Fragile Weapons

Dungeon World makes use of “tags” which describe what a weapon (or monster) can do. In the Dark Sun Dungeon World characters I have posted, many of the weapons possess a “fragile” tag which I procured from Travis Stout’s (GimpInBlack’s) Dark Sun Characters. Of course, this fragile tag isn’t a weapon tag found in Dungeon World, so what exactly is it?

I think it is worth beginning by saying I have mixed feelings regarding weapon breakage in Dark Sun, mainly because it only affects characters that are martial in their attacks. There is a balance issue here, putting martial characters at a disadvantage and leaving a character suddenly without a weapon. In some rule versions this breakage is typically not by choice, relying on a roll and being in some way random. In others, it is a choice but few people ever take it.

The idea of weapon breakage is still sound however, especially if one takes their bone sword and does something foolish with it, like attack the Dragon or use it to pry open a stone door. So what does fragile mean in terms of the fiction and how can we prevent a random breakage to a player in the heat of combat? Simple: Make breakage something that is obvious, and not random.

1. What does it mean then when a weapon has a fragile tag? A fragile weapon is one made out of materials that have a propensity to break (i.e. the weapon does not have iron or steel components).

2. When should the fragile tag be taken into account? When the character attacks something fantastically sturdy with it or attempt to use it in a manner not what it was intended for, the weapon breaks and might not be able to be used anymore. The weapon is fragile, certainly, but a character can at least know the circumstances that a weapon might break. I’ll cover some scenarios:

  • Attack the Dragon with a non-magical obsidian weapon: weapon shatters.
  • Pry open a stone door with a bone weapon: weapon breaks.
  • Attack a magical weapon with a fragile one: weapon shatters.
  • Attempt to cut an iron chain with a stone weapon: weapon might break or at least be damaged.

3. Can a broken weapon still be used as a weapon? Sometimes. Prying open a stone door might break the weapon but it might still be able to cut or bludgeon to some degree. Attacking the Dragon however invokes the image of the weapon shattering completely and being rendered completely unusable.

4. Does the weapon as it’s breaking still cause damage? Most of the time. If the weapon breaks, it means the thing it was being used against could not be overcome and so basically loses the Hack and Slash or Volley that may have caused it. One might foresee that breaking a weapon against something might still have an effect (a flower pot being shattered on an enemy’s head to knock him out comes to mind), and so the fiction would drive the outcome.

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