‘Twas brillig

Chatty DM has got his hands on the 4e rules and has a few initial thoughts. One of the things he mention is vorpal weapons.

The Vorpal weapon is awesome, You get a bunch of extra dice of damage on crits or using it’s daily power. On top of that, whenever you play max damage with it (not just while doing a crit), you get to reroll damage and add it up. You keep re-rolling as long as you play maximum damage. Here’s to hoping to see a player break the Bell Curve!

Much of what I hear about 4e I don’t like but I like the idea that vorpal weapons are extremely deadly. Back in 1st edition D&D, it was the most powerful weapon available because a to hit roll of 20 or more meant your opponent was decapitated. This was the only critical hit style effect in the game and it was a moment to savor when the head of some Boss Monster went flying off.

It is possible that the original and the latest vorpals are disproportionately deadly but I think that is good thing. Second, third and, it appears, fourth editions have tried to make the game balanced so that no one class or race is more powerful than another. This is doubly true for spell casters where cleric and wizard spells are identical in damage for given level.

All this balance does make a fairer game but it distances the game from its source material. Books like Conan and Lord of the Rings are not balanced. Some characters slay dragons single handedly whilst others are only capable of poking a Nazgul in the knee. Having some objects and magic of disproportionate power both ties the game to its literary roots and gives the players something to dream about. In 1st edition, players aspired to owning a vorpal sword and if one was found in a pile of treasure, parties would rip themselves apart arguing over who should get it. Nothing in 2nd or 3rd editions generates that level of lust because everything is balanced and fair.

The vorpal sword should be a massively powerful weapon because its taken from Lewis Carrol’s beautiful and beguiling Jabberwocky. In it, a young hero uses a vorpal blade to slay a terrible beast.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

The vorpal blade should be significantly more powerful than other blades, otherwise you might as well call it a +3 Sword and be done with it.