Simplified Weapon Design (5e Variant Rule)
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- “Wait, he can dual-wield scimitars, but I can’t dual-wield rapiers even though they’re lighter?”
—Way too many players
Don’t let the weapon list get in the way of awesome! This variant is for players who don’t like mechanics hampering flavorful weaponry, or who don’t like the way some weapons are strictly inferior/superior to others in the same category.
This variant considers any weapon set to be a single “weapon,” whether it’s two-handed, one-handed, or a pair of weapons; this blurs some rules. The DM may rule to ignore effects that depend on shield/two-handed/two-weapon fighting, or redefine those effects to be based on flavor instead of hard equipment definitions (e.g. if something depends on a character wearing a shield, apply it to any weapon set with Defender).
- Note: Shields are considered a part of weapon sets for the purposes of this variant rule!
As a rule of thumb, the author recommends all simple weapons cost 5 gp, and all martial weapons cost 20 gp, at the DM’s discretion. (The reasoning here is that mundane weapon costs become trivial by 3rd level.)
If a race, class, or other effect grants proficiency with any martial weapons, it instead grants proficiency with all martial weapons.
Start with a base melee or ranged weapon, choose a damage type (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing), then choose 3 properties.
Base melee weapon. Martial. 1d6 damage. Small creatures suffer disadvantage on attack rolls with this weapon.
Base ranged weapon. Martial. 1d6 damage. Ranged (30/120). Can only be fired once per turn. Small creatures suffer disadvantage on attack rolls with this weapon.
Each property may only be selected once, unless it says otherwise.
Simple. Gain the benefit of the Light property, and creatures do not require proficiency with martial weapons to use this weapon. Melee weapons decrease their base damage to 1d4.
Brutal. Increase damage die by one step. Can be chosen up to 3 times. (Full progression: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12.)
Defender. Increase AC by 1 while wielded. Can represent a shield; in most melee cases it's reasonable to swap this for Brutal by “stowing the shield and two-handing the weapon” (ask your DM).
Finesse. (Melee only.) You may choose to use Dexterity instead of Strength on your attack and damage rolls with this weapon.
Light. Small creatures don’t have disadvantage on attack rolls with this weapon.
Sniping. (Ranged only.) Increase range to 80/320 for improvised or simple weapons, or 150/600 for martial weapons.
Rapid-fire. (Ranged only.) Can be fired as fast as the character can attack with it.
Thrown. (Melee only.) Gains a range of 20/60. Can be chosen again to increase range to 30/120.
These are not the only ways to represent these weapons! Be creative.
Knife. Piercing. Simple, Finesse, Thrown. (1d4 damage. Range 20/60.)
Mace with shield. Bludgeoning. Simple, Brutal, Defender. (1d6 damage. Stow shield to swap Defender for Brutal, increasing damage to 1d8.)
Spear. Piercing. Simple, Brutal, Thrown. (1d6 damage. Range 20/60.)
Crossbow, light. Piercing. Simple, Brutal, Sniping. (1d8 damage. Range 80/320. Can only be fired once per turn.)
Shortbow.' Piercing. Simple, Rapid-fire, Sniping. (1d6 damage. Range 80/320.)
Throwing knife. Piercing. Finesse, Light, Thrown. (1d6 damage. Range 20/60.)
Dagger. Slashing. Brutal, Finesse, Light. (1d8 damage.)
Glaive. Slashing. Brutal 2, Reach. (1d10 damage. Small creatures suffer disadvantage on attack rolls with this weapon.)
Greatsword. Slashing. Brutal 3. (1d12 damage. Small creatures suffer disadvantage on attack rolls with this weapon.)
Javelin. Piercing. Brutal, Thrown 2. (1d8 damage. Range 30/120.)
Longsword with shield. Slashing. Brutal, Defender, Light. (1d8 damage. Stow shield to swap Defender for Brutal, increasing damage to 1d10.)
Rapier. Piercing. Brutal, Finesse, Light. (1d8 damage.)
Longbow. Piercing. Brutal, Rapid-fire, Sniping. (1d8 damage. Range 150/600.)