Old Hat Monsters: Signature Weapons
A good gaming session has a few of the same elements as some traditional wedding receptions. Both are a gathering of friends in a festive atmosphere, likely with food at some point. As with one wedding tradition I could name, each session could feature “something old” and “something new.” Those familiar with my series here at Kobold Press know my favorite way to make nostalgic classic monsters new is to use templates to create an unexpected twist. This is not going to be one of those articles.
To extend the wedding analogy one more step, our “something blue” this week is the signature weapon of the various monstrous races—you’d be blue, too, if you had to wield the goblin’s weapon! Less is sometimes more; after the jump we’ll discuss what works and we’ll also propose a few changes to the monster weapon rack.
I’ll start on a positive note by looking at an existing weapon I think exemplifies what you want to accomplish when you give your monsters a weapon in the first place. Ideally the weapon should make the monster more threatening without becoming a player character’s next favorite toy. Maybe the best of these is the kobold sweeper.
Your kobold needs a feat to use any tail-based weapon, but this one is most certainly worth the cost. First your kobold gains an additional attack with the tail sweeper; it deals 1d6 damage and can be used in conjunction with a trip maneuver, but it does not leave the kobold vulnerable to dropping it if counter-tripped. A kobold with a few levels could easily enhance this fighting style with Improved Trip, Weapon Focus, and Agile Maneuvers. For this weapon, I’d make no change.
From best to worst: Can we spend a moment contemplating just how truly bad the dogslicer wielded by goblins is? It’s a short sword with holes cut out to lighten the weapon, which serves no real purpose other than to make it fragile enough to shatter on a roll of a natural 1. As if goblins weren’t handicapped against normal adventurers enough, we have to give them an unreliable weapon? Simply put the dogslicer on a polearm, rule that because the blade is so light it can still count as a finesse weapon as well as a reach weapon, and suddenly the goblin has a weapon worthy of something other than a rubbish bin. You can even keep its fragile nature intact, and it’s still a far better weapon for our green little brothers.
Now from small to big: The ogre hook sounds like it should be a bad to the bone weapon. It’s described as being basically a crude hook used as a tripping weapon. It doesn’t mention a pole, but it is oversized and requires two hands to use. It suffers from several issues. First, you can trip with any weapon currently, so this needs a bonus of some sort: Let’s call it a +2 to trip. Although I realize the larger version sized for ogres does more damage, it’s not oversized for them, so we can make this a one-handed melee weapon for Large creatures, leave the damage (1d10) alone, and let the trip bonuses stack for the rare ogre who wields two weapons. More likely it will allow you to grant your ogre a shield—maybe making it hard enough to hit to be something other than a heavy bag for your party’s melee character.
Let’s go from ogres to orcs: The orc has no signature weapon. We could change that. Orcish longbows can perhaps all have a mighty +2 property but with the caveat that they need to be greased daily or they lose their suppleness and become fragile. Orcish arrows should be barbed. Since Pathfinder has no hard and fast rules for barbed arrows, it takes a DC 18 Heal check to pull them out without causing an additional 1d8 damage. If left in the wound, they are grooved and greased by animal fat, providing a channel to cause 1 point of bleed damage per unattended arrow every round.
And, finally, for gnolls: Gnolls are getting some love every week by my fellow contributor Peter von Bleichert. Allow me to add to those fine efforts by discussing the flind bar. This was once a three-section staff rather than a nunchuck, which I think makes a better option. Increase the damage to 2d4 bludgeoning, add a +2 bonus to disarm maneuvers, and allow the weapon to ignore shields. In real life, this was part of the reason for the pole and chain weapons to begin with—when they strike a shield from the side they bend around and still strike their target.