Primitive Armor and Weapons

Ultimate Combat
The standard Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign takes place in a time period similar to the medieval and early Renaissance age of iron and steel. But even in fantasy campaigns set in this era, some cultures lack steel, and some lack metalworking entirely. Sometimes this deficit is due to geographical remoteness, lack of resources, repression by a strong overlord, or societal taboos. Other campaigns might be set before the medieval era, or in a dark future where apocalypse survivors eke out livings with the best tools they can scavenge.

Primitive campaigns can be broken into two broad categories based on the level of technology. The first is the Stone Age, where worked metals are all but unknown. The second is the Bronze Age, where metal weapons appear but iron and steel have not been mastered or are rare.

The following section presents general rules for both of these broad categories, and some new weapons that can be used in each era.

Primitive Materials

Standard adventuring equipment found in the Core Rulebook and other Pathfinder RPG supplements is crafted of materials well suited to the task. Primitive equipment, on the other hand, is crafted from the best materials available, which are often inferior in performance. Sometimes these differences are hand-waved away, but in the case of weapons and armor, these differences are not as easily overlooked.

All of the special materials listed below have their own rules and exceptions that make them function slightly differently (typically worse) than the standard materials for weapons found in the Pathfinder RPG. Some of these materials grant the item the fragile quality—a quality that can be applied to both weapons and armor.


Fragile weapons and armor cannot take the beating that sturdier weapons can. A fragile weapon gains the broken condition if the wielder rolls a natural 1 on an attack roll with the weapon. If a fragile weapon is already broken, the roll of a natural 1 destroys it instead.

Armor with the fragile quality falls apart when hit with heavy blows. If an attacker hits a creature wearing fragile armor with an attack roll of a natural 20 and confirms the critical hit (even if the creature is immune to critical hits), the armor gains the broken condition. If already broken, the armor is destroyed instead. Fragile armor is not broken or destroyed by critical threats that are not generated by natural 20s, so if a creature wielding a weapon with a 19-20 or 18-20 critical range scores a critical hit on the wearer of this armor with a roll of less than a natural 20, that critical hit has no chance to break or destroy the armor.

Masterwork and magical fragile weapons and armor lack these flaws unless otherwise noted in the item description or the special material description.

Broken Condition and Sundering

There are two ways for an item to gain the broken condition. One is for the weapon to take damage from an attack or attacks that is in excess of half the weapon's hit points. The other is for the weapon to gain that condition from some effect. Both firearms and fragile weapons include effects that grant a weapon the broken condition without the weapon explicitly taking damage.

If a weapon gains the broken condition from an effect, that weapon is considered to have taken damage equal to half its hit points +1. This damage is repaired either by something that addresses the effect that granted the weapon the broken condition (like quick clear in the case of firearm misfires or the Field Repair feat in the case of weapons with the fragile quality) or by the normal method for recovering item hit points (detailed in the broken condition description).

When an effect that grants the broken condition is removed, the weapon regains the hit points it lost when the broken condition was applied. Damage done by an attack against a weapon cannot be repaired by an effect that removes the broken condition.


Bone can be used in place of wood and steel in weapons and armor. Other animal-based materials like horn, shell, and ivory also use the rules for bone weapon and armor. The cost of a bone weapon or bone armor is half the price of a normal weapon or armor of its type.

Light and one-handed melee weapons, as well as two-handed weapons that deal bludgeoning damage only, can be crafted from bone. Hafted two-handed weapons such as spears can be crafted with bone tips, as can arrowheads. Other two-handed weapons cannot be constructed of bone. Bone weapons have half the hardness of their base weapons and have the fragile weapon quality. Masterwork bone weapons also have the fragile quality, but magic bone weapons do not. Bone weapons take a -2 penalty on damage rolls (minimum 1 damage).
Studded leather, scale mail, breastplates, and wooden shields can all be constructed using bone. Bone either replaces the metal components of the armor, or in the case of wooden shields, large pieces of bone or shell replace the wood.

Bone armor has a hardness of 5 and has the fragile armor quality. Masterwork bone armor also has the fragile quality, but magic bone armor does not. The armor/shield bonus of bone armor is reduced by 1, but in the case of studded leather, the armor check penalty is also reduced by 1 (to 0).


Before the advent of iron and steel, bronze ruled the world. This easily worked metal can be used in place of steel for both weapons and armor. For simplicity's sake, similar or component metals such as brass, copper, or even tin can use the following rules, even though in reality bronze is both harder and more reliable than those metals.

Light and one-handed weapons can be crafted from bronze. Likewise, spear points, arrowheads, and axe heads can be crafted from bronze, even those that are parts of two-handed weapons. Bronze is too weak to be used for two-handed weapons made entirely out of metal, and cannot typically be used to craft polearms, with the exception of the rhomphaia, which is provided in the section on Bronze Age equipment.

Bronze weapons have the hardness of their base weapons but also have the fragile quality. Bronze weapons do the same damage as steel weapons of the same type, and have the same cost and weight.

Bronze can be used to create any medium or light armor made entirely of metal or that has metal components.

It protects a creature as well as steel armor does, but it has the fragile quality. Bronze armor has the same cost and weight as normal steel armor of its type. Bronze armor has a hardness of 9.


Typically only used for ceremonial weapons and armor, metal equipment made from gold is fragile, heavy, and expensive. Often golden armor is gold-plated rather than constructed entirely from gold. The rules below are for the rare item constructed entirely of gold rather than being gold-plated.

Gold-plated items triple the base cost of weapons and armor and have the same properties as the item the gold is plating. Items constructed purely of gold cost 10 times the normal cost for items of their type. Gold items weigh 50% more than typical weapons or armor of their type.

Gold is often too soft to hold a decent edge, but light weapons that do piercing or slashing damage can be constructed of gold or some nearly gold alloy. They take a -2 penalty on damage rolls (minimum 1 damage). Gold weapons have a hardness of half their base weapons' and also have the fragile quality.
Gold can be fashioned into light or medium metal armor. The softness and the weight of the metal decrease the armor/shield bonus by 2, and increase the armor check penalty by 2. Gold armor has a hardness of 5.


This black volcanic glass is extremely sharp, and can be shaped into a variety of weapons that do piercing and slashing damage. Bits of obsidian inserted into a length of tempered wood create effective swords called terbutjes. Obsidian weapons cost half of what base items of their type do, and weigh 75% of what base items of their type do.

Obsidian can be used to craft light and one-handed weapons that do piercing or slashing damage, as well as spear tips and arrowheads. Obsidian weapons have half the hardness of their base weapon and have the fragile quality.
The fragile glass nature of obsidian is perfect for creating sharp points and blades, but those same qualities make it unsuitable for creating armor. Armor cannot be constructed from obsidian.


Stone Age weapons almost always utilize stone in some way. From rocks lashed to wooden hafts to create early maces and axes, to flint knives and stone arrowheads, these primitive weapons are still deadly. Stone weapons cost a quarter of what base items of their type do, and weigh 75% of what base items of their type do.

Light and one-handed bludgeoning weapons, spears, and arrowheads can all be made of stone. Weapons made of stone have half the hardness of their base weapons, and have the fragile condition.
Armor cannot usually be constructed from stone, but advanced, often alchemically enhanced stone armor made by dwarves or other stone-working cultures does exist.

The Stone Age

The scarcity of worked metal defines a Stone Age culture. While the name derives from ubiquitous stone tools such as flint spear points and basalt grinding stones, items crafted of clay, animal hides, wood, antlers, and other natural materials abound. Metals are limited to small silver, gold, copper, and tin deposits, as well as fabulously rare meteoric iron, all worked through beating and shaping. Metal items in a Stone Age campaign are as prized as magic items in a standard campaign.

Within the broad ranges of the Stone Age, considerable degrees of technological sophistication exist. At the low end, some areas might barely scrape together hide clothing, flint knives, and cooking fires, while at the higher end, more sophisticated craftsmanship like wooden armor, fired pottery, and quarried stone makes an appearance. Once the smelting of ore into metal appears, however, the culture moves into the Bronze Age or beyond.

Stone Age cultures tend to exist in a pre-currency condition, relying on barter, communalism, or the taking resources by force. However, Stone Age cultures that exist long enough often develop currencies based on materials other than metal coins, including cowries (smalls shells), carved stone money, and wooden tokens. Nearly all of these currencies represent some other item of value (such as grain or cattle), rather than having intrinsic value.

For the sake of simplicity, when creating a currency for your Stone Age campaign, create a baseline currency and have that currency represent 1 gp. Then create two forms of lesser currency to act as silver pieces and copper pieces. For example, a single cowrie shell could represent 1 gp, a quartz stone could represent 1 silver piece, and a stone arrowhead or simple stone tool could represent 1 copper piece.

Stone Age Weapons and Armor

Table: Stone Age Weapons
Simple WeaponsCostDmg (S)Dmg (M)CriticalRangeWeight1 Type2Special
One-Handed Melee Weapons
Mere club 2 gp 1d3 1d4 x2 2 lbs. B or P fragile
Martial WeaponsCostDmg (S)Dmg (M)CriticalRangeWeight1 Type2Special
One-Handed Melee Weapons
Terbutje 5 gp 1d6 1d8 19-20/x2 2 lbs. S fragile
Two-Handed Melee Weapons
Tepoztopilli 8 gp 1d8 1d10 19-20/x2 8 lbs. P or S fragile, reach
Ranged Weapons
Atlatl 2 gp 1d4 1d6 x2 50 ft. 2 lbs. P
Atlatl dart 1 gp 2 lbs.
Martial WeaponsCostDmg (S)Dmg (M)CriticalRangeWeight1 Type2Special
One-Handed Melee Weapons
Taiaha 10 gp 1d8/1d4 1d10/1d6 x2/x3 8 lbs. B or P double
Terbutje, great 12 gp 1d8 1d10 19-20/x2 4 lbs. S fragile
Wahaika 3 gp 1d4 1d6 x2 10 ft. 3 lbs. B disarm
1 Weight figures are for Medium weapons. A Small weapon weighs half as much, and a Large weapon weighs twice as much.
2 A weapon with two types is both types if the entry specifies "and," or either type (wielder's choice) if the entry specifies "or."

Stone Age campaigns feature standard weapons and armor made of bone, obsidian, and stone. Leather, hide, padded, and wooden armor and wooden shields are also available. The following weapons are also available in Stone Age campaigns.


An atlatl is a thin piece of wood or antler used as a lever to hurl a specially fitted dart. An atlatl gives much greater range to a dart, but must be loaded like a projectile weapon. Your Strength modifier applies to damage rolls when you use an atlatl, just as it does for thrown weapons.

You can fire—but not load—an atlatl with one hand. Loading an atlatl is a move action that requires two hands and provokes attacks of opportunity. The Rapid Reload feat can be taken for atlatls, allowing you to load a dart as a free action. Atlatl darts are the size of javelins but have fletching, and can be used as javelins without an atlatl.

Mere Club

Traditionally made of sturdy carved stone, a mere (MEH-reh) is a short, flat-sided, sharp-pointed club.


A taiaha is a long, heavy stick, club-shaped at one end and tipped with a wooden or metal spear point at the other. You wield it with a combination of solid strikes with the club and fending motions with the spear. A taiaha can be wielded as a martial weapon that deals 1d8/x2 bludgeoning damage.


The head of this wooden polearm is edged with jagged bits obsidian, glass, teeth, or similar materials. The wide head serves well for both piercing and slashing attacks.


This length of tempered wood, also called a macuahuitl, has bits of shark teeth, obsidian, glass, or similar materials studded all along its length.

Terbutje, great

This 4-foot-long version of the terbutje is too large to use in one hand without special training; thus it is an exotic weapon. A character can use a great terbutje two-handed as a martial weapon.


This short and broad club is made of hardened wood or bone. It has a notch on one side that is used for catching weapons. If you are proficient, you use the notch in the wahaika to disarm your foes. Otherwise, treat this weapon as a club. Feats and abilities that affect clubs apply to the wahaika.

The Bronze Age

In this era, bronze, copper, and even gold take the place of bone and stone in weaponry. Iron weapons may exist but command great value, as little free iron exists aside from rare meteoric iron deposits. Many weapons of the Middle Ages make their first appearances in the Bronze Age, though the materials of the age cannot form blades much longer than a short sword and most polearms are unheard of.

The Bronze Age quickly gave way to the Iron Age as metalworking techniques advanced, but in a fantasy world, races with an aversion to iron might well use bronze weapons indefinitely.

A fey-centered campaign could give vulnerability to iron (+1d6 damage per hit) to most fey creatures and showcase the iron-hating fey warring with humans and their allies over iron mines and forging operations. Other campaigns might be set at the turning point of the Iron Age, with the PCs either possessing the secret of iron or fighting to survive (and perhaps steal its mysteries for themselves) against enemies wielding deadly new blades of iron and steel.

Currency in a Bronze Age campaign is the same as the standard Pathfinder RPG currency, though platinum pieces do not exist.

Bronze Age Weapons and Armor

Table: Bronze Age Weapons
Martial WeaponsCostDmg (S)Dmg (M)CriticalRangeWeight1 Type2Special
Two-Handed Melee Weapons
Mattock 12 gp 1d6 2d4 x4 12 lbs. P fragile
Rhomphaia 15 gp 1d6 2d4 x3 10 lbs. P or S brace, fragile, reach
Exotic WeaponsCostDmg (S)Dmg (M)CriticalRangeWeight1 Type2Special
Two-Handed Melee Weapons
Harpoon 5 gp 1d6 1d8 x3 10 ft. 16 lbs. P fragile, grappling (see description)
Ranged Weapons
Kestros 1 gp 1d6 1d8 x3 50 ft. 1 lb. P
Kestros dart (10) 5 gp 5 lbs.
1 Weight figures are for Medium weapons. A Small weapon weighs half as much, and a Large weapon weighs twice as much.
2 A weapon with two types is both types if the entry specifies "and," or either type (wielder's choice) if the entry specifies "or."

Bronze Age campaigns can feature all the weapons and armor of a Stone Age campaign, as well as items made of bronze and gold. The following weapons are also available in Bronze Age campaigns.


A harpoon is a barbed spear with an attached rope 50 feet or less in length. If you are proficient in the harpoon, it is a grappling weapon. A harpoon's weight includes the weight of 50 feet of hemp rope. It can be reduced by using shorter or lighter rope.


The kestros is an oddly shaped sling used for launching darts. Your Strength modifier applies on damage rolls when you use a kestros, just as it does for thrown weapons. You can fire—but not load—a kestros with one hand. Loading a kestros is a move action that requires two hands and provokes attacks of opportunity. Halflings treat the kestros as a martial weapon.


Derived from the digging tool of the same name, a mattock resembles a two-handed pick, but with a chisel-like blade instead of a point.


This weapon is an early polearm consisting of a long, single-edged blade attached to a sturdy staff, sometimes slightly curved. It serves as both a cutting and a thrusting weapon.