Exotic Weapons and proficiencies in D&D

edited April 2011 in General Archive
I'm interested in hearing how people who are running pre-4E campaigns deal with weapon proficiencies -particularly in 3x- & with exotic weapons.

I have to admit, the rules for exotic weapons bug me a bit. While sometimes, a weapon is clearly exotic and would require extensive special training to use effectively (e.g. a spiked chain) other times, the classification seems unwarranted (barbed dagger, repeating crossbow) A repeating crossbow, for instance, functions just like any other crossbow when attacking. aim and shoot. The major change comes in how you reload at the end of the cartridge, so adding the default non-proficiency penalty to the attack roll, doesn't make a lot of sense.

It seems impractical for the vast majority of players to burn a feat just to become proficient in a particular exotic weapon... meaning that there are a whole slew of weapons on the equipment lists that likely never get used.

Does anyone else house-rule on weapon proficiencies to work around this, and if so, what do you do?


  • Shammond42
    Posts: 65
    I agree with this this sentiment. Exotic weapons seen prohibitively expensive. OTOH, you don't want them to be too common either.

    In my Pathfinder games, I use traits for extra weapon proficiencies. In Pathfinder, a trait is sometimes described as a 'half-feat'. If a player wants to take a group of related weapons, I would generally allow 3 related ones for a single feat. Presumably there is some interesting backstory and the 3 proficiencies would have to tie into that backstory.
  • DarkMagus
    Posts: 425
    I've never been really rigid with the rules. If a player comes up with an interesting character idea for a wizard who uses a long sword I don't make them spend a feat on martial weapon proficiency. If someone wants to use one of these exotic weapons, I don't mind if it "fits their character". It's all a story, and stories don't always fit into neatly packaged rules.

    Do what makes sense to you, as GM, and what fits in your world and with the character in question. That's what I say. :)
  • gnunn
    Posts: 423
    Yeah, I am already leaning intuitively in the direction everyone is suggesting. The subject comes up now because I'm currently populating a dragon's horde, which I want to include at least one "big ticket" item for each of my PCs. I did some number crunching last weekend and found I've been shorting them on their loot, so I wanted to bring them up to speed.

    I mentioned the crossbow, because I basically have to hit our rogue's player in the face with any character options to get him to do anything besides backstab, or sit in the corner if he can't. I wanted to present him with a solid ranged attack option. Right now he uses hand crossbows which take a move action to reload and at 1d4 damage are seldom worth the effort. I thought a nice repeating crossbow with some magic effects might convince him to diversify his tactics.

    I also had a wicked idea for a magic umbrella sword. In umbrella mode, it provides a resist elements effect, but you can also open it and draw a rapier from the handle to use as a sword and use the umbrella top as a light shield. If this were officially written up, it would totally be an exotic weapon, but I think I'll rule that it's too awesome to nail someone with proficiency penalties.
  • DarkMagus
    Posts: 425
    Those are some awesome ideas Gnunn! I especially like the umbrella sword/shield. Very original!
  • DungeonMasterLoki
    Posts: 329
    Have to admit that I like the burn feat for an exotic weapon approach. There are a few things that can be done to ease the pain. For one thing I give it as a bonus feat for certain races and classes. The Giff (old spelljammer race) get Exotic Weapon Firearms automatically, as does the Spelljammer Ace Prestige Class.

    Orcs and half orc automatically get Double Axe, etc. There is also room for the periodic magic item that allows one temp use of the feat. Say for instance a pair of gloves that allow facility with the bladed chain, but only when worn.

    Anyway, that is what works with my crowd. YMMV.

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  • gaaran
    Posts: 740
    I hear you Gnunn, that for something like a repeating crossbow it doesn't makes sense that it's THAT different. However, i always remind myself that while the mechanic, as written might seem strange, what it really is, is your character sacrificing a little something to be able to use a weapon that is superior to others of it's class. A crossbow's great damage is mitigated by their need to reload. A repeating crossbow shoots as fast as a bow but has better damage (depending on the size). A katana (in 3.5e anyway) can be used one handed and is 1d10/x3, better than any one-handed martial weapon.

    Just my two cents. :)
  • FemmeLegion
    Posts: 521
    Personally, I think the fun of exotic weapons is putting them in the hands of monsters. Especially if various savage races are known to favor one particular weapon - what will your players think when they suddenly come up on a band of *human* attackers who all wield such a weapon with ease?!

    I don't have any practical advice for the repeating crossbow versus other crossbows, but I do think if you're going to just *give* the rogue proficiency in it, then either make that part of its magic (ho-ho, fun to be had if someone else gets it!) or say that some sort of in-character training has to happen for the character to really get the hang of it.

    If you opt for the latter, you have a prime opportunity for comedy. Imagine the rogue picking up the repeating crossbow for the first time, firing off a test shot, unwittingly continuing to hold down the trigger.... Much flailing and wild shooting and shouts of "wha!" to be had!
  • gnunn
    Posts: 423
    So, here's what I'm thinking:

    I still plan for there to be a penalty associated with using the crossbow while unproficient, but that penalty wont be for attacking with it. Rather, I was thinking perhaps some sort of skill check required in order to reload the weapon (disable device? straight Dex?), and if an unproficient user rolls a critical fail while attacking, the weapon jams and must be cleared before using again.

    I feel like this does a better job of getting to the heart of why this particular weapon is exotic -it's a more complicated machine than other devices. Actually aiming and shooting, however is the same as with a non-repeater.
  • gaaran
    Posts: 740
    Yeah, that sounds pretty good Gnunn, that makes perfect sense to me.
  • optimus_mush
    Posts: 28
    Personally I've never been picky about weapon proficiency in 3 or 3.5. D&D really moved away from keeping track of who was proficient with what after 2nd edition and I've gone along with that notion. I don't particularly care if the mage wants to wield a long sword because his attack bonuses and typical lack of any strength bonus tend to make that a rather poor option for him. If he wants to spend time wielding a sword as a third-rate fighter instead of knocking off a few spells then that is up to him.
    As for exotic weapons, I tend not to worry about that either. If I don't want one to fall into my players' hands I simply won't put one in the game. If they do get their mits on something exotic you can explain away their competence with it as something gained through rigorous practice without requiring them to actually spend a feat. If you really feel it is necessary to penalize them when they first get the exotic weapon, make the penalty simply go away over time as they use it and become more familiar with its workings.
    That was a little rambly and a bit discombobulated but I'm tired and so must sleep :)
  • Poutine_Paladin
    Posts: 285
    Mush nailed it, I think. (not that it needed any more nailing, as I think it had a pretty clear consensus already)

    I agree totally with the re-load check rather than the attack penalty on the crossbow, by the way. Logic wins out yet again.
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