Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Evolution of T&T: Arms, Armor, and Equipment

Every delver needs equipment. Swords, spears, axes, hauberks, helmets, shields, backpacks, rope, torches, oil; we're talking about delving here after all. This stuff is dangerous. It might be surprising, but as simple and basic as it is to a fantasy role playing game, equipment in T&T has changed over the editions.

One of the biggest surprises when I first looked through the 1st and 4th edition rules was this weapons table:

I was always used to the much longer weapons list from 5th edition. Granted, there is a more comprehensive list of arms and armor at the back of the rulebook, entitled the Advanced Weapons Chart, which Ken states that everyone in his gaming circle uses but there is something I like about this simple list. It certainly makes that much easier to put a character together quickly and get into the game. I'll come back to this in another post. I will say, however, that the array of weapon choices I saw when I first looked through the 5th edition rules was one of the hooks that got me into the game.

One of the biggest changes to weapons through the editions has been the inflation in the number of dice weapons get between 4th and 5th editions. The effectiveness of most weapons were increased by one die and/or an add or two. Most swords were only 2 die weapons in 1st and 4th editions; two-handed swords like the great sword were 3 die weapons. In 5th edition this was no longer the case. Many swords, like broadswords, short swords, and sabers were 3 die weapons. Still others became 4 or 5 die weapons. The great sword became a 6 die weapon! Suddenly gamers needed to buy more dice, and swords. Daggers likewise increased in effectiveness, going from 1 die weapons to 2 die weapons as a whole. This made wizards happy I am sure. Hafted weapons, polearms, and spears did not have the big increase that swords did in 5th edition. These only increased by 1 die for the most part. It is apparent that swords were underpowered in 1st and 4th editions and were put on a more equal footing with other weapons in the 5th. But the general increase in dice is interesting. It likely has something to do with the change in how monster dice and combat adds were determined in the 4th and 5th editions (the subject of a later post).

There were other substantial changes to weapons in the 5th edition rules. In 1st and 4th editions, not all weapons had minimum Dexterity requirements to use them like they do in 5th and 7th editions. Interestingly, no swords had a required Dexterity, while all daggers did. Polearms, spears, missile weapons, and some hafted weapons like flails and a pickaxe (???) did have required DEX scores. Not so for axes, maces, and hammers. Crossbows also do not have a minimum required Dexterity. Something about that makes me nervous. The same is true of required Strength; most daggers have no minimum strength nor do slings. One extra aspect of weapons in 1st and 4th editions lost in later editions was 'DEX-', a DEX penalty for carrying and not wielding large weapons like polearms, spears, swords, bows, etc. The bigger the weapon the bigger the penalty; although the biggest penalty was -4 for the poleaxe. This is nice for game masters that want to keep their players from walking around with and armory on hand. It also adds a nice dose of 'realism' I like to see from time to time (Warrior: 'I pick up the three spears, then attack the orc with my sword!" Really? Where are you putting all of those spears?).

Other aspects of weapons have changed as well, from the amount of strength needed to wield them, their cost, or even their weight. Let's look at how the basic broadsword has changed:

1st/4th ed (2+3, ST 10, DEX 0, 50 gp, 75 wu)
5th ed (3+4, ST 15, DEX 10, 70 gp, 120 wu)
7th ed (3+4, ST 15, DEX 10, 140 gp, 120 wu)

I like how the price has gone up in each edition. Inflation? The weight also went up between 4th and 5th. This actually occurs for all weapons. You can also see that the ST and DEX requirements changed substantially from 4th to 5th editions making the broadsword the unusable by most starting characters.

Projectile weapons like crossbows and bows also received new treatment and the number of different weapons were expanded in 5th edition. In the 1st and 4th editions, even in the expanded weapon tables bows were limited to three types: composite bows, longbows, and selfbows. These weapons got little in the way of dice (2+5, 2+3, and 1+5 respectively). If you wanted to do heavy damage with a projectile weapon you needed an arbalest (7 dice) or a cranequin (4 dice). This changed in 5th edition in that self bows and long bows became categories each with subtypes ranging from extra-heavy to very light. The damage potential for these weapons became more lethal, with extra-heavy versions doing 6 dice of damage plus adds. Crossbows changed as well, they just did not diversify. Arbalests and cranequins changed places in lethality; cranequins became 8 die (!!) weapons and arbelests 6 die weapons. Perhaps Ken did some more research on these weapons to find out which was more powerful. Their costs also skyrocketed along with their dice. Arbalests went from 100 gp to 400 gp and cranequins from 75 gp to 600 gp! Obviously these weapons became much rarer in 5th edition games. The regular crossbow (5 dice) also made its first appearance in 5th edition along with a more powerful version of the light crossbow (2+3 in 4th, 4+0 in 5th). This increase in dice meant that players (and monsters) could take out an enemy with a single good shot; even a well-armored enemy.

Speaking of armor, it to has changed right alongside weapons. There have been some substantial changes in the variety, parts, and even the use of armor.

One of the most extreme changes to armor occurred between the 1st and 4th editions. In the 1st edition rules armor is entirely ablative. When you lose a combat turn you can take hits against your Constitution or your armor. Damage taken by armor is lost for good. If your armor reaches 0 hits of protection, then it is destroyed and worthless. This made the choice between taking hits on armor and CON a tricky one. It also kept character's pockets rather empty since they had to buy or repair armor after every adventure. In 4th edition onwards, however, the same armor provides constant, never-changing protection against injury and death. The armor values, types, costs, weight do not change, only how protection is treated. But this was a huge change that certainly altered game play and likely made players much more willing to enter combat.

In 5th edition, to counteract the increase in damage caused by all weapons, the protection of armor increased over those of 1st and 4th. Plate armor went from providing 10 hits of protection to 14; mail from 5 to 11; scale from 4 to 8; and leather from 2 to 6. Characters were becoming much more formidable by 5th edition. It's also interesting to note the low values of the 1st/4th edition armor and the ablative armor rules of 1st edition. If you had leather armor, it could only take 2 hits before being destroyed. Mail could only take 5. That's not a lot of protection.

Other aspects of armor also changed. In 5th edition a strength requirement was added to each armor type; this makes sense when you consider the weight of a suit of metal. These values increased by 2 or 3 in the 7th edition, making it even harder to get heavier armor. For example, plate went from needing a Strength of 11, well within the realm of a starting character, to 16. Weights and costs of armor also changed, but not across the board or uniformly. Here's what happened to the complete suit of mail:

1st/4th (100 gp, 500 wu)
5th (300 gp, 1200 wu)
7th (250 gp, 360 wu)

That's quite an up and down fluctuation, especially in weight.

As for basic equipment, there was little change from 1st through 5th editions. The only new items for the 5th edition were the spare skin of oil and the Delver's Pack (mirror, wax, chalk, string, salt, and matches), my personal favorite. Interestingly the cost of these items does not change like they did with almost every weapon. There is an explosion of choices in the 7th edition, including mysterious first and second aid kits, a solo delvers dream. There are tables of everything from individual items of clothing, tools, writing implements, lockpicks, riding animals, and almost anything else you wished you could have had in previous editions. The glaring exception are provisions, those handy and simple (but expensive) trail rations that have kept many a delver fat and happy.

So what effect does all of this have on game play? There is a real difference in the damage dealt by weapons and the damage absorbed by armor between the 4th and 5th editions. There are even some between 5th and 7th editions. This difference must be realized when trying to convert older game material like solo adventures to more recent editions of the rules. It also means that characters will be outfitted very differently depending on which set of rules is being used, since each has its own set of advantages, disadvantages, and restrictions.


  1. Nice overview. I'm not real keen on some of the stat minimums being as high as they are. Maybe 1st level characters are kids who haven't finished growing yet and that's why most newly made warriors can't wield an ordinary broadsword?

    One extra aspect of weapons in 1st and 4th editions lost in later editions was 'DEX-', a DEX penalty for carrying and not wielding large weapons like polearms, spears, swords, bows, etc. The bigger the weapon the bigger the penalty; although the biggest penalty was -4 for the poleaxe.

    This is in Monsters! Monsters! and I quite like it. You can carry any one main weapon plus a dagger or throwing axe and a light crossbow at no penalty. Anything past that becomes a burden to your Dex. Interestingly, the best candidate to be the guy who carries extra weapons is someone with an 11 or 12 Dex, as they won't lose combat adds if reduced to a 9 or 10.

    M!M! also suggests that armor comes in two forms, ablative and non-ablative. The ablative variety represents cheaply made goods, the rule giving as the only example a shield that works for 10 strikes against the character, then it breaks.

  2. I have had the experience that once you have managed to scrape together enough money to buy some full plate, there's not that much to do with your money, so I like the idea of having ablative armour which sap some money out of the system. Now, if somebody could crunch some numbers and figure out how it would affect play by adding xp for gold as well... :)

  3. Great comparison. I like this whole series you're doing. Wasn't the thinking behind the increase in weapon damage that something like a sword should be able to kill with one stroke? And didn't a dagger go to 2D to make it stronger than a punch which does 1D? I think I read that somewhere (SA?) but I can't remember where for sure. I'm looking forward to the next installment.