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My players are very much of the "kill a monster and take their stuff" mentality. They have acquired a veritable collection of daggers, javelins, short swords, and so on, from all the monsters they've killed. This doesn't seem like it should cause balance issues, because the weapons are not necessarily stronger than the players' original weapons, and the weapons they find aren't magic items (because I want to make sure to keep within the treasure parcel guidelines).

Will I run into any serious problems if my characters take weapons from enemies? If it does cause problems, is there a way around those problems?

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You shouldn't have any serious problems

Looting enemies in D&D is a very "normal" thing to do as a player. Players want to get coins, weapons, armour or other stuff from their enemies either as trophies or to actually use them.

As a DM I always give some coin or a weapon or a piece of armour to any player that wishes to search a body. Usually, I also allow them to take body parts, such as a Bugbear's fur and then either turn it into clothing or sell it to the market for a reasonable price.

Back to your concern: There will be no problems so long as you do not introduce them to a very powerful weapon when they are not ready. Allowing them to loot daggers, javelins or short swords won't do the campaign any harm. All it can do is that the players now have a lot of weapons to their disposal and that they may sell them to get some coin.

A different story

Sometimes having a lot of weapons in your house (or carrying them) may cause some people to keep a close eye on the characters. If they have a permanent house somewhere and they keep all their weapons there, then the neighbours might get concerned and ask for help from the law enforcement force of the city.

You could certainly roleplay some scenarios where the players enter a tavern while having a butt tonne of weapons on them and consequently some people start leaving as they get concerned.

There are countless roleplaying possibilities with this and it will certainly be fun for both you as a DM and the players.

If things do get out of hand (for example, the City Watch in Waterdeep decided to take their weapons for public safety reasons and the players do not allow them to) you can always put an important NPC help them under the condition that they will help him with whatever he asks them. (maybe kill a monster and bring a part of it back to him, or save his daughter which was abducted from an evil necromancer)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This may also be improved if you talk about the statistics those weapons have and if you use the value rules for selling NPC found weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 1 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the NPC asks for something illegal like killing a merchant or stealing from a noble would be even better since his help was also "breaking the law". What kind of favor from someone that helps them against rightful guards were they expecting? \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Jul 2 at 15:19
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You should really ask them why.

Not out of the assumption that they're trying to pull a fast one on you, but because you're the person who keys all the encounters in the world, hostile and otherwise. If your players are building up a collection for anything other than their own satisfaction - because they're not really going to find a buyer for monster weapons, monster weapons aren't magic*, and it's likely they're not even trained in them - knowing their motive will let you either give them a bit of what they expect or tell them it's not possible.

Heck, if they are just building up a collection for their own satisfaction, that's still useful to know, because it's more interesting to collect interesting things, and when you key an encounter you can spend a little time thinking about what to tell them about the weapons afterwards. Even a handful of terrible goblin daggers can still be interesting if, say, they've got weird patterns on the metal that seem to flow from one blade to the next, and when you spend some time at camp fitting them all together, it turns out they were all torn from some fallen caravan guard's armor and then sharpened up.

That said, here are some rules cornerstones that might help you build something more, if they need something more.

Monsters don't [W].

That is to say, the attacks in the statblock that notionally use their weapons shouldn't be assumed to reflect what their weapons can do. I mean, sometimes they do track, or at least parts of them do track, but when an angel of vengeance hacks you with a longsword and gets an icefire chaser, the icefire comes from the angel of vengeance, not its longsword.

Monsters are big and small.

Monsters larger than Medium or smaller than Small wield weapons appropriately scaled for their size, and sometimes a statblock will track the damage for those larger-sized weapons. Rules for weapon size and damage are on p.220 of the PHB, but a key takeaway from those rules is that PCs usually can't use weapons that are larger than them.

There are no guaranteed buyers, but...

Also on p.220 is a little note about not really being able to find buyers for regular equipment without GM approval. But if your players are collecting weapons with the expectation of some eventual payoff, well, we have a word for that.

That word is sidequest.

Or maybe even plain ol' quest. I don't know how you'll end up building this out. But if the PCs happen to meet an eccentric collector who just can't get enough monster weapons, or a wandering scholar who curates a weird weapons collection and would be happy to share tales of mysterious wisdom from forgotten lands, p.122 of your DMG has some guidance on how to track and reward that. Basically it's just rerouting some of the expected wealth per level down a different path, in the form of cash money direct or perhaps a boon of knowledge that works like a magic item.

*Monster weapons aren't magic, but...

p.174 of your DMG talks about giving monsters magic gear and how it affects the statblock, which you might want to do if you're going to give the players some magic gear and they're fighting monsters that would be inclined to use it. The basic takeaway is that a monster using gear on-tier for its level only gets a +1 to the relevant bits.

But, if you squint, there's the concept that "monsters have gear from one tier down", which can play productively into certain motivations for collecting weapons, like "turn their weapons against them" or "melt them down into a sweet new sword".

Not that every vengeful specter dagger is going to discharge its icy spite like a vial of alchemist's frost (Adventurer's Vault p.25) from one tier up, but if you want to toss in one that will, take that cost off of a treasure parcel and you're good to go. Not that there must be a smith who works with legion devil steel, but if your players are really het up to reinforce their gear with it, you have some idea of how much they'll need to collect and what it might do.

You should really ask them why.

But all of the extra things to do with monster weapons over and above "you guys have some monster weapons I guess" are extra things. If people don't want to engage with them, you're just throwing some make-work into your campaign that nobody finds fun. So ask them why. Then you can give them a game and a story to fit their reason.

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It's fine.

Mechanically, none of the weapons listed under creature's Equipment is anything special. And many creature stablocks (in my experience, this may vary) don't even have the equipment box filled in.

While there are Superior weapons and implements that are better than the "regular" selection, they require a feat to even use properly and aren't remotely game-breaking. (though spending a feat on an Accurate Implement is pretty nice, and barbarians would love a Fullblade, for example)

And a big pile of extra non-magical weapons isn't likely to break the economy, even at level one.

The only concern is whether players will have issue with certain weapons being considerably less effective in the hands of the players. Though explaining that as monsters having powers that improve the weapon, just like the PCs, could work.

Example: From the Monster Vault, Minotaur Charger, L9 Skirmisher, has an At-Will that does 4D4+7, while only being listed as carrying a regular old Falchion, which itself only does 2D4. Monster weapons are mechanically seperate from their abilities, so the weapons themselves aren't really important or special. (as long as we're not talking magical weapons, though I don't recall any monster statblocks that contain magical weapons, probably because that would skew with the Wealth By Level that 4E doesn't really support messing with a lot.)

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It isn't an issue at low levels.

At current levels, the gear that the enemies wield is stuff that the party can buy back in town, easily enough, and it's not even all that expensive. Possibly toss a look in the direction of making sure that they're not weighing themselves down too hard, and otherwise let them roll with it. If they're trying to sell the stuff, you might or might not want to include a price cut for quality/wear/filth, and do recall that shopkeepers need to make a living.

At higher levels, though...

At higher levels, there is a potential issue where you can run into things like fiends who have weapons that are far beyond any that the PCs can reasonably get their hands on - swords dealing extra lightning damage or maces dealing extra fire damage. Effectively, they're all wielding magic weapons, and many of those magic weapons are beyond what is available in the DMG. If you let those fall into the hands of the PCs at the rated stats, you may find that your weapon-wielding characters are getting significantly more damage per round, blitzing through their targets faster than you might intend, and possibly even eclipsing the contributions of the party spellcasters (especially those who decided to go damage-focused). If you decide to go with letting them have these weapons now (if taken by itself, an almost pure win) then you're going to want to figure out what to do about the other issue before it crops up.

Possible solutions include...

  • End the campaign before it becomes an issue.
  • Make sure that the plot of the higher-level campaign has the party fighting things that don't actually use weapons. There aren't that many of them. It should be pretty easy to leave them out.
  • Come up with some justification for why those specific weapons either aren't available or lose much of their effectiveness. Be aware that the party is likely to be disappointed and frustrated about this if you just spring it on them.
  • Make sure that everyone in the party is getting upgraded at more or less the same rate, even taking this into account, and accept that your campaign is going to go a bit gonzo towards the end.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Aren't those traits of the creature rather than traits of the weapon though? For example I believe the Marilith and the Drow both have weapons with special abilities, but the abilities are written up as creature abilities rather than in the section that describes the weapons. Picking up a drow weapon does not give you the special drow attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Jul 1 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you allowed (or disallowed this?) How has it worked at the table? What did players think? Subjective answers still need to be supported. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 1 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelRichardson all of these things are written up as traits of the creature. An orc's greataxe is written up as a trait of the creature. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jul 1 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I've experienced weapon looting at a low level, and experienced it working well. I can look at the higher levels, and see that, for example, a pit fiend's mace (2d6 bludgeoning plus 6d6 fire) is a potentially problematic level of damage output, and one you might want to put some thought into handling. Sure, it's large, and the party would need to work their way around that, but Enlarge is a spell that exists, among other things. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jul 1 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Weapons held by monsters use the monster stat block. Weapons held by PCs use the PC weapon stats. Monster rules and PC rules are deliberately distinct in 4e \$\endgroup\$ – Caleth Jul 2 at 9:10

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