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Weapon Mastery

by Ron Murphy

Weapon Mastery is a character's ability to use weapons with greater skill than the game normally allows. All characters, not just fighters, can learn to use weapon mastery.

Weapon Choices

When a new character is created, that characters receives a number of weapon proficiency slots as shown in the table below.
Group Initial # Levels Non-proficiency Penalty
Warrior 4 3 -2
Wizard 1 6 -5
Priest 2 4 -3
Rogue 2 4 -3

All characters must spend a slot (or more for higher levels of proficiency) for each weapon they wish to become familiar with. If that character uses a weapon that he is not proficient with, then the penalty listed above is tacked on to the attack roll. Spending the slots required on a weapon choice gives the character a basic understanding of how to use that weapon. There are six levels of mastery.
Number of Weapon Slots Spent Level of Mastery
0 Unskilled
1 Basic
2 Skilled
3 Expert
5 Master
8 Grand Master

At beginning levels, only warriors may choose to upgrade their level of mastery to skilled. Rogues, priests and mages must spend their weapon slots on separate weapons and must wait until gaining new weapon slots in order to become more skilled in a weapon. At first level, characters must use up all their proficiency slots. At higher levels, characters can save slots for a later use. Also, warriors may become more skilled in more than one weapon, while other character classes may gain a greater level of mastery in only one weapon. In general, the higher a character's level of mastery with a weapon, the more damage he does with the weapon and the greater number of special results he can achieve with the weapon. At higher levels, it takes an additional slot (two total) to attain Master ranking in a weapon, and two additional slots (three total) to attain the ranking of Grand Master.


To gain a higher level of mastery in a weapon, not only must the character spend the required weapon slot but he must be trained by someone who has equal or greater knowledge of that specific weapon. That someone could be another PC but it is usually a NPC teacher.

After finding a trainer who will provide the necessary instruction, the student must pay all of the required costs before training can begin. The costs and time required for weapon training vary by the level of mastery sought (and by the teacher), and they are listed below.
Level of Mastery Sought Time Required Cost Per Week
Basic (new weapon) 1 week 100 gp
Skilled 2 weeks 250 gp
Expert 4 weeks 500 gp
Master 8 weeks 750 gp
Grand Master 12 weeks 1000 gp

A student can train only to the next rank of ability above his own. During each training period, there is a chance of failing to achieve the next rank. His chances of success and failure vary by the mastery levels of himself and his trainer, as given in the chart below. From the character's perspective, failure may occur because the trainer has insufficient knowledge or lacks the ability to train others or because the student cannot fully absorb the new information. Failure does not mean that the character has lost his weapon slot for that experience level. The slot is still there and it's still dedicated to the weapon and level of mastery he has chosen for it. The student has lost the time and money he has spent, but he may spend more time and money until he succeeds.

The chance of success is checked halfway through the training period, and the student is immediately informed of the results. (In the role-playing situation, usually this consists of the teacher taking the student aside and telling him that he is not ready yet and that it is useless to continue.) The student may then either continue his training (despite the teacher's recommendations) or stop his training. If the student continues to train, he may attempt to train with another teacher with a 10% bonus added to the success roll. If the student stops training, he will not lose the time involved and usually the teacher will refund half of the student's payment. However, the student does not receive the 10% bonus for the next time he attempts to attain the next level of mastery.
Student's Knowledge Trainer's Knowledge
Basic Skilled Expert Master G. Master
None 60% 80% 95% 99% 99%
Basic 1% 50% 70% 90% 95%
Skilled ------- 1% 40% 60% 80%
Expert ------- ------- 1% 30% 50%
Master ------- ------- ------- 1% 20%

As noted in the table above, there is a small chance that a character may better himself by training with someone of equal ability. Grand Masters are difficult to find and very expensive to train with, so at higher levels, most characters tend to study multiple times with their peers in order to gain the 10% bonus (which is cumulative!).

Skilled Weapon Use

When using the weapon mastery rules, all weapons acquire new abilities and damage ranges. Those benefits include extra damage, attack roll bonuses (for fighters only), improved range with missiles and thrown weapons, ability to throw some hand-held weapons, bonuses to armour class and other special results (stunning, paralysis, entanglement, etc.)

Another benefit for fighters only is one of multiple attacks. During a combat round, the fighter may choose to take multiple attacks if he is eligible. See the chart below. If the character chooses to use multiple attacks during the round, the damage is equal to the next lowest level of mastery. (Expert becomes Skilled, Skilled becomes Basic).
Fighter Level Melee Weapon Light X-bow Heavy X-bow Thrown Dagger Thrown Dart Other* Missiles
1-6 3/2 1/1 1/2 3/1 4/1 3/2
7-12 2/1 3/2 1/1 4/1 5/1 2/1
13+ 5/2 2/1 3/2 5/1 6/1 5/2


Fighters who specialise in bow gain an additional range category instead of extra attacks: point blank range. Point blank range for bows is from 6 to 30 feet. At point blank range, the character gains a +2 modifier on attack rolls. No additional damage is caused but Strength and magical damages apply. Furthermore, if the character has an arrow nocked and drawn, and has his target in sight, he can fire at the beginning of the round before any initiative rolls are made.

Some benefits can occur only if the player announces that his character is deliberately using them (such as deflecting, disarming, etc.) The player must mention this before he rolls to hit. It is too late to mention it after the die has been cast.

Attack and Defence Benefits

Many damage increases vary with the type of opponent. Opponents that attack with two-handed missile fire devices have similar defences to those that attack with natural body weaponry. This type of opponent is designated "M" (for Missile or Monster) on the Weapon Mastery Table.

Defence is very different for opponents using hand-held weapons that are swung (such as swords and axes) or thrown (such as daggers and bolas) and opponents using missile-fire weapons that only need one hand (slings, short blowguns, hand crossbows). On the Weapon Mastery Table, these opponents are designated "H" (for Hand-held).

If an opponent could fit into both categories (such as a wererat carrying a sword), the character attacking that opponent uses his weapon's damage results that are most favourable to the opponent, not the attacker. However, if this type of opponent drops the weapon it holds, it immediately becomes category M for all calculations.

Many weapons are better when attacking one or the other of these defence categories. On the Weapon Mastery Table, each weapon's listing shows a primary opponent (the category of defensive against which the weapon is most effective) and a secondary listing (the other category, where the weapon is less effective). A few weapons are equally good against both target types; they bear the table notation (P = A) where A stands for all.

Attack Roll Bonuses

Characters with skilled or better weapon masteries receive bonuses to attack.
Mastery Warrior Bonus All Others
Unskilled no bonus no bonus
Basic no bonus no bonus
Skilled +1 no bonus
Expert +2 +1
Master +3 +2
Grand Master +4 +3

Improved Range

A character at skilled or better mastery with a ranged weapon can often fire or hurl it much farther than someone less accomplished. All notes on improved weapon ranges are listed with the individual weapon.

Throwing Ability With Hand-to-Hand Weapons

Weapon masters can throw some weapons that other characters can't throw effectively. Masters of battle axes, clubs, war hammers, bastard swords, long swords, and short swords can throw these in combat starting at the Expert level of mastery. Ranges for these are given on the Weapon Mastery table.


All weapon masters can do amazing things with their weapons: they get "more performance" out of the weapons they've mastered. Most of these are described below, but one special result is common to all weapons used by Expert level characters: despair.

A weapon master's amazing ability with his weapon can cause despair and fear in the opponents that he is fighting. The targets must make a standard morale check. Opponents must be above animal intelligence to be affected. Targets that fail their morale rolls try to flee or surrender at their next opportunity.

A roll for despair is triggered by the following circumstances:

***The weapon user inflicts maximum possible damage with his weapon, or rolls a natural 20.
***The weapon user avoids all damage in a round by deflecting the opponent's blows (must be multiple opponents).
***The weapon user disarms two or more opponents in the same round.

The DM may choose to check for despair during other special situations if he desires.

The despair effect can only affect a certain number of enemies at a time. This varies with the character's level of mastery. Despair only effects creatures up to 4 hit dice or levels. It always effects the lowest-level (or lowest-HD) enemies first.
***Expert--effects up to 6 hit dice or levels.
***Master--effects up to 12 hit dice or levels.
***Grand Master--effects up to 18 hit dice or levels.

A weapon master can only use his despair ability once per fight.

How to Read the Weapon Mastery Table

The columns on the table provide the following information:
Weapon: This column gives the weapon name and also the primary target (M, H, or A).
LVL: This heading stands for "level of mastery".
Ranges: This column shows the weapon's range when thrown or fired.
Damage: This column shows the weapon's damage for each new level of mastery. This column also has separate entries for "P" (primary) and "S" (secondary).
Special Effects: The column summarises the weapon's special abilities. The specifics of those effects are listed below.

Special Effect Descriptions

***Deflect: In addition to any attacks, the wielder of this weapon may attempt to deflect the number of melee and thrown weapon attacks indicated in one round. To deflect each attack, the character must make a saving throw vs. death ray. The roll to deflect must be made before the opponent makes his attack and is made on the opponent's initiative phase.

***Delay: The victim hit by this weapon must make a saving throw or take a -3 penalty to initiative the following round. If the type of saving throw is not specified, it is vs. paralysis. For missile attacks, this effect only occurs at the indicated ranges.

***Disarm: The wielder of this weapon may attempt to disarm an opponent instead of making a regular attack. The attacker must roll to hit the target. The victim can save his weapon by making a Dexterity check at - -2. For each level of mastery beyond basic the attacker has gained, the victim suffers another -1 penalty.

***Double damage: On a natural roll of the number(s) indicated, the weapon inflicts double (rolled) damage.

***Entangle: An entangled victim cannot attack, cast spells, or move. The victim can make a save vs. death ray each round to escape.

***Hook: Instead of making a normal attack roll, the wielder of this weapon may attempt to hook and pull down a foe. The attacker must roll to hit. This causes the minimum amount of damage possible for the weapon; the victim must make a saving throw vs. paralysis or fall down.

***Knockout: If the victim fails his save, the victim is unconscious for 1d10 normal rounds.

***Skewer: If the target has no more than the number of hit dice indicated, the wielder may decide to skewer the target instead. A normal attack consists of striking the target and withdrawing the trident to strike again. With the skewer, the attacker thrusts his trident into the target and twists it so that it is not easily extracted. Once the weapon hits, it is stuck; it will remain stuck for 1d4+4 rounds, after which time the victim's movements will cause it to come free. For each round a victim is skewered, he automatically takes 1d6 points of damage.

***Slow: The victim is slowed and can move and attack at only half normal movement rates. Spells with somatic or material components cannot be cast.

***Stun: If the victim is approximately the same size as the attacker or smaller, he is stunned if he fails a saving throw vs. death ray. The stunned character moves at 1/3 speed and cannot attack or use spells. The character has a +2 armour class penalty and a -2 saving throw penalty. A stunned character can make a saving throw vs. death ray each round to recover from the stun effect. For missile weapons, this effect occurs only at the specified ranges.

Weapon Mastery Chart
Weapon LVL Damage Special Effects
Blackjack BS 1d2 Knockout
(P=H) SK 2d2 Knockout (save -1)
EX 1d4+1 Knockout (save -2)
MS P=1d4+3 Knockout (save -3)
GM P=1d4+5 Knockout (save -4)
Halberd BS 1d10 Hook + disarm
(P=H) SK 1d10+2 Hook (save -1) + disarm
EX 1d10+5 Hook (save -2) + deflect (1) + disarm
MS P=1d8+10 Hook (save -3) + deflect (1) + disarm
GM P=1d8+15 Hook (save -4) + deflect (2) + disarm
Pike BS 1d8 -------
(P=H) SK 1d10+2 Deflect (1)
EX 1d10+5 Deflect (1)
MS P=1d12+8 Deflect (2)
GM P=1d10+14 Deflect (2)
Quarterstaff BS 1d6 -------
(P=A) SK 1d6+2 Deflect (1)
EX 1d8+2 Deflect (2)
MS 1d8+5 Deflect (3)
GM 1d8+7 Deflect (4)
Sword, Two-handed BS 1d10 -------
SK 2d6+1 Stun + deflect (1)
(P=M) EX 2d8+2 Stun + deflect (2)
MS P=3d6+3 Stun + deflect (2)
GM P=3d6+6 Stun + deflect (3)
Whip BS 1d2 Entangle
(P=M) SK 1d4 Entangle
EX 1d4+1 Entangle
MS P=1d4+3 Entangle
GM P=1d4+5 Entangle

Hand-held Weapons Rarely Thrown
Weapon LVL Ranges Damage Special Effect
Axe, Battle BS ----------- 1d8 -----------
(P=M) SK ----------- 1d8+2 Delay
EX ---/5/10 1d8+4 Delay
MS ---/5/10 P=1d8+8 Delay + Stun
GM 5/10/15 P=1d10+10 Delay + Stun
Club BS ---------- 1d6 ----------
(P=M) SK ---------- 1d6+2 Deflect (1)
EX ---/15/25 1d6+5 Deflect (1)
MS ---/15/25 P=1d8+5 Deflect (2)
GM 10/25/40 P=1d8+8 Deflect (2)
War Hammer BS ----------- 1d4+1 -----------
(P=H) SK ----------- 1d4+4 -----------
EX ---/10/20 1d6+4 -------------
MS ---/10/20 P=1d8+5 -------------
GM 10/20/30 P=1d8+7 -------------
Mace BS ------------ 1d6 ------------
(P=A) SK ------------ 2d4 ------------
EX ---/10/20 2d4+2 ------------
MS ---/10/20 2d4+4 -------------
GM 10/20/30 2d4+6 -------------
Sword, Bastard used 1-handed BS ------------ 1d8 ------------
(P=H) SK ------------ 1d8+3 ------------
EX ------------ 1d8+5 Deflect (1)
MS ------------ P=1d10+8 Deflect (1)
GM P=1d10+10 ------------ Deflect (2)
Sword, Bastard Used 2-handed BS ------------ 2d4 ------------
(P=H) SK ------------ 2d4+3 Deflect (1)
EX ---/---/5 2d4+5 Deflect (1)
MS ---/---/5 P=1d10+8 Deflect (2)
GM ---/5/10 P=1d12+10 Deflect (3)
Sword, Long BS ------------ 1d8 ------------
(P=H) SK ------------ 1d12 Deflect (1) + Disarm
EX ---/5/10 2d8 Deflect (2) + Disarm (save -1)
MS ---/5/10 P=2d8+4 Deflect (2) + Disarm (save -2)
GM 5/10/15 P=2d6+8 Deflect (3) + Disarm (save -4)
Sword, Short BS ------------- 1d6 -------------
(P=H) SK ------------- 1d6+2 Deflect (1) + Disarm (save -1)
EX ---/10/20 1d6+4 Deflect (2) + Disarm (save -2)
MS --/10/20 P=1d6+7 Deflect (2) + Disarm (save -3)
GM 10/20/30 P=1d6+9 Deflect (3) + Disarm (save -4)

Hand-Held Weapons Easily Thrown
Weapon LVL Ranges Damage Special Effects
Axe, Hand BS 10/20/30 1d6 ------------
(P=M) SK 15/25/35 1d6+2 ------------
EX 25/35/45 1d6+3 ------------
MS 30/40/50 P=2d4+4 ------------
GM 40/50/60 P=2d4+7 ------------
Dagger BS 10/20/30 1d4 ------------
(P=H) SK 15/25/35 1d6 Double Damage (20)
EX 20/30/45 2d4 Double Damage (19-20)
MS 25/35/50 P=3d4 Double Damage (18-20)
GM 30/50/60 P=4d4 Double Damage (17-20)
Javelin BS 30/60/90 1d6 ------------
(P=H) SK 30/60/90 1d6+2 ------------
EX 40/80/120 1d6+4 ------------
MS 40/80/120 P=1d6+6 ------------
GM 50/100/150 P=1d6+9 ------------
Spear BS 20/40/60 1d6 ------------
(P=A) SK 20/40/60 1d6+2 ------------
EX 40/60/75 2d4+2 Stun
MS 40/60/75 2d4+4 Stun
GM 60/75/90 2d4+6 Stun
Trident BS 10/20/30 1d6 -----------
(P=M) SK 10/20/30 1d8+1 Skewer (up to 4HD)
EX 20/30/45 1d8+4 Skewer (up to 6HD)
MS 20/30/45 P=1d8+6 Skewer (up to 10HD)
GM 30/45/60 P=1d6+9 Skewer (up to 15HD)

Missile Weapons
Weapon LVL Ranges Damage Special Effects
Bow, Long BS 70/140/210 1d6/1d8* -------------
(P=M) SK 90/150/220 1d8/1d10+1 Delay (s/m)**
EX 110/170/230 1d10+3 Delay (s/m)
MS 130/180/240 P=3d6 Delay (s/m)
GM 150/200/250 P=4d4+2 Delay (s/m)
Bow, Short BS 50/100/150 1d6/1d8 -------------
(P=M) SK 60/110/160 1d6+2/1d8+2 Delay (s)
EX 80/130/170 1d8+4 Delay (s)
MS 90/130/180 P=1d8+6 Delay (s)
GM 110/140/190 P=1d10+8 Delay (s)
Crossbow, Heavy BS 80/160/240 2d4 -------------
(P=H) SK 90/160/240 2d6 Stun (s/m)
EX 100/170/240 2d6+2 Stun (s/m)
MS 110/170/240 P=3d6+2 Stun (s/m)
GM 120/180/240 P=3d6+5 Stun (s/m)
Crossbow, Light BS 60/120/180 1d6 --------------
(P=H) SK 60/120/180 1d6+2 Stun (s)
EX 75/130/180 1d6+4 Stun (s)
MS 75/130/180 P=1d8+6 Stun (s)
GM 90/140/180 P=1d8+8 Stun (s)
Sling BS 40/80/160 1d4+1 ------------
(P=H) SK 40/80/160 1d6+1 Stun (s/m)
EX 60/110/170 1d6+5 Stun (s/m)
MS 60/110/170 P=3d4 Stun (s/m)
GM 80/130/180 P=4d4 Stun (s/m)

*flight/sheath arrows **small and medium ranges only

These are the stats for all of the basic weapons. If you wish to have your character use a weapon that is not on this list, I will create a weapon mastery chart for your particular weapon.