Welcome back, readers! First, let me say, I’m pleased that you have stuck with me thus far, as we’ve talked about the tools used by both wizards, and barbarians, and yet, we have continued to step over dollars, to get to dimes. It is time we tackled the meat of the arms and armor discussion, those things favored by Fighters, paladins, and thieves, not to mention basically anyone in this fantastic world, looking to defend themselves.
I should first start with what we DO know. Wizards tend to favor the staff and baton, which makes sense, not only as a trope, but also mechanically in GURPS, as a character that invests fewer points into the martial, benefits from the staff’s better parry score. (Note: for info about parrying scores, and weapon skills, see GURPS Basic Set 1: Characters p208.) But knights like swords, dwarves have their axes, even those strange druids use a Sickle.. Why, and whats the difference? What makes one better than the others? That’s the tricky question.
A staff isn’t a bad cheap weapon for anyone with only a few points, but it does limit you to Crushing damage, much the same as you get from punches, hammers, maces and the like. Crushing damage is fine, it certainly kills things as well as anything else, if not as quickly.. As we start to look for improving out damage, which, let’s be honest, is the whole idea, right? We can look to three other options, cutting, piercing, and impaling. Each of these has its place, though in fantasy, we deal less in piercing damage than higher tech games do, so I’ll deal with that first. Piercing is typically small parts that enter you, making small holes, like one would expect. Some arrows do this, but arrows and bows have yet to make much of an appearance in our game, and I think that I can leave them for their own post. Short version, Piercing is mainly for bullets. Cutting and impaling both give you a modifier on your damage, if any of it gets through your targets armor-style defenses, and that can make all the difference, when bringing down a foe.
Cutting weapons are the bread and butter for a civilized fantasy world. Swords, axes, many polearms, are all fine examples. If it could cut off an arm in a movie, it’s right at home here. Impaling weapons are the ones that jam a big part of themselves into you, and then hopefully, pull it back out, doing more damage when it happens, in many cases. Grognak’s warhammer, and the spiked end of Brody’s burner both do this, and while Grognak’s never had trouble yanking it free, with his ridiculous strength, it’s possible Brody may have to lug around the unlucky goblin from time to time, who refuses to come free.
Swords, being the shining example of the fantasy weapon, can double dip, if made right. Cutting when swung, but impaling when thrust into its target. It’s a delicate dance, because often swinging gives more raw force, but impaling can leave greater injury, to certain locations. In the former campaign, the archer was fond of putting an arrow in her prey’s eye, which worked to great effect.
Now that the lesson in games mechanics is out of the way, let’s discuss the fun part, what we can get our hands on, and what we can do with it, once we have it.
Swords are popular for a reason. (Note: My Sifu has said this bit before, and while its good info, I don’t see it exactly the same way. Read his bit, and then understand that what I say is the law in my game.) Swords are the height of technology, giving you options in the attack and damage department, and can range in price and size, from low, to incredibly high. As I see it, Elves made the first swords, and if you asked one, still make the best ones. It’s hard to disagree, seeing as they have hundreds of years to master their craft at both the creation and use of the blade. The flip side of that, is that elves take them very seriously, and do not share their secrets, nor do they make anything but the best. If you want and elven blade, you had better be friends with an elven smith. Good friends. (Note: Elven blades aren’t a specialty found in the GURPS books, but I found a ruling from Kromm, and I’m moving forward with it, because I think it fits, and the flavor was just too good.)
Humans might have been late to the party, but they make up for it with enthusiasm! Humans will make all manner of swords, cheap, expensive, and in between. Despite not being elves, a human can make you a blade fit for a king, and charge you the ransom of one for it.
Dwarves. Dwarves can make swords, and I’m sure they do, but from what I read in the many GURPS books, and my experience in fantasy, I’d have to say that Dwarves really feel more at home with the Axe/Mace skill, and we’ll get to them soon..
Gnomes, halflings, orcs, and the rest aren’t particularly known for their swords either, thought many have carried them, or their ilk, in game and literature alike. Orcs tend to fond of the greatsword, and I seem to recall a hobbit having a particularly fine elven short sword, in some book or another.. Hmm what could that have been.. Swords can be small, short, broad, and great, and for most definitions, also include daggers and larger knives. There are a special range of swords known as Fencing weapons, these tend to be on the very light end of the scale. Just because the name is one thing, doesn’t mean that’s its skill. Zen’s fancy new backsword uses the Broadsword Skill, which, incidentally she didn’t have, before finding the sword. Swords main drawback, is price. If you want one of even decent quality, its gonna cost you.
Options for swords are many, Cheap, Fine, Balanced, Elven, and even Very Fine, are available, it should be noted that only swords can carry the Very Fine title, and can be made from most metals found in the land. People will enchant a sword with any number of beneficial spells. Extra damage, a boost to your skill, even the ability to cut through armor. One could even wreath a blade in flame, or lightning, both short and long term. So many choices, so few hands….
-Axes, and maces, and flails oh my!
Axes might not be as popular as swords, in the myths. Maces even less so. And yet, I’m certain that they outnumber swords, if only because they were tools first, and weapons second, every smith, farmer and woodsman has at least one lying around. Don’t let that fool you. In GURPS, the high damage weapons are often in the Axe/Mace world. Frau started out with a mace, mostly because it was cheap. Despite crushing her foes, she upgraded pretty quickly to the axe, and I’m betting that’s where she’s gonna stay. No surprise that Frau happens to be a dwarf, and dwarves, love them some axes. Beside the heavy armor, which we will get to at a later date, Dwarves only specialize in the creation of axes and maces, which tells me, at least, that it was their weapon of choice, and after a bit of trial and error, they fixed the one downside to a big heavy weight on a stick, it’s inability to parry, and started mass producing them. The Family here is as broad as swords. And extends from the simple knobby club, to misused chair, to Tetsubos, and greataxes all the way up to, but not including Flails, which we will get to next, as it’s pretty clearly the next step in the weapon’s evolution. In addition to the Dwarven upgrade, unlike Elven blades, which is a widely known technique, axes and maces can be fine, or balanced, made from all manner of materials, and even equipped with an additional head, such as Frau’s hammer/axe, and Grognak’s Axe/Pick. Versatility comes at a cost, as it takes time to switch between sides, but it can be a lifesaver in the field. Enchantments are the same options as swords, thankfully.
Humans, orcs, dwarves, and many other races, understand the benefits of a simpler weapon, not to mention a much reduced cost. A Maul only sets you back $80, and gives you swing damage +4, for the trouble. It may only be a big rock on a stick, but it does the job!
Flails, aren’t really axes or maces. They are their own special kind of weapon, but I find it easier to talk about them together. A flail, is a handle, with a chain or rope, on the end of which is a heavy thing to hit people with. If you’ve ever played Castlevania, you are familiar with the GURPS Morning Star, which is probably the best example available. Handle, chain, spiky ball. A thing of beauty. One smaller flail is known as the Nunchaku, and most of us have seen these in the hands of a giant reptile (no, not the one who hates Tokyo). There aren’t a ton of weapons in the skillset, a couple single-handed, and one double, but they have the distinct advantage of being hard to defend against. You can dodge just fine, but parrying and blocking get tricky. I myself played a Gnoll Knight who used a big flail to great success, swinging it over the heads of my shield-bearers and ally in front of me. Good times. Flails can be given all the same benefits as any axe or mace, and enchanted thusly. Gnolls are the only race generally associated with the flail, unless you count the Belmont Clan, but I don’t. Anyone CAN use one, but it tends to be a stylistic decision, more than anything else.
Playing a fun character rather than a min-maxed munchkin, tends to make a better game for all involved, but maybe that’s just me. I game to have fun, and I realize not everyone has their fun the same way. Right then, moving on.
-Fresh baked miscellaneous?
There are always more weapons. Whips, spears, polearms of all makes and models. Even the Kusari from the mysterious east. All of these are available to adventurers in the game, some can be a bit harder to find, depending on who you are, but they are out there. I’m sure that if Zen decided she needed a Dragon Hide whip, she could drum up someone to make it for her, like you do.. But where’s the fun in that?
-But I don’t want to spend a fortune on that!
Way back, when I started this game, I told my players that if there was something they wanted, some special bit of cool or rare equipment, all they had to do was tell me, and I’d happily craft one up, and cast it out, somewhere into the world. Frau’s player made just such a request, and good to my word, the item is out there, waiting to be found. There are even rumors in the drum, waiting to be pulled out, with hints as to its location. Intrigue! I’m still happy to do this. Jianjun wants a spear that burns demons? No problem, maybe it’s guarded by a statue of a lion, deep in a jungle temple. The Red Lady seeks a bloodstone necklace that protects her from fire being used against her? Of course! Defeat a pack of lizard-men in the old lighthouse! Perhaps Brody seeks a long-lost dwarven Teddy Bear that sings battle songs to make him brave? There’s one rumored to be in possession of a local lord whose daughter has run off. It’s just that easy. Maybe you can’t afford that magic dagger, doesn’t meant you cant have one. That’s part of my job as GM, and frankly, a part I really enjoy. I know there are things out there now, that while the party might not know they want, I know they do..
Part of why I write these posts is to give my newer players a chance to learn what options are out there. Maybe you don’t know that potions are used as grenades, but you’d like the idea of having some around. Maybe you didn’t know that they could use Nunchucks. Unlike me, not everyone enjoys reading the Pdf’s on the- Bus.. yeah, that’s it, bus.. And I understand that. I’m the freak here, but I;m ok with it.
Now, you will notice that I only mentioned Brody and his burner once, and briefly, at that. There is a reason for this, and its simple. That is secret knowledge, and these posts are meant mainly for mass appeal. The party has certainly asked the dwarf what the heck he’s been carrying around, and I’m sure he’s given them the rundown, but we’ll see more of his tools as we go.
Well, thank you for joining me on this long-winded and meandering trip. The more I fill out the basics, the more I can answer questions if and when they come and build on them from here. Maybe next time I’ll bring out a few magic weapons, giving an idea of what’s out there. Or, maybe’s ill write a scathing piece about elves and how those pointy eared freaks think they’re better than everyone.. but probably not.. I still want a good bottle of that elven brandy, after all..
Days & Nights, Nerds!