Dungeons & Dragons Online

Rant +X weapons are only boring if you want them to be

So I see this sentiment repeated a lot but honestly I think it’s just a failure of imagination.

Put yourself in the shoes of your character. Your weapon is the primary tool of your trade. Having a good sword (or whatever) can make the difference between life and death. Just look IRL how people get obsessed over sports equipment, or wristwatches, or computer builds, or cars. Your warrior is going to be extremely emotionally invested in the quality of their arms.

Now, so what about the weapon itself. Okay, so maybe it doesn’t fart rainbows or have some other niche effect, but what it does do is kill stuff really well. I suspect this idea that weapons need to have some flashy effect to be “interesting” is down to media: fight choreography is hard, and it’s a lazy shortcut to just invoke some flashy SFX rather than actually have one combatant be noticeably better than the other (though there are exceptions).

Or look at mythology. Gram; Hrunting; Durandal to name but a few. The sword given to Perseus by Zeus. None of these have spell-like abilities – they’re just really good swords. These were stories told by and for a warrior elite, people who have a visceral understanding of, and appreciation for, a really good sword.

(cultural aside: I've read an argument that the very concept of a magic sword begins from the iron age. Inconsistencies in iron production, impurities in the ore such as sulphur and phosphorous, carbon content, and temper could mean that the quality or iron swords varied much more widely than bronze swords, which are much more consistent in their properties. The felt experience of wielding an average sword versus and exceptional one would have been very apparent to an iron age warrior.)

A +1 weapon is better than the nicest mundane sword you will ever use. It's razor sharp, and light and nimble in the hand; perfectly balanced, it's a joy to use. The edge won't dull or chip, it won't take a set, it doesn't rust. It's made of the best materials, and is of the finest craftmanship. Check out youtubers like Skallagrim or Matt Easton when they review a sword they really like and how enthused they get, and then amp it up x2.

A +2 weapon is on another level. It may be made of exotic materials, it likely has a unique design; either way it looks pretty damn cool. It probably has a name; it may have a backstory; it may have been wielded by a famous hero. It's the work of months of labour from a master smith (depending on the rarity of NPCs with class levels in your world). When you hold it in your hand it feels amazing, like an extension of your own hand; every cut is perfect and it cuts ordinary materials like butter. It makes a newbie adventurer feel like a seasoned veteran. Outside of combat it's valued like a fine antique; nobles will want them to hang on their walls or just to flaunt their wealth.

A +3 weapon is the sort of thing that warriors dream of. Every one of them is a unique work of craftsmanship only achievable by the finest of smiths, using materials gathered from the dangerous locations of terrifying monsters. Wielding it feels like it's practically got a mind of its own, it guides your hand to gaps in armour or weak points almost without you realising it. The sword may well be more famous than you are.

tl;dr: Don't confuse the mechanics with a weapons effect on the world. The PCs exits in a world that understands and highly values the quality of weapons independently of whether they have fancy abilities. A rare weapon will be just unique and storied. If you think a +X weapon is boring, it's only because you haven't put any effort into its appearance, backstory, or how the PC would feel wielding it.

Thank you for listening to my TED talk.

Source: reddit.com

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