I'm going to start an high-level campaign in Pathfinder, and I have two questions regarding the gear of my character (a gunslinger).

First: Can a magic weapon have special abilities (SB) beyond +5? On the manual it is written that in order to have SB a weapon needs an enhancement bonus of at least +1 and to satisfy the requirements of the chosen SB. It is written that no magical weapon can have an enhancement bonus beyond +5, but what about SB? Could I have a +4 weapon with a +3, +2 and +1 SB?

Second: If I shoot a magical bullet with my magical rifle, I have to use the biggest enhancement. But what about SB? Do I use those of the weapon or the ammo?

Thank you for your time.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. These are two separate questions, and our format works best if you ask each one separately (so they can be answered and voted for separately.) Could you ask the second one as its own question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Aug 28, 2017 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ In this case, I would argue that it is useful to address both questions at once because any thorough answer to the second question will necessarily need to build upon knowledge of the answer to the first. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 28, 2017 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this might be one of those cases where it's totally appropriate to ask together. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2017 at 23:44

2 Answers 2


OK, so there are basically two things going on here, and the wording used by the rules gets confusing. I use enhancement-equivalent as a term for weapon special abilities here, to emphasize their value and keep them distinct from true enhancement bonuses as well as special abilities that are not equivalent in value to an enhancement bonus.

  1. Your magical weapon has an enhancement bonus, +1 to +5. This enhancement bonus is added to the attack rolls and damage rolls made with this weapon.

    So if a 1st-level commoner with 10 Strength (BAB +0, Str +0) somehow got his hands on a +2 longspear, his attack rolls with it would be 1d20+2, and his damage rolls with it would be 1d8+2.

  2. Your magical weapon may also have enhancement-equivalent properties, like flaming or bane or whatever. These are treated like enhancement bonuses for the purposes of how much they cost, but do not actually add an enhancement bonus to attack or damage rolls (or any of the other miscellaneous things that enhancement bonuses do, like increasing the object’s hardness).

    So if we go back to that commoner, but this time give him a +1 flaming longspear, his attack rolls with it are 1d20+1 and his damage rolls with it are 1d8+1+1d6, where the final 1d6 is fire damage.

An item’s enhancement bonus plus the enhancement-equivalent value of its special abilities is called its modified bonus.

Keeping these two straight is crucial to understanding the answer to your question. Magical weapons have limits on how powerful they can get, and these limits are different for each.

Magical weapons cannot have more than a +5 enhancement bonus. Furthermore, their modified bonus (enhancement bonus plus the enhancement-equivalent cost of their special abilities) cannot exceed +10’s worth.

So, for example:

  • A +2 longspear and a +1 flaming longspear cost the same, because flaming is a +1-equivalent special ability.

  • A +6 longspear cannot exist, but

    • A +5 flaming longspear can, and costs as much as a hypothetical +6 longspear.

    • A +1 flaming shock frost corrosive thundering longspear can also exist, and also costs the same as a hypothetical +6 longspear (as those are all +1-equivalent properties).

  • A +5 vorpal longspear costs the equivalent of a hypothetical +10 longspear, because vorpal is a +5-equivalent bonus.

  • A +5 vorpal flaming longspear cannot exist, because its enhancement and enhancement-equivalent properties would be +11: higher than the +10 limit.

  • A +1 flaming shock frost corrosive vorpal longspear can also exist, as another +10-equivalent weapon. There is no requirement to actually get a +5 enhancement bonus; it is a maximum, not a minimum.

    • A flaming shock frost corrosive thundering vorpal longspear cannot exist, however, because all weapons must have at least +1 in actual enhancement bonus before getting any enhancement-equivalent abilities. So +1 is a minimum.

Finally, on to ammunition. When you use a magical projectile weapon to fire magical ammunition, you combine all the magic on the two together. However, the actual enhancement bonuses do not stack.

Let’s go to a second 1st-level commoner, this one proficient in slings instead of longspears. Like last time, 10 Strength, and we’ll also note 10 Dexterity since these are ranged attacks: +0 bonuses all around.

  • If this commoner uses a +2 sling to fire +2 stones, his attack and damage rolls gain a +2 enhancement bonus from the sling, and a +2 enhancement bonus from the stone. However, since both are enhancement bonuses, and bonuses of the same type do not stack, his actual attack rolls are 1d20+2 and his damage rolls are 1d4+2.

  • However, if he uses a +1 flaming sling to launch +1 frost stones, when he combines them he has two non-stacking +1 enhancement bonuses, but also +1d6 fire damage and +1d6 cold damage: he gets both of these on his attacks. So he rolls 1d20+1 attack rolls, and 1d4+1+1d6+1d6 damage rolls, where one of the d6 is fire damage and the other is cold damage.

  • Likewise, if he uses a +2 sling with those +1 frost stones, the +2 enhancement bonus on the sling beats out (but does not stack with) the +1 from the stones, but he gets to keep the cold damage too: 1d20+2 attack, 1d4+2+1d6 damage with the last d6 cold.

Now, the important thing to remember here is that the limits are on a single item, not on your actual attacks. So you can have a +5 flaming shock frost corrosive thundering sling and shoot +1 vorpal1 stones and have attacks that have +5 enhancement bonuses to attack and damage, deal all that extra energy damage, and are vorpal,1 even though +5 flaming shock frost corrosive thundering vorpal1 would be +15-equivalent.

  1. Ranged weapons cannot actually be vorpal, and neither can bludgeoning weapons, but there is no other convenient +5-equivalent special weapon ability, so I’m going to just keep using it as my example.
  • \$\begingroup\$ a +5 flaming (6) shock (7) frost (8) corrosive (9) thundering (10) vicious (11) sling would be a +11 weapon. Also your new term "enhancement-equivalent" is already used in the game, it's called "special ability bonus equivalent". The combination of those and enhancement bonuses are "Modified Bonus". \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Aug 28, 2017 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, while vicious and vorpal work as just generic stand in +X bonuses, they are both melee only and vorpal must be a slashing melee weapon (long spear is piercing) \$\endgroup\$
    – user36958
    Aug 28, 2017 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage Thanks for math catch; will review the terminology used precisely (in my recollection, it is not used particularly consistently, nor is anything defined, but if my answer can be more consistent I’ll make it so). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 28, 2017 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SimpleLime Actually, vorpal can be piercing or slashing; I checked that. Forgot to check again when I switched to the ranged examples. Unfortunately, the lack of a convenient +5-equivalent ranged-acceptable example is annoying, but I’ll find something better. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 28, 2017 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a confusion or nitpick(depending on answer): Does Pathfinder neither have rules for epic weapons nor inherit 3.5's rules for such? \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Aug 28, 2017 at 18:45

A weapon (or armor) can have a combined modified bonus of +10, and ammo shot from a magical ranged weapon inherits the weapons modifiers (with some nuances)

From the SRD:

Magic weapons have enhancement bonuses ranging from +1 to +5.

Some magic weapons have special abilities. Special abilities count as additional bonuses for determining the market value of the item, but do not modify attack or damage bonuses (except where specifically noted). A single weapon cannot have a modified bonus (enhancement bonus plus special ability bonus equivalents, including those from character abilities and spells) higher than +10. A weapon with a special ability must also have at least a +1 enhancement bonus. Weapons cannot possess the same special ability more than once.

So you can have a Flaming (+1) Distance (+1) Shocking burst (+2) Anarchic (+2) Long Bow +3 (Total modified bonus = +9), for example.

From the same page:

The enhancement bonus from a ranged weapon does not stack with the enhancement bonus from ammunition. Only the higher of the two enhancement bonuses applies.

Ammunition fired from a projectile weapon with an enhancement bonus of +1 or higher is treated as a magic weapon for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. Similarly, ammunition fired from a projectile weapon with an alignment gains the alignment of that projectile weapon.

So you fire a +5 Frost arrow from the bow from before. It uses the higher of the two enhancement bonuses (+5), and inherits the alignment of the weapon (chaotic, in this case). What isn't clear is whether the arrow also inherits the other special weapon properties (Flaming, Shocking Burst, Anarchic (Distance doesn't apply)), or only applies its own (Frost), but as far as I can see the general consensus is it gets all of them, ignoring repeats (so if both had flaming, it would only get +1d6 fire damage, not 2d6).


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