Sunday, October 30, 2016

Smart swords

I'm thinking out loud with this post. I've been trying to come up with an angle on intelligent weapons to write as a Pyramid article, but I keep having trouble making them special, especially as the things they do in early Dungeons and Dragons or mythology are the Accuracy spell. This is my thinking on this as of the moment. I haven't playtested this.

There’s a spell in GURPS Magic called Weapon Spirit on page 64. In short, it gives a weapon an IQ score, and can communicate with empathy or, with the right spells, speech. That’s pretty much it. There can be other spells on the weapon, but you can always do that. The weapon could have some disadvantages, which would truly piss off a player.

Forgive me, but what a goddamn bother. Brains in a sword should give you a boon for wielding it, not just giving you a talking metal buddy that might not like you anyways.

So, these are two simple things any intelligent weapon can do that shows that it has a brain:

  1. Anyone who has an intelligent weapon Ready can Dodge attacks from behind him (p. B391), at -2. For those attacks from the side hexes which he normally must defend at -2 (p. B390), he defends at -1.
  2. If you hit when targeting chinks in armor (p. B400) with an intelligent weapon, you get through all DR, not just half DR.

The wielder must get a reaction of at least Neutral the first time he picks up the weapon to get these boons (or any others tied to the sword’s intellect). These boons show things the sword sees and understands and lets its wielder know.

Smart weapons are fickle. Remember, they need a reaction roll to use. Charisma and Born War Leader will always impress a weapon; Appearance and Voice do not. Status might; your call.

Let its Will be its IQ plus its highest level of Puissance or Accuracy. The wielder is -1 to Will checks against the weapon for every 1/4 HP or FP he is down. Control checks are a Quick Contest of Will. Check when:

  • The wielder has a chance for another magic weapon
  • One of its disadvantages comes up (see below)
  • The wielder drops below 1/3 HP or FP
  • Someone with a higher weapon skill is available to own the sword. Use skill plus maximum basic thrust or swing damage, as applicable.

If the sword wins the Quick Contest, it will make the wielder bypass the other weapon, abide by its disadvantage, keep fighting even if the wielder has lost most of his HP or FP, or drop his weapon to let the higher skilled fighter pick it up.

If a sword has a disadvantage, it expects its wielder to abide by it, and will try to control its wielder in case of any conflicts. The sword gets a bonus to its Will rolls to control its wielder regarding its disadvantage, and this bonus is equal to the penalty to Fright Checks for Phobias at each Self-Control Number, read as a positive. Thus, a sword with Honesty (15) gets a +1 to Will rolls to make sure its wielder behaves honestly, while a sword with Honesty (6) gets a +4 to the same rolls.


  1. " Brains in a sword should give you a boon for wielding it, not just giving you a talking metal buddy that might not like you anyways."

    Heh. A talking metal buddy who might not like you is pretty much exactly how early-edition D&D magic swords worked.

    1. But they gave you cool powers, something that has largely been added to weapons without the fun of annoying personalities. There needs to be an incentive for putting up with the annoying personalities.

    2. Yeah, in GURPS, an intelligent weapon isn't a prereq for powers like it was in the old days of D&D. You can always just allow intelligent swords in GURPS to act - cast spells built into them using a Exclusive or Dedicated Powerstone set into the weapon, make sure they have useful skills they bring to the table, remember to let them make Per rolls to hear and see things, too, etc. They might need more boosting, but they're only as lame as you let them be.

    3. Well one answer Japanese light novels give is Alternate Form (cute girl). (Once you kill it, get help hauling the loot home. She may want a share, gamble it away, and wander off.)

      In Xianxia, the first power up gimmick some kid finds may be an object bound ghost who teaches overpowered skills.

      Knowledge skills. Could this be a secret door? How do I kill that? Perception. Look out behind you!

      Since they don't have meat brains, the intelligence doesn't have to be active all the time, nor does it need always have the same knowledge.

      The fancier stuff may involve building dungeons or puzzles around the sword, or going outside of standard Dungeon Fantasy assumptions.

      'smart swords' makes me think of computers and apps. Especially malfunctioning computers. No high TL in your DF? Ancient magic, needs an NPC only sage with the right shaman mojo to fix or adjust.

    4. Detect (Secret doors) or Detect (Traps) are common abilities from D&D sword tables. I'm a little less concerned with writing adventures around them than I am with making sure they have unique game abilities. As in, if you're wielding a sword with an IQ score, no matter how dumb, it should feel different in game than one that's just a magical blade.

      Though you talking about skills does give me an idea. A "Weapon" skill akin to the "Mount" skill for mounts. Working exactly the same as the Mount skill (other than being IQ/A), it will give an automatic +1 to skill, and a truly smart (not just IQ 3, but an IQ 12 sword) sword that has been around for awhile would have improve most mundane swordsmen's chances of hitting.