How powerful should +X weapons be?

A thing came up in a recent game and I’ve been mulling over it ever since.

Basically, in the B/X game, there are no rules (that I’m aware of) for specifically damaging inanimate objects. It’s all Judge’s discretion.

Now, in later editions, objects get codified and what you can cut through (baring something like Adamantine in 3.x) is very specific. And frankly, the magic sword is only +X better than a normal one.

Yet in fantasy narratives, magic weapons routinely cut chains or other swords, even doors in some cases.

So, how powerful should they be? Should a magic sword cut normal steel like butter? Could you use it to sunder an oaken beam across a door? Could it cut into a mundane safe?

Should there be a gradiation? +1 weapons could cut through wood, +2 stone, +3 metal?

I realize that opening this door might give the players tools to overcome regular challenges more easily, but at the same time it might make the weapons more impressive and interesting beyond their 5% incremental improvement?

Tywyll, in Domains at War, I tackle the hardness of different materials in the context of SHP.

SHP: A structure’s ability to remain intact despite damage is determined by its structural hit points (shp). When a structure reaches 0 or less shp, it will collapse in 1d10 rounds.  As a rule of thumb, a structure will have 1 shp per ton of weight.


Wooden structures are harder to damage than creatures. Man-sized weapons and light ballista cannot deal damage to wooden structures. Huge creatures and magic deal only 1/5th damage to wooden structures. Artillery heavier than light ballista, as well as gigantic and larger creatures, deal normal damage to wooden structures.

Stone and earthen structures are even harder to damage. Wood-throwing artillery and huge creatures cannot even deal damage. Stone-throwing artillery and gigantic creatures deal only 1/10th damage to stone structures. Colossal creatures and magic deal only 1/5th damage to stone structures. Petards (see above) deal normal damage to stone.

You could allow for each +1 to reduce the difficulty of harming a structure by one tier of hardness. So, for example, man-sized +1 magical weapons deal 1/5th damage to wood but cannot harm stone. Man-sized +2 magical weapons deal full damage to wood and 1/10th damage to stone. Man-sized +3 magical weapons deal full damage to wood and 1/5th damage stone.

As a rule of thumb, a structure has only 1shp per ton of weight, so most wooden objects (doors, chests) will have 1shp and most stone objects 1-3hp. That means that wooden objects can be destroyed with 2 swings of a +1 item or a single stroke of a +1 item, while stone objects would take a few strikes from a +2 item and a couple from a +3.

This is just me musing so please don't take it as official rules!





Mmm. To be honest. I find the whole idea somewhat unbalancing if doing it that way. I see adventurers hacking through every dungeon wall in my mind, short-cutting and circumventing things. I have also a hard time to imagine even magical man-sized swords to bash through iron-bound wooden doors with a strike or two. Perhaps its better to assign a magic weapon a special ability. As an example: 3 times per day the you focus the magic power of the weapon into a forceful blow that allows you to smash a wall of [material] up x inches/feet in thickness. Thereafter the magic power of the weapon has to regenerate and it counts as a mundane weapon until X hours have passed… sor some such…

@Alex: Thanks for that Alex. I kind of dig that idea. Granted, I have no easy way of converting a ‘ton of stone/wood’ into ‘X foot thick wall’ but it’s certainly a starting point!

@Beastman: Yeah, that’s a potential problem. However, I’d argue that even with the ability to cut through doors and stone, you still need to take time to do it…especially to do it right (and avoid a cave in). I’d say a Turn per 10’? And making that much noise ought to alert every nearby monster and/or increase your wandering monster check chances dramatically.