Weapons are exactly what you think they are: something to cut, stab, bludgeon, maim, or otherwise harm other things until they run out of hit points.
The full list of Weapons is available on the Weapons page of the Pathfinder SRD.
Weapons fall under three proficiency groups: Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons.
Generally easy to use, and include weapons like maces, spears, and crossbows. Most classes are proficient with simple weapons.
More difficult to use, and are generally used by martial-focused characters like Fighters and Barbarians. Martial Weapons typically do more damage than Simple Weapons, and some Martial weapons have special rules which give the user bonuses when attempting to use Trip, Disarm, or other Combat Maneuvers.
Uncommon and difficult to use, most characters will need to spend a Feat to get Exotic Weapon Proficiency with the weapon that they want to use. Some Exotic Weapons only provide a tiny bit more damage than their Martial equivalent (Longsword vs. Bastard Sword), so don’t be tempted by those weapons. Good Exotic Weapons generally have a special rule which makes them appealing. Check the descriptions of Exotic Weapons before considering one.
All characters are proficient with unarmed strikes and any natural weapons they gain, such as claws or a bite.
A character who uses a weapon with which he is not proficient takes a –4 penalty on attack rolls with that weapon.
Melee and Ranged Weapons
Melee weapons are used for making melee attacks, though some can be thrown as well. Ranged weapons include thrown weapons or projectile weapons that are not effective in melee. Melee weapons that can also be thrown effectively will list a range in the Range column, but any object can be thrown at a -4 penalty.
Special Weapon Types
In addition to being a melee/ranged weapon, weapons can have other special rules which make them useful for certain purposes.
Glaives, guisarmes, lances, longspears, ranseurs, and whips are examples of reach weapons. A reach weapon is a melee weapon that allows its wielder to strike at targets that aren’t adjacent to him. Most reach weapons double the wielder’s natural reach, allowing medium creatures to strike a creature 10 feet away, but not a creature in an adjacent square. A typical Large character wielding a reach weapon of the appropriate size can attack a creature 15 or 20 feet away, but not adjacent creatures or creatures up to 10 feet away. Reach weapons are good for characters who need to defend weaker characters because they make it more difficult for enemies to move past you without being attacked.
Dire flails, gnome hooked hammers, and two-bladed swords are examples of double weapons. A character can fight with both ends of a double weapon as if fighting with two weapons, but she incurs all the normal attack penalties associated with two-weapon combat, just as though the character were wielding a one-handed weapon and a light weapon.
The character can also choose to use a double weapon two-handed, attacking with only one end of it. A creature wielding a double weapon in one hand can’t use it as a double weapon—only one end of the weapon can be used in any given round.
Because most characters need to spend a feat to gain proficiency with any double weapon except a quarterstaff, most people who use two-weapon fighting don’t both using a double weapon. Instead, pick up two light weapons like short swords or daggers.
Daggers, darts, javelins, throwing axes, light hammers, and nets are examples of thrown weapons. The wielder applies his Strength modifier to damage dealt by thrown weapons (except for splash weapons). Drawing a thrown weapon is a move action (like any other weapon), so if you want to throw lots of weapons, consider picking up the Quick Draw feat. Also note that you use Dexterity for your attack roll when throwing a weapon, but still use Strength for damage.
It is possible to throw a weapon that isn’t designed to be thrown (that is, a melee weapon that doesn’t have a numeric entry in the Range column on the following weapon tables), and a character who does so takes a –4 penalty on the attack roll. Throwing a light or one-handed weapon is a standard action, while throwing a two-handed weapon is a full-round action. Regardless of the type of weapon, such an attack scores a threat only on a natural roll of 20 and deals double damage on a critical hit. Such a weapon has a range increment of 10 feet. This also applies to throwing improvised weapons like chairs, rocks, or glass bottles.
Blowguns, crossbows, shortbows, slings, longbows, and halfling sling staves are examples of projectile weapons—weapons that launch ammunition at a target. Most projectile weapons require two hands to use (see specific weapon descriptions). A character cannot apply his Strength modifier on damage rolls with a projectile weapon unless it’s a sling or a specially built composite shortbow or composite longbow. If the character has a penalty for low Strength, apply it to damage rolls when she uses a bow or a sling.
Projectile weapons use ammunition, such as arrows for bows, bolts for crossbows, darts for blowguns, or sling bullets for slings. When using a bow, a character can draw ammunition as a free action; crossbows and slings require an action for reloading (as noted in their descriptions). Generally speaking, ammunition that hits its target is destroyed or rendered useless, while ammunition that misses has a 50% chance of being destroyed or lost.
Although shuriken are thrown weapons, they are treated as ammunition for the purposes of drawing them and crafting masterwork or otherwise special versions of them, and of what happens to them after they are thrown (meaning that they are destroyed if they hit, and have a 50% chance to survive a miss).
Light, One-Handed, and Two-Handed Melee Weapons
This designation is a measure of how much effort it takes to wield a weapon in combat. It indicates whether a melee weapon, when wielded by a character of the weapon’s size category, is considered a light weapon, a one-handed weapon, or a two-handed weapon.
A light weapon is used in one hand. It is easier to use in you off hand than a one-handed weapon is, and can be used while grappling. Add the wielder’s Strength modifier to damage rolls for melee attacks with a light weapon if it’s used in the primary hand, or half the wielder’s Strength modifier if it’s used in the off hand. Using two hands to wield a light weapon gives no advantage on damage; the Strength modifier applies as though the weapon were held in the wielder’s primary hand only. You can use the Weapon Finesse Feat with light weapons to use your Dexterity bonus for attack rolls instead of your Strength modifier, but not for the damage modifier. You can use light weapons in two hands, but gain no benefit for doing so.
An unarmed strike is always considered a light weapon.
A one-handed weapon can be used in one hand, but is typically heavier than a one-handed weapon. Add the wielder’s Strength modifier to attack and damage rolls for melee attacks with a one-handed weapon if it’s used in the primary hand, or half his Strength modifier if it’s used in the off hand. If a one-handed weapon is wielded with two hands during melee combat, add 1-1/2 times the character’s Strength modifier to damage rolls made with that weapon.
Two hands are required to use a two-handed melee weapon effectively. Apply 1-1/2 times the character’s Strength modifier to damage rolls for melee attacks with such a weapon. Remember that you can’t use a shield (not even a buckler) with a two-handed weapon, so choosing to use a two-handed weapon means that you are sacrificing a bit of AC to do more damage.
Every weapon has a size category. This designation indicates the size of the creature for which the weapon was designed. A weapon’s size category isn’t the same as its size as an object. In general, a light weapon is an object two size categories smaller than the wielder (tiny for a medium short sword), a one-handed weapon is an object one size category smaller than the wielder (small for a medium longsword), and a two-handed weapon is an object of the same size category as the wielder (medium for a medium greatsword).
Inappropriately Sized Weapons: A creature can’t make optimum use of a weapon that isn’t properly sized for it. A cumulative –2 penalty applies on attack rolls for each size category of difference between the size of its intended wielder and the size of its actual wielder. If the creature isn’t proficient with the weapon, a –4 nonproficiency penalty also applies. There is rarely a good reason to use weapons of the wrong size, so try to avoid doing it if you can.
The measure of how much effort it takes to use a weapon (whether the weapon is designated as a light, one-handed, or two-handed weapon for a particular wielder) is altered by one step for each size category of difference between the wielder’s size and the size of the creature for which the weapon was designed. For example, a Small creature wields a Medium one-handed weapon as a two-handed weapon (it still takes the –2 penalty for using an inappropriately sized weapon). If a weapon’s designation would be changed to something other than light, one-handed, or two-handed by this alteration, the creature can’t wield the weapon at all.
Sometimes objects not crafted to be weapons nonetheless see use in combat— commonly bottles, chair legs, stray femurs, and that sort of thing. Because such objects are not designed for this use, any creature that uses an improvised weapon in combat is considered to be nonproficient with it and takes a –4 penalty on attack rolls made with that object. To determine the size category and appropriate damage for an improvised weapon, compare its relative size and damage potential to the weapon list to find a reasonable match. An improvised weapon scores a critical threat on a natural roll of 20 and deals double damage on a critical hit. An improvised thrown weapon has a range increment of 10 feet.
This value is the weapon’s price in gold pieces (gp) or silver pieces (sp). The price includes miscellaneous gear that goes with the weapon, such as a scabbard or quiver.
This price is the same for a Small or Medium version of the weapon. A Large version costs twice the listed price. Regardless of size, masterwork weapons cost 300gp more.
These columns give the base damage dealt by the weapon on a successful hit. The column labeled “Dmg (S)” is for Small weapons. The column labeled “Dmg (M)” is for Medium weapons. If two damage ranges are given in the same column, then the weapon is a double weapon. Use the second damage figure given for the double weapon’s extra attack.
The entry in this column notes how the weapon is used with the rules for critical hits. When your character scores a critical hit, roll the damage two, three, or four times, as indicated by its critical multiplier (using all applicable modifiers on each roll), and add all the results together.
Extra damage dice (such as sneak attack damage or bonus damage from the flaming weapon quality) are not multiplied when you score a critical hit.
×2: The weapon deals double damage on a critical hit. Some weapons deal triple or quadruple damage.
×2/×3: One head of this double weapon deals double damage on a critical hit. The other head deals triple damage. Some double weapons’ heads deal triple and quadruple damage on a critical hit.
19–20/×2: The weapon scores a threat on a natural roll of 19 or 20 (instead of just 20) and deals double damage on a critical hit. Some weapons score a threat on a natural 18 as well, or deal triple instead of double damage on a critical hit.
For details on how critical hits work, see the Combat section of this guide.
Any attack at more than this distance is penalized for range. Beyond this range, the attack takes a cumulative –2 penalty for each full range increment (or fraction thereof) of distance to the target. For example, a dagger (with a range of 10 feet) thrown at a target that is 25 feet away would incur a –4 penalty. A thrown weapon has a maximum range of five range increments. A projectile weapon can shoot up to 10 range increments.
This column gives the weight of a Medium version of the weapon. Halve this number for Small weapons; double it for Large weapons. Some weapons have a special weight. See the weapon’s description for details.
Weapons are classified according to the type of damage they deal: B for bludgeoning, P for piercing, or S for slashing. Some monsters may be resistant or immune to attacks from certain types of weapons.
Some weapons deal damage of multiple types. If a weapon causes two types of damage, the type it deals is not half one type and half another; rather, all damage caused is considered to be of both types. Therefore, a creature would have to be immune to both types of damage to ignore any of the damage caused by such a weapon.
In other cases, a weapon can deal either of two types of damage. In a situation where the damage type is significant, the wielder can choose which type of damage to deal with such a weapon. For example, when wielding a Morningstar against a skeleton, it is better to deal bludgeoning damage to break their bones because skeletons are resistant to piercing and slashing damage.
Some weapons have special features in addition to those noted in their descriptions.
Blocking: When you use this weapon to fight defensively, you gain a +1 shield bonus to AC. Remember that this bonus does not stack with the shield bonus provided by a shield.
Brace: If you use a readied action to set a Brace weapon against a charge, you deal double damage on a successful hit against a charging creature.
Deadly: When you use this weapon to deliver a coup de grace, it gains a +4 bonus to damage when calculating the DC of the Fortitude saving throw to see whether the target of the coup de grace dies from the attack. The bonus is not added to the actual damage of the coup de grace attack.
Disarm: When you use this weapon, you get a +2 bonus on Combat Maneuver checks to disarm an enemy.
Distracting: You gain a +2 bonus on Bluff skill checks to feint in combat while wielding this weapon.
Double: You can use a double weapon to fight as if fighting with two weapons, but if you do, you incur all the normal attack penalties associated with fighting with two weapons, just as if you were using a one-handed weapon and a light weapon. You can choose to wield one end of a double weapon two-handed, but it cannot be used as a double weapon when wielded in this way—only one end of the weapon can be used in any given round.
Fragile: Fragile weapons cannot take the beating that sturdier weapons can. A fragile weapon gains the broken condition if the wielder rolls a natural 1 on an attack roll with the weapon. If a fragile weapon is already broken, the roll of a natural 1 destroys it instead. Masterwork and magical fragile weapons lack these flaws unless otherwise noted in the item description.
If a weapon gains the broken condition in this way, that weapon is considered to have taken damage equal to half its hit points +1. This damage is repaired either by something that addresses the effect that granted the weapon the broken condition (like quick clear in the case of firearm misfires or the Field Repair feat) or by the repair methods described in the broken condition. When an effect that grants the broken condition is removed, the weapon regains the hit points it lost when the broken condition was applied. Damage done by an attack against a weapon (such as from a sunder combat maneuver) cannot be repaired by an effect that removes the broken condition.
Grapple: On a successful critical hit with a weapon of this type, you can attempt a combat maneuver check to grapple your opponent as a free action. This grapple attempt does not provoke an attack of opportunity from the creature you are attempting to grapple if that creature is not threatening you. While you grapple the creature using a grappling weapon, you can only move or damage the creature on your turn. You are still considered grappled, though you do not have to be adjacent to the creature to continue the grapple. If you move far enough away that the creature you’re grappling is no longer within the weapon’s reach, you end the grapple with that action.
Monk: A monk weapon can be used by a monk to perform a Flurry of Blows.
Nonlethal: These weapons deal nonlethal damage.
Performance: When wielding this weapon, if an attack or combat maneuver made with this weapon prompts a Performance Combat check, you gain a +2 bonus on that check. If you don’t know what Performance Combat is, don’t worry about it.
Reach: You can use a Reach weapon to strike opponents 10 feet away, but you can’t use it against an adjacent foe.
Trip: When you use a Trip weapon to make a Trip attack, if you are tripped during your own trip attempt, you can drop the weapon to avoid being tripped.
A masterwork weapon is a finely crafted version of a normal weapon. Wielding it provides a +1 enhancement bonus on attack rolls.
Without using magic, you can’t add the masterwork quality to a weapon after it is created; it must be crafted as a masterwork weapon (see the Craft skill). The masterwork transformation spell transforms a non-masterwork weapon into a masterwork weapon.
The masterwork quality adds 300 gp to the cost of a normal weapon (or 6 gp to the cost of a single unit of ammunition). Adding the masterwork quality to a double weapon costs twice the normal increase (+600 gp).
Masterwork ammunition is damaged (and effectively destroyed) when used. The enhancement bonus of masterwork ammunition does not stack with any enhancement bonus of the projectile weapon firing it.
All magic weapons are automatically considered to be of masterwork quality. The enhancement bonus granted by the masterwork quality doesn’t stack with the enhancement bonus provided by the weapon’s magic.
Special Armor and Weapon Materials
Armor and Weapons can be made from a variety of special materials which can improve their effectiveness for additional cost. For the full list of special materials, see the Special Materials page of the Pathfinder SRD. Here are some examples of special materials which you will commonly see in Pathfinder campaigns:
- Adamantine: Martial characters like Fighters and Barbarians love adamantine weapons because they ignore the hardness of most objects, allowing you to carve through floors and walls like butter.
- Alchemical Silver: Alchemical Silver weapons overcome the damage reduction of some creatures, including Lycnathropes (werewolves) and some Devils.
- Cold Iron: Important for overcoming the DR of chaotic creatures like Demons and Fey. Note that Cold Iron weapons cost more to enchant, but because they’re so cheap it’s easy to carry a mundane cold iron weapon in case you happen to need it.