Monday, December 5, 2011

Misconception Monday: d6 Weapon Damage

Good morning. I hope everyone had a good weekend.

OK, I was going to say this made me unhappy for a long time, or that it had this effect or that effect on my game. It never did. I have never played or refereed even one single minute of D&D with "all weapons do d6". Greyhawk was in the house when I started playing, so we smugly thumbed our noses at d6 in favor of the "realistic" variable weapon damage. Ah, the superiority of youth.

I'm not entirely sure if it was an intentional elegance of design, or more of a product of exploring uncharted waters. Either way, d6 weapon damage ends up being a fairly elegant way of handling things. This rule, like most of the LBBs, was ported from Chainmail. That game was all about the d6, so I suspect that the assumption that most D&D players would be coming from Chainmail made the choice for weapon damage rather simple.

Whether it was intentional or not, d6 weapon damage turned out to be somewhat elegant. It allows weapon choice to be purely a role-playing selection. Whatever you envision your character using to crack heads, you can play with. This also allows a referee to dispense with weapon limitations on classes. This in itself does open a certain can of worms.

With the original three classes of the LBBs, Fighting-Men were differentiated by being the only class capable of wielding magical swords. Make no mistake, in the LBBs, magical swords were king. They all possess Intelligence, and 50% of them have additional powers, ranging from various Detection abilities to things like Teleportation, Flying, and Healing. If any class can use any weapon, one of the Fighting-Man's unique abilities isn't so unique anymore. But that's a topic for another post.

On the surface d6 damage seems sort of vanilla. It is, but it makes much more sense when you consider that D&D models results not means. A normal man or monster (1HD) can be killed with a single blow. That was the standard. It works in that sense, because you can sneak up on a lookout and shank him with a dagger, just like in the movies.

In my opinion, the variable weapon damage was one of the foundations of power creep. Think about this: all hit dice are d6, all weapons do d6. One hit, one kill was possible with 1HD beings. Enter variable weapon damage and all of a sudden a single swing of a sword by a 1st level Fighter could slay a 2HD monster. Solution: give all monsters a d8 for hit dice. So, now all monsters are tougher, not just for Fighters, they are tougher for everybody. Other classes had to be tougher to survive this paradigm shift, and we were off to the races. The power curve went into orbit. Of course, there were many factors, but I believe variable weapon damage, while not the most potent, was one of the very first.

Enough digression. I'll wrap this up by saying that I really like d6 damage. It empowers role playing by not forcing mechanical considerations on characters. It also plays perfectly with the Fighting-Man's ability to make one "to-hit" roll for each opponent of 1HD or less. If you've never considered the virtues of d6 damage, give it another look. You may not use it, but perhaps a new appreciation of it will give you new ideas.

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