how to give strategic differences to different melee weapons?

jonthefox

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Let's say there's a fighter-type character who can equip lots of different melee weapons. What are some good ways to give the player interesting choices in terms of using a sword, a spear, an axe, a hammer, etc.? Prefer to use things that do not rely on RNG (so no +20% chance of X).
 

Tw0Face

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Some random first thoughts that may inspire you:

1) Weapons that have different effects on different enemies
For example, I'd make a spear so you can hit flying enemies with it, while this wouldn't work for other weapons. So you have to equip your weapon properly depending on the enemy you're fighting.

2) Weapons that unlock skills
For example, the axe could unlock a skill called "Axe Strike" as long as the axe weapon is equipped.

3) Weapon categories and enemy weakness
A hammer, as a slashing weapon, would do more damage against enemies that are strong against stabbing weapons. A sword, as a stabbing weapon, would do more damage against enemies that are strong against slashing weapons.
 

Frogboy

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A hammer, as a slashing weapon
That's a weird hammer.

The most obvious one that comes to my mind is what I believe Tw0Face described above, mostly because I like D&D and it draws from there. Bludgeoning, slashing and piercing "element" types do more or less damage against different types of enemies. Could potentially attempt some other weapon properties like reach, tripping, disarming, material type (silver, cold iron, adamantine).

Another one I've used is accuracy vs damage. I drew this one from Dragon Quest games. Axes do more damage but have a higher hit percentage. Swords are more reliable but do less. Daggers do the least but pretty much never miss. Stuff like that.

Or maybe speed vs damage. Axes are slowest to swing but do the most damage. Daggers are super fast and allow you to get your attack off faster but do the least. Swords are a balance between the two.
 

Wavelength

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One of my least favorite mechanics in all of video gaming is when different enemies take different % damage from different weapon types (e.g. 150% damage from Polearms; 50% damage from Firearms). Here are some reasons you shouldn't include this in your game:
  • Strengths/weaknesses are extremely unintuitive - even more unintuitive than with elements like Ice and Electricity. Players won't figure out what you had in mind until they try, and even once they do try, they will probably forget after the battle.
    • Why is a Squid weak to a trident - wouldn't a sword slash work just fine if you can land the hit? What kind of weapon is a Slime weak to? Will a Hammer crush the Slime or just make it bounce a little? Will a Sword cut through the Slime or just get caught in it? Why are some weapons weaker/stronger against humans when most weaponry has been specifically designed to cut at humans' weaknesses? Does anyone really know whether a scythe or a bow and arrow will do more damage to a rabbit (and if so, have you considered getting therapy)?
  • Weapons usually cannot be changed mid-battle, so you're stuck with whatever you happened to have equipped. At least with elements, you often have the choice of which one to use on any given turn of a battle.
  • Clarity suffers - it can be very hard to understand why your attack did 253 damage to the last enemy you struck but only 48 to this one. Was this enemy's DEF a lot higher, or was it simply a matter of resistance to your weapon type?
  • Shoehorning weapons into enemies/areas they do the most damage in takes away from your ability to allow the player to choose from multiple different playstyles based on their weapon of choice.
I'm honestly sort of a fan of locking each character into a single type of weapon, as I feel your weapon really is part of your identity in a fantasy game. Swords, daggers, staves, arrows, hammers, scythes, guns, wands... they all tell me something about the character, and it would just feel weird to me to see Aeris running around with a giant axe.
Rather than offer each character many different weapon types, I usually like to offer many different weapons within the same type; maybe one staff reduces your spell costs, another staff offers additional protective properties, and a third staff inflicts states on enemies that you hit with physical attacks. As long as the total "power" of these staves is similar, it allows for a very interesting choice and the player can express himself or his character through that decision.

There are definitely reasons you would still want to offer many different weapon types to the same character, and if you choose to do so, there are a lot of different ways you can differentiate them. Just a few include:
  • Different Stats: This feels very "duh", but it's also the single most effective way to differentiate different classes of weapons/armaments. The key is to build a system where every single stat is a reasonable one to either specialize in or ignore, for every single character. Easier said than done (and often requires reducing your total number of stats to 3-4). Then the choice between the speed of daggers, the defensive capabilities of broadswords, or the all-out offense of axes becomes a real and interesting decision.
  • Different Passive Abilities: I don't think there's anything wrong with giving entire classes (types) of weaponry the same exact passive ability, if each class has a different passive and the characters can choose between different weapon types. If you want to give all Swords a passive that blocks every 5th physical attack, every Shield weapon a boost to the effectiveness of Guards, every Staff an MP Regen on Attack property, and every Axe lifesteal, then go ahead. You can even have the passives upgrade - maybe basic Axes offer 12% lifesteal while better Axes offer 20%, and the best Swords block every 3rd attack instead of every 5th.
  • Different Ranges or Hitboxes: This is mostly for Action RPGs or Tactical RPGs, but adjusting the Range and Hitbox for each weapon (and, in the case of ARPGs, things like attack speed and motion) will make each weapon feel like an entirely different and exciting experience. Pikes can attack from a short distance (and skewer enemies in the case of TRPGs), Scythes swing in a large arc around the user, Archers can snipe foes from long range, and Axes require getting up close and personal but really bring the damage. Think about the different types of players and how they might enjoy playing combat, and introduce a weapon type for each type of player.
 

Meowsticks

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I have a character like this in my game that can use a variety of weapons, and yes coming up with interesting ideas for how to differentiate them is not an easy task. I can give some of the ideas I'm using but my best advice is that the changes don't even have to be that big to make a strategic difference.

For one, I really recommend a weapon that is "normal" aka has no gimmick or special change to it. There will be times and players who just want to do a normal attack and not deal with "equip them, but then this happens!" so having a basic weapon goes a long way.

I start out with thinking of the weapon itself. Axes/hammers are big and unwieldy, you would need two hands to hold them, right? So when equipped you can't have a shield (or whatever goes in the other arm slot), but they are also heavy, so maybe they do more damage per hit. Thus you've got a weapon that hits harder, but you can't be as defensive. If you have a pair of daggers, they could hit twice (maybe even at less damage to balance it out).

Sometimes the idea is more important than making it fit with the weapon itself, as long as it at least sounds believable. A spear could be differentiated by other weapons by giving it a higher critical chance. Why does a spear give you a better critical? That doesn't really matter as much as the fact that it does. Maybe it's some kind of special spear that works that way?

When I'm trying to think up ideas, I usually sit in the editor and look through all the boxes (at least in VXAce its stuff like "Param changes, Elem changes etc) and just see what I can change that would make sense for a weapon. As I said, even a small change can go a long way to making weapons feel different.
 

Trihan

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I really like the way Vagrant Story did it. Weapons don't have *inherent* advantages against specific enemy types as such, but the more you use a given weapon against a given enemy type, the better that weapon becomes against it. So you end up with a loadout of several weapons that you've customised to be most effective against different kinds of enemy.
 

coucassi

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What I do (in addition to a lot of other differences) is giving different types of weapons different 'normal attacks'.
Every weapon type has it's own damage formular: An Axe swing will rely more on your strength stat than a dagger, while a pistol shot won't include strength in the formular at all.
 

ave36

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I prefer the class approach. One class uses one weapon. The knight uses swords, the berserker uses axes, the thief uses knives, etc.
 

Redeye

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So from your question, I can assume that maintaining 1 weapon type for each class isn't something you're interested in (unless you can think of a singular weapon type for an "Armsmaster" class... like a Transformable Swiss Army Weapon).

Having each Weapon Type deal their own physical-elemental damage is, as Wave explained, unintuitive. The only acceptable way to do that imo is having the typical Slash/Pierce/Blunt triad (maybe even Cut/Cleave/Pierce/Blunt, but that's probably too much) AND implementing an in-battle weapon swap system (and also a way to view enemy weaknesses).

Honestly, though, giving each Weapon type their own passive would be the perfect way to handle this. The distinguishing feature doesn't need to be entirely unique, either.

Some Melee Weapon examples I have in mind:

Gauntlets: Cause basic attacks to strike twice.
Claws: Basic attacks inflict "Bleeding" status.
Daggers: Basic attacks deal bonus damage based on AGI.
Swords: Basic attacks inflict an ATK debuff.
Rapiers: Raises Counterattack Damage by x%.
Hand Axes: Raises Critical Hit chance by x%.
Battleaxes: Basic attacks inflict "Deep Wound" status.
Maces: Basic attacks inflict a DEF debuff.
Scepters: Basic attacks inflict a MDF debuff.
Hammers: Basic attacks deal bonus damage based on DEF.
Spears: Raises Critical Hit Damage by x%.
Tridents: Basic attacks deal bonus damage based on MDF.
Halberds: Basic attacks inflict a debuff that negates Evasion & Magic Evasion.
Scythes: Cause basic attacks to target all enemies.

Ideas for Offhand Weapons that go in the Shield slot:

Parrying Daggers: Raises Counterattack chance by x%.
Bucklers: Raises Evasion by x%.
Shields: Raises Guard Effectiveness by x%.
Talismans: Raises Magic Evasion by x%.

Ideas for Magic Weapons, which deal magic damage (I'm going off-topic at this point, but just because I feel like it, I'm gonna continue listing off ideas):

Wands: Basic attacks solely scale with MAG & inflict a MAG debuff.
Staffs: Basic attacks solely scale with MAG. Raises Magic Reflect chance by x%.
Tomes: Basic attacks solely scale with MAG. Raises Max MP by x%.

Ideas for Ranged Weapons, which I feel are allowed to have some similarities with Melee weapons (AGI scaling would basically represent the character's Precision):

Shortbows: Basic attacks scale with AGI. Cause basic attacks to strike twice.
Longbows: Basic attacks scale with AGI. Raises Critical Hit chance by x%.
Crossbows: Basic attacks scale with AGI & inflict "Deep Wound" status.
Pistols: Basic attacks SOLELY scale with AGI & inflict an ATK debuff.
Muskets: Basic attacks SOLELY scale with AGI & inflict a DEF debuff.
Blunderbusses: Basic attacks SOLELY scale with AGI & have high Variance.

These ideas are totally interchangeable and you can use them in whatever weapon type you please. And, if you're creative enough, you could come up with even more (some of the ones listed here would need a Plugin to work, though). Another way to do this would be to fully dive into the "Each Weapon Type has their own unique Basic Attack" paradigm, which is especially good if your "Armsmaster" class relies on basic attack damage and uses their Skills purely for utility.
 

Zero_G

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Two suggestions, and they are not nothing new:
  • If using a skill tree with classes, a character that can learn skills from multiple classes, and some classes have skills that need a specific weapon to be used. Though give the player a way to respec.
  • A Dark Souls style where there are unique weapons that can be upgraded, but each weapon has one or more skill unique to that weapon alone.
Make those skills good and balanced, if the skill of an axe is similar to a sword, then there is no point.

I really like the way Vagrant Story did it. Weapons don't have *inherent* advantages against specific enemy types as such, but the more you use a given weapon against a given enemy type, the better that weapon becomes against it. So you end up with a loadout of several weapons that you've customised to be most effective against different kinds of enemy.
But I remember that it was a pain to grind. I don't know/remember for normal game, but extra bosses required a lot of weapon grinding.
 

Trihan

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Two suggestions, and they are not nothing new:
  • If using a skill tree with classes, a character that can learn skills from multiple classes, and some classes have skills that need a specific weapon to be used. Though give the player a way to respec.
  • A Dark Souls style where there are unique weapons that can be upgraded, but each weapon has one or more skill unique to that weapon alone.
Make those skills good and balanced, if the skill of an axe is similar to a sword, then there is no point.


But I remember that it was a pain to grind. I don't know/remember for normal game, but extra bosses required a lot of weapon grinding.
Right, so when you implement it, you make it less of a grind. ;)
 

LightBorneX

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Could have some weapons that due multiple hits per turn. I have multiple guns in my game. One of them is a pistol that attacks a bit faster but hits once, and I have a gatling gun that averages the same damage but can hit 1-5 times each turn (usually 3 hits, but can do more or less).

Could have a pair of dual wield weapons- where one weapon in the pair sets up a combo for the other- like fire and ice swords. Using a different sword in combination could cause a different effect to happen.

You could have some weapons that always hit aoe, and some weapons that always hit in a cone (or line). Could make a boomerang that aways hits the enemies on the sides- one on the way out and one on the way in.

Could make a weapon that can move monsters around on the field.

Could make a trap weapon- something like shackles- could swing it to hit people or lock them to you, unable to attack.

Could make a weapon that hits enemies into other enemies for damage- a giant hammer that works like a croquet mallet.

You could make a weapon like a ball that gets kicked and hits multiple enemies on the field. Perhaps it hits harder, but you have to go retrieve it for a turn or something.

You could make an axe that gets stuck in people and you have to go retrieve it next turn.

You could make defensive oriented weapons- like a staff that has lower damage but helps you block attacks.

You could have a spear with a cord on it, and once the spear is inside an enemy, it allows you to use other skills or attacks- like shooting an electric current through the cord to cause damage, or swinging the enemy around wildly for damage.

EDIT: Passed over the "Melee" part, heh. Most of this is still applicable.
 
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15098D

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A way I like to do it as by adding ex-parameters and sp-parameters to weapons. Of course you'll have to mention these in the weapon's description but it can really make players think about how they want to use certain weapons and who should get them
 

Tai_MT

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Basic ways to make this work:

Different Damage Types
You don't have to get as crazy as "this weapon does slashing, this other one does piercing!". All you need is a basis for intuitive play. Most games do this with Elemental equipment. Fire Swords affect different enemies than Ice Sword. You could even do something similar to Final Fantasy X, where some weapons have "reach" and can hit flying enemies, while others don't, and have a hard time landing against them. You do have to be careful to tutorialize the "damage types" well though. If you don't, your players will spend a lot of time guessing and playing "Guide-Dang-It!".

Different Stats
This is fairly self-explanatory, but unless your combat system is really robust, almost all your players are just going to hit "optimize" and be done.

Specialties
Certain weapons can only activate certain skills/spells. Your sword can't activate some of your spells/skills, so you have to equip the Axe instead... and if you do that, you lose access to some of your Sword skills. Likewise, you can cater equipment towards "Builds". perhaps some weapons lend themselves better to "Lightning Bruisers" or "Glass Cannons". Some weapons could accentuate archetypes very well.

Features
This sort of works with Specialties, but it can play towards "side-grades" if you do it well. Maybe one sword has critical hit chance while another has a chance to inflict poison. Likewise, you can perhaps have states linked to weapon types. Stuns, Bleeds, Armor Breaks, Slows, Confusion, etcetera. Some weapons will proc a debuff on an enemy that lowers their attack power. Other weapons proc a debuff that slows them down. Etcetera.

Rarity
Maybe some weapons are just a lot harder to find in the world. Maybe, the world is full of swords, but a Pike is difficult to find. So, you might upgrade your Sword nearly every single dungeon, but that Pike only upgrades every few dungeons. It's a massive jump in stats, but changing it out is kind of rare.

What I Did:
I did a little of everything. Skills run on specific stats, so changing out your weapons to make specific stats higher so specific skills hit harder is viable. Weapons offer different typings (Slash, Bash, Pierce) which are good against specific kinds of enemies (Slashing works great against anything not armored, Bash against heavily armored, and Piercing against Moderately armored.) and different features. Slashing weapons are almost always faster weapons and stronger. Bashing weapons are fairly slow but sometimes cause stuns. Piercing weapons come with a variety of effects and secondary elements. Some skills can only be used with specific kinds of weapons as well. If you're in the Volcano and want to use Ice Strike, then you need to equip an Axe. If you're in the Ice Temple and you want to use Piercing Flame, you need to have a lance equipped.

Now, what I did is heavily generalized and stripped down for the sake of brevity, but if you put a lot of thought into how combat should work and flow, it isn't difficult to implement all or most of those basic features. Especially to such a degree that each character literally plays differently depending on what is equipped.
 

Aesica

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Honestly I don't think every weapon type needs to have some different mechanics to it over others. It's perfectly okay for your can-use-many-weapons fighter to trade his +10 short sword for a +15 hammer he finds in a dungeon, then upgrade to a +20 axe in the next town, then a +25 long sword in the next dungeon, etc. It gives the player some variety.

I think too many of the more modern RPGs have fallen into the trap of "X only wields swords, Y only wields axes, etc" which is kind of bland.
 

Basileus

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One thing you could do is to restrict abilities based on weapon type. Dragon Quest does this, and gives each character at least 2 weapon options (and the ability to change weapons as a free action during your turn). Swapping weapons can be a lot like swapping classes. One-handed swords offer skills that are very good at single-target damage, while two-handed swords offer more AoE skills. Staves can offer bonus MP, but then you can swap to something that does more damage once the bonus MP is used up.

Dragon Quest also uses a grouping system for enemies where monsters of the same type are placed into a group that can be targeted together. Most weapons will hit only one monster, but some like whips can hit an entire group instead, and boomerangs will hit everything on the field. And this is just your basic "Attack" command, so you can get free AoE damage at the expense of dealing less per individually monster hit.

Dark Souls uses 2 types of attack for each weapon which can be great or terrible depending on the situation. A spear might have a light thrust and a heavy thrust, but a halberd might have a light thrust and a heavy sweep. The spear would be much better in tight corridors where you can keep enemies directly in front of you, but the halberd would be better in open spaces where you might get surrounded. This would have to be modified to fit a turn-based combat system, but you should be able to add a secondary Attack command based on what the player has equipped.

A more simple method would be to just offer different stat bonuses. Tales of Berseria uses a system where every type of equipment offers the same main stat and a different secondary stat. So every weapon will have Attack as the primary stat, armor will have Defense, boots will have Focus, and so on. Each individual piece of that gear will then be different based on the secondary stat. So if you want to do lots of magic damage, then a weapon that gives Arte Attack as a substat will do a lot more for you than a weapon that gives Defense. There are also pieces where the secondary stat is the same as the primary to give a huge boost to just one stat if you want to specialize.

I think some combination of these could do just about anything you want.
 
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ATT_Turan

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Honestly I don't think every weapon type needs to have some different mechanics to it over others. It's perfectly okay for your can-use-many-weapons fighter to trade his +10 short sword for a +15 hammer he finds in a dungeon, then upgrade to a +20 axe in the next town, then a +25 long sword in the next dungeon, etc. It gives the player some variety.

I think too many of the more modern RPGs have fallen into the trap of "X only wields swords, Y only wields axes, etc" which is kind of bland.
So, I agree with this concept. However, I also agree with...
I feel your weapon really is part of your identity in a fantasy game. Swords, daggers, staves, arrows, hammers, scythes, guns, wands... they all tell me something about the character, and it would just feel weird to me to see Aeris running around with a giant axe.
Especially if the game is more of a high fantasy, Arthur has Excalibur, Cu Chulainn has the Gae Bolg, Aragorn has Anduril kind of feel. Then I feel that seeing a given character with at least the same type of weapon is very appropriate.

If you have more of a grittier medieval vibe to your game, using whatever weapon type has the best stats at the moment is also appropriate.

For my design, I have attack skills represent fighting techniques with specific weapons, so most of the fighter-type classes can wield whatever they want, but the skills they learn from being that specific class are only usable with one or two types. I don't bother having different stats apart from that, as I feel that adds sufficient strategic choice.
  • Different Ranges or Hitboxes: This is mostly for Action RPGs or Tactical RPGs, but adjusting the Range and Hitbox for each weapon (and, in the case of ARPGs, things like attack speed and motion) will make each weapon feel like an entirely different and exciting experience. Pikes can attack from a short distance (and skewer enemies in the case of TRPGs), Scythes swing in a large arc around the user, Archers can snipe foes from long range, and Axes require getting up close and personal but really bring the damage.
One of my favorite combat systems is in the free-to-play MMO Atlantica Online. You have a squad of 9 characters in a 3x3 formation, and their weapon type affects who they can hit.
- Swords hit one front-exposed target for high damage. Spears hit one front-exposed target and one behind it. Axes hit an entire exposed row.

- Bows target any target from any location. Guns shoot from anywhere and hit one column. Cannons target from anywhere and hit a cross shape.

Almost all of this could be done in RPG Maker with a row plugin.
 

Aesica

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Especially if the game is more of a high fantasy, Arthur has Excalibur, Cu Chulainn has the Gae Bolg, Aragorn has Anduril kind of feel. Then I feel that seeing a given character with at least the same type of weapon is very appropriate.

If you have more of a grittier medieval vibe to your game, using whatever weapon type has the best stats at the moment is also appropriate.

For my design, I have attack skills represent fighting techniques with specific weapons, so most of the fighter-type classes can wield whatever they want, but the skills they learn from being that specific class are only usable with one or two types. I don't bother having different stats apart from that, as I feel that adds sufficient strategic choice.
I suppose it depends on the type of game you're making, but I kinda feel like too many games have fallen into that trope. I mean you can always end with Arthur wielding Excalibur or Sephiroth wielding the Masamune as their ultimate/best weapons, but I think it's also fair that either could trade their starter short sword for a runed axe, giant-smashing hammer, elven bow, etc along the way.

As for skills, I made the decision to just hand-wave weapon requirements early on since my characters can wield anywhere from 3-6 different weapon types. While I've named most of my abilities things like "Shattering Strike" or "Relentless Assault" in order to not imply a specific weapon type, I have a few with names like "Dark Sword" or "Cyclone Blade" on a character who can also equip spears and fist weapons. "Whitewind Slash" on a character who can also equip bows.

Since my game allows players to freely change equipment mid-battle for strategic purposes, I had a choice: Lock those skills behind weapon types like Dragon Quest 11 does so the player has to swap weapons first, or just imply that the character changes to a more suitable weapon for that one attack before switching back. I opted for the latter so not to force the player into more menu juggling than necessary.

So, when the character in question uses Relentless Assault with a sword, he quickly darts around the battle field landing dozens of hits on all foes. When equipped with a bow, he just stays back and chainfires away for the same effect.
 

ATT_Turan

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I suppose it depends on the type of game you're making, but I kinda feel like too many games have fallen into that trope. I mean you can always end with Arthur wielding Excalibur or Sephiroth wielding the Masamune as their ultimate/best weapons, but I think it's also fair that either could trade their starter short sword for a runed axe, giant-smashing hammer, elven bow, etc along the way.
Nothing wrong with that! Although, it's not really a trope if it's sensible...sure, a medieval noble son training for knighthood would've gained familiarity with a number of weapons, but your average soldier would have specialized training in a certain weapon. Same is true now...you won't really find people equally skilled at martial arts, swordfighting and rifle marksmanship. They all take too much training time in different techniques; if you make yourself equally good at them all, other people will be better than you at all of them.

Not that I'm arguing that games should be made that way for simulation reasons, just pointing out there's logic behind "I'm good at using one kind of weapon" - most people are.
 

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