Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Asian Weapons in 5e

One of my favorite aspects of the 1E version of Oriental Adventures was the weapon section. More than anything else, this was the flavor that really allowed my imagination to take flight. There is something about the image of temple guards armed with tetsubos that just says asian fantasy to me. You could keep virtually everything else about the game the same, have a list of asian-inspired weapons and my imagination would transport me to whatever asian-style fantasy world you want.

Thus, a very important aspect of continuing my current thought experiment, which I am tentatively calling Jade: The Land of the Ten Clans, was to get a weapon list full of asian-style weapons. In order to do this, I really didn’t want to re-invent the wheel. As far as I can see, the weapon list in 5e is just fine. It does everything I need it to do. Thus, the key was to find asian equivalents to each of the weapons on the list. There are a couple of things, though, that I really wanted to express through the weapons list that wouldn’t be necessarily possible, given the proficiencies of the Rogue and the Ranger.

Firstly, I wanted the katana and wakizashi to be exclusively Ranger weapons. This sets up a class divide between Rangers and every other class and allows these two weapons to be the outward symbols of that class divide.

Secondly, due the ubiquitous image of the ninja armed with a blowgun, I wanted Rogues to have access to that particular weapon. I will grant, that I could have done this via a specific background, but given my desire to make the katana and wakizashi exclusive to Rangers, I found it more useful to deal with it more generally.

Thus, to solve both problems with one simple change, I swapped out the Rogue’s proficiency with the Longsword (which is the best fit for describing a katana) for a proficiency with the Blowgun.

Here is a list of the 5e weapons and what I see as decent (though not perfect) asian equivalents:
Simple Melee Weapons
Club = Jo
Dagger = Knife
Greatclub = Tetsubo
Handaxe = (same)
Javelin = Sibat
Light Hammer = Tonfa
Mace = (same)
Quarterstaff = Bo
Sickle = Kama
Spear = Chiang

Simple Ranged Weapons
Crossbow, Light = (same)
Dart = Shuriken
Shortbow = (same)
Sling = (same)

Martial Melee Weapons
Battleaxe = Naginata
Flail = Nunchuck
Glaive = Chai-Dao
Greataxe = Nine-Dragon-Trident
Greatsword = No Dachi
Halberd = Ghi
Lance = (same)
Longsword = Katana
Maul = Wolf-Teeth-Staff
Morningstar = (same)
Pike = Yari
Rapier = Jien
Scimitar = Wakizashi
Shortsword = Sai
Trident = Dang Pa
War pick = Hook Sword
Warhammer = Three-Section-Staff
Whip = Chain Whip

Martial Ranged Weapons
Blowgun = (same)
Crossbow, hand = (same)
Crossbow, heavy = (same)
Longbow = (same)
Net = (same)
Thus, the swords of the Ranger class are the Katana and Wakizashi and the sword of the Rogue-as-rank-in-file-soldier is the Jien.

Again, I realize that several of these equivalents are not exact, but in the abstract they do just fine. Given that D&D combat has always been a gross abstraction of combat, this list suits me just fine.

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