The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Free Form Weapons

While I haven’t had a chance to play the new Gamma World box set, having read about it is giving me a case of rules envy, particularly with regard to weapons; the idea of free form weapons seems really sexy to me.

Now I will be the first to concede that I have complained about the lack of weapons in the 4E PHB, but, I think if you are going to cut out the weapons players aren’t using, going free form is the way to go. Because, while free form weapons gives none of atmosphere that an extensive weapons list does, it does bring with it a whole lot of other pluses.

Free Form Weapons Invite Imagination

I for one find it very depressing how very often a player will have a go to weapon that virtually all of his characters will use. The strangest thing about the phenomena is that many of these players seem to actually spend time perusing the weapons list before settling on old faithful. I can only conclude that either they would like to pick something else, but find that nothing strikes their fancy or they just can’t get away from the statistical advantage that their normal weapon gives.

But if any one handed weapon they could dream of did 1d8 damage, then surely many of these players would find different weapons to use. If not other weapons from lists, then surely they might think of weapons from history or fantasy which have caught their eye but previously been missing from D&D.

Weapons Lists Invite Disputes

Is there a gaming group on the planet that has not had someone in it question entries on a weapons list? And with good reason – the very notion that you can pin down broad classes of weapons into one line on a chart and expect it to realistically portray how those weapons perform compared to other weapons is absurd.

I don’t think there is any weapon in any PHB that I have seen a player actually buy, that someone hasn’t complained about. My personal pet peeve is the portrayal of bows and crossbows; I think most editions make bows too easy to use; long bow ranges are hugely under estimated; crossbows should do more damage but take longer to load.

All of these go away when you make a free form weapon system because instead of telling players that weapon x does y damage you are asking them what kind of weapon they are using (which happens to do y damage).

Being Nebulous is the D&D Way

Perhaps the biggest argument for bringing free form weapons to D&D is that the rule would fit so very well with existing rules. D&D is a game that glosses over so many details in favor of nebulous concepts, why not make weapons work that same way?

What is the point of having huge long weapons list that makes long swords do d8 damage while broad swords do 2d4, when the very hit points they are taking away have no real world analog? There isn’t one, of course, which is why this idea would fit so well in D&D.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , | 4 Comments