The Overly Complicated Weapons and Armor Module

Edit: This blog post will be updated multiple times to reflect changes due to feedback, so check back to see if things have changed!

Change Log: (changes based on feedback include the person that inspired the change) 

  • AP values on weapons messed with. (mikemonaco)
  • Flail ability added for nullifying shields. (mikemonaco)
  • Initiative is no longer rolled each round; rather, the modifiers change your initial initiative roll and thus can move you in the order, making it a little less fiddly. (daganev from the WotC forums)
  • Clarified some weapon attributes. (me)
  • Created a list of all of the playtest weapons to make changes more easily to all of them. Messed around with AP and Initiative modifiers. (me)
  • Changed how AC works completely. Now AC is a score made up of your Dex modifier, any Shield bonuses, and a base AC of 10. Armor provides DR only. AC can now be seen as purely defense/parrying/dodging. (mikemonaco/me/bawlie)
  • Completely removed initiative modifiers/weapon speeds. Way too fiddly in practice. Couldn’t find a way to make it work and fit seamlessly into the rules. The rest of the module should be complicated enough. (me)
  • Added Weapon Attributes Clumsy and Parrying, which effect AC negatively/positively. (me)
  • Shields changed; removed AR, they instead give an AC bonus based on your prof. Proficiency taken out of the AC equation. (bawlie)
  • Added a section for weapon and combat tactics to help spice up combat. Only one tactic added so far (pushing). Can you help me with some more? (me)

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a fan of Dungeons and Dragons. If you’re reading a blog about RPGs, then you are already probably aware of the various book announcements as well as the announcement of a free ‘Basic’ D&D PDF from Wizards of the Coast. The front page of Enworld is a good place to catch up. I could wax poetic about how good of a move this is, but I think the near universal approval is resounding enough.

Instead, today I wanted to work on a rules module for use with D&D Next, or Fifth Edition as it stands now. This is definitely the first ‘draft’, trying to catch a rough idea right now to polish off later when the game has been released.

This module focuses on weapons and armor, and seeks to, in plain terms, make them more complicated. Generally the direction of the game has been to make it  simpler, and this is a noble goal. I thought, however, that since Combat was really rather quick with this edition, it might not hurt to throw a few complications into it. The idea is to make weapons and armor have more mechanical crunch so that they feel like they have more weight in the narrative, if that makes sense. I think these could be made more three dimensional, making some weapons better in certain circumstances, as well as providing a useful reason for choosing a certain armor type over another.

Now, since this IS a rough draft you will not find balance here. I guarantee it. It’s something that needs playtested. If, in fact, you are currently running the playtest (or will be), please feel free to playtest this module as well. I would love some feedback to make the end module that much better. Of course, a lot will factor into how different weapons and armor look in the final product as opposed to the playtest documents I am using currently. I suspect there won’t be much change, however.




The Overly Complicated Weapons and Armor Module

The Very Rough Playtest Draft Version



So, the general theory behind this module is to introduce crunch in order to make weapons and armor have more weight within the game. What this means is that hopefully rather than simply choosing the weapon with the best dice attached to it that you’re proficient with, this will provide reasons to choose one based on it’s usefulness in different applications.

The biggest support for this theory in the module is the use of a form of Damage Resistance in armor that I am calling Armor Resistance. Essentially armor will grant you AC and in many cases Armor Resistance. Why not just use DR? Because DR in the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons is a whole different beast: when something has DR it simply halves all incoming damage. Armor Resistance more resembles the DR from past editions, in that all incoming damage is reduced by how much Armor Resistance you have.

New: Also with this module, your AC score is made up of a mixture of your Dex modifier and a base AC of 10, plus any shield or weapon bonuses to AC. Therefore AC represents your ability to dodge and parry, while Armor gives you only the damage resistance offered by AP. Some weapons will also give you a flat AC bonus.

In turn, certain weapons will have Armor Piercing, with a number tied to that. Armor Piercing ignores Armor Resistance of the equivalent value. For example, a Warhammer has Armor Piercing of 4. Plate Armor has 6 Armor Resistance. Therefore if hit with a warhammer, the wearer of the Plate Armor can only reduce the incoming damage by 2. This will mean that certain weapons, despite having less than optimally sized dice, will be more useful against heavily armored foes.

The next thing that I am particularly happy about is Shields. In almost all editions of D&D, a shield simply gave you a minor AC buff (usually 1 or 2).  I don’t think this really properly represents the role Shields played in combat. In this module, a Shield instead gives a base AC bonus (1), however when targeted with an attack you are given the opportunity to use your reaction for the round to try and block. This gives you an AR value. However, Shields also have their own HP, so that if they are used multiple times and get badly damaged, they become useless. Some weapons can also be used to block in this fashion, generally those with a pole/wooden shaft.

The rest of the module is made up with giving weapons more attributes and ‘tags’ to flesh them out and make them feel different than each other. For example, someone that is proficient in the use of a whip can more easily disarm opponents. Another example is that polearms have a 5′ reach, however against adjacent opponents they instead do 1d4 bludgeoning damage, as you cannot bring the blade to bear against so close an opponent.

Armor and Shields


The main changes to armor are as follows:

  • All AC values are removed from Armor. They now instead provide Damage Resistance via AR.
  • A PC’s base AC is 8.
  • Light Armor
    • Leather Armor: AR 2
    • Padded Armor: AR 2
  • Medium Armor
    • Hide Armor: AR 3
    • Studded Leather: AR 4
  • Heavy Armor
    • Ring Mail has 5 AR
    • Chain Mail has 5 AR.
    • Splint and Banded have 6 AR.
    • Plate Mail has 8 AR.
  • Everything else (disadvantage, weight, movement penalties) remains the same.
  • Optional Rule: If hit with a critical hit, the Armor is damaged, reducing it’s AR value by half, rounding down. Repairing the armor costs 1/4 it’s value in materials for a proficient smith or leatherworker, or 1/2 it’s value if taken to a smith for repairs.

The changes to Shields are as follows:

  • A shield can be used to block as a reaction. When doing so you gain an AC bonus equal to your proficiency bonus if your are proficient in the use of the shield. A block must be declared before the attack dice is rolled.
  • When used to block an attack, the shield takes a ‘hit’ whether the attacks hits or not. Each shield has a number of hits it can take; when it reaches 0 the shield is effectively destroyed.
  • There are now multiple shields to be purchased.
    • Buckler –                  5GP     (No base bonus, only gains bonus through blocking reaction.), 4 hits
    • Small Wooden –  25GP     +1 AC, 6 hits
    • Large Wooden – 40GP     +2 AC, 6 hits
    • Small Steel –      100GP     +1 AC, 10 hits
    • Large Steel –      200GP    +2 AC, 10 hits
  • Optional Rule: A critical hit counts as 2 hits against the shield if it was used to block as a reaction. A shield that has taken hits can be repaired; materials cost 1/10 the value for each hit repaired for a proficient smith or woodworker, or it can be taken to a smith to be repaired completely for 1/2 it’s value.




The changes to the weapon list are as follows:

  • New weapon attributes: Parrying and Clumsy.
    • Parrying weapons add 1 more to your AC.
    • Clumsy weapons -1 from your AC.

The Weapons on the weapons list are changed as follows (Note that they keep their current attributes/special abilities as well as gain these unless stated otherwise):

  • Simple Melee Weapons
    • Unarmed strike –
    • Gauntlet – Parrying.
    • Club – No additions.
    • Dagger – Gains no damage bonus for strength, Parrying.
    • Great club –
    • Javelin – 2 AP
    • Mace – 1 AP
    • Quarterstaff – Block: +1 AC, 1 AP, 2 Hits, Parrying
    • Sickle – Gains no damage bonus for strength,
    • Spear – 2 AP, Block: +1 AC, 1 AP, 2 Hits, Parrying
  • Simple Ranged Weapons
    • Crossbow, light – 2 AP
    • Dart – No additions.
    • Shortbow – 2 AP
    • Sling – No additions.
  • Martial Melee Weapons
    • Battleaxe – 2 AP
    • Flail – Target receives no AC bonus for shields, whether from blocking or not, Clumsy
    • Glaive –  2 AP, 5′ reach but does 1d4 Bludgeoning damage against adjacent opponents, Block: +1 AC, 1 AP, 2 Hits, Parrying
    • Great axe – 2 AP, Block: +1 AC, 1 AP, 2 Hits, Clumsy
    • Great sword –  1 AP, Parrying
    • Halberd –  2 AP, 5′ reach but does 1d4 Bludgeoning damage against adjacent opponents, Block: +1 AC, 1 AP, 2 Hits, Parrying
    • Handaxe – 2 AP
    • Lance –  2 AP (6 AP when used in a mounted charge), 5′ Reach but damage dice is reduced to 1d4 Bldg. against adjacent opponents, Clumsy
    • Light hammer – 4 AP
    • Long sword – 1 AP, Parrying
    • Maul – 2 AP
    • Morningstar – 2 AP
    • Pike – 2 AP, 5′ Reach but damage dice is reduced to 1d4 Bldg. against adjacent opponents, Block: +1 AC, 1 AP, 2 Hits, Parrying
    • Rapier – 1 AP, Parrying
    • Scimitar –  1 AP, Parrying
    • Short sword –  1 AP, Parrying
    • Spiked chain – Target receives no AC bonus from shields, whether blocking or not.
    • Spiked shield – 1 AP
    • Trident – 1 AP, Block: +1 AC, 1 AP, 2 Hits, Parrying
    • War pick – 3 AP
    • Warhammer – 4 AP, Clumsy
    • Whip – User can add prof. bonus to disarm attempts if proficient with whips.
  • Martial Ranged Weapons
    • Blowgun – No additions.
    • Bolas – No additions.
    • Crossbow, hand – 2 AP
    • Crossbow, heavy – 4 AP
    • Longbow – 2 AP
    • Net – User can add prof. bonus to disarm attempts if proficient with nets.






This section represents some weapon and tactics that can be used within the game, by anyone.

  • Pushing: Rather than moving, or in place of a standard action, you can try to push an adjacent target, making an opposed Strength check. If using a long, pole like weapon (such as a quarterstaff or a halberd), you may add your proficiency bonus to the roll. This will allow you to push an enemy into the optimal reach range if you are wielding a polearm.

The Future of this Module

Well, that’s really all I have for now. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t think of more weapon attributes and ‘tags’ to add without getting silly. Can you think of some that are missing that would fit in? I’ve thought of letting all weapons be used to block as a reaction. Do you think this would work?

All in all I am happiest about shields, and looking forward to trying out the initiative shenanigans. In a game like 4th edition D&D, I wouldn’t want to roll Initiative every round because it’s already slow to begin with. I think 5th edition combats are fast enough to take the extra weight, however.

Originally my plan for Weapon Speed was to make it a bit more complicated, in that the weapon moved you up or down in the initiative, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do this without it just being unwieldy.

Please, PLEASE give me your ideas and feedback! What works for you? What doesn’t? What do you love/hate? Is it TOO Overly Complicated? Anything in this blog can be cut or completely remade, so feel free to tear it to bits!

11 thoughts on “The Overly Complicated Weapons and Armor Module

  1. IMO axes are better against armor than swords. In fact you’re pretty safe from a one-handed sword in plate armor. The long bows’ ability to pierce armor is grossly exaggerated in Anglo-centric books, but crossbows — at least the heavy ones — really could pierce armor. Polearms, and two-handed weapons generally, ought to be better at AP too. And what about flails bypassing or nullifying shields, as long as we’re getting overly complex. GURPS made flail weapons at a pretty big penalty to block or parry, and they could not be parried at all by fencing weapons (not sure the fencing weapon thing makes a lot of sense though unless you’re talking foils, which also can’t parry most real weapons).
    If you ask me, and I know you didn’t, I’d have AC be based on your Dex (+/- 1 to 3 or whatever), shield (+1 for a basket hilt to +4 for large shield), & weapons (polearms and longswords being especially good at parrying and thus helpful to AC, maybe +/- up to 2) and your armor just grants damage reduction (1 to 6 as you have it). Maybe critical hits ignore armor? Maybe helmets also add modestly to AC. And armor-piercing weapons would be xbows, blunt, and picks, cutting DR in half. 2-handers, axes, and polearms “pierce” armor just cause they do more base damage. Swords, being the most handy of weapons, and spears, get a flat +1 to hit. Just my opinion.


    1. This is EXACTLY the kind of feedback I wanted. Thanks! I’ll admit my research for this post was a few minutes on Wikipedia. 😉

      The flail thing intrigues me. Definitely something I’ll mess around with.

      Hell, in fact, I’ll make some changes right now to reflect some of your feedback.

      Thanks again!


    2. Alright, so I messed around with the AP a bit and added in the Flail ability.

      The armor as DR only is something I’ve been thinking about, and I will probably present that in the next draft of this module. I like your idea about weapons providing AC. I think that is a very neat way to help weapons be more than just a dice.


  2. I’ve been working on something similar and I really like where your system is going. I think I am going to incorporate the shield health idea. I can imagine some very cool scenes being caused by a shattered shield. (Eowyn vs Witch King, for example)

    I will add one thing: since my players aren’t always enamored of combat-focused classes I added Parry and Riposte skills to the mix. Parry is a basic skill (it can be rolled even if you aren’t trained, but without the benefit of a positive modifier) and Riposte is an advanced skill (it can’t even be attempted without training) because anyone can get lucky and smack away an incoming blow, but it takes a trained fighter to be able to turn that incoming blow into outgoing damage. A successful Parry check would either increase AC by a number or die. A successful Riposte check would increase AC by a number or a die AND allow for a return attack. The Riposte attack would probably be for half damage, or Strength bonus only – nothing very powerful.


      1. There are 3 ways that I was thinking it could work:
        1st is to make it use your reaction for the round, simple
        2nd it could be its own action (you get 1 parry/riposte per round in addition to your reaction) a bit more complex
        3rd, and most complex, it could be based on training: untrained in either Parry or Riposte means you use your reaction, Parry training grants you a parry action, Riposte training grants you a riposte action (in addition to your parry) and then advanced training grants you Parries or Ripostes equal to your Dex modifier. That way someone with a bunch of training and a high Dex could be nigh unhittable with a crazy wall of awesome steel flashing around himself.

        My favorite is (of course) the 3rd and most complex 🙂

        These skills key off of one of the new stats that I put in: Weapon Skill.

        There are 9 total: Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Willpower, Perception, and Charisma. It’s based on the 40kRPG statline, I think it does a better job of representing characters – you can be strong without being good at using weapons.


  3. I really love this idea, and when I can sit down to play dnd with my friends I’ll be using these rulesets. One point that still needs tweaking is how we factor the duration of a weapon/shield in combat when used to block. If we’re counting the number of hits, then a quarterstaff blocking a dagger can only block twice before being destroyed.

    Maybe the number of blocks should be based on three factors: material of blocking item, construction of blocking item, and strength value of the enemy striking.

    So it’d be (material +/* construction) -opponent strength.

    Example: a wooden (3) large (5) shield has a block rating of 15. When struck by an orc with a +3 strength, the shield loses 3 points of block rating (or 4 if it’s a two handed weapon, since the strength rating 1.5 the Lord’s strength). A wooden (3) tower (10) shield could absorb way more of a beating, while a wooden (3) small (4) or buckler (2) would absorb significantly less.

    Magic bonuses would add ten per enchantment modifier to total soak ability, and more exotic materials (adamantine) would be a base rate of 10 or some such.


  4. I think pikes would actually be clumsy outside a formation. I’d also probably make mauls, spiked chains, and footman’s flails clumsy.
    The shield breakage stuff is interesting. I think of a buckler as a very small metal shield, which would be hard to break but if you try to use it to stop a halberd or something it will break your wrist! Personally I’d try to keep things simpler (I usually just have shields break when you use them to stop a blow that otherwise would have hit, or when you take a crit) but the attrition thing should make for some drama!


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