<disclaimer> I play with a pack of experienced gamers so our combats go relatively smoothly. I'd think twice before I tried this with a new group. </disclaimer>
I'm trying to run a heroic/gritty fantasy dark age game. Translation: "low magic for the good guys, but I still want them to think and behave with a dramatic flair."
I feel uncomfortable with most crit failure tables; Conan never hacked himself in the foot on an off-day, although he did slip and fall on occassion. It may be realistic to expect warriors to hurt themselves, but realism isn't my goal. (Now the illusion of realism
is something else altogether.)
Last night I tried out this system for weapon breaks and it seemed to go fairly well: the roll of a 1 on a to-hit calls for another roll. If that falls within a weapon's crit failure range the weapon is broken/damaged.
A rusted long sword - or one made by a shoddy smith - might have a crit fail range of 1-5.
: Torgo the beserker swings at the priest, misses and hits the altar. His second roll = 3. The blade snaps in half as the priest cues up his inflict wound spell.
A "good" blade might have a failure range of 1-2. A masterwork blade has a failure range of 1. Wooden weapons, 1-5 (lots of broken spears/lances!).
And of course magical weapons never break accidentally, but who wants them? They're all cursed by eldritch blood-magic anyway.
Kink for Heroic Games:
A roll of 1 followed by a roll of 20 calls for a critical hit with complications. The blade lodges in the spine of the devil-spawn. The mace handle snaps from the brute force of your powerful smite. Whatever.
Last night we only had 3 crit breaks, but they all came at dramatic moments. Very quickly it became important what sort of backup weapon the players had scrawled on their character sheets all those months ago. That and "improv" weapons got really popular:
Player 1: Torch sconce! Martial weapon?
DM: It's a -1 club. Go!
... but then the sconce
shattered against the skull of the demon-childe with a crit break/hit and things got really messy:
Player 2: I throw Torgo my sword!
DM and Torgo: What?!
The other side-effect was one of the players called her NPC sidekick forward to serve as spear-maiden/weapons-caddy. I've always liked the idea but it was never important enough to encourage in and of itself, so it was great when a player came up with it in game.
I remember playing with MERPS crit failures and the dread/frustration that came as a player knowing that I had "slipped on an imaginary turtle" again
. By keeping the chance of a crit hit (along with the break) in the mix, it keeps my players on the edge of their seats with their thread of hope, pavlov style.
(For the record, I don't know the first thing about smithing techniques/materials, but I hope to amend that this weekend with a visit to the local library.
Sorry if any of this duplicates/imitates material from any of the newer books (Unearthed Arcana, maybe?). Haven't had a chance to check it out yet.