Stat based melee weapon categories
Many games split different medieval melee weapons into categories—swords, axes, blunt—which are then used to dictate how effective the player is with them. The Elder Scrolls series has maintained category based skills since at least Morrowind. These categories are intended to allow players to role play as a warrior proficient in some weapons but not others, but the end result produces warrior classes that are as useless at wielding a slightly different weapon as any mage or archer. Attributes can alleviate the effect.
Instead of being compartmentalized into arbitrary categories, classical weapons could be simplified into a small set of stats. Swords would tend to deviate from axes in their particular mix of these stats. Then players would build toward their desired loadout with a particular type of weapon in mind, but could still be effective with alternatives.
An example setup would be the stats Reach, Heft, and Handling. The trade off between these three stats is rooted in realism. A heavier weapon is more difficult to handle. Similarly, a weapon of the same weight, but with the weight pushed further out, which also be more difficult to handle. These three stats are so simple that they could be quickly consumed as a Radar Chart.
|Reach||Rapier, Staff||Axes, Hammers, Broad Sword||Pole Arms, Long Sword|
|Heft||Fist Weapons||Blunt Weapons, Clubs|
These stats also make room for exotic, player created weapons. Measure the length of the weapon to determine its Reach. Then measure the volume of the weapon, multiply it by the density of its materials, and take that as the Heft. Whatever Handling stat is required to balance the weapon against others is then used. This would allow for the creation of entirely new weapons, in a size and shape never before seen, that could exist in the combat system without issue. It would also leave an impression on the player that they're design has realistic ramifications. As the player makes their sword longer, the Handling slowly goes down as the Reach goes up. Whereas if they make their sword more broad, Handling is siphoned off into added Heft.
I need to write about special attacks, and how they would base their effects on core stats.
There could also be extra stats of damage and durability. These would not be included in the trade off between core stats, but would often trade off each other. Higher damage weapons would be less durable, requiring more maintenance, and making them more expensive. A stick would serve as the baseline of damage and durability. A long stick would have more reach, but a broad stick (club) would have more heft. The player could then modify the stick to add damage, at the expense of durability. For example, they could sharpen the stick to create a makeshift sword, or add sharp spikes to a club, all of which would add damage to some attacks for a while, until the sharpness of the weapon declines and the weapon returns to normal. This could be shown as a bar of remaining durability, some of which has damage modifiers.
Metal weapons would have much more durability, possibly to the point that they're still usable even when durability is depleted. Instead, they could lose sharpness until the weapon is no better than a metal rod. Players could then sharpen the weapon, adding back sections of increased damage. Different materials would allow the player to craft weapons with different stats—more durability, longer bonus damage modifiers, higher bonus damage. Players more proficient in weapons crafting could create even higher damage zones, like adding serrations to blades as apposed to just sharpening them. These improvements could cost some max durability to the blade, which would simulate the removal of metal required to create a sharp edge or serration. This could replace the mechanic of wooden weapons breaking outright when their durability is depleted. Eventually even metal weapons will break, once they have been used and sharpened too many times.