View Full Version : D&D 3.x Other Obsidian Weapons

2016-04-05, 10:56 PM
In a homebrew world I have, there is a group of elves who live near volcanoes, so I figured that it would be interesting to give them swords made out of an abundantly available material: Volcanic Glass.

Special Material: Volcanic Glass
Only Slashing Weapons may be made out of Volcanic Glass. A weapon made out of Volcanic Glass has its threat range doubled. This does not stack with other effects that change threat range such as the Keen enchantment or the Keen Edge spell. A weapon made out of Volcanic Glass has a hardness of 1 and 1 hitpoint, now matter what enhancement bonus it may have. A magic weapon made out of Volcanic glass may be sundered by weapons with a lower enhancement bonus than it normally, however as long as the hilt remains intact and is near sufficient amounts of volcanic glass, it will reform over 2 hours as long as it is kept relatively undisturbed. Although Volcanic glass is relatively common, the need for special tools and training to keep it from shattering under even light stress causes these blades to be incredibly expensive. All volcanic glass weapons are considered masterwork. A Volcanic Glass weapon costs an additional 2000 gold, factoring in the masterwork price. Waste Elves are considered proficient with Volcanic Glass weapons.

2016-04-05, 11:03 PM
Piercing weapons too, no? I mean obsidian arrow heads are pretty commonplace

2016-04-05, 11:48 PM
Yes, but I wasn't entirely sure if the doubled crit range on that would be the best. I suppose it works with keen edge so it should work here

EDIT: the second thought of course being the major drawback on this material is its inherent break ability which you don't have a danger with for arrows. Though no one really purchases adamantine arrows because of the price, so it could end up balanced out.

2016-04-06, 07:07 AM
The drawbacks are pretty high for the bonus and cost.

I'd say that the hardness and hit points should be "as glass" and the cost should be 1000gp

2016-04-06, 11:21 AM
Obsidian is super fragile, especially when you're using it in combat where you're not necessarily slicing as much as you are striking and attempting to penetrate materials explicitly designed to deflect blows (like armor and the thick hides of monsters), which is why there aren't any examples of practical weapons that are made entirely out of volcanic glass. Weapons that utilize obsidian use more practical and durable materials for the base of the weapon and replaceable obsidian as the weapon.

The only melee weapon that I can think of that used obsidian was the macuahuitl (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macuahuitl), which had to have the obsidian replaced after pretty much every battle (which is why they were clubs with obsidian attached rather than longswords made out of obsidian) which is what I'm basing this off of. Obsidian arrows would be arrows that break after a single use (since the head shatters).

I would probably make it as cheap as crafting any other weapon of the kind but cause any attack you make that any attack that hits a creature's touch AC also causes damage to the weapon equal to the 10 - flat footed AC to the weapon (basically, the armor is damaging the weapon when the weapon hits). The math isn't too complicated, but it does get across the fragility and tendency for obsidian to break in combat much more effectively. You could simplify it by saying that, after each successful attack, the obsidian has a 50% chance to break. If/when the obsidian breaks, you just treat it as a club until the end of combat (or just rule that it becomes a bludgeoning rather than slashing weapon with 20/x2 threat/crit so that you don't change the damage; I would probably keep the same proficiency and whatnot for it).

Replacing the obsidian would then require a Craft check of some kind (obsidian weapons require a different skillset than metal weapons, so I would be reluctant to make it use the same Craft check as those, but it's not particularly important) to restore the slashing and threat/crit benefits.

Magical obsidian weapons might then be enchanted to rapidly regrow the obsidian, reducing or eliminating the need for repair. A possible guideline for this might be providing what amounts to "fast healing" equal to the items enhancement bonus to any obsidian weapon either as a default or special feature that can be added to the weapon (or just rule that the obsidian regrows when combat ends if you don't want to track the hp).

The balancing factor for obsidian's increased threat range would then be the reduction in threat range after the opening blows of the fight. You're effectively frontloading your damage capability at the cost of long term damage. I would also consider increasing the crit multiplier in addition to the threat multiplier to ensure that obsidian has enough first strike capability to justify the almost guaranteed loss of those benefits in the first round of combat.

2016-04-06, 10:48 PM
The drawbacks are pretty high for the bonus and cost.

I'd say that the hardness and hit points should be "as glass" and the cost should be 1000gp

Glass indeed has 1 hp and hardness per inch, and not many weapons have thicknesses of a full inch. As for the damage frontloading, yes it would be more realistic but not necessarily more fun or manageable. As for other weapons, there were some recovered obsidian knives and daggerish swords or swordish daggers, but we don't have magic to handwave things like structural integrity. Indeed the frontloading might not even be super accurate because glass bladed scalpels with metal spines tend to sharpen themselves as they cut.

2016-04-06, 11:29 PM
Indeed the frontloading might not even be super accurate because glass bladed scalpels with metal spines tend to sharpen themselves as they cut.

There's a pretty big difference between obsidian scalpels sharpening themselves and obsidian weapons being used in combat. The only damage that an obsidian scalpel takes is to the edge of the blade as it cuts into soft tissue (and, once again, is slicing, not slashing like it would be in combat); in combat, a blade would be taking damage left and right because you're using it to block, strike, etc.

Obsidian weapons were very quickly rendered irrelevant by metal weapons even though obsidian weapons are capable of dealing more damage largely because metal weapons are way more durable and unlikely to render themselves useless in the middle of a fight.

Also, random point of interest, the significantly higher sharpness of obsidian scalpels hasn't actually been found to produce any significant advantages over surgical steel scalpels (it cuts cleaner, but wounds from surgical steel implements still end up healing just as quickly and, in the end, generate virtually identical scarring; the only advantage obsidian really has is in the scar appearance, which isn't the same as healing, at early stages of healing).

Based on that, you could actually make the argument that obsidian weapons should have the same performance as metal weapons with drastically inferior durability. You could probably argue that obsidian weapons would be easier/cheaper to make and repair (since they just require a knapping tool and a supply of obsidian rather than metal, which needs to be refined from ore and molded in a forge) as the balancing factor to them breaking so easily, but that's not really much of an advantage unless you're running an extremely resource and technology restricted game (like Dark Sun, where obsidian weapons are the norm and iron weapons are incredibly rare; obsidian has no advantages over iron and will, in fact, break during combat if you miss/fumble/etc; iron, on the other hand, doesn't have the chance to break, which is a huge boon to fighters who don't want to lose their longsword mid-fight).

In fact, the Dark Sun rules for 3.X just treat obsidian weapons the same way they treat weapons made from bone and other inferior materials, applying a -1 penalty to attack and damage rolls with them, without any special breakage rules at all. It's probably for simplicity's sake, but there are at least some rules for what to do with weapons made of obsidian in 3.X.

It might be better to just have the elves use some kind of special treatment process that hardens the obsidian in order to make it more useful as a weapon. In that way, I'd probably treat it much the same as mundane crystal (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Mundane_Crystal) as opposed to glass.

If you did this, untreated obsidian would be an inferior material that applies a -1 to attack and damage rolls whereas treated obsidian would basically be masterwork versions of untreated obsidian that don't qualify as an inferior material.

2016-04-07, 02:05 PM
A Lot of Stuff I agree with.

In addition to the penalty to attacks and the extended threat range, I would also allow the person wielding the obsidian to destroy the weapon to confirm a critical hit.

Makes more sense to me, plus it looks cooler in my head's image.

2016-04-07, 02:13 PM
I don't know if this has been brought up yet, but Pathfinder already has rules for obsidian weapons available in both of their SRD's. Here they are if anyone wants to look them over.

This black volcanic glass is extremely sharp, and can be shaped into a variety of weapons that do piercing and slashing damage. Bits of obsidian inserted into a length of tempered wood create effective swords called terbutjes.

Obsidian weapons cost half of what base items of their type do, and weigh 75% of what base items of their type do.

Weapons: Obsidian can be used to craft light and one-handed weapons that do piercing or slashing damage, as well as spear tips and arrowheads.

Obsidian weapons have half the hardness of their base weapon and have the fragile quality.

Armor: The fragile glass nature of obsidian is perfect for creating sharp points and blades, but those same qualities make it unsuitable for creating armor. Armor cannot be constructed from obsidian.