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Saturday, January 16, 2010

d6-Only Weapons: Special Abilities

Up to now, there hasn't been anything remarkable about the suggestions I've made for distinguishing weapons without varying damage. Someone, somewhere, has done each of those things, although perhaps not in such an explicit manner.

Special abilities are a little different. Occasionally, you'll see a note that gives a flail a percent chance of disarming an opponent, so the concept is definitely out there, but not unified. My own approach to special abilities, like disarming, entangling, and the like, is to think of it as a risk for the target: the opponent rolls a d6 and compares the result to the damage roll; on a match, the opponent is disarmed, entangled, tripped, or whatever the weapon's special effect is.

In some cases, a weapon may have an ability that takes effect when the damage roll beats a target number or a d6 roll by the opponent; this can be paired with a more serious effect if doubles are rolled. You can even have multiple special effects on doubles: on double 1 through double 5, one ability takes effect, while on double 6, a more severe ability takes effect.


  1. Is it possible that they used D6 because they based D&D off the Chainmail rules? Is it possible they used D6 because those dice were not in common circulation yet? Is it possible that they changed the damage as soon as they could because they realised that they had made a mistake, or at least could model combat better using a wider range of dice?

    Consider two fighters of equal hitpoints, one armed with a dagger and the other with a long sword. It seems obvious to me that the one with the sword has an advantage over the fighter armed only with the dagger, but how to model this? By changing the dice used as damage of course.

    It seems to me that some people stick religiously to what is in those first three books, but I see them as the first draft of a game that had never existed before. There were changes made in the subsequent D&D and AD&D games to correct or improve failings in the first draft. You should decide for yourself what is best by thinking. In the end it is just a game, just try and be fair and make sure everyone playing knows the rules you are playing by.

  2. Yes on One and Two, no on Three. There are lots of ways to make different weapons seem different, even lots of ways to do this with damage. Using just a single d6 no matter what the weapon isn't a "failing"; it's a choice made to emphasize what you can do with a weapon over what its damage output or other statistics say about it.