10 July 2011
I was talking about roleplaying games with my buddy, Steve, and he randomly started talking about swords.
He's the kind of guy who is always looking online about swords, and drawing swords, and has a couple of replica swords in his room, so this is nothing new. We have to keep him away from laptops when we're gaming or he'll look at websites about swords instead of actually playing. I know, right? So him talking about swords apropos of nothing isn't earth-shattering.
But I'm listening anyways and he said, basically, that there isn't enough difference between weapons. What, said I, between like arrows and axes? No, he said, between individual swords.
I'll skip the number-crafting and all of the stuff that I'd just get wrong anyways and skip to the part that was a pseudo-epiphany- that weapons should be unique.
The system he suggested would be a clunky fit onto your standard retroclone, if you could make it fit at all, but the general idea is pretty sound, and reminds me of an interesting project from one of the guys in the OSR, the idea that all magical swords are unique.
But that's a bit post-modern for me. Back in the day, the secret of steel was a highly-guarded bit of mysticism, much like how medicine was equal parts science and religion and how people were attempting to scientifically study alchemy and astrology. It's not that magical swords shouldn't be unique, it's that the fact that you just created a metal blade out of chunks of ore is magical in and of itself. The very process is magical. Gods were smiths, and in their powers were not just blacksmithing and silversmithing, but the creation of life itself, sometimes.
This sort of "every sword is unique" play probably depends on the campaign setting. I could see it fitting into a faux-Asian setting with ancestor worship and all that, and in a very European one, where the people are poor but a good blacksmith is worth his weight in gold and swords and axes are passed down through generations and eventually become symbols in their own right.
It probably wouldn't fit so well with pulpier settings- Conan discards his weaponry and armor and jewelry at fantastic rates, and so do his less famous contemporaries.
But it's an idea to keep in mind nonetheless.