Fantasy weapons should be the core of a combat based fantasy role playing system game like D&D but is this truly the case?
All characters from the mighty front rank warrior to the timid, bookish spell caster carry something to beat, stab or slash their foes with even if only at the last resort. The weapon is at the very centre of the world of the warrior but I think he could be better served by both the rules and the miniature manufacturer. Whilst some fantasy weapons do figure, I question if they realise their full potential in shaping other aspects of the game or indeed setting the right fantasy tone for a world or a character’s background, behavior and personality. As a GM, weapons and fighting style can become the basis of the whole world and its societies if given enough emphasis.
Spot the Fantasy Weapon
Weapons in the Players Handbook fall into two distinct genres. Most could be considered to be either Western or Eastern Medieval in origin complementing fantasy worlds that are predominantly feudal. Wizards Of The Coast have maintained the same focus in offering prestige classes and other aspects of the rules around these two historical social times. The only true fantasy weapons to my mind are the double headed/ended ones and perhaps the spiked chain (such as the one used by Drax).
To WotC’s credit, there is a section expanding the list at the very end of the 3.5 Complete Warrior and here you will find some of the more original ones although the focus is bigger, exotic versions of existing tools like the greatspear, the dire pick and the heavy poleaxe. True fantasy weapons seemed to have dropped out of the game since the passing of the 3.0 Arms and Equipment Guide.
Weapons Fit for a Fantasy Setting
Is it any surprise then that most warriors carry swords, axes, shields, maces and spears and live in feudal societies? Are the armor they wear, the tactics they adopt, the environment they live in and the feats they choose any great surprise? Mundane weapons lead to mundane choices, so what can be done with fantasy weapons? If a GM were to start planning his campaign around these questions by either expanding or controlling the weapons commonly available, interesting new ideas and challenges could be presented to the player by the fantasy world they exist in.
Who makes Fantasy Weapons?
I have searched my lists of manufacturers and believe fantasy weapons are scarce. Reaper Miniatures, as one of the largest ranges of fantasy miniatures was an obvious place to start but even they only produce a handful. They have focused on the double headed weapons and spiked chains which only scratch the surface. Beyond Reaper I was stumped so I decided to take a different approach and see if the style of weapon modeled could be described as fantasy.
Conventional weapons in a fantasy style
When you are looking for miniatures with interesting weapons, you are much better served. Werner Klocke of Freebooter Miniatures and Reaper is a great example of one who gives his weapons a fantasy styling without making them fantasy weapons. This is great because it is possible to give a game a distinct look or feel.
Ideas For Fantasy Weapons
I believe there is a lot of potential in using fantasy weapons as a GM. Imagine your average band of orcish raiders attacking a gnomish village. If my war band have a mine or a fungus farm they are going to want slaves. Instead of their usual weapons I am going to equip half of them with Saps, Man Catchers and Blow Pipes (darts laced with sleeping poisons) for snatch teams. Why would all of them carry lethal weapons if they need undamaged slaves?
I have also been considering sculpting some Quorakon archers. Adrian who conceived the Quorakon and I spent some time discussing how Quorakon might hold their bow. Rather than giving them two conventional bows, I might work out a double stringed bow with characteristics like the Elven Double Bow from the old Arms And Equipment Guide. A fantastic creature with fantasy weapons is enough to make the most jaded player sit up and take notice.
Do Fantastic Weapons have a Fantastic Future?
Whilst I am still in denial about 4.0 and have barely scratched the surface, one area it could consider is expanding into more fantasy weapons. The structured character classes lend themselves to it but I suspect I am being a little optimistic.