When to use Sunder in 4e

Cal-den struck him then backward against the dais, catching his blade in a black claw, shattering it, and he raised his other arm to smite him. Dilvish did then stab upward with what remained of the sword, nine inches of jagged length.

Dilvish came scrambling backward, until his hand came upon a thing in the rubble that drew the blood from it. A blade. He snatched at the hilt and brought it up off the floor with a side-armed cut that struck Cal-den…
Roger Zelazny, Dilvish the Damned

Illustration from Paizo's Mother of Flies.

D&D 4e doesn’t have abilities like Sunder that break weapons, because a) they asymetrically punish melee weapon users and b) they destroy potential treasure. Also, players generally get a magic weapon by around level 2, and in 4e, breaking a player’s magic weapon is pretty much against the rules.

But rules, like swords, are made to be broken.

Here’s one dramatic occasion for the villain to sunder your paladin’s +4 sword: when there happens to be a +5 Holy Avenger lying on the floor. It’d be pretty dramatic to have the paladin cast away his broken weapon and seize some ancient two-handed sword from among the treasure strewn on the floor, only to have it flare in his hands with radiant power. Probably more exciting than giving him the Holy Avenger after the battle and letting him peddle his old blade for 1/5 of its sale price.

4 Responses to “When to use Sunder in 4e”

  1. LS says:

    That is a really good idea. I must remember to use it.

    Though I must add: bah and fie on 4e for getting rid of / disallowing sunder. It may have punished melee weapon users more than casters, but it also gave melee weapon users more depth to their combat. It wasn’t just about hitting the bad guy over and over–you could also attack his weapon or his armor or something else if you felt it would be more effective.

  2. 1d30 says:

    I’ve only ever seen a Sunder type move done in 3E and it was by a PC who specialized in Sunder. It was a mess. Basically nobody got any weapon loot. He would even run up and Sunder some enemy’s bow. It was silly and awesome and definitely a part of 3E.

    I’m not sure it’s a good idea, but Sunder seems like the kind of thing that should be in the game. Maybe used as a variant Shields Shall Be Splintered rule: you can sacrifice your weapon in a parry if struck for no more than 10 HP per plus of the weapon. Obviously in 4E with higher HP numbers you’d need to change that to maybe 25 HP per plus or something.

  3. paul paul says:

    I think 4e is fine without Sunder, but I’d like to see the return of Disarm, which is just as or more common in fantasy literature, doesn’t destroy treasure, and might allow the disarmed person a chance to go get their weapon. (Although with the disarmer potentially having a move action and a minor action left, it seems likely that they could always win the race to grab the disarmed weapon.)

  4. 1d30 says:

    Maybe just “I hit you this round by more than 5, so I get to declare a Special Attack on you if I want”

    Special Attacks could be tripped and fell, or disarmed, or pushed back, or knocked your helmet off, etc.

    If both hit by more than 5, or both failed to make that, no Special Attacks.

Leave a Reply