Epic: Weapons and Armor

Rather than have exhaustive lists of various ancient weapons and armor (how does a katar compare to a kopesh?), I’ve just come up with a way to “build” weapons in what I think is a balanced way that will have the result that I want. After each basic set of rules for building weapons and armor, I’ll provide a few examples to give you a feel for the system.

Melee Weapons

For weapons, the basic things to consider are the length of the level that delivers the damage and the for that the damage takes. The lever multiplies the force of an attack – being hit with a baseball bat is worse than being hit with a baton. The form that the force arrives also multiplies – the smaller the area that is hitting the target, the more force is delivered across that area. Flat areas will deliver less damage than long, thin areas (blades), and these will deliver less damage than pinpoint areas (piercing weapons). Mass is also a consideration – why a board with a nail in it will often hurt less than a war-pick, for example – but mass should just be factored in to balance things out.

Smooth surface +0 (club, fist)
Surface with raised points but still relatively “blunt” +1 (morningstar)
Sharpened edge +2 (sword)
Piercing/puncturing point +3 (spear)

Short lever +1 (as long as a forearm)
Medium level +2 (as long as an arm)
Long lever/Sectional +3 (as long as a human body/like a flail)

–> In some cases, like the Spear, the length of the weapon isn’t used to multiply the force but rather for extended reach, so damage is reduced to reflect this. To make full use of a lever, a weapon must be swung, like an axe for example
–> The attacker’s arm is not counted as the “lever” in question
–> Weapons that use both hands add +1 to their damage
–> Weapons with raised points, the +1 variety, also have the effect of halving protection from Armor – things like the morningstar and flail were designed to deal with armored foes.
–> For all weapons, remember that their damage bonus +1 is the kind of average wound this weapon will deliver to an unarmored foe who is barely hit

Punch +0
Kick +1
Knife +3
Club +2
Staff +3
Bastard Sword (one-handed) +5
Broadsword +4
Spear +4
Halberd +7
Straightsword +5
Flail +4
Greatsword +6

Missile Weapons

The same consideration of how the damage is delivered is important here, but instead of a lever multiplying force, here force is often multiplied mechanically. The process is similar, but since there are also things like elasticity being taken into account, I’ve tried to generalize and I think the result makes sense.

Blunt +1
Cutting +2
Piercing +3

No Mechanism +0
Short Mechanism +2
Long Mechanism +3
Heavy Mechanism +4

Thrown rock +1
Thrown javelin +3
Thrown axe +4
Short Bow +5
Long Bow +6
Crossbow +7
Heavy Crossbow +8
Sling +3


Armor is a little more abstract, but I just tried to work it out so it balanced the way I wanted with the weapons. Armor is either a base or an add – base is what the armor is made of (leather, rings of steel, etc.) and add is what reinforces it (metal plates, metal studs or scales, a padded underlayer/gambeson, etc.)

Padded cloth or soft leather +1 (add or base)
Hardened/lacquered leather +1
Metal rings/studs +1 (add)
Layered metal rings +2
Shaped metal plates +1 (add)
Layered Metal plates +5

Chainmail +3 (padding, layered metal rings)
Composite armor +2 (cloth and hardened leather, Greek style)
Plate mail +4 (padding, layered rings, metal plates)
Plate armor +6 (padding, layered metal plates, Knight style)

–> As you can see, armor doesn’t often prevent damage entirely, it just helps mitigate it
–> Also, Endurance counts for a lot in this system. Endurance represents your ability to shurg off pain and your body’s ability to recover and function under stress. It seems like it might be unbalanced compared to armor, but I still think a flabby, asthmatic game designer in plate mail will get trounced a lot faster than a trained soldier…

Encumberance and Other Equipment, Special Materials, etc.

All upcoming.

2 thoughts on “Epic: Weapons and Armor

  1. It's interesting that you chose to try and account for physics in calculating damage. But this doesn't account for weapon speed, or damage to special locations. For example an arrow in the torso, neck or head is deadly because it has the potential of piercing a critical organ. If it hits you in the leg however it is much less effective. Whereas a broadsword isn't going to get an instant kill most swings purely by damaging a critical organ, but it is also going to be neutralized less by striking non-critical spots. A broadsword wound in the leg might end the fight.


  2. That's true – I drop some realism for the sake of speed. I also don't deal with hit location here – that's a optional rule that is represented by degree of success adding to damage when you hit someone in combat, but I don't have specific system in place for things like called shots. I'd rather have solid hits be something that the player and GM work out the effects of, based on the attacker's intent – i.e., I sever a hand, or I stab them in the face, etc.

    Basically, the system tries to represent general trauma, but the specifics are left open. If I were to publish this system, I'd have sidebars for things like “calling a shot” if someone wanted to add that rule


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