Sunday, October 5, 2008

Vorpal Blade or Sword of Sharpness?

I once had this debate with one of my old DM's.

He was queer for the Sword of Sharpness and tried to convince me it was far better than a Vorpal Sword. his reason for this was that it hacked off limbs thus increasing your chances of delivering a crippling blow that ended any fight.

But the Vorpal Sword decapitates.

That means the head comes off.

Doesn't that end the fight too?

(OK! So maybe not against a Hydra or even an Ettin.)

And let's look at the way these blades work. (At least according to REAL AD&D.)

The Sword of Sharpness is typically a +3 weapon. (If you look up Excalibur under the Arthurian Mythos in Legends & Lore, it's a +5 Sword of Sharpness so there must be others with different pluses out there.)

Anyway, these bonus points are not tallied all together. In fact you get a +1 to hit, a +1 to damage, and a +1 to determine if you sever an arm, leg, or neck/head.

So if you don't roll a modified score that is high enough to sever, you get +1 to your damage roll and the fight continues.

A Vorpal Sword is also typically a +3 weapon. It's +3 to hit and damage and the +3 to hit roll is used to determine if you decapitate and kill, (In most cases) whatever you are fighting.

I don't have the score charts in front of me so I could be wrong, but if memory serves me, you need an unmodified roll of 18 or more to score a sever with a Sword of Sharpness.

I believe an unmodified roll of 17 is required for a decapitation with the Vorpal Sword.

I understand that it wouldn't be of much use against beasties with no heads.

Slimes, jellies and pudding have no limbs either so the debate here is kinda pointless.

But to me, it seems the Vorpal Blade wins out since you don't need to roll as high and when you do, it ends the fight. Rather decisively I would say.

I suppose if you are fond of gory battles and whittling your opponent down to nothing, then you would have a soft spot for the Sword of Sharpness.

But if you like headhunting.....



JM said...

"All Swords of Sharpness are of chaotic alignment. All Vorpal Weapons are lawfully aligned." pp 165; DMG

This more than implies to me that it may not be a matter of player preference, insomuch, as it is a matter of character alignment.

"He wields the sword Excalibur, a +5 lawful good sword of sharpness, that has a scabbard that prevents him from being cut by any attack." pp 18; Deities and Demigods

Here, it seems to me that Excalibur was a specialty weapon/Artifact, that was the exception that makes the rule.

Of course, that's strictly 'by the books' and individual DMs might have different policies ...

Just being a rules lawyering prick ...



Dungeonmaster said...

I must concede to my fellow Flagon on this particular rule.

However, if there was ever an argument for not having alignments, then alignments for swords would probably be it.

It's just like a gun. They really don't care who they kill.

But we're talking magic and fantasy so a magical weapon/artifact crafted by an evil mage to slay all those "meddling kids" that would stop him from completing his vile ritual to open the Kingdom to the Abyss would either not work in the hands of a "good" character or would damage them when they picked it up.

I guess my old DM never read those rules. (He seemed to make up a ton of shit as we went along, but I never knew enough to argue.)

I will say this.....

I don't know if I will keep this rule in my campaign. ALL is such a strong word....


Bloodwater79 said...

1st edition it did state that on pg 165 of the DMG, but every later edition removed this restriction. it also states that all magical swords and daggers shed light when drawn, another feature they removed in future editions unless otherwise noted. The sword of sharpness in 2nd edition could sever a limb with a natural roll or 18 or higher, where the vorpal weapon could decapitate normal size unarmored with a 17 or higher, larger or armored with an 18 or higher, and solid metal/stone with a roll of 19-20. SO I would agree that the vorpal weapon in this case would be superior vs normal and lower end magical creatures.