Posted by : David Guyll January 19, 2012

Robert Schwalb talks about the dated "+1 or better to hit" mechanic. This was something I saw in 2nd Edition, might have been in 1st Edition, existed kind of in 3rd Edition, and surprise sur-fucking-prise...I hated it.

On one hand, having a monster that can only be harmed by magic sounds like it could make for some interesting challenges. If the fighter lacks a magic sword, or his plus is not big enough, then it is up to the wizard or cleric to save the day (which given how fighters do not scale sounds less interesting and more like foreshadowing)! On the other hand having a monster that can only be harmed by magic sounds really fucking frustrating.

The thing is, some monsters in older editions used to be immune to all damage from non-magical weapons, meaning that you needed a +1 or better weapon to hurt them. What if you group does not have a wizard or cleric? What if the wizard or cleric died or ran out of spells on the way? What if the cleric or wizard used up their offensive spells, or even the utilitarian ones that could just lock them down via save-or-screw? What was even lamer was that if the monster needed a +2, but you only had a +1? Fuck you. No benefit, period.

3rd Edition made things a bit easier by making it so that a fighter could hammer away at a golem, but you have to shave away damage from each attack to the tune of like, 20+ points of damage. The problem was that, oh yeah, fighters do not scale, so that basically meant that you were not going to do shit. Yeah, the wizard or cleric could buff you (and to be fair against golems they basically had to given the magic immunity), but in cases not involving golems it was probably better to just attack it with spells that A) were not affected by resistances, and B) scaled.

Revised Edition made things much, much better. Fey required cold iron to overcome, lycanthropes required silver, skeletons took full damage only from blunt weapons, zombies from slashing, and all the plusses were simply rolled into "magic". Oh yeah, and the amount was dropped into the 5-30 range (as opposed to topping out around 50 or more). So it sucked for the melee classes, who were already floundering in it, but did not render them obsolete.

That is basically how I would like it: make it have an impact, but not so much impact that classes have to pack it in and go home. Earth elementals I guess could be resistant to non-magical weapons, but do not make it so that the fighters just shrug and watch the spellcasters win the game. On a similar note, I don't want to see monsters outright immune to magic, or even item-eating monsters. I guess, ultimately, one could include both systems. Use damage resistance with an option for a DM to flip it to damage immunity or just ignore it.

{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. What if you group does not have a wizard or cleric? What if the wizard or cleric died or ran out of spells on the way? What if the cleric or wizard used up their offensive spells...

    That's why we have DMs, dude.

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  2. That...does not address the issue.

    So if they are climbing a cliff known to be home to gargoyles, but the wizards do not prepare enough attack spells I should just...make them fly away for seemingly no reason? The point is in early editions if the wizards rolled bad or the monsters rolled well, then...what? In 3rd Edition at least the party was not totally fucked, and in 4th Edition the party didn't /need/ either to get along.

    One of 4th Edition's strengths is that I can just plan an adventure without having to worry about what /anyone/ else is playing. 3rd Edition helped in this regard quite a bit, and really the only thing that I had to worry about was traps given that only a handful of classes could find them. I do not want my players to make the wrong choice or do something, and then have to just handwaive the situation away. I want them to be able to make a character without feeling like they did something wrong.

    That is the point: the party does not need to adhere to any kind of standard to be viable, and I can plan freely.

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  3. 4e specifically tried to reduce the number of times when somebody was useless. For example, mages against golems, theives against non crittable opponents (like golems), etc. I hope they keep this up.

    As a specific fix for 3.5, we said that each plus of your weapon reduced DR/magic by 5 points. So a +1 weapon would completely overcome DR 5/magic but only reduce DR 20/magic to DR 15/magic. It's a little more complicated, but it prevented DR/magic from being a joke after 5th level.

    As for D&D next, I think they'll get rid of +1 weapons. A lot of people hate how 3e and 4e assume a certain load of magic items for a certain character level. Without items, you fall behind. They can balance high magic and low magic campaigns by making Magic items that increase your flexibility instead of your power. Like a magic sword that can be thrown or that does fire damage instead of slashing damage. These are also much more flavorful than a simple +1 sword.

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  4. I don't mind the +x weapons and armor, especially given that option for inherent bonuses. Personally I think it is silly that people think they cannot play in low-magic games because of an assumed loadout: just reduce monster defenses, or better yet, use them like the guidelines they are and made some lower and higher than the formula suggests (as it is, after all, a suggestion).

    In Eberron I assume the characters will have more magic items than, say, in a homebrew game or Dark Sun, and design my stuff accordingly. I would like that, so players can build their characters and rock out when they get a magic item, or in the case of Eberron find something really awesome not in the books.

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