Weapon Proficiency Options

See also Weapons

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A character must have a Proficiency with a weapon to use it normally. To become proficient, the character “spends” one of the Weapon Proficiency Slots he has on that weapon. Each slot can buy proficiency with one weapon. If he uses a weapon he’s not proficient in, he suffers an attack penalty: –2 for weapons which are completely unfamiliar, or –1 for weapons that share a group with those for which he already has proficiency. (That penalty is worse for non-Warriors.)

Class Group Non-proficient Familiar
Warrior –2 –1
Wizard –5 –3
Priest –3 –2
Rogue –3 –2
Psionicist –4 –2
Nonclassed NPCs –4 –2

Group Proficiency

Many weapons are very similar in construction and techniques of use; for example, using a bastard sword with one hand is not too much different from using a long sword. Both weapons are heavy, two-edged blades that rely on slashing or chopping strokes to cut through armor. All weapons are categorized in tight groups, which are further organized into broad groups. The particular group a weapon belongs to is noted under the weapon characteristics in Chapter Seven.

Tight groups serve two functions in game play. First of all, all weapons in a tight group are considered to be related to each other. A character who is proficient in one weapon belonging to a tight group is automatically familiar with the other weapons of that tight group and has a reduced penalty for non-proficiency when using them.

Second, characters can learn to use all weapons in a tight group with a weapon group proficiency. Weapon group proficiencies cost two slots, but may include a number of weapons. For example, a character could use a weapon group proficiency to gain proficiency in crossbows; by spending two slots, he actually gains proficiency in four different weapons.
Some tight weapon groups are further organized into broad groups. For example, the tight groups of Axes, Picks, Clubbing Weapons are all part of the Cleaving/Crushing Weapons broad group. Proficiency in all of the weapons of a broad weapon group can be learned for three proficiency slots.

A full list of available weapon groups can be found under: Weapons.

Although it is possible to become proficient in an entire group of weapons, this doesn’t mean a character can specialize in an entire group of weapons.

As before, each weapon specialization costs one Weapon Proficiency Slot in a weapon the character is already proficient in. A character can’t pay two points to be proficient in the Fencing Blades group and then another two to specialize in the same group: He’d have to take one-slot Specializations individually for Dagger, Stiletto, Main-gauche, Rapier, and Sabre.

Let’s say a character wants to know how to use every type of blade ever made…but he wants to be especially good with the Long Sword. As a first-level Warrior, he receives four Weapon Proficiency Slots to start with. He spends three to take Proficiency with the entire Blades broad group, and spends his fourth to specialize in Long Sword. He has his wish: He can pick up and use any blade weapon without penalty, but is particularly adept with the Long Sword.


To specialize in a particular weapon, the character must devote an extra weapon proficiency slot to it. Only Warriors (including multi-class warriors) may gain weapon specialization.

Specializing in a melee weapon provides a character with two main benefits: first of all, he gains a +1 bonus to attack rolls and a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon; secondly, he gains an extra attack once per two rounds. A 1st-level fighter normally attacks once per round, but a 1st-level long sword specialist attacks three times per two rounds.

Characters who specialize in a ranged weapon (including slings and thrown weapons), gain an increased rate of fire with these weapons and a +1 bonus to attack rolls. If a character specializes in a weapon that can be used either for melee or as a missile weapon (spears, daggers, hand axes, etc.), he gains the melee benefit described above when using the weapon for hand-to-hand combat and the increased rate of fire for using the weapon for ranged attacks.

Characters who specialize in a bow or crossbow gain a +1 bonus to hit at any range (normal range penalties still apply, of course), an increased rate of fire, and a new range category: point-blank. Point-blank range is 30 feet for bows or 60 feet for crossbows. At point-blank range, the character gains a +2 to damage.

Specialist Attacks per Round

Weapon 1st-6th level 7th-12th level Level 13+
Melee Weapons 3/2 2/1 5/2
Blowgun 2/1 5/2 3/1
Bolas 1/1 3/2 2/1
Bows 2/1 3/1 4/1
Hand/Light Crossbow 1/1 3/2 2/1
Heavy Crossbow 1/2 1/1 3/2
Cho Ku No 2/1 5/2 3/1
Thrown Dagger/Knife 3/1 4/1 5/1
Thrown Dart 4/1 5/1 6/1
Arquebus 1/3 1/2 1/1
Javelin 3/2 2/1 5/2
Sling 3/2 2/1 5/2
Staff Sling 2/1 5/2 3/1
Shuriken 3/1 4/1 5/1
Other Thrown Weapons 1/1 3/2 2/1


There are swordsmen, and then there are swordsmen. A warrior who devotes his life to the study of martial combat and the characteristics of a single type of weapon can become a weapon master—a fighter whose precision, quickness, and skill are virtually unequaled anywhere.

Weapon masters are rare characters. Only single-classed fighters can ever achieve weapon mastery, and even then they do so with time, study, and sacrifice. To achieve mastery in a weapon, a character must first specialize in the use of that weapon. Then, at any time after he reaches 5th level, he can spend another proficiency slot to become a weapon master. He can continue to devote proficiency slots to the study of his chosen weapon, but can’t progress faster than the rate at which he gains new weapon proficiency slots.

If a fighter spends another proficiency slot on a melee weapon he already specializes in, his attack and damage bonuses both increase to +3.

For ranged weapons the attack bonus at all range categories increases to +2. For bows and crossbows, his point-blank bonuses increase to +3 as with melee weapons. (Remember, this bonus doesn’t take range modifiers into account, so the archer has a total of +2 at short, +0 at medium, and –3 at long range, if the penalties are factored in.)

High Master
By spending a second slot on mastery (for a total of 4 slots), a character can become a high master. High masters increase the speed factor of their chosen weapon by 2; for example, a dagger would have a speed category of 0. High masters also score critical hits on rolls of 18 or higher rather than only on a natural 20 (if the optional critical hit system is used).

High masters who specialize in bows, crossbows, slings, or firearms gain a new range category: extreme range. For all weapons, extreme range is 1/3 farther than long range. Extreme range shots have a –10 penalty to hit before adjustments are made for the effects of mastery.

Grand Master
High masters who spend one more slot (for a total of 5) on learning their weapon of choice can become grand masters. Grand masters gain one additional attack per round above and beyond a specialist’s rate of attacks for their level. Grand masters also increase the amount of damage. The weapon’s base damage dieis increased to the next greater die size against all opponents. A long sword thus inflicts 1d10/1d20 points of damage in the hands of a grand master. If the weapon causes multiple dice of damage, all of them are increased. Thus, a two-handed sword in the hands of a grand master inflicts 3d8 points of damage on large targets. Needless to say, grand masters are extremely dangerous opponents.


All characters are presumed to be better with one hand than the other—in real life, most people are right-handed, quite a few are left-handed, and only a very few are truly ambidextrous. When a character is first created, the player should specify his handedness (right or left). If he does not specify one, the DM should assume the character is right-handed.

If a character, for whatever reason, fights with his off-hand instead of his good hand, he suffers a –2 penalty to attack rolls with all attacks. For example, should a character find himself with his right hand chained to a wall, and yet he needs to draw and throw a dagger and must use his off-hand, he’ll then suffer the –2 penalty to attack rolls.

If a player wants his character to be ambidextrous, he must devote one weapon proficiency to Ambidexterity. If he does so, he’ll be able to fight normally with both hands, and will be equally adept at non-combat tasks with both hands.

This doesn’t give him two attacks per round. It just means that if he loses the use of one hand, or drops the weapon in that hand, he’ll be equally adept with the other.

Fighting Styles

There are four common Fighting Styles employed by anyone using a melee weapon. They are:

  • Single-Weapon Style: The character wields a weapon in one hand and carries nothing in the other hand. The weapon can be as short as a Dagger or as long as a Bastard Sword or Long Spear.
  • Two-Hander Style: The character wields a weapon which requires (or at least accommodates) the use of two hands. Such weapons include those which require two hands (Two-Handed Sword, Polearms, and Quarterstaff, for instance) and those which can be used one-and two-handed (Bastard Sword and Spear, for example).
  • Weapon and Shield Style: The character wields a weapon in his good hand and carries a shield on his off-hand. This combination can vary from a street-bravo’s choice of dagger and small buckler to the classic knight’s choice of long sword and body shield.
  • Two-Weapon Style: The character wields one weapon in each hand. Unless both weapons are Small (S on the Size column on the Weapons chart), the weapon in the character’s off-hand must be lighter in weight than his primary weapon. This character can vary from a street-thief wielding two identical daggers, to a fencer using a rapier in one hand and a main-gauche in another, to a heavily-armored warrior with a long sword in one hand and a short sword in the other. Note: Read the Player’s Handbook, page 96k, for the rules on Attacking with Two Weapons.

All Warriors start play knowing how to use all four melee styles. Priests start play knowing how to use Single-Weapon, Two-Hander, and Weapon and Shield styles. Rogues start play knowing how to use Single-Weapon, Two-Hander, and Two-Weapon styles. Wizards start play knowing how to use Single-Weapon and Two-Hander styles. In addition, all characters begin knowing the Thrown Weapons style and any character that becomes proficient with a missile weapon is considered to know the Missile Weapon style. Characters can learn new styles after they’re created by spending a proficiency slot. Additional fighting styles which are also available, but not immediately known, may also be learned in this manner.

Each style confers some basic advantages and disadvantages when used. These are described in the descriptions of each individual style, below. Additionally, characters can specialize in these styles by spending one proficiency slot. Single-class warriors can eventually specialize in all of them; other classes (including multi-class warriors) can only specialize in one style. Some styles allow further mastery beyond specialization. Only single-class fighters may gain mastery with a fighting style.

Style Specialization

  • Single-Weapon Style: Single-Weapon style means that the character wields a one-handed weapon in one hand and nothing in the other.
    • Proficiency: The advantage of single-weapon style in the AD&D® game is that the character keeps a hand free for grappling, for switching weapons, for surprise maneuvers, for spellcasting, or for whatever comes along in the course of combat.
    • Style Specialization: If the character devotes a weapon proficiency to Style Specialization with Single-Weapon Style, he gets a +1 AC bonus when using any one-handed weapon (for which he has proficiency) in Single-Weapon Style. He doesn’t get the bonus if he carries a shield or weapon in his off-hand.
    • Style Mastery: Additionally, he can devote an extra proficiency to Single-Weapon Style and have a total +2 AC when fighting in this style.
  • Two-Hander Style: Two-Hander Style involves carrying and wielding a weapon with both hands. Naturally, many weapons (including polearms, the great axe, the two-handed sword, and others) require two-handed technique. Other weapons (such as bastard sword, harpoon, and spear) have it as a listed option.
    • Proficiency: The main advantage of two-handed weapon technique is that it allows the character to wield large two-handed weapons which can do substantial amounts of damage.
      A second advantage is that, if you are using a two-handed weapon, the Disarm maneuver is only of partial use against you. A single successful Disarm against a two-handed weapon user won’t knock the weapon out of the wielder’s hands; it will merely knock his weapon askew and make him take some time to recover, so he automatically loses initiative on his next round. However, two Disarm maneuvers successfully made against the character in the same round will knock the weapon loose.
    • Style Specialization: Style Specialization with Two-Hander Style gives you a very specific benefit: When you’re using a weapon two-handed, that weapon’s Speed Factor is reduced by 3. This is because when a fighter wields such a weapon with both hands on the hilt, he has more leverage on the blade and can move it faster.
      If you specialize in Two-Hander Style and then use a one-handed weapon in two hands, you also get a bonus of +1 to damage (see the weapon’s description for whether it can be used in two hands in this way).
  • Weapon and Shield Style: This is the classic technique of using a one-handed weapon and carrying a shield on the other arm.
    • Proficiency: The principal advantage of Weapon and Shield Style is that you get the AC bonus of a shield; this is especially good when you can find a magical shield which confers a better AC bonus. A second advantage is that the character can use the Shield-Rush and Shield-Punch maneuvers.
    • Style Specialization: If you devote a weapon proficiency slot to specialization in Weapon and Shield Style, you receive one extra attack per round using a shield on the shield-hand, that is. You can use that extra attack only for the Shield-Rush, Shield-Punch, and Parry maneuvers. As with the normal “Attacking with Two Weapons” rules, when striking with both hands in a single combat round, the character suffers a –2 to attack rolls with his weapon and a –4 to attack rolls with the Shield-Punch or Parry.
    • Style Mastery: If you devote a second weapon proficiency slot to Weapon and Shield Style, the penalties for your attacks drop to 0 with the weapon and –2 with the shield. (If you’re ambidextrous, that penalty is 0 with weapon and 0 with shield.)
  • Two-Weapon Style: With this popular style, the fighter has a weapon in each hand—usually a longer weapon in his good hand and a shorter one in his off-hand. Unless the character has Style Specialization in this style, the second (off-hand) weapon must be shorter than the primary weapon.
    • Proficiency: One great advantage to this style is that you always have another weapon in hand if you drop or lose one. A single Disarm maneuver cannot rid you of your weapons. In addition, you can make one additional attack each round with your off-hand weapon.
    • Style Specialization: Please read the “Attacking with Two Weapons” section from the Player’s Handbook before continuing.
      If you devote a weapon proficiency slot to style specialization with Two-Weapon Style, you get two important benefits. First, your attack penalty drops to 0 with your primary weapon and a –2 with your secondary weapon. (If you’re already ambidextrous, as per “Off-Hand Weapons Use,” above, that penalty is 0 with primary weapon and 0 with secondary weapon.) Second, you’re allowed to use weapons of the same length in each hand, so you can, for example, wield two long swords.
      Though rangers don’t suffer the off-hand penalties for two-weapons use, they do not get a bonus to attack rolls if they devote a weapon proficiency slot to Two-Weapon Style. They do get the other benefit, of being able to use weapons of equal length.
  • Missile: Missile weapons include Blowguns, Bows, Crossbows, and the Arquebus.
    • Proficiency: Proficiency with the Missile style grants no benefits beyond the normal operation of the weapons listed.
    • Style Specialization: A character who specializes in the missile fighting style gains a significant bonus. He can move up to half his normal movement rate and still make all of his allowed missile attacks during a turn. Or he can move his full movement rate and make half as many attacks.
      Additionally, a character who has specialized in this fighting style gains a +1 bonus to his AC when attacked by missile fire, but only if the specialist character is also using a missile weapon and attacking on that round.
  • Thrown Weapons:
    • Proficiency: The character can draw and throw a weapon in the same action, up to the normal limit of their number of attacks per round. Additionally, this style can be combined with the Weapon and Shield and Two-weapon styles for additional effect.
    • Style Specialization: A character who specializes in the thrown weapon fighting style gains a significant bonus. He can move up to half his normal movement rate and still make all of his allowed missile attacks during a turn. Or he can move his full movement rate and make half as many attacks.
      Additionally, a character who has specialized in this fighting style gains a +1 bonus to his AC when attacked by missile fire, but only if the specialist character is also using a missile weapon and attacking on that round.
  • Elven Bladesong: Dedicated elf warriors take their craft seriously enough to have created a uniquely elven fighting style. Unlike the martial arts of other races, the elven fighting style, also known as the bladesong, emphasizes beauty and economy of movement over sheer destructive power. However, the elven bladesong is deceptively dangerous, for all its seeming gentleness and apparent grace. Bladesinging can be done with any Small- or Medium-sized melee weapon, although the majority of practitioners practice their art with the sword.
    • Proficiency: The baldesong style is practiced with a single one-handed weapon in order to leave the other hand free for spellcasting or other tasks. The rudiments of the bladesong are style are effectively the same as the Single-Weapon Style, though it still costs a separate proficiency slot.
    • Style Specialization: Each round, the bladesinger may choose one of the following benefits. Note that these three benefits are not cumulative; that is, practitioners cannot use all three at once. However, they do have the option of varying between these three options during the course of a combat.
      1. They may gain an additional +1 bonus to their AC.
      2. They may gain a +1 bonus “to hit”.
      3. They may make one free Parry each round.
    • Style Mastery: Masters who spend a third proficiency slot on the bladesong style increase the AC and attack bonuses granted by the style to +2.
  • Avalanche Style: This brutal variant of the two-handed style allows for an additional risky attack with the back, pommel, or handle of the weapon. This style may only be used with a two-handed weapon.
    • Proficiency: The rudiments of the Avalanche Style are identical to the normal two-handed style. Characters already proficient in the two-handed style do not need to spend an additional slot to become proficient in the avalanche style.
    • Style Specialization: A character using the avalanche style may make one additional melee attack over his normal allotment at the end of a round for 1d3 points of damage (plus his Strength bonus, but no bonuses for specialization or magic weapons).
      Using this option means the character must approach closer to the enemy than his weapon comfortably allows, and he automatically loses initiative the next round as he maneuvers to regain a favorable position.
  • Changing Seasons Style: The changing seasons style calls for broad knowledge rather than specialization. Each of the four basic fighting styles are equated with one of the four seasons and a skilled practitioner is expected to know them all.
    • Proficiency: The rudiments of the Changing Seasons Style lie in the basics of all other styles. A character must be proficient with the Single Weapon, Two-handed, Two-weapon, and Weapon and Shield styles in order to learn the changing seasons style. A character proficient with all four styles may learn the basics of the changing seasons style without spending an additional proficiency slot.
    • Style Specialization: Characters specialized in the changing seasons style may change from one fighting style to another once per round, at the end of the round, without penalty. When changing styles, they may draw any a new weapon or ready a shield without using any additional actions.
  • Disarm: This maneuver is an excellent way to remove an enemy’s advantage due to specialization or a powerful magic weapon. Schools that stress this option often teach students to specialize in this technique, allowing them to disarm opponents with ease.
    • Proficiency: All characters are considered to be proficient with the basic Combat Maneuvers, including disarms.
    • Style Specialization: Devoting one slot to specialization with disarm attacks reduces the penalty to -2, instead of the normal -4 for making a called shot.
    • Style Mastery: Spending a second slot eliminates all attack penalties for performing disarm maneuvers, and eliminates the +1 initiative penalty normally associated with combat maneuvers, making disarms as simple as any normal strike.
  • Fencing: While emphasizing the use of traditional fencing blades, fencing can be done with any one-handed weapon that falls in the Blades broad group.
    • Proficiency: A character must be proficient with at least one weapon that falls in the Fencing Blades tight group in order to learn the rudiments of the fencing style. Spending a slot to gain proficiency with fencing also teaches the Fencing Blades tight group. A character that is already proficient with the fencing blades tight group does not need to spend an additional slot to learn the fencing style.
    • Style Specialization: A fencing specialist can judge the approximate skill of any enemy by sparring with him for one round. The character does not make any real attacks during this round, instead performing feints to test his opponents reactions. At the end of the round, the character can estimate the enemy’s modified attack bonus (including modifiers for Strength, specialization, magic weapons, spells, and other modifiers). The DM should roll 1d6 in secret, on a 1-2 the estimate is 1 high, on a 3-4 the estimate is accurate, on a 5 it is 1 low, and on a 6 it is 2 low.
  • Oak Roots Style: Practitioners of this style are often vocal advocates of the spear’s superiority over the sword. Only those who have demonstrated exceptional skill with a spear can learn this style. This style can only be used with weapons that fall in the Spear tight group.
    • Proficiency: In order to gain proficiency with the oak roots style, a character must be proficient with at least one spear (any weapon in the Spear group), and be specialized in the Two-handed Weapon style. A character who meets these requirements does not need to spend an additional slot to become proficient with the oak roots style. All normal benefits of the Two-handed Weapon style apply when using the oak roots style.
    • Style Specialization: When wielding a spear, a character specialized in the oak roots style gains a +1 bonus on all damage rolls when standing on firm ground.
  • Small Staff Style: When a student first begins using a staff, it seems to be a huge, clumsy weapon. As the student becomes more familiar with the weapon, it becomes easier to use, feeling steadily less bulky. This style emphasizes getting inside an opponents defenses where he cannot block the student’s staff. This style can only be used with weapons that fall in the Staff tight group.
    • Proficiency: In order to learn the rudiments of the small staff style, a character must be proficient with at least one staff (any weapon from the Staff tight group) and be specialized in the Disarm technique (see above). A character that meets these requirements need not spend any additional slots to become proficient in this style.
    • Style Specialization: Specialization in this style gives the user a +1 bonus on all attack rolls against armed opponents.
  • One Shot, One Kill Style: This missile style focuses not so much on technical skill as on how, when, and where to shoot. The one shot, one kill style teaches students to maximize success by making aimed shots, attacking by surprise, firing from behind, or holding a second shot until the opponent’s shield has been lowered. This style can be used with any Bow or Crossbow.
    • Proficiency: A character proficient in this style can make an aimed shot. The character must wait until the end of the round, acting last in initiative, and make a single ranged attack with a +2 bonus (instead of his normal rate of fire).
    • Style Specialization: Students who specialize in the one shot, one kill style may make a called shot for double damage with a missile weapon at any target within short range. This multiplier applies only to the base weapon damage, not to modifiers for Strength or magic. As with other called shots, the attack suffers a +1 penalty on initiative and a -4 penalty on the attack roll (and is thus often combined with an aimed shot). The character may perform this action in place of any normal attack any time it applies (even during surprise rounds or as a snap-shot before initiative is rolled).
  • Striking Falcon Style: Enemies can recognize practitioners of the Striking Falcon Style by their light, seemingly casual grip on their weapons, their no-nonsense swordplay, and their deftness with a shield. They use a judicious combination of standard attacks, shield punches, and parrying. This style can be performed with any one-handed melee weapon.
    • Proficiency: In order to learn the rudiments of the Striking Falcon Style, a character must be at least 6th level and must be specialized in the Weapon and Shield Style. A character who meets these requirements does not need to spend an additional slot to become proficient with the striking falcon style. All normal benefits of the Weapon and Shield style apply when using the striking falcon style.
    • Style Specialization: Specialists in the striking falcons style gain a -1 bonus on initiative in melee combat, due to “conservation of movement” and rigorous speed drills.

Unarmed Combat

Though everyone has a certain knowledge of punching and wrestling, so that everyone can be considered to have a “weapon proficiency”, you can Specialize in either of the two techniques. To Specialize, you must devote a weapon proficiency slot to the technique. Any character of any class can Specialize in Punching or Wrestling (or Martial Arts, described later), but only a Single-class Warrior or Monk may ever specialize in more than one of these techniques. Fighting style specializations (i.e., Single-Weapon, Two-Hander, etc.) do not grant any bonuses to Punching, Wrestling, or Martial Arts combat. They’re of use only to combat with melee weapons.

Punching or Martial Arts: If a character spends one Weapon Proficiency on Punching or Martial Arts Specialization gains the following benefits:

  • He gains a +1 bonus to all his attack rolls when punching;
  • He gains a +1 bonus to all damage when punching;
  • He gains a +1 chart bonus with all punching attacks;
  • He gains one additional punching attack per combat round (both hands must be free, holding nothing, for the character to gain this benefit).

The chart bonus is a reflection of the character’s superior accuracy with punching. As you already know, when the character successfully hits, the roll itself determines which maneuver was made; use the chart on page 97 in the Player’s Handbook, and the attack roll also determines the maneuver used. But on a successful hit, the punching specialist can modify that result. If he has a chart bonus of +1, he can choose the maneuver one higher or one lower on the chart.

Wrestling: If a character spends one Weapon Proficiency Slot on Wrestling Specialization he gains the following benefits:

  • He gains a +1 bonus to all his attack rolls with Wrestling;
  • He gains a +1 bonus to all damage with Wrestling (that is, all his maneuvers will do 2 points of damage plus his Strength bonus, and continued holds cause cumulatively 1 more point of damage for each round they are held);
  • He gains a +1 chart bonus with all Wrestling attacks (see punching above);
  • He gains a +2 to Strength, only for maintaining a wrestling hold (i.e., a Strength 15 character rolls against Strength 17 when maintaining a wrestling hold, but only for that purpose).

Continuing Specialization: This is an option that is only available to single-class Warriors or Monks (or Warrior/Monks). If the warrior continues to devote Weapon Proficiency slots to an unarmed combat style after he is already specializing in it, he gets the following benefits.
For each additional slot devoted to his art:

  • He gains a +1 bonus to all his attack rolls with his combat style;
  • He gains a +1 bonus to all damage with his combat style; and
  • He gains a +1 chart bonus with all attacks in that combat style. With chart bonuses of +2 or more, the character can choose any maneuver within the range of maneuvers covered by his chart bonus.

Weapon Proficiency Options

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