Are +1, +2 etc. magic weapons boring?


Magic Items


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One thing that has come up any time a fantasy game has gone under scrutiny has been the issue of the +1 magic sword or +1 chainmail. Two issues here. First of all, and perhaps most glaring, is that for as big a deal in the setting as they are supposed to be, there's NO in world name for them thus far. Our groups over the years have tried various things. My favorite has been Longsword of Minor Enhancement for a +1 to a Longsword of Epic Enhancement for a +5 (Minor Enhancement, Lesser Enhancement, Enhancement, Greater Enhancement, Epic Enhancement). That at least gives characters something to say.

But in practice I've found that weapons with pluses don't feel very magical. They become a crutch that gets factored into the game math anyway so it's not like you even get a bonus for having them--the EXPECTATION is that you have them. So you're obligated to get this thing and then, because the numbers are already set up to where it's assumed you have it--you get no enjoyment from it. Plus a +1 to hit and damage has never once gotten a woo-hoo from anyone who's ever used it. It's such a small bonus, I doubt the characters even notice much of a difference (except that now they can fight monsters they couldn't before...but probably didn't run into until they got weapons they could use).

Whereas weapons with powers are neat. They aren't factored into the math so you get to enjoy being different and unique, plus they usually do something with some visual pizazz--like ice blades or lightning. Maybe they they give you darkvision. Maybe it's a set of daggers that look like fuzzy spider fangs that poison themselves and when you wield both you get spiderclimb a number of times per day. It always feels like the crazy magic items are the things players want and the kinds of magic I like to give them.

I sort of wonder if we might just recalibrate the math so that weapons with +'s are no longer expected of us and just let magic be something cool?


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Grimcleaver wrote:

One thing that has come up any time a fantasy game has gone under scrutiny has been the issue of the +1 magic sword or +1 chainmail. Two issues here. First of all, and perhaps most glaring, is that for as big a deal in the setting as they are supposed to be, there's NO in world name for them thus far. Our groups over the years have tried various things. My favorite has been Longsword of Minor Enhancement for a +1 to a Longsword of Epic Enhancement for a +5 (Minor Enhancement, Lesser Enhancement, Enhancement, Greater Enhancement, Epic Enhancement). That at least gives characters something to say.

But in practice I've found that weapons with pluses don't feel very magical. They become a crutch that gets factored into the game math anyway so it's not like you even get a bonus for having them--the EXPECTATION is that you have them. So you're obligated to get this thing and then, because the numbers are already set up to where it's assumed you have it--you get no enjoyment from it. Plus a +1 to hit and damage has never once gotten a woo-hoo from anyone who's ever used it. It's such a small bonus, I doubt the characters even notice much of a difference (except that now they can fight monsters they couldn't before...but probably didn't run into until they got weapons they could use).

Whereas weapons with powers are neat. They aren't factored into the math so you get to enjoy being different and unique, plus they usually do something with some visual pizazz--like ice blades or lightning. Maybe they they give you darkvision. Maybe it's a set of daggers that look like fuzzy spider fangs that poison themselves and when you wield both you get spiderclimb a number of times per day. It always feels like the crazy magic items are the things players want and the kinds of magic I like to give them.

I sort of wonder if we might just recalibrate the math so that weapons with +'s are no longer expected of us and just let magic be something cool?

Yes, they are boring, but even worse, they are a necessity.

I would much prefer damage from magic items be done by character level instead (2W @ 4th level, 3W @ 8th level, etc.) as a few others have proposed. Then make magic times fun again.


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Yeah, as satisfyingly nerdy it is to say "I attack with my +2 longsword!" it has no real in-world weight and I would just as soon build it into character progression.

I like flaming swords, swords that shoot ghost versions of themselves, swords that glow blue in the presence of lawyers, swords that drain the life from the target and heal the wielder...

Swords that are just better at being swords are a bit boring.


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I do find it strange that Paizo specifically called out equipment that just boosts numbers (saves, ac, etc) boring and stripped them out, but didn't address weapons in the same way.

I really like the change of +1 magic meaning a large tangible difference by making them roll extra dice, but it'd be great to see magic weapons expand upon the various traits that mundane weapons have in the playtest. (Finesse, trip, disarm, backstabber, etc)

Getting a +1 weapon is exciting, but getting a weapon that can add your charisma modifier to its damage instead of str, and also spend an RP to do a melee attack from 30ft away with a projection of itself would be more like what I want to see from the playtest system.

Might have been just an issue of time constraints and crazier magical weapons didn't make the cut for the playtest release deadline.

The magical weapon requirement for advancing characters is a little bit annoying. It seems to be the result of just having every number increase like crazy over the course of level 1-20. I wonder if HP all around was a more grounded number we wouldn't see magic weapons as a required asset for adventurers as they level up.


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i actually kind of like them...


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Yes, they are boring, but sadly Pz have elected to make them mandatory. I do hope they'll change that.


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I feel like magic weapons and armor are pretty iconic, with a lot of those just being "really good sword" and "particularly tough armor." So I don't mind them in the same way as, say, cloaks of resistance and rings of protection.

The cost also doesn't combine the +1s and powers in the same way, so you won't generally need to choose between +2 and +1 flaming. You can probably just afford +2 flaming, with the choice being the type of weapon you're applying the runes to and whether you want a different power rune in place of flaming.

I wouldn't be heartbroken if +1 weapons went away, but I think the way they're executed here is particularly good.


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They're very boring.

Most flat improvements are.

And, to be extra galling, they're often categorically what you want in a numbers-based game.


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Items that are nothing but a plus are boring as heck. Not once as a GM in the last 15 years have I ever handed out an item that was just a plus and nothing else; I /always/ add at least some other kind of minor interesting ability. PF2 tying damage dice to the weapons and saves to the armor still does not make me any more inclined to hand them out without embellishments.


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I agree, both that simple +1s are boring in a game that's supposed to be epic, and that the assumption people will upgrade is a distortion to the game's maths engine.

I do like that the damage bonus is in the form of extra dice, as are other damage bonuses, but that on its own isn't enough to make the weapons interesting.

If I'm reading the book correctly, an expert/master/legendary weapon will also get a (non-stacking?) attack bonus. So a +1 master greatsword would get +2 to attack from being master, and one extra damage die. Is that correct?

How about this: every single +1 to a weapon must be associated with a specific enhancement. You can have a +1 flaming or +3 icy feybane weapon, but never just a +1 on its own.


I like them, especially since you can roll a lot of dice. In game I would describe it as a high quality sword with ancient runes that enhance its power. +1 or +2 swords don't need a name you just ask to examine their finest swords feel the balance and swing and buy the one which is suitable. A +5 longsword I would just call a longsword, it is just a very good one withmagic runes.


One of the few things I liked about a certain fourth edition of a popular role-playing game was how 99% of magic items were more than just a bonus to hit or defence. They provided some other cool function that was usable each battle or recharged each day. I also know that a lot of players like numerical bonuses to weapons and those tend to be better than other benefits.

The magic rune options kinda echo those effects but I think they could do a lot more. I too want to see a flaming sword that you can spend RP through in order to shoot gouts of flame from the end, or a gleaming shield you can invest RP into that'll store damage it takes and send it back into enemies as a huge shockwave.


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The thing is in literature and legend I cannot think of a single magic weapon that didn't strike more true or cut more or made the wielder an instant expert, nor can I think of an armour that didn't make the wearer harder to hit. I would not want those built into the character, it 'feels right' to me that they are part of the equipment.


dragonhunterq wrote:
The thing is in literature and legend I cannot think of a single magic weapon that didn't strike more true or cut more or made the wielder an instant expert, nor can I think of an armour that didn't make the wearer harder to hit. I would not want those built into the character, it 'feels right' to me that they are part of the equipment.

We already have the property runes for that though.

We can say that (example):

Flame swords add 1d6 fire damage and 1 weapon die physical damage (the equivalent of +1 flaming). And flame burst does what flame burst property does, but also adds 2 extra weapon dices (the equivalent of +2 fire burst)

Basically, after the "basic" (+1) enchantment ("magic sword") property runes would be simultaneously both property and potency.

Make them add either a +1 (normal rune) or +2 (greater rune) and bring back the "magic" back into the "magic weapon"

If expert weapons can just be "magical" (the old +1), the master weapons can have 1 normal property (so +2+property) and legendary can also have a greater property ("Executioner" sword +4 wounding vorpal" ) or 2 more normal properties ("rainbow" elemental sword +4+fire+cold+lightning) it seems fine balance wise.

The grade system of the equip already supports a scaling +attack bonus either way.

So give the damage and the special effects to properties which are inherently more interesting than flat +damage.


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dragonhunterq wrote:
The thing is in literature and legend I cannot think of a single magic weapon that didn't strike more true or cut more or made the wielder an instant expert, nor can I think of an armour that didn't make the wearer harder to hit. I would not want those built into the character, it 'feels right' to me that they are part of the equipment.

I definitely understand that perspective. The problem I have with it though is that those weapons are barely distinguishable from a masterwork weapon, or a weapon made from a special material. There is rarely a scene where the fact that it's magical makes a big difference in how that scene plays out. Now, I'm mostly thinking of LOTR style weapons, and that's more low magic anyway.

Conceptually, I like portraying Masterwork weapons as more impactful and that captures a lot of the "Gasp! That's a fine blade, looks like dwarven work. If I'm right this is Grandur crafted by Havren, and it strikes truer than you would believe! Legend says it slew a hundred giants


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For the name thing, they're called potency runes, so I'd probably just call them a "potent sword", "twice-potent sword", "thrice-potent sword", "sword of four-fold potency", or "sword of five-fold potency". Or maybe a one-rune sword, two-rune sword, etc.
Alternatively because of the damage die increase we could probably call them e.g. a twice-sword (+1), three-sword (+2), four-sword (+3), five-sword (+4), six-sword (+5). Or because of how hard they hit now (taken from a prerelease comment, we could call them Meteoric weapons).

How I might decide to name enhanced weapons in my game:

A glorious six-fold glaive of hallowed orichalcum, bearer of a sacred four-part name. XMT-CRR-FLM-HLY

That said, I agree there should probably be a default name.

Weapons with +Xs seem to be required still thanks to damage calibration, but I think that doing increased damage dice count actually makes them feel more unique. I agree that +2 damage doesn't exactly feel like much.


One thing I liked on a conceptual level from Iron Kingdoms was that Meckanikal (their version of magi-tech that I might have misspelt) weapons could be upgraded to do various things (like flaming or frost damage), including just straight up more damage or accuracy. But it was only the one time. Putting an Accuracy rune on your weapon's runeplate gave you a +1 to hit and was the total bonus to accuracy you were ever going to have. There was no +2 Accuracy or +3 or higher. Characters in fiction might go around with weapons that, due to their magical enhancement, hit more often or harder or both, but they don't go around with a Sword of Accuracy, only to upgrade to a Sword of Accurate Accuracy, and then to a Sword of Really Accurate Accuracy or a Sword of Really Really Accurate Accuracy. That's when it really gets boring. We've already had the accuracy of a weapon being magically enhanced in the story; we don't need to do it again, so let's kindly move on to anything else.

Edit: it also had the advantage of not letting weapons get so upgraded that a character using a weapon with a fully decked-out runeplate became hopelessly crippled if he ever had to go back to a stock normal un-upgraded weapon. Han has his trusty blaster that he's tinkered with and tricked out; he doesn't just sit down and give up fighting if he's stuck with a borrowed Stormtrooper rifle.


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If you as the GM call it a +1 sword and you complain about that, it's on you. If you call it "Zelazny's sword" and give the description "this sword helps you focus your mind on fighting, allowing you to strike truer, giving you a +1 item bonus on attacks. It is also sharper than any blade you've ever encountered, doing an extra d8 (or whatever) of damage when it strikes true.", you're essentially saying it's a +1 weapon, but making it more interesting.


Rycke wrote:

If you as the GM call it a +1 sword and you complain about that, it's on you. If you call it "Zelazny's sword" and give the description "this sword helps you focus your mind on fighting, allowing you to strike truer, giving you a +1 item bonus on attacks. It is also sharper than any blade you've ever encountered, doing an extra d8 (or whatever) of damage when it strikes true.", you're essentially saying it's a +1 weapon, but making it more interesting.

And when you put a +2 potency rune on it?

A +3 later on?

Did you made the sword simply swordier?

A +1 is fine. Because going from mundane to magical is a big step. A clearly defined change. +2,+3,+4,etc are the problem. Then you just go from magic to more magic.


kpulv wrote:

I do find it strange that Paizo specifically called out equipment that just boosts numbers (saves, ac, etc) boring and stripped them out, but didn't address weapons in the same way.

I really like the change of +1 magic meaning a large tangible difference by making them roll extra dice, but it'd be great to see magic weapons expand upon the various traits that mundane weapons have in the playtest. (Finesse, trip, disarm, backstabber, etc)

Getting a +1 weapon is exciting, but getting a weapon that can add your charisma modifier to its damage instead of str, and also spend an RP to do a melee attack from 30ft away with a projection of itself would be more like what I want to see from the playtest system.

Might have been just an issue of time constraints and crazier magical weapons didn't make the cut for the playtest release deadline.

The magical weapon requirement for advancing characters is a little bit annoying. It seems to be the result of just having every number increase like crazy over the course of level 1-20. I wonder if HP all around was a more grounded number we wouldn't see magic weapons as a required asset for adventurers as they level up.

Well what's stopping you from doing any or all of those things to any swords in your game? There's nothing that say you can't add something to one. I do it all the time. Never play the books, they'll limit you in any game system.


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I prefer items that give static bonuses over any other kind of 'flavorful' properties. I miss my rings of protection, amulets of natural armor, and such. I don't need something with fancy properties, I just need a weapon or armor to get me through the next fight.


Kasoh wrote:
I prefer items that give static bonuses over any other kind of 'flavorful' properties. I miss my rings of protection, amulets of natural armor, and such. I don't need something with fancy properties, I just need a weapon or armor to get me through the next fight.

Yep, I want magic items that will be reliable and useful all the time. Something that glows blue when an orc is near is neither.


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Elleth wrote:
For the name thing, they're called potency runes, so I'd probably just call them a "potent sword", "twice-potent sword", "thrice-potent sword", "sword of four-fold potency", or "sword of five-fold potency".

Niiice catch! I like that. Swords of Potency. I especially like the (Two-Five)-Fold Sword of Potency naming convention. Sold. I dub this canon.

...that's how making things canon works, right?


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Grimcleaver wrote:
Elleth wrote:
For the name thing, they're called potency runes, so I'd probably just call them a "potent sword", "twice-potent sword", "thrice-potent sword", "sword of four-fold potency", or "sword of five-fold potency".

Niiice catch! I like that. Swords of Potency. I especially like the (Two-Five)-Fold Sword of Potency naming convention. Sold. I dub this canon.

...that's how making things canon works, right?

^_^


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WatersLethe wrote:

Yeah, as satisfyingly nerdy it is to say "I attack with my +2 longsword!" it has no real in-world weight and I would just as soon build it into character progression.

I like flaming swords, swords that shoot ghost versions of themselves, swords that glow blue in the presence of lawyers, swords that drain the life from the target and heal the wielder...

Swords that are just better at being swords are a bit boring.

This is actually one thing I really like in starfinder. Man the new armory book has a hilarious amount of different weapons. Even two "laser" pistols can have very big distinctions in crit effects and other types of changes so if you tell somebody I use my accelerated infinity rifle that actually means something in universe.


Rycke wrote:

If you as the GM call it a +1 sword and you complain about that, it's on you. If you call it "Zelazny's sword" and give the description "this sword helps you focus your mind on fighting, allowing you to strike truer, giving you a +1 item bonus on attacks. It is also sharper than any blade you've ever encountered, doing an extra d8 (or whatever) of damage when it strikes true.", you're essentially saying it's a +1 weapon, but making it more interesting.

This is important here. The rules are just rules -- but creating awesome items is the GM's job!

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From what i haveseen in playtesting by now, they are not really boring. They just a "must have" : either everyone has them, or those who don't have suffer from bitter social unfairness, because others get more numerical rewards (and dmg on monster IS a numerical reward for many players) for doing the same work.

Fun weapons are those with special materials or properties (flaming, ghost touch etc). In a way, a silver longsword is more "special" than a "+1 longsword", because exotic materials ties the weapon to the game world and suggesting particular types of dangers and challenges for the wielder. +1 stuff does nothing like that. Instead it just devalues both character's training and player actics.


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Grimcleaver wrote:
Elleth wrote:
For the name thing, they're called potency runes, so I'd probably just call them a "potent sword", "twice-potent sword", "thrice-potent sword", "sword of four-fold potency", or "sword of five-fold potency".

Niiice catch! I like that. Swords of Potency. I especially like the (Two-Five)-Fold Sword of Potency naming convention. Sold. I dub this canon.

...that's how making things canon works, right?

I couldn't possibly have a Sword of Potency in my game. I'd be far too tempted to have an NPC whip out his Sword of Potency, only to somehow drop it and have trouble getting it up.

Grand Lodge

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No, +1, +2, etc. weapons are great.

In PF1, I rarely if ever put anything else on a weapon. Keen maybe at a push.

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What I would like to see is the potency rules to disappear and that the current potency of a weapon be replaced with the number of property runes you have.

Each legendary weapons would have 5rune slots and property runes should take 1 or more rune slots. The cost of adding a rune to the weapon would increase with each rune you would add. That way each magic weapon would feel unique and magical.

This means that each property rune would add something new to the weapon + weapon dice bonus and a to hit bonus that depends on the number of rune slots the property is using.

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Ampersandrew wrote:

No, +1, +2, etc. weapons are great.

In PF1, I rarely if ever put anything else on a weapon. Keen maybe at a push.

I think that +1/+2/... weapons feel great to you because on the math side, they are the one which brings the most value, but on roleplay/coolness side, they are boring. In concept, a flaming weapon sounds a lot cooler than a weapon that deals more damage.

If by adding flaming to your weapon you would get the bonus you used to get with a +1, I don't think you would not think that properties are worthless.


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It totally understand why people like reliable, always available +1 boosts. Mechanically, those boosts are almost always the best investment because other magical properties might not be universally useful.

The problem is that those boosts compete for gold with flashier weapon enchantments. If you only have the money for one, you'll almost always take the mechanically best option.

If the underlying math can be tuned such that those +1s are accounted for (either by proficiency or craftsmanship or something), then flavorful weapons won't always be sold to pay for the next +1.

If some people literally do not ever want to have flashier/flavorful magical weapons, I can understand that too. In that case, I don't know what's the best path forward.

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