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I could have sworn that I read somewhere that the War Domain granted Improved Unarmed Strike when the god favored them, but I can’t find it now. Did I just imagine this, or is it an actual rule somewhere?

Bonus points, if yes, listing some gods who have Unarmed Strike as their favored weapon would be useful.

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As other answers have covered, there does not appear to be any such rule in D&D 3.5e. However, you did ask:

Did I just imagine this, or is it an actual rule somewhere?

It is an actual rule somewhere. Neverwinter Nights 2 gives Improved Unarmed Strike to a Cleric who takes the War domain and whose deity favors the unarmed strike.

Weirdly, the NWN2 wiki mentions this on the page for Improved Unarmed Strike, but not on the page for the War domain. More logically, the ingame tooltip for the War domain mentions this, but the one for Improved Unarmed Strike doesn't.

Also, as a point of interest, deities who favor unarmed strike in the game: Eldath, Ilmater, Malar, Talona, Urdlen, Luthic, Yurtrus, Sharess.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems unlikely that this is where I saw it (I own NWN2 but got bored of it pretty fast), but kudos on finding an actual place that does this. NWN2 is based in 3.5, so it’s possible that someone else I was playing 3.5 with had mixed the two up and then passed that information on to me. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 5 '17 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Thanks! I know I've certainly made that mistake a few times. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Sep 5 '17 at 14:54
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I know of no such rule. Unarmed Strike is defined as a simple weapon, so taking Simple Weapon Proficiency does grant proficiency with Unarmed Strike. The two drawbacks of Unarmed Strike (provoking AoO due to being considered unarmed and dealing nonlethal damage) are qualities of the "weapon". Note that wearing Gauntlets allows you to overcome those two caveats. Characters that lack Simple Weapon Proficiency (Druids) would make attacks with Unarmed Strike at a -4 penalty, provoke an AoO, and deal nonlethal damage.

Amusingly, the write-up for Monk also does not list Unarmed Strike as one of the weapons a Monk is proficient with, and Improved Unarmed Strike does not grant or require proficiency with Unarmed Strike, nor does the Monk's extended class feature version of the feat. Additionally, humanoids with character classes are not automatically proficient based on their creature type of Humanoid without Humanoid hit dice, either. By strict RAW, Humanoid Monks are not proficient with Unarmed Strike. That's ridiculous, of course, as it's obviously a core class feature.

Is there anything wrong with the War domain granting Improved Unarmed Strike? Absolutely not. Unarmed Strike is a horrible weapon, and taking Improved Unarmed Strike makes it into a weapon that is still worse than a club (which has a range increment).

Numerous deities have Unarmed Strike as their favored weapon. Ilmater from Forgotten Realms is the classic example, which makes sense being (last I knew) a Paladin 20/Monk 20 whose Unarmed Strikes are considered +5 holy vorpal weapons. I cannot find any deity that has the War domain and favored weapon of Unarmed Strikes, however. Most deities with the War domain favor (unsurprisingly) martial weapons.

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Just for the record, in Complete Divine, exactly one god is listed with Unarmed Strike as their favored weapon, the mind flayer deity Ilsenine (p.124). That's probably the most comprehensive listing of "default" (non-setting specific) deities for 3.5.

Ilsensine (greater deity, LE)

  • Domains: Evil, Knowledge, Law, Magic, Mind
  • Favored Weapon: unarmed strike or tentacle

Complete Divine doesn't mention anything special about favored weapons and unarmed strikes, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the citation, but any campaign can simply add a deity with an unarmed favor. \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 6 '13 at 2:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CatLord The question asked for a list of existing gods. \$\endgroup\$ – starwed Jan 7 '13 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a cherry on top. But listing the Gods who have it does not inherently answer the core question in this scenario. \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 8 '13 at 5:54

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