So, each of the Nine Schools has got its own associated weapons, and some weapons are associated with several schools (like, Unarmed Attack for Tiger Claw, Shadow Hand and Stone Dragon). But are the maneuvers still usable with non school-related weapons (hammer with Shadow Hand, whip with White Raven, etc.)?

If they are, what about unarmed attack? It's still treated as a weapon choice by many schools, but some of maneuvers add some sort of funny effect to the weapon like igniting it, making a shadow replica, or powering it up with the might of a mountain. Does unarmed strike work the very same way, and does it cause any harm to initiator's body?


3 Answers 3


Yes, maneuvers can be used with any weapon.

Using a maneuver with unarmed strike is just like using it with any other weapon: it doesn't hurt the user unless the maneuver specifically says so. A shadow replica of your unarmed strike might be a full shadowy replica of the user, or it might be just a floating fist/leg/elbow (depending on how you describe your unarmed attacks).

The associated weapons are part of restrictions in the following feats: Blade Meditation, Desert Wind Dodge, Shadow Blade, Reaping Talons, and Shards of Granite. The Bloodclaw Master prestige class also has an ability that includes a restriction based on a style's associated weapons.


Sublime maneuvers do not have any weapon requirements

Page 38 of Tome of Battle has the full and complete rules for what is required for initiating a maneuver. We see some requirements:

  1. “you must be able to move.”

  2. “A maneuver might require an immediate, swift, move, standard, or full-round action”

  3. “a maneuver that is currently readied and unexpended”

    1. “if you are a crusader, the maneuver […] must be granted to you”

Nowhere do we see anything about a weapon.¹ And when Tome of Battle introduces the disciplines, it has this to say about the associated weapons:

In addition, various weapons lend themselves to the philosophy or maneuvers of different disciplines.

(Tome of Battle pg. 41)

That these weapons “lend themselves to the philosophy or maneuvers of” the disciplines is a long way away from stating that these weapons are required.

For my last piece of evidence, the master of nine prestige class is all about mastering all nine disciplines. The example character for this prestige class is armed only with a +2 greatsword, even though his readied maneuvers are from Desert Wind, Shadow Hand, Stone Dragon, and Tiger Claw (he also knows maneuvers from Diamond Mind, Iron Heart, and Setting Sun, though he does not have these readied). The greatsword is only associated with Stone Dragon.

Associated weapons are not just flavor, however

While maneuvers themselves don’t require a discipline’s associated weapon, several feats do.

First is Blade Meditation, which is Tome of Battle’s equivalent of Spell Focus. Among other benefits, it grants “a +1 damage bonus with all the preferred weapons of your chosen discipline when using a strike combat maneuver,” so that part of it requires the weapon. (The other parts, the +2 bonus to the chosen discipline’s associated skill, and the +1 bonus to save DCs for the discipline’s maneuvers, do not require the weapon.) Notably, Blade Meditation lists the associated weapons for each maneuver here—because outside of this and a few other feats, those weapons aren’t really used for anything and you might need a reminder.

Then there are two related cycles of feats, a general feat for each discipline that serves as a requirement for a tactical feat with that discipline. While many of these don’t care what weapon you’re using, several do:

  • Desert Wind Dodge grants (in certain circumstances) +1 fire damage to any attack made with “a scimitar, light mace, light pick, spear, or falchion,” which is the list of weapons associated with Desert Wind.

  • Shadow Blade is the Shadow Hand general feat, and adds your Dexterity bonus to your damage “with one of the discipline’s preferred weapons.”

  • Reaping Talons is Tiger Claw’s tactical feat, and requires the use of “preferred weapons of the Tiger Claw discipline” for each of its three tactical maneuvers.

  • Shards of Granite is Stone Dragon’s tactical feat, and requires “using one of the preferred weapons of the Stone Dragon discipline (greatsword, greataxe, heavy mace, or unarmed strike)” for each of its three tactical maneuvers (and yes, it repeats the list of weapons each time).

Finally, the bloodclaw master, a prestige class specializing in the use of the Tiger Claw discipline, has a feature that gives special benefits when using Tiger Claw weapons.

Maneuvers (and feats) do what they say they do

The supernatural flames of the Desert Wind discipline don’t damage your weapon, because they don’t say they do. Likewise for other disciplines (and the Desert Wind Dodge feat). Setting any weapon on fire would damage it; the unarmed strike is not unique in this regard (though obviously the damage will be uniquely notable).

  1. For the sake of backing up the negative and proving that the 3-4 points I’ve extracted are the sum total of requirements, the full rules text is below:

    Initiating Maneuvers and Stances

    To initiate a maneuver or a stance, you must be able to move. You do not need to be able to speak. You initiate a maneuver by taking the specified initiation action. A maneuver might require an immediate, swift, move, standard, or full-round action to initiate. The process of initiating a maneuver is similar to that of casting a spell or manifesting a psionic power, although there are some key differences (see below). You can only choose to initiate a maneuver that is currently readied and unexpended. In addition, if you are a crusader, the maneuver you choose must be granted to you—you can’t choose to initiate a maneuver that is currently withheld.

    You initiate a stance as a swift action. A stance remains in effect indefinitely and is not expended. You enjoy the benefit your stance confers until you change to another stance you know as a swift action. You can remain in a stance outside of combat situations, and you can enjoy its benefit while exploring or traveling.

    (Tome of Battle pg. 38)


Any ability should never directly harm its user. Any twists from magic or external special abilities might, but otherwise no.

When it comes to using Unarmed in place of weapons, I would need to see the text but I imagine that it says "when using weapon X apply benefit Y [under Z conditions]" which would limit it to that weapon. I would need to know which sourcebook you are going from for this to be certain.

EDIT: I have done some browsing. The maneuvers themselves don't seem to require any specific weapons, but the feats that require the maneuvers do. So it all depends on what benefits the character wants to include.


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