I love the idea of weapon reach in games, but implementing it is a tad more complicated than I want to deal with in an OSR session. Good examples of it in more complicated games include Burning Wheel, RuneQuest, and Mythras.
But I want something simpler for D&D.
A simple(ish) way to handle this is to allow characters with longer weapons to attack any opponent with shorter weapons who move to engage them.
So say I am playing a character using a sword, and I want to engage an ogre using a great club – even if I roll my initiative first, if I wish to try to strike the ogre I have to make my intent known, and the referee can choose to have the ogre attack me first.
This does add a bit of book keeping – in the above example the referee would have to remember that the ogre has already attacked but not moved. But I think it gets to the heart of what I want with weapon lengths without too much complexity.
I think this can also work for ranged weapons – you just end up recreating the old phased combat system where bows launch before melee, etc. Although its now on an individual basis instead of explicitly staged.
Using this system weapon lengths should be obvious, but for player characters I would probably rule it as follows from longest to shortest:
- Ranged weapons
- Pole arms & spears
- “Great” weapons
- Swords & equal length hand weapons
- Maces & shorter hand weapons
- Daggers & knives
- Fist weapons
So if we’re going by those rules, why wouldn’t everyone using melee weapons just use pikes or spears? Well, aside from the obvious fictional implications of why someone might want to use a sword or hammer or such, I think I would probably also use Last Gasp’s House Rules on weapons, giving different weapon types a few different mechanical advantages.
Let me know how you handle weapon lengths, if at all, in your game!
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