Criticism for Homebrew Dragonbone Weapons


Homebrew and House Rules


Hey, all,

Backstory:

Spoiler:

I've always loved the idea of dragonbone weapons having natural abilities beyond simply being tough or energy resistant, and in the world in which I DM dragons are very magical creatures. Since they're also rare, I'd like for dragonbone weapons to be their own special material, similar to adamantine or mithral, with its own bonuses and such.

Put simply, I'd like such weapons to be special. They won't be available for purchase to players, generally; they'll only be available to players if they actually slay a dragon (which they recently did).

Unfortunately, I find Pathfinder/3.5's rules on such things to be decidedly lackluster. Balanced, yes. Impressive, interesting, fun, or special? Not really. :\

If any of you are interested, I would really appreciate some criticism on what I've so far created (criticism without needless cruelty, heh). What I have so far is a rough draft that came to me today after reading the entry in the Draconomicon, so I would really appreciate some refinement, especially in regards to pricing.

Rules:

Spoiler:

Ideally, what I want out of this is the following:
1) It should be thematically appropriate. I choose to go with dragons' natural magic-ness due to DR and their energy type, but other themes could work, too.
2) It should be special/fun/interesting and make the players actually want it more than adamantine, mithral, or silver (we don't use the rule where enhancement bonus allows you to bypass material damage reductions, so the special material has to be quite good to make up for this).
3) It should be mechanically and logically sound. I play with three engineers...
4) Ideally, I would like for it to be cost appropriate. This is harder and thus more fluid than the others. I don't mind making it overly expensive if necessary to maintain points 1 and 2, but it would definitely be ideal it was 1, 2, 3, AND affordable along the lines of other special materials, keeping in mind that slaying one dragon nets the potential for multiple weapons and that dragons already have a lot of treasure for their CR...

Dragonbone Weapons

Spoiler:

Weapons of any type can be crafted of the bones, teeth, or spines of dragons. Regardless of whether they are tooth, bone, claw, or spine, such weapons are called “dragonbone.” Crafting such a weapon requires a DC 30 Craft (Weaponsmithing) check, and the weapon must be crafted from a single solid piece of dragonbone. Failing this check completely ruins the piece, rather than part of the value. However, such weapons, once created, are automatically masterwork and are considered magical for the purposes of bypassing damage reduction and for striking incorporeal foes (even if they are not actually magical). If they are magically enchanted at a later point, their enhancement bonus is treated as one higher than it actually is for all effects (thus, a +1 dragonbone longsword is treated as a +2 weapon when attacking). Finally, such weapons always have an affinity for energy damage that correlates to the dragon’s breath weapon. If they are later enchanted with the energy or energy burst ability, they gain an extra die of energy damage when activated, and a second extra die on a critical hit (if they have the burst ability).

Dragonbone has hardness 10 and 20 hp per inch of thickness.

The number of dragonbone weapons that can be salvaged from a single dragon’s corpse varies based upon the dragon’s size, as detailed below. Harvesting the parts of a dragon requires a DC 30 survival check (Or a DC 25 profession check directly related to skinning) and magically enchanted skinning tools. In lieu of magically enchanted tools, a light or one-handed magical blade can be used at a -2 penalty. Attempting to skin and separate the parts of a dragon without a magical weapon forces a -4 penalty on the check. Failing this check reduces the number of harvested dragon parts by half. Failing by five or more reduces the number of harvested dragon parts to one quarter.

It is worth noting that dragons do not look kindly upon those that slay their kin and kind.

Dragonbone Weapons per Dragon Corpse
Dragon Size|Ammunition|Light|One-handed|Two-handed
Tiny|15|0|0|0
Small|30|2|0|0
Medium|60|4|0|0
Large|120|8|2|0
Huge|240|12|4|0
Gargantuan|480|16|8|2
Colossal|1000|20|12|4
(Sorry, I don't know how to make this table pretty. :( )

Ammunition +?? gp per missile
Light +???? gp
One-handed +???? gp
Two-handed +???? gp


If they can't buy it then price isn't a worry, you could sell it as part of the dragons corpse but that's something that would be a different question. Also since the material is already there, they don't have to pay to make the crafting checks to work it.

Your +1 to weapon enchantment bonus is a good idea only if you make it so a longsword +5 isn't now a dragonbone longsword +6, instead of an extra die, I would make the energy bonus equal to 1/2 (minimum 1) the dragon that it was taken form's age category. Maybe also give it (just the weapon) SR 5+age category to protect against those pesky spellcasters that target items.

Otherwise looks pretty good; my only question does a colossal dragon give 1000 ammunition, 20 light weapons, 12 one handed weapons, and 4 two handed weapons or is it subtracted from a total by a ratio? (I think you intended the former but it isn't clearly defined.)


Instead of treating it as a higher bonus, perhaps just a +1 to hit and damage, and ability to bypass DR/magic? I know that's a small point, but there's the other benefits that +1 gives.

Alternatively, maybe some bonus to hit or damage with affiliated energy types? So if your weapon is flaming, and came from a red or gold dragon, you get a circumstance bonus to hit? Or maybe the flaming dice multiplies or a critical? Or it simply doubles the damage dice?


AwesomenessDog wrote:
If they can't buy it then price isn't a worry,

Well, price equates, generally, to power. I don't want to give them something TOO powerful, but I do want to give them something good for succeeding at an extremely hard and optional fight.

Quote:
Also since the material is already there, they don't have to pay to make the crafting checks to work it.

Right. They'll just have to make it themselves, or pay someone a premium to do the work using their materials.

Quote:
Your +1 to weapon enchantment bonus is a good idea only if you make it so a longsword +5 isn't now a dragonbone longsword +6,

This is a good idea. I could add in language such that it increases the enhancement bonus, but does not increase it past +5.

Quote:
instead of an extra die, I would make the energy bonus equal to 1/2 (minimum 1) the dragon that it was taken form's age category.

I saw a lot of that in the Draconomicon, but I don't like it. I feel like rolling dice is more interesting and fun, and there's less math and accountability if you just add a die rather than factor in age categories. I feel like there are already enough benefits for killing an older dragon.

Quote:
Otherwise looks pretty good; my only question does a colossal dragon give 1000 ammunition, 20 light weapons, 12 one handed weapons, and 4 two handed weapons or is it subtracted from a total by a ratio? (I think you intended the former but it isn't clearly defined.)

It gives all of them. I basically pulled out my large dragon piece and a medium sized mini and kind of eyeballed how many weapons I thought could be made from their bones, using large as my middlepoint and just moving up linearly from there. I'm not sure how balanced that is or isn't, but, yeah, that age category gives all those items. The idea is that, with all the smaller bones you can make things like arrowheads, and the larger bones can be used to make weapons. With larger dragons, there are more bones that are large enough to make large weapons.

Quote:
Instead of treating it as a higher bonus, perhaps just a +1 to hit and damage, and ability to bypass DR/magic? I know that's a small point, but there's the other benefits that +1 gives.

What other benefits does it give besides hardness and hit points? I'm generally ok with that increase, but I'm not opposed to your change, either. It's neater, in some ways.


Brogue The Rogue wrote:
What other benefits does it give besides hardness and hit points? I'm generally ok with that increase, but I'm not opposed to your change, either. It's neater, in some ways.

I didn't articulate this clearly in my post- well, not at all, but a +1 enhancement bonus that stacks is pretty awesome. You could be using it to beat DR early, depending on the level.

However, it is much cleaner to just use it as an enhancement bonus.

If dragonbone expanded your enhancement bonus limit to an effective +11, why would you ever not buy dragonbone? If it didn't, why would you ever buy it and not just enhance the weapon regularly?

I'd personally want to see a minor effect (always masterwork, beats DR/magic) and a major effect (does bonus elemental damage or something) that isn't the same as getting a +1.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Have you checked out the old 3.5 WotC Draconomicon? It has a whole chapter on dragoncrafted items, from dragonhide armor, dragonbone weapons, and even elixirs made from dragon blood. Unfortunately, WotC made the book completely, 100%... not OGL.


Brogue The Rogue wrote:
AwesomenessDog wrote:
If they can't buy it then price isn't a worry,

Well, price equates, generally, to power. I don't want to give them something TOO powerful, but I do want to give them something good for succeeding at an extremely hard and optional fight.

Quote:
Also since the material is already there, they don't have to pay to make the crafting checks to work it.
Right. They'll just have to make it themselves, or pay someone a premium to do the work using their materials.

While I would still say that the actual price doesn't matter because its ultimately up to you how powerful they are, it still might be useful to have a price and then a % of that paid to a craftsman to work it for the party. I would probably price it as 100gp per ammunition, 2000 for light weapons, 4000 for one handed, and 8000 for two handed. That is just for the weapon alone, if they want it enchanted, they would have to pay full price for the enchantments they choose.

I also recommend, for flavor purposes, making prismatic dragons have bone weapons that look like crystals of the color of the dragon and metal dragons have their metal be the weapon (but its still just as strong as steel, otherwise people wouldn't really care for a hammer made from a gold dragon).


This doesn't work very well, I'm afraid.

If you add a flat +1 enhancement bonus that stacks with magical enchantment, then it's not a flat price. A +1 dragonbone weapon should cost as much as a +2 steel weapon (8,000gp) which would mean the dragonbone component would cost about 6,000gp. But a +4 dragonbone weapon should cost as much as a +5 steel weapon (50,000gp) which means the dragonbone component should cost 18,000gp.

If the price doesn't scale with the benefit, then whatever price you assign it (say, 10,000gp flat price for example) means it's overpriced at low values (+1 weapons) and underpriced at high values (+3 or +4 weapons).

Also, if you let it add a stacking +1 to all magic weapons from +1 to +4 but NOT to +5 weapons, then anyone who wants a +5 weapon would not want Dragonbone - suddenly this cool, rare, special material is UNDESIRABLE.

In the end, this stacking +1 modifier is impossible to price and awkward on highly enhanced magical weapons.

I DO like what you did with the energy affinity, but that is also impossible to price: it has no value on a masterwork or +1 or +5 weapon. It has good value on a +x weapon of (energy), and even more value on a +x weapon of (energy) burst. Which means its value is either +0, +lots, or +a whole lot, entirely depending on what the weapon is enchanted to do.

All that said, you're better off creating abilities for dragonbone that are static (don't change based on other variables of the weapon) and can stand alone (don't require specific weapon enchantment to become useful).

Some ideas might be:
Increase damage die
Decrease effort (handedness)
Increase hardness/HP (you already did this one)
Bypass DR/Hardness
Always confirm a critical hit without rolling (a risky one indeed)
Apply static energy damage even if not enchanted at all
Apply bane effect against creatures of opposite energy type even if not enchanted at all
Reduce the cost of enchanting these weapons

Those are just a few off the top of my head. Some of them might be quite powerful, but none of them scale or behave differently depending on OTHER abilities of the weapon.


DM_Blake wrote:

This doesn't work very well, I'm afraid.

If you add a flat +1 enhancement bonus that stacks with magical enchantment, then it's not a flat price. A +1 dragonbone weapon should cost as much as a +2 steel weapon (8,000gp) which would mean the dragonbone component would cost about 6,000gp. But a +4 dragonbone weapon should cost as much as a +5 steel weapon (50,000gp) which means the dragonbone component should cost 18,000gp.

If the price doesn't scale with the benefit, then whatever price you assign it (say, 10,000gp flat price for example) means it's overpriced at low values (+1 weapons) and underpriced at high values (+3 or +4 weapons).

If you read OP, then you know the player's 1) cant buy it, 2) its super rare let alone they get a whole lot out of it due to crafting DCs and whatnot, and 3) the pricing is only for relative power, meaning pricing is irrelevant and a +1 on top of enchantment doesn't become a relative pricing issue.


AwesomenessDog wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:

This doesn't work very well, I'm afraid.

If you add a flat +1 enhancement bonus that stacks with magical enchantment, then it's not a flat price. A +1 dragonbone weapon should cost as much as a +2 steel weapon (8,000gp) which would mean the dragonbone component would cost about 6,000gp. But a +4 dragonbone weapon should cost as much as a +5 steel weapon (50,000gp) which means the dragonbone component should cost 18,000gp.

If the price doesn't scale with the benefit, then whatever price you assign it (say, 10,000gp flat price for example) means it's overpriced at low values (+1 weapons) and underpriced at high values (+3 or +4 weapons).

If you read OP, then you know the player's 1) cant buy it, 2) its super rare let alone they get a whole lot out of it due to crafting DCs and whatnot, and 3) the pricing is only for relative power, meaning pricing is irrelevant and a +1 on top of enchantment doesn't become a relative pricing issue.

I read the OP, but pricing is used for more than just buying.

Ultimately, everything is for sale to someone - what if the PC wants to sell his dragonbone weapon?

But even if the GM says that nobody in his game world will ever buy or sell dragonbones, ever, for any reason, there is still all the question of WBL values and using price a as a way to compare the value of one magic item to the value of another one (for example, if the fighter is getting a +3 flaming dragonbone sword, and the wizard should get to pick something too, what item should he pick that would be fairly valuated against the fighter's sword?).

If none of that matters, if the GM doesn't care about WBL or using it to balance the APL of a party against the CR of encounters, and if the players in the group don't care about using values of items to help make sure each character is getting a fair share of the loot, and if nobody will ever sell a dragonbone weapon ever (Well, Bob, you found a brand new adamantium vorpal sword, I guess you might as well just throw your dragonbone sword away since you can never sell it), then none of it matters - the GM can make it whatever he wants (Hey, all dragonbone weapons give +30 to hit and damage and nobody cares if that's balanced against anything).

Yeah, I know he's not trying to be so egregious as to make them +30, but the point is valid: there is no way to evaluate or critique (as the thread requests) items in a campaign where nobody, players or GM, has any interest at all in balancing anything.

And I totally don't get your third point. A stacking enhancement modifier is ABSOLUTELY a relative value.


DM_Blake wrote:

This doesn't work very well, I'm afraid.

Yeah, I saw and considered this same problem, but I wasn't sure how to address it because the flat damage boost seemed to be the best and most logical bonus I could come up with.

Quote:


If the price doesn't scale with the benefit, then whatever price you assign it (say, 10,000gp flat price for example) means it's overpriced at low values (+1 weapons) and underpriced at high values (+3 or +4 weapons).

Agreed. That's the problem I"m having with this iteration of the item. As for the problem with energy weapons, since they're generally a weak enhancement, I had less a problem with just making them better, but, again, I do see your point.

Quote:


Some ideas might be:
Increase damage die
Decrease effort (handedness)
Increase hardness/HP (you already did this one)
Bypass DR/Hardness
Always confirm a critical hit without rolling (a risky one indeed)
Apply static energy damage even if not enchanted at all
Apply bane effect against creatures of opposite energy type even if not enchanted at all
Reduce the cost of enchanting these weapons

Those are just a few off the top of my head. Some of them might be quite...

These are really good, and very helpful. Pretty much just what I'm looking for. Let's kick these around and address them one by one.

* Increased damage die
I like this one, but I think it runs into the same scaling problems you mentioned before. For smaller weapons, the return is marginal. For larger weapons (especially d8 and higher), the return is much greater. However, if prices for dragonbone weapons are delineated based upon handedness, this might not actually be an issue, and would solve the problem readily. It also has the benefit of reducing the value of high threat weapons (very marginally) compared to high dice weapons.

So how would this work? Flat increase of one size category to the damage die, instead of the +1 attack and damage I originally proposed?

* Decrease handedness
I always worry about playing around with this particular facet, since it messes with things like weapon finesse, power attack, and the like. I feel like damage die increases are neater.

* Increase Hardness
I did already do this, but I only did it from "human" bone to "steel" (roughly). I'm not opposed to establishing that dragonbone is stronger than steel, but I wonder what value that would really have in combat. Players that are paranoid about their weapons being destroyed (which is staggeringly difficult, even when I purposefully change ooze/babau/etc rules about bypassing hardness, can simply have an invulnerable weapon with adamantine. If this is the sole point of interest on the new special material, I can't see it really drawing in interest.

* Bypass Hardness/DR
This is another thing that adamantine already does, or that special materials in general do. What niche could dragonbone do that would be better?
As a side note, I have thought very often about bringing back DR/+X instead of flat DR/magic....but always decide against it because +X weapons are already better than most special abilities and don't need the assistance. If I did port in that change, dragonbone weapons could be treated as a higher enhancement bonus for DR purposes. But then I feel like I'm changing too much just for this one tiny aspect of the game.

* Always confirm crits
I agree that this is risky. I think I would like to shy away from this. I'm not sure how thematic it is...plus I have a magus in the group and that just makes things silly.

* Static Energy damage (even when not enchanted)
I saw this from the Draconomicon and balked at it. As much as it makes sense from a mechanical outlook, I don't see it as making sense thematically. Dragons themselves don't do energy damage on their attacks. Why should their bones? I'm not arguing - I'm genuinely asking. I'd love to be convinced on this point.

* Bane Effect
This is interesting, but very powerful. I like the concept, and it's pretty strong thematically, but I feel like this makes some dragon bones weaker than others. Fire/cold is obvious. But what do green dragon bones bane against? Green dragons are waterairforest dragons with acid breath. Is that earth? So air creatures? Even though green dragons have the air subtype?

* Reduced enchanting cost
I like this a lot.
I feel like this is thematic (dragons being magical creatures, their bones are more easily enchanted than other things-the opposite of cold iron).
I feel like it's desirable at all levels
I feel like it has its own niche.
The main downside is that, depending on implementation, it could well have a much lower potential power level than other special materials (which can bypass DR).

So how would this be implemented?
* 10% reduction to all costs for better scaling benefits? This would give better scaling and allow for competition with DR-bypassing materials, but could well be *too* powerful.

* Flat 2,000gp reduction to the first enchantment (the inverse of cold iron)? This is kind of neat. It means that all dragonbone weapons are effortlessly +1 weapons, making them naturally magical. The ability could even be rewritten so that this is the case - they start out at +1 weapons, rather than having an enchantment reduction.

_________________________

Thoughts on everything so far? Thanks again for the great input so far, everyone.


Quote:
Yeah, I know he's not trying to be so egregious as to make them +30, but the point is valid: there is no way to evaluate or critique (as the thread requests) items in a campaign where nobody, players or GM, has any interest at all in balancing anything.

You are exactly correct, DM_Blake. This is why I need a worthwhile pricing. I track treasure given out to the PCs and adhere to the treasure per encounter tables (on an aggregate over the adventure, rather than per encounter), and try to keep them within 15% of a prorated value of their WBL guideline (based upon their percentage of the way through their level), so assigning these items a gp value is important. And while the players will *likely* not be able to buy these items at any point, they absolutely can sell them. The reason they wouldn't be able to buy them is because of the high demand and low supply. This would work in their favor if they choose to sell them, and rightly so.

The group is very lax on how they separate treasure, so the other point about divvying up treasure doesn't really concern them, as much, but the rest of your points are on the nose.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

The easiest thing to do is that a magical weapon made from dragonbone automatically gets the elemental damage type of that dragon for 'free', but counting towards the +10.

That means a +1 Red Dragonbone sword is automatically Flaming, equal to a +2 weapon for pricing, and you build off it from there, saving yourself the last '+1' in cost for a +10 weapon. It would work even better if the FLame actually counts as Dragonfire for magical purposes.

Alternatively, you could use that 'magical reserve' to instead make it a Bane Against Dragons weapon for half the normal cost, saving yourself some cash but losing the elemental damage.

'Fixed benefits' like that are much easier to manage then open benefits that scale.

==Aelryinth


DM_Blake wrote:

I read the OP, but pricing is used for more than just buying.

Ultimately, everything is for sale to someone - what if the PC wants to sell his dragonbone weapon?

You would sell the dragon bones as you sell the dragon's body, he isn't saying dragons too rare to sell, just too rare for PCs to go out to ye ole' market and buy dragon bones or weapons. There are rules for selling body parts (as things like dragon scales are spell components) and since a dragon bone is still ultra sturdy, there a market, just the players can only sell into it.

Dark Archive

Brogue the Rogue wrote:

* Static Energy damage (even when not enchanted)

I saw this from the Draconomicon and balked at it. As much as it makes sense from a mechanical outlook, I don't see it as making sense thematically. Dragons themselves don't do energy damage on their attacks. Why should their bones? I'm not arguing - I'm genuinely asking. I'd love to be convinced on this point.

One way you could fluff it is that their ties to the elements reside to the very bones of the dragons, even in death.

Or in another way, dragon bones are magically attuned to their breath weapon, I guess.


Zavas wrote:
Brogue the Rogue wrote:

* Static Energy damage (even when not enchanted)

I saw this from the Draconomicon and balked at it. As much as it makes sense from a mechanical outlook, I don't see it as making sense thematically. Dragons themselves don't do energy damage on their attacks. Why should their bones? I'm not arguing - I'm genuinely asking. I'd love to be convinced on this point.

One way you could fluff it is that their ties to the elements reside to the very bones of the dragons, even in death.

Or in another way, dragon bones are magically attuned to their breath weapon, I guess.

So when they Breathe fire, they have a bone in their mouth that acts as a flame thrower instead of it being in their stomach? Blasphemy!


Zavas, I'm not saying there aren't ways you can't make it work, just that there is a disconnect that I don't like. If dragon bones do elemental damage, why don't dragon claws do it?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Because Dragon Claws are not enchanted magical items? And dragon bones enchanted as swords are?

It's simply bringing out the dragon's native magic in a different way. After all, it's a Fire subtype creature, red dragons have LOTS of fire type magic, the fact this condenses into their bones and stuff after death instead of soft organic meat is far from a stretch of the imagination. It's the only part of the dragon that is truly going to endure.

==Aelryinth


Aelryinth, you're aware we're talking about a static bonus when the item is *not* enchanted, right?

I agree with your second line. It makes sense to grant the bonuses if/when the item is enchanted. But that wasn't quiiiiite what we were talking about, heh.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Oh, then simply give it a static +1 dmg bonus of the appropriate elemental type.

This is what they do with the sky metal statticite, or whatever it is called. 1 pt of hot or cold dmg, depending on type.

Price accordingly.

Make the bone as hard as steel, and basically you just have a material substitution. The bonus if you enchant it makes it better then the metal, however.

So, maybe you just want to make the dragonbones steel hard and have NO special abilities unless magic is applied to bring that ability out, to keep things balanced.

As another option, their gp value is directly usable as material cost for raw components of making magic items that involve their elemental or draconic nature. SO, you could just say "that's 10,000 gp worth of dragon body parts of you want to make a magic item concerning elements X or dragons." Which makes balancing VERY easy.

==Aelryinth


That's the thing; I *want* it to be a material substitution. But the proposal of a +1 damage bonus isn't good enough to *ever* take it instead of one of the big three special materials. There's just no reason. You'd be gimping yourself, and that's what I'm struggling with.

I don't honestly like the +1 bonus to attack and damage for any purposes but thematic. I feel that it makes quite a bit of sense for theme, but mechanically, it's too powerful. I suppose the question is whether it's *too* powerful, at least in comparison to the other special materials. Cold iron, silver, and adamantine would still always be better against their respective creatures. This iteration of dragonbone would only be better when not faced with material-based damage reduction.

Pricing it is difficult, but, perhaps it could, again, be compared to the special materials that currently exist. Does anyone have any ideas?


Ammunition*50=1/2
light=1
one-handed=2
two-handed=3
[handedness]*[Handedness rounded up]*1000=total price
If you want it to be rather powerful when combined with enchantments

otherwise do it as 400*[weight of the object in pounds (minimum 1/2)]

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

The 'only' high level metal is adamantine. Cold Iron and Silver are non-issues at +3. Adamantine's power is in it's imperviousness and ability to cleave material, which go beyond punching DR.

If Dragonbone is only good as a material for getting a +2 Weapon out of a +1 Weapon...you know what? That's still awesome for the vast majority of people in the world, and totally worth the money. For 1/4 the cost, the king can equip his men with flaming longswords instead of normal longswords.

People will pay REALLY good money for that kind of stuff. And carry silver/cold iron as mundane back up. Because the +elemental damage is more useful every day.

==Aelryinth

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