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Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Awesome Historic Rule: Damage

"All attacks which score hits do 1-6 points damage unless otherwise noted."
  - Men & Magic, Gygax & Arneson, (c) 1974.

Book of Awesome, Volume 1

Take that, multi-page modern weapon tables!

I have seen a variety of methods for handling weapons in game systems, and the simple elegance of this archaic rule is appealing in some way.  Games that have massive lists of individual weapons miss the mark for my own tastes - I prefer a small list of broad groupings.  For me, this allows the greatest compromise between gamism and drama.

Case Study:  A Barbarian
I expect my barbarian can pick up that greataxe and just use it, without being bothered by rules like "you only know the longsword", or even worse, "you only know war axes".  If I know a war axe, why can't I figure out where the pointy end of a greataxe goes?  On the other hand, I fully expect that if my barbarian picks up a rapier, he would look like a damn fool trying to poke things with it.

Weapons in Phoenix
Phoenix uses weapon groups, and furthermore does not define explicitly the weapons within each group.  The groups are defined by the general approach of their use - power vs precision, for instance.  Examples of weapons are given, but the door is left wide open for creativity and personalization.

The weapon groups in Phoenix's current draft are:
  • Finesse
  • Projectile
  • Reach
  • Scepters
  • Staves
  • Striking
  • Thrown
  • Unarmed
  • Wands

Martial weapon groups are further divided into Blunt or Sharp, and magical weapons are sometimes divided into Divine or Eldritch.  These subdivisions are gamist in nature, and used to create different "feels" for different characters, via unique and learnable special abilities called Tricks that are available only to certain weapon groups.

If a character in Phoenix is proficient in Blunt Striking, then they feel comfortable using a club, a morningstar, a flail, or a sledgehammer.  Heck, they could even pick up a big lantern-pole off the ground and swing it around with effectiveness.  Or break the leg off of an elf statue.

Maybe a player draws a funky and barely-comprehensible anime weapon and wants to plug that in.  No problem.  The weapons in each group are freeform; they are limited only by the joint imaginations of the player and the GM.  Phoenix provides a mechanical framework to enable that creativity.


  1. This all pre-supposes people who wish to play nice and won't try to bend the rules.

    How are you going to balance, rules for fair play vs min/maxers?

    This probably applies to the entire system and, should it ever get popular you will always get those trying to push things.

    1. Indeed, I would be hard pressed to let players control the mechanics of the system, for a variety of reasons.

      In Phoenix, all weapons of the same weapon group, do the same damage. For instance, all Striking weapons do 1d10 base damage at the mortal tier.

      Players and GMs get to design cool looks, but the game will look at what they design as "Blunt Striking" or "Eldritch Staff".

      Make sense?


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