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In many epic fantasy worlds (as well as in the real world) there are protective measures, designed to protect from specific threats. For example, chainmail provides good protection against slashing attacks, but is not so good versus blunt weapons.

I know D&D isn't a reality simulator, but, for the sake of diversity, I want to use a houserule that generally makes a particular weapon type more effective against a particular armor type.

To avoid reinventing the wheel, is there a well-known houserule (or an official rules variant, maybe) for making particular kinds of weapons more effective against specific types of armor?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ related: Making weapon choices that count, and more realistic/interesting weapons \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Nov 24 '16 at 11:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ instead of silently close-voting, help me narrow down the question, consider leaving a comment \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Nov 24 '16 at 12:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand the 'too broad' close votes here. As long as answers draw on tested or official rules, then there shouldn't be a problem surely \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Nov 24 '16 at 13:23
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Not even really a houserule, it's in the official rules. Various creatures have Resistance or Vulnerability to specific types of damage.

For example, the Skeleton has:

Damage Vulnerabilities bludgeoning

and that's why you smash them with Hammers.

If you want this to come up more, just add Resistance or Vulnerability to a specific type of damage to more creatures and items. Just make sure you inform your players because their characters would definitely know that wearing a Chainmail gives you Resistance to Slashing. (Likely because they're wearing one themselves, for that very reason.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Giving Resistance to an armor is a tricky move, since armor in D&D generally doesn't mitigate damage, it raises AC (thus, prevents damage). Two different things. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Nov 24 '16 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ In D&D, weapon types generally don't react differently to armor types either ;) Within the rules, this is how they chose to model resistance/vulnerability to specific types of weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Nov 24 '16 at 12:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just wish to stay in RAI zone and don't implement any game-breaking things. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Nov 24 '16 at 12:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hence my suggestion - this is how the developers do it when they want to implement weapon type making a difference. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Nov 24 '16 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's a given when you want to make something meaningful that isn't under the default rules, that it'll involve reworking parts of the balance. On the other hand, I also think the impact will be fairly minor assuming players are smart enough to carry multiple weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Nov 25 '16 at 17:31
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A predecessor of D&D 5, AD&D 2 had this mechanic as an optional rule: every weapon had a type (slashing, bludgeoning and piercing) and there was a armor vs weapon type table to see which type was good or bad against what armor (DMG page 53, “Table 36: Weapon Type vs. Armor Modifiers”, in the blue sidebar. This is original printing, not the black/red-cover reprints.)

D&D 5 is very much modeled after 2e, so if you can get your hands on this rules, they will be a good fit in 5e. Maybe you will need to tone down the bonuses be a multiplicator. Like taking all number by 0.5 because the THAC0 of times was a higher number to hit than the current proficiency bonus.

We dropped those rules but only because they made the game very slow looking up the table every time someone hit somebody. If you prefer to have them, you should look them up. The times we played with them, they seemed pretty balanced.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ DMG page 53, “Table 36: Weapon Type vs. Armor Modifiers”, in the blue sidebar. (This is original printing, not the black/red-cover reprints.) The bonuses are between -2 and +4, with the majority of them being +0, +1, or +2, so probably no need to tone them down. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 24 '16 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Great, thanks, I edited it in to preserve it. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Nov 24 '16 at 16:44
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Armor in D&D 5e mitigates damage by decreasing the chance you will be hit by an attack, not by affecting the damage of successful attacks (with the exception of feats like Heavy Armor Master). Resistance or vulnerability to damage is more a result of the anatomy of the creature being hit, not of the armor it is using.

So, it stands to reason that in order to make weapons more effective against certain armor types, it would be more appropriate to increase or decrease their chance to hit against different armor types. You can do this in one of two ways.

1. The Advantage/Disadvantage Mechanic

5e eschews flat bonuses based on circumstance, instead keeping things simple with this mechanic. For example, A dagger will have advantage on an attack against chainmail, since it can pierce through the rings (or so the logic goes). It's also easily implemented by assigning it based on damage type, rather than having a chart will different bonuses for each weapon. Slash attacks against chain have disadvantage, piercing attacks have advantage. Bludgeoning attacks against plate have advantage, etc. Now, you may come across situations where this can work against you. For example, rogues would be able to sneak attack targets based on what armor their target is wearing, even fighting one on one with a creature, due to weapon and armor choice. Still, I would recommend this mechanic over the alternative below.

2. Giving "To Hit" Bonuses

With this system, you actively give bonuses (or penalties) on the attack roll based on what weapon you are using. This actually isn't a new idea, and was included as an optional rule way back in the days of AD&D, as seen in Matt Colville's "The History of D&D, One Fighter at a Time" Series here. The problem with this system is that it's difficult to determine what bonuses to give to each weapon. You have to make decisions to quantify how much better each weapon is against each armor type, and you end up with a big matrix that you have to bring out every game, and it bogs things down as players adjust. And if they switch weapons, they have to look up the bonuses again, and all these look-ups bog down the game. This kind of system actively works againt the 5e philosophy by complicating rolls with a bunch of esoteric numbers and tiny little bonuses.

If you really want simulate weapon effectiveness against armor, I highly suggest you take the (dis)advantage mechanic to stick with the 5e principles and to save yourself the work of making a chart of flat bonuses that may turn out to be more annoying than fun to use.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would disagree that it would make things too complicated. It may depend on your players though. Beginners should not be introduced to such realism. Long time players, though, may like additional realism. Also if you have your own screen, you can very well have that table as one of the tables on your screen. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Nov 24 '16 at 19:01
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I DM 5TorchesDeep so i use a simple rule: If the blow is narrated as blunt... And it misses with 10 or more to Heavy Armor: Deals 1+STR(Min 0) damage. And it misses with other armor or unarmored: Miss. And it lands: Normal damage. And it crits: 1.5x (not 2x)

Heavy armor is very effective in 5TD.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't really seem to be an answer to my eyes, unless I'm missing something (I have done before). You may wish to edit it to more clearly be an answer to the question (and less like a forum post), otherwise it risks being removed. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Feb 22 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ But where are my manners, Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Feb 22 at 13:47

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