Friday, December 23, 2016

Playing with Weapon Properties (5e and BX)

For years, I have used universal damage dice at my table while playing BX or LL. This decision, however, is not a partisan one as I have explained here. In recent years, I have subscribed to a class-based version of the universal damage die where magic-users use d4, clerics & thieves use d6 and fighters use d8. Anyone who is really familiar with my musings, however, knows that I do have a soft spot for tactical choice in weapons used by PCs. Several times over the years, for example, I have tried (and failed) at making Weapon vs. AC tables where different weapons do better versus different types of armor.

During my musings on combining Holmes with Cook, I took a stab at attaching some tactical choices to weapon variable damage here and here. I have yet to use this particular system at the table, because the siren song of a universal damage die just works for me.

With its various weapon properties, however, 5e may just very well allow me to have my cake and eat it too. The categories in question are as follows:

  • Light weapons can be used in the off hand for two weapon fighting
  • Finesse weapons allow the DEX bonus in place of the STR bonus
  • Thrown weapons may used as either melee or missile weapons
  • Versatile weapons can be used as either a one-handed or two-handed weapons
  • Heavy weapons can’t be used by Small Creatures without disadvantage
  • Reach weapons have an extra 5 ft range
  • Two-Handed weapons require two hands, but do more damage

These properties can be adjusted to affect a class-based universal damage die in BX or LL:

  • Light = 2 attacks per round at half-die damage ea.
  • Thrown = base die damage
  • Two-Handed = next die up damage but automatically lose initiative
  • Versatile = use either as one handed (base damage) or two-handed (next die up damage but lose initiative)
  • Reach = base damage and automatically win initiative on round one, but automatically lose it on subsequent rounds.
  • Heavy = Dwarves and Halflings can’t use these weapons.

Thus, if a battleaxe were to be given the Versatile property as it is in 5e, then a magic-user would be able to do d4 damage normally or d6 damage as a two-handed weapon (and automatically lose initiative). A cleric or thief would do d6/d8 damage and a fighter would do d8/d10 damage.

A Light weapon, such as a dagger, would allow a magic user to attack twice in the same round doing 1d2 with each attack. A cleric or a thief would do 1d3 damage and a fighter d4. This property would only apply to melee combat. Thus, if a dagger were thrown, only one could be thrown in a round and would do d4/d6/d8 damage.

Bows would do normal damage (d4/d6/d8), slings would have the Versatile property and Crossbows would have the Two-Handed property.

Finesse weapons would work exactly like they do in 5e (allow DEX instead of STR if the player so chose).

Thus, there still exists a universal damage die based on class, but each class has a variety of tactical choices when it comes to the weapons they want to use. Given that no one weapon is universally better than every other weapon (as swords are in AD&D), this still allows players to use a wide variety of weapons without being punished for wanting something for purely aesthetic reasons.

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