A Warrior And His Weapons

In most cases, a warrior is defined by his choice of weapons. A barbarian wielding a greataxe presents a very different test of skill than a fighter with twin short swords, a ranger with a composite longbow, or a paladin with a longsword and shield. Even a monk, who often doesn’t wield a weapon in the truest sense, is herself a living weapon that presents special challenges to opponents.
Most fighters tend to choose a limited group of favorite weapons at a relatively low level, investing feats (such as Weapon Focus or Exotic Weapon Proficiency) and gold (in the form of magical enhancements) into these weapons.
Before too long, a fighter has made a reputation for fighting in a certain way, and that style almost certainly reflects his weapon choice. More than most characters, the fighter chooses a style and generally sticks to it. It’s a rare fighter, for instance, who sets aside a career of sword-and-shield combat for a two-handed weapon, but a wizard or druid can change her spell selection every day. On top of that, most fighters can’t easily change weapons during a battle, so specializing in a weapon with a limited niche of usefulness (such as a reach weapon or a ranged weapon) can put you at a disadvantage when that isn’t the right weapon for the job (such as fighting in a cramped dungeon corridor).
All this makes the fighter’s choice of weapon an extraordinarily important one. By 8th level, most combat-minded characters have spent at least two feats on a specific weapon (Weapon Focus and Improved Critical), and possibly three or more. The last thing a fighter wants to worry about is whether he’s going to find out that this weapon he’s spent so much effort mastering isn’t the right choice.
So how can you be sure you’re making the right choice? There’s no perfect answer, but there are some guidelines to consider when picking your weapon.

If You Have It, Flaunt It: If you have a high Strength, there’s no better weapon than a two-handed weapon to deal out truly massive amounts of damage. This option sacrifices some Armor Class (since you can’t carry a shield), so you may need to rely on a good Dexterity (for extra points of AC) or a high Constitution (for more hit points). Similarly, the high-Strength fighter with a composite longbow built to his specifications puts the crossbow user to shame.
Hide Your Weaknesses: If you have a low Strength but a high Dexterity, don’t fi ght with a big weapon. Instead, use a light weapon (or better yet, a rapier) with Weapon Finesse as a cheap way of dramatically improving your attack roll. If your Dexterity modifi er is at least 2 points higher than your Strength modifier, Weapon Finesse is better than Weapon Focus. Sure, you’re giving up some damage potential by using a lighter weapon, but in most situations you would rather be hitting more often and dealing slightly less damage than hitting less often and dealing slightly more damage.
A low-Dexterity character may need the extra bonus to Armor Class provided by heavy armor and a shield, putting two-handed weapons and two-weapon fighting out of reach. This character should focus on getting the biggest onehanded weapon he can, such as a bastard sword or a dwarven waraxe.
Look at Your Feats: Many feats lend themselves to being used with certain types of weapons. For instance, Power Attack is much more potent with a two-handed weapon than with a one-handed weapon, and is useless with a light weapon. A character with Two-Weapon Fighting should wield the same light weapon in both hands to reduce penalties and maximize bonuses from other feats. If you have Combat Reflexes, carry a reach weapon to widen your range of threatened squares (and thus make more attacks of opportunity).
Spring Attack is much more useful to a character wielding a single big weapon (such as a bastard sword or a greataxe) than a character wielding two light weapons, since you only get to make one attack during any round that you use Spring Attack. Quick Draw lets you change between weapons easily, allowing you a wider range of options in any given fight.
Go with Your Heart: Some fighters insist that a weapon with a bigger threat range (such as a longsword or, better yet, a scimitar) is preferable to a weapon with a bigger critical multiplier (such as a battleaxe or a heavy pick) because it’s “more reliable.” On the other hand, a tripledamage critical hit by a raging barbarian with a greataxe may end the fight before it begins. In the end, the choice of wide threat range versus big multiplier depends a lot on whether you prefer to slog along steadily, dealing out double-damage critical hits on a regular basis, or swing the fight wildly on the rare occasion of a triple-damage critical hit. Both are fine choices, but you should pick the one that suits your temperament.


As stated above, a fighter’s choice of weapon says a great deal about his tactics and combat style. Those who use exotic
weapons—whether a whip, dire flail, or one of the other many weapons—consciously differentiate themselves from the rank-and-file sword- and axe-swingers. The fighter swinging a spiked chain or lajatang says to his opponents, “I am different from others you have fought, and your previous experience did not prepare you for what I am capable of doing to you.” Sometimes, that’s all the edge you need.

Weapon Familiarity

Some races are associated with specific exotic weapons, such as dwarves and the dwarven waraxe. The Player’s Handbook grants weapon familiarity to these races, allowing them to treat certain exotic weapons as martial weapons. With the limited number of race-specific exotic weapons in the Player’s Handbook, this doesn’t give any one race an unfair advantage. However, if you introduce more race-specific exotic weapons, the advantage increases in significance.
To compensate, consider limiting the number of exotic weapons that a given character of that race can treat as familiar to no more than the number of weapons associated with the race in the Player’s Handbook (or in the Monster Manual for orcs). Thus, a given dwarf fighter might be able to treat the dwarven waraxe and the dwarven buckler-axe as martial weapons, but would have to treat the dwarven urgrosh as an exotic weapon. A gnome ranger could treat the gnome hooked hammer or the gnome tortoise blade (a new weapon) as a martial weapon, but not both. An elf fighter can’t treat any exotic weapons as martial weapons, since elves don’t have weapon familiarity with any
exotic weapons according to the Player’s Handbook. Characters who wish to master all their race’s exotic weapons can select the Improved Weapon Familiarity feat.
If the character must choose which exotic weapons to treat as martial weapons, this decision should be made the first time the character gains profi ciency in all martial weapons (at 1st level for a barbarian, fighter, paladin, or ranger, or the first time a character gains a level in any of those classes or any prestige class that grants proficiency in all martial weapons). Once the decision is made, it can’t be changed; however, the DM may allow characters to change their decisions if new race-specific exotic weapons are later introduced to the game.
Even if a character treats an exotic weapon as a martial weapon thanks to weapon familiarity, it is still treated as an exotic weapon for the purpose of qualifying for feats, prestige classes, or other benefi ts that require the character to be skilled in the use of an exotic weapon.

Source: Complete Warrior

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