Post-apocalyptic setting - Improvised weapons or not?

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Post-apocalyptic setting - Improvised weapons or not?

#1 Postby johnnii » Thu Aug 02, 2012 8:35 am

One of the major tropes of Post-apocalyptic genre is using weapons out of necessity (when it comes to melee weaponry); tire irons, crowbars, baseball bats etc. Should Improvised weapons as a rule be removed (or at least remove the parry and attack penalty) or does that balance trump the flavor?

Personally im leaning towards the former, but I'd like to hear the input from other forumites.

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#2 Postby Rohan » Thu Aug 02, 2012 8:47 am

You could add as a setting trapping something like this:

Always Armed
Characters in this setting know how to use anything that they find as a weapon. There are no improvised weapon penalties, effectively cancelling out the bonus from the Improvisational Fighter Edge.

And then you just kind of adjudicate damage from there...small things like screw drivers are Str damage, bigger things Str+d4, heavier things Str+d6, etc. Don't forget a minimum strength to use something effectively; not every character is going to be able to swing busted concrete around by the tie-rods sticking out of it...but those who can are going to mess up someone's day when they use it in combat.
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#3 Postby Zadmar » Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:59 am

Before I bought SWD, I used to treat improvised weapons as d4 or d6 weapons that broke if you rolled 1 on your Fighting die. I kept the same rule when I ran WotD (as early on most of the characters used improvised weapons), and it worked pretty well.

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#4 Postby Jordan Peacock » Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:45 pm

If it's a solid item that you conceivably COULD use as a viable weapon (e.g., butcher's cleaver, sturdy baseball bat, crowbar, etc.) then I think it should just be treated as the closest viable weapon (dagger, club) without assigning penalties. I'll assume that a competent survivor has the sense to properly "weaponize" the item, such as by wrapping a few rounds of duct tape or scrap leather (or wearing thick gloves) so that the wielder's hand doesn't get unduly bruised/cut from wielding the item as a weapon.

I'd only apply "improvised weapons" penalties to things that are just all-around unwieldy.

If someone wants to grab a random item lying around and use it as a weapon (something that happened a lot in my zombie apocalypse campaign), I might make some spot judgements on how viable (or not) it is as a weapon. Sometimes I've made up "loot cards" with an interesting item that COULD be used as a weapon, and might even have attractive properties (lightweight construction, slight damage bonus) but with a significant penalty of some sort to reflect that it's not really designed for this sort of abuse. Maybe you don't get a penalty to hit with it, but, I can imagine all sorts of interesting alternative drawbacks. The weapon's stats would be based on some standard melee item (dagger, club, mace, sword, etc.), but with one or more of the following:

1) It's bulky. Min Str requirement is one die type (or more) higher than its damage rating; also, it weighs a lot more than a comparable weapon.

2) Its sharp pointy bits are awkwardly angled, so you don't always hit with the nastiest parts of the weapon. Flat penalty (-1, -2) to damage dealt. Time spent in a tool shop with a Repair check could reduce or fix this problem.

3) It bends easily (e.g., golf club). Roll a "1" on the skill die, and after the current attack is resolved (you might still hit with the Wild Die, after all), the weapon suffers a cumulative -1 to attack rolls. A Repair check (might require proper tools and materials) and 1d20 minutes of work can be used to fix it.

4) It's breakable (e.g., old wooden baseball bat). Roll more than X on the Strength die when rolling damage on a hit, and the weapon snaps. It's possible to salvage it with a Repair check in a pinch (see above), but it will never be as good as new, and suffers a -2 Improvised Weapon penalty from now on.

5) It's hazardous (e.g., barbed wire flail, overly spiky weapon). Roll a "1" on the skill die, and you damage yourself with the weapon's "flat" damage rating (i.e., leave out your own Strength from the damage roll). It's possible to damage both yourself and your enemy in this way, if you still manage to hit anyway (thanks to the Wild Die, etc.).

6) It's noisy (e.g., chain flail). You suffer -2 to Stealth for carrying this thing around, even when you're not actually using it.

7) It's badly balanced. You suffer a -2 penalty to hit if you use this weapon like the one-handed weapon it's normally based on. This penalty can be avoided if you use both hands.

8) It might or might NOT be a proper weapon (e.g., a machete with a lot of rust on it, or a fancy "barbarian sword" from the ruins of someone's den that might or might not just be cheap metal designed for wall display only). Only when you use this in an actual combat situation do you get to see what its actual properties are (e.g., 50% chance it turns out to have a damage penalty, and it's fragile). This could be avoided by someone taking time to examine and test the weapon, or having some sort of relevant skill/background, but you might not have time if this is something you grabbed in a rush when ambushed by rad-zombies in the ruins of "Cutlery World" in an old shopping mall.


In this way, the weapon might still be viable, at least for a while (since a flat -2 penalty to hit is awfully severe!), but there would definitely be an advantage to be found in finding a more serviceable, serious weapon later on.

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#5 Postby BlackJaw » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:44 pm

I think Jordan Peacock's comment of "weaponize" is good starting point.

People don't pick up random things to fight with unless forced to on the fly. Instead, they likely take a weapon-like object and modify it a bit to serve as needed. Some tape wrapped around the handle end of the crowbar to make a better grip for swinging as a club, some nails pounded into the baseball bat, etc.

These weaponized objects serve as weapons, or at least lack most of the penalties associated with improvised weapons. A character may still need to pick up a random bottle or 2x4 from time to time, and those should still be treated as normal improvised weapons.

You may or may not want to take the time to apply modifiers to the various weaponized objects, depending on your needs.

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#6 Postby VonDan » Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:17 pm

You have to have made up weapons in a Post-apocalyptic setting

If the Improvised weapon is something they made more than a week before i'd say no penalty just give it the same damage factor as a medieval "Peasant" weapon of the same size. If it is something they just grabbed or put together maybe a slight neg mod. But things like baseball bats and meat cleavers should only be penalized for durability

This was my first gamma world product, I just had the adventure and made up modified D&D rules to play it. It was the Improvised weapons that caught my teen age eye


A board with a nail, big bolt with scrap metal screwed on one end and screwdrivers

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#7 Postby Gammon23 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:03 pm

You might be interested in looking at Low Low it has a whole section on creating improvised weapons.

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#8 Postby ValhallaGH » Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:48 pm

Do you mean Low Life?

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#9 Postby Gammon23 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:15 pm

Yes I did mean Low Life.

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#10 Postby Snate56 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:02 am

If you're going to make real weapons extremely rare, then you might make improvised weapons the norm and give a +1 or something to a real sword.

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#11 Postby The One » Sun Aug 12, 2012 9:23 am

Personally I'd go with a Repair roll, and an hour's work and $2d10 (can ace) worth of supplies to remove the Improvised weapon penalty to keep things FFF!

That covers reinforcing, balancing or otherwise altering the item to become a more suitable weapon. Just pick the closest statistics you can find for it based on the player's description (e.g. lawnmower blade = longsword, washing line pole = spear, screwdriver = dagger etc.)
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