In European history, bronze beat out stone, iron beat out bronze, and steel beat out iron. White history has traditionally been defined by that hierarchy of military development, and so we tend to assume that stone is the worst and steel is the best, in all things. But there's a lot of complexity involved here. For example, one advantage of metal weapons is that they last longer, making them superior to stone weapons at a strategic level, but that advantage doesn't necessarily extend to a tactical level. Moreover, metal can be shaped into armor, which is pretty danged effective at stopping stone weapons. But then gunpowder came along, and made it possible to field weapons en masse that were capable of punching through even the best, most expensive armor that could be made - and from a long way away. Armor dwindled as guns proliferated. By the time Europeans began pushing inward into North America, the only remaining traces of armor were decorative or ceremonial. Colonists and explorers wore buckskin and cloth, not chain-mail or plate. Without armor, the major advantages guns held over bows and other projectiles were largely negated.
Guns were still deadly, of course, but not necessarily more deadly than their native counterparts, and they were certainly slower to fire and more difficult to maintain. Another important distinction between bullets and arrows is the prognosis for an injury; while gunshot wounds are probably more likely to be instantly fatal due to the higher kinetic energy imparted, arrow wounds are much more difficult to treat. Arrowheads and spearheads are larger than bullets or musket balls, can be shaped wickedly, and - when made out of stone or glass - are prone to shatter inside their target.
To account for this and some other considerations, I've doing three significant things:
- I'm making stone weapons their own category, so that any given European soldier can't pick up a flint knife as well as the man who grew up making them.
- I've made stone weapons' lack of durability a feature.
- I've added the ball-headed war-club as a versatile bludgeoning finesse weapon. (Okay, that second one might not seem like a big deal, but D&D basically treats any 'club' as essentially the same, and if you've ever handled one of those warclubs, you know it is not interchangeable with a table leg - it's a surprisingly graceful and balanced weapon).
Here's the weapons table for indigenous characters:
So, in addition to simple weapons and martial weapons, we have a "Stone" category that indigenous characters in the campaign will have proficiency in. Piercing weapons in the stone category all share a new feature: Fragmenting.
Fragmenting (X): When the final attack roll with this weapon is X or higher, this weapon's blade or head shatters. If the attack was successful, it shatters inside the target, leaving behind shrapnel. If the attack was unsuccessful, it shatters outside of the target, inflicting no damage at all. Either way, the weapon or ammunition cannot be used again until it is repaired.
(This game mechanic was inspired by a Deadliest Warrior demonstration, in which a man quickly plunged several flint daggers into a dummy, deliberately breaking the blades off each dagger rather than pull the weapon out. Hence, the blade breaks on a higher roll rather than a lower roll.)
Shrapnel: A creature with shrapnel in its wound cannot be healed until the shrapnel is removed. Removing shrapnel is a form of "Field Surgery" (more on that in a later installment). The healer must pass a DC 10 Dexterity (Medicine) check to remove the debris, and each attempt to remove the debris inflicts 1d4 slashing damage on the wounded creature.