Saturday, November 22, 2014

When a stick is not a stick

The simplest weapon in the history of the human race is the club.  It is the first weapon.  Before the spear, before the hurled rock, before the Winchester repeating rifle, there was the heavy stick swung with deadly intent to smash the brains of some poor sap.  Everyone, from junior to grandma can use a club effectively.  It's a lever, you see, to increase the force of the swing of the human employing it.  It also increases reach and adds tensile strength to the blow.
Everyone can use a club-except wizards, it seems.

Now we've seen me discuss the problems with wizards not being allowed to swing swords and the problems of having a limited supply of magic on a given day and the annoyances that not being able to wear anything more protective than a polyester leisure suit bring to me personally in gaming.  I've admitted that much of this is for the elusive "balance" that is bandied about by game enthusiasts and I can generally accept it even when I don't like it, but this club business is just nonsense.  Utter nonsense.

From the beginning the wizard has had a very limited choice in weapons, starting with a simple dagger in OD&D and watching that list grow by a few items here and there until 3rd edition when the wizard had the largest available group of weapons he would ever have.  The 3rd edition was the first edition to include the humble club.  Prior to that the wizard could use a quarterstaff, because we all know wizards love a good staff.  The rationale offered for what we will term "wizard's weapons" is that the weapons are generally light, easy to use and learn, and easily obtained.
So what are the standard Wizard's Weapons?
Light Crossbow

In 3rd edition this included the club and the heavy crossbow as well.
Consider that crossbows were often considered weapons that required little training, which made them effective for moderately trained armies, as opposed to longbows, which require years of training.  Consider also that a sling, while a simple weapon, does require practice to learn to use correctly and effectively.  A dagger seems like a light, easy to use weapon, but there is a big difference between stabbing a pork chop on the dinner table and being a back alley knife fighter.  The quarterstaff is a special case.  True, the quarterstaff was the common man's weapon in the middle ages.  You made it yourself and it was unregulated.  Unlike a sword, which was a complex and expensive piece of specialized military equipment, the quarterstaff has practical applications as well and it was used as a training tool for "real" weapons teaching movements and improving techniques.  They were also quite deadly against an foe in less than metal armor.  This is not, however, a simple weapon you just pick up and use.  It takes training.  Wizards are often seen with staves, thus the quarterstaff became one of the Wizard's Weapons.  I support this because it was a weapon of the common man so anyone should take the time to learn its use.

That said, suppose your wizard was in mortal combat with some brigands and his quarterstaff were to break into two pieces?  No longer a 7 foot staff it is now, essentially, two clubs.  Suddenly the wizard can't figure out how to use it?
Is that what you are telling me?
Pish and tosh.

As of 5th edition the club is no longer on the list of Wizard's Weapons (nor is it allowed to Sorcerers either).  What in the figurative coitus is that about?  It's a club.  Anyone, and I mean anyone, can use a bloody club.  It's not like some guy is making a fighter and says, "I want to be a weapon master of the club!"  Okay, maybe some tosser decides to make a character inspired by Ireland and decides he wants to be a shillelagh master, sure, and to be perfectly honest stick fighting is a long established tradition in cultures across the globe, but much of stick fighting is also considered to be part of practice for war itself.  Add to that the fact that whole self-defense systems were developed for using walking sticks, canes and umbrellas and those too were based on older stick fighting practices, but it remains that most gamers aren't going to make a Fighter, clothe him in full plate and then dual wield a pair of light clubs.

This, by the way, is why we mod.  Every gamer I have ever known has played their chosen game with a few rules modifications, call them house rules if you like.  It's in the gamer's nature, possible simply in human nature.  We mod because we don't like a rule, or we feel a rule is incomplete, or we feel the designers were simply high and stupid.  Regarding this club nonsense I'm leaning toward the last one.

It's a stick, you dumb bastards.  If you can figure out how to properly flourish a 7 foot staff, blocking and attacking to good effect, you can certainly pick up a stick half that size and bash some bugbear over its noggin.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I about hit myself in the face trying to use an old fashioned sling once. Hey, it ain't as easy as David made it look slaying Goliath! I'd say that club thing is a no brainer, or a brainer, depending on how you look at it.