Weapon Mastery

There are many types of warriors. One can be a corsair, horseman or gladiator but only the basic warrior can become a weapon master. A master devotes her whole life to the study of a single weapon. More than just a common swordsman, she must become an artist in the martial theory of her weapon and internalize all of the characteristics of its traits. To be a master one must be studied, quick and precise with all aspects of the weapon for she strives for skill unparalleled by another. Weapon Masters are truly unique characters. They must be nearly single minded to ever hope to attain higher levels of perfection and even then, it takes sacrifice, time and dedication. Again, only a single-classed Basic Warrior can ever hope to be a Weapon Master.

The first and most important thing a character should know about mastery is that this proficiency depends as much on the weapon itself as it does the master. To train any level of mastery the character must first have a superior quality version of the weapon they wish to master. This weapon must be specially crafted for them by a master craftsman and must be mundane (non-magical) and in perfect condition to train with.

Mastery Level 1 (Ascendant Master): To attain this first level of mastery a character must already be specialized in the use of the weapon. She must have a maximum base Thac0 of 16 and be specialized in all Weapon Styles that apply to the weapon of choice. Basically at any time after she reaches fifth level, she may assign a third weapon proficiency slot to the weapon she wishes to master.

Of course those restrictions only scratch the surface of the formidable task of becoming a weapons master. First, a character must be trained by a master of at least two character levels higher than themselves and of at least this level of mastery. Second, this character must be a master of the exact weapon to be mastered, which could be problematic because people tend only to master weapons that require more than a bit of skill to wield and have a historic significance for the culture in which they live. Swords, especially those with a cultural flavor, are the most common weapons mastered. Other weapons, such as; bows (not crossbows), axes, spears, hammers, quarterstaffs or other types of blades, may also be mastered from one culture to the next. Only very rarely are Polearms or crossbows the subject of weapon mastery. It is left to the GM to decide which weapons are inappropriate targets for mastery (but this should be done before a character decides to master it). But given that a character can locate a suitable master and gain their favor to train her, she must still invest her time and possibly money.

Effects of Ascendant Mastery: Once the basic warrior becomes an Ascendant Master her attack and damage bonuses increase to + 3/+ 3 if her weapon of choice is a melee weapon. A master of a bow or crossbow’s point-blank range bonuses increase to + 3/+ 3 (like those with a melee weapon) and she gains an additional +1 to hit at all other range categories. But, a hero must remember to factor in any other range modifiers (Short range: +2, Medium range: 0, Long Range -3). Ascendant Masters can apply these bonuses only with their attuned weapon (which is the weapon they trained with). They may switch their attunement to another weapon of the correct kind but this takes a week of practicing with the new weapon. This attunement is not complete until the master has been in an actual battle wielding this weapon.

Mastery Level 2 (High Master): After becoming an Ascendant Master a character may continue to devote her weapon proficiency slots to her weapon of choice. To become a High Master a character must have already met the requirements for, and succeeded in becoming an Ascendant Master with the weapon to be further mastered. Further, she must have a maximum base Thac0 of 15 and an additional weapon proficiency slot to assign to the next mastery level (four total weapon slots). Meaning, a character may gain high mastery in her weapon of choice at any time after becoming sixth level.

Again those restrictions are only the beginnings of the trials a character must go through to become a High Master. A character must again be trained by a master of at least two character levels higher than herself and who is already a High-Master. And again, this must be a master of the exact weapon that is her weapon of choice. The added difficulty here is actually finding a High-Master of the needed type. If the character thought it was difficult to find an Ascendant Master in their weapon of choice imagine how monumental this task will be, made even more excruciating if the character wishes to find training in an uncommon weapon. Only weapons with dramatic historical significance or those that are hallmark weapons of a particular race will even have virtuosos at this level of mastery. Only if the GM chooses to allow for this possibility can a character gain high mastery in any weapon other than a sword, axe, spear, or bow (not crossbows). If a character is fortunate enough to find a master of this level that is willing to train her, she must invest a great deal of her time (and possibly money) to gain High-Mastery.

Effects of High-Mastery: A high master is so adept with wielding her weapon of choice that she reduces its speed factor by 50% (rounded down). She may also score critical hits on natural rolls that are two lower than what normal warriors need (thus 18 or higher at levels 6 to 8, 17 to 20 at level 9 to 15 and so forth). Those who have high mastery with bows gain a new range category. Extreme Range is 33% further than long range and shots at this range suffer a -10 penalty to-hit (before any other adjustments are added). High Masters can apply bonuses only with their attuned weapon (which is the weapon they trained with). They may switch their attunement to another weapon of the correct kind but this takes a week of practicing with the new weapon and this attunement is not complete until the master has been in an actual battle wielding the weapon.

Mastery Level 3 (Grandmaster): A High-Master may continue practicing with her weapon of choice and spend an additional weapon proficiency slot (5 slots total) to become a Grandmaster. A master of this level is capable of feats of swordplay incomprehensible even to masters of other levels. To become a Grandmaster, a character must have already met the requirements for and became a High-Master with her weapon of choice. She must have a maximum base Thac0 of 10 and must have an unassigned weapon proficiency floating before any training may begin. This means that a character may only gain grand-mastery in her weapon of choice after reaching eleventh level.

Just as with other levels of mastery those restrictions are the easy part. Unlike other levels of mastery a Grandmaster must be single minded on her path to perfection. Meaning, the character’s quest cannot be clouded by the study of any other weapon and so the character must not have gained proficiency in any other weapon. If you actually achieve this coveted level of perfection with your weapon you will be one of only a handful of people in the world, and that is how hard it is to find a Grandmaster to train under.

Becoming a Grandmaster is an arduous journey. This process will dominate the narrative of a character’s life. It begins the first time a character ever lifts her weapon of choice and ends when she is recognized as the foremost expert in its use. To begin the training for this level of perfection a character must first locate a Grandmaster of her exact weapon of choice, who is at least two levels higher than her. In and of itself this will be a quest of incredible proportions. Grandmasters will only specialize in weapons that are signature weapons of their particular race. If it is even possible to find a Grandmaster of a weapon other than a culturally and historically significant sword, axe, spear or bow, that master would be unique in all the world, and nearly impossible to find. Gaining the favor of a Grandmaster will also be a trying experience. Because Grandmasters are beings of a singular mind, there are no set rules for gaining their favor, nor any for the particulars of the training process.

Effects of Grand-Mastery: The grace exhibited by a Grandmaster wielding her weapon of choice is unparalleled and her skill is unmatched. They are the most dangerous opponent’s to face, and even a High-Master would cringe at the prospect having to battle one. Grandmasters gain one additional attack per combat round above the normal rate of attack for a specialist of their level (see Table 5-17 for exact stats). This attack can always be made in a round. Even if it should fall after initiative ten, it is then instead made on ten. Grandmasters gain an additional +1 to attack with their weapon of choice (for a total of +4 to-hit with it) and a -1 to their AC when wielding that weapon. Also, they increase the amount of damage they deal to the next higher die. Thus a Grand-Master of long sword deals d10 damage when she strikes a small or medium creatures and a d20 to a large creature. If the weapon causes multiple dice worth of damage, all of them become the next higher die. Grandmasters may apply these bonuses to any weapon of the correct type that they happen to be wielding at the time.

Note on higher levels of Weapon Mastery: Mastery in a weapon is not easy to come by. It takes the greatest dedication to the understanding of a single weapon through all of its forms and subtleties. It is not extremely rare for a character to become and Ascendant Master but becoming a High-Master and in turn a Grandmaster is a quest that will take years of a character’s life. Unlike the previous levels of Proficiency and Specialization, Mastery requires a great deal of time and sacrifice on the part of the character. It is not odd that training any level of mastery take several months of “in game” time. A character might have to part ways with her friends to complete her quest for any level of mastery.

The effects of Weapon Mastery can unbalance a party’s dynamics. A GM is encouraged to ensure that gaining the level of High Master is extraordinarily hard (though not impossible). Gaining the Grandmaster level should reflect a near impossible epic quest and the GM should never allow more than one or two people of this type on a continent. A GM should make sure that a player understands just how rare and special their character is at any level of mastery. Sometime shortly after becoming a master, she should also begin to realize that her status has left its mark on her. And that the mark, is a bull’s eye.

A character who becomes a weapon master should be brought to realize that she is now the commodity that she sought all those years and that people will now come looking for her. Some of these people will look to her for training to her level of mastery. Others will come to test their metal against her reputation. The character should come to understand why High-Masters and Grandmasters are so hard to find. It should now make perfect sense why she had to journey long and hard, following a trail of clues to find her future master just sitting atop a mountain contemplating the cosmos. The GM is expected to play up these unexpected side-effects of Weapon Mastery.

Weapon Mastery

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