Dungeons and Dragons – Mystara
Design Part 8 – Weapons Mastery Overview
Introduction to Weapons Mastery
This is a part of my 5E Mystara conversion series of articles looking at what I have done to bring the original setting of Mystara to my D&D 5th Edition tabletop.
One of the rule mechanics I loved from the older edition of Dungeons and Dragons now known as BECMI (stands for Basic Expert Companion Master and Immortal rules – Also found in the Rules Cyclopedia) is the weapon mastery.
What this mechanic does in increase the damage and capabilities of using weapons as characters advance in levels. They grant six levels of proficiency with an item.
Non-Proficient => Proficient => Skilled => Expert => Master => Grand Master
A Grand Master with a weapon is truly amazing in comparison to a unskilled minion using the same weapon. In the current 5th Edition rules, the only difference between the two is your chance to hit your opponent.
Example Weapon Mastery – The Battleaxe
The original version of weapon master had only five levels of mastery merging Non-Proficient and Proficient as Basic Skill.
What I did was take the concepts in this of damage increase, defensive and special effects and bring them over into a new version of the weapon mastery laid out in a different style that was easier for me to read.
Weapon: This is the name of the weapon
- Non-Proficiency: This is the cost, weight, base damage and abilities a wielder who is not skilled in the weapon can use.
- Proficient: This is the damage and abilities available with proficiency. I have introduced changes where some aspects of the weapon can’t be used without proficiency.
- Skilled, Expert, Master and Grand Master: Each further upgrade of the weapon provides more damage or abilities.
The table is a basic breakdown of how the weapon works, I have also included a detailed breakdown per level of proficiency as well. This details how all the abilities work.
Here we see the following mechanics:
- Versatile – Shown as Hit (1 Hand) or Hit (2 Hand) depending on how you are wielding it. This is one of the changes to non-proficiency that you have to be trained to use.
- Crit: Delay – A special critical hit option that on this weapon is only usable when in melee and not when you throw it.
- Crit: Stun– A special critical hit option that on this weapon is only usable when in melee and not when you throw it. This is an upgraded version of the Delay effect.
- (B) AC (+#/#) – This is a special bonus action you can use on your turn that increases your armour class (ability to avoid bring hit) by the number next to the plus sign, for the next attacks up to the number after the slash.
So a character who is skilled with the Battleaxe need only record the skilled section of the weapon on their character sheet.
How can I get Weapon Mastery
In my campaign I have characters starting out with Proficiency in weapons as indicated in their class. This is a good baseline for characters and provides the basics to the campaign. There are two ways to gain weapons mastery. The first is with character levels as part of gaining a level, and the second is with downtime.
Then if your a fighter you gain 4 weapon proficiencies at level 1, a barbarian, paladin or ranger gains 2 proficiencies, and all characters gain an extra proficiency for every three class levels they gain.
Each proficiency can be used to upgrade your knowledge with one weapon. There are currently 58 weapons detailed for my players to use.
A character can only advance the proficiency with a weapon if they are in the correct Heroic Tier of play. Tier 1 (Levels 1 to 4) can increase to skilled, Tier 2 (Levels 5 to 10), to expert, Tier 3 (Levels 11 to 16) to Master and Tier 4 (Levels 17 to 20) to Grand Master.
The other way they can gain weapons mastery is to spend downtime to learn a weapon. This is only a matter of time and money. Find a teacher in one of the settings gladiatorial arenas and they will teach those who prove they are worthy heroes of the nation.
See the main Weapons Mastery Page for links to all weapons, details on all qualities and options.
What other elements use Weapon Mastery
So the elements that I have working Weapon Mastery into are Downtime, Secret Crafts, a Feat, and a Fighter Archetype.
I use Downtime and Secret Craft mechanics in my game world that are designed to be roleplaying elements, though they are still a work in progress. Players are expected to work with my as the dungeon master to detail their downtime in relation to the teacher.
The secret craft option is to limit proficiency of skilled and above to members of the secret craft, and the downtime mechanic makes the use of the proficiency points have a time and cost constraint. From the perspective of Weapons Mastery it is a discoverable aspect of the game, finding a teacher who is willing to teach you can be a journey in itself.
The feat is based on the weapon master feat in the players handbook, but goes in a different direction and is now only available to members of the secret craft.
The fighter archetype is also linked to the secret craft, but is also available as a base archetype in my world for fighters. It focuses on improving your abilities with Weapon Mastery and you truly become a Weapon Master that it is named after.
Designing Weapons Mastery
After a year of using weapon mastery in my games, I am happy with how this updated version turned out. It might need a few tweaks and changes over time, especially to make weapons more unique (otherwise why have two weapons with the same stats) and I have chosen to take the fully compiled list off my website so it is now a discoverable element of the game. Not all rules known upfront can introduce surprise back into the adventure.
With updating the items, and working through what is a proficient which includes changing around some of the damage values from what the base rules have for non-proficient use adding more weight to gaining proficiencies.
Planned Weapon Progression for simple weapons 1 => 1d2 => 1d4 => 1d6 => 2d4 => 3d4 => 2d6 => 3d6 => 2d8
Planned Weapon Progression for martial weapons 1d6 => 1d8 => 2d6 => 3d6 => 2d8 => 2d10 => 3d8
Weapon Mastery 2.0 – Redesign
After working with weapon mastery rules for two years I have rebuilt it for a more simple stylised design that is easier to expand and work with. Here are the basics of what I have done any why.
Weapon Mastery Non-Proficient – Attacks are with disadvantage, and damage is halved rounded down. Non-Proficient use does not grant access to most of the weapon special properties.
Why changes to Non-Proficient – I wanted there to be more of a challenge in relation to using using items your not proficient with
Weapon Mastery Proficient – This is the standard weapon stats from sourcebooks.
Weapon Mastery Skilled – Weapons do an extra dice of damage. Gain abilities to activate as a bonus action on your round, or a reaction.
Weapon Mastery Expert – You gain an expertise on your attack, and weapons do an extra dice of damage. Abilities with weapons improve. Can use weapon options with this weapon.
Weapon Mastery Master – Your gain advantage on your attack, weapons do an extra dice of damage. Abilities and Options improve.
Weapon Mastery Grand Master – A natural 1 counts counts as a critical hit, and if both dice deal a critical hit, then all dice in the attack are maximised. Weapons do an extra dice of damage. Abilities and Options improve.
Beyond Grand Master in Weapon Mastery – While not possible to learn at this level, some abilities and magical items might push skill above grand master, and if it does it adds an extra dice of damage and improves abilities and options as per the weapon progression.
- 2021-07-29 – Added overview back into the title.
- 2020-09-02 – Added in options for Armour Training
- 2020-06-08 – Moved options and qualities to the main weapons mastery page
- 2020-03-07 – Structure and content update.
- 2020-02-28 – Adding in more weapons.
- 2020-02-07 – Adding in details for more weapons.
- 2020-02-03 – DC cleanup.
- 2020-01-29 – Added more weapon abilities.
- 2020-01-12 – Added in more qualities.
- 2020-01-02 – Adding to weapon qualities and options
Part 1 – Five Elements,
Part 2 – Five Spheres,
Part 3 – Pantheons,
Part 4 – Divine Features,
Part 5 – Reference Material,
Part 6 – Races,
Part 7 – Secret Crafts,
Part 8 – Weapons Mastery,
Part 9 – Setting,
Part 10 – Timeline,
Part 11 – Magical Item,
Part 12 – Classes,
Part 13 – Downtime,
Part 14 – Immortality,
Part 15 – Elemental Aspects,
Part 16 – Immortal Patrons,
Part 17 – New Directions,
Part 18 – Symbols
Part 1 – Mapping
D&D Menu – Adventures, Artefacts, Backgrounds, Classes, Dominions, Downtime, Feats, Gazetteers, Gods, Magical Items, Monsters, Organisations, Pantheons, Races, Ranks & Titles, Rune Magic, Secret Crafts, Settlements, Spells, Timeline, Weapons Mastery
Class Builds – Artificer – Bombardier (Tinkerkin), Barbarian – Totem Warrior (Ethegnarian), Totem Warrior (Heldannic), Bard – College of Valour (Sunfey), Druid – Circle of Dreams (Woodfey), Circle of the Tree of Life (Seasonfey), Fighter – Battlemaster (Seashire), Eldritch Knight (Kerendan), Weapons Master (Makai), Weapons Master (Stonebound), Monk – Way of the Elements (Waterchild), Paladin – Oath of Radiance (Sunfey), Oath of Vengeance (Firechild), Sorcerer – Wild Magic (Shadowfey), Warlock – Celestial (Sunfey), Wizard – Bladesinger (Seasonfey), Dragon – White. Multiclass – Cleric/Wizard (Ethengarian), Rogue/Cleric (Atruaghin), Rogue/Sorcerer (Seashire), Wizard/Rogue (Traladaran)
Floorplans – Thyatian
Session Recordings – Campaign Journals
This site is constantly under revision, no blog posts are final as this is a work in progress place for me to develop my game settings and rules. Some posts might be placeholders for future content, so feel free to check back later for updated information.