Even in the modern world of superheroes, archaic weapons like swords, hammers, and bows remain common. Some of these weapons are enhanced by magic or technological gadgetry, while others rely solely on the tremendous skill of their wielders. In either case, old school weapons are primary tools for many heroes and villains.
The basic effect for weapons is Damage, since the primary purpose of weapons is to inflict injury. Archaic weapons are Strength-based as well, unless their damage relies on some property of the weapon rather than how forcefully it is wielded.
Archaic weapon damage comes in three descriptors: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing.
A weapon’s damage type may affect game traits like Immunity and limited forms of resistance; a foe Immune to Piercing Damage, for example, can still suffer damage from a bludgeoning weapon.
Some weapons have multiple damage descriptors; a sword, for example, can be both a slashing and piercing weapon, depending on how it’s wielded. The same for a hammer backed with a pick (both bludgeoning and piercing). This does not have a cost, it’s just a quality of the descriptors, unless the breadth reaches the level of the 1-point version of the Variable Descriptor extra.
Although piercing and slashing weapons are designed to be lethal in the real world (bludgeoning weapons, too, when the proper force is applied), comic books often choose to “overlook” the nastier effects of these weapons; targets suffer no more than a few nicks and cosmetic cuts, and a hero with a sword can defeat a foe without running him through or otherwise causing any lasting—much less lethal—injury. This is the default assumption, which treats all Damage effects largely the same, and assumes damage is not lethal unless an attacker deliberately chooses to kill an incapacitated target. Likewise, serious injuries resulting from weapons are treated as complications, rather than the specific result of failed Toughness resistance checks (see Lasting Injuries).
Weapons may have a variety of different qualities that define them. Some of these qualities are modifiers (extras and flaws) for the weapon’s basic Damage effect, while others are Features added on top of the weapon’s Damage, or Alternate Effects of its Damage for a weapon with different uses. Weapon qualities that are effectively Enhanced Advantages do not stack with other advantages unless the advantages is normally ranked.
When a Strength-based Damage effect has modifiers that increase its cost to more than 1 point per rank, a special rule applies to the addition of Strength ranks to the effect’s Damage rank: divide the wielder’s Strength rank by the Damage effect’s point cost per rank and round down to determine the total Strength bonus that applies to the weapon.
Note that this rules does not apply to modified Damage effects with a cost of less than 1 point per rank (the Strength rank is not multiplied for these effects), nor does it apply to flat modifiers that do not change cost per rank. Flat modifiers simply apply their normal rank to the total damage of the effect. Additional modifier ranks can be taken to “widen” the extra to include added Strength ranks (to a point).
Example: A Strength-based Damage sword has Penetrating 3, the same as its Damage rank. Additional Strength ranks add to the sword’s Damage, but are not Penetrating. However, the sword could have Damage 3, Penetrating 8, allowing up to 5 additional Strength ranks added to it to become Penetrating as well.
Attacks with the weapon gain a +2 bonus to the attack check per rank of this quality. This bonus counts towards power level determinations. 1 point per rank.
The striking portion of the weapon is surrounded by an aura of some damaging force or energy (not the same as the Energy Aura power). In game terms, this applies an additional descriptor to the weapon’s damage. For example, a sword with a flame aura has the “fire” descriptor while a hammer with a lightning aura has the “electrical” descriptor on its damage in addition to bludgeoning. This is primarily just a Damage descriptor but may, like the basic descriptors for damage type, change how the weapon affects some targets, such as a foe vulnerable to fire. The aura may also allow the wielder to perform different stunts with the weapon. 1 point.
The weapon is especially effective against a certain type of target. This is typically additional ranks of Damage with a Limited flaw based on how rarely the target appears. Excluding about half the potential targets is worth a –1 flaw.
Since the benefits of Bane are limited by power level, they can make the weapon less effectual overall, so Gamemasters may wish to bend the power level limits for Bane weapons, allowing their additional Damage bonus to exceed power level limits by up to 2 ranks. More than this is not recommended. –1 flaw.
The weapon grants the benefits of the Weapon Bind advantage: if you take a defend action while wielding the weapon, and successfully defend against an armed attack, you can make an immediate disarm attempt against the attacker as a reaction. 1 point.
The weapon grants the benefits of the Weapon Break advantage: if you take a defend action while wielding the weapon, and successfully defend against an armed attack, you can make an immediate smash attack against the attacker’s weapon as a reaction. 1 point.
The weapon’s attack and damage serve as a carrier for another Linked effect, such as Affliction or Weaken. The descriptor may be anything from a powerful electrical shock to a toxin or even a magical effect. The Linked effect may have its own modifiers to further define it. Linked effect cost.
The weapon provides the benefits of the Chokehold advantage: After successful attack and grab checks, the target suffocates for as long as you maintain the hold. 1 point.
The weapon is either small and easy to conceal or can fold or collapse down into a concealable form. This is similar to the Subtle modifier, and provides a +10 circumstance bonus to Sleight of Hand checks to conceal the weapon (base DC 20 to find it when it is concealed as a routine check). 1 point.
Dangerous weapons are more likely to inflict critical hits: each rank of this quality increases the weapon’s critical threat range by 1, to a maximum of 16–20 with 4 ranks. 1 point per rank.
Like the Improved Defense advantage, when you take the defend action while wielding the weapon, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to your active defense checks. 1 point.
A double weapon has two striking ends or sides and can be used to strike twice, splitting the weapon’s damage (the Split modifier). 1 point.
A disarming weapon is more effective in knocking things out of a target’s grasp, allowing disarm attempts to be made with no circumstance penalty. 1 point.
Grab attacks made with the weapon are particularly difficult to escape from and grabbed targets suffer a –2 circumstance penalty to checks to escape. 1 point.
The weapon provides the benefits of the Fast Grab advantage: After a hit with the weapon, make an immediate grab check against the target as a free action, using the weapon’s Damage rank as its effective Strength rank. The weapon attack inflicts its normal damage and counts as the initial attack check to grab the target. 1 point. No cost if the weapon attack has no effect other than the grab.
The design or function of the weapon is sufficiently impressive to grant the wielder a +2 circumstance bonus to interaction checks involving it, usually Intimidation checks when using the weapon to threaten someone. 1 point.
The weapon’s physical form cannot be damaged. It is immune to smash attacks and, while it can be taken away from the wielder, it cannot be destroyed. 1 point.
The weapon is “keyed” to the wielder in some fashion (biometric signature, aura reading, magical link, etc.) such that only the wielder may use it. The weapon simply doesn’t function for anyone else. 1 point.
Ranged use of archaic weapons is handled in one of three ways:
The weapon’s length or design provides the wielder with additional reach in attacking nearby targets. 1 point per +5 feet of reach.
The weapon is especially effective at smashing held objects, you suffer no attack check penalty for making a smash attack against an object held by another character. 1 point.
The weapon is effective in making trip attacks, providing the benefits of the Improved Trip advantage: no penalty to the attack check to trip, no opposing trip attack, and a choice of which trait your target uses to defend (Acrobatics or Athletics). 1 point.
The information in this Guide can build a wide range of archaic weapons; the following are provided as examples and benchmarks for your own weapon creations and as a quick-pick list for players and GMs looking to outfit a character with weapons.
Blades range from short, easily concealed knives and daggers to heavy two-handed swords or axes.
A bludgeon may be as simple as a heavy length of wood used as a club or as sophisticated as a metal warhammer or mace.
While some entangling weapons (like the whip) can inflict damage, their primary purpose is to trip up or grab targets and restrain them.
Sharp or bladed polearms inflict piercing or slashing damage. Blunt polearms (or the haft of a polearm used as a striking weapon) do bludgeoning damage. Dangerous, Double, Reach, and Tripping are common polearm qualities.
The following archaic weapons use the first option for ranged weapons given earlier in this Guide. Many of the previous weapons—particularly some blades and polearms—can also be thrown using the second or third options for ranged weapons.
Costumed archers rarely limit themselves to traditional arrows. Instead, they carry quivers full of arrows equipped with various gadgets, giving them a wide range of effects.
These trick arrows are an array, usable one at a time, with the potential complication of running out of arrows (or crossbow bolts).
Potential trick arrows include the following:
The basic concept for trick arrows can also apply to crossbow bolts or even sling bullets, and even when deprived of their primary weapon, characters may find ways to throw or wield trick ammunition.