Forgotten Realms: Birthright
Characters start with the following proficiencies at 1st level:
Warriors can spend bonus proficiency slots from high Intelligence on weapon proficiencies. Other classes can only spend them on non-weapon proficiencies.
All characters receive a new weapon and non-weapon proficiency slot every three levels.
Characters spend weapon proficiency slots on gaining skill with weapons, shields, armour, and fighting styles. Different classes are eligible to spend proficiency slots in different ways – see the descriptions below for details.
The shield is a very important part of a character’s protection. By spending a weapon proficiency slot, a character can become more skilled in the use of their shield.
A proficient character can use the shield for cover when on the receiving end of missile fire at range, and not in melee combat.
The shield can function as cover as per the rules. (pg. 99 PHB).
Shields offer the following amount of cover:
Small: 25% hidden
Medium: 50% hidden
Large or body: 75% hidden
Cover also confers a bonus to saving throws against spells that do physical damage as per the rules.
Those characters specialized in the Weapon and Shield fighting style can gain the benefit of increased cover when using a body shield. If they are out of melee, they can assume to be 90% hidden. Thus, they also take half damage on a failed save and no damage at all if they save against spells that cause physical damage.
Similarly, a character can spend time and effort learning how to use their armour more efficiently. While this doesn’t provide a bonus to Armour Class, it can help to offset the hefty encumbrance penalties of heavy armour. A character who spends a weapon proficiency slot becoming acquainted with a type of armour gains the special benefit of not suffering a reduction in movement rate when wearing that armour.
For example, scale mail normally slows its wearer to MV 9, but a character with a proficiency in scale mail does not suffer this reduction and still moves at MV 12. This represents the character’s training in wearing the armour just the right way and his practice in moving around while wearing 30 pounds of metal.
The level of skill with which a character fights is divided into six general categories: non-proficiency, familiarity, proficiency, expertise, specialization, and mastery.
Many weapons are very similar in construction and techniques of use; for example, using a bastard sword with one hand is not too much different from using a long sword. Both weapons are heavy, two-edged blades that rely on slashing or chopping strokes to cut through armour. Weapons are divided into weapon proficiency groups according to these similarities. All weapons in a proficiency group are considered to be related to each other.
If a character has never had any training or practice with a weapon, he is non-proficient. He can only guess at the proper way to hold the weapon or attack his opponent. Anything fancier than a simple hack, slash, or bash is beyond his abilities – the character cannot attempt any attack options such as disarming, blocking, or sapping.
In addition to his inability to make special attacks, the character also suffers an attack roll penalty based on his character class. Warriors tend to figure out weapons of any kind relatively quickly and have a small penalty for attacking with weapons they’re not familiar with, and fighters are proficient with all weapons. Other characters don’t have their affinity for weapons and are more severely penalized. These penalties are shown on the table.
Any weapon wielded by a non-proficient character is considered three speed factors slower than it really is, and missile weapons have their rate of fire halved. An untrained character wielding a long sword has a speed factor of 8, not 5, and an unskilled character wielding a long bow would only fire once per round instead of twice.
All characters are automatically familiar with any weapon that is related to a weapon they are proficient in. Weapons are considered to be related if they are part of the same proficiency group. For example, a character who is proficient in the use of the light crossbow is automatically familiar with all other types of crossbow because they’re part of the same weapon proficiency group.
Familiarity is not as good as proficiency, but it beats not knowing anything about a weapon at all. Characters only suffer one-half the normal non-proficiency penalty when attacking with weapons they are familiar with. They may attempt any normal attack maneuvers possible (the familiarity penalty still applies, of course), and suffer no initiative or rate of fire penalties.
Familiarity does not allow the user to make use of any special weapon attack modes that require proficiency in the weapon.
This is the basic level of competence most characters achieve with their weapons training. Proficiency allows the character to use a weapon with no penalties and employ all attack options and special weapon properties to their fullest extent.
Warriors gain proficiency in an entire weapon proficiency group with a single weapon proficiency slot (and fighters are automatically proficient with all weapons). Other characters spend one weapon proficiency slot per weapon they wish to be proficient with.
Weapon expertise is a form of specialization that is available to warriors other than fighters. Regular weapon specialization (described below) is only available to fighters, but weapon expertise can be learned by other warrior classes. There’s no reason a fighter couldn’t learn expertise instead of specialization, but expertise is just as expensive as specialization and isn’t as good.
Fighters can gain expertise in an entire weapon group at the cost of a single weapon proficiency slot.
Weapon expertise grants a character +1 to hit with their chosen weapon at the cost of one weapon proficiency slot per weapon. Weapon expertise also allows the use of any unusual weapon properties reserved for specialist use. Weapon expertise does not grant the character extra attacks per round or damage bonuses, as weapon specialization does.
By spending a weapon proficiency slot on a weapon he is proficient with, a fighter character can become a specialist. A single class fighter can specialize in as many weapons as he chooses. Multi-class fighters can only specialize in one weapon.
The exact benefits of weapon specialization vary with the particular weapon involved. Generally, the types of benefits fall into one of four categories: melee weapons, missile weapons, bows, and crossbows.
Specializing in a melee weapon grants a character a +1 bonus to attack rolls and a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon and an extra attack once per two rounds.
This category includes slings and thrown weapons. Specialists gain an increased rate of fire and a +1 bonus to attack rolls. If a character specializes in a weapon that can be used either for melee or as a missile weapon (spears, daggers, hand axes, etc.), he gains the melee benefit when using the weapon for hand-to-hand combat and the increased rate of fire for using the weapon for ranged attacks. Refer to the table below for the exact number of attacks available to the specialist for the various types of missile weapons.
Characters who specialize in the bow gain a +1 bonus to hit at any range (normal range penalties still apply, of course), an increased rate of fire, and a new range category: point-blank. Point-blank is any shot of 30 feet or less. At point-blank range, the character gains a +2 to damage. In addition, if a bow specialist has an arrow nocked and drawn, and has his target in sight, he can fire at the beginning of the round before any initiative rolls are made.
Specialists with crossbows gain a +1 bonus to hit at any range, an increased rate of fire, and a point-blank range category, just like archers. For crossbows, point-blank range extends out to 60 feet. Crossbow specialists have a +2 bonus to damage rolls against any target at point-blank range. In addition, they share the archer’s quick-shot benefit when covering an enemy with a bolt loaded and cocked.
There are swordsmen, and then there are swordsmen. A fighter who devotes his life to the study of martial combat and the characteristics of a single type of weapon can become a weapon master – a fighter whose precision, quickness, and skill are virtually unequaled anywhere. Weapon masters are rare characters. Only single-classed fighters can ever achieve weapon mastery, and even then they do so with time, study, and sacrifice.
To achieve mastery in a weapon, a character must first specialize in the use of that weapon. Then, at 6th level or later, he can spend another proficiency slot to become a weapon master.
When a fighter spends a weapon proficiency slot on a melee weapon he already specializes in, his attack and damage bonuses increase to + 3 and + 3, respectively. For bows and crossbows, his point-blank bonuses increase to + 3/+ 3 as with melee weapons, and he gains an additional +1 to hit at all other range categories, for a total of +2.
By spending an additional slot on mastery, a fighter can become a high master. By this time, the fighter has spent three slots on a single weapon and is at least 9th level. High masters reduce the speed factor of their chosen weapon by three; for example, a longbow in the hands of a high master is automatically considered to have speed factor 5.
High masters who specialize in bows, crossbows, or slings gain a new range category: extreme range. For all weapons, extreme range is 1/3 farther than long range. For example, if a weapon has a normal maximum range of 18, in the hands of a master it has a maximum range of 24. Extreme range shots have a –10 penalty to hit before adjustments are made for the effects of mastery.
High masters who spend one more slot on learning their weapon of choice can become grand masters. Grand masters are capable of feats of swordplay that border on the fantastic. Grand masters gain one additional attack per round above and beyond a specialist’s rate of attacks for their level, so a 12th-level melee weapon grand master would attack 3 times per round with his weapon of choice.
Grand masters also increase the amount of damage they deal with their chosen weapon. The weapon’s base damage die increases to the next greater die size against all opponents. A long sword thus inflicts 1d10/1d20 points of damage in the hands of a grand master. If the weapon causes multiple dice of damage, all of them are increased. Thus, a two-handed sword in the hands of a grand master inflicts 3d8 points of damage on large targets. Needless to say, grand masters are extremely dangerous opponents.