I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Minimalist "Weapon versus Armor" table

I've been talking about the weapons versus armor table for a while. And brainstorming about weapons and armor in the last few days. 

Here are a few random thoughts to add...

In the end, I think using speed factor might be enough to distinguish weapons.

But I'm still wondering... could we have an easy weapon x armor table?

The one in AD&D is too much for me to handle, but the one in 2e is almost manageable:

Remember this applies to THAC0, so a bonus benefits the person being hit.

What do we have here?

Slashing weapons are the worst of the bunch, giving the defender an average bonus of +1/+2.

Piercing weapons are a bit better, with an average 0/+1 bonus.

Bludgeon weapons are the best - rarely giving the defender a bonus.

Which is fair enough, as slashing weapons such as swords deal the most damage (1d8 for one-handed swords and 1d6 for spear/maces, usually).

Notice that simply giving slash/pierce/bludgeon a -2/-1/0 to hit against ANY armor would not be a problem in B/X. 

A 1st level PC could STILL hit someone in plate with a sword with a natural 20, thus finally making the mace a better choice against armor (and making plate even more impressive!).

Turning it into a small bonus (0/+1/+2) would have a similar, if less dramatic, effect.

[We could even apply the bonus ONLY if you roll 10 or more, so maces gain little when fighting unarmored foes].

In short... we don't even need a weapon versus armor table!

But I like them, so let's continue a little bit.

Here is my first simplification, using ascending AC and attack bonuses:

This means a sword gets a -2 penalty against plate etc.

The mace gets better. 

The spear is good too; it has other uses after all (charging, throwing, etc.).

There are other weapons that deserve attention here.

In B/X, axes are not great to begin with, so nerfing them as "slashing" would not be a good idea.

Instead, we could say certain weapons do more than one type of damage, and let the attacker choose.

For example, battleaxes slash AND bludgeon, while picks bludgeon AND pierce, and polearms can choose two or three damage types, as suggested here.

Or we could add more columns, for example:

The axe is halfway between sword and mace. 

The pick is a specialized anti-armor weapon (maybe you can buy bodkin arrows with the same effect).

Notice that even the -2 for swords does NOT make it a bad weapon if you are a skilled fighter, as the d8 damage more than makes up for it. But it gives people better reasons to use other weapons.

Simple and easy... but might require rebalancing all existing weapons.

In short... doable, but I'm not sure it is worth the effort.


  1. Would this also work well with alternative attacks such as murderstroke/half swording for reduced damage die of a different damage type?

    I know it adds on to the 'effectiveness' of swords, but they are specificallydesigned to only kill people (compared to the tool origins of most other weapons)

    1. I think I'd allow half swording, using two hands and maybe 1d6 pierce/bludgeon damage.

  2. Also, if the game uses roll to hit tables (so you do the math and check the roll) this additional math isn't a problem, as you do the math once and are done. Plus, the cut-off points of armour types are spaced such that automatically applying a bonus/penalty won't impact the odds of hitting a 'lower' AC by my reading. You would just have plateaus in the array (multiple die rolls equal the same target AC)

    1. Yes, I don't mind the plateaus, just want to avoid heavier armor making you worse off.