The Forge Archives

General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: jp_miller on October 01, 2009, 11:19:18 PM



Title: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: jp_miller on October 01, 2009, 11:19:18 PM
Hi all, I’m in the throes of inventing a YARPG (Yet Another Role Playing Game), it has a Journey to the West/Mahabharata flavour. As you can imagine there is a hellovalota Kewl Powerz and demon ass kicking. It’s all way up in the air at the moment and currently I am considering weapons; their meaning and usage.

To me it seems weapons are a ‘huge’ part of a hero’s makeup. Think of a hero and I bet you instantly think of their weapon; Thor has his Hammer, Pigsy fights with a Plough, Arjuna his Bow, Wonder Woman her Noose, Luke Skywalker the Lightsabre etc. Likewise sometimes when I think of weapons I instantly associate them with a hero. When I see a claymore I think of the Highlander, a Mace - Hanuman, the nunchicks – bruce Lee etc.

Why are weapons synonymous, inexorably linked, to some heroes and what function do weapons serve in a role playing game? And most importantly, how can I make them an interesting facet of gameplay?

In a lot of RPG’s weapons are based on attack speed and damage. Yawn. Is this an attempt to replicate reality? Because in the real world weapons are a lot more than this, they were designed for a specific purpose. When swords and axes went blunt and got deflected off heavy armour people used bludgeoning weapons like the mace and war hammer. In game terms you might say weapons give a bonus in certain situations. I did a search here at the Forge and came up with this post “Concerning Weapons”

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27634.0

Luke gives an interesting example of how weapons are only effective in certain situations in Mouse Guard. I’m not familiar with the rules of Mouse Guard but I am assuming this idea is based on the real world usage of weapons. For example, Dungeons and Dragons does this with the dagger, which gives a +1 bonus to Sneak Attacks.

So one approach to weapons is to take the Real Time Strategy Game, or Paper, Scissors, Rock approach and grant a situational bonus e.g.:
     Mace: +1 vs. heavy armour
     Lance: +1 when on horseback     
     Polearm: + 1 vs. Cavalry charges
etc.

This idea can also extend into fantasy and the magic thereof. For example a Ghost Sword might grant a bonus against ethereal beings, a dagger might glow when orcs are around, or a sword might ‘sing’ and bewilder opponents or captivate onlookers.

Sometimes weapons are treated like sidekicks and have their own personal stats and traits and even personality. The weapon may be powerful but demanding (Stormbringer), granting the character a great damage potential but taxing them in another way.

So, I hope you can help me out here folks and tell me about the most interesting use of weapons you’ve ever seen in a game. How do you make weapons important to a character and how do you make them effective in the system?






Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: Callan S. on October 02, 2009, 02:17:44 AM
I think it comes from the weapon reflecting a very primal set of personal beliefs the character has. Look at those weapons and think about the way each character lives their lives - the weapon is a reflection of the man.

Probably really useless idea came to mind, that's kinda kinky - characters have a weapon, but it's never really named or described. As the player plays out their character, other players get to describe aspects of his weapon - like it being wood or steel, or having a chain or hand guard, etc. Over time his weapon comes into existance from how he acts, or atleast from how the other players judge the characters actions.

Red wine will make you think this stuff.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: jp_miller on October 02, 2009, 03:17:47 AM
Yeah, I've got a good load of beer under my belt as I post this too!

But that's exactly it, they are reflections of the character. The war hammer can only suit a big gruff n tough dude who has very little tactics other than 'smash it'. The rapier can only be handled by a thin person with finesse, wit, and intellignece, the bow - someone who has a great deal of patience, concentration and focus.

Maybe that's it. That's what I'm looking for but how does it all fit in a game though?



Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: jp_miller on October 02, 2009, 05:52:14 AM
So, to categorize the use of weapons for RPG's, I will make an attempt and hope you will add. I hope you can help me get to the bottom of weapons usage in RPG's and bring out some interesting takes on them. Many of these uses cross over but so far I've garnered that weapons are primarily used as:

Functional in Combat
Weapons are specifically designed to counter particular defenses or make attacks more efficient. e.g. Bludgeoning weapons are used by police because they are 'less lethal', and heavier bludgeoning weapons were more effective against strong armour. Daggers are designed for swift attacks, bows for striking targets before they close in etc. In a fantasy setting this can also extend to magic functionality.

Stereotypes

They may aid in representing a stereotype or archtypal character. I've got no problems with this, imaginationas are flimsy things and stereotypes help us visualize strong imagery. We're all aware of these; barbarians or simple folk use primative weapons, suave antagonists use flashy swords, sneaky assassins throw daggers etc. It's also a logical thing here, I mean, if you are 7 foot tall and built like a brick shithouse you're most effective weapon would be a bigass mace or broadsword. Likewise, if you're a scrawny wizard, a wand might be more effective. There are of course many exceptions to this that challenge our ideas of archetypes. Gandalf the wizard, for example, was a master swordsman.

Symbolism
As Callan suggested, weapons might be a reflection of a characters inner nature. For some reason when I think of swords I think of fire and the mind. Is this a Tarot thing? Likewise, clubs remind me of the element Earth. To wield a bow effectively you need a great deal of patience, perseverance and concentration. You also need strength. I find it odd that bows are often related to dexterity when in fact strength is a more appropriate prerequisite. Anyone who’s ever done archery will know that you are not dodging about avoiding incoming attacks but rather standing still and pulling as hard you can. The stronger you are the bigger the bow, the faster and more deadly your arrows will be. Anyway, back to symbolism. Weapons can tell us symbolically about the nature of a character.

Entities
As I mentioned before, weapons can have an entire personality of their own. In this way they might be entirely disassociated with the character (or not) and stand on their own. This take is probably more trouble than it’s worth when playing a game but interesting nonetheless.

I'm not so sure what exaclty I want weapons to do in my game but I am looking for some major inspiration. Care to add?


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: chronoplasm on October 02, 2009, 12:25:03 PM
Yeah, most of the time when you see weapons in RPGs they are little more than list items on a table. They are just names with a few numbers next to them.
I think it would be cool to play a game where your characters signature weapon gets its own character sheet much like mechs get their own sheets in some giant-robot games. Your weapon could have its own unique abilities, defenses, skills, backstory, relationships, etc.

It isn't a paper and pencil game, but I do like how weapons are handled in Suikoden II as opposed to how they are handled in games like Final Fantasy or WoW. In most CRPGs, you end up ditching your low level weapons as soon as they are made obsolete by the bigger and flashier weapons you find during the course of the game. In Suikoden your characters generally keep the same weapons during the course of the game but upgrade them at a blacksmith's job as they level up. Since magic items in 4E D&D have levels like the PCs, I'm strongly considering allowing weapons and armor to gain XP and level up just like the PCs do.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: JoyWriter on October 02, 2009, 05:22:32 PM
Absolutely nothing, hurr!

One way to represent weapons is the "appropriate tools" method. They are required for a style of fighting, and when you don't have one you have to switch your skills, maybe form another martial art. This puts weapons in perhaps a more appropriate place; in the combat section!

On the subject of upgrading weapons, one strange game I came across had magic items turn into portals to a subplane, and and defeating things in that subplane empowered the weapon! Naturally in tabletop games you can imagine people using that to hide inside their swords, chop people in half using a closing portal, or any number of strange innovations, but I thought it was a pretty amusing unification of game mechanics.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: jp_miller on October 05, 2009, 12:48:24 AM
Hey thanks all,

I've decide to do a bit of all of the above and roll weapons into abilities. Fighting styles will have some definate personality reflections, and enable you to do unique things with a chosen weapon.

Cheers.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: Anthony Sheets on October 06, 2009, 06:33:07 AM
Probably really useless idea came to mind, that's kinda kinky - characters have a weapon, but it's never really named or described. As the player plays out their character, other players get to describe aspects of his weapon - like it being wood or steel, or having a chain or hand guard, etc. Over time his weapon comes into existance from how he acts, or atleast from how the other players judge the characters actions.

I really, really like this idea. It got a lot of gears turning in my head.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: trueplay on October 06, 2009, 08:44:36 AM
i agree!


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: flossy on October 11, 2009, 02:41:33 AM
I do like the idea that weapons gain characteristics as they develop in history. Owning the old sword of Warmaster Derek is much more flavoursome that having a +2 sword. The more developed the history, the better the weapon I think is the general direction to go, much better than constantly throwing away your treasured sword because you found another one which has bigger numbers associated with it.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: drkrash on October 11, 2009, 08:18:09 AM
In my game, weapons serve no purpose beyond being melee or ranged.  They are merely effects of their other far flashier powers.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: dindenver on October 12, 2009, 01:34:21 PM
JP,
  Maybe you can use weapons as enhancements. Maybe a Bow lets you add your perception or concentration to your attack roll, instead of dexterity. Maybe a better way might be that for every combat trait a weapon possesses, it must have a non-combat trait. Like if your Bow has an Armor Piercing Trait, it also has a Woodmen Trait (or Willpower or ?). The idea being that you can't train with a weapon and not have some part of its nature rub off on you.
  I dunno, it is a very formulaic and direct approach tot he problem, but it could work for your purposes.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: Judd on October 12, 2009, 11:41:05 PM
I love how Mouse Guard handles weapons, with the weapons giving advantages in very specific situations.

But that doesn't feel like the type of weapons you are talking about.  You are talking about weapons with names, with histories and the ability to define a hero far beyond just a +1 or even the ability to toss around lightning.

I'd go back and re-read that source material you talk about, dense amazing stuff, and just think about weapons and how they are depicted.  There might be articles somewhere in some religious studies or folk lore journal about weapons in those texts that might be worth some digging and a peak too.

Good luck!


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: jp_miller on October 14, 2009, 08:28:56 PM
Hi all,

Thanks for the replies, there are some interesting ideas in there. So, one thing I'm thinking of doing is keeping it pretty simple as far as 'weapons stats' go, they get 1 bonus to something. This method will also help players choose the type of character they play. To give you an example:

Cutlass: You get a bonus when on ships or in tight spaces.
Bow: You get a bonus when shooting at targets at long distance.
Spear: You get a bonus when hunting.
Polearm: You get a bonus when fighting mounted units
Sword: You get a bonus in any formally arranged combat for honour or show (e.g. Gladatorial contest or a challenge to a duel).

etc. etc.

So I think this brings out the weapons purpose as well as the nature of the character.



Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: drkrash on October 15, 2009, 02:56:49 AM
I think that sounds very good.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: rebelred on October 15, 2009, 07:22:20 PM
I like the weapon bonus idea. It goes beyond your usual damage + or - scenario and might help players get into the characters more.


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: jp_miller on October 15, 2009, 10:46:27 PM
Hey thanks,

Judd, I don't know about Journey to the West/Monkey but I'm sure those weapons would serve some symbolic meaning - there's obviously some correlation with Pigsy (a pig) and the plough (digging the earth).

That's buddhist. I'm more familiar with Hinduism. I know in the Mahabharata these weapons, especially celestial weapons, were bestowed on the characters by great personalities by fulfilling a quest for them. It's probably your original plot idea of "Powerful benefactor wants you to go on a quest and in return will reward you with magical item" type scenario.

But there's also a strong theme of righteousness over martial skill winning a battle. There is a quote, which I can't remember exactly now, by a great general (I think it was Bhisma), that basically goes; "Not by training in the martial arts does one win a war but by virtue." In the battle of Kuruksetra, for example, there were a lot of 'lesser' warriors in martial skill who succeeded beating their opponents because they "had clean hearts".

So, I guess this is your "spiritual attributes" or "aspects" that a lot of modern RPG's have.

My game is a lot more pulp fantasy than that. I don't want to get too deep into this stuff and have deliberately avoided deeper character concepts. My game idea is more cliche and stereotype, but in that there is a definate role weapons play in depicitng a character.







Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: Maugh on October 16, 2009, 04:33:25 AM
Absolutely nothing, hurr!

One way to represent weapons is the "appropriate tools" method. They are required for a style of fighting, and when you don't have one you have to switch your skills, maybe form another martial art. This puts weapons in perhaps a more appropriate place; in the combat section!

On the subject of upgrading weapons, one strange game I came across had magic items turn into portals to a subplane, and and defeating things in that subplane empowered the weapon! Naturally in tabletop games you can imagine people using that to hide inside their swords, chop people in half using a closing portal, or any number of strange innovations, but I thought it was a pretty amusing unification of game mechanics.

Disgaea!



Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: Andre Canivet on October 20, 2009, 07:20:34 PM
JP, although it may not help for a pulp style game, this thread got me thinking about the significance of a weapon's maker.  This could be something generic, like "elves and dwarves make weapons of high quality," or it could be something really deep; like the story of the Masamune and the Muramasa. 

Both were legendary craftsmen of Samurai swords, and someone wanted to test the quality of their blades.  First they stuck a Muramasa sword into a running stream.  Every leaf that touched the blade was cleanly sliced in two.  Then they put the Masamune blade in the water... but instead of cutting the leaves, the leaves avoided the blade.

I've always been fascinated by that story, because it suggests not only that the Masamune was somehow alive and resonated with the living process of nature, it also suggests that the best weapon is the one you don't have to use.  So there's definitely a moral as well as magical aspect to the sword.

I don't know if that helps at all, but, well, there it is.

Cheers


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: decline on November 14, 2009, 10:53:47 AM
Hi all,

Thanks for the replies, there are some interesting ideas in there. So, one thing I'm thinking of doing is keeping it pretty simple as far as 'weapons stats' go, they get 1 bonus to something. This method will also help players choose the type of character they play. To give you an example:

Cutlass: You get a bonus when on ships or in tight spaces.
Bow: You get a bonus when shooting at targets at long distance.
Spear: You get a bonus when hunting.
Polearm: You get a bonus when fighting mounted units
Sword: You get a bonus in any formally arranged combat for honour or show (e.g. Gladatorial contest or a challenge to a duel).

etc. etc.

So I think this brings out the weapons purpose as well as the nature of the character.
Just read this, and honestly my knee jerk reaction was to cringe.  it feels a bit arbitrary.
a cutlass is a cutlass is a cutlass.  it works no better on a ship than off a ship.  unless we are saying that cutlasses in this world have a magic nature to them that does make them work better when around salty air or something.  the bow is actually a preferred hunting weapon over a spear for a reason..and the spear is a polearm.  so why does it get a bonus to hunt with?  if i can shoot an animal from far away isn't that better than having to run up on it?  and similarly the sword doesn't really become mystically better because it is being used in a duel. 

what this is suggesting is that if Gary The Not So Good picks up a sword and enters a duel he is all of a sudden Gary The Better.  But once that duel is over he goes back to being not so good.  Or Sid The Pirate who uses his cutlass to cut through rope on the ship all of a sudden can't cut a rope as well because it is in an open field. 

also with the bow...the bow shoots, that is what it does, it is only built for distance, so according to this its bonus seems kind of crappy...assuming all ranged weapons get a bonus at a distance.  then its only advantage is right back to what it's only advantage is.  that is to say, no matter what a sword damages plus gets a weird bonus when being used in a duel.  the bow just seems to be functioning as it always would, without any real advantage other than what it already has over other weapons in that it is ranged.

sorry, maybe i've missed something in the thread?...


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: Larry L. on November 14, 2009, 04:36:42 PM
Hi JP,

Are weapons necessarily "equipment" in this game? That is to say, are they some kind of loot you upgrade or switch out?

One thing that's pronounced in character designs for, say, anime and video games is that each character wields a unique weapon which is an intrinsic part of their personality. These weapons aren't interchangeable. You don't save up your loot to buy a better weapon. You don't grab another guy's weapon and get the advantages of his weapon. The weapons were conceived as part of the character concept, right from the beginning. The weapon is effectively just part of the character's "superpower".

It seems to me if you want to incorporate this sort of "weapon as personality," you should make weapon design part of the character creation process. Encourage players to conceive of the weapon first, then provide a generalized system of weapon design so they can reasonable make any kind of weapon they can imagine. Maybe have a shopping list of powers/attributes a weapon can have.

Does this make sense? Does this fit with what you're trying to do?


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: tleeuwenburg@gmail.com on November 16, 2009, 09:54:30 PM
I've been thinking of weapons for my YARPG also. I was thinking along the lines of weapons coming in different quality brackets, e.g.:
  Poor quality / Common. -1 to use.
  Good quality / uncommon: use based on raw ability
  Exceptional quality: +1 to use

Beyond that, each weapon is not different to other kinds of weapon in its class. A shortsword is much the same as a cutlass, for the purposes of combat resolution. However, player abilities can be more specific. A character will have the ability to use both a class of weapons (sword) and a preferred specialisation (rapier). They can use any sword at -1, but are better trained with their chosen type of weapon. If someone wants a character which uses an exotic weapon (e.g. katana), then the bonuses don't come from some weird inherent betterness of the weapon, but from the characters high level of skill with the blade.

However, magical weapons will also be allowed, and I also think it's a nice idea to allow weapons to 'level up' and stay as a part of the character, at least as an option for the players who want that. I think it's quite reasonable to have characters which have a 'permanent' or 'signature' weapon which doesn't get abandoned. Maybe the characters own magic just rubs off on the weapon, or whatever.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic had something like that, where eventually you got your own personalised lightsaber which took on attributes that you could choose yourself. The question is whether the weapon does (or should?) become a swiss army knife itself! Should it just have level-dependent effects, or should it be upgradeable, or should signature-class weapons have their own 'skill tree'?


Title: Re: Weapons, what are they good for?
Post by: Hereward The Wake on November 19, 2009, 04:35:10 PM
Obviously a better made weapon would function better, but even a superior weapon in the hands of a knuckle head will not function as well. A well made sword badly used can still break, a poory made sword in the hands of a master swords man, will still be more effective than a superior wapon in the hands of an incompetent?

I was thinking that perhaps much of the power and mystic attached to a specific weapon, a sword foe exampke is in the mind of the weilder, and those that face it? The sword gains a reputation, rather like a person might, in itself it might be just above avaerage quality, but becaus eits been through many fights and killed some trolls it develops a rep, also partly due to the rep of the person/s that have used it?
How onw reflects this in games mechanics, rather then just +/- is something else!
Best
JW