Arms & Armor 3.5 (Final)
(Revised and Expanded 3.5 Edition)
& Armor is the latest release from href="http://www.bastionpress.com">Bastion Press. Although
Bastion Press pretty much just puts out d20 products (not
surprisingly since it was founded by an ex-TSR/WOTC guy, Jim
Butler), most of their products tend to be a bit on the quirky
side. That is, they don't necessarily appeal to a wide audience.
This book, Arms & Armor, is an exception - it's a great
reference for anyone playing D&D/d20 3.5.
The title pretty much sums up what's in it. Half the book is
devoted to weapons, about one third armor, and the rest misc
stuff relating to both. It essentially combines the material on
weapons and armor from the d20 SRD/D&D PHB/DMG with a whole
lot of new material, plus some of the best stuff culled from the
pages of over a 100 other d20 books (the joys of the OGL!).
Essentially specific types of weapons and armor plus lots and
lots of magical qualities.
There was a version of this book for 3.0, and was one of the
first Bastion Press products, but it's been updated to 3.5 and
expanded quite a bit. It also includes Epic level stuff. And it's
hardcover, which in this case, is helpful, since it's quite
likely to see a lot of use.
One of the big things that changed in 3.5 from 3.0, is how damage
reduction worked. Used to be, magic weapons worked pretty much
against all forms of damage reduction in critters. Not so in 3.5
- you often need a specific enchantment or a weapon made out of a
certain material. This has led somewhat to golf bag syndrome,
that is, characters carry along a large assortment of weapons,
one for each situation, rather than just relying on the one with
the best magic. So while the 3.0 version of this book was useful,
the update for 3.5 is even more so.
style="font-family:Tempus Sans ITC;font-size:100%;color:#FF0000;">Is that a Skean Dhu in your
pocket, or are you happy to see me?
The first chapter is on weapons. The PHB has maybe 50 weapons
in it. This has maybe 4 times that, including a large selection
of Asian themed weapons and even some African themed weapons
borrowed from Atlas Games' excellent "Nyambe".
Unfortunately, the originating culture isn't always obvious (the
Asian ones are, since they have Asian names in parentheses), it
would have been nice to have the culture it came from noted.
Some of the Asian themed ones are: Dragon Whisker Fork (sort of a
funky trident), Ta Mo Dagger (sounds like a rapper, actually, but
is a double dagger/baton combo), Heaven Lotus Phoenix Tail
(brother of Joaquin). Way too many to mention. Most are fairly
small objects, but with very wicked looking blades on them. Some
with chains. A rake if you want to stat up Groundskeeper Willie
Not as many spears as I would think. Bane spear, which is sort of
a spear - mace combo (I think they used these on American
Gladiators, only these aren't padded); Double Headed Spear (kinda
obvious); Jump Spear (for attacking while jumping down from
trees); Hook Spear (for tripping. Yar); Elf Spear (like a human's
spear, only thinner and pointier); and Wolf Spear (not sure,
exactly, funky head).
A lot of new swords though. Too many to mention, but I liked the
"Cicada Wing" or "Chan Zi Dao), which is sort of
like a double short sword, but with wing like things to stick
people with, too; the "Double-Bladed Sword", which has
two sword blades parallel to each other - if it had one more, it
would be almost like the sword in "The Sword and the
Also interesting is the Claymore, which is more or less a
Greatsword, except it does a more variable amount of damage. The
Greatsword does 2d6 of damage, while the Claymore does 1d12.
(Oddly enough, no armored kilts or sequined gowns in the armor
Axes get pretty good coverage, too. As perhaps fitting their
blunt (in a metaphorical sense, not physical) nature, they all
have very descriptive names. Blood Axe, Chained Axe, Crushing
Axe, Elephant Axe, Hooked Axe. One exception is the
"Widowmaker Axe", especially since the whole point of
pretty much all weapons is to make widows.
When it comes to new weapons in an RPG, or at least a combat
orientated one, you have to ask - is this weapon so good that
everyone would use it? For the most part, this book avoids this.
The only real exception is the "Weighted Greatsword",
which is like a Greatsword, but better, in both terms of damage,
and critical range. I'm also not sure it makes sense, physics
wise. Basically, it's a great sword, but has a weight near the
end of it, to make it hit harder. But, part of the point of a
sword is that the tip is lighter, so you can swing it faster.
Like corking a baseball bat. I think any advantage you gain from
the weight would be offset by the increased difficulty in
swinging the thing (ie, while the end might weigh more, you would
be swinging it slower, since it's harder to swing). I wouldn't
let this thing in my game (Corked bats either. Sorry Sammy.)
There are a couple other weapons that do similar damage (2d8),
but they all have major drawbacks, making their use unlikely by
most characters, probably only suitable for NPCs.
Earlier versions of D&D handled magical weapons somewhat
fuzzily, on a case by case basis. 3.0 (and now 3.5) tried to
standardize this somewhat, by having standard magical qualities
that can be applied to any sort of weapon, generally based around
an adjective (this was seemingly borrowed from computer RPGs).
For instance, "Flaming" means the weapon always does an
extra 1d6 of fire damage.
This books has a whole bunch of new qualities, as well as
repeating the basic ones from the SRD for the sake of
There are tables for you to roll items up randomly. However,
these tables have a few bugs or glitches in them.
For one, this book has two new qualities that are like Vorpal
(ie, has a chance of killing someone on a critical), but for
weapons that are pointy (Skewering) or bludgeoning (Crushing).
Really, these 3 qualities should only take up one entry on the
table, because it really depends on the weapon. Obvious, if you
are making a magical mace, Vorpal or Skewering is no good. So
there shouldn't be separate entries on the table for each.
Also, on the "Base Enchantment table", which is
apparently actually for enchantments that are smaller than minor,
there are 3 entries for "Gadlings". As near as I can
tell from the text of the book, a "Gadling" is
something that goes on a gauntlet. So I don't understand how they
fit in with weapons, in general. They're just something that go
Lastly, there are "Weapons of Valor", which are
essentially specific (but not unique), premade magical weapons.
It reprints the ones from the SRD/DMG, so there are the old
standbys, the Frost Brand and the Flame Tongue and the Luck
A lot of new stuff. The Elemental (War) Fork, for Druids, The
Exterminator for Orkins, The Spiderblade (just sort of
spider-themed, great for Trick or Treating). Staves for each
school of magic. So now your Evoker can go around looking like an
Evoker, not a common wizard.
In some cases, these weapons have abilities beyond the magical
qualities. In some cases, it would have been nice for a quality
to have been built around the weapon's ability. For instance, the
"Silent Dagger". As you might guess, it helps make the
user more silent. But why not make this aspect a quality? Okay,
there already is a "Silent", but that's for ammunition.
Something like the enchantment of the dagger would have been cool
for something like a short sword.
Some of these get illustrations, along with a quote from an owner
of that item, endorsing it, much like a car commercial.
For instance, for "Black Thresher", the quote from the
owner is "Don't fear me; just a warrior with a flail. Not
even smart enough to buy a sword like everyone else. Just a
little closer now...". Heh. (Worked for Isuzu).
girl's crazy about a sharp dressed elf..
So, that pretty much covers the "Arms" aspect of the
book. The Armor section pretty much follows the same basic
pattern, first armor types, then armor magical qualities, then
specific magical armor.
Most of the weapons in the book passed my "Is this so good
that everyone would use it?" test, but the same isn't true
of the armor.
One of the changes from early versions of D&D to D&D
3.0/3.5, is that what armor a character uses really depends on
what their dexterity is. It used to be, characters with a high
dexterity would always get a bonus to their armor class, but now,
that bonus is limited by the armor. Generally speaking, heavier
armor limits the bonus, and so on average, the most you could
get, total (in terms of armor protection plus dexterity bonus)
was about +8, plus or minus one or two.
For instance, the Chain shirt adds +4 to defense, but has a
maximum dexterity bonus of +4 (for a total of +8). A Breastplate
adds +5 to defense, but only has a maximum dex bonus of +3
(again, for +8). Leather adds +2 to defense, +8 max dex bonus.
Etc. Some, like Chainmail, are a bit lower (+5 defense, +2 dex
bonus), some a bit higher, like Full Plate (+8 defense, +1 max
dex bonus), but in that range.
This book features several bits of armor that breaks this general
rule. The most egregious is probably "Double Plate",
which gives a +12 defensive bonus. Now in theory, in terms of
physics/logic, it does make sense, it's just plate armor that has
really big plates. But it probably needed more drawbacks added to
it than it has (basically, there is just a strength requirement
of 16, plus it's a bit slower than normal). But it's so good that
just about everyone who could, would use it, because it's far
better than regular full plate. Okay, it is a somewhat expensive,
3500 gp vs full plate's 1500 gp, but 3500 gp is not much for even
low level adventurers/warriors.
Another example of this is "Plated Leather", which is
essentially a bit better than a chain shirt (A Chain Shirt is +4,
Max dex +4, this is +4, Max dex bonus +5). But then in the
description it says "Characters not proficient in plated
leather find the plates awkward and confining". That's
somewhat at odds with it having a high max dex bonus.
If Epic Level items weren't enough, there's a chapter on
artifacts and legends. This section actually introduces a couple
different ways of having magical items evolve with the character.
That is, as the player gets more powerful, so does the item. The
first and simplest, is that legendary weapons have
"tiers", which are essentially power levels, which only
show up when the wielder has reached certain prerequisites. Which
is a certain base attack bonus, plus relevant feats (starting
with Weapon Focus. Nothing too weird. And nothing exclusive).
If that doesn't float your boat, there's also Scions, which turns
the wielders of the items into allegedly trendy cars. Not really.
Rather, Scions are prestige classes, but instead of getting
special powers from the class, the weapon gets special powers
when used by the character. There are 4 types of scions, each
mirroring the 4 basic archetypes (Fighter, Rogue, Arcane Spell
Guy, Religious Type).
As prestige classes go, they seem about right. They are
essentially the core class with most the frills stripped (save
one or two, plus a small bonus, like to hit dice or something),
plus an ability gained by the weapon. The ability gained by the
weapon varies from weapon to weapon, usually topping out with the
weapon becoming +5 at 10th level.
I can see a character doing this if they really really liked the
weapon, like Sledge Hammer loved his gun. But from a game
standpoint, probably not worth it, a character loses out on
inherent powers and flexibility in favor of powering up a weapon.
Which isn't that great. Depends a lot on how common magic items
are in your game, too. And if they lose the weapon, they can
trade in their Scion class levels for the appropriate regular
core class levels.
Another innovation of sorts in 3rd Edition D&D over previous
ones, is that the effects of what materials an item is made out
of has been standardized. So rather than things like Mithril and
Adamantine and Gummi being just descriptive, they also have
quantitative and qualitative properties. This book does introduce
a whole lot of new materials (just 5 pages worth), but does add
some interesting new stuff. On one end is Chromium, which
essentially lets you chrome your weapons and armor, for that '50s
Detroit look. On the other is Tensile Mercury, which is somewhat
like Robert Patrick from Terminator 2. Basically, it can be
shaped into any sort of weapon or armor depending on the whim of
the user (though it requires a feat and has some other
A very small (4 pages), but very useful chapter is on
"Cursed" items. I really liked this chapter - while a
lot of the "Cursed" items are essentially useless or
harmful, there's also a lot of smaller curses, which are mostly
nuisances or slight drawbacks. The one I really like are
"Requirement" curses, which are essentially conditions
that have to be met to for the item to work. This can vary from
some sort of tangible sacrifice, like destroying x amount of
money per day, to eating or sleeping more, to having to go on a
quest, or to something as odd as the character having to change
his or her name. On a related note, there are
"Intermittent" Curses, where the item only functions in
certain situations. Like if it's dark or cold outside. And then
there are the Drawbacks, which are like the traditional D&D
style cursed items, where the user changes gender or becomes a
I really would have liked to have seen this chapter expanded
more, it's a great way of modifying magic items, especially
powerful ones, so that players will think twice about using them.
Not being completely screwed, but often having to choose if using
it is worth it or not. And a way to addionally differentiate
between items. But even a small chapter really got my creative
The last chapter in the book is called "Martial
Constructs", which for some reason, I keep reading as
"Marital Constructs", which brings a smile to my face.
Essentially, though, it's magic items that are also mechanical
critters. Mostly, things called "Amulet Servitors",
which are essentially magic amulets which transform into larger
mechanical beasties on command, or when doused in water. Then a
few Golems, the Amber and Force Golems, which are fairly
conventional, plus "Golem Armor", which is pretty much
what it sounds like. That is, a golem that is worn like armor.
Except it looks like a giant flying monkey. Which is enough to
give me nightmares (I have a phobia about flying monkeys). Also a
mechanical stallion. Sadly, no Barbeau-Golems.
While these aren't bad, other than the "Golem Armor",
they don't quite fit into the theme of the book ("Arms &
Armor"). Personally, I think the space would have been
better used if they had reprinted the charts of the weapons and
The layout is generally good, but a bit step backwards from
previous Bastion releases. Usually they put what chapter it is in
the outer margin, which makes it very easy to find stuff. In
this, the chapter is just at the top of the page, in very small
Similarly, while there is an index, there aren't a whole lot of
entries in it. Almost resembles a table of contents than an
index. Specific weapons, either type or unique magical ones
aren't mentioned, either. Like if I wanted to find
"Claymore" in the book, it's not in the index, nor is
something like "Luck Blade" or "Sword of Life
Stealing". Nor is even something like "Swords".
The closest to that is "Weapons", which is essentially
the start of the chapter. Now granted, this would have taken a
lot of time to do, but it is meant to be a reference work, so
something like that would be extremely handy.
A lot of the weapons are illustrated (generally in groups of
five), but not all. And somewhat confusingly, the illustrations
are ordered differently than how the weapons show up in the book.
For instance, the "Bane Spear" is illustrated up in the
A-Bs, with the "Axe-Hammer" and "Double Chained
Axe" and such, but the entry for it is way back in the
"S"s, under "Spear, Bane". This happens an
awful lot, enough to be something of a hassle.
And as I mentioned earlier, I think the end of the book should
have had charts of the weapons and armor stats. It's just so much
easier to open up the back of the book for that information when
you need it quickly, then paging through the middle.
All in all, a heck of a book. A-
The only thing really missing from it I think, is
the rules for actually making magic weapons to begin with. It
would have been handy to include these, including the pricing
table, to avoid having to flip through the DMG.
I've probably written more about the flaws in this book than the
positives, but that's only because it's like tiny bits of ice in
ice cream. Like sometimes, if you have a freezer that doesn't
work great, and the ice cream melts and re-freezes, or you buy a
really cold ice cream cone then go out in the rain. You can't
really see the ice, it's only barely noticeable when you lick it
(or skim it), and doesn't matter much once you're finished, but
when you eat it, you can taste the little pockets of ice, or
rather, it's almost the absence of the good, ice cream taste. The
things with this book are just like the ice - very minor, but
noticeable when you sit down and read the book, and so something
I had to mention. But once digested, you probably won't notice
While nothing is truly essential for d20 except for the PHB and
DMG, this book is about as useful as a non-core, non-Wizards of
the Coast book gets. I wouldn't use everything in it, but for the
most part, not only is it a great reference, it's got a lot of
cool new stuff. And it's cheap, by today's prices. $30 for 176
pages, hardcover is a sweet deal nowadays (I just paid $30 for
144 pages of D6 Space a few months ago, and Fields of Blood is
160 pages, $30, but soft-cover, and that came out a year ago).
It's funny, Bastion used to have prices somewhat higher than
average, now they are somewhat cheaper.
They have href="http://www.bastionpress.com/Downloads/Arms_Preview.pdf">a
20 page preview PDF, and you can buy this book in hardcover
(there was a special softcover Gen Con edition) or href="http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=3181&">in
PDF form from RPG.now. Also available are data files for
E-Tools and I think PCGen from href="http://www.codemonkeypublishing.com/">Code Monkey