• Aaron K

5 Accuracies of D&D Weapons and Armor

Hey Reader!

I've bashed the weapons and armor (including shields) system in D&D in the past (and probably will continue to do so until we get changes in 2024, as I think it's a weak point in the game), but today I wanted to highlight 5 things that are accurate in the D&D weapon and armor system from a historical perspective.

#1: Longsword Hand Usage

First off, D&D gets this right: a lot of games just have one-handed and two-handed swords (looking at you, Warhammer), and the longsword is neither: it can be used both ways with different styles of fighting. It is far easier to use with two hands (though admittedly basically any weapon that's not a dagger handles better with two hands thanks to the laws of leverage), but you can use it with one, and there are various techniques that justify using it one-handed.

And this goes for all manner of longswords: you can use a katana, Arabian long scimitar, or any number of other "hand-and-a-half swords" with this same versatility, and it's fun to actually see this in a game, as a lot of games don't have this.

#2: Splint Mail Exists

A lot of games don't have this style of armor at all, even though is was prominent for a lot of the middle ages. This was probably the armor used by Robert the Bruce during the Scottish Wars for Independence, and was still in use during the Hundred Years War (albeit Henry V was wearing plate mail by this time, but a lot of soldiers on the battlefield were still using it), and this is due to the fact that it was both good at protecting you while also being cheaper to repair (and procure) than a full plate harness.

So where it falls in the armor lineup - better than chain mail but weaker than plate mail - is correct, and it's nice to see a game with this armor type present. It brings into question other things (like why wizards and others who wear robes don't know how to wear it effectively, and thus why they don't have proficiency with it), but that's a discussion for another time.

#3: Range Penalties

In a lot of games, shooting at your farthest range and shooting at your closest range are the same difficulty, and in D&D they have a simple yet effective mechanic that is also very realistic: shooting at things far away is harder than shooting at things closer to you, but if someone is too close to you it suddenly gets harder again. It's a simple system, yet both elegant and historically accurate, which is awesome to see.

In some wargames you'll see this present: Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition had a penalty to your Shoot Value if you were firing at more than half your range, but firing at someone 1" away from you had no penalty, but probably the best game when it comes to incorporating this concept into it is Infinity, where specific guns (as that's a sci-fi game) have specific ranges that give benefits and penalties, so there's a reason to take a rifle, but a shorter carbine-style weapon is better in hallways where you have tight, confined spaces, for example. But on the whole the level of nuance that D&D has combined with its simplicity makes it both accurate and easy to use.

#4: Weight

While not every weight in the game is quite accurate, a lot of them are. Most swords are around 3 lbs. if they were designed to be used in one hand, and most larger swords would be around 5-6, maybe 8 lbs., and the game nails this. The weight of a suit of armor made of various materials is also pretty accurate across the game.

In an age where people tend to overexaggerate the weight and proportions of armor and weapons, it's refreshing to see accurate weights applied to armor and weapons, especially since the game has an encumbrance mechanic (even if few people use it).

#5: Doffing Times

I did not mention donning times here (as some of them are right and some of them are wrong), but doffing times are quite accurate, assuming some level of competency and no natural impediments (arrows sticking through the armor, let alone into the person, could increase the time it would take to doff your armor, for example). And while this may seem like a small thing, it has a lot of story-based applications, as taking time to take off armor could be the time that someone else needs to catch up with the group, setup an attack, or disincentivize you taking off your armor in the middle of combat.


In a game with a lot of good spells, good combat mechanics, and vibrant races, it's nice when the "stuff" you have is also well designed. I think sometimes these aspects of the game fall by the wayside (which is also why the "three damage types for weapons" mean very little in the game unless you know you're fighting plants or skeletons), and it's encouraging to see that even if some improvements could be made to the weapon and armor systems in D&D, some aspects of them are very well done.

Until next time,