Though I’ve never seen one in play, I have no doubt that there are builds out there specialized in improvised weapons. Stone giant rock throwers spring to mind, which raises a rather interesting question. If you’ve got an improvised weapon specialist in the party, how do you give them weapon upgrades? Is there such a thing as a masterwork rock? What would a +1 T-bone steak even look like? More importantly, how would it taste?

The mind boggles.

Of course, specialty builds are something of a corner case. In my experience, improvised weapons tend to come up in two places: jailbreaks and barroom brawls. That’s because the players will be deprived of their gear in the former and will (probably) want to avoid killing innocent bar patrons in the latter. In both scenarios, however, I think it pays to plan out exactly what’s in the room.

You see, if it’s at all possible, players will default to using what’s on their character sheet. They’ve been trained over countless hours of play to look at their weapon slot first and their stored gear second. If there’s nothing useful in either location, it’s all too easy to resort to “unarmed strike.” Meanwhile there are dozens of chair legs, broken beer bottles, and antlered moose heads hanging in your typical bar. There are manacles, prison shanks, and shoelace garrotes in your typical prison. These are the kinds of weapons we all imagine when we picture cinematic brawls, but they tend to get forgotten in practice. That’s why I say to make those objects as visible as possible.

Next time you want the terrain to become a weapon rack, try this: Instead of relying on verbal description, take a minute to create some tokens. Drop a few sticky-note ceiling fans or fire pokers onto the battle mat. The idea is to give your improvised weapons presence. That means in the physical world (thanks, tokens!) and in the game world. Pencil in a few quick stats on the reverse side of those sticky notes, and suddenly those items have in-game weight. Maybe that fire poker does some extra fire damage. Maybe the tavern cat is a specialized throwing weapon. Railing kills, defenestrations, and roaring hearth fires can all get the same treatment. All it takes is a little prep work for the possibilities of an imaginary space to come alive. You don’t have to overdo it. Even one or two interactive features should be enough to make a combat memorable. But unless you communicate those options, it doesn’t matter how cool the cheese wheel shield or the mop bucket bear trap are in theory. They’ll just get ignored in practice.

So what do you say, Handbookians? What’s the best improvised weapon you ever laid hands on? Was it an unexpected kitchen implement? A fellow party member? Or maybe it was just a useful part of the environment? Tell us all about your favorite masterwork rocks down in the comments!


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