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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why d6-Only Weapons, Part The Second

A new reader of my blog made a recent comment on my older musings about d6-only weapons. He objects to the idea, and gives this as a reason:
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.
I have no objection to his preference for using different damage dice, in contrast to my preference not to. What I can't agree with is the "of course". First of all, the trivial objection: even if you decide a sword should do more damage than a dagger, that doesn't mean you have to change the dice used. The Fantasy Trip (Melee) didn't; it used nothing but 1 or 2 d6s plus or minus a modifier. Some old-schoolers use a simple three-damage system: roll 1d6 for average-sized weapons, roll 2d6 for others -- if the weapon is small, drop the highest roll, and if the weapon is large, drop the lowest. Changing swords to d8 for damage instead of d6, or lowering daggers to d4, seems "natural" to certain people because that's the system they're accustomed to.

Second, for this specific example, a dagger can kill you just as dead as a long sword. The advantage isn't "damage output", it's the length of the weapon. A swordsman can keep an opponent with a shorter weapon at bay while still doing damage. I prefer to handle the differences between weapon lengths by allowing characters to maneuver into or out of reach.

Third, as I've said before, different weapon damage systems have different advantages and disadvantages. I don't like the disadvantages of systems where each weapon does a different range of damage, but I like the advantages of a single d6 damage system. I never, ever have to look up how much damage a weapon does. I never worry about how much damage a new made-up weapon should do. I never worry about players all choosing the the same weapons because they're the "best" weapons in terms of damage.

So yes, I appreciate that some people who read my blog don't agree with having all weapons do 1d6 damage. I understand your reasons for disagreeing. I respect your decision to use the system you prefer, just as much as I prefer the system I'd rather use.


  1. It's funny, I'm all about simplification. And it still sort of urks me when people don't like S&W's simplified saving throws. But weapons doing the same damage is one step too far in abstractness for me.

    I completely understand the benefits you mention (I especially try to avoid having to look up stuff), but the idea that the only difference between having a sword or a flail in a game is flavor, makes me feel like something important has been lost.

    But, I've come to realize that we each have different tolerances for abstractness and sometimes that even varies for different parts of the same system. All the more reason that we each make our game our own with houserules. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Exactly. You have to decide what you're going to do about weapons. For me, I distinguish a sword from a flail by noting that a sword has an edge, so it could be used to slice through a rope bridge, while a flail could be used to entangle an opponent's weapon. And, depending on the type of sword, a swordsman might be able to attack a flail user while remaining outside of his reach. Other people use different damage for small, medium and large weapons, because that's what *they* want.

  3. What about offering the Keep on the Borderlands method as optional? I'm fine with d6-only weapons, but rolling funky dice is definitely one of the things I love most while playing D&D ^^

  4. @Talysman: I can see the benefits of having all weapons do d6 damage, but it's simply not what I'm used to, and having each individual weapon do different damage is the most horrible idea I can think of.

    So I guess my tolerance for abstraction is right in the middle, and my tolerance for complexity is low, since I despise enormous "weapon vs AC tables" and "weapon length" tables. Is anything less exciting than consulting a table every time you go to attack?