Monday, January 12, 2015

Weapon Mastery

Still playing around with writing my own fantasy heartbreaker.

I'd like each class to feel different.  Not just a unique remix of existing rules, but I'd like each class to have their own unique mechanic.

So fighters get Weapon Mastery.  They track how many kills they've gotten with each type of weapon.  This is their fun little mini-game: tracking kills.  Wizards hunt for rare spells, thieves get really good at their skills, and fighters collect skulls.

10 kills = +1 damage
30 kills = special ability
100 kills = +1 damage

So, after a PC has killed 100 things with a greatsword, they'll forever deal +2 damage with it and be able to fight with it in ways that other people can never hope to.  Special abilities, right?  I wrote those today.

Weapon Mastery
Each weapon grants both a passive ability (that applies to all of its attacks) and a special attack. Usually.

Can be thrown. Range as dagger.
Great Slice: Attack two adjacent targets. Each attack has a -4 penalty to hit.

Can fire from and into melee without penalty.
Double Shot: Fire two arrows at the same target. Each attack has a -4 penalty to hit.

+1 Initiative.
Flurry: Attack the same target twice with a penalty of -4 on each attack.

+1 to hit humanoid opponents who are wearing armor or using shields.
Wild Swing: +2 to hit, but take 1d6 damage if you miss.

Deals +1 damage.
Decapitate: -2 to hit. After this attack hits and deals damage, if the target has 5 HP or less, it dies.

Deal 1 damage on a miss, but this damage can never kill a creature.
Power Attack: -2 to hit and +2 to damage.

You threaten the area adjacent to you.
Slow Strike: +2 to hit, but you automatically lose initiative.

+1 to hit humanoid opponents who are unarmed or fighting with familiar weapons (on this list).
Brave Attack: get +2 to hit and +2 to damage, but if you miss, you lose your next turn.

Treat it as if its durability was 1 step higher. Masterwork maces never break. Ever.
Knockout: Make a nonlethal attack without the usual -2 penalty.

Deal x2 damage to prone targets.
Skullcrusher: x2 damage on a hit. Spend your next turn recovering.

Gives +1 to AC.
Multitrip: You can attempt to trip multiple adjacent enemies at once.

Optionally, use Dex to calculate damage (instead of Str).
Lunge: +2 Initiative and -1 damage (minimum 1).

Deal x4 damage on a crit.
Rend Flesh: -2 to hit. Target bleeds 1 HP each turn until it spends a turn attending the wound.

Can be used in close quarters and grapples, as if it were a Light weapon.
Sure Strike: +2 to hit and -2 damage (minimum 1).

If you have a pennant or war sign attached to your spear, opponents get -1 to their Morale checks.
Death and Glory: Does double damage if you charge your target (at least 30') while screaming.

You can carry up to X stilettos that will not count against your inventory slots. X = half your Dex.
Backstab: Double damage. Only works against unaware opponents that you literally stab in the back and can conceivably hit some vital organ.

War Pick
Deal x3 damage on a crit.
Crushing Blow: -2 to hit. Target's armor is reduced by 1.

Yes, this makes vanilla fighters more complex.  But it doesn't introduce that complexity at character creation, or even all at once.

One thing I'm worried about is over-specialization.  If a character gets too many bonuses to attacks with a particular weapon, they have less motivation to use the new weapon they just got.  Like, if I have +2 to greatswords, do I really want to start training with the maul I just got?  Which sucks, because I like fighters to grow in versatility as they level up, not specialization.

But then I love a mechanic that forces fighters to fight for killing blows. Only through murder can you master anything.

art by peter mohrbacher


  1. "One thing I'm worried about is over-specialization. "

    First I thought the same thing, but it just might have the opposite effect:
    "Man, I need to train more weapons. I'd like to carry an axe for AOE and flail for singletarget. Or maybe I'll practice sword; The duke's blade is surely magical and I kinda don't like him ... if you know what I mean"

    Question is, do you really like players thinking like this?

    (sry for my english, not my native language)

    1. Maaaayyyybbbeee. Some players hate anything that gets in the way of immersion. Other players like having a diverse mechanical toolset.

      Hmm. I think yes, I do. Wizards are always poring over their spell lists, maybe this will give Fighters something analogous to do.

      Plus, wizards get to search out rare scrolls and stuff. Maybe fighters can search out rare weapons that give powerful abilities upon mastery.

  2. Your link is broken. What fantasy heartbreaker is this?

  3. What I'd done is do 2 different bonuses, one for a specific weapon ("your fathers sword with the ruby hilt") and then one for a whole class of weapon. ("swords")

    For a specific weapon I was going to do TH bonuses of +1@10 +2@100 +3@500. I realize +3 is high - but what are the chances of a sword making it 500 fights?

    For the whole class of weapons just +1 @ 100 fights and that's it. (Only one weapon per fight, kids)

    And I'm doing fights, not just kills, because fighting is good learnin' too.

    For kills I was going to do something similar but where you got bonuses to your critical hits with the weapon instead of to to hit bonuses.

    1. I really like the idea of fighters squabbling over kills. Some MMOs and multiplayer games granted slightly more XP if you got the killing blow than if you didn't, and I always had fun yelling at people for stealing my kill.

      The only problem I see with giving bonuses for @500 is that 500 is a hell of a lot of fights, and I know that there would be players that wanted to get all 500. And some of them would EXPECT it and might try to go grind kills like it was a computer RPG. (why can't I just go kill a bunch of dogs? I'm rich enough to buy 500 dogs.) I had a player like that.

      I'm hesitant to mess with critical hits, but yeah, that's a good one, too.

  4. I’ve been talking about this with one of my players and it kinda reminded us of what we hated about 3,5e. Once you lock a move into a feat or a special attack, you imply that it can’t be done without this special training.

    We like the combination of ‘unforgiving unbalanced battles’, ‘simple minimalistic mechanics’ and ‘rulings not rules’ because it promotes creativity.

    For example: When you are defending yourself with a wide glaive cuts against a horde of naked bone-knife wielding cannibals there is a believable chance you could hit more than one at a time - So you propose it at the beggining of your turn and the DM assigns you appropriate bonuses and penalties. In this case “you can hit two at once, but roll both attacks at -4”.

    But this might not be possible or at least seem unfair when this bonus/penalty or ‘ability’ is locked away in battle-axe section of the fighter class.

    I’d suggest getting rid of special moves and letting them flow from the player’s actions and descriptions.


    On the other hand, I really like the ‘rogues have skills, mages loot spells, fighters count kills’. Maybe we could attach something else to it like Favoured Enemy or Reputation or Gift of brutality (after X kills, you get one autocrit/reroll/action surge) or whatever...

    1. I agree with you. I don't like 3.5's philosophy of "You can't do anything awesome or original unless you take a feat for it." either.

      My middle path: players can attempt awesome and original things, but it depends on the ENVIRONMENT and CIRCUMSTANCES. Fighters who've mastered stuff don't need those things, they can just do them automatically with their weapons.

  5. Could have bonuses that require mastery in more than one weapon. Maybe just number bonuses for specializing in one weapon, and special abilities when you specialize in several weapons.

    Or, alternatively, introduce defensive bonuses. Like you get 100 kills with a longsword, you take less damage from a longsword because you are a master of how it can be used. That'll give all the incentive you need for fighters to practice with all sorts of weapons. Even trying to use the strange weapons the encounter on their adventures.

    1. Requiring mastery in more than one weapon is cool, but (a) introduces complexity, and (b) encourages rule-mastery by rewarding players who study the rules and optimize stuff. (I've tried to keep the weapon mastery stuff up there simple enough that a fighter could stumble through it and still be happy with their new abilities.) Still a good idea worth considering, though.