Monday, May 13, 2019


Play around and game design long enough, and eventually you'll shatter some intricate fabric of the game that you've been playing for 40 years.

I can't possibly explain how many times I've been in conversations ~ and arguments ~ about classes being free to use weapons in D&D.  I would expect the issue itself is dead as a dodo in 5th Edition, but that doesn't matter because the weapons are indistinguishable from one another anyway with regards to the effects of combat.  For me, the weapon by class restrictions have long been Biblical.

I have mostly argued that they exist because something needs to balance the power of the cleric or the wizard, and give a benefit to the fighter who, let's admit, never lacks for needing benefits.  So I have taken a hard stand, a slightly unrealistic stand, arguing for playability, enduring all the mentions of Gandalf's sword (who is, incidently, NOT a wizard, look it up you morons), Elric of Melnibone (who is barely a wizard), and Friar Tuck from that brilliant 1938 Robin Hood movie.

Okay, I made up that last one.  No one on the internet has ever seen the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood, and so they don't know that Friar Tuck uses a sword in it, though he is obviously a cleric, but that is my cross to bear, isn't it?

A friar with a sword?  Ridiculous!  Eugene Pallette squares off with Errol Flynn.

Incidentally, the film ~ and the legend ~ has a bard in it, mixing up Will Scarlet and Alan-a-Dale.  Ah Hollywood, what a minx you are.

The youngster was clothed in scarlet red,
In scarlet fine and gay,
And he did frisk it over the plain,
And chanted a roundelay.

Describing Will Scarlet, circa 1600.  But I digress.

Without intending last night, I was sketching out some of the details for my post earlier today, and realized there was a way of looking at weapon's use that I hadn't considered before.  For a couple of decades I had adjusted my thinking to the simple logic that clerics weren't able to use edged weapons simply because their masters didn't bother to teach such things.  We use bludgeoning weapons because we always have, and we always will, goes the call, and if that doesn't sound like religion, nothing will.  How is a mage going to learn to use a sword when there is so much time needed to learn how to cast spells and cantrips?  Where would a druid find a crossbow?  That sort of thing.

And of course the classes do use these weapons.  Fighter/clerics, mage/rangers ... there's plainly nothing wrong with a spellcaster using a sword if the training is there.  It doesn't mess up the magic or the prayers when it's part of a multi-classed character.  So there's room for flexibility.

I think I've found a nice formula for this, that fits into my ideas for allowing player characters to advance common ordinary people into roles as soldiers and even levelled persons.  I've had this spontaneously happen in more than one campaign and the players seem to love shepherding non-player characters into tougher, stronger roles.

I've made this link live, this evening: Give Proficiency.  It explains how the player character with the Instruction sage study can teach anybody ~ well, almost anybody, there is a restriction, though it isn't class ~ how to use a sword.  Or a bow.  If you have the stats (and they're not that high), and you put in the time, then yes.  Your illusionist, mage or cleric might be able to use a long bow.

And the way I've put it together, I don't think it breaks the game at all.


Pandred said...

Anything to make the Teaching Sage abilities more enticing. There would definitely be takers if the Mage had any chance at all of a more powerful weapon.

Finally someone for whom the Heavy Crossbow isn't a power-fantasy trap!

James said...

I would love to use a longbow with my 17 Dex and being an elf, just saying

Alexis Smolensk said...

Does your mage have a 14 strength?

James said...

Dang. Only 12. Thwarted again.

Though I will say, I think this is a cool use of the sage abilities

Baron Opal said...

I would imagine that anyone playing a fighter would have a least a 15 Strength, since that's the minimum for a combat bonus. However, if for some reason they didn't, would these attribute minimums impact their weapon choices? Or, is this solely for those who are weapon cross-training?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I was careful to add a disclaimer on that question, Baron. You must have skimmed past it.

"These minimums do not apply to those of fighter class or non-levelled persons of less than 20 years of age."

This means the fighter still can take any weapon as a proficiency, regardless of strength or dexterity, and can teach a youngster any of these weapons, again regardless of stats. It is only persons who have ALREADY received training of some kind, who have dedicated their younger years to something other than physical effort, who have to observe these minimums.

JB said...

I have seen the Adventures of Robin Hood at least a dozen times; it was one of the first films I taped off the television when my family acquired a VCR. Erol Flynn will always be the iconic Rob in my mind.

[but then, I'm something of a Robin Hood fanatic...I've seen most of the 'Hood films multiple times, the sole exception being that Russell Crowe version that I, thankfully, missed altogether]

This is system seems pretty good...reminds me a bit of RuneQuest (well, 1st edition Stormbringer, anyway) with the required stats, and basing it on class ability restrictions is both good and logical. It does seem to go a bit down the road of re-writing the whole weapon proficiency system, though.

I mean, what if you've got a cleric who selected mace and staff with her first level proficiencies and upon reaching 5th level desires to learn the flail? Clerics are tend towards the lower end of the dexterity scale in AD&D, yet flail requires a 13 dexterity to this restricting the "non-fighter" in her learning of a (standard) class weapon? The text of the "give proficiency" appears to be saying that.

The time requirement looks reasonable (about 300+ hours of training for a sharp student), but I wonder if there should be a penalty to the success check based on age. Sometimes the mind is willing but the body is less-than-able: throwing out your back or pulling a hamstring can really derail a person's training in a physical skill. I realize this may not be an issue in a campaign where all the characters are under 30, but I'd expect a middle-aged Gandalf learning long sword to struggle a bit (despite a high Intelligence and Wisdom) even if he meets the min qualifications.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I'd guess you didn't read the weapon proficiencies link. The cleric receives training in the flail at a young age (see the comment I made to BaronOpal), so that muscle memory is there. The cleric doesn't need a 13 dexterity, because the early training bypasses it.

There is precedent in AD&D. A cleric only needs a 9 wisdom, but a Cleric/Thief has to have a 15 in both wisdom and thief. The weapons minimums here are therefore a sort of "sub-multiclass" skill.

I don't know where you got 300+ hours. One hour a day for 23 days per month for three months is 69 hours. Pourquoi?

There is a penalty based on age that is already baked into AD&D. A character loses strength and dexterity as they reach middle age, old age and becoming venerable. Therefore, a character past 40 is already going to lose abilities that will uncut their ability to learn some of these weapons. If they're still strong and dextrous enough, it doesn't matter if they're 60. Also, if you check my age page on my wiki and background generator, you'll find it's very possible to be older than 30 in my game.

Also, being 55, I can tell you than becoming lean and tough is still possible. And we get used to being sore. "Back problems" are almost always a modern plague; earlier generations spent their lives in back-breaking toil throughout their lives, without modern conveniences.

Baron Opal said...

"I was careful to add a disclaimer on that question, Baron. You must have skimmed past it."
Yes, there it is. My bad.

Okay, so this just adds options to those who want to spend the time and effort, not redefining anything in the past. As I understand it, this process could even begin at second level with fortunate rolls and interest on the fighter's part. I like it.

JB said...

My math was...jeez, I don't know how I came up with 300. My only defense is that I was somewhat distracted this morning (my train of thought got interrupted multiple times). 300 hours is what I considerl optimal to acquiring "proficiency" in something (20 weeks at 15 hours or a couple years at 3 hours per week)...but, yes, your math does not work out to that at all.

Really not sure what I was adding/multiplying there.

Anyway, SO...okay, it appears I did not read this closely enough. Are you saying that the "give proficiency" sage ability doesn't actually give "proficiency" but only the *potential* for proficiency? And then a proficiency slot need still be expended. And that clerics (or other non-fighter classes) already have "potential" proficiency in all their class weapons and that this sage ability is only about giving a character the potential to become proficient in a non-class weapon?

[leaving aside the whole bit about using it to train commoners and comrades and whatnot...I realize that was the impetus that started this ball rolling]

So then, a mage (or whatever) acquires this "potential proficiency" and is able to use the weapon at a "non-proficiency" penalty, but at their (otherwise) normal combat ability? Without defaulting to the "level-0" combat table which, I believe, you use for characters who would otherwise attempt to pick up a non-class weapon and use it in combat (including the non-proficiency penalty)? Am I getting this correct now?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, JB, you've got it now. Every statement you've made is correct.

The hour per day is the teacher's time. Obviously, the character would practice solitary with the weapon, because we know player characters are very diligent, focused people (though the players are often not).

Alexis Smolensk said...

Oops, except for the last one.

I don't allow characters to pick up a non-class weapon, period. Game rule.