A weapon proficiency measures a character's knowledge and training with a specific weapon. When a character is created, the player checks Table 34 to see how many weapon proficiency slots the character has. These initial slots must be filled immediately, before the character embarks on his first adventure. Any slots that aren't filled by then are lost.
Each weapon proficiency slot must be assigned to a particular weapon, not just a class of weapons. Each weapon listed in Table 44 (Weapons) requires its own proficiency; each has its own special tricks and quirks that must be mastered before the weapon can be handled properly and effectively. A fencer who is master of the epee, for example, is not necessarily skilled with a saber; the two weapons look similar, but the fighting styles they are designed for are entirely different. A player character could become proficient with a long bow or a short bow, but not with all bows in general (unless he devotes a proficiency slot to each individually). Furthermore, a character can assign weapon proficiency slots only to those weapons allowed to his character class.
As a character reaches higher experience levels, he also earns additional weapon proficiencies. The rate at which proficiencies are gained depends on the character's class. Warriors, who concentrate on their martial skills, learn to handle a great number of weapons. They gain weapon proficiencies quickly. Wizards, who spend their time studying forgotten magical arts, have little time to practice with weapons. They gain additional weapon proficiencies very slowly. Multi-class characters can use the most beneficial line on Table 34 to determine their initial proficiencies and when they gain new proficiencies.
Effects of Weapon Proficiencies
A character who has a specific weapon proficiency is skilled with that weapon and familiar with its use. A character does not gain any bonuses for using a weapon he is proficient with; the combat rules and attack chances assume that everyone uses a weapon he is proficient with. This eliminates the need to add a modifier to every die roll during battle.
When a character uses a weapon that he is not proficient with, however, he suffers a penalty on his chance to hit. The size of this penalty depends on the character's class. Warriors have the smallest penalty because they are assumed to have passing familiarity with all weapons. Wizards, by comparison, are heavily penalized because of their limited study of weapons. The modifiers for each class (which are taken as penalties to the attack die roll) are listed on Table 34.
Related Weapons Bonus
When a character gains a weapon proficiency, he is learning to use a particular weapon effectively. However, many weapons have similar characteristics. A long sword, bastard sword, and broad sword, while all different, are all heavy, slashing swords. A character who is trained with one can apply some of his skill to the others. He is not fully proficient with the weapon, but he knows more about it than someone who picks it up without any skill in similar weapons.
When a character uses a weapon that is similar to a weapon he is proficient with, his attack penalty is only one-half the normal amount (rounded up). A warrior, for example, would have a -1 penalty with a related weapon instead of -2. A wizard would have a -3 penalty instead of -5. Specific decisions about which weapons are related are left to the DM. Some likely categories are:
- hand axe, battle axe;
- short bow, long bow, composite bow;
- heavy and light crossbows;
- dagger, knife;
- glaive, halberd, bardiche, voulge, guisarme, glaive-guisarme, guisarme-voulge;
- harpoon, spear, trident, javelin;
- footman's mace, horseman's mace, morning star, flail, hammer, club;
- military fork, ranseur, spetum, partisan;
- scimitar, bastard sword, long sword, broad sword;
- sling, staff sling