Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not Just Another +1 Sword

When I was young and playing (dm'ing actually) I became jaded very quickly to simple +1 weapons. I wanted my magic weapons to have more, do more, and be more. I blame part of this on my youth and the monty haul approach I had to the game when I was young; unlike some others,my small and I were completely self taught in D&D; and boy did we end up doing some pretty "bad" things rules wise with the game. Now though, being older, more experienced, and enjoying the feel of low magic adventure, I want each magical weapon I bring into the game to have some weight behind it; to give an impression of power and history, no matter if it is "just" a +1 weapon or not; and I think I've come up with a few ideas on how that I'd like to share.

My first thought is naming; I believe EVERY magical weapon in a campaign should have a name. I don't know about you, but as a player I'm certain as hell that I'm going to be more frightened if the Gulthor the evil Orc lord is growling at me in a low chuckling voice "Now fool its time for you to taste the cold touch of my blade Night Strike" as opposed to "Now fool its time for you to taste the cold touch of my +1 blade". Naming weapons is just more evocative, pure and simple.
Here's a list of some words I think would make cool sword names, the list is certainly not exhaustive (in fact as I'm writing this I can think of more) but here goes:

autumn horn shred

bane hug silver

bind ice sky

bite kill slay

blade lightning slice

blind luck smash

blood master split

bone metal spring

burst mountain squash

carve night star

claw omen star

cleave part steel

cloud pierce sting

conquer pulverize stone

crusher quelch strike

cutter quell summer

death quick sun

despair razor sweep

edge scratch swift

embrace sea thunder

envy seduction tooth

ever sever torment

fall shade wind

fire shadow winter

flame sharp wound





(Sorry about the formatting, copying tables into blogger is turning out to be more difficult then I had thought)

Looking at this list it occurs to me that I could try and create some random table to create two word weapon names. Some of the words are not meant to work alone of course, just like some verbs work better in their -er form " eg. bone pulverizer". Weapon names can be single words alone (ala Sting), double words (God's Hand ), or describe their function (Sea Spark the Flame Quelcher). I think the names should have some sort of air of mystery, or personality: calling the PC's new magical mace "Envy", for example, is going to lead to some interesting questions from the one who found it.

    Of course the names don't have to be in English, or "common". I personally like Old English words, there's something very direct and hard about them; instead of calling the battle axe "Death" call it ifgedæl, or forðweg. Both here and here are some useful Old English links, there's also old Norse, if you prefer. You get the idea; any old language will add some history and weight to your weapon naming. If you prefer something out of a true historical context there's this site that has a random name generator for many things, weapons included.

You may want to keep in mind whether or not your going to include more powerful weapons later in your campaign. It'd be more appropriate to keep name's like DemonSlayer for that +3 battleaxe +4 vs demons, and give the +1 sword Wolf's Tooth. Both are cool, but the first one does seem better suited for the more powerful weapon.

Names can give clues as to the weapons abilities, but that's not a necessity. Sometimes a little vagueness is a good thing, for example: Silver Bane could give a +2 vs lycanthropes, but who's to say for certain. I could keep going on about naming, but I think you get the idea. The main point is that we should not  discount the power of even a simple one word name to add a little something to your "plain old +1 weapons".

I think I'll add more to this topic, dealing with other ways to bring the magic back to magic weapons very soon.


  1. Here's a good place to start:

    For example, simply re-name Excalibur as "Excelsior"

  2. I've actually got a .pdf I'm working on with 100 named swords, 100 named miscelaneous melee weapons, and a bunch of named ranged weapons (also a d100 table, but it's got ammo taking up a lot of space--there are around 40 bows, slings and crossbows on the list).

    Once I get done with my similar armor document, I'm going to provide both, and another document I've got with wands/staves/rods for free to the community.

    I should have it all ready within a month or so.

  3. Here's a good place to start:

    For example, simply re-name Excalibur as "Excelsior"

    Thanks for the link, it looks like a great resource, I wasn't aware that the sword in the stone wasn't excalibur....I learn something new everyday.

  4. I've actually got a .pdf I'm working on with 100 named swords,

    I look forward to reading it. Like I mentioned I had thought of making a random name generator for weapons, but tables in blogger seem very hard to make. I'm not used to writing in html code.