Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Low Magic - weapons

This may be what started it, or it may be what intensified it, but ever since 'The Tolkien Campaign' I've had a fondness for low fantasy/ low magic settings. The reason for lowering the amount of magic present was due to the dwindling presence of elves, dwarves and assorted fantasy entities. While 3.5 scales well with the reduction of magic elements, there was still a considerable gap left in terms of gear. Without magic gear, the reward pool is greatly reduced, and players do love their rewards.

The solution I came up with was adding various degrees of crafting qualities. Similar to enchanting prefixes and suffixes in games today. Maybe in games back then too, but I only found out about them much later.

A weapon could have one or more of the following qualities(uncertain items in red):
  • Masterwork: +1 hit
  • Keen: double threat
  • Balanced: +1 hit offhand
  • ???: +1 damage
  • ???: +1 critical multiplier
Usually weapons would have at most two of these qualities, but I do recall at one point there was one weapon which had them all, these and the ones I forgot. This system could be easily expanded for a variety of extra bonuses and features short of flaming swords.

For crafting it could be as simple as each effect adding to the crafting DC (best determined by the game master depending on setting), or by treating each quality as additional component, each with their own DC, and materials.

Some other examples could be:
  • Crushing: +1 sunder
  • Light: +1 initiative
  • Heavy: -1 initiative +1 damage
    • or -1 initiative -1 hit +1 damage +1 disarm
  • Mighty: +1 intimidate
  • Ornate: costs more
  • Rusty: -1 damage
  • Poorly made: -1 hit
  • Brittle: half item HP
It's really all about thinking of a bonus or penalty, and determining an adjective which would allow the item to give that bonus from a constructive point of view, noting it down, and using the same adjective to describe the same bonus from that point on.

"The orc takes out what appears to be a +1 axe and rolls for initiative" 
"The orc takes out what appears to be a sharpened, masterwork axe and rolls for intitiative"

adds that extra bit of immersion without slowing down gameplay with lengthy descriptions, especially so if this is the tenth +1 axe wielding orc today. Eventually it will get to the point that players substitute the words for the bonuses 'internally'.

I haven't personally tried, but I could see this system working in traditional high fantasy settings, allowing a higher degree of weapon upgrading and customization.