Edits: See update history at the end of the page.
Minding the gaps
This page concocts a handful of new weapons for GURPS and Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (DFRPG). These aren’t built from any fancy “design system” (including GLAIVE), nor are they conjured out of thin air; they’re simply extrapolated from the games’ weapon tables to fill in “gaps” among existing models. Wherever possible, data from the newer Low-Tech, Martial Arts, and DFRPG is used as reference, superseding information in Basic Set. (Some of the existing weapons discussed don’t appear at all in Basic Set.)
In short, these serve no great need, and are some of the most mundane weapons you can find. But hey, what adventurer doesn’t appreciate more choices in the murder tool rack?
Meet the weapons
The following constitute “designer’s notes” on the weapons and the stats I’ve set.
Arrow: An arrow sans bow – thrown, or hurled with an atlatl. Definitely not the preferred way to use an arrow, but in a pinch . . .
Range, damage, and ST for thrown arrows and bolts are purely my own conjecture; let me know if these are already covered in some obscure corner of GURPS. ST 5 is arguably far too high for such light projectiles, but that’s the same ST for a tiny shuriken or dagger. (GURPS‘ weapon ST doesn’t track to anything measurable, especially at the low end. I’m just sighing and going along with things.) In any case, note that ST 5 limits damage for a thrown arrow to an effective ST 15. And thrown arrow damage is low to begin with, compared to a throwing dart – an arrow weighs only a tenth as much as the dart! (I’ve wavered a lot on the damage, which I’ve currently set to thr-3 imp: a thrown arrow beats a spike shuriken in Range and Cost, but loses to the spike in damage and Bulk.)
A further house detail for your consideration: I assume that while arrows with any sort of head can be thrown, throwing speed would be too slow to let bodkin heads gain their armor-piercing effect (i.e., they would act as normal projectiles inflicting pi damage).
Atlatl: I haven’t added anything new to spear throwers (atlatl and woomera) themselves; I’ve only added new projectiles (arrow, bolt, light and heavy throwing darts, heavy javelin, and light spear). However, examining these throwers in play turns up some points of note. Four suggested house rules for your consideration:
- Spear thrower ST: The ST score that GURPS/DFRPG hands a spear thrower is the ST score of the selected projectile, so I’ve stuck with that rule for my new projectiles. (Exception: the games’ dart + atlatl combo inexplicably lowers ST by 1; I don’t know why that should be, but I’ve left it unchanged in my tables.) However, the ST required to use a spear thrower should arguably be higher than the ST required to throw the same projectile by hand, to account for the projectile’s weight and the throwing tool’s weight. If I were to change my tables to reflect this, I’d set spear thrower ST to whatever ST is needed to throw the projectile by hand, then add +1 for the atlatl or +2 for the woomera. (Example: a throwing dart requires ST 6 to throw by hand; that would become ST 7 using an atlatl.) It’s a simple change to make – and a good thing for strong PCs, as the boosted weapon ST statistic allows a higher cap on maximum damage from triple weapon ST.
- Spear thrower damage: A GURPS/DFRPG spear thrower changes a thrown javelin or spear’s thr damage into sw damage with no change in damage add, but the lighter dart takes on a -1 damage add when used with a thrower. I’ve followed that example for my arrow, bolt, and heavy throwing dart entries: damage using a spear thrower is that of the thrown projectile, changed to sw, with -1 damage add. The method is fine in theory, though one oddity crops up: at low ST, hurling a light projectile with a spear thrower may yield no more damage than throwing it by hand. If that bothers you, make this small change: let any spear thrower projectile deliver its listed damage, or deliver hand-thrown projectile damage +1, if that would be higher.
- Spear thrower Bulk: On the DFRPG tables, a javelin or spear thrown with an atlatl or woomera maintains the same Bulk as the hand-thrown projectile, but a throwing dart oddly gets bulkier when thrown with an atlatl (going from -2 to -3). I’ll guess that that’s not an error, and rather that -3 represents the Bulk of the atlatl itself, meaning that’s the best Bulk for any projectile used. Which means the woomera would also have a “best Bulk” of… -4? -5? I think I’ll go with -5. (Ack, that just leaves open a temptation to create a heavy atlatl/light woomera with best Bulk of -4… Better not go there.)
- Choosing the right spear thrower: I’ve assumed that the “in-between” size of the heavy javelin and light spear (below) allows their use with both the atlatl and woomera (though with only Acc 2 for either projectile). If you’d like to be more restrictive, reduce Acc to 1 when throwing the heavy javelin with the woomera (it’s a bit small for a woomera), or when throwing the light spear with the atlatl (it’s a bit big for an atlatl). Similarly, if a user wants to tackle any other throwing job using the wrong thrower (say, the woomera with a throwing dart, or the atlatl with a spear), consider allowing it, but with Acc, range, and possibly damage hosed appropriately.
Boarding Cutlass: This name is merely descriptive; the stats could stand in for any variety of smallish shortsword (spadroon, anyone?). Falling between a cutlass and falchion in performance, the weapon adds a sw cut, thr imp damage combination not readily available after the shortsword leveled up to thr+1 imp damage in post-Basic Set books.
Bolt: A crossbow bolt minus the crossbow. Although a bolt is lighter than an arrow, I’ve left damage for a thrown bolt the same as that for an arrow to keep it from being completely useless. (However, I took the opportunity to reduce a bolt’s damage by 1 from an arrow’s when hurled from an atlatl.)
As with an arrow, a thrown bodkin bolt should be considered too slow to gain its armor-piercing ability.
Heavy Throwing Dart: Is it a long throwing dart or a slightly-shrunken javelin? Hurled with the atlatl, this heftier version of the throwing dart slots neatly between the throwing dart and the javelin in terms of damage, range, and other stats. Thrown by hand, however, it needs to take on either the thr damage of the throwing dart or the thr+1 damage of the javelin. I decided to go with the latter to add appeal to the little-loved (in my experience) Thrown Weapon (Dart) skill. The downside: the decision creates a weapon on par with the javelin in terms of damage, while a bit superior in range, cost, and compactness. On the other hand, the javelin still shines with far better Accuracy, as well as handiness as a melee weapon. They both have merits.
Heavy Javelin: This javelin packs a punch with weight between a javelin or short spear and a regular spear. It’s partly inspired by a note from Low-Tech Companion 2 p. 7, which says javelins came to replace bows on chariots as “. . . arrows were far less likely than javelins to punch through armor.” In terms of game stats, that’s true only for the javelin versus the short bow, but it’s not an unreasonable assumption; archers on chariots likely did often use short bows. In addition, historical records depicting javelins as more powerful than bows may have been referring to something closer to what GURPS calls a spear. But whatever comparisons are made, this new weapon offers another choice for hurlers looking to out-perform the archers.
Katana: Nothing new in the tables, but see thoughts on the weapon further below.
Light Flail: Filling the damage gap between nunchaku and morningstar, this weapon could also stand in for heavy nunchaku. (Note that Basic Set treats nunchaku as “lesser” flails that inflict only half the usual defense penalties of a flail; later GURPS books and DFRPG do not. Feel free to go with the Basic Set interpretation if you like, but consider reducing the cost of such “heavy nunchaku” from $60 to $40 to compensate.)
Light Harpoon: Because some whales (and monsters) are smaller. There’s not actually much of a niche for this weapon, which differs little from the regular harpoon. But smallish monsters might choose this lighter model as the preferred tool to pin down PCs. (Any harpoons smaller than the light harpoon essentially become barbed and tethered versions of the spear and its smaller relatives; use the stats for those weapons.)
Light Maul: A more wieldy version of the maul; the blunt cousin of the long axe, if you prefer. Whatever real-world name might apply to this weapon, it’s perfect for the mace-favoring cleric who wants to “anoint” the heathen from a more discreet distance.
Light Spear: This spear is inspired by this video, featuring a couple of long, serious-looking spears that weigh in at only 3 and 3.5 lbs., less than GURPS‘ spear. (Feel free to think of the light spear as throwing-oriented, and the GURPS model as a more robust “melee spear”.) The light spear falls between the javelin and regular spear in its stats, and thus ends up identical to the heavy javelin (above), save for longer reach. To compensate, I’ve made the assumption that this spear is necessarily less robust than GURPS‘ hefty 4-lb. spear and the stout heavy javelin, with an increased chance of breakage. I’ve left its melee damage equal to that of the regular spear (otherwise it’d oddly deal less damage than the heavy javelin), while letting its lightness relative to the regular spear show up in lower ranged damage.
Light Throwing Dart: Going the other direction from my heavy throwing dart, this one is only half the weight of the standard dart. I’ve lessened Bulk, cut range considerably, and set damage to fit right between the standard dart and the wee spike shuriken. The light throwing dart is still a better weapon than, say, the small throwing knife, which costs more to deliver the same damage at shorter range – but a lot of thrown weapons are better than thrown knives. (Even the standard dart is cheaper than a small throwing knife, with better damage and much better range.) Buy Thrown Weapon (Knife) for broad utility and for the tiny size of a small throwing knife, not for optimal performance at low cost.
I’ve added this weapon to the atlatl’s armory as well, where it’s understandably a lesser performer than a hurled standard throwing dart, a better performer than a hurled arrow.
(Need an even lighter dart? Try something with the damage of a spike shuriken but higher weight (0.25 lbs.), Bulk (-1), and cost ($10), offset by better range (x1/x1.5). Anything lighter and cheaper than that should take on the paltry damage of a thrown arrow or bolt.)
Medium Katar: With stats (and a clunky name) that nestle semi-comfortably between the Knife-based katar and the Shortsword-based large katar, I see this weapon as bridging both skills, like the long knife.
Sling: Nothing new in the tables, but see thoughts on the weapon further below.
Woomera: See notes under Atlatl above.
6′ pole: The adventurer’s staple tool, pressed into combat service. I’ve handled this as a quarterstaff for its length, with -1 damage and +1 to odds of breakage as it’s lighter than a quarterstaff and presumably not made for fighting. I’ve left ST at 7, though, as there’s no open space between the quarterstaff’s ST 7 and the jo’s ST 6. (For Two-Handed Sword configuration, I’ve reduced ST by 1.)
10′ pole: The show-off adventurer’s staple. Length and weight are both on par with the long staff, so I borrowed its stats – but with +1 to odds of breakage for the cheaper cost and presumably less robust build. (Tangent: If you need to equip a party with just a pole, I’d think you could cut a 5-lb. long staff at the right spot to get both a 4-lb. quarterstaff and a 1-lb. short staff; or cut a 5-lb. 10′ pole to get a 3-lb. 6′ pole and a 2-lb. jo. Or whatever other combination of poles and jos and batons and short staffs seems right. Just don’t expect the moneys to add up!)
Melee Weapons Table
This table lists the new creations, alongside a few existing weapons (marked with ) where useful for comparison.
KNIFE (DX-4, Main-Gauche-3, or Shortsword-3)
FLAIL (DX-6, Axe/Mace-4, or Two-Handed Flail-3)
|Light Flail||sw+2 cr||1||0U||$60||4||10|||
SHORTSWORD (DX-5, Broadsword-2, Jitte/Sai-3, Knife-4, Saber-4, Smallsword-4, or Tonfa-3)
SPEAR (DX-5, Polearm-4, or Staff-2)
|Heavy Javelin||thr+2 imp||1||0||$35||3||8|
|Light Spear||thr+2 imp||1*||0||$35||3||9|||
|two hands||thr+3 imp||1, 2*||0||–||–||8†|||
|two hands||thr+3 imp||1, 2*||0||–||–||10†|||
STAFF (DX-5, Polearm-4, or Spear-2)
|6′ Pole||sw+1 cr||1, 2||+2||$5||3||7†|||
|or||thr+1 cr||1, 2||+2||–||–||7†|||
|10′ Pole||sw+2 cr||2, 3||+2||$8||5||10†|||
|or||thr+2 cr||2, 3||+2||–||–||10†|||
TWO-HANDED AXE/MACE (DX-5, Axe/Mace-3, Polearm-4, or Two-Handed Flail-4)
|Light Maul||sw+4 cr||1, 2*||0U||$70||9||12‡|
TWO-HANDED SWORD (DX-5 or Broadsword-4)
|6′ Pole||sw+1 cr||1, 2||0||$5||3||8†|||
Ranged Weapons Table
SPEAR THROWER (DX-5 or Thrown Weapon (Spear)-4)
|Heavy Javelin||sw+2 imp||2||x1.5/x2.5||3||–||$35||8||-5|
|Heavy Throwing Dart||sw imp||1||x2.5/x3.5||1.5||–||$25||6||-3|
|Light Spear||sw+2 imp||2||x1.5/x2.5||3||–||$35||8||-5|||
|Light Throwing Dart||sw-2 imp||1||x1.5/x3||0.5||–||$15||5||-3|
|Throwing Dart||sw-1 imp||1||x3/x4||1||–||$20||5||-3|||
|Heavy Javelin||sw+2 imp||2||x1.5/x2.5||3||–||$35||8||-5|||
|Light Spear||sw+2 imp||2||x1.5/x2.5||3||–||$35||8||-5|||
THROWN WEAPON (DART) (DX-4 or Throwing-2)
|Heavy Throwing Dart||thr+1 imp||1||x2/x3||1.5||T(1)||$25||6||-3|
|Light Throwing Dart||thr-1 imp||1||x1/x2||0.5||T(1)||$15||5||-1|
|Throwing Dart||thr imp||1||x2.5/x3.5||1||T(1)||$20||6||-2|||
THROWN WEAPON (HARPOON) (DX-4 or Thrown Weapon (Spear)-2)
|Light Harpoon||thr+4 imp||2||x1/x1.5||5||T(1)||$50||10||-5|||
THROWN WEAPON (SPEAR) (DX-4, Spear Thrower-4, or Thrown Weapon (Harpoon)-2)
|Heavy Javelin||thr+2 imp||2||x1/x2||3||T(1)||$35||8||-5|
|Light Spear||thr+2 imp||2||x1/x2||3||T(1)||$35||8||-5|
 Stats are for an existing published weapon, repeated here for ease of comparison.
 The medium katar includes a closed metal hilt that protects the hand with DR 4 (and can be worn with gloves for added DR, but cannot be worn with metal gauntlets). The boarding cutlass can add this feature as a closed basket hilt for an additional $80 and 0.25 lbs., or as an open basket hilt for an additional $80 and no added weight; the open basket hilt’s DR protects the hand on 1-3 on d6. Either basket hilt adds +1 to punch damage. See Low-Tech Companion 2 p. 15.
 The weapon is cheaply built, light for its length, or otherwise less robust than more martial counterparts. Modify the odds of breakage when parrying a very heavy weapon by +1.
 Requires two hands to ready, but only one hand to attack. (Also see house-rule notes above, suggesting that the atlatl and woomera should add +1 and +2 ST to projectile ST, and should impose the worse of a projectile’s Bulk or an inherent Bulk of -3 and -5, respectively.)
 The projectile can be used with either the atlatl or the woomera. See weapon notes above.
 Tethered. See rules on Basic Set p. 411 or DFRPG Exploits p. 44.
 Use Boxing, Brawling, or Karate parry if better than weapon parry.
 Specifically designed to target chinks in armor. Reduce the penalty for this by -2.
 Attempts to parry flails are at -4; knives and fencing weapons (“F” parry) can’t parry at all! Attempts to block such weapons are at -2.
A smaller katana?
DFRPG offers a katana with 2-hex Reach, but not a shorter model with 1-hex Reach. I thought I’d invent one to add to this page, deciding that I’d start with cavalry saber stats but distinguish the weapons by giving the katana a longer hilt that enables two-handed use and adds about, oh, $50 to the cost.
Turns out I don’t need to do that: there’s a later-period katana in Low-Tech that beat me to it. This late katana has the same stats as the cavalry saber, with the difference being the option of two-handed use (+1 sw damage and -1 ST) and an extra cost of $50. Just what I had in mind!
So I have no added katana here; if you want that shorter model for DFRPG, just pick up Low-Tech (and get dozens more new weapons to go with it).
(See further notes below on whether the katana is overall a good weapon in the game.)
Just how do slings work, anyway?
DFRPG and GURPS Low-Tech offer three shared sling weapons: the basic one-handed sling that fires small stones/bullets, the two-handed staff sling that fires small stones/bullets, and the two-handed heavy sling that fires large (1-lb.) rocks.
DFRPG left me with one initial question: Is the latter weapon also meant for hurling potions and acids and flaming cocktails? I was under the belief that Low-Tech gives an explicit thumbs-up to hurling grenades with a heavy sling, so I happily adopted that for DFRPG, using the heavy sling’s stats for 1-lb. grenades and rocks alike. (The only change I added: a bottle or vial that breaks on its target inflicts only half damage for the impact, though its icky contents of course have full effect.) I further thought that Low-Tech allowed a regular sling to hurl grenades (and presumably 1-lb. rocks), though at Acc 0 and 40% range.
But a re-read of Low-Tech shows I was confusing things. What the text (p. 74) actually says, after introducing the above three types of sling, is, “Any of these three types of sling can lob stones or lead bullets – or even primitive Molotov cocktails (see Molotov Cocktails and Oil Flasks, p. B411), at Acc 0 and 40% normal range.”
This just leaves me with questions. Regular slings, sling staffs, and heavy slings can all hurl Molotov cocktails (and presumably any grenade) at 40% normal range? Does even the heavy sling suffer that penalty to its already short range? (If so, it’s much worse than a regular sling at the task.) If a regular sling can hurl 1-lb. projectiles, can’t it also hurl 1-lb. rocks? What’s the damage? (And what’s the heavy sling even for, if a regular sling can do heavy tossing?) Additional questions, for fun: What happens when a heavy sling hurls small stones and bullets? What would be good stats for a heavy staff sling? And then there’s Low-Tech‘s dart sling, which has its own unique (0.25-lb.) projectile size; what would be good stats for a heavy dart sling that can hurl 1-lb. throwing darts or even my heavy throwing darts?
And on and on, with questions that really nobody’s interested in. Maybe I’ll tackle the complete sling line-up some other day.
Weapons that fall short
Weapons in GURPS aren’t built through some “design system” that balances merits and trade-offs to avoid questionable applications of physics (namely, too-kewl weapons that outshine everything else). But as I note in GLAIVE, for a very long weapon list that (I believe) relies on “eyeballing” to keep weapon stats reasonable, the game does a pretty darn good job! It’s hard to find entries that feel overly favored or that are pointlessly inferior.
Still, a handful of questionable weapons – or weapon skills – have hit my eye, or have been pointed out by players. Like these:
Katana: An overpowered example of “ethnic cool”, right? Nope. The weapon in 4e doesn’t involve a special skill or unusual stats of the sort that spurred comments under 3e. Actually, the 4e version is almost underpowered now, what with the poor thrust damage it offers relative to bastard swords and longswords of the same or lighter weight.
I don’t see any harm in boosting both longer (early) and shorter (late) katana damage from thr+1 to thr+2 when used two-handed. That seems a reasonable and fair effect of two-handed use, while still leaving the more thrust-specialized bastard sword and longsword a damage point ahead in the stabbing competition. (Do you agree?)
Naginata: Similar to the above, Low-Tech (and DFRPG) make this weapon decidedly uncool, in that it’s identical to the dueling glaive in every stat – save for less flexibility in Reach despite a higher price tag! I think the easiest fix here is simplification: drop naginata stats from the game, and let dueling glaive stats handle the naginata (and its variants noted in Low-Tech).
Saber: There’s nothing wrong with the weapon; it’s the Saber skill that’s arguably weak. It’s your skill if you really want to be a saber fighter, and that’s fine, but be warned that the skill covers only one weapon, in both GURPS and DFRPG. The Rapier skill, by contrast, covers several weapons – including the light edged rapier, identical to the saber in every way except for a negligible bit of extra weight. You don’t have to be much of a munchkin to see Rapier skill as clearly offering more utility than Saber. (Especially when, if you’re really stuck on the idea of being a saber fighter, you can just call your light edged rapier a saber.)
Is there an easy fix that would make Saber skill more attractive? I like the idea of cutting Saber’s cross-defaults with Broadsword and Shortsword from -4 to -2 – and maybe even letting Saber use the cavalry saber at only -1 to skill. That makes the skill more versatile. On the other hand, the jump from the saber to the cavalry saber adds a really big +2 to swing damage. Giving Saber skill easy access to the cavalry saber is perhaps too generous.
At the same time, that leap in damage does suggest room for a weapon falling between the saber and cavalry saber. Imagine the heavy saber (for want of a good name), similar to the saber save for changes in sw damage from sw-1 to sw, weight from 2 to 2.5 lbs., ST from 8 to 9, and price from $700 to $800 or $900. That yields a heavy saber that’s superior to the saber and the light edged rapier in cutting power, at the expense of greater weight and cost. It’s as powerful a cutter as the (non-light) edged rapier, at a slightly lower weight and cost – but at the expense of the edged rapier’s great Reach. Meanwhile, the cavalry saber remains the champion in cutting power, and does so at much lower cost than the saber, heavy saber, or any edged rapier – but it remains a pure Broadsword weapon, with no 0F Parry. In short, our hypothetical heavy saber seems nicely balanced with its significant competitors.
I think a lot of PCs will still prefer the edged rapier as the most powerful fencing weapon, but the heavy saber would give fans of Saber skill a little extra something to work with.
Two-Handed Axe/Mace skill: This skill offers a decent selection of weapons, but many of them bear the feared “requires Ready after swing” limitation. (“Feared”? For most players, it’s a flat-out “nope”.) The alternative, Polearm, offers two-hex weapons that are just as good but much faster (and also offers the skill’s signature slow-but-amazingly-long weapons). Two-Handed Axe/Mace doesn’t have much going for it.
I don’t have a simple remedy for this. A fix would involve a deeper rethinking of weapon ST and speed (i.e., a reworking of that Ready requirement), and that’s a tall order.
I’ll likely add to these tables in future (perhaps with wholly new inventions, too, not just “filling in the gaps” entries). The stats above are also subject to change as I further tinker and test and turn up mistakes.
See any problems in the above? Or do you have some suggestions of your own for new weapons? Weigh in below!
2021-08-17: Added new light throwing dart, for hand-thrown and atlatl use. Added notes on spear throwers and Bulk.
2021-07-15: Expanded thoughts on Two-Handed Axe/Mace skill and saber weapons – including the idea of a heavy saber that falls between the saber and cavalry saber.
2021-07-09: Added additional thoughts on a few weapons and weapon skills that arguably fall short of alternatives.
2021-06-07: Added thoughts on katanas.
2021-05-13: Added light maul.
2021-03-14: Reduced damage for a thrown arrow to thr-3 imp, upon realizing that my earlier thr-2 imp made the shuriken nearly obsolete.
2020-10-08: Moved these edit notes to the end of the page. Added notes on slings throwing odd-sized things.
2020-10-06: Added a few published weapons to the tables, for ease of comparing my new weapons with existing ones. Note: A closer read of Low-Tech reveals that its atlatl darts are not the same as throwing darts; DFRPG specifies that the two are the same. May need to muck around with that.
2020-08-26: Boosted range and ST for thrown arrows and bolts, added the option for hurling these projectiles with an atlatl, and added several notes on atlatl/woomera usage in general.
2020-04-10: Removed a wayward ST score from the woomera.
2020-04-09: Added two more weapons: arrows and crossbow bolts thrown with Thrown Weapon (Dart) skill.