There was a fair amount of discussion over the list of weapon skills that I proposed for HD&D. There were a number of different approaches highlighted, and these resulted in varying types of weapons clumped in broader or narrower groups.
In this post, I will announce a definitive list of weapon skills and then invite you to vote on whether we adopt it or not. The revised list includes many of your suggestions, but I am guided by the following philosophy:
The game must still feel like D&D. In earlier editions all fighters shared the same base attack bonus, but could then choose to specialise in specific weapons. I want to keep that. The weapon skill becomes the broad base that any character can spend skill points to achieve. Additional specialisation comes through feats and talents.
As an extension of the first point, I have decided against replacing weapon skills with fighting style skills. James made a proposal that the style of how the weapon was used in combat is the more relevent skill, not the weapon itself. For example, hammers, axes, picks, clubs and maces all use the same “smash-him-over-the-head” technique. There’s much to recommend this idea, but it would make us rethink our entire approach to the D&D combat system. It would also make the weapons skills very broad. In the end, I decided that I didn’t really want to do that.
I wanted to limit the number of weapon skills. Depsite the number of skills in HD&D, I didn’t want weapon skills to dominate. I wanted to keep the number of weapon skills down to about the number of knowledge skills (twelve). However, it became a apparent that this could not be the case. I have come to agree with Marc, that a larger (and therefore more narrowly focused) list to begin with will help focus specialisation. I now also think that the feat Weapon Specialisation could safely apply to all the weapons covered by a skill, and not just one weapon. There will still be feats and talents that improve upon your character’s skill in one type of weapon, however.
I want to protect the traditional weapon roles of the classes. Wizards have normally been able to use a staff. I don’t want to create weapon groups so broad that wizards also suddenly find themselves proficient with all polearms. The same goes for Picks and Hammers. Yes, they may seem the same but Picks are traditionally gnomish weapons and Hammers are dwarven. A little distinction (even artificial) helps to distinguish between the races. This is good in the context of a roleplaying game.
Thematically similar but mechanically dissimilar weapons cannot be grouped together into a single skill. It doesn’t work in the context of a learned skill set. So good bye to mariner weapons, druid weapons, monk weapons and mounted combat as skills. Characters who want weapons from those areas will have to choose the skills separately.
I don’t want characters to need two different skills to use the same weapon. What this basically means is that I’m ruling out Thrown Weapons as a skill. If you have the Hammer skill, then you can wield a warhammer in melee and hurl a throwing hammer with equal proficiency. A contentious decision perhaps, but one I think is for the best when it comes to creating thematic characters.
Seventhly (and finally!)
Once I realised that I would have to expand the weapon list beyond twelve, I became determined that some weapons would appear under more than one heading. A single weapon in multiple categories goes a little way to broaden choice for martial characters. At the moment, this applies mainly to polearms but as I look more deeply into the weapons available in the game I will expand this principle.
So without further ado, this is the full list of weapon skills in the HD&D. I have highlighted a few examples of the type of weapons included in each group, but this is not a definitive list.
Hand-axe, battleaxe, greataxe dwarven waraxe, halberd
Dagger, knife, dirk, punching dagger, claw bracer, panther claw, stump knife, dart
Short sword, cutlass, sabre, rapier
Longsword, bastard sword, greatsword, glaive
Longbow, shortbow, composite versions of each
Chains, spiked chains, nunchaku
Light and heavy crossbows, repeating crossbows, hand crossbows
Light flail, heavy flail, dire flail
Throwing hammer, warhammer, craghammer, maul
Heavy, light, jousting
Maces & Clubs
Club, light mace, heavy mace, greatclub, sap, warmace
Light pick, heavy pick
Glaive, guisarme, halberd, ranseur, pike, longspear
Shield (as a weapon)
Buckler, light shield, heavy shield, tower shield
Sling, catapult, staff-sling
Spear, halfspear, javelin, longspear
Quarterstaff, bo, shepherd’s crook
Punch, kick, headbutt, gauntlets
Whip, scourge, whip-dagger
Which gives us twenty weapon skills. Far more than I intended. If the current poll continues its established trend then we’ll be adding “Supernatural Attack” to that list for certain characters.
I’m not looking for feedback on the type of weapons contained within each group at the moment. That can come later. What I’m looking for is a decision on whether these twenty weapon groups are right for HD&D. A simple yes or no from the poll below.
If you vote no (or even if you vote yes) please leave you comments and tell me why. This isn’t necessarily the definitive list, but it’s time to put Weapon Skills to one side for the time being and move onto something else.