Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cultural Weapon Choices

A lot of my posts are directly related to the campaigns I run, primarily B/X D&D with bits from 1st ed AD&D. Of course, given the fact that my players range in age from young 20-somethings to 40-somethings, it’s just much easier to base our game on Labyrinth Lord since it is currently in print. This particular entry stems from my desire to add a bit more flavor to our campaign, some granularity without adding too much fuss and muss. Would it work for the average OSR campaign? Sure, if the DM wants to reward players who subscribe to cultural norms, this idea should do just that.

The idea here is that cultures (in my campaign, the various sub-races of humanity, demi humans, etc.) often gravitate toward weaponry and styles of combat that they perceive as being best, even when there may exist other choices that would otherwise be superior. There should certainly be some cultures that place great emphasis on the spear and shield maybe, or perhaps the short sword (gladius for example), or even the hand axe (the franciscan throwing axe). Now certainly, the DM could go a step further and make actual variants of each of these, but that certainly makes the game a bit more complicated and you’ll need to seed some of those into your game world loot tables. This technique makes the weapon immediately superior to other hand axes for instance and that’s fine, but what if we viewed it in different terms?

What if instead of, or even in addition to, a plausible tweak to the weapon itself, we offer a tweak that suggests that these cultural fighting styles actually have meaning? That is to say that Aesclepius who is a fighter having spent his entire young life in a culture that valued the spear and shield approach to battle, followed up by a short sword when the fighting gets incredibly close and personal. The idea here is to allow a form of weapon specialization to reflect that, gained at 2nd and 7th level and available to fighters (or in my Avelorn campaign, everyone in the fighter column). There is no double specialization so you would be forced to choose 2 different weapons (which need not be chosen from the cultural list). You receive a very simple +1 to hit (which is plenty really), but if you follow your cultural bias choosing a weapon from those listed, you receive a +3% XP bonus for choosing one cultural weapon and then a +2% XP bonus should you choose the 2nd one at 7th level. Here’s a collection of the cultural weapons in my Avelorn Campaign:

Star Elves (Elf Class)
long sword, short sword, long Bow

Moon Elves
Elven sword, long bow, spear

Sea Elves
Elven sword, Sea bow, Dragon spear

Human, Volkyr
Sea bow, Dragon spear, long sword

Human, Thugee
Thugee axe, battle axe, great sword

Human, Theban (Ardrois)
spear, short sword, long sword

battle axe, short sword, crossbow

Dwarf, Bhakshani
battle axe, great axe, hand axe

Dwarf, Guild
battle axe, spear, crossbow

sling, short bow, short sword

Of course this list could go on to great length given the needs of your campaign, and it’s not a major benefit, but certainly the choice of two of the cultural weapons would be the equivalent of an extra boost in your prime requisite. The weapon spec aspect of it could be as robust as the 1st ed version in UA if you like (that’s more than I want, but YMMV). This approach represents a small incremental improvement for fighters, but the effect will encourage your players to contribute to the sense of place that you’re trying to establish in your setting, and they get a nice little bonus for doing so. Add a small smattering of special weapons (like the Dragon spear and Thugee axe that I mention above) and you’re starting to get those little details that enhance a campaign without adding too much complexity.

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