Weapon Mastery in Classic D&D

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10 Responses

  1. Nice breakdown.

    My only issue with proficiencies is the unskilled level, it’s pretty much redundant for everyone other than pacifists, mages or perhaps some townfolk. Given a standard quasi medieval setting, even the lowest born peasant would concievably have a basic level of skill with melee weapons, otherwise it would be difficult to form militia (we’re not talking seven samurai here). We’ve all seen those movies with children play fighting with wooden swords, they may be playing at Knights & Knaves, but they’re acquiring a basic level of skill at the same time.

    Likewise archery practice was mandated by law in 13th Century England because the villagers could be formed into militia by their Lord to fight in defense of England. Even if you don’t subscribe to that historical justification, small game (and therefore hunting) is likely to be a big part of a villagers diet, I would therefore expect most of my NPCs to be able to do basic weapon damage.

  2. Philo Pharynx says:

    Hmmm… It’s sort of interesting. Is there any crossover on weapons? If you are really skilled with a battleaxe, can you apply any of that to a hand axe?
    Like Tony above, I think that some weapons would always be skilled. I understand that you’d be really clumsy using a halberd or whip for the first time, but anybody should be able to pick up a club and swing it as a basic user.

  3. drow says:

    i’ll second the call for a special edition. the rules cyclopedia is one of the few tomes i don’t have in my collection, and the AD&D special edition books are really awesome. on the other hand, it’d be a really massive undertaking to rekey and clean up.

  4. Carldot34 says:

    Everyone else gets to choose two weapons, remember, so your peasants can use bows and clubs or young boys can practice in swords and explain why they aren’t unskilled.

  5. snuh says:

    I’m trying to remain skeptical, but the flexibility of D&D Next is very promising, and the ability to elegantly integrate something like this is neat (actually, we’ve always been able to do stuff like this but I hope D&D Next is about explicitly encouraging/enabling it).

    I must confess that I don’t think these rules wouldn’t work for me, though. The ratio of rules baggage to gameplay differentiation is pretty high. Every attack roll is modified by both what the attacker wields and what the defender wields. Damage rolls can vary by attacker/defender matchup. And many weapons receive modifiers for only the first X attacks in a round, requiring extra tracking. Then there’s a conditional morale effect triggered in different ways.

    With the exception of the special abilities, most of the actual effect of weapon mastery is subtle tweaking of the attack, damage, and defense modifiers. I find a +/-1 here and there to be an underwhelming way of differentiating one style of fighting from another, especially at higher levels. When you are on your way to immortality and fighting gods-know-what, is there really any meaningful difference between 1d8+7 vs 1d6+7 damage, depending on what the foe is wielding? (Meanwhile, your neighbor is dishing out 5d6+5 with level 1 magic missiles.)

    All in all, it seems like a lot of gamestate tracking for marginal differentiation. Seems like there’d be a simpler way to highlight the different fighting styles and levels of mastery.

  6. Mike Olson says:

    I agree with snuh on this one. I think the cyclopedia chart adds too many complications and adds a lot of extra tracking to the equation. While I do like the overall idea presented here for weapon mastery, I do think an add-on module of this nature, if one is adopted, should be much more simplified and at least get rid of all the tracking.

  7. I don’t think that snuh has it right. The difference between (for sword) basic level doing 1d8 and grand master level doing a primary attack at 2d6+8 and a secondary attack at 2d4+8 and a +4 to your AC vs other weapon users is well worth tracking! And that’s BEFORE you add in strength mods. Possible max of 8 vs a possible max of 36? And as to the complicated tracking, the bonuses to AC, for example, only depends on what the other person is using as far as ‘are they a weapon user or using natural weapons’? I really encourage people to try it. I appreciate it has been years since I used the Cyclopedia but it is a brilliantly conceived system. With character gen in line with D&D Next, it would make a great reprint.
    (Declaration of bias: I own two near-mint copies of the Cyclopedia though and all the Gazateers so I am just a bit biased! Perhaps it’s a Sheffield trait!)

  8. Juluan says:

    Why does the staff list a primary and secondary damage at MS and GM level, but has a primary type of ” All?”

  9. nexusphere says:

    Holy science this is awesome!

  1. August 6, 2012

    […] Weapon Mastery in Classic D&D at Greywulf’s Lair: A look at weapon proficiency system from the Rules Cyclopedia. […]

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