Friday, November 4, 2016

Intelligent weaponry

Charles Saeger posted about smart swords in GURPS the other day. I hadn't given them much thought.

I don't use intelligent weapons very often. I handed out two swords with personality in my last game - the swords Malice and Grimslaughter* - but their personalities weren't of the talking sword type.

We had some in my AD&D days, but generally we handed out swords with special abilities but not intelligence. I think we just didn't have a handle on why and how. The only intelligent weapons I knew of were Stormbringer and the magic weapons in S2 White Plume Mountain. Not a lot to go on, and even reading Elric came years after I started gaming (during junior high, I was 4-5 years into my gaming hobby by then.)

I really should make use of them more.

GURPS has a spell to make weapons intelligent - the Weapon Spirit (VH) spell in GURPS Magic. It's an interesting spell. It doesn't take Sword X and give it Ability Package Y. It takes, instead, Character X and stuffs their knowledge into Sword Y, giving it Ability Package Z.

Mostly what you get out it is a smart weapon, but if you choose the origin spirit well, you get a smart weapon with a nice pack of skills. It is also a useful way to limit a weapon, as well - it has to react well to the bearer, so you can weed out the types you don't like.

It comes with Per 10 and it can see and hear, and should warrant a 360 degree roll to see things when held out (or peering from its hilt, depending on positioning).

But what kind of skills? Choose a fallen warrior and you could get a basket of Tactics, Strategy, Armoury, Connoisseur (Weapons), Leadership (maybe it'll act as a complimentary skill roll for you), and advantages as well - although it's not exactly clear how they'll help, some might work very well, like Luck or Danger Sense. A thief's knife could have a thief's spirit in it, and advice on Lockpicking and Traps (and spot them with its Per 10 + Traps), Streetwise, and Shadowing. Wizards may not come with spells, but maybe they will.

I feel like I haven't really taken advantage of this. I've handed out souls-in-objects, but not quite weapons with packages of skills. Maybe I need to do more of this in my DF game.

* Hopefully, they and their associated weapons, will appear in DF terms at some point.


  1. A skill I wound up putting in my comments because I thought of it later is a new one: Weapon. It works exactly as Mount does, but with your weapon skill in question. It isn't quite as neat as it sounds at first blush, since PC or major NPC swordsmen will have sword skills higher than the weapon's Weapon skill (it would have to be based on IQ, which won't be too high for most such weapons), but it will give an automatic +1.

    1. I saw that. For me, that's kind of "meh." A +1 is too easy to come by in other ways - Accuracy, the Balanced prefix, Weapon Bond, etc. Adding yet another +1 to skill on top of the usual pile doesn't make me want to use intelligent weapons. I also don't ever bother with the "Mount" skill, either, so that probably plays into it too. It seems like the IQ and Per and skills should come into play heavily to really make "intelligent" more than just another way to mean "better."

    2. Yeah, that's pretty much my thoughts. A +1 doesn't feel special.

      I get some of how disadvantages work, by granting the sword the Mind Control advantage at creation with various limitations. (I like the Stormbringer idea where the sword can take over its user a bit.)

      The bit allowing a Dodge roll from behind was my way of mimicking the 360 vision. I wouldn't bother with a Per roll, since you're rolling to make a roll, which is a pain.

      I imagine the Detect advantage will be in swords often. That was a common sword ability in OSR D&D.

      (Most mounts won't have the Mount skill anyways. You gotta pay extra for those mounts.)

    3. (Er, the Per roll is rolling to make ANOTHER roll, if it wasn't clear.)

    4. I'd give the weapon a Per roll just like I'd give it to the PCs, so to me it wouldn't be an extra. I'm leery of handing out 360 degree vision for back shots, especially in DF. Right now, the only times one PC gets hit are area attacks, critical hits, and back shots. A mere -2 to stop a back shot is the same as saying you are protected in a full circle around your body, aware of everything, and may as well take the most restrictive and protective helmet possible because you're going to negate any penalty and just reap the bonuses. That's a big jump. I'd allow that with a always-on item, but not just any sword with an IQ and Per roll.

  2. This also can be a route to quirky and comedic or weird.

    Nobody said the spirit bound into the sword needs to have anything to do with swords.

    For example, maybe your Weapon Spirit used to be a Master Chef in the Palace of Lang of the Undying Stomach in the Ancient Empire of Dread. It comes with high Cooking, Connoisseur (Digestion), Hidden Lore (Comestibles). It also comes with a burning desire to smite all those unsalvageable primitives who don't see why there's anything wrong with mixing rosemary into a good simple potato and leek soup. (E.g. all orcs and most other things you'd find in a dungeon...)

    Probably not a direction you want to go with your current game, but amusing to think about.

  3. Lilarcor from Baldur's Gate II was my personal favorite intelligent sword. '...and this one's for grandma, who said I'd never amount to anything more than a butterknife!!'


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