View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Martial Archetype - Weapon Master

T.G. Oskar
2014-09-30, 09:41 PM
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages! Fiends, celestials and eldritch abominations too!
Because, you know, 5e has no more Outsiders...

My second attempt at homebrewing 5th Edition is a sort-of blast to the past. You might be wondering "how", but trust me, it will be a blast to the past.

The Fighter got an interesting rework in this edition, gaining some interesting features such as Second Wind (self-heal!), Indomitable (failed a save? You sure?), and Action Surge (OMGWTFBBQYippie-ki-yay-mother-of-all-chromatic-dragons!). However, beyond these surprising changes, the Fighter still remains the character meant for those who only care about kicking monster booty and chew bubblegum (and, tough luck; there is no bubblegum in Faerun). Wizards still can do loads of things because "magic", but the Fighter is now a viable character to have.

Since Basic Edition, specializing in weapons has been a thing. Originally, it took Weapon Proficiencies to specialize, and later on, it took feats. Making a Weapon Master build aside from the poorly-done version in the PHB that's more "Martial Weapon Proficiency" than anything is essentially impossible, as there's no benefits for specializing in a weapon. Being the province of the Fighter in nearly all editions, it's understandable to create an archetype based on it. Hence, the Weapon Master archetype.

The Weapon Master falls into the pit of numerical bonuses, but they're pretty close to what you'd get normally, and they are there for a reason. The archetype, however, brings things that were part of Basic D&D and that didn't truly cross over; these things allow the Weapon Master to be more than just a numerical booster for the Fighter, yet it still allows it to be a simple choice for those who want to be better at combat than Champions but don't mind over-specializing. Of course, over-specializing is in a way the archetype's weakness, so...

To put it in perspective: I don't care if the archetype is stronger than the Champion. That is intentional; the Champion could use some help, honestly, and most likely the archetype won't exceed the degree of flexibility a Battle Master or Eldritch Knight can pull off. If it's between Champion and Eldritch Knight, stronger than the former but still balanced with the latter, then that's what I aim for. I feel that the archetype is neither too strong nor too weak, and that despite the bonuses to attack and damage rolls (which are rarities in the system itself), they fit the new paradigm.

So, without further ado, my second attempt at 5e homebrewing.

The archetypal Weapon Master trains to master the use of one weapon above the rest. Through hours of study and practice, the Weapon Master unlocks the potential of the weapon, making more accurate and deadly attacks with it. Watching a Weapon Master in combat is an awe-inspiring experience, but suffers when outside of its area of expertise.

Beginning when you choose this archetype at 3rd level, choose one weapon from the list of Simple and Martial Weapons. Whenever you wield that weapon, you gain a +1 bonus to your attack roll. This stacks with attack bonuses granted by your Fighting Style, if applicable. This bonus increases by 1 at 10th level and again at 18th level. You cannot choose to specialize in unarmed strikes.

The first ability you get is a simple +1 to attack rolls. It's simple, it's boring...it's also practical. The Archery style grants a simple +2 bonus to attack rolls, so the precedent is there, and this one is focused on a single weapon.

The progression, though, is somewhat stunted. Technically, there are instances of progression, but they tend to appear separately: the Champion's critical threat range and the Battle Master's Superiority Dice size increase with levels, and this fits the trend.

However, it is a clever way to hide another kind of progression, which fits better. You'll notice that all three progressions are done exactly at the mid-point between the even-numbered and the subsequent odd-numbered progressions in the proficiency bonus. For example: the Fighter starts with a +2 bonus, and the first +1 bonus is gained at 3rd. The Fighter gains a +3 proficiency bonus at 5th level. This also appears at 10th level (between 9th and 13th) and 18th level (between 17th and 20th), which are pretty close. If you haven't figured, you effectively get half your proficiency bonus over the current one when wielding your weapon, which is only one step below double proficiency bonus, which would make this a sort of "Weapon Expertise". Applying a true "Weapon Expertise" at 3rd level would be way too much.

The progression is higher than 3.5, which may raise a flag, but actually lower than Basic or 1e, where the bonuses can easily reach +5 (on a system that reaches +20, if you read the attack matrix/THAC0 carefully), and the benefit is much better. A +3 bonus at 18th level rarely breaks Bounded Accuracy, to be honest, since it doesn't provide a huge leap like a +5 bonus unless you deliberately choose to do so. Even then, if you're disarmed or your weapon can't be used, you're at the same level of proficiency as before with other weapons. It would be the same effect with Archery, except it starts weaker, it ends only one step stronger, it stacks, but it applies ONLY to one weapon.

At 7th level, when wielding the weapon you chose for your Weapon Focus class feature, you deal an additional 2 points of damage. This bonus increases by 1 at 10th level, and again at 15th level and 18th level. Furthermore, you're considered as proficient with the History skill and apply twice your proficiency bonus when making a check regarding your chosen weapon.

As expected, once you get Weapon Focus (bonus to attack), Weapon Specialization comes through (bonus to damage). This one is pretty straight-forward: get a bonus to damage. The damage increase doesn't start as that much, but it can get pretty high (+5 per blow, on a class that doesn't have native bonuses to damage but multiple attacks that render it moot), which might raise another flag.

However, that would have made it a cheat. That makes it two direct, numerical boosts. Weapon Specialization mostly gave that, so it's no surprise that they're the easiest, simplest, most boring but most practical things to port over. To minimize the effort, I added something that is not native to D&D, but part of the d20 System AND easily found in 5th Edition: the application of the proficiency boosts to History checks related to your chosen weapon.

The idea comes from d20 Modern, specifically its Urban Arcana supplement and the Archaic Weaponsmaster advanced class. One of its class features is that it added a surprising bonus to all skill checks related to the character's chosen weapon to focus and specialize into. There is precedent for the boost to History checks; it is the same language as Stonecunning, or at least the same intention. Naturally, it was a viable way to make the acquired class feature more interesting than yet another numeric boost, and it shows.

At 10th level, when wielding the weapon you chose for your Weapon Focus class feature, your skill with the weapon can make the targets of your attacks fall into despair. By spending a bonus action as part of a successful critical hit, the target of your attack must make a successful Wisdom save against a DC of 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (as applicable for the weapon). If the target fails its save, it gains the Frightened condition for as long as it can see you fight. Creatures with an Intelligence score below 3 are not affected by this ability, nor targets who have more Hit Dice than your level.

The Frightened condition can be very powerful, and having the Weapon Master do it pretty much freely might raise yet another flag. However, most real grognards out there might recognize this is part of the Weapon Mastery rules of the Rules Cyclopedia. You may recognize it as the "despair effect".

The original version caused targets to be affected automatically on one of three conditions, in which a morale roll was made: deal maximum damage, deflect all blows, or disarm two or more opponents. Naturally, such feats are somewhat difficult to pull off even in Rules Cyclopedia; maximum damage and proper deflection require a good weapon choice, whereas disarming was specific to certain weapons and replaced your attack. Since 5e has Disarming and Parrying as maneuvers specific to the Battle Master (and certain monsters), applying this to the Weapon Master was hardly possible; however, critical hits hold the tradition of maximum damage and thus make sense.

However, in case you're worried, there's two more limitations. The Bonus Action is minor, and the Wisdom save is what equates the morale roll (probably will change when the DMG comes), so you won't instantly cause the Frightened condition. In that regard (with three limitations to its application), the Frightened condition could last as it did originally, which was as long as the enemy could see you fight.

This, I believe, is a pretty creative way to have the Fighter provide some key support, particularly with Archers as they have a good combination of range and extra attacks, and the Frightened condition makes the target remain away from you, so you'll be able to fire at will.

Of course, and retaining the parameters of the "despair effect", it has the limitations of Hit Dice (the original version limited the HD you could affect by the level of mastery with your weapon) and Intelligence (animals and beasts with low Intelligence can't be awed by your weapon prowess, after all), so for the most part, it should sway all concerns relating to it. Perhaps it might be TOO underpowered; feel free to comment if it should be improved.

At 15th level, when wielding the weapon you chose for your Weapon Focus class feature, you can unlock special benefits with the weapon, depending on the properties of the weapon itself.
Ammunition: you may recover all your expended ammunition when taking a minute to search the battlefield
Finesse: Your AC increases by 2 against melee attacks, unless the opponent is using a Heavy weapon or is more than one size category larger than you.
Heavy: When making the Shove special attack with this weapon, you gain advantage on the Strength check. This only applies to melee weapons; on ranged weapons, this allows using the Shove action at range, but at disadvantage instead.
Light: You gain advantage on all attacks made with this weapon against creatures larger than you.
Loading: As a bonus action, you may make an additional attack with this weapon. This supersedes the restriction on attacks using this weapon, but only for this action.
Range: You gain no disadvantage when using this weapon beyond its normal range.
Reach: You may make an opportunity attack against a target that approaches your reach.
Thrown: The normal range of a thrown weapon increases by 10 ft., and the maximum range to four times the new normal range.
Two-Handed: Against creatures smaller than you, [effect]
Versatile: You gain a +1 to AC when wielding the weapon in one hand, and a +2 bonus to damage when wielding it in two hands.

If the weapon has no properties, the weapon has its damage die increased by 1 step (1d6 -> 1d8 -> 1d10).

The originally highest level of mastery with a weapon in Rules Cyclopedia and 2nd Edition was, of course, Grand Mastery. This is a call-back to that level of mastery, with a caveat: making one special ability per weapon can be a daunting task. What's the simplest solution, then?

Why, have the weapon improve based on its properties! The proper way to exploit the new property concept for weapons, the Weapon Master gains special benefits based on ALL of the weapon's properties. Thus, a Heavy Crossbow gets the benefits from Ammunition, Loading, Heavy, Ranged and Two-Handed, making it a nice winner.

Some merit explanation. Loading is a corrective measure: it's meant to provide players with mastery regarding these weapons despite the existence of Crossbow Mastery. If you happen to keep it, you still get the bonus action attack with it, so it's both corrective and synergistic. Reach is the same benefit of Polearm Mastery, in case you lack access to feats, but it also applies to the Whip which isn't a Polearm, so it has worth. In these two cases, despite redundancies, they still have some worth.

Two-Handed is where I drew a blank, because honestly I couldn't find a common factor between all the weapons that hold it aside from, you know, being weapons that require two hands to be used. Versatile, Light and Heavy were difficult, but I believe I worked it admirably; Two-Handed, on the other hand, is more difficult since it also applies to ranged weapons. Again, some ideas are suggested.

Finally, in case you're curious: the weapons that get a die size increase are the Mace (Simple), the Flail (Martial), the Morningstar (Martial) and the War Pick. It was that, or make them deal bludgeoning + piercing damage, because these weapons desperately need some love.

At 18th level, when wielding the weapon you chose for your Weapon Focus class feature, you deal an
additional damage dice with it. For example, a longsword would deal 2d8 points of damage, and a greatsword would deal 3d6 points of damage. This is considered the weapon's new base damage dice for as long as you wield it.

Simple, and powerful. The capstone makes a LOT of weapons more attractive, while others less so. Greatswords and Maces still deal a solid amount of damage, but Greataxes officially dwarf the damage potential of these two, so keep this in mind. Also, Lances get a sweet boost, and just about every weapon that has a d10 damage dice got a nice boost. Of course, between the extra damage dice AND the additional damage from Weapon Specialization, it might be a bit too much for you. On the other hand, it should dispel the thoughts of which archetype does the most damage.

However, while it's creative and nifty, it might feel like a cheat. By that level, you will outdamage just about everything; that's always good. The problem is that, well, you have such high numbers that you'll probably make any battle a non-challenge. Furthermore, Weapon Supremacy (the 3.5 feat) had other nifty stuff that's more difficult to cross over, but suggests that this class feature should have a lot more. As it stands, it fits the last archetypal class features of the Champion and the Battle Master (mostly minor benefits, to be frank), and the damage is still yet below what a proper 3.5/4th character can pull off reliably. YMMV on it, but I'm always free to hear your opinion on this.

So: questions? Comments? Too early for 5e homebrew? Why, oh why, has WotC not called you already? Keep going with 3.5 homebrew and stop wasting my (as in, your) time? You sucked with 3.5 homebrew, don't think this will make it better? (Alternatively: you sucked with 3.5 homebrew, so let's give you the benefit of the doubt for 5e content?) Why did you repeat the same joke as with the Oath of Martyrdom? Why do you make such inane questions at the end, you fool!?

2014-10-01, 08:29 PM
Hmm... I don't think people will be playing this subclass because a lot of its features rely on only one weapon (which can be easily lost in the heat of battle). That said, I believe there is a simple solution to this problem. Give anyone who has the Weapon Focus feature the ability to change their weapon specialization during a short rest (similar to how one attunes to a magical item). At 10th level, the players who take this subclass can add that +1 bonus from Weapon Focus to the weapon they have already specialized or another weapon of their choosing and so on. (The other features apply to these weapons as well. And again, one can change all these things during a short rest.)

2014-10-01, 11:00 PM
Technically seeming, you actually can specialize in improvised weapons, and be as good as normal Fighters who use actual weapons.

That's awesome, and please don't edit it to also exclude improvised weapons.

T.G. Oskar
2014-10-02, 12:50 AM
Hmm... I don't think people will be playing this subclass because a lot of its features rely on only one weapon (which can be easily lost in the heat of battle). That said, I believe there is a simple solution to this problem. Give anyone who has the Weapon Focus feature the ability to change their weapon specialization during a short rest (similar to how one attunes to a magical item). At 10th level, the players who take this subclass can add that +1 bonus from Weapon Focus to the weapon they have already specialized or another weapon of their choosing and so on. (The other features apply to these weapons as well. And again, one can change all these thing during a short rest.)

Remember there's a different mentality behind 5e. For once, things like disarming and sundering weaponry are extremely rare, to the point that the only official way to disarm a target is via a maneuver, and that one is limited ONLY to the Battle Master or anyone with the Martial Adept feat. In that regard, the Battle Master is the one that has more uses of it. The specific amount of monsters that destroy weapons is limited mostly to the Rust Monster from what I know, so it's very difficult to lose your weapon aside from deliberately dropping it or the DM going against you.

There is strong support for going with one weapon only. Very few weapons are worth choosing most of the time: if you're a Two-Hander, you'll most likely go Greatsword or Mace, or Greataxe if a Half-Orc or Barbarian; if going Sword & Board, most likely a 1d8 Martial weapon; if going Archery, you'll go straight to Longbow unless you want to use the Crossbow Mastery feat (in which case you'll go for Heavy Crossbow); Two-Weapon Fighting will probably remain within Scimitar or Shortsword, whereas Dex-based Melee will focus on Rapier. Shifting weapons is a last-resort effect, to be honest.

Furthermore, the standard of Weapon Specialization was to focus on one weapon over the rest. Shifting between weapons is something best done on 3.5, where having more than one weapon was desirable and the benefit of the Weapon Focus chain was too small to really matter, hence making the opportunity cost poor. 5e makes small numerical bonuses count more, so a Weapon Master with a single weapon will probably excel.

That said, I understand the point of being without your chosen weapon in the heat of battle, but going Short Rest as early as 3rd level seems overkill IMO. Indeed, most Fighter features recover within Short Rests (save for the Eldritch Knight, but that's because it's spellcasting), and the system is deliberately low-power. The best I could do is allow changing Weapon Focus as part of a Long Rest, then switch to Short Rest by 10th level; that makes for a more organic progression IMO. Granting all the bonuses (except for smaller numerical bonuses) to other kinds of weapons, however...I see it as a bit difficult, even IF the Fighter could specialize in two weapons. In fact, it kinda ruins the ability to shift between weapons in a Short Rest.

However, I think it's fine by now, if only because the numerical bonuses feel like cheating...or perhaps not cheating per se, but it feels like an inelegant solution, even though it is elegant (simple, practical, and the bonuses actually matter so it's also useful). Looking for another solution to pure numerical bonuses, on the other hand, is either too complicated or overkill.

Technically seeming, you actually can specialize in improvised weapons, and be as good as normal Fighters who use actual weapons.

That's awesome, and please don't edit it to also exclude improvised weapons.

To be honest? I'll do the opposite.

Rather than exclude improvised weapons, I would make the explicit mention that this is a thing. I agree; a Weapon Master that uses a broken bottle or a chair as its choice of weapon is all kinds of awesome. Not sure if I should treat Improvised Weapons as one kind of focus, or if I should treat them per instance (that is, specializing in chair legs, or broken bottles, or ladders, etc.) I incline for the latter, but that would imply also switching to Short Rest straight from 3rd level and it's something I feel isn't the spirit of 5e.

2014-10-02, 06:01 PM
I would definitely make it *any* improvised weapon. The whole fun of improvised weapons is grabbing whatever's at hand and making goblin paste with it. If you take a single broken bottle and carry it as your dagger for ten levels you're not really improvising anymore and you might as well just use that weight allotment and pocket space on an actual dagger.

2014-10-04, 02:59 AM
i agree, make it any improvised, and maybe add a way to develop weapons more

2016-05-04, 01:58 PM
This seems way to underpowered compared to the other base archetypes, minus champion of course the pile that it is, a plus 1 at 3rd lvl is garbage at third lvl all the fighters I've had where swinging at minimum a plus 6 if not the full plus 7. Armor classes in this game don't really go above a 15 at 3rd so even with a plus 5 you just need to roll average. And 2 extra damage at 7th are you kidding me that's nothing, also the 7th lvl ability is not supposed to be anything but flavor. Since you know it's something they are super proficient with why not say at 3rd add an extra half your proficiency bonus and at 10th raise it to full bonus, and same for the dmg bonus at 7th.

2016-05-04, 07:27 PM
This seems kind of bland filled with static bonuses. Sure, Champion is effectively that way, but Eldritch Knight and Battlemater are quite engaging.

Also, the large static bonuses can mess with bounded accuracy, especially when combined with Archery.

Maybe allow them to pick one weapon per point of Intelligence Modifier, minimum one.

Maybe create a list of Bonus Action maneuvers or effects.

What if instead of a static modifier they had Advantage one the first attack roll each round, or could use their bonus action to grant advantage on their first attack. I like that, Bonus action for Advantage on an attack. Supremacy could be Bonus Action for multiple attacks.

I feel like the class should be able to do something, not just get great passive modifiers.

Final Hyena
2016-05-05, 10:34 AM
It starts off very weak with +1 to hit but by the end game it's a bit bonkers.

A level 20 great axe weapon master has (without magic);
+14 to hit
2d12+10 (23) damage
and a frighten affect that is quite easy to trigger (against non bosses) with such high accuracy and 4 attacks and action surge.

A level 20 Battle master has;
+11 to hit
2d6+5 (12) damage d12 (6.5) superiority damage (plus other affect) 6ish uses.

The late game weapon master is as good as battle master, you could go so far as to say it's better, but it never stops.
Now to be fair I've ignored great weapon fighting style because I'm being lazy, but it's still fairly obvious to see that your class starts out too weak and curves out perhaps a tad strong.

Perhaps front loading the features instead of scaling them would even out the curve.

2016-05-05, 12:38 PM
Agreed... Mostly. It actually starts off pretty on-par with everyone else, but gets to be far too powerful.

Final Hyena
2016-05-05, 05:11 PM
It actually starts off pretty on-par with everyone else
Am I missing something?

Lets assume the same build I posted above.
You do d12+3 (9.5) damage
+1 to hit means you hit once extra every 20 attacks on average
9.5/20=0.475 average damage increase per attack.

Superiority dice easily give 4d8 (18) damage
So you need 38 attacks to balance the scale.

A combat encounter is normally 3-5 rounds or an average of 4.
this means you need 10 combat encounters before a short rest to break even.
This doesn't take into account the value of battlemaster bursting that damage out quicker.
Nor does it take into account the additional affects of superiority dice.

2016-05-05, 05:20 PM
It might take 10 combats on average to equal out at level 3, but that halves at 5 (thanks to extra attack) for a total of 5 encounters in a day-so you SHOULD be getting your value worth.

Not to mention accuracy is pretty damn handy in a bounded accuracy system.

Especially when compared to Champion, this is pretty favorable.

Final Hyena
2016-05-05, 05:41 PM
The point remains, it the starts off pretty bad.

At level 5 it does get better, but superiority dice recharge on a short rest. The times I've played in games that had 5 combats a day had a short rest in the middle.

And again not even considering the additional affects of superiority dice, nor the bursting value.