FLAT WEAPON DAMAGE AND WEAPON CATEGORIESOne of the interesting things about the Little Brown Books of 1970's D&D is how weapon damage and Hit Dice were modeled with flat D6 damage. The difference between weapons was non-existent until the game embraced it's "alternate combat rules" and added varied damage and varied hit bonuses against certain types of armor, corresponding directly to certain Armor Classes in 1975's Greyhawk - booklet number 4. The now standard variable damage and Hit Dice a rather large change that has been adopted wholeheartedly by the game, while the more complex weapon vs. armor rules are largely abandoned.
I enjoy the simplicity and low HP totals that D6 hit dice and weapon damage provide, as the low values make combat more risky for players and far quicker. The system seems to hold together better into the mid-level game as well with flatter damage and lower HP, as any attack has a good chance of removing a full Hit Dice from a creature or character. With variable HD and damage low-level characters are more fragile (many monster and fighter attacks do D8 damage vs. lower Hit Dice totals) while higher level creatures are far stronger with their larger hit-dice. Additionally I have a suspicion that injury from dungeon perils was never adjusted to be in line with the variable damage and HD system, and that D&D has carried the ad hoc nature of this change ever since. My only real evidence for this is the way falling damage remained set at a D6 per ten feet up to the game's second edition. Whatever the game balance advantages (real or imagined) of flat D6 Damage and Hit Dice the simplicity of it and the way it flattens power levels of both monsters and characters is very appealing.
I want to make player weapon choice matter however, without the fiddly weapons v. armor table or the implied vanilla fantasy setting it creates with its armor types. It's been popular in the OSR/DIY/old-school D&D blogging community to discuss how to do this, to maintain the spirit of the Greyhawk weapon v. armor table, while using more interesting and simpler rules for some time. I endorse this idea, and have tried to work varied additional effects into play during my games with the goal of providing combat options and spaces for some tactical decision making in purely narrative (that is without game boards/combat maps or tokens) combat.
Having played in my OD&D based version of HMS APOLLYON for some time now I have discovered that the weapon effects are often ignored by players (and the GM) in the excitement of the combat turn, and that certain rules are less convenient/intuative to use. I have made some changes to the weapon effects/classes (originally pulled from several sources and authors) below, and I intend to use these categories for monster attacks as well, so the pincers of a Crayhound (horrible 1/2 lobster 1/2 dog beasts) will be crushing while the tentacles of a Roper are certainly and entangling attack.
WEAPONS AND THE APOLLYONAll attacks aboard the Apollyon, like all Hit Die, are D6 based. A dagger in the hands of a skilled user is just as deadly as an axe and both do exactly the same damage. Only two handed/heavy weapons do more damage, inflicting 2xD6 pick the highest (what some call the advantage mechanic). However, to make weapon choice interesting I have created the following categories of weapon which each have a different combat effect.
|Common Weapons Aboard the HMS Apollyon|
HeavyHeavy weapons suffer a one point initiative penalty and require two hands or monstrous strength to use. These weapons inflict 2xD6 take the highest damage due to their size and power. This category includes two-handed weapons, pole weapons and rifles.
LightLight weapons are generally less injurious than normal weapons doing D6/2 damage. This includes improvised weapons such as clubs, furniture and torches, but also includes most throwing weapons like javelins, throwing knives and tomahawks when used in melee.
ReachReach weapons can be used from the second rank of combat and may be 'set' to receive a charge, giving up an attack but allowing a reactive attack that does 2x Damage to the first charging attacker to enter the weapon's range (i.e. the attack need to be directed at the character with the reach weapon). Pole weapons and spears are reach weapons.
CloseClose weapons may seem weak at first but when in the hands of a certain style of fighter they are exceptionally dangerous. Close weapons allow the wielder to automatically hit each round while grappling. The winner of the contested STR check that makes up a round of grappling may elect to break the grapple preventing close weapon damage that round, but if both combatants are armed with close weapons and the winner of the grapple chooses to remain in locked in the grapple both participants will take automatic weapon damage. This category includes daggers, claw weapons like bagh naka, and the natural weapons of some non-human species and most monsters.
ReactiveWeapons that can be used to interrupt an attack. When attacked while wielding a reactive weapon the defender will receive an automatic attack before the attacker can complete their own. If a defender is capable of multiple reactive attacks (with a pistol or if they are carrying thrown weapons in both hands for example) each attack after the first is at a cumulative -1. Reactive weapons are often held in the off hand and include throwing knives, tomahawks and pistols. Indeed, a reactive attack is the only way a pistol can be used in melee combat, though the ability of a multiple shot pistol to engage multiple attackers makes them very dangerous.
FinesseFinesse weapons are handier and well suited to attack and defense. These weapons allow the near effortless switch between styles of combat and allow a point for point trade of attack bonus and AC - making a offensive combat a +2 to hit/-2 AC and Defensive combat a +2 AC/-2 Hit rather then the normal +2 hit/-4 AC or +2 AC/-4 to hit. The ability to adjust these attack and defense values by greater amounts is increased by the "Duelist" sub-class available to fighters and Specialists. Stabbing and other light or medium swords, such as arming swords and sabers, are the most common finesse weapon (cleaver like weapons are generally "Overpowering" weapons).
OverpoweringHeavy cleaving and cutting weapons allow a flurry of dangerous blows that will carry from one opponent to the next. When a combatant lands a killing blow with an overpowering weapon they can immediately make an additional attack against a nearby opponent. Boarding axes, cutlasses and falchions are the most common weapons in this class aboard the Apollyon.
CrushingCrushing and penetrating weapons can mitigate the protection provided by heavy armor. When attacking an armored foe these weapons reduce the enemy to a maximum AC of 16. The effect of a crushing weapon will only work on opponents that depend on armor or armor like protection (shells, plating or chitin) for defense, and will have no effect on many otherworldly opponents such as devils and demons despite their lower armor class. Maces and the ubiquitous 'war-crow' of the Scavenger's Union (a cross between a crowbar and a military pick) are both crushing weapons.
EntanglingEntangling weapons are unpredictable and difficult to make attacks against as they slide around parries and allow unpredictable angles of attack. Entangling weapons grant the wielder a +1 bonus to initiative to model their range and the difficulty of attacking an opponent armed with one. Flails, chain whips and barbed nets are common entangling weapons - though monsters attacking with tentacles may also have this advantage.