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Weapons have explicitly listed hardnesses and hit points:

Many medieval weapons were known for breaking; most notably, in jousting, breaking a lance scored points:

Given that in D&D we often have impressive characters using unimpressive weapons (think weapons sized for Medium creatures used by Large creatures, or a 30 strength score), it seems to make sense to me that striking might logically break your weapon, but I'm not sure if that's in the rules.

From a strictly balance perspective, there might be uses for weapon breakage:

Then again, the rules explicitly reference sundering as a way of breaking a weapon:

And from a DMing perspective, it seems like it would be a lot of extra bookkeeping.

What's the right way?

For Clarification

I have seen fumble rolls break weapons, and leather armor go bad after a rainstorm if not maintained in games. That's different.

I'm referring more explicitly to attacks. If a weapon is used to attack, does it suffer damage, which if beyond the weapon's DR, could take away its hit points? Over time, this would result in a broken weapon, but not right away.

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Anyway, potentially related question. –  KRyan Jun 12 '13 at 21:01
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5 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

No.

RAW, no, weapons do not break themselves. Only damage explicitly done to objects via sundering or striking an object apply. The rules in Damaging Objects are the sum of how you can do it; if it's not there it's not there for a reason. They also don't say your weapons don't disintegrate every Tuesday, "it doesn't say it doesn't happen" is not a logical argument about a ruleset.

Furthermore, lances aren't more fragile than any other two handed wooden hafted weapon in Pathfinder. (Nor were they fragile in real life - jousting lances were specially hollowed but ones for real fighting were as sturdy as anything else.)

You can house rule that damage applies to weapons - but given the inflated damage numbers of Pathfinder, weapons will be breaking on every hit. Over level 3 hits routinely do 15+ points of damage per strike and that would explode a lance or spear or halberd every time. So then you'd need to do "half damage" or something and it becomes a logistical challenge. Note that weapons become "broken" at half hit points and provide a penalty and are completely destroyed at 0 hp. If implementing a weapon damage rule, I'd take it to a more realistic level; maybe do 1d6 damage to it on a natural 1 (or maybe a number equivalent to the hardness of the thing being struck).

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RAW, no. The weapon/armor does not degrade with hits or over time. I would house-rule that a fighter should spend an hour a day doing calisthenics and maintaining weapons and armor.

Physics also would indicate that likely you need to target a weapon to damage it. You never dry-fire a gun or bow because it damages the gun/bow. How? The forces do not leave the gun/bow. However, if you have an arrow or bullet in the bow/gun, the force/energy gets transferred to the projectile. In Melee, you swing the sword (and all it's energy) into the soft, squishy parts of the bad guy. The energy in the blade gets transferred to the bad guy. Sure, there is a little that reflects back onto the sword, but that is fixed by sharpening the sword every now and then.

I personally think the maintenance requirement is best handled off-camera. When you camp for the night, you have some downtime to handle bathroom breaks, cooking dinner, dicing a bit, etc. The fighter could easily sit around the fire and contribute to the conversation, while running his whetstone over his blade. The first time or two, it is important to say that this fighter maintains weapons/armor, but after that it becomes book keeping where I don't see much value-add. I'd also house-rule that if you use the "flub" rule of auto-failure on a 1, have the PC roll the attack again and if the second roll succeeds, it's a simple failure; if the second roll fails, have something comical happen (character lines up the perfect strike but then trips or something similar) -- next action requires the character to take a "get your bearings" action of half a round; finally on a 1, the weapon breaks and needs to be taken to a smith for repair. As for maintenance of armor, maybe if the character takes a critical hit and lives to tell the tale, they need to repair their armor?

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This is a bit nitpicky, but the idea of not dry firing a gun mostly applies to fairly old guns where the firing pin could be worked loose. On more modern guns, especially with well made rifles, it is common and fairly harmless to dry fire them as practice. In the military, it was common to dry fire the rifles (in a safe direction!) to prove there was no round in the chamber every time you unloaded it and when you entered certain areas with your weapon. –  TimothyAWiseman Jun 12 '13 at 17:41
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If you want to play the maintenance card here's what I suggest.

Make it clear at the beginning of the game that maintenance of the equipment will affect their usage. Poor maintenance will result in possibly penalty on their attack rolls or even their AC. Good maintenance might result on bonuses. Increase the fumble by 1 (so 1-2 on a d20 roll is automatically a failure) if they don't maintain their weapon properly for a long period of time. Give them a +1 damage bonus on their first attack if they kept the weapon in good condition.

For the armor you could increase the armor penalty if the players are wearing them all the time without making sure the joint aren't getting stuck. But if the player is religiously cleaning and rubbing his armor, give him a bonus on diplomacy when talking to the king. People could give him a title such as : XYZ Brightsteel.

Masterwork armor and weapons will be more resilient to damage and bad maintenance.

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I think the "right" way is however you want to DM it.

In the campaigns that I've participated in, it's been done a couple ways.

  1. On any fumbled attack, there is a chance that the weapon or a portion of the weapon (such as a bowstring) can break.
  2. Poor player maintenance (i.e. not stating care of gear at night) leads to increasing chances of breaking.
  3. Items picked up on the road have a greater chance of breaking.
  4. Random chance.

Any and all of the above do require more work on the DM's part, but it adds another dimension of reality to the game.

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Played a game several years back (AD&D 2ed, that far back) where the DM did have breakable weapons. He made up a rather simple system that allowed for weapon breakage that was easy to keep track of for him and for us, and it did add a good point of realism. You don't have to use these, but this was the basic house rules set that we used, broken down by materials.

Each successful strike with (or against) was a point, and each item, based on its material, had a number of points. Leather armor would eventually get shredded after so many cuts and stabbings, and shields did break, especially with blunt weapons.

Wooden weapons (Considered useless at 0, considered broken/shattered)

Bows, Staffs, Cudgles, Clubs, Staves, and polearm shafts.

  • Teak - 25 points
  • Pine - 40
  • Walnut - 65
  • Chestnut - 85
  • Oak - 100
  • Hickory - 110
  • Redwood - 150

Note: Arrows were considered single use, as shafts/points/fletching would be ruined in battle)

Metal weapons (Considered clubs/maces at 0, considered dull. Knives were considered chipped and dealt only subdual damage.)

  • Copper - 15 points
  • Bronze - 35
  • Iron - 45
  • Steel - 75

Wooden shields (Considered useless at 0, considered shattered)

  • Plain wood - 10 points
  • Wood with hide - 15
  • Wood with copper - 18
  • Wood with bronze - 22
  • Wood with iron - 30
  • Wood with steel - 45

Metal shields (Half effectiveness at 0, considered misshapen)

  • Copper - 15 points
  • Bronze - 20
  • Iron - 30
  • Steel - 50

Leather Armor (Useless at 0, considered rags)

  • Cloth (padded) - 3 points
  • Hide - 5
  • Scale - 7
  • Bone - 8
  • Leather - 9
  • Boiled Leather - 11
  • Studded leather - 14

Metal Armor (Half effectiveness at 0, considered bent)

  • Copper - 10 points
  • Bronze - 25 points
  • Iron - 60 points
  • Steel - 85 points

This wasn't the whole list of either weapons, armor, shields, or materials available (not to mention improvements and maintenance). Having some points in smithing, fletching, bow making, and leatherworking became rather critical, as you could only improve base upon the modifier + time worked upon each piece of equipment.

This is only what I remember, but the whole thing was a lot more comprehensive. There were more than a few situations where we had weapons that weren't effective, and armor that was only practical as clothing. The baddies, too, only had a certain amount of points on their stuff based on their CR (I think it was X1.25 their CR) and feats like sunder, disarm, cleave, and batter (which we invented) became extremely useful. Improvised weapons and pick-ups were the way of life. I think at one point of time one of our PC's was using someone's Iron Chest Plate as a shield, as it lasted twice as long... and he couldn't get anything else in a cave.

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