Weapon Proficiency and Specialization


At 1st level characters choose an initial number of weapons from their allowed list. With these weapons the character fights normally. For all other weapons on your allowed list your to-hit is reduced by the amount of the non-proficiency penalty. So a fighter using a non-proficient weapon will reduce his to-hit by 2; a magic-user has -5. Using weapons not even on your class-allowed list is at least double the penalty.

In my experience, PC’s just don’t have much need to be using weapons they aren’t already familiar with. The exception only seems to be when they find new magical weapons they might want to use. As will eventually be seen, that’s being handled in other ways.

Additional weapon proficiency points (WP) are acquired as characters increase in level. These usually just add more weapons from the characters class weapon list that lifts the non-proficiency disadvantage. All classes may spend WP points gained after 1st level to instead enable them to choose a weapon which isn’t on their allowed list and add it to their personal list of allowed weapons (and thus begin to use it with the non-proficiency penalty, which they can then later still actually become proficient with). Use of disallowed weapons is still possible in a pinch but still at twice the penalty.

Only fighters, rangers and paladins may specialize in a weapon, and only fighters may specialize in a weapon at 1st level. Fighters and their subclasses may also spend those later points on further specializing with weapons they are proficient with, or for gaining additional defensive benefits when using a shield (q.v.). Fighters and several other classes also have the option of specializing in a fighting style (q.v.).

Weapon Specialization

Obviously, before a character can specialize with a weapon he must first be proficient with it. To specialize with a weapon means that the character picks one actual, physical weapon, not a weapon “type”. You specialize with, “this 1/2 vs. Lycanthropes sword which is named ‘Dogcatcher’.” It doesn’t apply with just any ol’ longsword, or with all hammers. The character then expends 1 proficiency point on that weapon to specialize with it. For the first experience level when the character uses the specialized weapon he has an additional 1 to hit. If he retains it for an entire experience level then he gains an increased advantage and is granted a +1 to damage (so +1/1). If he retains it for three consecutive levels then specialization allows one more 1 to damage (for +1/2 total). [At the DM’s discretion, a fourth level may eventually allow an extra attack every two rounds but that’d be the limit to specialization.] Only one weapon may be specialized with at any time.

If desired you can change the weapon that you specialize with. You obviously lose the accumulated specialization bonuses with your current weapon and start over with the new weapon. I anticipate that this might even have the effect of fighters turning down the opportunity to upgrade to a weapon with a higher magical bonus than the weapon they have because they want to retain accumulated specialization bonuses. When the character changes specializations the proficiency point he spent is refunded – however he cannot spend that point until his next level. [At the DM’s option it might be permissible to switch to a new specialized weapon without having to use it for a full level to get the initial bonus, perhaps with a few months of time in-game instead, but that should be something only allowed to straight fighters.]

Normal Shield Use

Bonuses for magical armor and magical shields do not normally combine. If a character is using both magical armor and magical shield then only the highest magic bonus of the two will apply, but not both at once.

Any character that is allowed to use a shield may choose to sacrifice the shield and in exchange sustain no damage from a single incoming melee (or possibly missile) attack where the shield would normally count as some measure of protection. This completely destroys the shield. This cannot be done with a buckler. They can similarly sacrifice it to automatically successfully save against some damage-dealing spells which have a directional component to the description of their area of effect (ray, spread, etc.). A lightning bolt, for example could be protected against because it is described as emanating from a given point; but a fireball is less directional since it expands to fill a volume and envelops victims, so you can’t tuck behind your shield to avoid its effects – but a dragon’s breath IS directional so it would qualify.

Sacrificing a magical shield will reduce its magical bonus by 1 with each such choice. This damage can theoretically be repaired, bringing the shield back up to its previous capability (which means I’m not sure if I want to allow it, how it would be done, or at what costs). If a magical shield is sacrificed for its last +1 bonus then it becomes a normal, non-magical, but likely very pretty shield. However, it could still be repaired to recover its previous magical bonus. It can also then still be sacrificed as would a normal shield and it would then be forever destroyed.

Shield Specialization

Rather than specializing in a weapon a PC fighter, ranger, or paladin (and ONLY those classes) could instead specialize with a shield (NOTE: you cannot do both, you’d have to pick one or the other). Like weapon specialization he picks a specific, physical item and is not granted specialization with just any shield. Instead of spending a weapon proficiency point on a weapon he spends it on a shield and gains an additional +1 to AC with it. He can shield against one additional attack per round (see PH for number of attacks a shield is normally used against), and the flank space to his left is also considered shielded. Using the same shield for two levels would make that +2 AC, and two additional attacks shielded against. Using the same shield for three levels (all the while, obviously sacrificing the ability to improve specialization with a weapon) would be +3 AC, three additional attacks shielded against, and the right flank space would now be considered shielded as well. The three spaces comprising a characters back are not affected by shield specialization.


Fighters, rangers, and paladins may similarly spend weapon proficiency points on any fighting style. Thieves, assassins, and monks also variously have options for fighting styles as noted below. Only fighters may specialize in a fighting style at 1st level. Only one fighting style is intended to be known and used by any character at any time. Obviously, if a character changes the standard weapons they use, especially if it’s a change in weapon specializations, they eventually adopt a different fighting style to fit that weapon. Previous points spent are refunded and characters may spend a minimum of 1 point per level (they still spend their normal point allotment at the correct levels) until they have again all been spent.

Dual-Weapon Fighting Style

By default, fighting with two weapons at once is not permitted at all. Fighters, rangers, paladins, thieves, assassins, and monks may spend a proficiency point to “specialize” in this style which then permits it to be done. They then select two weapons from the choices listed below, using one in either hand. The advantage is gaining one additional attack with the secondary weapon at the cost of a to-hit penalty for both weapons.

Possible primary weapons are: battle axe, bo stick, jo stick, hand axe, club, dagger, horseman’s flail, hammer, footman’s mace, horseman’s mace, footman’s pick, horseman’s pick, scimitar, broadsword, longsword, shortsword.

Possible secondary weapons are: jo stick, hand axe, dagger, hammer, horseman’s mace, horseman’s pick, shortsword.

Note that any weapon used with this fighting style must ALSO be allowed by the characters class and the character must already be proficient with any weapon he intends to use with this style. The character does not choose specific physical weapons but the combination of weapons to be used must be set – the style advantage won’t apply to just any combination, only the singular combination you chose. So, if you want to use two daggers then that is your style proficiency and it won’t apply to using a dagger and a shortsword. If you choose longsword and hand axe then it won’t work if one of the weapons is changed for a jo stick.

The longer you have opportunity to fight with this style the better you get at it. Using two weapons carries penalties of -2/-4 to hit with primary/secondary weapon for the first level, -1/-3 for the second level, -0/-2 for the third level, and -0/-1 thereafter unless and until the character changes style specializations. Dexterity bonuses do not reduce these penalties.

If the character has initiative for the round, instead of using the secondary weapon for attack it may be used to improve the characters AC. The penalty for attack with the primary weapon remains the same, but the secondary weapon provides a defensive bonus. The bonus is +1 AC for the first level, +2 for the second, +3 for the third and +4 thereafter.

Two-Handed Weapon Fighting Style

Fighters, rangers, paladins, assassins, and monks may spend a proficiency point to specialize in this style (noting that thieves do not have a two-handed weapon even allowed by their class). Once chosen, when using a two-handed weapon the character gets a +1 bonus to hit (this bonus combines with other bonuses for weapon specialization such as being specialized with a 2-handed weapon). For each level up to a maximum of 4 that the character has experience in this style he accumulates the ability to sacrifice 1 point to-hit for 1 additional point of damage. This is irrespective of any other actual bonuses so even if the character has no bonus to-hit he can reduce his to-hit by 1 and add it to damage if he successfully hits. As with dual-weapon fighting this does not require using a specific, physical weapon, but the type of weapon becomes relevant. In other words, you can choose to be a two-handed style specialist using a two-handed sword with which you are specialized, but the advantages would not then apply with a spear – only with other two handed swords. A monk could specialize in this style choosing to use the quarterstaff as his specialized style but would not then receive the same abilities with the bo-staff.

Weapon Proficiency and Specialization

Crucible of Souls duanevp