Hi there -- I wanted to open a discussion on what sorts of statistics should be modelled in weapons, and why. What should the numbers inherent a weapon do? How realistic or simple should this be? Should this be simplified to fit gaming and fantasy tropes? Should it be informed by realism? What are the pros and cons of each?
Here are some quotes, sans images, from a guy who knows what he is talking about on different forum on this topic:
"Size (thus suitability for different types of fighting, as in indoors / outdoors, in a grapple or not) Reach (largely a function of size) as in, a 'To hit' bonus. Ways to hurt people (piercing, cutting, smashing... and how good they are at each). In DnD terms this is three things, attack type, basic damage, and critical hit threat range. Defensive value (as in, an 'Armor Class' bonus like a shield gets) as I said before, there is really no reason not to model this. Speed (trickier to handle - see below) Armor - Piercing ability (some weapons were made specifically for piercing armor) usually fairly simple though standard DnD rules combine evasion with armor so that makes it harder. Grappling ability (many weapons had hooks or spikes designed to help with grappling from a distance, the classic examples being the halberd or the bill)
You can start with the actual features of the weapons, and then try to see what you could fit into a game. The European longsword 1300 - 1600 In real life a longsword is made to cut and stab with equal efficiency, as well as fend off enemy attacks. If you know what you are doing (i.e. a Feat) you can bash with the hilt and choke up (half-sword) to make it better for armor-piercing (stabs only). It's long and has pretty good hand protection making it good for defense, it has pretty good reach, and it's pretty fast partly due to being light (most real ones are about 3 lbs) and partly due to having an iron pommel, which helps a lot with balance. Hard to break. The late Medieval dagger 1200-1500 In real life, a dagger is very fast weapon. Most types (like the roundel depicted here) are made to stab primarily, though some others are for cutting too. It's got limited defensive ability, just a little reach (better than nothing though, since Medieval daggers were often a foot or more long). Unlike in almost all Role Playing Games, Daggers are extremely lethal! US Army stats on bayonett wounds and the FBI statistics on injuries from violent crimes show a knife with blade more than 8" long is one of the most lethal things you can get attacked with, statistically, and most Medieval Daggers were a lot longer than that (and more strongly made, less likely to snap). Daggers, unlike swords, tend to be good at armor-piercing (and / or getting around armor by finding gaps). Very hard to break. The Medieval Battle Axe In real life, an axe is good at cutting, mainly. Almost opposite to the cliche, battle axes tend to be made lighter (with thinner blades) and better balanced than axes made for cutting wood, but they are not as balanced as a sword. For a big (I'm thinking Danish / Viking style) axe, medium reach, fairly low speed (smaller axes would be much faster), some value for defense but limited hand protection makes that a little dicey. Due to their shape axes are also good for hooking shield rims and arms and so on, i.e. grappling from a distance. Some axes are made with special armor-piercing features (a back spike) but these are rare on older ones. The haft can be broken. Medieval Spear Very good reach, not as good speed, very good at thrusting, but the ones with larger blades can cut well too, pretty good for defense if used two-handed. Pretty good at armor-piercing. Not good at close range. Staff Blunt damage only, very good reach, very good defense, not as good at very close range. Mace Heavier (but not as much as you might think) than a sword or an axe, medium reach, medium defensive value (enhanced somewhat by the inertia of the thing) bludgeon damage only, good at destroying armor. Indestructible. So converting these into generic stats: Longsword Reach 4, Defense 3, Speed 3, cut / thrust, damage 1-10, crit threat 19-20, armor piercing and bludgeon damage ability by Feat. Normally too long to use at close (grapple) range except with special Feat. Hardness 6 Dagger Reach 1, Defense 1, Speed 5, thrust, damage 1-8, crit threat 18-20, armor-piercing. Hardness 8 Battle Axe Reach 3, Defense 2, Speed 2, cut, damage 1-12, crit threat 18-20, grapple +1 (from melee distance). Hardness 4. Flanged Mace Reach 2, Defense 3, Speed 1, bludgeon, damage 1-10, crit threat 18-20, armor-piercing +2. Hardness 12. Spear Reach 5, Defense 3, Speed 2, thrust, damage 1-8, crit threat 18-20, armor-piercing. Too long to use at close (grapple) range. Hardness 4 Staff Reach 5, Defense 4, Speed 3, bludgeon, damage 1-6, crit threat 20. Too long to use at close (grapple) range. Hardness 4. Now in DnD you might only be able to model a couple of these features, but it wouldn't necessarily add a lot more complexity to say, most weapons can be used for defense as well as offense, swords can stab as well as cut, short weapons can be used in grapple, and so on. Differentiating the weapons a little bit (in ways other than just damage) makes them a bit more interesting and more useful to flesh out the personality of different characters, monsters and NPC's, IMO."
Back to me... now, that is a very realistic way of looking at these things, but it doesn't necessarily feel like fantasy, and being that realistic might make gameplay worse or better -- in a broad theoretical sense, what sorts of things SHOULD weapons be useful in doing, for the benefit of the game?
There is also the question of, 'When pairing down what statistics weapons should have, should you start from a fantasy/cultural consciousness as your basic starting point for what attributes to have, or should you start from a realism/historic starting point? Assume that you end up with the same amount of relevant attributes at the end -- 2, 3, 4, 5, whatever. What is the better starting point, and why?'