Hipsters & Dragons

Because roleplaying is social, creative, fun… and kinda cool!

Make Weapons Great Again: New 5e Weapon Properties

Ever felt frustrated that your choice of weapon means next to nothing in 5th edition Dungeon & Dragons?

There’s literally no mechanical difference between wielding a battleaxe or a longsword for example, and only nominal differences between handaxes, maces, spears, quarterstaffs, shortswords and scimitars – despite how different those weapons are in real life.

Longsword, battleaxe, warpick… what difference does it make!?

In many cases weapons have zero advantages over their closest counterparts… why wield a greataxe, when a greatsword does more damage? Or a maul come to think of it.  Mechanically, there’s almost nothing to reflect the martial advantages (and disadvantages) of different types of weapons, except their damage die.

Overall I feel like a potentially fun strategical choice has been taken away from players, by the rather too simplistic weapons table in the Player’s Handbook.

Overall I feel like a potentially fun strategical choice (what weapons to bring with you on an adventure) has been taken away from players, by the rather too simplistic weapons table in the Player’s Handbook.

At least for my taste. (I’m sure there many who will defend its simplicity… but hey, this post is not for those guys and girls! So no need to leave an angry comment about how I’m ruining D&D 😉 ).

For well over a year now, I’ve been thinking about how to add a dash of extra dynamism in the weapons department, in a simple and playable way.

The result of much thought, and a bit of behind the scene sums, is a new product called Slash, Stab, Hack, Repeat – which I’ve just released on The DM’s Guild, priced as “Pay What You Want”. (In other words, free, although I’ll be grateful if you grease my palm with a dollar or two if you think they’ll add something significant to your table…).

Get 19 new weapons properties for your game!

In Slash, Stab, Hack, Repeat!, I’ve created new rules for weapons that deal bludgeoning and piercing damage, as well as several new properties that bring a bit of extra flavour and mechanical crunch to many of the weapons in the Player’s Handbook.

I’ve also suggested two new rules regarding opportunity attacks, the first of which is fun, the second of which is designed to bring a bit of extra realism to combat (and helps balance the new ‘long’ property I’ve proposed in the same product).

My goals with the product were to:

  • Give players meaningful choices to make regarding which weapons they wield
  • To introduce a touch more realism to combat (or ‘fantasy realism’ as I like to call it… realism based on our perception of fantasy novels, TV and film!)
  • Keep things balanced and fast paced

I’m going to copy and paste the bulk of the content here, so you can see the new properties and rules variants. But you should download the product to see the revised Hipsters & Dragons Weapon Table, and which weapons have which new properties.

Slash, Stab, Hack, Repeat!

Melee and ranged weapons that deal bludgeoning or piercing damage enjoy the following benefits:

Bludgeoning weapons

When attacking with a melee weapon that deals bludgeoning damage, if you miss by 1, you hit instead, dealing half the normal damage to the target. You cannot deal sneak attack damage on the hit.

Piercing weapons

Weapons that deal piercing damage are capable of particularly grievous wounds, impaling their victims and rupturing vital organs. When you score a critical hit roll a d6. On a 4, 5 or 6, triple the weapon’s damage dice instead of doubling them.

 New Weapon Properties

A list of new weapon properties.

Charge.  This weapon can be used to deal lethal damage on a charge. If you move at least 20 feet in a straight line before engaging an opponent, you may choose to take a -4 modifier on your first attack roll against that creature. If you hit with that attack, you roll an additional damage die, equal to that of the weapon’s usual damage die.

Handy. You have advantage on attack rolls against a creature you are grappling, as well as against creatures that are grappling you.

Long. While you are wielding a long weapon, any creature that is not wielding a long weapon (or natural weapon of 10 feet reach) provokes an opportunity attack from you when they enter your reach. If you have the Polearm Master feat, you gain advantage on this roll. You have disadvantage to hit an opponent that is grappling you, or grappled by you, when you attack with a long weapon.

Long (defence). Weapons with the long (defence) property have the same benefits and disadvantages of those with the long property, but with one additional benefit. If you hit a creature with an opportunity attack as they enter your reach, you reduce their speed to zero.

Parry. When you are wielding a weapon with the parry property and a creature you can see hits you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to add 1 to your AC for that attack, potentially causing the attack to miss you. You must have a Dexterity score of 13 or higher to take advantage of this feature, which can be used in conjunction with the Defensive Duelist feat.

Parry (versatile). A weapon with the parry (versatile) property may be used to parry normally with one hand (see above), or using two hands, in which case the wielder may add 2 to their AC.

Riposte. The speed of this weapon allows you to turn defence into attack. Whenever using the parry property of your weapon causes an attack to miss you, as part of the same reaction you make make a retaliatory melee attack, using your Dexterity modifier for the attack and damage rolls.

Savage. Savage weapons combine speed, weight and penetration, enabling them to deal decisive blows in combat. When you roll a 19 on an attack roll, roll an additional d6. If you roll the number given in parentheses next to the weapon, or higher, you score a critical hit. If the weapon has the versatile property reduce the number in the parentheses by 1, when it is wielded in two hands. If there is no number in parentheses, no need to roll a d6, a 19 is an automatic critical hit.

Shield-wrap. You gain a +1 to attack rolls against opponents wielding a shield.

Short. See special (dagger dual wield), below.

Smash. Weapons with the smash property offer their wielders a bonus to Strength (Athletics) checks to knock down wooden doors. The bonus is +2 for one-handed weapons, and +5 for both two-handed weapons and versatile weapons used with two hands.

Sneaky. This weapon is deadly against a distracted foe. When you deal sneak attack damage you may reroll any 1s on the damage dice, taking the new roll instead.

Spear. This multi-purpose weapon possesses the benefits of the spear’s charge and long properties. Attacks using these properties deal 1d8 piercing damage, instead of the weapon’s usual damage.

Special (bludgeoning). When you miss by 1 with this weapon, you deal half damage instead. Additionally, you may choose to deal bludgeoning damage against creatures with vulnerability to this damage type.

Special (dagger dual wield). You may dual wield with this weapon, providing your second weapon has the short property.

Two-handed (revised). When you score a critical hit with a two-handed weapon (or versatile weapon used with two hands) you may double your Strength damage modifier, as well as the damage dice.

Unwieldy. This weapon is impractical to use in a skirmish. You have disadvantage to hit creatures at close range, and your speed is halved. If mounted, your mount’s speed is not affected. Any one-handed weapon with the unwieldy quality needs to be used two-handed when not mounted.

My revised Weapons table, with new properties. Buy here.

Unarmed Strikes (Monks)

A monk’s unarmed strikes have the parry and riposte properties. However a monk cannot use the parry property against certain weapons, such as swords, unless they invest in some funky arm guards!

Opportunity Attacks (Rules Variants)

– Opportunity attacks made with thrown weapons have advantage, provided the attacker is already carrying the weapon (i.e. doesn’t have to draw it).

– Whenever you make an opportunity attack against a creature, you provoke an opportunity attack from all other hostile creatures within reach of you.

Design Notes

The latter of these two rules is designed to prevent outnumbered foes making opportunity attacks with impunity. Effectively it allows creatures to cover an ally’s retreat via numerical advantage. It also means creatures with long weapons, already engaged in combat, pay a price to attack new combatants as they enter their reach. (Alternatively you could rule that only creatures not engaged in combat can take advantage of the opportunity attacks granted by the long property / Polearm Master feat).

The former offers a cool advantage to those carrying throwable weapons, and reflects the ease of aiming at an unguarded rear, without having to get close enough to strike with a melee attack.

Critical Misses

Some while ago I gave critical misses a similar treatment, so if you want to grab my Fumbles Tables from the DMs Guild, that’s also a Pay What You Want product… I’ve been using them for a while and I think they work pretty well. Reviews ain’t bad either.

Magical Weapons

Like yourself some arcane booty? Here are ten free magical weapons for your table… for another hundred or so, plus a funky ‘Magic Weapon Generator’ with 1000s of combinations of properties check out Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons.

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3 Comments

  1. jd

    Nice work!

  2. Itarion

    I’m not sure that you’re actually aware of the system that you’re critiquing. The advantages of real world weapons aren’t a feature of the weapons themselves, but a combination of the weapon and the skill of the user. Accordingly, most of these “new” properties you mention are covered in various class features or feats, as a mark of the skills of the wielders.

    The summary is that a lot of what you’ve added here is already in the game, but locked behind the characters design and experience. As such, it’s really an unnecessary complication.

    Charge: Covered by the Charger feat.

    Handy: covered by the Grappler feat.

    Long: covered by the Polearm Master feat (which feat you know about, and acknowledge is virtually identical).

    Parry: Covered (by name) in the Battlemaster fighter archetype/Martial Adept feat, as well as the acknowledged Defensive Duelist feat.

    Riposte: see previous, except Defensive Duelist.

    Savage: Covered by the Champion fighter archetype

    Shield-wrap: actually interesting and new, but applicable to only one weapon.

    Short: This is covered by the light property. Any weapon with the light property can be dual wielded without taking the Dual Wielder feat or the Two-Weapon Fighting class feature. Otherwise, the rapier’s dual wield is covered by a feat, indicative of a skill focused on dual wielding with a rapier.

    Smash: There are rules for damaging objects that function via object health. I’m not sure this adds anything of value, as real world weapons are not designed for breaking doors. They can be used for it, but it’s not part of what they’re about.

    Sneaky: This is largely the same as finesse, which allows the rogue to sneak attack in the first place. Since it specifies sneak attack, this serves solely as a (wholly unnecessary) damage buff to the rogue class.

    Spear: This is just a special entry for a specific weapon. Why?

    Special (bludgeoning): same shield wrap above.

    Special (Dagger dual wield): see Short, above.

    Two-handed, revised: This serves purely as a buff to two handed weapons, but it’s essentially a return to 3.5 that used 1.5x STR on weapons wielded with two hands.

    Unwieldy: this is covered in the lance’s special description, which means it technically only covers the pike. This is really weird, because the pike is an infantry weapon specifically designed as a counter to cavalry. Declaring it as a cavalry weapon is out of character with the real world use of the weapon.

    Monk’s Parry and Riposte: monks already get bonus action Dodge, they have enough to let them not get hit.

    Opportunity attacks:
    Thrown: free buff to rogue, again. This one is odd: I see the thought, that you’re throwing a weapon at a fleeing target, making it easier, but that justification violates the mechanics of the AoO, which is always a melee attack.
    Opportunity attack: Why does taking advantage of an opening create an opening? Additionally, the justification is falls flat, because there’s already a way to prevent AoO provoked by movement: the Disengage action.

    • duncan

      Feedback is always welcome, and there are many reasons why folks won’t want to use these OPTIONAL PROPERTIES, but it seems to me like you’re in a bit too much of a hurry to denounce these rules, to the point where you are being obtuse and labouring against common sense.

      The idea that you have to take a feat to take advantage of the fact that a spear has a reach advantage over most other weapons, for example, or that you should take the grappling feat in order to be have an advantage using a dagger in a situation where a granny would profit from having one, over a longsword, is a trifle absurd.

      A few more specific counterpoints to your criticisms…

      “I’m not sure that you’re actually aware of the system that you’re critiquing. The advantages of real world weapons aren’t a feature of the weapons themselves, but a combination of the weapon and the skill of the user.
      Accordingly, most of these “new” properties you mention are covered in various class features or feats, as a mark of the skills of the wielders.
      The summary is that a lot of what you’ve added here is already in the game, but locked behind the characters design and experience. As such, it’s really an unnecessary complication.”

      Locked is a good adjective… 90% of PCs won’t be able to access the basic situational advantages different weapons should offer. You could, if you wanted, make being proficient in the weapon a prerequisite of being able to take advantage of certain properties, but I don’t think that’s even necessary. But at any rate, “a mark of the skills of the wielders” would surely apply to a fighter who is proficient in a weapon.

      “Charge: Covered by the Charger feat.”

      Aside from the fact my mechanic is actually quite different to that in the feat, this is a terrible feat, that no one I know has ever taken, so it may as well not exist in game terms.

      “Handy: covered by the Grappler feat.”

      A little used feat in my experience, and besides one which would confer advantage with all weapons when grappled. So there’s still a point to having the grappler feat, and this addition hardly interferes with the existing rules. (But now that it has a situational advantage, that dagger that everyone carries around with them in their boot/belt, but never uses, actually has a point to it).

      “Long: covered by the Polearm Master feat (which feat you know about, and acknowledge is virtually identical).”

      Yes, and so I provide a buff for Polearm Master feat to make up for the fact that you shouldn’t have to be 0.001 percent of polearm wielders to take advantage of the fact that a spear/glaive etc. is long… the humble guard knows how to use a spear, and take advantage of its properties.

      “Parry: Covered (by name) in the Battlemaster fighter archetype/Martial Adept feat, as well as the acknowledged Defensive Duelist feat.”

      The fact that is appears already in two places is proof therefore that duplicating abilities is not necessarily a bad thing. Two spells that both do fire damage don’t render one another pointless, esp. if they are accessed in different ways and are of different power.

      “Riposte: see previous, except Defensive Duelist.”

      Ditto my response.

      “Savage: Covered by the Champion fighter archetype”

      A really fun ability that never comes into play. I have yet to see a PC play a Champion. I don’t say as much, but obviously for a Champion the savage quality would come into play on an 18.

      “Short: This is covered by the light property. Any weapon with the light property can be dual wielded without taking the Dual Wielder feat or the Two-Weapon Fighting class feature. Otherwise, the rapier’s dual wield is covered by a feat, indicative of a skill focused on dual wielding with a rapier.”

      The dual wield feat was built to allow people to wield two long swords. The rapier doesn’t have the light property because it deals 1d8, and the designers didn’t want people to have two d8 weapons without taking a feat. It weighs 2lbs, 1lb less than a scimitar which does have the light property. In other words, realistically it should have the light property but mechanically it unbalances the game, just as fighting with two long swords does. By creating the short property for dagger and this special property for rapier I am allowing the swashbuckler to wield their iconic weapon, the rapier, provided they pair it with a dagger. This allows a rogue to have a non-game-breaking d8 + d4 (instead of d6 + d6), without having to take a feat (a feat which would then push them towards wielding two rapiers, which is a ridiculous – for me at least – combo, but one that is completely viable in the game).

      “Smash: There are rules for damaging objects that function via object health. I’m not sure this adds anything of value, as real world weapons are not designed for breaking doors. They can be used for it, but it’s not part of what they’re about.”

      Really? Then why do firefighter carry an axe? This rule actually game about when a player of mine complained they had no mechanical benefit for having a maul when trying to break down a door. He is a medieval historian, martial artist and weapons expert.

      “Sneaky: This is largely the same as finesse, which allows the rogue to sneak attack in the first place. Since it specifies sneak attack, this serves solely as a (wholly unnecessary) damage buff to the rogue class.”

      It’s clearly not the same as finesse. What it does is provide a reason for the rogue to take the shortsword instead of the scimitar. Now you have a choice. Scimitar is better for parrying, shortsword better for dealing deadly wounds to distracted foes.

      As I tried to make obvious these properties are for giving players choices and situational advantages. If you just want to roll a d6 and doesn’t bother you that there’s no difference between a scimitar or shortsword, that’s fine as well. Just I find it very dull.

      Actually might be cool to give the shortsword an advantage that applies to other classes as well. Could rewrite sneaky to be, ‘when you have advantage on an attack and you hit, you can roll the damage die twice and take the higher one.’ Or reroll 1 and 2s, as you prefer.

      “Spear: This is just a special entry for a specific weapon. Why?”

      This means you can use the halberd as a spear instead of a slashing axe-style weapon if you choose. Look up a halberd and you’ll see it has a spike on it, designed to be used as a piercing weapon (although the default way of using it according to teh PH is as a slashing weapon). Players can now choose between a glaive that has a greater chance to dealing a crit. or a halberd which has the versatility of being able to be used as a spear. (Arguably in real life a glaive could be used in such a way, but I decided to imagine a glaive as more like a Japanese naginata in order to differentiate between the two weapons, which in the PH are identical).

      “Two-handed, revised: This serves purely as a buff to two handed weapons, but it’s essentially a return to 3.5 that used 1.5x STR on weapons wielded with two hands.”

      It’s a buff that makes sense.

      “Unwieldy: this is covered in the lance’s special description, which means it technically only covers the pike. This is really weird, because the pike is an infantry weapon specifically designed as a counter to cavalry. Declaring it as a cavalry weapon is out of character with the real world use of the weapon.”

      I tried to group these two weapons together for ease, but maybe, given the existing rules on lances, I could have just written something for the pike and this might have been clearer.

      “Monk’s Parry and Riposte: monks already get bonus action Dodge, they have enough to let them not get hit.”

      Given that these weapon properties make all weapon-using martial classes more effective, it’s only fair that the monk also benefits.

      “Opportunity attacks:
      Thrown: free buff to rogue, again. This one is odd: I see the thought, that you’re throwing a weapon at a fleeing target, making it easier, but that justification violates the mechanics of the AoO, which is always a melee attack.”

      The thrown property rarely gets used in 5e. I wanted to create another situation where it comes in handy. (Also I had been watching a lot of Vikings throwing hand axes around while pondering on these mechanics….)

      “Opportunity attack: Why does taking advantage of an opening create an opening? Additionally, the justification is falls flat, because there’s already a way to prevent AoO provoked by movement: the Disengage action.”

      I don’t understand what you’re failing to see here. If someone flees and I step forward a pace or two to strike them, I am of course opening myself up to attack.

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