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The Weapon Mastery Pyramid

by Joe Not Charles

One thing I've never liked about the Weapon Mastery rules is that the only restriction on getting to Grand Master is the percent chance of learning the weapon. As a player, I need to trade off going for easier weapons vs. advancing to Grand Master as fast as I can. I prefer a more fixed set of restrictions (such as "You can't pass Expert mastery until Name Level", or "You must know X other weapons at Expert before becoming a Master") so that an important advancement decision doesn't come down to a die roll.

Also, in the mastery rules given in the RC (at least, in Dark Dungeons, I haven't checked to be sure they're 100% identical) every class can become a Grand Master just as fast as the Fighter, just in fewer weapons! I don't like that at all.

If you go for the fastest advancement possible (say you have a Monty Haul DM, so the training costs aren't a factor) here's the fastest you can advance:

Level # slots Weapon Masteries
1 4 B B B B
3 5 S B B B
6 6 E B B B
9 7 M B B B
11 8 G B B B
15 9 G S B B
19 10 G E B B
23 11 G M B B
27 12 G G B B
30 13 G G S B
33 14 G G E B
36 15 G G M B
Level # slots Weapon Masteries
1 2 B B
3 3 S B
6 4 E B
9 5 M B
11 6 G B
15 7 G S
23 8 G E
30 9 G M
36 10 G G

Because the Fighter's extra weapon mastery slots mostly come in at higher levels, at low levels a character who specializes with one weapon advances in it just as fast as the Fighter. So they both can become a Master at level 9 and a Grand Master at level 11, and then start spending slots to improve other weapons. And it's not until this point that the fighter begins to really pull ahead: they gain their second Grand Master at level 27, and by level 36 can be a Master in a third weapon, while other classes earn their second Grand Master at level 36 and never learn beyond their first two weapons. But up until level 19, the Fighter's weapon mastery advantage is only basic knowledge of 2 extra weapons.

Here's an alternate rule that I think works out really well (and makes Weapon Mastery slightly less powerful): you cannot gain a level of mastery beyond Skilled unless you already know at least 2 weapons at the level of mastery before it. For example, if you know 2 weapons at Skilled you can upgrade one to Expert, but then you can't upgrade that Expert weapon to Master immediately. First you need to upgrade a second weapon to Expert - but before you can upgrade your second Skilled weapon to Expert, you need to learn a third weapon at Skilled (since now that one's been upgraded, you only have one Skilled weapon).

With this rule, the fastest weapon progression is:

Level # slots Weapon Masteries
1 4 B B B B
3 5 S B B B
6 6 S S B B
9 7 E S B B
11 8 E S S B
15 9 E E S B
19 10 M E S B
23 11 M E S B B
27 12 M E S S B
30 13 M E E S B
33 14 M M E S B
36 15 G M E S B
Level # slots Weapon Masteries
1 2 B B
3 3 S B
6 4 S B B
9 5 S S B
11 6 E S B
15 7 E S B B
23 8 E S S B
30 9 E E S B
36 10 M E S B

Now a Fighter who totally optimizes their weapon choices can just become a Grand Master at level 36. Grand Master status is now truly special. A non-Fighter who does the same can hit Master status at level 36.

Everyone can still become Skilled at level 3, but now Fighters can't become Expert until level 9 - a nice Name Level bonus - and Master at 19. Non-Fighters now have to spend some slots learning more weapons at Basic if they want to advance, so they can't become Expert until level 11, a little behind the Fighter. And then their weapon progression slows down and they can learn more weapons at Skilled and Expert, but can't become a Master until level 36.

But because the restriction only applies to Expert and beyond, a character that wants to be more of a generalist can still bump all their initial weapon choices to Skilled and then continue to learn more Basic weapons and upgrade them to Skilled as often as they want - it's only characters that want to optimize their use of one weapon that get slowed down.