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Weapon Mastery (p. 75)

For each weapon choice he has, a character may choose to learn one weapon at the basic level of ability. By ‘one weapon’ we mean precisely that – one weapon from the Weapons mastery Table used in one fashion only. One weapon might mean a ‘normal sword’; it does not mean ‘all swords’.


When a weapon can be used in two different fashions (one-handed and two-handed, with the bastard sword), a weapon choice buys only one of those fashions. A character can have different levels of mastery with one-handed bastard swords and two-handed bastard swords, depending on how he has allotted his weapon choices. One exception is the net; training with the net allows a character to use small nets one handed and larger nets two handed, so the net has only one entry on the Weapons Mastery Table.


Basic level of ability is the same level of ability you’re already familiar with; basic level allows the character to use the weapon effectively by doing the damage and special functions listed on the Weapons Table in the Weapons & Equipment section. A character doesn’t have to use every weapon choice he has to buy basic level of ability with a new weapon. Instead, he can choose to specialize by applying his weapon choices to a weapon he already knows, improving his ability with that weapon. These degrees of ability are called levels of mastery and are listed in the Levels of Weapon Mastery Table.


Weapon Choices by Experience Level Table

                                Weapon Choices by

Experience             Character Class:

Level                      Fighters                 All Others

1                              4                              2

3                              5                              3

6                              6                              4

9                              7                              5

11                            8                              6

15                            9                              7

19                            10                            7

23                            11                            8

27                            12                            8

30                            13                            9

33                            14                            9

36*                          15                            10


* +1 weapon choice per 200,000 XP above the character’s maximum experience level.


Levels of Weapon Mastery Table

Number of Weapon             Level of

Choices Spent                   Mastery

0                                             Unskilled

1                                                                                          Basic

2                                                                                         Skilled

3                                                                                         Expert

4                                                                                        Master

5                                                                                        Grand Master


At 1st experience level, a character must spend all his weapon choices on different weapons; he may not yet progress beyond basic ability with any weapon. He may spend subsequent weapon choices to either buy basic ability with a new weapon or to gain the opportunity to improve his level of mastery with a weapon he already knows. 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.


Training times and Costs Table

Level of Mastery                  Time                       Cost per

Sought                                   Required (wks)     Week (gp)

Basic (new weapon)             1                               100

Skilled                                    2                               250

Expert                                     4                               500

Master                                    8                               750

Grand Master                      12                            1,000


Although characters can gain basic levels of mastery simply by expending weapon choices, characters cannot attain higher levels in the same way. Once the character has spent his 1st level choices, to gain additional knowledge of the use of a weapon 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 an NPC teacher found during adventures or through word-of-mouth. In some campaigns, weapon masters run academies where they teach the proper use of specific weapons; sword academies are common. In other campaigns, mystics may allow non-mystics to learn at their monasteries; many mystics are weapon masters.


Demi-humans can train to reach higher levels of weapon mastery just as human characters can, but they are eligible to train only at levels 4 and 8 (and level 12 for dwarves) and at every 200,000 experience points after reaching their maximum level.


After finding a trainer, the student must pay all the required costs before training can begin. A student can only train to the next rank of ability above his own. He can go from basic to skilled, and next time go from skilled to expert, but he can never jump straight from basic to expert.


A student can train in the hope of achieving the next level of mastery and fail to do so. The character student has a chance of failure applied to each training period. His chance of success/failure vary by the mastery levels of himself and his trainer. 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 doesn’t mean that the character has lost his weapon choice for that experience level. The weapon choice 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 reaches the level of mastery for which he has spent his weapon choice.


The chance of success is checked halfway through the training period and the student is immediately informed of the results. In a role playing situation, the teacher may take the student aside and inform him that he is not yet ready and that it is useless for him to continue at the present time. The student can either continue or stop the training. If the student continues the training for the full period, he may study the same level of mastery again, but with a different trainer, and with a +10% chance of success.


Unskilled weapon use means a character or npc has not devoted even one weapon choice to a weapon. That character is classified as unskilled. A character using a weapon unskilled has the basic mastery characteristics and bonuses or penalties, but that weapon only does half damage. Missile weapons also receive a –1 penalty to attack rolls.


Under the Weapon Mastery rules, the weapons acquire new abilities and damage ranges. Characters might choose to specialize in a particular weapon because of its better damage against weapon using opponents, or choose a weapon for its special uses, like parrying blows or tripping opponents. Some benefits can occur only if the player announces that his character is deliberately using them, such as deflecting or disarming. The player must mention this use before he rolls to hit. AC bonuses gained through weapon mastery should be applied automatically in all applicable situations.


Attack Roll Bonuses Table

Level of                  Bonus                    Bonus

Mastery                vs. Primary         vs. Secondary

Unskilled                No bonus              No bonus

Basic                      No bonus              No bonus

Skilled                    +2                            +1

Expert                     +4                            +2

Master                    +6                            +4

Grand master        +8                            +6


Attack and Defense Benefits. There are a number of attack and defense benefits available to characters when using the weapon mastery rules. These are outlined below, but details will only be divulged once a character gaining these benefits is created, or attains high enough weapon mastery to receive these benefits.


Improved Range. A character at skilled or better mastery with a ranged weapon can often fire or hurl it farther than someone less accomplished.

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, torches, war hammers, bastard swords, normal swords, and short swords can throw these in combat starting at the expert level of mastery. Ranges for these weapons are given in the DM’s tables & there are rules for rarely thrown weapons as well.

Bonuses to the Wielder’s Armor Class. When a character is using a weapon he has mastered, he gains an armor class bonus above any received from armor or defensive bonuses. The AC bonus he receives from his weapon mastery applies only to a given number of attacks per round, and type of attacks as well. Some shields don’t have a number after a slash mark; that means that the shield provides the character an additional armor class benefit all the time the shield is held, not just for a certain number of attacks per round. Having an AC bonus doesn’t count as a maneuver; the character may still move and attack at normal rates.

Defensive Maneuvers. A character may have an armor class adjustment due to Fighting Withdrawal and Parry defensive maneuvers, described later.


Special Results. Weapon masters can do some amazing things with their weapons; they get more performance out of the weapons they’ve mastered. These results are outlined below, and once again, they’ll only be divulged once a character has been rolled up or gained enough experience to actually use these results.


Despair Effect. A weapon master’s amazing ability with his weapon can cause despair and fear in some opponents. When it happens, the targets affected 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.

The DM should have affected monsters and NPCs make their morale checks under any of the following circumstances:

         The weapon user inflicts maximum possible damage with his weapon.

         The weapon user avoids all damage in a round by deflecting the opponent’s blows.

         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.


PC Victims of Despair: Player characters under a despair effect must make a saving throw vs. Death Ray. If they succeed, they are merely impressed; those who fail must retreat in awe for 1d6 rounds.


Number affected: The despair effect can only affect a certain number of enemies at a time. This varies with the character’s level of mastery as follows:

         Basic—no despair effect possible.

         Skilled—up to 4 hit dice or levels.

         Expert—up to 8 hit dice or levels.

         Master—up to 12 hit dice or levels.

         Grand Master—up to 16 hit dice or levels.

When the despair effect is turned on a group, it always affects the lowest-level or lowest HD enemies first. A weapon master can only use his despair ability once per fight.


Other weapon mastery special effects will be detailed with the character’s weapon mastery notes.

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