 / 1d8 / 2d4
7 / 1d10
8 / 1d12 / 2d6

That's probably enough steps for our purposes.

Let's now take on the physical characteristics of our weapons. The characteristics we're interested in are those that make the weapon deadlier, since weapon damage really represents the chances that any given blow will result in a foe's death.

We'll start with what the material of which the weapon is made. For a weapon with a metal head and a wooden haft, we'll count the weapon as being made of metal.

Flesh and bone or leather = 0 points
Wood / stone = 1 point
Metal = 2 points

Second, we'll think about the weapon's length. The longer the weapon, the more likely it is to land the killing blow.

0 to 1 foot = 0 points
1 to 2 feet = 1 point
2 to 3 feet = 2 points
3 to 5 feet = 3 points
5+ feet = 4 points

Finally, we'll take into consideration a few miscellaneous characteristics:

Weapon is edged from tip to pommel (i.e. a blade) = 1 point
Weapon has more than one attack vector* = 1 point
Weapon launched by a short bow = 1 point
Weapon launched by a longbow or crossbow = 2 points
Weapon is especially thin or light = -1 point

* By attack vector, I mean a weapon that can be used as a piercing and slashing/chopping weapon, or maybe bludgeoning and piercing. Now, one can argue that a spear, for example, could be a bludgeoning weapon because one could strike with the haft or butt, but all we're really interested in is the ways the weapon is intended to be used.

Now, some weapons are capable of special forms of attack. For each special form of attack, you can either deduct points from the damage, or ignore this step and reward the weapon for being well designed.

Can be set against a charge = -1 pointCan be used as a shield = -1 point
Can be used as a shield and weapon simultaneously = -2 points
Can be used to disarm, entangle or trip (i.e. hooked, or chains and whips) = -1 point

One reason to do the deduction is that it might stop players from arguing that the weapon their character wields has every special ability they can think of. If they want a spear that can be set against a charge, be used as a shield and weapon simultaneously and be used to trip people, agree and reduce the its damage by 4 levels.


So, let's see how some basic weapons come out with this system. Note - I wasn't trying to create a system to duplicate a particular game system, so don't be surprised when they don't.

Clubs are wooden weapons (1 point) that are about 2 feet long (1 point). That's 2 points, which comes out to 1d4 points of damage.

Daggers are metal weapons (2 points) that are about 1 foot long (0 points) and are edged from tip to pommel (1 point). One could argue that they can be used as slashing and piercing weapons (1 point), which would give them 1d6 points of damage. If the dagger is only good for piercing, it would do 1d4+1 points of damage.

From the dagger, we can extrapolate with the other basic swords. If a dagger does 1d6 points of damage, short swords do 1d8, long swords 1d10 and greatswords 1d12.

Spears are metal weapons, at least the head is (2 points) and are about 5 to 6 feet long (4 points). Since they can be set against a charge, they lose a point, giving them 4 points and 1d8 points of damage.

A halberd is similar to a spear, but has two attack vectors (piercing and chopping), and so does 1d10 points of damage.

A rapier is a light longsword, and so would do 1d8 points of damage. If a player decides it can be used as a shield and weapon at the same time, it does 1d6 points of damage.

A flail is tougher. If it has metal heads (2 points) and is about 3 feet long from the tip of the haft, through the chain to the tip of the head (s) (2 points), then it does 1d6. If you decide it can be used to entangle, drop the damage to 1d4+1. If it is longer, increase the damage a step. If the flail has multiple heads, you might want to bump the damage one level higher.

A metal gauntlet gets 2 points, and thus does 1d4 points of damage.

A whip is made of leather (0 points). A short whip (like a riding crop) would maybe add a point and thus do 1d3 points of damage. A bullwhip might be very long (4 points) and thus do 1d6 points of damage. Since it can entangle and trip, you can knock the damage back to 1d4+1.

An arrow has a metal head (2 points) and is about 3 feet long (2 points) and is fired from a short bow (1 point), and so does 1d8 points of damage. If fired from a longbow or crossbow, it does 1d10 points of damage. If it had a stone point, reduce the damage by one level.


  1. Here...have some more validation. That is a neat and elegant little system!!

  2. I like it. I think "meta" systems above the explicit systems in the game are very satisfying to design and play around with.

  3. I want whatever does 1d86 points of damage! :)

    1. Dangit! Never write a blog post late at night after having a cocktail.

  4. Are there any weapons in the standard 1e list that fall far from what would be predicted by this method? I was thinking bolt-firing crossbows might fail, since the shorter bolts would predict lower damage than an arrow. The more mechanical a ranged weapon becomes, the more it tends to emphasize speed over projectile length; firearms use very small projectiles to do a lot of damage!

    Hmmm, levels 3 and 4 do essentially the same average damage of 3.5. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a good example of how risk-aversion is still regarded as a benefit even in a randomized system. The chance to step up from 5 to 6 damage isn't worth the risk of stepping down from 2 to 1!

  5. If you're not going to skip the 1d4+1 level in favor of actual dice, make it 1d5. Yes, it requires extra math, but division by two ought not to be a real chore. And it keeps your system with weapons that at every level (if you avoid 2d4) can still cause one point of damage.

  6. I like it. And you did this after a cocktail? Impressive.

    Might I beseech your validation of my oh-so-simple (some might scoff at the rudimentariness) weapon system? http://carpedmhomebrew.blogspot.com/2013/01/lets-go-shopping.html
    The base is the characters STR. I figured the stronger they are, the harder they swing/hit. I tried to keep it super simple because my homebrew is designed for ages 9-12 and beginners. I can't decide about adding penalties for swing and a miss or the pull of a bow. Is that getting too complicated for kids and newbs?

    1. I looks okay to me. I would use as few penalties and bonuses as possible. Of course, I started with Red Box D&D (maybe I should say Morgan Ironwolf D&D to distinguish it from the other red box), which just used simple dice ranges for the weapons. I was able to grasp that, but not much more.

  7. So is metal worth 1 or 2? Your examples use one but the table uses 2.

    1. Once again - blogging while intoxicated is a bad idea. Yes, metals are worth 2, and I screwed up those examples. I've fixed them now - thanks for catching that.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...