Sunday, April 26, 2020

[Guest Post] Late Medieval & Renaissance weapons & armour

[Phew, we made it! The longest and most complex equipment list of them all. I nearly went blind fiddling with the formatting for the tables in this one. I can't believe I forgot to add pictures to the last post in the series, so I'm going to make up for it with a ton of plate mail here. Having added pages of Steve's notes in the earlier entries, there isn't too much left to explain, I hope. Enjoy! - HDA]

Part 1 - Intro & Prehistory
Part 2 - Antiquity/Bronze Age
Part 3 - Dark Ages
Part 4 - High Medieval


-RANGE: After reading the comments on the last post, I did a possible retuning of the archery ranges across the board. I went with flat 30/120 for one handed bows, 60/120 for two handed bows, as suggested. The “30” short range bracket can be simulated by the ideal ambush range, granting advantage only on surprise against targets within 30 feet. For any bow that gives us:
30 feet or less, advantage (if you have surprise)
60 feet or less, normal shot
120 feet or less, disadvantage
Obviously distance shooting would be way longer, especially for longbows. If you didn't read those links in the last post to Delta's archery breakdowns, do so now.

[This would - optionally - replace the range increments for ALL bow weapons. In the entries below, I have preserved the numbers as Steve originally sent them to me, for consistency with the previous weapon lists. -HDA]

-Repeating crossbows actually existed in ancient China. You can remove them to retain European flavour, or do what Warhammer did and make them the signature of dark elves, since hand crossbows only get you so far. If you want to make them simpler, just have them do a single attack for 2d4 or 2d6, each attack roll representing a short volley. Also, like the blowgun, repeaters were basically designed to employ poisoned bolts since they lacked some oomph, another reason the Drow flavour fits.

-The elephant in the room: while realistic, the reloading numbers on the crossbows make them basically unusable in actual play, or at least very inconvenient for dungeon crawling. A feat that lowers the number of turns to reload by 1 (to a minimum of 0) would be a welcome replacement for 5e's Crossbow Expert feat, which basically turns you into damn Legolas.

-I included brigandine as late-period scale mail. Same stats. It's basically just a breastplate that rattles, so it gives the stealth disadvantage. Instead of one full piece, it is made of segmented overlapping pieces riveted to the inside of a garment. If you hit a guy wearing it, it would feel like hitting solid steel but sound like you were breaking a glass at the same time.

Transitional armour

Late Middle Ages (14th-15th century) & Early Renaissance* (16th century)
Simple Melee dmg notes
Club D4 B light or versatile
Dagger: bollock, rondel, stiletto D4 P finesse, light
Handaxe D6 S light
Javelin, war dart D6 P thrown (30/120)
Mace D6 B -
Mace, footman’s D6 B versatile
Military flail D6 B -
Morningstar D6 B -
Peasant flail D8 B two-handed
Quarterstaff D6 B two-handed
Sap D4 B finesse, light, knockout
Sickle D4 S light
Spear D6 P thrown (20/60), versatile
Simple Ranged
Crossbow, assassin* D4 P ammunition (20/80), loading (4), light
Crossbow, hand* D6 P ammunition (30/120), loading (1)
Crossbow, hand-spanned D6 P ammunition (60/120), loading (1), two-handed
Crossbow, belt or lever-spannedD8 Pammunition (80/160), loading (1), two-handed
Crossbow, windlass D10 P ammunition (100/200), loading (6), two-handed
Crossbow, cranequin* D10 P ammunition (100/200), loading (4), two-handed
Hand cannon / culverin D8 P ammunition (10/40), misfire, loading (4), two-handed
Matchlock, pistol* D8 P ammo (20/60), light, misfire, loading (5)
Matchlock, arquebus / carbine*D10 Pammo (30/90), loading (5), misfire, two-handed
Matchlock, arquebus / musket* D12 P ammo (40/120), heavy, loading (5), misfire, two-handed
Shortbow D6 P ammo (80/160), str 11, two-handed
Sling (stone) D4 B loading (0), ammunition (30/90)
Sling (bullet) D6 B loading (0), ammunition (30/120)
Martial Melee
Battleaxe, horseman’s D8 S/P -
Greataxe, bardiche D12 S heavy, two-handed
Greatsword, claymore / zweihander* D12 S/P heavy, two-handed
Lance, heavy D8 P heavy, reach, two-handed on foot, versatile (D10)
-couched charge 2D8 P heavy, reach, two-handed on foot, versatile (2D10)
Maul D12 B heavy, two-handed
Pick, horseman’s D8 P/B -
Pike D8 P heavy, reach (15 ft, cannot attack 5 ft), two-handed
Polearm, bec de corbin D10 B/P heavy, reach, two-handed
Polearm: halberd, poleaxe, bill, glaive, voulgeD10 S/Pheavy, reach, two-handed
Polearm, partisan / ranseur D10 P heavy, reach, two-handed
Shortsword, baselard D6 P finesse, light
Shortsword, cinquedea D6 S finesse, light
Sword, arming / side* D8 S/P -
Sword, long / bastard* D8 S/P versatile
Sword, estoc / tuck D8 P versatile
Sword, messer D8 S -
Sword, rapier* / koncerz* D8 P finesse
Sword, sabre/scimitar D8 S finesse
Warhammer D8 B/P versatile
Martial Ranged
Crossbow, light repeatingD4 Pammunition (20/80), bonus attack, two-handed
Crossbow, heavy repeatingD6 Pammunition (60/120), bonus attack, two-handed
Longbow D8 P ammunition (150/300), heavy, str 13, two-handed
Longbow, heavy / recurvedD10 Pammunition (150/300), heavy, str 15, two-handed
Net - special, thrown (5/15)
Shortbow, recurved D8 P ammo (100/200), str 13, two-handed

Special weapon rules
Light: Ideal for off-hand use when dual wielding.
Versatile: May be used in one or two hands. Roll the next higher die for two-handed damage.
Finesse: May use DEX modifier in place of STR for attack/damage rolls.
Heavy: Small creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls.
Reach: Adds 5 feet to striking distance, unless more is indicated.
Ammunition/Thrown: A ranged weapon. The first number is short range (attacks incur no penalty), the second is maximum range, in feet.
Loading (x): Require the user to spend an indicated number of actions reloading the weapon. If the number indicated is 0 it can be fired once per round, but no more.
Misfire: These weapons fail spectacularly on a to-hit roll of 1 and cannot be used until fixed.
Bonus Attack: These weapons can make an additional attack as a bonus action, similar to the rules for two-weapon fighting.
*Early Renaissance: Add or subtract these weapons to taste, depending on the culture & technology level of your setting. Including them instantly gives you that WFRP feel.

Light Armour AC notes
Arming doublet 11+dex -
Buff coat 11+dex -
Padded jack 12+dex -
Medium Armour
Mail shirt, bishop’s mantle 12+dex (max 2) stealth disadvantage
Mail shirt 13+dex (max 2) stealth disadvantage
Jack-of-plates 13+dex (max 2) -
Brigandine 14+dex (max 2) stealth disadvantage
Breastplate 14+dex (max 2) -
Breastplate, mirror 14+dex (max 2) stealth disadvantage
Coat of plated mail 15+dex (max 2) stealth disadvantage, str 13
Half-plate 15+dex (max 2) stealth disadvantage
Heavy Armour
Suit of plated mail 17 stealth disadvantage, str 15
Half-plate and mail 17 stealth disadvantage, str 13
Three-quarter plate 17 stealth disadvantage, str 13
Transitional plate 18 stealth disadvantage, str 17
Full plate 18 stealth disadvantage, str 15
Buckler** +2 no AC bonus vs. ranged
Shield +2 -
Pavis - 3/4 cover when positioned

**Bucklers: considered proficient if proficient with shields, or with light armour and any type of sword


Want to dig deeper? Here are a few informational links that ought to have you kids writing up your own weapon lists in no time:

Armour & Weapons by Charles Foulkes (pdf). I found this on the OSR links to wisdom wiki.
A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms & Armour by George Cameron Stone. I have linked this before, but surely this is the most appropriate place to remind you all. Loads of pictures are included. If this doesn't get you excited to game, get your circulation checked.

As before, images are from Osprey Publishing. Go check 'em out.
Here is a nice piece on costs of medieval items. Weapons & armour are limited, but it's quite interesting and this article is as good a place as any to link it.
A huge article on early firearms. What is a matchlock, really? Find out here. Packed with references, links and pictures.

Matchlocks vs. armour:


  1. Repeating crossbows seem basically useless against anything but an unarmoured target at point-blank range. There's been several accurate replicas made and they're pretty pathetic. There's no way they have an effective range of 80m as the wiki says. They're not fletched,would jam the mechanism, so they're terribly inaccurate. And their hitting power in every test i've see is pitiful. Certainally almost any armour would be proof against it. I can see it used as a personal defence weapon to drive off someone who isn't serious about actually wanting to kill you. A real world poison after all, not a magical drow sleep poison isn't going to put someone down before they stab you. The only use case i can see for it is non-military Scaring of a thief or mugger, that sort of thing. But no more than that.

    1. I pretty much agree with everything you say about the bow, but I don't know enough about aconitum poisoning to say whether it was useless in a military context, if its effects were exaggerated, or if people would drop dead in less than a minute after receiving merely a scratch. In dnd we have save or die poison so fortunately the abstraction works for us here...

      You raise a good point about it not being useful against an armored target, which I mention because I felt this way about a LOT of weapons on all these lists, and led me to consider a "wrong tool for the job" house rule that indicates one or two types of target that a weapon just flat received disadvantage against. Eg, missile weapons vs a shield, one handed weapons vs heavy armor, two handed weapons vs a target that has them grappled... etc.

  2. Do you have any interested in making similar, if albeit more brief, versions of these weapons and armor for other locales and regions? The weaponry of the Mediterranean, India, etc?

    1. I am 50/50 on the prospect. It might be fun, but part of this exercise has been to create comprehensive weapon lists that can be used fairly universally. That 'D8 Slashing' sword could be a falcata as easily as a sabre.