Sunday, January 10, 2010

D6 Weapon Damage

Coopdevil over at FightingFantasist has an excellent post on the logic of all weapons doing 1D6 damage. Take a look.


  1. IIRC, Gary's Lejendary Adventures FRPG also has all weapons doing the same range of damage, and for the same reason.

  2. The idea of all weapons doing the same base damage always kind of bored me, but it never occurred to me that, as a commenter to that post pointed out, we were doing essentially that when playing WFRP, my favorite fantasy game. Interesting.

  3. I don't find the line of argument especially compelling. To use the same wargame example, The Napoleonic battalion will last longer against a formation of rock throwers than they will against a formation of equally skilled musketeers, and making muskets do more damage than rocks is a good way of simulating this in D&D-style rules. (Another way to do it is to simply adjust the hit probability for different kinds of weapons in different situations.) Variable weapon damage is an attempt to simulate the idea that, while a successful dagger thrust is as deadly (or moreso) than a successful sword slash, in a duel, the swordsman has the advantage over the fighter with the dagger: the dagger-armed fighter will probably be the one to fall. The idea that, in D&D, "taking damage" does not necessarily imply "being wounded" is key.

    Trying to model the relative effectiveness of different weapons requires taking into account not just the weapons themselves, but the weapons in relation to one another, the use of armour, fighting styles, and the conditions of combat can be extremely complicated, and this complexity is further exacerbated by the fact that we are usually relying on our own imaginations to guess what would happen, since we don't exactly have a lot of real-world data to model duels and small-scale melees using medieval weapons. (Probably one big reason there was such a great variety of weapons in the Middle Ages was that even the soldiers of the time didn't really know what worked best, so they tried a lot of different things out.) In the face of this, it may be tempting to just forget about all of that complexity and just say that a weapon is a weapon, and that the simulation of different weapon effects is not the focus of the game, but, if you are concerned about such things, making all weapons do 1d6 damage is not inherently more or less realistic than using variable weapon damage as one way to distinguish the relative strengths and weaknesses of various weapons.

  4. All weapons are potentially lethal, but the damage die can represent quite a lot of different things in an abstract game like D&D, perhaps most importantly in the absence of any consideration after the initial point of contact is reach. However, it is pretty much equally valid to have all weapons do the same damage or variable damage, arguments can be constructed to support either point of view, and from a variety of perspectives.

    that said, if a shield gives +1 AC, then a two handed weapon should give +1 to hit. ;)

  5. I'll throw in Mike Mornard's thoughts on the subject:

    "Because in CHAINMAIL different weapons have different numbers to kill.

    And I thought it would be cool if different weapons in D&D had different effects.

    Gary didn't like the idea, but I didn't give up, and ultimately he did.

    That's right, variable weapon damage is included in D&D because a 17 year old kid thought it was a neat idea and harassed the writer until he gave in.

    I shit you not."

    Post #97

  6. Greyhawk seems to setup the following: Fighter's HD gets bumped to 1d8. Most weapon's baseline damage also get bumped to 1d8. Thrown weapons seem to get 1d6, and two-handed weapons seem to get 1d10. The dagger, MU weapon of choice, gets 1d4. And the mace, weapon for the cleric, gets 1d6. I see this as an attempt to further bolster the fighter's role, never mind that morningstars and flails get 1d8 too.

    I'm not devoted to either one side. I like both. But I think there's a part of me that likes rolling all those different dice more.

  7. Now we just need to find a weapon that can use the much-ignored d12.

    I like rolling different dice for different weapons, but I don't like the extra book-keeping that comes along with the D&D hit point system -- particularly as a DM.

  8. Before I ever encountered OD&D, I read a small press RPG from the '90s (the Barony RPG) that had all weapons do the same damage. The designer's comment in the rules was something along the line of "whether you are stabbed with a dagger, hacked with a sword, or boffed with a mace, we are pretty sure it is going to suck pretty hard. So why quibble or which does slightly more or less damage?" I was never sure whether I was really convinced by that, but it got me thinking about the concept, so when I came across it in OD&D, it didn't freak me out so bad.

  9. All weapons doing the same damage is the main thing I like about S&W White Box. As much as I like the idea of different weapons having different effects, I prefer the feel in play of every blow having about the same chance of killing a character.

  10. James, a while ago you mentioned that you were trying to decide whether or not to change away from d6 damage in Dwimmermount. What did you ultimately decide?

  11. I like getting to use all the different dice, so I generally like the variable dice rolls for damage - but I can see the logic in them all using a d6. I'm now thinking that I'll let any class use any weapon... but the classes will have a maximum dice size they can use for damage. So a Wizard can use a Polearm instead of a Dagger if he wants to... but it'll still only use a d4.

  12. There is something to be said for the d6 dmg vs. d6 hit points. It means that any normal weapon can kill a normal man with one well placed hit. A dagger which does d4 now has the potential not to be able to kill someone with a single blow.

    The adoption of the 1E weapon vs. armor chart would assure that there was some tactical reasons to pick one weapon over another.

    Regards to Matthew's point about 2 handed swords doing d6+1. I'm sympathetic, but that leads to a slippery slope of daggers doing d6-1 and once you're there you might as well just have daggers do d4! However, because of loss of wearing a shield it balances out fine. (To me philotomy's rule of 2d6 keep the higher of the two dice means rolling one more dice than necessary, but has the advantage of keeping damage on the d6 without modifers).

    It could also be fixed by making sure that the weapon vs. armor chart gave the 2 handed weapon enough of a to hit bonus as to make it worthwhile to lose the shield. In this way the damage for all weapons now remains d6 without fiddling.

  13. Regards to Matthew's point about 2 handed swords doing d6+1. I'm sympathetic, but that leads to a slippery slope of daggers doing d6-1 and once you're there you might as well just have daggers do d4!

    No, no. Not 1d6+1 damage, but +1 to hit. As in 1d20+1. A mathematically equivalent advantage to not using a shield. ;)

  14. I disagree with the majority of that argument. The abstraction level of D&D combat and hit points seems exaggerated in positions like these.

    (1) Different weapons should reasonably have different levels of lethality, and (2) it provides interesting game-balance choices against cost, shield use, etc.; two reasons usually being more than enough for me these days.

  15. Really enjoyed the Lone Wolf weapons chart, but the argument Imho is a little bit demanding...
    For that post a knives fight is lethal as much as swords fight... are we sure?
    PS WHFRP is much complicated than explained (there's more differentiation between weapons in to hit bonus, initiave, ecc... and 2h weapon had +2 damage bonus).

  16. While I may not like variability expressed in terms of different dice, I prefer there to be some motivation to choose one weapon instead of another one, if for no other reason than plausibility. It's true that it does not matter how one kills/is killed; the point is reaching the kill!
    And the WFRP weapon classification is a tad more complex (and meaningful) than what the author writes.

  17. RE: Lejendary Adventure, lots of weapons use the same die type (d20), but the game uses a sort of "saturation range". So for example, a damage range for a weapon might be 1-4, meaning that you roll d20, and any values >=4 is considered 4. This method produces a skew in the distribution of damage.
    This is a smart way of using one die for different effects.

  18. It's a great post. It's made me think that there must be a fundamentally better way (the first sign of a Fall from OSR values, I know), which is the sign of a good provocation.

    I'd rather have differences in fighting ability/level represented by a different chance of evading damage - maybe a sort of saving throw vs. damage - than give the PC a fund of death-evading points. It would mean that every goblin's dagger-thrust would still be dangerous to your high-level fighter, and it would allow abilities like backstab to work without having to invent new systems, merely by bypassing existing ones. A saving throw system wouldn't necessarily slow combat down, either: you would only have to roll damage if the save failed. I'll need to think more about this (as generations of designers have before me), and of course, if I implemented it I would no longer be playing old-school D&D. It would allow for a clean division between physical size/constitution (esp for monsters) and combat ability, though.

  19. As others have said, I think you can make a plausible argument either way - but, as 1 poster suggested, d6 for all weapons essentially nerfs the fighter, making his ability to wield all weapons meaningless except where magic weapons are concerned (which, admittedly, is a great benefit). As someone who started with AD&D and has never played S&W (LL is as far back as I've been able to get my players to go so far), I have to ask: What, in original D&D (sans supplements), mechanically, makes a fighter better in melee? Armor selection? Didn't they all have the same HD back then, too?

  20. here's my opinion:

  21. in my humble opinion,
    weapon damage/ polyhedrals not only measures the force of the blow, but the weapon's reach, quickness and parry ability.

    Hence a spear held in two hands (d8) is much more lethal than a club (d4) or a fist (d2)

    One could make special rules for parry, reach and 1st strike capacity, but it is easier to assign greater weapon damage to the more EFFECTIVE weapon.

    more weapon damage = greater survivability in combat

    if you dont believe me;
    grab a laddle (dagger) and challenge your friend with a broom (spear) to a pretend fight . . . then count how many times your friend hits you with the straw (spear tip) for each time you whack him with the laddle (short blade).


    Increased weapon damage also simulates the capacity of the weapon to land blows that distract, unbalance and daze your opponent (reduce his hitpoints) before you land the final killing strike.

    Striking a helmet with a hammer is better than striking with a wooden club, as the hammer (more impact) is more likely to cause stunning or dazing even though there might be no loss of consciousness or skull fracture
    (NFL football players get serious concussions in spite of perfectly intact modern high quality helmets).

    – of course other factors would influence weapon usage such as the space in which the combat occurs; however, old school dungeons are typically spacious (10 foot by 10 foot corridors!)

    In a cramped situation, the game master could rule that the advantage of the more lethal weapon (axe, halberd, spear, etc.) is compromised either through damage reduction or a to-hit penalty which can be overcome by skill.

    Now axes and claymores inflict horrific wounds; however, upon battlefields or in close quarters this advantage is not fully exploitable.

    From Vegetius:
    “They were taught not to cut, but to thrust with their swords. For the Romans not only made jest of those who fought with the edge of their weapons, but also found them an easy conquest, a stroke with the edge, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills, as the vital parts of the body are protected by the bones and the armor. On the contrary, a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal.”

    IN conclusion, an experienced fighter depends upon his STRENGTH and SKILL to keep his opponents at the appropriate distance in order to most effectively deploy the tools of his trade.

  22. I dislike the OD&D d6 for every weapon, for several reasons. Certainly, it is not terribly realistic at all. And while the game is abstract, I see no reason to assume that it is so abstract that no distinction should be made between weapons. For example, take AH's Squad Leader and Panzerleader/Panzerblitz games. Even though the latter is abstracted to the platoon level, it still distinguishes between, say, a Tiger tank platoon and a Sherman tank platoon, and does not treat them at all equivalently. This gets more pronounced at the individual vehicle scale of Squad Leader, where facing, etc. becomes important. Interestingly, I've even seen separate counters for Tiger battalions on games at the *division* level scale, which proves that even when highly abstracted the weapon type can make a difference.

    Yes, I know that the merits of Tiger vs. Sherman tanks seems a bit out of place for D&D (unless one is playing "Sturmgeschulz & Sorcery"...) but it does illustrate how scale can be implemented across different games, and even with high levels of abstraction details can matter – and that details should matter more, not less, at smaller scales.

    For this reason then it does not make any sense at all to me why at a 1:1 scale weapon type would not matter. It can and does.

    Secondly, limiting weapons in this fashion gimps fighters, to the point that they might was well not show up at all after about level 5. Given that a cleric can use armor and fight almost as well, not to mention cast healing and other spells, the magic user needs no other support.

    Certainly many of the reasons given for opposing the distinguishing between different weapons seem trivial. Rolling extra or different types of dice does not seem to be any great mental challenge. The fact that detailing weapons strays from the alleged “purity” of OD&D is a mildly legitimate claim, but the problem here is that, so far as I know, *nobody* actually plays OD&D straight out of the box. Everyone has at least a few house rules. Really, the OD&D “system” is more of an open-ended springboard than a truly functional rules set right out of the box, so the consternation of making changes to better detail weapons is not easy to understand.

    The biggest reason I oppose the straight d6 for damage, however, is because of Magic Users and their spells. To wit, I do not see why folks have no trouble with Magic Users dealing out multi-die fireballs that score damage on several foes, but get all up in arms over a fighter with a better weapon doing more damage or be able to strike more than one foe. This is a very inconsistent view, to put it mildly. If one were consistent and logical, than an M-U's spells should also be identically restricted to doing only a single d6 and only affect one opponent... after all, is being crisped by a fireball any more or less lethal than being stabbed in the heart by a dagger...? And if rolling multiple dice is so frowned upon in "pure" OD&D combat, why is it acceptable in this circumstance?

    Seriously, if one is going to go through such athletic mental contortions to defend the simplistic OD&D weapons system, then one is simultaneously left without an intellectual leg to stand on when it comes to M-U spells and their effects. If your excuse for gimping a two handed sword’s wounding potential is the factoid that “a stab in the heart with a dagger leaves you just as dead as being cut in half by a sword” then you have no rational basis whatsoever for objecting to the similar gimping of fireball, lightning bolt, etc.

  23. "The Napoleonic battalion will last longer against a formation of rock throwers than they will against a formation of equally skilled musketeers, and making muskets do more damage than rocks is a good way of simulating this in D&D-style rules."

    On the other hand, a sword and a dagger are both doing the same about of lethal "damage" when they're thrust into their target's heart. The additional reach of the sword makes it more likely for the sword-wielder to administer that damage without being injured by the dagger-wielder in return because he can, theoretically, make his first strike sooner as the two combatants close and manipulate his weapon to create and maintain an advantageous distance between he and his foe after that, but the tissue trauma is what it is when a fatal blow strikes home.

    Barring extreme examples (like rock versus gun), the advantages afforded to various weapons are better represented as bonuses to initiative rolls and (irony of ironies) "weapon vs. armor" modifiers like the ones in AD&D.

  24. "On the other hand, a sword and a dagger are both doing the same about of lethal "damage" when they're thrust into their target's heart."

    There is a mild merit to this and your suggestion about using the weapon vs. armor adj. from Supp. I and AD&D; indeed, I consider these adj. part of the solution.

    However, there is a constant, and quite myopic, focus on the "minimal" amount of lethal damage needed to kill a "normal" man - which in OD&D translates into someone with 3.5 hit points (the statistical average of a d6 roll). Completely ignored is the potential for more than the mere minimum needed to kill. For example, a stroke that decapitates is far more lethal - afterall, even if a person is stabbed or shot through the heart, they have probably 10+ seconds worth of blood pressure in the brain to keep fighting (in the Old West, this phenomena was known as a "dead man's 15 seconds"). But if your head's off, then one is instantly stopped. And a dagger is quite incapable of decapitating someone...

    "Overkill", as such, really matters, particularly in D&D where hit points are an abstraction, and overkill represents a hit that takes more of the figure's luck, endurance, etc. then a normal blow. Look at it this way - an 8 hp blow from a long sword kills a normal man outright, but represents a deep scratch to a 9th level Lord, who's years of experience allowed him to dodge certain death.

    Also, this constant focus on "normal men" utterly ignores the fact that "normal men" are rarely if ever foes in a typical adventure, that honour going to giants, dragons, demons, xorns, etc. etc. etc.

    And you still haven't answered why a fireball should be allowed to do more than a single d6 of damage, when a two handed sword can't.

  25. These are all good observations but I have something to add to it all. In OD&D a combat round was not actually one attack with a weapon but a minute of fighting. Sure the 2-handed weapon will deal a lot when it hits but a dagger will be able to hit more in that minute to make up for it. The idea of a round equaling an attack is a problem with the preconceived view of the granularity of fighting and not the system itself.

  26. Ditto what Ahier posted. Almost all of the arguments against 1d6 damage are assuming that a successful attack roll equals one blow landed with a weapon. In one minute of fighting, that's obvioulsy not what is intended.

    Also, I'd point out that there is some variable damage in the 3LBB's in that large creatures - like mature dragons - do 2d6 or 3d6 in damage, and really small ones are IIRC only 1-3.