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DON DIEGO DE LA VEGA: Do you know how to use that thing?
ALEJANDRO MURRIETA: Yes. The pointy end goes into the other man.
DON DIEGO DE LA VEGA: [sighs] This is going to take a lot of work.

—- The Mask of Zorro (1998)

Basic Information

A weapon is any device which deliberately expands the human body's rather meagre inherent capacity to inflict damage on the rest of Creation.

A possibly disturbing amount of ingenuity has gone into the designing and making of weapons over the years1, but the experts will tell you that there are only two kinds of weapon when all's said and done - levers to concentrate force and pointy things for rummaging inside your opponent. This is all very Zen but is also close to being simplification to the point of uselessness, so we tend to complicate it all up again. Especially when writing RPGs.

So here are some more distinctions:

  • Ranged Weapons to damage things far away vs. melee weapons to damage things that aren't.
  • Firearms vs. everything else.
  • Cutting melee weapons vs. blunt ones vs. impaling ones.
  • Personal weapons vs. crewed weapons

…and there are many more. See the individual entries for more details.

Weapons have traditionally had a strong cultural prescence - ranging from near sacred status to hoplophobia, depending on culture and era, and have frequently been stratified by status and/or caste, either by economic considerations, legal requirements or traditional taboos.

Note that not all weapons are available in all eras, and in many cases a weapon with a high profile may not have seen that reflected in actual production (e.g. the H&K G11 never entered general service or full scale production and was only issued for trials to a few selected units, and yet it appears in assorted games as though it had been in widespread circulation), or there may be a variety of very similar weapons that are commonly misidentified as one well known brand (there are, for example, at least half a dozen submachineguns that are vaguely similar to and easily mistaken for the Uzi). Use of an exotic weapon may be an interesting shctick for a character, but has its drawbacks if covert action or a reliable supply of parts and ammunition are required - this is particularly an issue when dealing with small-run firearms in unusual calibres: if your weapon is one of a dozen ever made, it will be a lot easier to track it down to you than if you're using an AKM (of which over 10 million have been produced, not including counterfeits). US law enforcement, for example, benefits greatly from the various narcotrafficante gangs having a magpie eye for gimmicky weapons - whether in unusual calibres, easily tracible short production runs or the sort of customisation that makes the user loathe to scrap them after use. Conversely most amateur gun murders in the US are carried out using "punk guns" - cheap, off label weapons in junk calibres that are depressingly anonymous.

Categories of Personal Weapon

Weapons too large for one human to carry or use.

Weapon of Mass Destruction

Magical Weapons

Weapon-Related Tropes:

See also:


Wikipedia entry
RPG Sourcebook: From Stone To Steel by Aaron Stimson. Over 300 pages of weapons and armor, arranged chronologically from Prehistory to the 17th Century, with d20 stats.
RPG Sourcebook: The Knuckleduster Firearms Shop by Forrest Harris. Features Guns from The Wild West, with stats for Fudge and Deadlands.
RPG Sourcebook: Compendium of Modern Firearms by Kevin Dockery. A little dated now (published in the 1990s, but it has very detailed range and accuracy data, and conversion notes to 6 different systems. And besides, the classic guns never go out of style.
RPG Sourcebook: d20 Modern Weapons Locker by Keith Potter. As the name implies, d20 stats for modern guns and rocket launchers.
Some (very) assorted medieval weapons on YouTube

Game and Story Use

  • There is hardly an RPG campaign where the player characters (or their foes) don't use weapons of some kind.
  • Which weapons the character uses may be a key feature of characterisation and define his combat role.
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