Remember when there were supplements that featured pages and pages of new weaponry? It was like a big macho-catalogue for players to pour over and calculate what was needed to kill every melon-farmer in the room… Some rulebooks went to great lengths to fetishise the descriptions of the weapons available; the early editions of Tunnels and Trolls, for example, was notable for the weird and wonderful descriptions, alongside detailed illustrations of exotic armoury.
There never seemed any point to this level of variety as players often settled on a combination of their favourites. We were RUNEQUEST players and the 2nd Edition rules provided slim pickings for the adventurer in search of a set of irons for his caddy. The ancient world setting meant that there were only a handful of equipment staples.
The following list has been compiled in conjunction with @sjamb7 – Blythy The Cautious – the master tactician – and rules lawyer at our table.
1 – CRITICAL HIT – The Sling
Every adventurer should have a sling in his utility belt and get good with it too. They are light-weight, concealable and ammunition is never very far away. The RQ rules mean that they can be lethal in the right hands too. One of the first games we played with an ardent D&D player nearly came to an abrupt end when he went gang-ho towards a crack squad of Trollkin slingers. In seconds, he was on his back with a shattered knee-cap.
This is what Malcolm Gladwell says in his book DAVID AND GOLIATH:
Slinging took and extraordinary amount of skill and practice. But in experienced hands, the sling was a devastating weapon. Paintings from medieval times show slingers hitting birds in midflight. Irish slingers were said to be able to hit a coin from as far away as they could see it, and the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within an ‘hair’s breath’. An experienced slinger could kill or injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards. The Romans even had a a special set of tongs made just to remove stones that had been embedded in some poor soldier’s body by a sling…
Also, doubles as an eye-patch or, if you are Purdy from The New Avengers, a bra.
Our characters were usually strong and quick enough to carry a Bastard Sword, but often we would go for the Broadsword because … its a classic. With a medium shield combo, you can’t go wrong.
Also, its the name of a great Album by Jethro Tull with a brilliant Iain McCaig cover which was a perfect accompaniment to a role-playing session.
3 – The Composite Bow
The missile-weapon of choice for most discerning adventurers. With good-timing and a multi-missile spell its possible to pepper a broo with arrows before they’ve even had time to fart noxious fumes in your general direction.
What makes the use of a bow interesting is that it can shift the adventurer’s luck if the arrows find their mark. More often, it is a spectacular disaster, but when it goes well, you can’t beat the satisfaction of taking out an opponent from a distance.
4 – Spear
A two-handed spear is awkward looking thing at doesn’t stand up to much parrying. A one-handed spear, on the other hand, is a great way of keeping critters at bay and it looks good too. Many of our characters adopt the legionnaire tactic of chucking a spear before advancing with a sword and shield.
5 – One Handed Axe
Popular with starting characters because there is a low base-chance. Before too long, it’s possible to be adept at cleaving heads. They’re also a useful tool for the adventurer needing a swiss-army knife of equipment without being overly encumbered. They also have the advantage that they can be chucked too.
Our group likes throwing things at an opponent!
6 – FUMBLE – The Flail
I once had a lengthy debate about the merits of the flail with a D&D player (the one that clobbered by a sling) when I was playing a cleric. I went for a mace rather than a flail and he was trying to persuade me to go for the damage advantage of a flail. The aim of a flail is to scatter and scare multiple opponents when faced with a skirmish. Get out of my way!
I refused on the grounds that they look stupid.