Recently I was discussing "spicing up" the magic system in D&D, and one of the comments suggested that if I add another disadvantage to the magic-user, I need to give them something to balance it. This revived something I had been discussing with one of my players recently, and that would be magic-users having better weapons.
I've seen a lot of folks in this corner of the blogoverse do different things with m-u weapons: in original D&D, it hardly mattered with standard d6 weapons. I've seen class-based damage (even with variants based on light, medium, and heavy weapons) and liked that quite a bit as well. (The missus was quite taken with the idea)
However, I was thinking... why not just let them use any one-handed weapon? (With staves being the exception) I mean, magic-users don't improve their combat ability unitil 6th level, by which time every class has advanced well past them in terms of ability to hit. In addition, magic-users still have crappy hit points and no armor, so will we really destory the game by letting the poor bastards do 1d8 with a longsword instead of 1d6 with a staff?
My insistance on one handed weapons comes from practicality: magic-users need at least one free hand to cast spells, so I doubt they would find two handed weapons to be very worthwhile to train with. Staves are the exception since they are the classic wizard's tool, and my poor pedestrian mind can't seem to pry the staff, conceptually, from the wizard's hands.
Another thought, inspired by a "save vs. AC" mechanic (can't remember who posted it unfortunately) is this: a magic-user who wishes to wear armor must do so, but if he wants to use a spell with somatic elements, he must roll equal to or under his AC on 2d6 (remember I use descending AC- yeah, whatcha gonna do about it?), with failure indicating that the armor interfered with the spellcasting and the spell is lost. Any shield bigger than a buckler would make the requisite melodramatic arm flailing that wizards need to do difficult at best, so I suppose they could use a buckler but it would make it just that much harder to cast a spell. I will stress again that magic-users must have at least one hand free to cast a spell. (Except of course verbal only spells like the various power words. Perhaps magic armor actually improves the changes to cast a spell... for instance, chainmail would normally require the magic-user to roll 5 or less to cast a spell, but chainmail +2 would bring the chance up to a 7 or less. Shields would not add any bonus, since they are still physically obtrusive to the gesturing. Magic armor, by contrast, does not interfere as much with the chanelling of magical energy. This is something I just thought of now, and I'm on the fence about it a little bit.
Using this 2d6 system, magic-users could trigger a magical mishap on a roll of 12 and some kind of spell surge on a roll of 2. Unarmored spellcasters would ignore any other roll. (They don't have to roll under their unarmored AC)
Lastly, Dexterity modifiers are not included, either way, in the roll vs. armor.
More thoughts on the actual biteyness of magic later.