Saturday, November 21, 2020

Ability Score Requirements for Weapons Concept

This blogpost is a concept for a ruleset restricting items based on a character's stats, either Strength or Dexterity depending on the item used. This concept therefore ONLY applies if you accept three other concepts along with it;

#1- Weapons are stronger. The normal range of d4 for minor weapons to d12 for really powerful weapons is the default (at least for “normal” weapons) in most games. As such, these rules thrive on weapons that are more powerful; weapons may very well deal 2 or 3 dice worth of damage of various sizes, combining together to make really strong attacks. You could also use this rule with the normal range of weapons and it would be fine (better even- changing less math and already fits into the basic conceptualization of the game's world in regards to the abilities of player-characters based on their attribute scores), but this blogpost contains a larger scope then that.

#2- Characters don't get extra attacks. The damage numbers to make these rules significant is much, MUCH higher then the damage of “normal” weapons you would see in a DIY or OSR game. The idea here is Fighters do a ton of damage and have other ways of dealing with multiple opponents, such as a mighty cleave (kill monster = attack next monster) or baked in multi-target attacks to the rule system.

#3- Characters have a method to improve ability scores. This improvement is either based on leveling up, a type of downtime activity or training as a money sink, or something that happens in the world or through a magic item treadmill. You can regularly make Rings of Strength and upgrade them as you progress in the game, to better equip stronger and stronger weapons. Of course, you don't HAVE to include this concept- but doing so means character creation will rule out a huge number of characters on a huge number of weapons, so it comes with the territory that you need a way to actually use these if you include them.

Finally; the purpose for outlining these three concessions above is to avoid the obvious complains about balance, change, or unfitting nature of these rules with how most people play OSR. I know. This isn't supposed to be directly bolted onto a game engine that can't support it. Don't assume so.

In order to successfully use a melee weapon, your Strength must be equal or greater than the highest possible roll on its larger dice PLUS one half the highest possible roll on all other dice.

For example, a d6 standard sword has a Strength requirement of 6. The d12+1 Magic Greatsword has a Strength requirement of 12. The Twinblade Katana deals 2d6-2 damage, so it requires 6+3 for 9 Strength. The Mighty Meteor Flamehammer deals 1d20+1d4 damage, so it requires 22 Strength.

In order to successful use a melee weapon, your Dexterity must be equal or greater than the number of damage dice the weapons deals times 4, MINUS the Magic/To-Hit Bonus of the weapon.

The standard d6 sword only has one dice, and as such only requires 4 Dexterity to use. The d12+1 Magic Greatsword has 1 die +1, meaning it actually only takes 3 Dexterity to use. Bloodsucking Razor Whips that deal 4d4 damage require 16 Dex to use. The Twinblade Katana example from above deals 2 damage dice, so it requires 2x4 Dex, MINUS the negative To-Hit value, meaning it really takes 10 Dex to use it correctly. The idea is a negative to-hit of an unwieldy or low quality weapon would also make it a little harder to handle.

Explanations – What's the Point?
The purpose for this ruleset is a bit more of a “holistic” way to generate requirements for Fighters or Fighter-Types to use powerful weapons, as opposed to something like weapon egos or what have you. Of course, in that context it only works for the absolute bare essential stats of the weapon; more of something you'd have in a purely combat engine game- it doesn't make much allowances for things like powerful at-will or daily powers or spells bound up in the weapon that would make it much more powerful then just raw damage.

The reasons why I really like it are two fold, the first is because it makes weapons feel really powerful. It encourages creative weapon design. I get the opposite argument and even agree with it myself sometimes; the idea that a +1 magic sword should be enough. You should be excited for that, it's a cool magic sword and your character gets it from hard work, it's not flashy or mechanically deep, it's part of the game that makes it feel cool. But at the same time, we have all these dice and we have stuck in our minds this concept of low damage numbers- a more delayed gratification in a way. Clearly the ability of a Fighter-Type to annihilate a powerful monster in two or three rounds with a really big, badass weapon is appealing to some, but not appealing at all to others. I want to mention here that this really isn't a post about stats as a mechanic, or game balance or anything like that.

Secondly; the idea of playing with stats. I often contemplated the concept of a classless OSR/DIY game focused entirely on character stats- there would be training or experience points used to get them, or perhaps items found directly in the dungeon like elixirs that permanently improved your body or mind, or magic blessings from the Gods won by your feats. If you wanted to be a Fighter you'd just keep improving your Strength- all class features and benefits that would belong to a Fighter are just gained gradually be improving your Strength. You can cast any spell you want, doesn't matter your class, just be smart enough to do it. Turning Undead isn't a class feature, it's something anyone can do with enough Wisdom, and the more Wisdom you have the more or better your healing magic becomes too.

What's the Inspiration for it?
I like the concept of big powerful weapons, but also ones that can be represented in the game world. The idea of fantasy with actual fantastical weapons; huge buster swords or flaming whip flails are really cool- but the drawbacks and difficulties to using them could be put into the rules using a method. I've been playing Monster Hunter recently and the idea of high level D&D characters using those gigantic, ridiculous weapons just seems like a perfect fit for a big Fighter or Barbarian.

Why those equations for each Stat?
This concept revolves around powerful weapons dealing loads of extra dice, or having really big dice. The idea is bigger, swingy dice mean higher Strength needed, but many and more reliable damage dice is more for a Dexterity driven weapon. There is also a bit of a one sided relationship with the scaling; there are weapons that require very high Strength but very little Dexterity, but all reasonable weapons that require high Dex will also require high to decent Strength. Partially for this reason the To-Hit bonus directly lowers the requirement for Dexterity for weapons is to reign it in a bit, since each dice of damage is a big step up.

Why does magical stuff increase Strength requirements?
This was one of my favorite aspects of writing up these rules, but you are free to ignore them. I prefer my games and settings more mythological inspired in a way; it felt natural that any kind of martial power requires Strength to wield. It's not a simulationist view of Strength, where Strength is only just your lifting capacity, but a more vague usage of the word Strength to include a sort of warrior spirit or killer instinct. Even if you are physically strong enough to hold a magic sword, the powerful blast of elemental energy or incredible sharpness is too much for you to handle.

What happens if you can't use a Weapon based on these requirements?
That depends. You could say that the character simply can't use it in a fight, or they fumble the weapon on a miss and drop it. Maybe they can use the weapon, but its maximum damage is capped as equal to their total Strength score. So even if you pick up that meteor hammer and roll a 19 or 20, you're only going to be doing your low Strength in damage. If you wanted to make it more minor, they can use the weapon but fumble and drop it on an attack roll of 1, or perhaps they damage the weapon on a maximum damage roll or drop it yet again- lots of ways to handle this.

What about class restrictions?
If you don't already have a sort of attribute score maximum in mind for classes (though naturally people will want to play classes with higher attribute scores in what the class is all about; ie only Fighters really care about having big Strength, so it's kind of irrelevant), you could just say that the biggest size die weapon they can use is equal to their class HD or less, with Fighters either being totally uncapped in this regard or getting a bonus at a certain level to say they can now use weapons that include a d12 or higher.

Why would weapons have a bunch of dice and sizes and stuff anyway?
This is a total opinion piece, not just this answer for this entire blogpost. Saying it's an “experiment” isn't much of a defense, but I think the core concept is interesting. Imagine it; a character rolls a bunch of die all at once to do a huge hit. Maybe they craft or find a weapon with a very strange manner of attack; it can swap between forms and attack multiple targets at once. The practiced user can use all of its skills to the fullest, dealing huge damage but requiring a great deal of skill and raw physical ability in order to use. Lesser warriors can't even imagine it- they would get killed in droves. It also is the primary way for the Fighter-Type classes to feel powerful and useful, at least in a game mechanic sense. Armor is almost totally reactive and most DIY shies away from things like daily powers or combat maneuvers set in the rulebook; as such a weapon is a nice gap between them. It has a bit more meat then a traditional game, but is still pretty simple and provides the Fighter-Type with something to work towards in their progression system.

Clearly, this would require a big rewrite of any homebrew ruleset, at least when it comes to “end game” gear. The basic iron and steel weapons are one dice affairs, simple to use. But you can already see how this could work in creating a more varied combat system. I also like it for the potential to create verisimilitude; One of my favorite Eastern weapons is the Naginata. It's a lightweight, two handed polearm with a sword-like blade on the end. It's descvribed as a “woman's weapon”, due to focusing more on agility over physical Strength. Using the above system, you could easily design the Naginata to be a 2d4 weapon. It's got higher average damage then a big 1d8 polearm, but less of a chance to do the maximum damage. But it also has a lower strength requirement- only 6 compared to the other hypothetical weapon's 8.

As we can use the above; you could imagine lighter or more “Dexterity” weapons having smaller dice but higher numbers of dice, with heavy “Strength” weapons having small numbers of really big dice. The material or quality level of the weapon could determine it's magic bonus; I once read a Goblin Punch post about that- +1 magic weapons aren't really deserving of the “magic” title. They count as magic and get a bonus, but they're really just made of a special material or are really well made- we could say that being made of better materials increase die size, for being heftier, where as materials that are finer and hold a better edge could be the magic bonus To-Hit.

There is also an interesting idea buried here; weapon dice and sizes of dice based on object or abstracted measurements in the game's world, as opposed to a more vague “killing power” potential. How would you stat a Halberd? Well, I think most people would deem it a 1d10 or 1d12 weapon. Two handed, pretty strong, all that. But what about this system? You can get a little creative. Maybe we say the Axe-head is a 1d10 for its sharpness and length, the war-pick side is a 1d6, and the spike on the end is a 1d4. So you can imagine in your mind how this weapon is actually used in combat; a ton of complex maneuvers and attacks using all of the weapon's parts. You could argue every weapon is stated in this way; each part of the weapon actually used as a weapon counts for an abstracted over-all attack. The double ended spear for example could be a 2d6 weapon- but a long spear or blade-staff with a smaller spike on the opposite end has different sized dice, like a 1d8 + 1d4 situation. Or maybe a sword with a heavier pommel that can use it for crushing attacks? The sword's damage of d6+1d2

What about ranged weapons?
Ranged Weapons are unfinished at the time of me typing this. Core ideas take a similar approach; perhaps the largest sized die of the bow is used as a Strength requirement; so some d12 warbow has to be used by strapping Strength 12 Yeomen, as opposed to d6 hunting bows used by wimpy elves. Perhaps a Dex requirement uses the same system, or the system as Strength does, or adds +1/2 all the dice sizes together to determine a minimum since Dex should be more important then Strength for ranged weapons.

While it's not exactly traditional, I also kind of like the idea of making bows deal no damage at all, all damage comes from the types of ammunition loaded. Instead their Strength requirement could be based on the magic item bonus instead, representing a heavier draw weight, and the bow itself only has a Strength requirement based on the range it shoots. Or one die is the bow's power, and the types of arrows or bolts have their own dice. If every single bow attack was a two die damage roll this would sort of suggest that ranged combat is more of a “Dexterity” affair. Obviously you can just ignore a Strength requirement at all for crossbows since they're mechanical, but I could see an Intelligence requirement instead for using the machine- or at least its maintenance.

1 comment:

  1. This is quite interesting, and my immediate thought was to take it to the extremes. Hercules with his 30 Strength could wield a godlike 2d20 axe. I could even think of some real with unarmed attacks where you can punch as hard as you can wield, perhaps with a "penalty" of 1d8 or something like that