Prestige Class10/04/2006

Exotic Weapon Master
Skilled and Deadly

This column aims to provide players with tips on creating effective and interesting characters of various types. So, whether you're a beginning player creating your very first character or an experienced gamer looking to put some punch into an old standby, this column is for you.

In this article, we'll examine the exotic weapon master--a PrC allowing weapon specialization to become that much more effective.


  • High Hit Points: An exotic weapon master's 10-sided Hit Dice enables him to stay in combat longer than most other classes.
  • Good Armor Class: An exotic weapon master does not gain any additional proficiency with armor. However, given that most exotic weapon masters have at least a couple of levels of fighter they normally wear good armor.
  • Good Attack Bonus: An exotic weapon master's base attack bonus advances like that of a fighter, the best in the game; you gain a +1 bonus per exotic weapon master level. Depending on the weapon used, an exotic weapon master can either deal out a lot of damage or use a number of special attack options to disable her foes. Some do both.
  • Good Fortitude Saves: An exotic weapon master uses the best progression for Fortitude saving throws (see Table 3-1 in the Player's Handbook). Plus, most exotic weapon masters have multiple levels of fighter and/or barbarian, and have excellent Fortitude saves to start with.
  • Exotic Weapon Stunt: For every level of exotic weapon master, that character chooses a special stunt; these stunts can be used with any exotic weapon for which he has the Weapon Focus feat. Some of these stunts increase the potency of attacks, often giving an exotic weapon master additional attack options, while others boost his AC, or allow him to avoid attacks of opportunity. An exotic weapon master should choose his stunts wisely, as he only gains one per level (and there are only three levels of the exotic weapon master prestige class). The exact stunt choices depends on which exotic weapon the character uses:

    • Any Exotic Weapon: Ranged disarm, show off, or throw exotic weapon.
    • Exotic Ranged Weapon: Close-quarter ranged combat.
    • Exotic Double Weapon: Double weapon defense, flurry of spikes, or stunning blow.
    • Exotic Reach Weapon: Exotic reach or stunning blow.
    • Exotic One-Handed Weapon: Exotic sunder, stunning blow, trip attack, or uncanny blow.
    • Exotic Two-Handed Weapon: Exotic sunder, stunning blow, or trip attack.
    • Two Exotic Light Weapons: Twin exotic weapon fighting.
    • Spiked Chain: Flurry of spikes or stunning blow (also see Exotic Double Weapon).


The exotic weapon master's advantages come at a price. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about playing an exotic weapon master character:

  • Low Skill Points: Exotic weapon masters only get 2 + Int modifier skill points at each new level. He should concentrate on skills that get him into combat quicker (i.e., Balance and Jump), or that increase his chance of noticing a lurking enemy (Listen and Spot).
  • Poor Reflex and Will Saves: An exotic weapon master has the worst progression for Reflex and Will saves in the game. Given that an exotic weapon master probably also has several levels of fighter, barbarian or ranger, his overall Will save will be poor. In all likelihood, his Reflex will also be poor.

Playing an Exotic Weapon Master

People who play effective exotic weapon masters should keep the following in mind:

Planning is Crucial

A potential exotic weapon master should not discount his racial abilities. Dwarves and gnomes already have familiarity with some exotic weapons (dwarven waraxes and dwarven urgroshes, and gnome hooked hammers, respectively) treating them as martial weapons. Dwarves are also very stable on their feet, having a +4 bonus on ability checks to resist being tripped--quite handy if you fail to trip your opponent! Halfling exotic weapon masters should concentrate on weapons that allow them to use their superior Dexterity and +1 racial attack bonus with thrown weapons: sai, bolas, nets, and shuriken from the Player's Handbook, and greatspears, barbed bolas, and boomerangs from Complete Warrior (the exceptions to this rule are if a halfling chooses a greatbow or repeating heavy crossbow because of their increased damage potential).

If you choose to become an exotic weapon master, you must plan your advancement carefully. Your effectiveness in combat depends largely on your chosen weapon and the feats you take to increase its offensive capabilities. The earliest you can become an exotic weapon master is 7th-level. By that time you'll have a minimum of three feats (four if you're a human). If you took six levels of fighter to qualify for exotic weapon master, you'll also have four bonus feats.

The suggested feat trees below assume that your character is a human fighter. If your character takes other class levels or is a different race, your feat acquisition will be slower than that listed.

Bastard sword, dwarven waraxe, and other two-handed* exotic melee weapons

Level Feats/Exotic Weapon Stunt
Fighter 1 Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Power Attack, Weapon Focus
Fighter 2 Cleave
Fighter 3 Dodge
Fighter 4 Weapon Specialization (bastard sword)
Fighter 5 -
Fighter 6 Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 1 -; uncanny blow
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 2 -; show off
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 3 Stunning Fist**; stunning blow**

*If you choose a one-handed melee weapon instead, you should consider taking Cleave at 1st-level, Dodge at 2nd-level, and Mobility at 3rd-level.

**If your character does not have Dex 13 and Wis 13 substitute Improved Sunder and Exotic Sunder.

Exotic double weapon

Level Feats/Exotic Weapon Stunt
Fighter 1 Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Weapon Focus, Two-Weapon Fighting
Fighter 2 Power Attack
Fighter 3 Dodge
Fighter 4 Weapon Specialization
Fighter 5 -
Fighter 6 Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 1 -; flurry of strikes
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 2 -; double weapon defense
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 3 Skill Focus (Intimidate); show off

Exotic ranged weapon

Level Feats/Exotic Weapon Stunt
Fighter 1 Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Fighter 2 Weapon Focus
Fighter 3 Rapid Shot
Fighter 4 Weapon Specialization
Fighter 5 -
Fighter 6 Dodge, Mobility
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 1 -; close-quarters ranged combat
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 2 -; ranged disarm
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 3 Shot on the Run; show off

Spiked chain

Level Feats/Exotic Weapon Stunt
Fighter 1 Exotic Weapon Proficiency (spiked chain), Combat Expertise, Improved Trip
Fighter 2 Weapon Focus (spiked chain)
Fighter 3 Power Attack
Fighter 4 Weapon Specialization (spiked chain)
Fighter 5 -
Fighter 6 Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 1 -; exotic reach
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 2 -; trip attack
Fighter 6/Exotic Weapon Master 3 Dodge; flurry of strikes

Note: a fighter must have an Intelligence of 13 to become a true trip specialist. If your character has a Dexterity of at least 14, consider swapping Power Attack for Combat Reflexes to make the most of the extra attacks of opportunity.

In the Van

Most exotic weapon masters are melee specialists and are often the most effective party member in combat. Thus, you should be in the vanguard of the party, ready to get between your comrades and attacking monsters. You should concentrate on what you do best: fighting. Before adventuring, discuss with your comrades the best buff spells for you and give them the opportunity to cast them. When in combat, don't stray too far from the party cleric; no doubt, you'll be in the thick of things and will need frequent healing.

If you are a ranged exotic weapon master, you need to get as close to combat as possible while staying between your opponents and any wizards or other "soft-skinned" members of the party. Thus, you can pepper your enemy with attacks while being ready to defend the party's rear in case of surprise ambushes or encirclement.

Some Key Equipment

As an exotic weapon master, you'll rely heavily on your gear, particularly your primary weapon. It is vital, therefore, that you acquire the right equipment. The essentials include:

  • Armor and Protection: Buy the best armor you can afford as long as it doesn't interfere with your class abilities. For an exotic weapon master without levels of barbarian or ranger this means buying full plate. Ranger/exotic weapon masters should wear a chain shirt to make use of their combat style ability, while barbarian/exotic weapon masters should wear a breastplate to make use of their fast movement ability.

Many exotic weapons are two-handed and thus you'll be unable to use a shield. Consider using a buckler (particularly if you are a trip specialist) if you haven't taken the Two-Weapon Defense feat. Fighters often have a very low touch armor class, making them particularly vulnerable to rays, so look for items granting deflection bonuses such as rings of protection. Don't overlook amulets of natural armor or (worst case) potions of barkskin or shield of faith. Remember, using several lesser items with different bonus types gives you better protection, and at a cheaper price, than one big item.

You will also likely have one or two poor saving throws. All the damage-dealing potential in the world does no good if you fall victim to every charm, compulsion, or mind-affecting spell thrown at you. Buy a cloak of resistance as soon as possible and consider investing in potions of owl's wisdom and protection from (alignment). If your Reflex save is poor, also purchase potions of cat's grace.

Exotic weapon masters camping in dangerous territory should sleep in a suit of light armor.

  • Primary Weapon: Spend as much money on your primary weapon as possible. At the very least, it must be magical and you should add as many special abilities to it as possible. Carry silversheen in case you battle creatures with damage reduction/silver.
  • Back-Up Weapons: You should also always carry back-up weapons. Preferably, these should deal a different kind of damage to that dealt by your main weapon. For example, if your main weapon is a dwarven waraxe (slashing damage) carry a morningstar (bludgeoning and piercing damage). Ideally, your back-up weapon will also overcome a different kind of material damage reduction (alchemical silver, adamantine, or cold iron) to your main weapon. Melee specialists should carry a ranged weapon, but shouldn't waste their time using it unless they cannot get close to their enemy.
  • Personal Enhancement: Permanent wondrous items granting enhancement bonuses to your Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution are extremely desirable. Your weapon, feat, and exotic weapon stunt choices will dictate which is most useful to you. If your primary weapon has reach, or you specialize in dealing lots of damage, also consider stocking up on potions of enlargeperson.


Have a feat progression you prefer for the exotic weapon master? Any additional advice you would include for this prestige class? Let us know, at

About the Author

Creighton Broadhurst is a member of Living Greyhawk's Circle of Six and a mad-keen World of Greyhawk fan. His hobbies include trying to complete his original Temple of Elemental Evil campaign (most adventurers daring that dangerous locale do not survive) and clearing up the devastation left by his two-year-old son (who delights in wielding exotic toys to bizarre and deadly effect).

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