Sooner or later a player will complain that the weapon proficiencies are too
restrictive. But the real complaint may be that the rules don't allow a
character to do everything the player wants.
For example, say a player character is proficient with a long sword. He's
about to be overwhelmed by a horde of kobolds, but he has the sense to retreat.
Unfortunately, he trips over his feet and falls face-first to the floor! His
faithful, trusted long sword skitters from his grip and the little monsters are upon
him. Still full of fight, the character wrests a short sword from the nearest
beastie and begins to do battle.
At this point, the DM tells the player to apply the nonproficiency penalty.
The player howls in outrage. "It's a sword," he moans. "My character can use a
long sword, I can't believe you won't let him use a short sword! It's the same
thing, just smaller!" Before giving in to the player's protests, consider the
differences in what seem to be similar weapons.
The character's customary weapon, the long sword, is a slashing weapon. It is
three- to four-feet long, heavy, and balanced toward the blade to increase
momentum in a slash. A short sword is a piercing weapon. It is 12 to 18 inches
long, light (for a sword), and balanced with most of the weight toward the handle
for quick reaction.
So, in our example, the character leaps into the fight using the short sword
instinctively--the way he would use a long sword. He tries to slash, but the
weapon is too short and light for slashing. He tries to block and parry and finds
the weapon absorbs much less impact than his massive long sword. He tends to
attack the air, because he is used to the reach and sweep of the long sword. He
throws himself off balance by swinging the light weapon too hard. All these
minor errors make him less effective with the short sword, even though it seems
similar to his long sword. The nonproficiency penalty begins to make sense.
Further, weapon proficiencies are just some of the many factors that must be
balanced for a successful adventure. If a variety of factors combine to give a
character excessive combat bonuses, the DM should create situations in which
that character's favorite weapon is not the best choice.
For example, a character who is proficient with all types of swords, but no
other weapons, is at a big disadvantage when confronted by skeletons. His sword
is less effective than a mace. Eventually, the player will have to broaden his
character's weapon proficiencies if he wants to thrive in the AD&D game world.
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