When I launched the Arcana Check a few months ago, I jumped the gun (pun intended.) I’ve got my ducks in a row now, and a clear image of what the Arcana Check is going to be. You can expect much more regular content (though an exact update schedule will not be laid out for a bit, since I want to err on the side of quality.)
The Arcana Check is our $5 reward tier and it’s going to have exclusive modules, adventures, and settings that try their damndest to harken back to an old-school feel without abandoning what makes modern tabletop gaming unique. They will occasionally be systems agnostic, or have systems agnostic elements, but for the most part, we’ll be releasing content that expands, revises, or uses Fifth Edition D&D.’
Here is a two-page sample of our latest module, which I lovingly call YAMF – or Yet Another Firearms Module. My fellow Civilization fans will recognize the naming convention from Yet (not) Another Earth Map, and the Cinematic Ammunition rules here are heavily inspired from the Darker Dungeons module.
Fifth edition gives pretty clear guidelines on how to incorporate weapons from far-off lands into a campaign. That katana is a longsword. That qiang is a pole-arm. It’s quick, easy, and it’s honestly one of the best decisions the designers made, in terms of both balance and in terms of not othering non-Europeans. But it’s not a good model for the grander weapons that, without being magical, permeate modern fantasy and science fiction.
So here’s a list of weird weapons from far-flung worlds, and a few outliers from our own world that tend to fall beneath notice.
Nobody begins with proficiency with these at level one — not without DM permission — and gaining proficiency with them will either take the Weapon Master feat, or else the training method outlined on DMG page 231.
DMs might look at some of these items and declare that, if these items exist at their table, they are magical, in which case attunement may also factor in.
Light, two-handed, finesse
D6 + D4 slashing damage
If whirling dervishes were a weapon instead of a style of fighting, it would be a double-blade. An attack with this two-handed weapon does a minimum of 2 damage and a maximum of ten, represented with D6 + D4. Proficiency with this weapons allows it to count as two weapons for the purpose of two-weapon fighting, and the attack taken with the bonus action counts as a D4. Using it without proficiency makes it into a 1D6 slashing spear.
Examples: A Klingon bat’leth, Darth Maul’s light-saber.
2D4 slashing damage
One of the most improbable weapons in fantasy, the whip sword rests strangely between a fetish weapon and a dancer’s ribbon. Proficiency allows this weapon to turn into a Longsword as a free action. It also allows the user spend an attack action on a grapple attack. If this grapple attack is successful, the target is grappled, and every turn the attacker moves its target as a result of being grappled, the target takes weapon damage.
Examples: Soul Calibur, Kor Duelists, Real-World Urumis
Light, ranged 30/60
1D6 slashing damage
Proficient or not, it takes a DC 12 perception check for someone to realize that a worn bladed hat is a weapon. Proficiency with the weapon allows it an additional critical damage dice. Proficiency also allows it to be drawn and thrown as a bonus action, so long as it’s being worn.
Examples: Oddjob, Kung Lao
Multi-bladed weapons are a dubious construct of the fantasy genre, but deserve a slot here all the same. They are occasionally depicted as having the additional blades coming from the hilt, but more commonly have the extra blades hidden inside or near the main blade, and extend outward from a spring-like mechanism. A Multi-bladed weapon can be of almost any type, though they’re most typically swords and daggers.
Proficiency gives a triple-bladed sword allows the user an additional 2 critical damage dice.
Examples: The Sword And The Sorcerer, King’s Field 2, and spring-loaded triple daggers from medieval times.
Bladed crossbow (Gunblade)
Light, Loading, Finesse, Ranged 30 / 120
1D6 slashing (melee attack) 1D6 piercing (ranged)
When this weapon takes the form of a bayoneted firearm, it’s neither improbable nor exotic, but popular fantasy depicts these ranged melee weapons primarily as swords with guns built into them. For a setting without guns, these can easily be imagined as crossbows, and for games with guns in them, apply other gun-rules as needed either from the DMG or from my personal favorite, Firearms Rules Redux, from the Middle Finger of Vecna.
These count as crossbows (or guns) and as short swords for the purposes of feats. They count as a melee weapon for determining whether the user gets a bonus attack for two-weapon fighting.
Examples: Attack on Titan, Final Fantasy, League of Legends, and many others.
Two-handed, finesse, monk weapon, stupid
Really, I’m just surprised this wasn’t in the PHB.
Without proficiency in this weapon, you also deal this damage to yourself. The DM may have this happen automatically, or may check to see if you’ve hit your own AC.
Examples: 8-bit theater, pictured right.
This isn’t the metal greataxe. This is just a tribute. It’s also a stringed instrument.
This weapon counts as a bard’s magical focus if that bard is proficient with any stringed instrument that isn’t a piano and can be played like a guitar.
Counts as an unarmed strike and replaces normal unarmed strike’s damage. This is a magical weapon in most settings, but might have batteries or solar cells in other settings. Without proficiency, the weapon deals 1 lightning damage. You can wear a charged glove on one hand and hold a weapon in the other.
Examples: An actual American police weapon from the early 1900’s, and Pam from Archer.
Massive Shuriken Boomerang
Finesse, thrown 30 / 60
2D8 slashing damage
Massive Shuriken Boomerang (Variant)
Finesse, thrown 30 / 60
1D8 slashing damage
Proficiency with this weapon allows the attacker to spend a bonus action to cause the weapon to return to the owner’s hand. If this action is not used by the end of your next turn, the boomerang will land at a random location on the battlefield, and possibly striking a random target.
In addition to the above, proficiency with this weapon allows the attacker to attack everyone in a 30 foot cone, or a 60 foot cone at disadvantage. Enemies in the cone must pass a 8 + attack modifier + proficiency modifier DC or suffer the damage dice of the weapon as it bounces between them.
Examples: Skies of Arcadia, Final Fantasy 7, Mahou Sensei Negima!, and Sivir from League of Legends.
1D6 bludgeoning damage
It’s basically a stage-hook for getting people off of horses or for pinning them to the ground. Successful attacks with this weapon against a creature on a mount impose a DC 15 athletics check. Failure dismounts the creature, who falls and takes relevant falling damage while becoming prone.
Can be used against prone, medium-sized creatures to restrain them (DC 15 athletics save).
Examples: This was a real weapon.
Absurdly Oversized Sword / Buster Sword
Two-handed, heavy reach
Absurdly Oversized Sword / Buster Sword (Variant)
Requires a strength score of 15 and a +10 athletics to wield.
Gains an additional two damage dice on a critical strike.
Examples: Cloud’s Buster sword, Anime in general, The Epic of Gilgamesh, where both Gilgamesh and Enkidu have 600-lb “great daggers.”
Absurdly Oversized Flail
Two-handed, heavy, reach
If you are proficient with this weapon, then as an action, you can whirl the A.O.F in a 10-foot radius around you, imposing a 8 + strength modifier + proficiency bonus dexterity saving throw on everything in that circle. Failure results in creatures in that 10-foot radius being knocked prone and taking full weapon damage. Nothing happens on a save.
Note that actions and attack actions are distinct.
Requires a strength score of 15 and a +10 athletics to wield.
Examples: Haruka Armitage, The Legend of Zelda
Does not require a free hand, but cannot be paired with magic boots.
When proficient with this weapon, the first time you use it against an enemy who has never fought you before, seen your shoe-blade, or heard about your shoe-blade, that enemy is treated as surprised.
Examples: Vash the Stampede, Road House
Without proficiency, failed acrobatics checks with this weapon inflict weapon damage on the wearer.
With proficiency, the wearer can use a reaction after being attacked to automatically deal 1D4 slashing to an attacker. Additionally, no hands are required for an attack with this weapon, so long as the wearer is not prone.
The first time you use this weapon against an enemy who has never met you or heard of you, they count as surprised.