Weapons are grouped into several interlocking sets of categories. These categories pertain to what skill is needed to be proficient in their use (simple, martial, and exotic), usefulness in close combat (melee) or at a distance (ranged, which includes both thrown and projectile), and weapon size (Tiny, Small, Medium-size, and Large).
Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons: Anybody but a druid, monk, rogue, or wizard is proficient with all simple weapons. Barbarians, fighters, paladins, and rangers are proficient with all simple and all martial weapons. Characters of other classes are proficient with an assortment of mainly simple weapons and possibly also some martial or even exotic weapons. If you use a weapon with which you are not proficient, you suffer a -4 penalty on attack rolls.
Melee and Ranged Weapons: Melee weapons are used for making melee attacks, though some of them can be thrown as well. Ranged weapons are thrown weapons or projectile weapons that are not effective in melee. You apply your Strength bonus to damage dealt by thrown weapons but not to damage dealt by projectile weapons (except for mighty composite shortbows or longbows).
Tiny, Small, Medium-Size, and Large Weapons: The size of a weapon compared to your size determines whether for you the weapon is light, one-handed, two-handed, or too large to use.
Light: If the weapon's size category is smaller than yours (such as a human using a Small weapon), then the weapon is light for you. Light weapons are easier to use in your offhand, and you can use them while grappling. You can use a light weapon in one hand. You get no special bonus when using it in two hands.
One-Handed: If the weapon's size category is the same as yours (such as a human using a rapier), then the weapon is one-handed for you. If you use a one-handed melee weapon two-handed, you can apply one and a half times your Strength bonus to damage (provided you have a bonus). Thrown weapons can only be thrown one-handed, and you receive your Strength bonus to damage.
Two-Handed: If the weapon's size category is one step larger than your own (such as a human using a greataxe), then the weapon is two-handed for you. You can use a two-handed melee weapon effectively in two hands, and when you deal damage with it, you add one and a half times your Strength bonus to damage (provided you have a bonus).
Thrown weapons can only be thrown one-handed. You can throw a thrown weapon with one hand even if it would be two- handed for you due to your size (such as a gnome throwing a javelin), but doing so counts as a full-round action because the weapon is bulkier and harder to handle than most thrown weapons. You receive your Strength bonus to damage.
You can use a two-handed projectile weapon (such as a bow or a crossbow) effectively in two hands. If you have a penalty for low Strength, apply it to damage rolls when you use a bow or a sling. You get no Strength bonus to damage with a projectile weapon unless it's a mighty composite shortbow or longbow.
Too Large to Use: If the weapon's size category is two or more steps larger than your own (such as a gnome trying to use a greatsword), the weapon is too large for you to use.
Unarmed Strikes: An unarmed strike is two size categories smaller than the character using it.
The weapon you use says something about who you are. You probably want both a melee weapon and a ranged weapon. If you can't afford both your melee weapon of choice and your ranged weapon of choice, decide which is more important to you.
What size of weapon you choose determines how you can choose to wield it (with one hand or two) and how much damage you deal with it. A two-handed weapon deals more damage than a one-handed weapon, but it keeps you from using a shield, so that's a trade-off. If you are Small, you need to choose smaller weapons.
Depending on your class, you are proficient with more or fewer weapons. If you see a weapon that you want to use but with which you're not proficient, you can become proficient with it by selecting the right feat. See Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Martial Weapon Proficiency, and Simple Weapon Proficiency.
A better weapon is usually more expensive than an inferior one, but more expensive doesn't always mean better. For instance, a rapier is more expensive than a longsword. For a dexterous rogue with the Weapon Finesse feat, a rapier is a terrific weapon. For a typical fighter, a longsword is better.
To choose your weapons, keep in mind these factors (given as column headings on Weapons)
Cost: This is the weapon's cost in gold pieces (gp) or silver pieces (sp). The cost includes miscellaneous gear that goes with the weapon, such as a scabbard for a sword or a quiver for arrows.
Damage: The Damage column gives the damage you deal with a weapon when you score a hit. If the damage is designated "SS" then the weapon deals subdual damage rather than normal damage. If two damage ranges are given, such as "1d6/1d6" for the quarterstaff, then the weapon is a double weapon, and you can use a full attack full-round action to make one extra attack when using this weapon, as per the two-weapon rules. Use the second damage figure given for the extra attack.
Critical: The entry in this column notes how the weapon is used with the rules for critical hits. When you score a critical hit, you roll the damage with all modifiers two, three, or four times, as indicated by its critical multiplier, and add all the results together.
Exception: Bonus damage represented as extra dice, such as from a sneak attack or a flaming sword, is not multiplied when you score a critical hit.
x2: The weapon deals double damage on a critical hit.
x3: The weapon deals triple damage on a critical hit.
x3/x4: One head of this double weapon deals triple damage on a critical hit. The other head deals quadruple damage on a critical hit.
x4: The weapon deals quadruple damage on a critical hit.
19-20/x2: The weapon scores a threat (a possible critical hit) on a natural 19 or 20 (instead of just on a 20) and deals double damage on a critical hit. (The weapon has a threat range of 19-20.)
18-20/x2: The weapon scores a threat on a natural 18, 19, or 20 (instead of just on a 20) and deals double damage on a critical hit. (The weapon has a threat range of 18-20.)
Range Increment: Any attack at less than this distance is not penalized for range, so an arrow from a shortbow (range increment 60 feet) can strike at enemies up to 59 feet away with no penalty. However, each full range increment causes a cumulative -2 penalty to the attack roll. A shortbow archer firing at a target 200 feet away suffers a -6 attack penalty (because 200 feet is at least three range increments but not four increments). Thrown weapons, such as throwing axes, have a maximum range of five range increments. Projectile weapons, such as bows, can shoot up to ten increments.
Thrown Weapons: Daggers, clubs, halfspears, shortspears, darts, javelins, throwing axes, light hammers, tridents, shuriken, and nets are thrown weapons.
Projectile Weapons: Light crossbows, slings, heavy crossbows, shortbows, composite shortbows, longbows, composite longbows, hand crossbows, whips, and repeating crossbows are projectile weapons.
Improvised Thrown Weapons: Sometimes objects not crafted to be weapons get thrown: small rocks, small animals, vases, pitchers, and so forth. Because they are not designed for this use, all characters who use improvised thrown weapons are treated as not proficient with them and suffer a -4 penalty on their attack rolls. Improvised thrown weapons have a range increment of 10 feet. Their size and the damage they deal have to be adjudicated by the DM.
Weight: This column gives the weapon's weight.
Type: Weapons are classified according to types: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing. Some monsters may be partially or wholly immune to attacks with some types of weapons. For example, a skeleton only takes half damage from slashing weapons and no damage from piercing weapons. If a weapon is of two types, a creature would have to be immune to both types of damage to have damage dealt by this weapon be ignored.
Special: Some weapons have special features, such as reach. See the all weapons table.
Effect of Weapon Size
When weapons change size, many other factors change at the same time, such as weight and cost. See all weapons.
To calculate the damage a larger- or smaller-than-normal weapon deals, first determine how many size categories it changes from Medium. A longsword (normally Medium, commonly used by Medium beings) in the hand of a Huge cloud giant increases two size categories. For each category change, consult the accompanying tables, finding the weapon's original damage in the left column and reading across to the right to find its new damage.
|Increasing Weapon Damage by Size|
|Medium||Number of Size Categories Increased|
|Decreasing Weapon Damage by Size|
|Medium||Number of Size Categories Decreased|
A weapon can only decrease in size so far. Weapons that deal less than 1 point of damage have no effect. Once a weapon only deals 1 point of damage, it's not a weapon if it shrinks further.
Heavy weapons, such as those from gold or platinum, are unwieldy but inflict additional damage. Without the proper Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat (for instance, heavy longsword), you suffer a -4 penalty on attack rolls with a heavy weapon. Only weapons made entirely or largely of metal (such as swords or axes) are affected; other weapons (such as spears) are not.
A character can wield a heavy weapon one size category smaller than his own in two hands to avoid the attack penalty. For instance, a human swinging a light mace made of gold with both hands, or an ogre wielding a platinum longsword with two hands, does not suffer the attack penalty.
You can never use the Weapon Finesse feat with a weapon made of a heavy metal.
Weapons made of a heavy metal inflict increased damage, as shown in the following table:
|Old Damage (Each Die)||New Damage|
|1d8 or 1d10||2d6|