Weapon Specialization for Fighters

March 2020

Weapon specialization for fighters as described in Unearthed Arcana (UA) immediately struck me as unbalanced. We play tested the rule and vetoed it. As excited as my group was to get UA, a lot of the rules proved to be disappointing, especially the new classes.

It was years later I learned that Gary Gygax published UA shortly after returning to Lake Geneva after his long stint in California. TSR was in serious financial trouble due to mis-management, and it appears (to me, anyway) that UA was banged out to generate badly needed revenue in short order. [I’m not criticizing EGG from a business viewpoint, as if I was in his shoes I expect I’d do the same. However, as a consumer, I’m less than happy.]

So … within a month or so I developed the following weapon specialization system, which my group happily and successfully play tested and adopted.

November 2008

Weapon specialization is an ability available to fighters and some fighter sub-classes. The fighter uses a weapon proficiency slot to learn extra ability with one weapon, such as long sword, broad sword, mace, or bow. When using this weapon the fighter gains bonuses to-hit and damage, and may receive additional attacks per round.

To specialize in a weapon, the fighter must use two weapon proficiency slots instead of the usual one. At 1st level a fighter has four weapon proficiency slots — if he chooses to specialize he may choose three weapons of proficiency, one of which is specialized. A fighter may specialize in only one type of weapon, regardless of level.

Six levels after choosing to specialize in a weapon the fighter may choose to double specialize in that weapon. Another weapon proficiency slot must be used for this purpose. Six levels after that the fighter may again use a weapon proficiency slot to triple specialize, which gives the fighter the best specialization that can be obtained.

As noted, specialization gives the fighter bonuses to-hit and damage, and may gain additional attacks per round. Although a fighter may choose to specialize in a weapon any time a new proficiency is earned due to level, the most benefits accrue if the specialization is chosen at 1st level. The following tables display the hit and damage bonuses and attacks per round if the fighter specializes at first level.

Melee Weapons

Specialization with a melee weapon immediately provides a bonus to-hit and damage. Three levels later, an additional attack every other round is added. The increase in the number of attacks is part of the specialization; it does not cost an additional proficiency slot.

Note that if the specialized weapon may be thrown, no bonus is allotted to the weapon when thrown. The bonuses apply only to hand-held attacks.

Melee Weapon Specialization Bonuses



Hit/Damage Bonus


Single 1-3 +1/ +1 1
Single 4+ +1/ +1 3/2
Double 7-9 +2/+2 3/2
Double 10+ +2/+2 2
Triple 13-15 +3/+3 2
Triple 16+ +3/+3 5/2

Distance Weapons

Specialization for distance weapons is slightly different. The bonus to-hit and damage changes by range, as indicated in the next table.

Note: Similar to melee weapons, specialization in a thrown weapon such as handaxe provides no bonuses in melee.

Distance Weapon Specialization Bonuses

Hit/ Damage Bonus by Range






Single 1-3 +1/+1
Single 4+ +1/+1 +1/+1
Double 7-9 +2/+2 +1/+1
Double 10+ +2/+2 +2/+2 +1/+1
Triple 13-15 +3/+3 +2/+2 +2/+2
Triple 16+ +3/+3 +3/+3 +3/+3

Distance Weapon Attacks per Round

The number of attacks per round varies by weapon, although the system functions like melee weapons: specialization first provides a bonus to-hit and damage, and 3 levels later adds additional attacks.

Attacks per Round







Single 1-3 1/2 1 2 3
Single 4+ 1 2 3 4
Double 7-9 1 2 3 4
Double 10+ 2 3 4 5
Triple 13-15 2 3 4 5
Triple 16+ 3 4 5 6

If a fighter choose to specialize at a level after 1st level, the progression of abilities has the same span, e.g., double specialization can occur 6 levels after the decision to specialize. Please note that for melee weapons this negates the advantage of additional attacks per round.

For instance, Sam Swordswinger chooses to specialize in the long sword at 4th level. He immediately gains and additional +1 to-hit and damage when using a long sword. Three levels later, at 7th level, he gains three attacks every two rounds — but he gets that for attaining 7th level regardless of specialization. In this example only at 16th level would he gain additional attacks per round not granted by level. So the best advantage is gained by specializing at 1st level.

A similar progression occurs for missile weapons, e.g., if a fighter choose to specialize in throwing daggers at 7th level he cannot double specialize until 13th level.

This page last updated: March 2020
Copyright 2008-2020 Bryan Fazekas

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