Monday, February 22, 2016

Size & Weapons

There's no doubt that the Podcast I posted with my daughter and I is a far more interesting thing than anything I have to say today, and I do urge the reader to go and listen to it - all the same, however, I am still wrestling with problems associated with the enlarge spell.

Specifically, this:

Something that has been eternally overlooked in early versions of D&D (and possibly later ones as well, how the hell would I know?) is that all humans and demi-humans within a certain height and weight cause the same amount of damage with the weapons they're using.

Take orcs, for instance: my old Monster Manual lists them at 6+ feet tall, yet their long swords are presumed to do the same amount of damage as an elven female that's 4 and a half feet tall and is probably a third in weight.  If I were to use the weapons' damage table I put up on my last post and apply it to elves, half-elves, gnomes or halflings, an "enlarged" halfling that was still smaller than an ordinary human could be causing 50% more damage per hit.

This would suggest, then, that any weapons' damage adjustments that were made should not be based upon the character's comparative change, but upon a ratio that was then applied to a fixed number: say, 175 lbs., the average weight given for an average human male in the original Dungeon Master's Guide (which I'm guessing presumed that humans in a fantasy medieval setting would be a bit starved).

Well, we all know why that won't go over well.

It means that a halfling or elven character will suffer greatly in the amount of damage they can cause. It means that not only will humans gain a key advantage over demi-humans, but that humans who happen to get lucky and roll characters of massive size and breadth will have an even greater advantage.  I have a half-orc fighter in my campaign, Hig, that is 260 lbs - if we judge weapon damages on weight, then Hig's weight must give him considerable advantage over the 60 pound halfling thief in my world.  Can these two characters really do the same amount of damage with a short sword?

I have brought this question up in front of my players and the general consensus is there will be absolutely no adjustments made to weapon damage based on character weight.  The emphasis is THEIRS.  I'm quite certain I would face an insurrection were I to try to bring in a rule reflecting the reality on this principle . . . yet of course these same players would happily embrace any enlarging spell framework that would allow their weapons to do more damage.

What to do, what to do?

I've heard all the alternative arguments, so if my readers could please refrain from advancing hand-waving points regarding "large people move slower," "smaller surfaces offer greater impact per square inch" or "elves have greater skill with a blade" and so on.  Such arguments are exercises in lampshade hanging, have no relevancy where it comes to numbers and are necessarily based on prejudices regarding the weapons skills of races other than humans (none of which I buy into, as I am not a DM who thinks highly of such nonsense).  I'm only interested in rules that can be absolutely applied to all contingencies.  If elves are so amazing with blades, why is it they don't hit more often or possess more proficiencies?  Are they amazing with every weapon?  Because, after all, the weight problem applies to everything from a club to a pole arm.  If I hit you with something bigger that I am able to swing in the same amount of time (a round) with the same chance of hitting you, then I'm sorry, mass applies and you, my friend, will take more damage.  If you are 40 pounds and you're swinging a mace at a cat, and I am 250 pounds and swinging the same mace at the same cat, and we both roll the same die and hit it with the same number, then the squished, splashy aspect of the hapless cat is going to be less enchanting when I'm done.

Here is one of those significant times when I have to argue that "simulation" deserves a good kick in the balls.  Yet it would be desireable to have some sort of scale that could be applied to creatures that were really big, say 300 lbs. and up.  And it would be nice if this wasn't based on some fuzzy scale like, "everything between 50 and 300 lbs. causes damage A and everything between 301 and 550 lbs. causes damage B."  I like the sort of nuance that says a difference between 221 lbs. and 243 lbs. matters.

For the moment, I don't have a solution.  I'm going to think about it.  If anyone wants to offer a mathematical solution (please, no fuzzy solutions), I am certainly going to listen.

Exemptions for characters only?  All other halflings in the world can only do 1d4 damage with a "long sword" to scale?

I'd consider it.


  1. Set the size of the creature as the base damage die for ANY weapon, with each weapon as a modifier. Say, set a Medium creature to be a d6, a Small creature to be a d4. Set a longsword to do base +1 damage, a shortsword or a mace to be straight damage, -1 for a dagger, -2 for a punch. That way, a human with a sword will do 1d6+1 damage before Strength adjustments, while a hobbit will do 1d4+1 damage with a sword.

    Mathematically, damage should scale with height. A d4 does 2.5 damage on average, a d6 does 3.5. Dividing 2.5 by 3.5 and multiplying it by 6 feet for a man, we get a hobbit who is 4 ft. 3 in., which errs on the side of generous but is reasonable.

  2. Oops.

    I should have said, no changing existing rules. The existing rules work. What is needed is an ADDED rule - knocking down the building to fix the wobble in a fourth floor hall is not practical.

  3. Not to mention that my players have already said, and I made this very clear in the post, that they won't tolerate different races in the party causing different damage with the same weapon. They want an even playing field between the elf, halfling and human; and I agree with that, since every player is entitled to embrace the race the like without a major penalty such as how much damage each causes in combat.

    I am all for adjustments for class (slight changes to ability scores, slight changes to amount of base hit points) - but a MAJOR change to damage done with weapons, no. NO ONE in my campaigns wants this.

    Hm. Might be a good podcast.

  4. What role does weapon size play? Presumably, were a giant somehow able to gather up enough metal to create a longsword that's, oh, say 10 feet long or something, that weapon would deal a hell of a lot more damage, regardless of whether the giant is 800 lbs or 850 lbs. You can probably examine the ratio of weapon mass/length/surface area as written (perhaps implementing changes to fix outliers to a linear progression) and then scale weapons along that line. This of course presumes a linear growth in weapon size is necessarily equivalent to more damage dealt.

    Looking at it in terms of mass, the question is perhaps What does mass give you? You've got more muscle, larger joints and longer limbs. According to Wikipedia, the strength of a muscle "depends upon length, shortening speed, cross sectional area, pennation, sarcomere length, myosin isoforms, and neural activation of motor units." Making the assumption that mass is linked to strength (which your character generator makes), having more muscle mass allows one to:
    - exert a greater force over an equal period of time (e.g. lifting)
    - exert an equal force over a longer period of time (e.g. endurance training)
    This seems like a clear parallel to some of the strength boosts of AD&D (e.g. bending bars or carrying equipment).
    I'll make one other fairly off-the-cuff assumption which is that improvements in strength become less noticeable as you grow stronger (I've noticed this personally while training at the gym, but that's fairly anecdotal).

    Putting this all together, I would expect the trusty Fibonacci sequence could provide you with a reasonable metric for something like a temporary strength boost provided by the enlarge spell. This would naturally increase a character's to hit and damage due to the presence of increased muscle mass, with longer muscles and sarcomeres, more or larger motor units and larger muscle cross-sections.

  5. Since
    1) your players want to keep the current status re: weapon damage, so a club is always 1-6 damage, no matter who does wield it (character, race, gender, weight, etc).
    2) But they are open to consider modifications on new rules, like the enlarging ones.

    I would then suggest to introduce a compensating racial factor that makes an elf, halfling, half-orc, etc. hit just as hard as a human, independent of their mass. But as they would have lower mass, this would cause them to be less (or more) affected by the enlarging spell. That would allow you a slight variability based on mass for different races (or even characters), but only in the framework of the spell, which is what your players are able to compromise on.

    So, if a gnome would weigh, on average, 40 lbs and a human 160 lbs (numbers made up for the sake of example), and supposing the human was taken as the baseline and thus given a racial modifier of 1, then the gnome would have a racial modifier of 4, and thus the base damage of both would be the same, defining "weapon damage" as "weapon damage by weight" * "racial weapon damage modifier". How do you interpret the number is up the you, the calculation stands on its own. By the same system you could apply a racial modifier of 2 to an elf of 80 lb, or even a fractional modifier (say, 0.5 for a hulking 320lb half-orc that must nonetheless strike exactly with the same damage as a human). And from this, you can freely extrapolate really dangerous giants with 800lb swords, which would have racial modifiers of even 1 while retaining their enormous weight.

    Since you don't want to change the status quo, for the application of this rule player characters must be either considered to weigh exactly their racial averages, or be exempt from the rule at all as you suggested. But now you don't need to suddenly downgrade all halflings in the world. Regular halflings will still be the same, while allowing for extraordinary big halflings to have a measurable, noticeable increase in menace. Bandobras Took anyone?

    As for the Enlarging spell, I think player characters could be exempt or not from the mass rule. Since they are open to it, I would personally apply it to them, so the big, tough half-orc would be better served with an Enlargement than the small, nimble elf. Small, situational advantages of some races against others are admissible, isn't it?

  6. They are, Scarbrow.

    This is an interesting solution. I shall have to think of how precisely to implement it.

  7. Perhaps you could consider who made the weapons? In an ideal world, weapons are made for the individual who is going to use them - you want a quarterstaff that is as long as you are tall, you want nunchaku that measure the length of your forearm, etc. One can make an argument that a longsword designed for a Halfling would be comparable to a short sword designed for a human. Now, if a Halfling uses a longsword designed for a human, it will deal the full 1d8 - the differences in muscle mass will be accounted for by the Strength score, the differences in sizing accounted for by reach.

    So, if those orcs are smithing their own weapons, then they should deal more damage - an orc longsword would probably be about the dimensions of a human bastard sword, but if they have looted or acquired their weapons from a human population, then they would do the same damage they have previously done.

    You already have mass categories for your hit point generation - perhaps for a non-human culture you could use the differences in mass category to adjust the damage die of a weapon made by that culture?

    Then you could apply the rule to your whole world, but since your players' characters will be using human-sized weapons, their damage won't change.

  8. Daniel,

    I simply argue that weapons longer or taller than the individual using them cannot be used: with most melee weapons, the limit is the character's height; with a spear or polearm, no more than twice the character's height; and with a pike, no more than three times the character's height.

    Therefore, a halfling can't use a "long sword." A long sword designed for a halfling is a short sword, end of story. This isn't a weight issue but a dimension issue; it's no good using a weapon that is so long it keeps hitting the ground.

    This gets me out of the weapons designed for races angle.

  9. That makes a great deal of sense.

    What about a modifier for damage? Weapons do their regular damage and also have a static modifier based upon the mass of the attacker (again, using the hit point mass categorization you employ). Using the Fibonacci sequence, perhaps with 0 at the regular human range and then using an inverse of the Fibonacci sequence descending (-1, -1, -2, -3, and so on) and the regular Fibonacci sequence ascending?).

  10. I don't play much D&D (none, I'm reading to get some advice on how to) but it seems to me that if you want to have a real life answer, ignoring what your players might want in this situation though it may appeal to some and the fact you wanted no major rule changes (as i said i havent played much i have no idea if this goes against what rules), you have to include the penalties of being big.

    Im not going to include the argument big people move slower, after all it is not wholly true (as a child did you ever race someone older than you? I did and i can tell you i was distinctly slower, my smaller legs cannot cover the same ground). Instead what i propose (and what i plan to implement provided my players agree) is that while a larger person may hit harder, have more health, and whatever bonuses, they begin to have issues elsewhere. A larger species may not fit through a door, they might not be able to ride a conventional horse, they will also end up having to buy more food. Someone twice as tall as a human will need significant (i didnt do the math but likely over 4 times or so) more food due to their increased energy use.

    In this system someone who was larger and as such was able to handle combat better and use their size to help with other aspects of life would also have to deal with the consequences involved with such mass, in addition a halfling, while causing less damage, would have to pay very little for the food they need to survive. As you already mentioned it is possible that people might want to be a race and not have to face any penalties or bonuses for being that race in which case you might have to find a different system of doing things. In my personal RPG system i believe this will work as character creation is 'looser' so to speak and as such if you are 3 meters tall, it is because you intended to hit hard and be a force on the battlefield and as such will welcome increased power at the cost of, well, increased cost.

  11. Hmm, maybe these weapons were built with this damage set in mind. My idea would be that using a longsword built for a human should do 1d8 damage, and a significantly heftier human, or orc, or whatever, using the same weapon theoretically could do more damage with it, but the increased strain would quickly destroy said weapon.

    So maybe having a weight advantage could give an extra +1 or +2, based on the average weight class of the race the weapon was built for, but any more would risk weakening or outright destroying the weapon. Though the max allowed would probably have to be changed depending on the weapon. A hefty mace would probably withstand more abuse than a flimsy rapier.

    I don't know how well this would translate into the differences between races. Adventuring heroes would need to be well versed in how to use their weapons, though I agree, a more 'real world' solution would be to have the smaller races do less damage with the same weapons. Maybe since the PC's are adventurers (I assume) they would know how to deal the standard amount of damage with whichever weapon they feel like using, while a city militia comprised of halflings would only bother using weapons traditional to their race.

  12. Hi Alexis,
    What about variation only at criticals rather than at base weapon damage. (I don't recall how you do crit damage; double dam?, roll again damage?)
    What if the critical damage die was mass based?

    Would other critical effects be adjusted too... knock back, trip

    Should one also adjust negative effects... does the sword fumbled by the 3m tall, 400kg thing just drop within 5ft, or its own height distance.
    Do weapons break more easily when used by bigger folk


  13. Hello kimbo,

    You've got me off the pot to write out the rules regarding criticals, fumbles and friendly fire for my wiki. See this page.

    Without there being specific rules, in game I usually judge that an attacker larger than 400 lbs. will knock a character back 2 hexes when stunning them; player characters will always drive back opponents 1 hex when stunning them unless the opponent is above 600 lbs., in which case a stun will not change the location of the defender.

    I should write that rule out sometime, too.


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