Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is the list of weapons that can be used by each class absolute or is it purely a list of weapon types that a particular class can be proficient in?

Realistically if a magic user picks up a sword and swings it, it's going to do damage to someone if it hits them, so it makes no sense that they simply can't use the weapon, it's surely just a question of competence?

In the case of Clerics and Monks the restrictions could come with sanctions from their order (and potentially their god) if not followed (possible exception of extreme emergencies) but for other classes would there be any real sanction other than being rubbish with it?

How do (or would) people play this?

share|improve this question

There are several explicit penalties:

  • First is the non-proficiency penalty. (PH. 36-37)
  • thieves can not use thief abilities when using prohibited weapons or armor. (PH 15)
  • clerics and druids can be denied 3rd through 5th level spells out of hand until several days of penitence have been completed. (DMG p. 38)

Non explicit penalties:

  • Clerics (and druids) can be denied their spells for using prohibited weapons or armor (PH p. 20 and 40). This isn't exactly explicit, but note the word "deeds" in the p. 20 quote, below, can easily be seen to include obedience of the requirements in the prior sentence.
  • MU, Bard and Illusionist characters can not cast spells with a somatic component while wearing prohibited armor. (PH p. 100)
  • Noting that Dual Class characters can use none of their class abilities for either class when violating the requirements of that class. Thieves can't use thief skills, wizards can't cast nor study, clerics can't cast nor pray.

Common but questionable penalties

  • an XP penalty for playing out of character is reasonable; it is not in the DMG. The only XP penalties I can find in AD&D 1E is that of no XP for a dual class who uses the higher level old class, for actions taken in Lycanthrope form, not having trained (and thus advanced) in level and the level loss for alignment change.
  • under the theory that 0-Level characters are all fighters, one can deny all XP based upon PH p. 33.
    Under this theory, all 0-level fighters must also use the -2 Non-Proficiency penalty... but note that this explicitly supports not being able to cast at all when a spell caster acts as a 0-level fighter. But, noting that this is the abandoned class, the moment they make Level 1 in the new class, they are now higher than the original class and can use its abilities without XP penalty. This is not supported by the Level 0 PC rules in Greyhawk Adventures, page 125, either. Nor on GHA p 123... which specifies a –3 Non-proficiency penalty for 0-level characters not joined to a class.

PH p. 20:

All are likewise forbidden to use edged and/or pointed weapons which shed blood. All clerics have their own spells, bestowed upon them by their deity for correct and diligent prayers and deeds.

PH p. 100:

Physical restraint, including grappling, grasping, binding, etc. prevents proper somatic (S) spell completion, for gestures must be exact and movements free and as prescribed.

GHA, p. 123 (Level 0 Character appendix):

Zero-level characters will find themselves needing weapon proficiencies, and their penalty for using a nonproficency weapon is - 3 to hit.

GHA, p. 125:

Cleric and Druid Skills: All characters who use divine abilities must obey the gods. The DM should deny clerical magic to characters who violate their alignments or fail to behave piously. Clerics and druids themselves may never use forbidden weapons or other items, even by retaining a proficiency from some other class. Members of other classes cannot use clerical abilities on the same day that they wield edged weapons or, in the case of druid spells, wear metal armor.

share|improve this answer
While XP penalities aren't official, page 86 of the DMG does say levelling up is at DMs discretion (so could be denied) and explicitly gives fairly major penalties in terms of training time and cost. – Jon Hopkins Jul 20 '12 at 11:40
What's the GHA? – Jon Hopkins Jul 20 '12 at 19:54
@JonHopkins GHA= GreyHawk Adventures – aramis Jul 20 '12 at 20:49

If you're referring to e.g. the table on p.19 of the AD&D PHB (Character Classes Table II: Armor and Weapons Permitted), then the title's pretty clear; it's a list of permitted weapons. If it's not on the list, it's not permitted.

The individual classes are often clear also; e.g. from the description of the Cleric on p.20 of the same book

All [clerics] are likewise forbidden to use edged and/or pointed weapons which shed blood.

If you can accept that restriction but wonder what to do with a character that breaks it, I tend to use the rule on dual-classed characters from PHB p.33

if, during the course of any adventure, the character resorts to the use of any of the capabilities [or] functions of his or her former class, the character gains no experience for the adventure

All characters arguably started as 0th level fighters (ie, ordinary people), so if an MU tries to have a go with a sword, I'd say that she was being a 0th level fighter again, invoke that clause, and say "no xp for you this time". But I don't remember this cropping up very often; most of my players are happy with the restrictions.

share|improve this answer
Ah, I'd forgotten the no XP caveat (which makes complete sense, the character is acting out of type) which would be supported by stuff the DMG says too. – Jon Hopkins Jul 13 '12 at 12:16

In first edition AD&D on page 36 and 37 of the Player's Handbook it states that each class is only proficient in a certain number of weapons.

If a character uses a weapon that they are not proficient in then they attack with the non-proficency penalty indicated on the Weapon Proficency table on page 37.

The prohibition on Clerics shedding blood on page 20 should be treated like an alignment restrictions or deity restrictions. I.e. a judgment call based on how the player roleplays his character.

Other than that there no further penalty in either the PHB or DMG for a character for using a weapon that he is non-proficent in.

share|improve this answer
This. A -5 to hit is all you need to encourage a wizard to put down that sword. – SevenSidedDie Jul 13 '12 at 15:51
Penalty? No. Flat-out prohibition? Yes, there is; see the table I refer to above. Not a permitted weapon? Not permitted. But there's no clear guidance given on how to handle it if eg an MU picks up a two-handed sword. I suggested a possibility above; it's not the only one, I'm sure there are others. You're right that the PHB says nothing further about the penalties for this, but that doesn't mean it doesn't say that it's not permitted. – MadHatter Jul 13 '12 at 15:58
+1, I'd say this is definately both how it was intended to be (if not stated explicitly in the book), and how it was traditionally handled by GMs. – GrandmasterB Jul 13 '12 at 21:33
Rob has this one 100% correct. This AD&D rule was created to codify earlier rule versions built more along the idea of blanket prohibition, by showing that these other classes could pick up a weapon and swing it in an emergency, but that they really had no training. It is also in these charts where a plain fighter actually shines, since he could use more weapons without penalty, and combined with the 'weapon vs AC type' charts, even a low level fighter could carry around a bunch of weapons to use in the right circumstances. – LordVreeg Jul 14 '12 at 14:40

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.