21st Anniversary of Two New Weapons

Michael O. Varhola

Twenty-one years ago, two particular weapons made their first appearances in official materials for Dungeons & Dragons, and have remained part of the game ever since. There may actually be more than just those two weapons, of course, but the reason I am concerned with them is because they are ones that I introduced to the game. 

Starting in the late 1980s, I developed an interest in creating a D&D campaign setting located in a fantasy version of medieval India and pitched the idea to TSR, in those days the publisher of D&D. It was pretty much a closed shop, of course, and that was just one of many proposals I tendered over a period of about a decade that was explicitly — or more commonly implicitly — rejected. Weapons and armor have long been one of my specialties, however, and when I submitted an article about the arms of India to Dragon magazine it was accepted and appeared as "Rhino's Armor, Tiger's Claws" in the January 1989 issue of the publication, which had the theme "Fantasy from the rest of the world." My article contained a wide variety of Indian arms and armor, all stat'ed for the 2nd Edition of D&D, and was the only one in that issue with an Indian theme, so I was especially excited that the cover art depicted an Indian warrior mounted on an elephant and armed with one of the new weapons I described! 

All of the D&D articles that appeared in Dragon, of course, contained material that had been deemed "official" by the powers that be, but not all of it transcended the pages of the magazine and enjoyed a wider and more persistent life in other game materials. So, when 3.0 D&D Player's Handbook came out in 2000, I was pleased to see that the katar and kukri (pictured below left and right, respectively), two of the weapons that had appeared in my Dragon article, had made the cut and migrated into the newest edition of the game. The katar did appear in the text and tables as a "Punching Dagger" but, beside the caption underneath Lars Grant-West's illustration of a traditional Indian version of the weapon, was indeed the bracketed annotation "[Katar]". 


A year later, in 2001, Wizards of the Coast released the 3.0 edition of Oriental Adventures the kukri and punching dagger were listed among the "Player's Handbook Weapons Available in Other Oriental Adventures Campaigns." Even better, my article was explicitly credited and several other weapons and some of the types of armor had also been incorporated into the book, including the chakram, a type of sharpened quoit used as a missile weapon; chahar-aina, a type of breastplate that can be used to augment certain other types of armor; dhenuka, a variety of armor made from the hide of exotic beasts; dastana, metal bracers that can also augment other sorts of armor; lamellar armor, a superior version of scale mail; and leather scale, a lighter version of scale mail that employs hide rather than leather scales. 

When 4th Edition D&D came out I was pleased to see that my katar had once again migrated into the newest edition of the game, and that the kukri appeared in the official Adventurer's Vault sourcebook. With the newest edition of the game, I was also prompted to dust off a lot of the "Indian Adventures" material I had created over the preceding decades and, along with artist and game designer Alexander Melchor, created the Skirmisher Publishing LLC book Dhanurvidya & Varman: The Arms and Armor of India (anyone interest can read on this site the Introduction to it, which is essentially a brief history of the subject). 

So will the katar, the kukri, or any of the other items that appeared in my article and have turned up in official materials since then appear in "D&D Next"? I certainly hope so! But, if they don't, then I will just get a license and publish a compatible book in which they do.