Are improvised weapons of poor quality?

Hello, :slight_smile:
a group of mine came across the question if improvised weapons count as poor quality and therefore suffer the extra +1Ob to hit penalty (p.202 BWGR). I mean, you could have a mighty fine chair… mahagoni n’ stuff… :wink:
Any opinions?

I don’t think you need to rule that they’re all poor quality, even if most of the time an Ob penalty would be appropriate. A pickaxe probably doesn’t need an Ob penalty; It’s designed to chop rocks, it can handle a knight. A square table leg, though? That’ll give you blisters!

That seems weird to me. In your case I would argue that all poor quality weapons are ment to deal damage (like the pick) and therefore shouldn’t suffer a penalty. But they do!

No worries! I suspect it seems weird because you’ve misunderstood me. I’ll be clearer about my opinion! :]

First, to answer your question directly: No. I don’t think improvised weapons count as poor quality.

I don’t see any utility of play or fictional legitimacy motivating a ruling that all improvised weapons are poor quality.

  • I don’t want to make all improvised weapons blanketly harder to use; I think if you have high Brawling or Throwing, good job, you’re good at hitting people with wine bottles, just like if you have high Axe you’re good at hitting people with axes (or picks!).

  • I can imagine improvised weapons that would be quite suitable as weapons—and so did levied farmers when they picked up scythes and threshing flails.

Second, to clarify my example: When I say “it can handle a knight” and “that’ll give you blisters,” I’m pointing out the same quality of both the pickaxe and the square table leg—that is, how they respond to being used as a weapon, not whether they’re designed to do damage.

Imagine a pickaxe. It is designed to held in your hands and swung, repeatedly, at a particular alignment, with force, at rocks, in order to break them. As long as it’s a reasonably well-made, it won’t give you grief if you use it like that. It might bounce or skitter occasionally, but even then it’s good at staying in your hand. The handle won’t splinter or crack and the head will stay attached and functional. I don’t think the pickaxe is going to give you sufficient grief if you swap out the rocks for steel-clad meat to merit a +1 Ob penalty. If you’re good with improvised weapons or axes, you’ll do fine with the pickaxe.

Imagine a square table leg. It is not designed to be held in your hands or swung, especially not with any force or alignment control. It’s designed to support a table, withstand light wear, and look reasonably nice. Even if it’s very well made, if you whacked something solidly with it, it might splinter or crack or outright shatter. Regardless, it would dig into your hands painfully and give you, y’know, blisters! (I have done this with a square table leg.) In other words: 1/5, do not recommend; Find a stick outside instead. Even if you’re good with improvised weapons, clubs or cudgels, you should probably find something better. So, I do think this table leg would merit +1 Ob as an improvised weapon.

In summary: I don’t think all improvised weapons count as poor quality weapons. I do think some improvised weapons merit an Ob penalty for use, but not all.

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I believe I got your point and it’s solid when looking only at improvised weapons.
But hear me out:
A poor quality axe and a pick have the same statistics (p. 554-555): Pow: 4, Add: 2, WS: 1
Only difference is the +1Ob for the axe (and if we want to be nit picky there is no defined WL and Handedness for the pick). :confused:

I apologize for neglecting our correspondence.

You’re right, the pick is basically a poor quality axe without the +1 Ob.

But is that an issue?

There’s a common assumption in games with combat that weapons (a) have unique statlines and (b) are balanced against one another in tiers. Look at D&D since 3.5, Pathfinder, lots of OSR games. Many games uncover the whole weapon-design system (if they have one) so you can make balanced weapons.

The pick violates this assumption: It’s the same as a poor quality axe, except better in exactly one dimension.

Burning Wheel doesn’t fit this assumption well.

First, look at that list again. The stat ranges are really small: 1–4 power, Add 1 or 2, 5 weapon speeds, 5 lengths, one or two hands. Even so, you could still combine these to make 400 unique weapons! Except, some of the stats are related: Add 1 and WS X, Power 4 and 2 hands. Could you really make a 1-handed, longest, add 1, power 4, WS X weapon? What could possibly meet that mark?

The actual set of feasible unique statlines that observe the design patterns of weapons in BW is pretty small. I know this well, because I’ve made and helped others make more weapons to add to the list—you pretty much immediately find out that this new thing you’re making is basically a club, or longsword, or dagger. So, strict uniqueness is out.

Next, check out the staff. It’s longer than a mace and faster than an axe and hits harder than a spear. Sure, no VA, but VA only matters if the other guy is armored. In a one-on-one between two unarmored fuckers, the staff can pretty much hold its own. It’s right in the middle; For every way it’s worse in the match-up, it’s usually better in some other way. I would be most afraid of spears if I have a staff. And it is also basically free—it’s below poor quality. You could have it in your traveling gear. It also matches up with the branch in the found weapons chart.

In other words, all those medieval peasants were right about swearing by staves.

All of this a long way of saying, Burning Wheel weapons care comparatively little about comparing to one another. The weapon has the stats that represent what it is in the fiction, and they’re a lever for characters’ abilities more than a defining characteristic of a fight.

The short answer is: Would you rather have a smooth and sturdy pickaxe, or a splintered and rattling war axe?

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No worries. I’m happy with every bit of conversation about the hobby I can get. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, it’s hard to argue against your point. ^^ Thanks for your insights!