The weapons master is primarily a sub-class of fighters, but incorporates some attributes of monks as well. To become a weapons master a character must be human or half-elven, have at least 15 strength, not less than 16 dexterity, and 9 or greater constitution. Weapons masters never gain any experience point bonuses for high ability scores. They may be of any alignment.
As fighters, they get 10-sided hit dice, use the fighter's combat tables, get the extra hit point adds of 17 or greater constitution, and get to roll for exceptional strength if their strength is 18. For saving throws, they use both the fighters and monks (thieves) tables, using whichever number is more beneficial to a character of their level. However, they may not wear armor or use a shield. Although they may use and become proficient with any weapons, they begin with only one weapon proficiency slot (like monks do), thereafter getting an additional weapon proficiency slot every 3 levels (like fighters) and incurring a -3 non-proficiency penalty (like monks). (Note that if your campaign uses the 2nd Edition Player's Option: Combat & Tactics rules, weapons masters may use any or all of the proficiency slots granted to them by a high Intelligence score as weapon proficiency slots, just as any other Warrior class does.)
Weapons masters progress in experience levels using the chart that monks do, but they gain one 10-sided hit die per level up to the ninth and 3 hit points per level thereafter, modified by constitution, just as does a fighter. 500,000 x.p. are required for each level of experience beyond the 17th. They may establish a freehold at 9th level, and thus attract men-at-arms and collect a revenue of 7 s.p. per inhabitant per month from the area's inhabitants just like fighters. They may use all magic items that fighters may, except of course for armor and shields.
Proficiency with one or more melee weapons is the mainstay of this character class.
Level-based damage bonus with a melee weapon of proficiency: Like monks, weapons masters get to add 1/2 point of damage per level of experience (rounded up) to any damage done with their melee weapons of proficiency. Note that this damage bonus is cumulative with the damage bonus due to high strength. If you are running under the old 1st Edition AD&D rules system, however, there is an upper limit to a weapons master's level-based damage bonus: a weapons master in a 1st Edition campaign has a maximum level-based damage bonus of +30 damage points, which he or she attains at 60th level.
To-hit bonus with a melee weapon of proficiency: The attacking adjustment from dexterity that normally only applies to missiles also applies to a weapons master's to-hit chances with proficient melee weapons, in addition to his or her normal strength to-hit bonus. Thus, a weapons master with dexterity 16 and strength 17 would have a +2 to hit with any melee weapons he or she was proficient with, and a weapons master with dexterity 18 and strength 18/00 would have a +6 to hit with any melee weapons of proficiency (but only +5 if your campaign uses the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook chart for dexterity attacking adjustments).
Speed factor with a melee weapon of proficiency: Weapons masters use melee weapons they are proficient with at effectively 2 speed factors lower than listed, though the minimum speed factor is 0 (zero); so they would use a longsword at speed factor 3 and a dagger at speed factor 0. (If your campaign uses the new initiative rules in Chapter One of Player's Option: Combat & Tactics, which do not use numerical weapon speed factors, improve the weapon speed by one phase instead; e.g. a slow weapon becomes average, an average weapon becomes fast, etc..) Be reminded that speed factor only affects initiative; it does not influence the number of attacks a character gets per melee round.
Number of attacks per round with a melee weapon of proficiency: Against opponents of 1st level (1 hit die) or greater, a weapons master gets a number of attacks per melee round with a proficient melee weapon equal to the number of open hand attacks per melee round a monk of the same level would receive, up to a maximum of 4 attacks per round at 16th level. Against opponents of 0-level or less than one hit die, a weapons master gets a number of attacks per round equal to his or her experience level, just as a fighter does.
Level-based armor class while wielding a melee weapon of proficiency: Whenever a weapons master wields a melee weapon he or she is proficient with, he or she automatically gets an armor class that is usually better than what a normal unarmored character would get, which improves with his or her experience level. This represents the character class's superior passive parrying ability. The weapons master armed with a proficient melee weapon gets an armor class equal to that of a monk of the same level, plus his or her normal dexterity defensive adjustment. Recall that a monk's effective armor class starts out at 10 at first level, then goes down by 1 each level thereafter (except at 5th, 10th, and 15th level) until it reaches a maximum value of -3 at 17th level. Note: This level-based armor class only applies when the weapons master is wielding a melee weapon that he or she is proficient with, and only when the attack is one against which any normal character would be allowed to apply his or her dexterity bonus to A.C.. Thus, against a rear attack, a surprise attack, or an attack while the weapons master is held, asleep, etc., the level-based armor class does not apply. (But see the paragraph on "back protection" below.)
Hitting creatures hit only by magic weapons with a melee weapon of proficiency: In post-Unearthed-Arcana campaigns, a weapons master may use melee weapons he or she is proficient with to affect creatures hit only by magic weapons, even if his or her melee weapon is not magical. This ability is identical to the barbarian's; that is, the weapons master may affect creatures struck only by magical weapons of +1 or better at 4th level, +2 or better at 6th level, +3 or better at 8th level, +4 or better at 10th level, and +5 or better at 12th level. If your Dungeon Master is sadistic enough to throw monsters at you that require, say, a +6 or better weapon to hit, tell him that a weapons master can affect creatures struck only by magical weapons of +6 or better starting at 14th level, +7 or better starting at 16th level, etc., with 2 experience levels required per each additional "effective plus." Note that this ability does not actually give the weapons master any additional bonuses on his die rolls to hit; it only allows him to affect creatures that he would not otherwise be able to affect.
Back protection: In post-Unearthed-Arcana campaigns, a weapons master has the same back protection ability that a barbarian does. That is to say, if someone attacks a weapons master from the rear, the weapons master has a 5% chance per experience level of detecting and countering the back attack. If detected and countered, the back attack is considered a normal frontal attack in all regards. Thus, if the weapons master is wielding a melee weapon of proficiency and successfully counters a rear attack, he or she would get to use his or her level-based armor class against the attack, with no rear-attack penalties. Countering a back attack only turns it into a frontal attack; it does not, by itself, allow the weapons master to counter-attack his or her attacker out-of-turn. (But see the "Parrying" section below.)
Improved level-based armor class: In a 1st Edition AD&D campaign after Oriental Adventures, or in any 2nd Edition AD&D campaign, a proficient-melee-weapon-wielding weapons master gets an armor class equal to either the monk-plus-dexterity-defensive-adjustment armor class listed above, or the natural armor class of a kensai of the same experience level, whichever is better. A kensai's natural armor class starts out at 23 minus the character's dexterity score, then goes down by 1 at 3rd level, 6th level, 9th level, and every 3 levels thereafter, with no maximum limit. For example, say a weapons master had a dexterity of 16. 16 dexterity has a defensive adjustment of -2. At 1st level, his monk-plus-dexterity-defensive-adjustment armor class would be 10 - 2, which is 8, while his armor class as a kensai would be 23 - 16, which is 7, so he would use the kensai's natural armor class. When this same weapons master reached 4th level, his monk-with-dex armor class would be 5 (7 from the monk's chart, -2 for dexterity defensive adjustment), while his armor class as a kensai would be 6 (7 at first level, with a 1-point improvement at 3rd level), so he would use the monk-with-dex armor class. Finally, if he managed to reach 39th level, his monk-with-dex armor class would be -5, while his armor class as a kensai would be -6, so he would use the kensai's natural armor class again.
Improved ability to hit creatures hit only by magic weapons with a melee weapon of proficiency: After Oriental Adventures, this ability is identical to the kensai's rather than the barbarian's. That is, the weapons master may affect creatures struck only by magical weapons of +1 or better at 3rd level, +2 or better at 5th level, +3 or better at 8th level, +4 or better at 10th level, and +5 or better at 12th level. If your Dungeon Master is sadistic enough to throw monsters at you that require, say, a +6 or better weapon to hit, tell him that a weapons master can affect creatures struck only by magical weapons of +6 or better starting at 14th level, +7 or better starting at 16th level, etc., with 2 experience levels required per each additional "effective plus." (Note that, unlike the kensai, this ability does not actually give the weapons master any additional bonuses on his die rolls to hit. It only allows him to affect creatures that he would not otherwise be able to affect.)
Maximum damage attack with a melee weapon of proficiency: This power is identical to the kensai's, and is only available in campaigns occuring after the advent of the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures rules (in which the kensai was introduced). Once per day per level, a weapons master may declare that the next attack he makes with a particular melee weapon of proficiency will cause maximum damage if it hits. If a hit is scored, all dice for damage are assumed to have rolled their highest possible number. E.g., a longsword employed against a larger-than-man-sized creature would normally score 1d12 damage points plus the weapons master's other damage bonuses. However, if the weapons master declares a maximum damage attack with his or her longsword, and the next attack with that longsword hits a larger-than-man-sized creature, it would automatically score 12 damage points plus the weapons master's other damage bonuses.
Whirlwind attack with a melee weapon of proficiency: A weapons master of 11th experience level or higher has the same whirlwind attack power that a kensai does. Once per day, an 11th-or-higher level weapons master may declare a whirlwind attack, which allows him or her to attack all opponents within 10 feet once in the same round. The weapons master must be wielding a melee weapon he or she is proficient with. The weapons master does not get any extra attacks during the round the whirlwind attack takes place if he or she is wielding two weapons; however, if he or she is proficient with both weapons, he or she may choose which of the two weapons to attack each opponent with on an opponent-by-opponent basis. The weapons master may not combine a maximum damage attack with any whirlwind attack. Both sides must roll for initiative on the round of the whirlwind attack, and all attacks occur when dictated by the initiative roll.
Initiative with a melee weapon of proficiency: When wielding a melee weapon that he or she is proficient with, a weapons master has the same initiative bonus that a kensai does. That is to say, starting at first level, a weapons master gets an automatic -1 bonus to initiative rolls for combat with a melee weapon of proficiency. At 5th level, this bonus rises to -2, and at 9th level, this bonus rises again to -3. If the weapons master is fighting as part of a group, this initiative bonus applies only to him or her. This bonus does not apply if the weapons master is using a whirlwind attack.
Immunity to fear while wielding a melee weapon of proficiency: When wielding a melee weapon that he or she is proficient with, a weapons master is immune to fear, just as a kensai is.
Causing fear with a melee weapon of proficiency: Like the kensai, a weapons master of 7th level or higher can cause fear in all creatures with 1 hit die or less (saving throw versus breath weapon is allowed), provided the weapons master is wielding a melee weapon that he or she is proficient with. The weapons master can control this power, turning it on and off at will. Any characters or creatures struck by fear flee from the weapons master or surrender to him/her, depending on the circumstances. Creatures who make their saving throw are unaffected by the weapon's master's fear effect for the remainder of the encounter.
Except for back protection, the capabilities listed in the sections above only apply when the weapons master is wielding a melee weapon that he or she is proficient with. However, a weapons master also has a few other capabilities that apply regardless of what kind of weapon (if any) he or she is wielding.
Saving throws: Like the kensai, a weapons master receives a +1 bonus on all saving throws.
Surprise: Like the kensai, a weapons master of 6th level or higher gets a +1 bonus when rolling to see if he or she is surprised. (In 1st Edition AD&D, this would mean he or she is surprised only on a roll of 1 on 1d6.)
Meditation: Like the kensai, a weapons master of 4th level or higher may enter a state of meditation. One hour of uninterrupted meditation is as restful as two hours of sleep. While meditating, the weapons master is oblivious to hunger, thirst, heat, and cold. He or she is still conscious and aware of his or her surroundings, however, and so does not suffer any penalties on surprise or initiative dice rolls.
As with other fighter classes, a weapons master may attack with a weapon in each hand. Of course, neither weapon may be a "two-handed" weapon such as a two handed sword or a pole arm. This capability differs slightly, depending on what set of rules your campaign is running under:
Unlike any other class in any edition of AD&D, a weapons master may attack as many times in a round with each proficient weapon as he would if he were wielding only a single weapon; i.e. at ninth level, when fighting with a broadsword in his main hand and a short sword in his off-hand (both of which he is proficient with), a weapons master may attack twice per round with the broadsword and twice per round with the short sword.
If the weapons master is not proficient with one or both of the weapons, however, many benefits vanish. A non-proficient weapon in the off-hand can only make one attack per melee round, regardless of the weapons master's level. A non-proficient weapon in the main hand may make as many attacks per melee round as a fighter of the same experience level is entitled to. The weapons master's normal to-hit bonus from the dexterity attacking adjustment, and his or her extra damage from level, do not apply to any melee weapon the character isn't proficient with, no matter which hand the non-proficient weapon is in; the -3 non-proficiency to-hit penalty (-2 if the weapon is "related" to one the character is proficient with) applies instead. If fighting with a melee weapon in each hand, a non-proficient weapon in the main hand is at the normal -2 penalty for two-weapon fighting, and a non-proficient weapon in the off hand is at the normal -4 penalty for two-weapon fighting, even if you're running under 2nd Edition AD&D rules; both of these penalties may be offset by the weapon's master's dexterity attacking adjustment, but neither may be raised higher than -0. And if neither hand is wielding a melee weapon the weapons master is proficient with, of course, the character loses his or her level-based armor class and drops to A.C. 10 (plus dexterity defensive adjustment).
Specialization is available only in campaigns occuring after the advent of the 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana rules. Weapons masters in 1st Edition pre-Unearthed-Arcana campaigns cannot use specialization.
Whenever a weapons master attains an experience level that earns a new weapon proficiency slot (4th level, 7th, 10th, etc.), he or she may opt to take another weapon of proficiency or instead to specialize in a weapon he or she is already proficient with, much like a fighter does. He or she "spends" the weapon proficiency slot on a weapon he or she is already proficient with, and becomes a specialist in that weapon. The specialist weapons master gains an additional +1 to-hit and +2 on damage with this specialized-in weapon (like a fighter would). Furthermore, the number of attacks per melee round with this weapon is increased by one category on the chart, with a minimum of 3 attacks every 2 rounds. Therefore, at fourth level he or she may attack 3 times every 2 rounds with this weapon, at sixth level he or she may attack twice per round, et cetera. If the specialist weapons master reaches 16th or higher level (i.e. goes off the chart), he or she may attack 5 times per melee round with this weapon.
A careful reading of the rules on weapon specialization in Unearthed Arcana, the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook, and the 2nd Edition Player's Option: Combat & Tactics would seem to imply that a fighter may only specialize in one weapon, even if he or she has 2 or 3 other unused weapon proficiency slots. Well, pish-tosh. Weapons masters don't have to abide by such piddling restrictions. If a weapons master has enough weapon proficiency slots for it, he or she may specialize in as many weapons as he or she darned well pleases.
Double specialization ("mastery"): If a weapons master has specialized in a weapon, and then earns yet another weapon proficiency slot, he or she may opt to forgo getting another weapon of proficiency and instead double specialize in any of his or her weapons of specialization. If your campaign does not use the Player's Option: Combat & Tactics rules from the 2nd Edition of AD&D, double specialization may only be used with melee weapons, and cannot be used with pole arms or the two-handed sword. Weapon double specialization is also (somewhat confusingly) known as "weapon mastery" in Player's Option: Combat & Tactics. Double specialization increases the to-hit bonus with the specialized melee weapon from +1 to +3, and increases the damage bonus with the specialized melee weapon from +2 to +3.
Triple specialization ("high mastery"): Weapon triple specialization, also known as weapon High Mastery, is only available in campaigns that use the Player's Option: Combat & Tactics rules from the 2nd Edition of AD&D. By spending yet another proficiency slot on an already double-specialized weapon, a weapons master may triple specialize in it. Triple specializing in a melee weapon increases the weapon's speed and critical-hit range as detailed in the rules for High Mastery in Player's Option: Combat & Tactics. Note that the improvement in speed for a triple-specialized weapon is cumulative with the improvement in speed that weapons masters get with all proficient melee weapons, so a weapons master's triple-specialized melee weapon would actually be two phases faster overall; e.g. a slow weapon would be fast and an average weapon would be very fast.
If your campaign does not use the new initative rules introduced in Player's Option: Combat & Tactics Chapter One, weapons won't have a "speed phase." Instead, reduce the triple-specialized weapon's speed factor by 3, in addition to the 2 places it was reduced by simply having the weapons master be proficient with it, for a total overall speed factor reduction of 5. Thus, a bastard sword (normally speed factor 6) in the hands of a weapons master who had triple-specialized in bastard swords would be treated as speed factor 1. Remember, though, that no weapon can ever have its speed factor reduced below 0.
Quadruple specialization ("grand mastery"): Weapon quadruple specialization, also known as weapon Grand Mastery, is only available in campaigns that use the Player's Option: Combat & Tactics rules from the 2nd Edition of AD&D. By spending yet one more proficiency slot on an already triple-specialized weapon, a weapons master may quadruple specialize in it. Quadruple specializing in a melee weapon increases the number of attacks per round with that weapon by 1, in addition to the increase gained for single-specialization. Thus, a 16th level weapons master that had quadruple specialized in a longsword would get 6 attacks per melee round with a longsword. Quadruple specialization also increases the type of dice rolled to determine that weapon's damage by one size — a 2d4 weapon (such as a broadsword) would inflict 2d6 worth of damage, a 1d12 weapon (such as a longsword employed against a large creature) would inflict 1d20 of damage, and so forth. Finally, if your campaign uses the "knockdown" rules, quadruple specialization increases the size of dice used to determine knockdown for the weapon as detailed in the rules for Grand Mastery in Player's Option: Combat & Tactics.
No, weapons masters may not "quintuple specialize" in any given weapon. Note that, while parrying (see below), the additional to-hit bonus of +1 from specialization, or +3 from double specialization, is also subtracted from the Weapons Master's armor class, in addition to the to-hit bonuses from strength, dexterity, and magic.
A weapons master may use, become proficient with, and even specialize in, weapons that are not melee weapons. However, nearly all advantages to the weapons master class require the character to be wielding a melee weapon that he or she is proficient with. Using a non-melee weapon negates the level-based armor class, attacks per round, level-based damage bonus, etc. available to this character class. Furthermore, specialization in bows (other than crossbows) requires two proficiency slots, and thus requires the weapons master to set aside an unused proficiency slot for the purpose of future bow specialization until the next proficiency slot is earned.
A weapons master may choose to not attack at all for one round and actively parry instead. When parrying with a melee weapon of proficiency, all to-hit bonuses — from strength, dexterity, any magical plusses to-hit, weapon specialization, and any other source that I might have forgotten to mention — go right into armor class, along with the normal level-based armor class the weapons master is entitled to. Unlike other character classes, a weapons master may parry missiles, albeit magic missile spells and siege missiles are out of the question. For example, if a first-level weapons master was dexterity 18 and strength 18/00, and was parrying with a melee weapon he was proficient with, his armor class would be 5 (the natural AC of a kensai of the same level with the same dexterity), -3 for the to-hit bonus from strength is 2, -3 for the to-hit bonus from dexterity is -1 — armor class -1 at first level with no armor or magical protections!
In 2nd Edition AD&D campaigns only: At high levels of experience, the stardard Warrior's parry rule is applied instead: if the weapons master's level, divided by two, plus one is greater than his or her combined to-hit bonuses, then this higher number goes into the armor class while parrying. For example, say a strength 18/55, dexterity 17 weapons master reached experience level 12, had specialized (but didn't double specialize) in the footman's flail, was currently armed with a +1 magical footman's flail, and decided to parry. Her to-hit bonuses with footman's flail are +2 from strength, +2 from dexterity, +1 from specialization, and +1 from the magical to-hit bonus of her flail, for a total to-hit bonus of +6. However, at experience level 12, the Warrior's parry rule would give her an AC bonus of +(12÷2 + 1), or +7. Thus, she would use the Warrior's parry bonus instead, since it is higher. She would have a level-based Armor Class of -2 (1 from the monk's table, -3 for the normal AC dexterity adjustment), and an additional -7 for the parry bonus, for a final AC of -9. When attacking (not on the same melee round as she was parrying, of course!), this 12th level, Dex 17, Str 18/55 Weapons Master would also be +6 to hit and +12 to damage with this footman's flail due to strength, dexterity, level-based damage bonus, specialization, and the flail's magical bonus, and get 3 attacks every melee round; and with a fighter's to-hit table, that makes her pretty formidable!
Counterattack: Furthermore, if the weapons master is parrying with a melee weapon of proficiency and a melee attacker misses the weapons master by a die roll of 5 or more, the weapons master may counterattack. This maneuver is known as a riposte or a coup-fourre in fencing. The decision whether or not to counterattack must be given immediately after the opponent has failed his attack by more than 4, otherwise the opportunity is lost. The counterattack is considered to take place in the same melee round as the weapons master was parrying, and does not count against the number of attacks the character may make in the following round. The counterattack gets no to-hit or damage bonuses from strength, although it does get the dexterity to-hit bonus, as it is a dexterity-based maneuver. Only one such counterattack is allowed per opposing attack missed by more than 4, but the weapons master is still considered to be parrying for the remainder of the round whether the counterattack missed or hit.
The type of parry described in the preceding section is the "standard" parry from the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide. If your campaign allows the optional Parry maneuver found in The Complete Fighter's Handbook, a weapons master may choose to use that kind of parry instead. Note that the optional Parry maneuver found in The Complete Fighter's Handbook does not improve the parryer's armor class, nor does it allow a weapons master a free counterattack like the standard parry does.
Weapons masters may be multi-classed or dual-classed with classes that are allowed to wear armor. However, if they do wear armor, they cannot use their level-based armor class. On the positive side, weapon proficiencies and weapon proficiency slots earned by the "other" class(es) can be used by the weapons master class:
Multi-class: Any weapons proficiency slot earned by the character is treated as a weapons master weapons proficiency slot for purposes of those weapons master abilities that require him or her to be wielding a melee weapon of proficiency, and for purposes of specialization or mastery. Thus, a multi-classed weapons master/cleric, which would start out with 3 weapons proficiency slots, could use all 3 of those slots to become proficient with 3 different melee weapons, or to become proficient with 2 weapons and specialize in one of them, or to become proficient with 1 weapon and double-specialize (gain "mastery") in it.
Dual-class: When a character switches to a new character class, he or she gains a number of weapon proficiency slots equal to what a brand new character of the new character class would get (1 in the case of a weapons master, 4 in the case of a fighter, etc.). Melee weapons of proficiency wielded by a weapons master give the character all the abilities that a weapons master is entitled to when wielding a melee weapon of proficiency, regardless of whether the proficiency was "earned" by the weapons master class or by the "other" class(es). Thus, if a 2nd-level magic-user is proficient with a dagger, and he switches to being a weapons master, that dagger proficiency is retained as a weapons master and an additional new weapons proficiency slot is earned. The new weapons master could use the proficiency slot to become proficient with a longsword (thus allowing him to attack with a longsword in his main hand and a dagger in his off-hand), or he could use the proficiency slot to specialize in the dagger, or he could do anything else a weapons master is entitled to do with a weapon proficiency slot, including "holding" it in reserve for a better decision opportunity or to specialize in bows. This also applies if a weapons master switches to a different class and the new class exceeds the old weapons master level; i.e. if a 4th-level weapons master who is specialized in broadswords changes to cleric, and the character reaches 5th level as a cleric (picking up proficiencies in maces, clubs, flails, and quarterstaves along the way), the character would be considered a weapons master wielding a proficient melee weapon whenever he or she was wielding a mace, club, flail, quarterstaff, or broadsword. Furthermore, specialization from those earlier class(es) which are allowed weapons specialization are also carried forward to the weapons master class, so if a 3rd-level fighter who had specialized in horseman's flails became a weapons master, this new weapons master would be considered specialized in horseman's flails, and could use his new weapons proficiency slot to double-specialize (gain "mastery") in the horseman's flail if he or she so chose.
The MONK'S table from the 1st Edition Player's Handbook (relevant columns)
|0 - 2,250
|2,251 - 4,750
|4,751 - 10,000
|10,001 - 22,500
|22,501 - 47,500
|47,501 - 98,000
|98,001 - 200,000
|200,001 - 350,000
|350,001 - 500,000
|500,001 - 700,000
|700,001 - 950,000
|950,001 - 1,250,000
|1,250,001 - 1,750,000
|1,750,001 - 2,250,000
|2,250,001 - 2,750,000
|2,750,001 - 3,250,000
|3,250,001 & +