Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Outlandish Weapons

Some may remember this post from long ago, where I wrote about farm tools and various other improvised weapons. This post was meant to follow it but time and circumstance necessitated several circumambulations of the stablished earth betwixt that time and now, and various vicissitudes observed and experienced, so the original is barely recognisable. The names and pictures are what counts, though. Good names can be dusted off and reconditioned.

At about the time I wrote the Terrible Weapons post I got hold of a couple of Umberto Eco books that were highly influential on me; The Infinity of Lists and The Book of Legendary Lands. These books are essentially works of curation in which Eco exercised his very considerable erudition in gathering and presenting historical fragments to illuminate their influence on the cultures we inhabit. The result of my exposure to his scholarship and ideas caused me to rethink my approach to things.

Firstly, Lists is about lists, and the use of lists throughout history. I am especially interested in the fundamental importance of lists in rpgs. D&D is, at its core, a game about curating worlds and narratives from menus of options: its bestiaries are lists of monsters, its grimoires are lists of spells, players' handbooks are lists of heroes and weapons and equipment and skills, DM's guides are full of lists of traps and treasures and NPCs and terrains and techniques. The preceding sentence was a list of some of the lists in D&D. Lists of options suggest abundance and dynamism, even those you don't use enrich the sense of more wonderment and excellence receding beyond the horizon. Lists.

Legendary Lands is about the places historical people made up and either believed existed somewhere beyond their borders, enjoyed pretending to believe, or kept in some other manner as a cultural idea worth thinking on. This gave me a couple of things: The first was the sense that I could profitably work with a setting that was immediately adjacent to the real world, set in a vague epoch prior to the dawn of history, as did Howard and Tolkien, and didn't have to make up names for lands (which is something I don't like to do). The second was the names of the lands themselves and the power source of the adjacency of real-world histories and languages and cultures. Meropis and Atlantis, for example, are from Ancient Greek literature, Hy Breasil is from Mediaeval Irish literature. Their geography is already suggested by the sources and their psychogeography also. Drawing from these sources allows ersatz essentialism sans faux-nomenclature and allows access to more and better lists.

The outlandishness of these weapons refers both to their strangeness and to their origin from beyond the Septentrional Suzerainty or the Occidental Imperium (or whatever the generic centre is that provides the ground against which the estrangement of otherness can be contrasted). The weapons require that the character use them is able to speak the language of the realm of their origin. So language, conventionally a relatively useless appendage to the old-school PC, could be said to have with it some knowledge and understanding of culture. Here, the assumption is that if you speak the language you can use the weapon properly. You could, of course, wield the weapon without the language, but it wouldn't be special, certainly, the merlouns and babewyns won't listen to you, and you'll almost certainly inadvertently incinerate yourself with a Magonian Phlogiston Globe.

Open in another tab so you can read the inscriptions. My alchemical symbology is on point.

1. Merloun of Annwn: Raptor bred by the Faulkners of Annwn, whose falconry is unsurpassed in any realm other. AC: 20 (O) MV: Fl 200' HD: 1/2 Att: divebomb d6 dmg (automatically hits) Save: T7 ML: 11 AL: L

2. Mezzoramian Hornbow: Extraordinarily strong bow of horn, antler, hardwood, sinew and perchance blasphemous paynim magicks. STR bonus adds to the damage it causes. Range 70/140/210, d6 dmg, over 3 dmg and it's butted against the bone, d3 dmg to pull the barbed arrow out (-2 to everything per arrow stuck in).

3. Lemurian Keris: Wavy-bladed weapon of outlandish mottled steel. d4 dmg, each wound bleeds 1 dmg/rd until bandaged.

4. Flambard of Lyonesse: Flame-bladed greatsword, extraordinarily sharp. Flourishing the flambard in gleaming moulinets causes opponents of lower level to check morale or flee (unless of significantly superior numbers). d12 dmg.

5. Arimaspian Akinakes: Shortsword of Arimaspian arsenical bronze. Those wounded will be weakened. -1 STR per wound. 1d4 dmg.

6. Atlatl of the Antichthones: The indigo Antichthones, who dwell beyond Taprobane, fling their flint-tipped spears exceeding far by the cunning of their ebon spear-throwers: d6 dmg. Range: 40/80/120. Over 3 dmg and there are shards of flint stuck in the wound, -1 to everything until wounded receives assistance from a Chirurgeon.

7. Choromandaean Gimel: Throwing stick of the savage Choromandae that flies with its own murderous intent. Goes round corners in search of its quarry. Ignores cover (even if complete). 1d4 dmg. Range:  30/60/90.

8. Atlantean Orichalcum Parazonium: Dagger-sword of ruddy golden hue. Puissant against the cacodaemoniacal denizens of supramundane realms. d4 dmg, d12 against cacodaemoniacal denizens of supramundane realms.

9. Dwergish Blunderbore: Preposterous gonne of the Dwergish folk. It goes off with a staggering bang that knocks wielder over if to-hit roll exceeds wielder’s strength. Ammunition is whatever bits of crock, nails, stones or low-value currency the wielder can get their hands on. 3d6 dmg + knockdown as with wielder to 10’, 2d6 to 20’, 1d6 to 30’ spreading in a cone 20' wide at 30' range. ROF 1/3.

10. Amazonian Sagaris: Horse-headed hammer-axe of the Amazones, it is exceeding swift and deadly when used from horseback or chariot - double damage at the charge, helmets knocked off automatically. d8 dmg.

11. Quicklime of Palaisimundus: Pouch of alchemically-refined caustic powder, slung in the faces of enemies causes blindness and burning lungs. Save or -4 for d6 rounds, backfires disastrously on a 1. 10 doses. Wear gloves.

12. Werrebowe of Elphame: Knotty bow of yew, exceeding strong and springy. Flings its peacock-fletched arrows preposterously far. Range 300/300/300, d8 dmg.

13. Shillelagh of the Little Folk: Blackthorn cudgel, buttered well and kept in a chimbley for seven years so it is as hard as iron. Stunning blow puts foe out of action, reeling idiotically, for one rd/lvl on a roll of 20. d6 dmg.

14. Bident of the Anthropophagi: Gigantic eating-fork of the cannibalistic Anthropophagi. Once hit, opponent must sustain the same damage to tear bident from flesh. d8 dmg.

15. Naphtha Flasks of Iram: Combustible spirit held in vessels of crockery or crude green glass. Ignited and thrown, it shatters and the naphtha burns green and evilly. 2d6 direct hit, 1d6 within 5', 1d6/rd thereafter until fire is put out. 10/20/30.

16. Antediluvian Fanged Club: Heavy bludgeon set with the petrified teeth of the terrible beasts of the Earth's savage dawn: the Krackenback, the Ziphius, the Apophis, the Illuyankas: d20 dmg. One terrible monster will attack the possessor each day.

17. Arcadian Syrinx: Panpipe of the maenads and tripping capripeds, the music of which is contagiously frenetic and strange. Disastrous frenzy ensues in the vicinity of its playing. All combatants, friend and foe, gain advantage on their attacks.

18. Flail of the Skiapodes: Terrifying spiked flail, flailed in a flailing motion by the one-legged leaping skiapodes. Two attacks per round, flail self on 1, d8 dmg.

19. Meropian Vitriol: Glass phial of mordant humour distilled from the sublimated rage of ascetic Meropian Philosopher-priests. Disastrously corrosive: d12 dmg on first round, d10 2nd rd, d8 3rd, d6 4th, d4 5th, d2 6th.

20. Babewyn of the Cynocephalides: Unmanageably vermin-infested gurning ape kept by the dog-headed men. It steals and shrieks and flings its dung. Once you have one, another will arrive every d6 days. Everyone is itchy from now on : AC: 15 (5) MV. 40' HD: 1 Att: 1 bite, d4 dmg Save: T1 ML: 6 AL: C.

21. Soliferrum of the Hesperides: Iron javelin forged in crucibles of the sunset-realm and marked with the glyph of the sun. Ignores all armour. d8 dmg, 20/40/60.

22. Angon of Urheim: Iron-shanked spear of the house-carles of Urheim. If thrown at a shield it renders it useless automatically and the opponent cannot attack the next round. d6 dmg.

23. Hoggspjot of Thule: Heavy and hardy hewing spear of the reivers of Thule. Wielder may hew opponent's mundane weapon in half on a successful strike. d8 dmg.

24. Agarthan Firelance: A spear from subterranean Agartha with a pair of incendiary devices mounted on either side of the point. The wielder may light the fuses to produce gouts of blazing green sparks and smoke to dazzle, scorch and dishearten their opponent. An opponent who is deterred by fire will be at -4 to hit for the 5 rds. A successful hit also may cause clothing to smoulder and burn at GM’s whim. 1d8+1 dmg

25. Fire-Blackened Stick of the Troglodytae: A stick, sharp at one end and hardened in a fire, kept by the loathsome Troglodytae in their reeking grottoes, the uspeakable filth thereof makes the wounds vulnerable to corruption. Save or festering ensues: -1 CON/day, save each day thereafter, two saves in a row indicates recovery. Each wound festers independently.

26. Tourney Sword of Ys: A sword specialised for harness-fighting with heavily-armoured men-at-arms. It is a stiff and narrow spike with a grip-knob for half-swording, armour-piecing quillons and a flanged-mace pommel for desperate bludgeoning. +3 to-hit against plate armour. d8 dmg

27. Claidheamh-mòr of the Sith: Greatsword of the Seelie-Wights, extraordinarily wieldy depite its size and conducive to vehement flourishing , successful kill means attack roll and full dmg can then be applied to another nearby enemy.

28. Dart of the Pygmies: Long, fletched, barbed hurling-javelin wielded by the Pygmies in their battles against the Storks and Phoenicopteruses of their homelands. The Darts are poisoned with the virulent lycoctonum which they carry in little crocks. d6 dmg 20/40/60 save or fall frothing in agony, d20 dmg from poison, miss next round. 6 doses

29. Carnyx of Hy Breasil: Brazen discordant howling of the Carnyx fills the enemy with fear and panic. Anyone not of Hy Breasilian ilk: ML Check each round. 1st failure lose initiative. 2nd in a row: Wavering - no actions this round. 3rd in a row: Flee in panic.

30. Hyperborean Harpoon: Cold-forged harpoon for the hunting of the Raudkembingur and Troluals of the boreal seas. d8 dmg. Gets stuck inside if it causes 4 or more damage and wounded one bleeds great gouts, d4 dmg/rd until wrenched out, STR check to wrench out for d8 dmg. Range 15/30/45.

31. Shamshir of Serkland: Supremely sharp sword of superb craftsmanship rewards the nimble wielder with unmatched flickering speed and deadliness: d8 dmg. Wielder may use both STR and DEX bonuses to modify attack and dmg.

32. Jawbone of a Rantipike of Nod: Seemingly simple asinine mandible allows one attack per level each round . 1d4 dmg.

33. Stone-maul of Trollmark: Heavy and unwieldy and fell, the stone maul carries in it some of the malevolent puissance of one whose petrified remnant this is. It has incised in it a sigil of gealdorcraeft: the Stafur til að vekja upp draug. It can strike invulnerable spirits, attacks only every second round and causes 2d8 dmg.

34. Shotel of the Blemmyes: Sickle-sword of the acephalic Blemmyes who wield it along with their great wicker pavises. Ignores shields: d8 dmg

35. Magonian Phlogiston Globes: Crystal spheres, scorchingly hot, 1d4 dmg to anyone who tries to throw them with bare hands, 3d8 fireball of 10' radius, white-hot, failed save = blind, - 4 for 1d4 rds 10/20/30

36. Firkin of Stitchback of Cockaigne : Potent ale of Cockaigne cures what ails you up to the point where you sober up, each mug cures 3 hp for one hour, over three mugs also reduces dexterity by one per mug over three. Firkin has 20 tankards initially. Weight: 10 items


  1. All really, really good. Appreciated.

  2. A sumptuous symphony of ear-deliciousness. Thank you.

  3. Inspirational as always. What rules do you use for shields and helmets?

    Umberto Eco's among my favourite people at putting words together, or maybe his translators are. I'm unsure how much credit is due to which of the two when it comes to preserving artistry between Italian and English.

    If you haven't read it already, I'd recommend checking out Avram Davidson's Adventures in Unhistory, a collection of essays that've got a similar linguistic/historical/mythological tangent exploration that some of your posts have.

    1. I am a mediaeval re-enactor also so I am very fond of shields and helmets. Ancient and Early Mediaeval folks often went to war with only a shield as protection and were lucky if they could afford a helmet.

      LL Stats: Shield: +2 AC, Buckler: +1 AC, Little Helmet: +1 AC, Big helmet: +2 AC.

      I'm now very interested in the Unhistory book an will chase it up.

  4. Awesome. I have been using the Rabble Weapons list in my home games for a while and I anticipate much more fun to come with this list!

    It gives me endless joy to see a Pathfinder barbarian with a giant STR bonus trying to fight with a rusty, notched axe that breaks on a 1. For the first few adventures, just finding a weapon that *wouldn't break* was one of the group's larger goals!

    I added a few primitive stone weapons to fit my game world. They suffer from 'chipping,' it's a bit more fiddly but a permanent -1 to damage rolls whenever the weapon does maximum damage or on a critical hit. You could also reduce the weapon's die by one size for a bit less fiddling.

    1. That's great to hear. I've got to do Militia Weapons and Knightly Weapons to fill out the set, though the crappy ones and the weird ones are definitely more fun than the merely-ok and really-quite-good ones.

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