Arms of Quality

Mechanics don’t necessarily need to make perfect sense, but when they don’t a game can often descend into a much less satisfying experience. When a player tries to reconcile the mechanics with what seems like commonsense and comes away wanting, they will likely ignore all but the certifiable truth.

At the moment, Symbaroum’s weapon charts might well be a sticking point. It isn’t a major issue, but as the tables have expanded and the Qualities with them, the potential inconsistencies magnify.

Take, for example, the Halberd and a Sword. What makes them different? At a basic level, without Qualities, they inflict the same damage.

The Halberd has both the Long and Deep Impact Qualities, while the Sword lacks any Quality. Yet, the Sword costs almost twice as much as the Halberd. It looks odd. Would you want to spend 3 Thaler on a weapon that allows you to get a Free Attack every round and inflicts 1D8+1 damage, or perhaps spend 5 Thaler on a Sword – which does 1D8 damage without additional benefit.

Is there something missing?

More Options

To be clear, I offer only options. Once you start digging in this area, you could find yourself in trouble (see Troubled by Projectiles, below). To create consistency throughout the weapons available would likely involve hacking everything back to the absolute basics and building from there.

Essentially, weapons have a couple of aspects that determine their cost. One, the base damage inflicted, reflected in the Base Cost; two, the Qualities they possess – which, for clarity, I will refer to as Benefits and Flaws, depending on whether the Quality assists or handicaps those who wield them. The Qualities confer a modifier to the Base Cost, dependent on whether the Quality enhances or penalises those who wield the weapon.

Base Cost

The most basic facet of equipment for most characters boils down to cost. When you want to acquire a new weapon, you spend a certain amount of money. The equipment tables in the Core Book and Advanced Player’s Guide, for example, include several tables and these note the basic retail price for a customer.

The GM should adjust this price based on location, availability, scarcity, attitude, and so forth. If the character has offended the merchant, make them pay more. If treasure-seekers have been warned of a new ruin, merchants will definitely raise prices based on demand. A siege on the walls by Summer Elves will make weapons more valuable and arrows scarce. You get the idea.


DamagePrice (ortegs)Example
1D420Improvised Weapon
1D6100Short Weapon
1D8500Single-handed Weapon
1D101000Heavy Weapon
1D125000Siege weapon

More Qualities

While many groups will just accept the letter of the rules and move on, it might be possible to reconcile the inconsistencies between certain weapons with the addition of new Qualities or minor changes to existing Qualities. Qualities multiply or divide by 5, with a balance cancelling out. Therefore, a weapon with a Benefit and a Flaw costs the same as a standard weapon of it’s Type.

Existing crafting Qualities appear on CB p 152 and APG pp 117-118.

Deep Impact increases damage by +1 and multiples the cost of a weapon by 5. Blunt reduces damage by a whole die step and divides the cost of the weapon by 5. That doesn’t seem enough – given a die step equates to more than a reduction of damage by 1. On that basis, I would suggest that Blunt divide cost by 10, not 5.

As an example, a Training Baton – a wooden sword-shaped sparring ‘blade’ used by many establishments to provide basic guidance in handling of weaponry to children – is a Blunt Improvised Weapon, which inflicts 1D2 damage (flip a coin or roll a 1D6, 1-3: 1, 4-6: 2) and costs 2 Ortegs (base: 20 Ortegs / 10).

Some weapons require that you use them with two hands to make them at all effective. Without two hands, you cannot use the weapon at all, whether offensively or defensively.

This is a tweak to the Quality Bastard Weapon listed on page 118 of the English Advanced Player’s Guide. A capable crafter can make a weapon that would normally require two-hands viable with only one, though they lose either TWO Benefits or ONE Benefit and a die step of damage. You cannot lose the Bastard Quality to meet this requirement. The Bastard Quality counters the Double-Grip Quality.

Note: The price of the Long-hammer and Lance, both with the Bastard Quality, listed in the Advanced Player’s Guide are not consistent. As presented, the higher price should be taken as correct (basically, the price under Single-Handed Weapon).

Certain weapons lose a Benefit when matched against a weapon with an identical Benefit – a good example being the Long Quality of Long Weapons. Faced with a weapon of matching Quality, a Countered weapon becomes less useful.

What do these additional Qualities mean?

Well, for example, a Quarterstaff is a 1D8 weapon with the Qualities Long, Blunt, Double-Grip and Countered, which means that you can buy one for a Shilling. It inflicts 1D6 damage, cannot work effectively as a weapon with a single hand, and loses the benefits of Long against other Long weapons.

A Bastard Sword is a 1D10 weapon with the Qualities Precise, Bastard and Double-Grip, which means you can buy one for 50 Thalers. When used one-handed, the Bastard Quality means you lose Precise and a step of damage, but the weapon remains usable.

Many Weapons

The following table lists most of the melee weapons and three projectile weapons from the Core Book and Advanced Player’s Guide. The list price here is in Ortegs (100 Ortegs = 10 Shillings = 1 Thaler):

WeaponTypeQuality 1Quality 2Quality 3Flaw 1Flaw 2Flaw 3DamagePrice (o)
Training SwordImprovisedBlunt1D22
Battle ClawUnarmedDeep ImpactShort1D4+1500
Assassin's BladeShortConcealedShort1D62500
Parrying DaggerShortBalancedShort1D62500
StilettoShortDeep ImpactShort1D6+12500
Spear SlingThrowingDeep Impact1D6+1500
Long BowBowPrecise1D82500
Chain StaffLongEnsnaringLongDouble Grip1D82500
HalberdLongDeep ImpactLongDouble GripCountered1D8+1500
LanceLongLongBastardPreciseDouble GripCountered1D82500
PikeLongLongPreciseDouble GripCountered1D8500
QuarterstaffLongLongBluntDouble GripCountered1D610
Crow's BeakSingle-HandedDeep Impact1D8+12500
EstocSingle-HandedDeep Impact1D8+12500
Fencing SwordSingle-HandedPrecise1D82500
Bastard SwordHeavyPreciseBastardDouble Grip1D105000
Battle FlailHeavyJointed1D105000
Double AxeHeavyDeep Impact1D10+15000
Executioner's AxeHeavyDeep ImpactMassiveUnwieldy1D10+15000
Executioner's SwordHeavyPreciseMassiveUnwieldy1D105000
Grappling AxeHeavyDeep ImpactBastardPreciseUnwieldyDouble Grip1D10+15000
Heavy FlailHeavyJointed1D105000
Long HammerHeavyMassiveBastardPreciseUnwieldyDouble Grip1D105000

You may note some inconsistencies between this list and that included in the existing Symbaroum books. In most cases, this comes down to the Qualities assigned and the attempt to keep pricing in step.

For example, the Grappling Axe does not have enough Flaws, as listed here or in the APG, to account for a price of 10 Thalers. I would be tempted to create something that maybe causes it to more commonly catch in the target, causing it to ‘slow’ or disadvantage the user somehow – perhaps some impact on initiative?

Another example, Short Weapons, all lack the Quality multiplier for the Short Benefit. They each have a unique Benefit for their Type, which accounts for the hike from 100 Ortegs to 500 Ortegs, but Short should add another Quality multiplier.

Troubled by Projectiles

The thing with a crossbow is that resetting the mechanism makes it slower than a bow. A bow reloads as a Free Action, while a Crossbow takes a Movement Action. A Repeating Crossbow overcomes this with a Special Quality – which I’d be tempted to call something like Magazine (a Benefit that might be applied to some siege weapons). And that’s just the beginning of my thoughts around ranged weapons…

I’m torn as to whether a crossbow warrants a Flaw to account for the pace of fire; in turn, it should have a Benefit that makes it easier to use than a bow. A crossbow requires less training to use and can be held ready without effort, unlike a bow — so, there’s a slippery slope here in defining Qualities that might mean the Bow warrants some disadvantageous Quality that the Crossbow counters with the mechanism.

And neither would work particularly well in melee – unless simply as a bludgeon and with a risk of permanent damage to the mechanisms.

Therefore, for the time being, the three entries in this table – Bow, Crossbow and Long Bow – provide a holding space for the inclusion of more material once I reconcile the differences, the potential Benefits and the necessary Flaws.

Once More, With Options

Once again, this sort of quest for consistency will not appeal to everyone. As with all Optional Rules in the Core and APG, you can choose to use or ignore whatever you choose. For some, seeking balance and consistency in the weapons table might well prove more effort than value.

On the other hand, by introducing some measure of consistency and structure, a GM can better handle the creation and modification of weapons. The option to apply and remove Qualities becomes simple, with a certainty that the outcome falls within the parameters set for all existing weapons. In the game world, you achieve uniqueness and variation through aesthetics and greed, crafting styles and base materials.

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  1. It’s interesting when game worlds and the mechanics of the game collide. I think some other aspects that would be interesting to account for are things like the world effects of a weapon. A sword shows a certain social status, a halbard or bill is more likely to be a weapon of a lower social status, more readily confiscated and so on.

    A quarterstaff is likely more breakable – certainly if used to repeatedly parry sword blows, and also likely to be more the weapon of a peasant.

    Walking about with a two-handed sword or a repeating crossbow might also draw some attention.

    Perhaps not… but the in-world consequences of different weapon choices would be interesting to account for in some regards. A primer on likely reactions within Ambria

  2. As Giles says, this purely mechanical solution doesn’t take into account the different social value, material value, and difficulty of craftsmanship that may set apart items that are otherwise functionally identical.

    In the real world, an axe or a spear was almost always a better choice than a sword, and cheaper. A sword requires more metal, worked more expertly, risking a dozen types of damage that an axe or spear can shrug off.

    But swords are set apart by the fact that – unlike spears and clubs and axes – they are purely tools of war, and the difficulty in creating them meant that they became a badge of honor and nobility simply because of vanity. They were the iPhones or Hummers of the age.

    Then there’s also the mechanical argument – axes and hammers and swords have different specialized abilities. Granted, the sword one is garbage, but it means the different types of one-handed weapons have genuinely different value to the players as well.

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