I’ve never been really happy with how D&D organizes weapons.

I think part of the reason is how having proficiency in a weapon type gives you access to a really broad range of weapons your character may literally have never been exposed to — and how some of the groups really make no sense at all.

I see this problem in my gaming group — one of the players is obsessed with the 4e “gouge” weapon, since it deals 2d6 damage. It’s taken from the Dark Sun book, and our group has never played Dark Sun.

Some things we really can’t do anything about.

As an experiment, I’ve created an ascending weapon proficiency system based around a combination of damage dice, reach, and versatility. Weapons on the low end of the spectrum deal less damage and afford the character less reach, while weapons on the other end deal more damage and have a longer reach.

The odd man in this case are the weapons occupying the middle of the range — which afford a character the greatest versatility in terms of weapon properties.

The weapon types are as follows, and generally having proficiency in one type suggests the character can use all weapons “beneath” that type as well:

  • Hand (d6) – daggers, bracers, fists
  • Light (d6) – clubs, sickles, bucklers
  • Melee (d8) – swords, spears, axes, flails, shields
  • Missile (d8) – bows, javelins
  • Heavy (d10) – two-handed weapons, bigger shields
  • Reach (d10) – “polearms”

  • Once we move beyond weapon types, we get into weapon “properties,” which include some of the stuff you’re probably more used to seeing — blades, flails, spears, and clubs. Each one of the four “major” weapon properties is more effective against one of the four defenses:

  • Spears +1 versus Armor
  • Flails +1 versus Reflex
  • Clubs +1 versus Mettle
  • Blades +1 versus Resolve

  • Perhaps more important than what kind of bonus the property affords, is actually having an attack that targets that defense. If you pick up a “longsword,” it will give you a bonus to attacking Resolve, certainly. But if you don’t have any Resolve attacks — like rending someone’s soul to pieces — you might not see a benefit.

    You may have noticed that I included “bracers, bucklers,” and “shields” in the list of example weapons — these will benefit from additional weapon properties like Parrying and Shielding, which confer defensive bonuses. Many larger and two-handed weapons will similarly include parrying/shielding properties.

    Creating new weapons and shields then, will be a fairly simple matter of combining properties and choosing a proficiency level for them.