Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Signature Weapons

One of the things I'm always on the lookout for is a way for a character's weapon to be as much a part of their character as anything else. If I can, I want the weapon to be its own characters. Some worlds embrace this - L5R for one is pretty good about it - while other worlds don't.

The thing is that my devotion to this can cause problems mechanically for a player when they're in an RPG. Why? Well, because sure that Masterwork Longsword you have their was your father's, and that means something. But you're crippling yourself - and hurting the party - if you don't take that +2 Longsword from the treasure hoard and use it.

Again, certain systems and worlds work better for this. D&D has traditionally put a lot of power progression in acquiring new gear. The weapons you use level 1 are not supposed to be the weapons you use at level 10, and definitely not at level 20. L5R on the other hand generally doesn't care too much as a Katana is a Katana and magical weapons like a +2 sword are very rare.

Still, there are those moments where a character has to choose between the weapon that makes things easier - and could in fact be what the game is balanced around him/her having - and the correct character choice. Assuming, of course, the character is the type to stick with their grandfather's blade.

There are solutions to this. One of the common ones is to simply upgrade the old weapon instead of replacing it. This can work well, but the method for upgrading is often problematic. Sometimes it costs XP, which is a direct action of putting character growth into item development, but it can work. Other times it takes money and resources - making it separate and part of the game but also possible for a rank 1 PC to have a rank 20 weapon.

Neither of these systems is correct, but neither solve the real problem either.

For a weapon to truly shine as a character it needs more. It needs a name, a personality, and - like all characters - strengths and weaknesses.

The question is, how do you do this? Mostly through description. The name is easy enough for most people to figure out, and once named it is just a matter of using the name. The personality and traits though, those come from the forging. This is where you need detail work, and that work needs to be referenced frequently.

A weapon that adds defensive qualities should be cited as helping in a player's defense. A thrusting weapon should be said to be thrusting. You get the idea.

It is in narrative that you can truly make a weapon stand out. But that can't be the only way. It is just the only way I've found that felt close to right so far. How about you? Any other tips or advice? How do you make a character's weapons stand out as a part of them and not just a tool?

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