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Game elements used as tools to cause death and destruction in game worlds.

Many games have combat as a core mechanic in them. To provide players with variety in how this is done and let them become more and more powerful, many games let them get access to Weapons. These let the players become more efficient in various aspects of combat and can let them consider various tactical and strategic advantages of which Weapons they will employ.


Roleplaying Games often contain large numbers of weapons and extensive rules for these, see for example Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS, Mutant, Torchlight, the Dragon Age series, and the Fallout series. Many of these include rules for improving them through additional hardware or magic (e.g. GURPS, Torchlight, and Dragon Age series) and deterioration through use of neglect (e.g. Fallout series and Mutant). For Tabletop varieties there often exist entire books with additional Weapons and rules for them[1][2][3][4][5].

Adventure, Gun.Smoke and the Metal Slug series are all examples of 2D computer games in which players can find Weapons during gameplay. First-person shooters such as the Doom, Quake, Crysis series, and Grand Theft Auto series let players find many types of Weapons and knowing which work best against which enemies is often part of the strategic knowledge possible for the games. The Bioshock, Deus Ex, and Left 4 Dead series also do this but provide possibilities to upgrade weapons in different ways. The Battlefield, Crysis, Just Cause, Metal Slug series, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars all lets players use vehicles that provide heavy weapons (as do a few vehicles in the Grand Theft Auto series). The gravity gun in Half-Life 2 and grappling hook Just Cause 2 show how tools can be used as efficient improvised weapons. Minecraft and Zombie Lane show that Weapons can be important in other types of games also.

Using the pattern

Designing Weapons consist of considering how one wants to change how Avatars or Characters can engage in Combat, and this may be through Improved or New Abilities. Increased Damage is probably the most obvious examples of Improved Abilities and this may of course differ between different Weapons but other examples include increased speed, accuracy (i.e. making Aim & Shoot more easy), or range of attacks (one can also say that Weapons create Damage to be possible in games). What constitutes New Abilities of course depend on what is the norm but common examples include ranged attacks when this is not the norm (e.g. bows in Minecraft), forcing Downtime through stuns, changing Ownership (e.g. the Mesmetron in Fallout 3), or giving Vulnerabilities. By controlling which have access to these New Abilities they can also be Privileged Abilities. The various Improved or New Abilities may of course be combined. Weapons are Game Items, or even Game Items diegetically intended mainly as Tools (e.g. the gravity gun in Half-Life 2 and the grappling hook in Just Cause 2) but some non-tangible game design solutions, e.g. Spells, have many similarities and may be considered as alternatives to Weapons.

Several common options exist of the design of Weapons. The most common is probably having Ammunition as Limited Resources for ranged weapons except for the most basic Weapon (examples of this include the Doom, Quake, Left 4 Dead, and Crysis series, as well as Minecraft and Zombie Lane). This may also be present in Tabletop Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS depending on how much bookkeeping (and Excise) players and Game Masters wish to perform. Having different Weapons provide different attack types is a way of making use of Vulnerabilities in games, and is done for example in the Dragon Age series, Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS, and Torchlight. Deterioration by use is found in several games, e.g. the Fallout series, Mutant, and Minecraft, and make individual Weapons into Limited Resources and may motivate Crafting to maintain their usefulness. Upgrading different aspects of Weapons such as accuracy, damage, weight, and ammunition limits, can be motivated by adding additional hardware such as scopes and extended magazines (e.g. GURPS and Left 4 Dead series), through inserting magical gems (e.g. Torchlight and the Dragon Age series), or simply magical spells and rituals (e.g. GURPS). Weapons can also be created to be parts of Sets - typically wither Weapons-only Sets or mixtures of Weapons and Armor. While some Tools can be used as improvised Weapons (e.g. the grappling hook in Just Cause 2), it worth considering if Weapons can be used as improvised Tools (swords can for example be used to "mine" sand and wood in Minecraft). The rocket Jumping in the Quake series and Team Fortress Classic (including medics' concussion grenade Jumping for the latter), show that Weapons can be used to provide Privileged Movement also.

Another aspect of Weapons, like all Tools, is how players should be hold of them. Common ways of providing Weapons to players are as Loot or Trading.

However, some types of Weapons are not suitable for this. Installations are one example of this due to existing as independent parts of Game Worlds. Their immobility is typically compensated by providing Improved or Privileged Abilities on a different scale than other Weapons. Vehicles can diegetically motivate weapons of the same caliber as Installations and also typically exist independently in Game Worlds (they can also be Weapons in their own right if one can cause Damage by running into other game elements). However, Vehicles may even more than other ways of providing Weapons negatively affect Player Balance since they also improve Movement (or provide Privileged Movement and potentially Armor as well.

Diegetic Aspects

Avatar Personalization can be used to indicate which Weapons players have, both for themselves and for other players.

Narrative Aspects

Magical or otherwise powerful Weapons have played important roles as MacGuffins in many traditional stories, and can likewise do so in games.


Weapons are Game Items that serve as Tools for Combat. By providing either New or Improved Abilities (possibly Privileged ones) not being inherent parts of players' abilities to affect games, they are Limited Resources. This is especially true when their Ammunition is a Limited Resources as well, or they suffer from Deterioration.

Since Weapons improve Avatars or Characters abilities in Combat, they are a basis for creating Player/Character Skill Composites.

When they provide different New or Privileged Abilities they also provide Varied Gameplay. Those providing extra Damage to targets with specific Vulnerabilities encourages Strategic Planning in selecting Weapons in advance of Combat and Tactical Planning in selecting them during Combat. Having knowledge about these details are Strategic Knowledge for players where this is possible.


Can Instantiate

Aim & Shoot, Damage, Downtime, Game Items, Improved Abilities, Limited Resources, MacGuffins, New Abilities, Player/Character Skill Composites, Privileged Abilities, Privileged Movement, Sets, Tools

with Vulnerabilities

Tactical Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategic Knowledge

Can Modulate

Aim & Shoot, Avatars, Avatar Personalization, Characters, Combat, Ownership

Can Be Instantiated By

Installations, Tools, Vehicles

Can Be Modulated By

Ammunition, Damage, Deterioration, Limited Resources, Loot, Trading, Upgrading, Vulnerabilities

Possible Closure Effects

Potentially Conflicting With

Player Balance


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Game Designers Workshop (1991). Infantry Weapons of the World.
  2. Steve Jackson Games (2008). Pulp Guns 1.
  3. Steve Jackson Games (2008). Pulp Guns 2.
  4. Steve Jackson Games (2009). Gun Fu.
  5. Steve Jackson Games (2011). Tactical Shooting.


Karl Bergström, Magnus Eriksson