There are many questions a DM will pose to himself/herself while behind that DM screen. Two common ones are, “How much is too much when giving out magic items/weapons?”, and, “What was I thinking when I gave the fighter in the party a keen +5 life-stealing sword?”
It is actually a pretty common mistake for a DM to give the party a weapon they shouldn’t have - at least until they get much higher in level when an overpowered weapon doesn’t have as much impact. Here is a list of ten weapons that a DM should avoid giving to the party; at least until they get to the level where they actively seek conflict with supremely powerful entities (like demigods or ancient dragons).
This is one of two nonmagical weapons to make this list. In every edition of Dungeons & Dragons the katana is better than the standard long sword. It does more damage, is a faster weapon, and now (for some reason) it is considered a finesse weapon – even though they are heavy weapons capable of being used two-handed.
Also, unless the adventure is taking place in an oriental location, like Kara-Tur, there logically shouldn’t be katanas available in any but the best stocked weapon shops in the largest cities. Make the player that wants a katana earn one.
9 A True Dragonlance
These are devastating when used against dragons; seriously, they put weapons with the dragon slayer property to shame. A true dragonlance deals damage equal to the wielder’s maximum hit points. This means a high level fighter can kill even the toughest dragon with only a few hits. This weapon turns one of the most feared monsters in D&D into a quick victory.
Weapons like this were meant to be more of a plot device than a weapon the DM actually gives the party. Encountering a dragon should be something the party fears, not a source of easy experience and treasure.
8 A Weapon With The Disruption Property
These have been toned down a bit for 5th edition rules, but are still too powerful for low-to-mid level parties. A weapon (typically a mace) of disruption deals an extra 2d6 points of damage to undead creatures. However, it is the weapon’s secondary property that can make life hard for a DM.
If an undead creature has fewer than 25 hit points after being hit, they must make a make a DC15 wisdom saving throw or be destroyed. Even if an undead creature passes its saving throw it becomes frightened of the wielder until the end of the next turn.
7 Any Weapon With A Power That Affects An Entire Group Of Enemies
These types of weapons are rare, but for a good reason – they can severely unbalance a campaign. Example of this type of weapon include: a sword (the weapon type is irrelevant) that can confuse all enemies in a 30’ radius, or a mace that creates a darkness 30’ radius globe about the wielder that doesn’t affect members of the party, or a staff that prevents enemies within 30’ of casting but does not prevent party members from casting.
A DM should either have a weapon like this affect only one being, or have the power affect everything within the area of effect.
6 Any Weapon That Grants Bonus Attacks
Extra attacks are worth more than platinum in D&D. A weapon that grants an extra attack every round is too powerful for low and mid-level characters, and not really needed by high-level characters. A good example of this type of weapon is the scimitar of speed.
Giving a weapon like this to a thief, cleric or wizard essentially turns that character into a fighter, and giving one to a fighter is basically giving the fighter free levels – at least in terms of potential damage output. Weapons with abilities like this are easy to exploit with feats like Action Surge, and spells like Haste to increase the number of attacks even further.
5 A Sword Of Sharpness
The primary ability of these types of weapons is the ability to sever a limb on a natural 20. In 5th edition the Sword of Sharpness now needs two natural 20s to sever a limb; the first 20 merely deals an extra 4d6 points of damage. This makes them less likely to become game-breaking weapons.
However, the Sword of Sharpness’ secondary ability to deliver maximum damage to objects is a lot more powerful than it first seems. Suddenly sundering a shield should take no more than a turn. Locked doors, even fortified doors, can now be cut down by the party with a few swings. Talk about overpowered.
4 Any Weapon Capable Of Instant Kills
There are many weapons in D&D that can kill with one blow, and none of them should be given to a party lightly. There are, of course, many spells that also instantly kill, but those at least have level requirements for the caster. Some examples of this type of weapon are: a nine-lives stealer, a weapon that disintegrates on a critical hit, or a weapon that magically creates/injects a lethal poison.
If a DM wishes to give the party a weapon like this, there should be a limitation of some sort. Possible limitations could be that it only works on NPCs or creatures below 10th level, or when it instantly kills it permanently drains 1d6 it points from the wielder.
3 Staff Of The Magi
These are extremely overpowered staves that a DM should only allow the party’s wizard to possess if the wizard can craft the staff for themselves. They have 50 charges and regain 4d6+2 every morning. These staves have a laundry list of stored spells the wielder can expend charges to cast; some of the more notable of these are plane shift, passwall, and lightning bolt (the 7th level lightning bolt spell).
In addition, this staff can also absorb spells that would only affect the wielder; this recharges the staff by an amount equal to the level of spell absorbed.
2 Any God/Greater Fiend’s Weapon
It might seem like fun to give the party Odin’s Spear or the Wand of Orcus, and it will be for the party – not so much for the DM though. It’s amusing to read through the descriptions of the various gods and wonder what it would be like if the party’s fighter could get hold of Mjolnir. This should never actually happen, though.
These weapons are intended to be vastly overpowered, which means they were never meant to be given to players in the first place. The good thing is that if a DM makes this mistake most gods can simply will their items to them.
1 Modern Firearms
With the exception of flintlock and matchlock muskets, firearms should never be introduced into a D&D setting. If players want to use guns then the group should play another game (a tabletop Fallout game is coming in 2020).
The main problem is that the rules in D&D are not set up to deal with modern firearms. Does a wooden shield stop a bullet? Does immunity to piercing damage stop all damage from a bullet, or is there bludgeoning damage to a bullet’s impact? Dungeons & Dragons should involve swords and sorcery, not conventional explosives and gun-fights.