|This may hurt a bit.|
Now, I was somewhat surprised to realize what a relative dearth of silver weapons there are in classic D&D. To wit:
- OD&D (1973): The basic equipment table in Vol-1 includes a "silver tipped arrow" for 5 gp, and nothing else; obviously this looks like Gygax's medieval analog to the silver bullet. A few of the monsters in Vol-2 require at least silver weapons to hit; for wights and wraiths this is phrased as "silver-tipped arrows will score normal damage", which may look like a weirdly specific restriction, unless you realize that's the only such weapon in the preceding equipment list. But lycanthropes refer to "silver weapons" in the more general phrasing.
- Holmes Basic D&D (1977): The equipment list is effectively identical to OD&D; the "silver tipped arrow" is included an no other type. The restrictions for wights, wraiths, and lycanthropes use identical language as in OD&D.
- AD&D 1E (1978): No change here: the silver arrow is included in the expanded equipment list, and it's still the only such weapon. Both wights and wraiths have had their vulnerability text changed to the more general term "silver weapons", even though only the one type exists in the equipment list. Some other lower-planes types have also been added that require at least silver to hit (ghosts, imps, night hags, and greater devils).
- Moldvay Basic D&D (1981): This is the first ruleset that has more than the single silver arrow; Moldvay adds the "silver dagger" for 30 gp (a la Leiber above). This finally gives an option to characters in melee combat; note what a bad scene it would be in prior rules for a silver-required creature to close to hand-to-hand range when the only silver weapon available is the arrow.
- AD&D 2E (1989): Not only is the list of silver weapons not further expanded at this time, but they're actually entirely removed from the equipment list as far as I can tell. Absolutely no appearances of the phrase "silver weapon" (or "arrow", or "dagger") appear in my copy of the 2E PHB. Yet those wights, wraiths, lycanthropes, etc., in the Monstrous Manual still have the same silver-minimum requirement to hit them. The DMG has a section on "Silver Weapons", but in standard 2E style, this is entirely a rumination of optional limitations the DM could put on any such weapons (need entire blade of pure silver, broken with regular use); no prices or accessibility rules are given. Good luck, you princes of role-play, you characters of 2E!
- D&D 3E (2000): Expanding the list for the first time in two decades, the PHB has a section on "Special and Superior Items" which includes the "arrow, bolts, or bullet, silvered", as well as the "dagger, silvered". The monster defenses have been jostled around a bit; lycanthropes have "damage resistance 15", bypassed by silver or magic weapons (i.e., normal weapons are not totally impotent, but have their damage reduced by 15 points), whereas wights and wraiths have had the defense removed entirely (although wraiths now require at least magic to hit, as they have become fully "incorporealized" at this time).
- D&D 3.5 (2003): The status of silver weapons gets even further shuffled around in this revision to 3rd Edition. Specifically, other weapon materials come into play for some monsters (like adamantine and cold iron), and now any weapon may be constructed out of silver or any of the other special materials. In addition, magic weapons no longer serve to trump those resistances.
In my Book of War game, the silver-weapon restriction is a big reason why I've avoided adding monsters such as wights, wraiths, and lycanthropes (even if they are a staple in mass battles seen in Tolkien, say). Obviously, it requires the addition of silver weapons or else these unit types would automatically massacre normal men without recourse. And we basically need to price the lycanthropes (or whatever) such that they are sure to lose against men pre-armed with silver weapons (so as to balance against the fact that they automatically win if they face off against men without such weapons). But even if we price silver weapons at a minimum 1 of gold per figure, it then turns out that those men will be so under-powered as to generally lose against any other normal type (the Book of War prices are that sensitively balanced). So in playtests, if we include these options, the entire Book of War system immediately collapses into a game of rock-paper-scissors: the only relevant choice is whether one selects (1) lycanthropes, or (2) men with silver weapons, or (3) men without silver weapons -- and the game is effectively determined as soon as the players reveal what units they have brought to the table.
Personally, I do like the appearance of silver arrows as a witty stand-in for silver bullets; and the silver dagger gives an option to those in melee combat against the forces of darkness (e.g., otherwise our friends Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser would have had a very short career indeed!). But allowing larger types like swords and battle axes in 3rd Edition seems like lazy, mindlessly-abstracted, "we no longer care about the concrete details of our world" game design. That is: in reality a large weapon made of soft silver would instantly bend and break. And I kind of think that real-world detail of being reduced to a less powerful weapon adds commendably to the sense of desperation in fights against these kinds of supernatural monsters.
What do you allow for silver weapons in your games? Is it arrows-only as in OD&D and AD&D? Do you permit daggers like Moldvay (and Leiber) did? Or is it anything-goes like in 3rd Edition and later?
Edit: Several have commentators have pointed out that while early editions have no silver daggers in the starting equipment lists, there are numerous instances of them given as possible treasures. Zenopus Archives notes there is a silver-dagger in the Holmes Basic Sample Dungeon, and also Gygax's Caves of Chaos (B2). Marathon Recaps & Professor Oats note that a silver-dagger is included in the original robe of useful items from Dragon #26, and so reprinted with that inclusion in 1E AD&D DMG Appendix P. Excellent finds!