View Full Version : Alternate Weapon Materials.

2006-12-08, 08:22 AM
Morning Folks,
I've been searching and searching for a decent set of alternate weapon / armor materials for my homebrew, essentially because a lot of the infrastructure to make steel weapons isn't in place yet, I figured that the society would be building weapons and armor from native materials like:
- Bone
- Wood
- etc.

I'm currently using the rules pulled from Athas.org but I'm not super happy with them...


2006-12-08, 08:59 AM
I ran a "caveman" game in which only one of the tribes had advanced to bronze. There are already rules for bronze and other soft metals, so I just added to them. Here are the rules we used for other materials:

For easily broken materials: bone, wood, and obsidean, I gave the weapon a chance to be broken if the attacker rolled a natural 20. I think wood was 10%, bone was 20%, and obsidean was 50%. Same rule applied to armor hit by a natural 20. There was a feat to re-roll the break chance to avoid having your item broken. Wooden and bone weapons were basically useless after breaking. Broken obsidean weapons were still weapons, but one size smaller (short sword to dagger, ect) and could be broken further.

Bone and wood weapons also dealt less damage because they couldn't hold an edge. We treated the weapon as one size smaller for damage dealing purposes. For stone hammers also used this rule. A feat was allowed to offset this effect, but had to be taken for a specific material.

Armor got tricky. Mostly it came down to "you can't make armor out of that". Stone armor is pretty silly, except with dwarves. Obsidean armor is suicide. Bone could be lashed together to make light or medium armor equivelents, but it had one lower AC bonus. Wood could be used for any armor type, but provided two fewer AC than steel/iron armor. Leather and hide were available normally. Studded worked the same, but was assumed to use bone studs. A feat was available to increase the AC bonus of a single type of wood/bone armor by one, basically offsetting the penalty.

If magic is widely available in your world the natives might use magic to offset the material weaknesses instead of feats.

I hope this helps.

2006-12-08, 09:07 AM
There are rules for bone, wood, bronze and other armors in the dungeon masters guide, or maybe in the ultimate equipment guide.

In general it should be less effective(lower AC) and maybe less cumbersome due to reduced weight.

2006-12-08, 12:21 PM
The easiest way to do this is to upgrade "bone/obsidian" to normal items, and make bronze/steel etc give a non-magical enhancement bonus.

Toss in "weapon gains -1/-1 every time you roll a 1 on an attack. Armor gets -1 AC/-1 armor check every time someone crits on you" to reflect fragility of the gear.

2006-12-08, 12:26 PM
Also, if you haven't already, check out the Arms and Armor guidebook. It's a 3.0 book, so some of the things would need upgrading, but it has rules for all kinds of different materials, especially armor made of everything from chitin and shells to still-living plants. It has rules for a bunch of armors that would fit in your setting. I believe that it also has some rules for different weapon materials, though I'm not sure. At the very least it has more weapons, many of which can be made without metal.

Hope that helps,


2006-12-08, 01:19 PM
Another question becomes how you deal with spells such as Mending or Make Whole. In theory, either spell might be very worthwhile for weapons or armor repair depending on your ruling, if everyday damage is to become such a substantial factor. I'd expect a culture using a lot of obsidian, especially, to include a large number of low-level casters who could effect such repairs. It also might be an idea to incorporate spells specifically designed to prevent such damage from occurring in the first place (i.e. a level 2 spell lasting for an hour per 2 levels or thereabouts, which prevents or mitigates the chance of item damage for one target) Remember when you limit the effectiveness of artificial weapons and armor, you enhance the benefit of natural ones so unless you allow your players to help offset the penalties for materials, you'll also have to assess whether something with a +8 natural armor might deserve to be toned down to match.

Edit - One interesting thought though... Fighter with an obsidian longsword gets swallowed by something with a gullet, and breaks it deliberately so he can use it to cut a way out ;)

2006-12-08, 01:31 PM
Wolves were dangerous before broze weapons. Tigers were dangerous until rifles. I think that natural weapons/armor should have an advantage over early man-made weapons.

2006-12-08, 01:37 PM
I was thinking about starting a thread similar to this to get ideas for all weapon/ armor alternate materials. I like the idea I read somewhere that obsidian always counts as keen but has a decent chance of breaking as well. (sorry don't remember the source).
Also I don't know if you include it with bone but you could include antlers and other animal horns.

2006-12-08, 01:51 PM
To give you the skinny as to why I need this:

My homebrew campaign world has a large group of the various PHB races, fleeing from a world akin to Greyhawk / Forgotten Realms / Ebberon after a devasting demon war (in which the demons were clearly winning). They escape through a portal and end up in virgin territory without the infrastructure to re-create steel weapons and armor (although they still know how to do it)

Furthure info on request

2006-12-08, 02:47 PM
@mac13: Agreed, but in a game which is ultimately aimed at people having fun, it's unfair of the DM to arbitrarily reduce the PCs' power level without at least keeping in mind that some challenges may be somewhat more potent than normal (ad hoc +1 or 2 CR modifiers) or will need to be toned down in order to retain their normal CR.

@kkortekaas: If that's your aim, I'd advise you to work out a rough timeline for advancement for the new world. Since the people coming in will have skills based around the ability to work steel, mithral, adamantine and the rest it'll be a vastly accelerated process. Work out a timeline for exploring and exploiting mineral veins and processing them for weapons, probably no more than a year or two to get back to a limited capacity for steel, and no more than another year or two beyond that to start processing some of the more exotic stuff (assuming, of course, that such exists in the new world you're developing) Remember that with magic users about, a broken pick doesn't necessarily mean the end of mining, either. Of course you could also involve the characters in that exploration phase, and rationalise not giving them metal because it's extremely rare "until we get back on our feet again."

2006-12-08, 07:25 PM
To the topic at hand, remember that bows are made of wood, and stone tipped arrows are mostly as effective as steel tipped ones. Slings are made of leather, and bullets are little more than rounded stones.

Staves are wood, and clubs can be wood or bone with little change in power. Maces could also be made of wood with bone, or stone heads.

Don't forget armor either, since if you don't have any metal, you'd seem to be limited to Leather only. Remember though, that you can stud it with bone and stone, or create entire suits of bone armor. Wood isn't as effective, but it makes good shields, and leather bucklers are also a good choice.


Perhaps include a limited selection of powerful weapons made of metal. A treasured Long Sword possessed by the leader of the exodus. Perhaps a couple of axes lent only to the most seasoned woodsmen.

An alternative source of metal might be useful to you. Maybe have it harvested from a specific type of tree, so that when your characters are out fighting the good fight, they need to also keep an eye out for those trees.

2006-12-09, 09:56 AM
@Triaxx - That's essentially what I'm going for, sort of like Dark Sun except that instead of no metal being available to mine, in my world they just can't find it.

2006-12-09, 06:57 PM
Ahh... Then why not have there be some sort of creature that collapses mine tunnels to prevent them from reaching it normally? Restrict the metal to having to fo battle with some kind of powerful creature.

2006-12-09, 07:15 PM
Personnally, I don't think you need to change any rules for a primitive setting. Hide Armour works fine by RAW and primitive societies would use bows, spears and boomarangs. Wooden shields would work just as in the PhB, in fact, binding something together with sinew might actually make it stronger than a riveted version. Oriental Adventures has rules for bone armour. Bronze age weapons might need penalties but if you're only using them against bronze age armour you don't have to change them, just make steel stronger instead.

Grey Knight
2006-12-09, 07:48 PM
Don't forget ironwood - a pretty handy spell in such a situation.

2006-12-11, 02:03 AM
There was a material I saw in a Dragon mag... I dunno wich one exactly... but it was for the Dark Sun Campaign: a 'no metal' world.

Blood Obsidien
(some history, I think lava flows tainted by evil or somthing... I forget)

Ahhh... hurts heaps. Cave-orc make swords, or somthing, axes probly, although I dont remember any restrictions... weapons anyway. Could be cave-thri kreen also, or any sort of thri kreen I supose... I digress.

This material is primarily used to manufacture weapons. All blood obsidien weapons are considered masterworked.

Hardness 10, hp: 30/inch thickness (as steel)
+1 damage to all damage rolls.
double masterworked cost.

(ahh... probly breached copywrite somewhere there... but it's not mine, it's... someone elses... I don't know who. But it was in Dragon, so it's official material.)

2006-12-11, 08:19 AM
I essentially want to change the way items are doled out,

As opposed to everyone in the party having a +1 weapon by level 3 (using FR as a model) I'd like them to have steel weapons. I also don't want the PC's to be buying steel weapons willy nilly, so I need to assign cost modifiers to the various weapon materials so that everything balances out.

I've transcribed the rules I'm currently using (please feel free to help me edit them up) and disregard any formatting / spelling issues (it is a work in progress)

Weapon Materials

The ability to make steel is very difficult on THE SAVAGE COAST as the dwarves have only recently begun exporting raw ore to the other kingdoms. Other metals such as mithral, adamantine, and platinum haven’t been discovered in any sizeable quantity, and the population isn’t looking very hard as they have been concentrating on survival. The following describes how the materials of most of the weapons and armor are made, and how these new materials affect their use.

Bone: A majority of the weapons in THE SAVAGE COAST are made of bone or stone. Weapons made of bone have a -2 penalty on attacks and damage (with a minimum damage of 1). Bone has a hardness of 6 and 10 hit points per inch of thickness. Bone weapons weigh half as much as their listed weight in the Player's Handbook. A bone weapon has the same price in gold-piece as in the Player's Handbook.

Blood Obsidian: This rare obsidian is made when volcanoes are created, resulting in narrow veins of blood obsidian. Weapons made from blood obsidian have a natural enhancement bonus of +1 on damage. This bonus does not stack with any other enhancement bonus. Thus, a blood obsidian scimitar with a +4 magic enhancement bonus effectively has a +4 enhancement bonus on both attacks and damage. In an area where magic does not function, it retains its natural +1 enhancement bonus on damage. A masterwork blood obsidian scimitar would have a +1 bonus on both attacks and damage. Blood obsidian has a hardness of 12 and 30 hit points per inch of thickness. Weapons made from blood obsidian cost 1,000 more than the gold-piece price listed in the Player's Handbook.

Bronze: Weapons of bronze, while clearly inferior to iron items, are not nearly as bad as stone or bone weapons. Their attack and damage penalty is only -1. Bronze has a hardness of 9 and 20 hit points per inch of thickness. Weapons forged of bronze cost 2 times the gold-piece value listed in the Player's Handbook.

Iron: Iron works as described in the Player's Handbook. It has a hardness of to and 30 hit points per inch of thick*ness. Iron weapons are not cold iron weapons and do not overcome damage reduction. Cold iron weapons cost twice as much as their normal iron counterparts and function as described in the DUNGEON MASTER'S Guide. Weapons forged of iron cost 5 times the gold piece value listed in the Player's Handbook.

Stone: Weapons made of stone have a -2 penalty on attacks and damage (with a minimum damage of 1). Stone has a hardness of 8 and 15 hit points per inch of thickness. Stone sling bullets have no penalty on attacks or damage. A stone weapon has the same price as its gold-piece price in the Player's Handbook.

Wood: Only certain weapons can effectively be made of wood. The club, quarterstaff, sap, great club, and all bows and crossbows can be made from wood without suffering a penalty. Any bludgeoning weapon can also be constructed from wood, but those not noted above suffer a -3 penalty on attacks and damage (with a minimum damage of 1). Wood has a hardness of 5 and to hit points per inch. A wooden weapon has the same price in gold-piece as the price in the Player's Handbook.


The Armor and Shields table shows what armor is generally available on THE SAVAGE COAST. It includes several armor types described in the Arms ea Equipment Guide. Any armor not listed on the table is rare and must be made of iron. Iron armor costs 5 times the gold piece value listed in the Player's Handbook and weighs half again (+50%) as much.
Bark: Carefully crafted from the thick bark of trees, bark armor is treated to prevent it from becoming brittle over time. Large plates of bark cover the torso and back, while strips of it are fastened to cloth or leather backing to cover the arms and legs.
Bone: Made from the bones of animals or slaughtered foes, bone armor consists of a leather or cloth coat reinforced with strips of bone. It only covers the torso, allowing the limbs freedom to move.
Bronze Breastplate: This is essentially the same as the steel breastplate presented in the Player's Handbook, except that it is made of bronze.
Bronze Half-Plate: This bronze half-plate only differs from the the Player's Handbook's half-plate in its weaker material.
Buckler: Bucklers are usually made from the scapula of an animal and reinforced with leather straps.
Chitin: Many of the creatures on THE SAVAGE COAST have tough exoskeletons made of thick chitin. As these plentiful crea*tures are often a source of food, it didn't take long for the people of the MAINISLAND NAME to make their exoskeletons into wearable armor. Chitin armor is comprised of chitin plates covering the wearer's torso, as well as smaller pieces on the joints and limbs.
Cord: Made from knotted rope, cord armor is most common among halflings and tribes that live away from the cities
Hide: Cured and uncured animal skins, layered thickest over the chest and back, form this armor.
Leather: Hardened leather plates form the chest and back pieces, and are used to cover other vital areas such as joints. These hardened leather plates are held together with thinner pieces of leather to allow some free*dom of movement.
Leather Scale: Made of cured leather scales, leather scale armor is identical to regular steel scale mail except in its material.
Padded: This armor is made by lay*ering oiled canvas between silk, with a cotton or wool layer underneath. Popular among nobles, wealthy mer*chants, and others who wish to protect themselves without drawing attention, the outer layer of silk can be deco*rated as elaborately as normal clothes.
Shell: Made from the treated shells of tortoises and more exotic crea*tures, the alchemical process used to create shell armor makes it less brittle, so when struck it gives instead of shattering. Large shells form chest and back plates, with smaller shells cover*ing joints and other vital areas.
Shields: Shields are large pieces of wood or metal that strap to the arm. They have wood grips that must be held, but the grips of small shields are such that the wielder can hold other items. A weapon cannot be wielded with the hand gripping the shield.
Studded Leather: Studded leather is the same as presented in the Player's Handbook, except that it uses bone or stone studs instead of metal. Wood: Like bone armor, wood armor is made of cloth or leather strips with wood strips sewn in.

2006-12-11, 08:20 AM
The board mangled my cut and paste. If you need assistance puzzling out the mess above, let me know,