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Old Screeds

Whipped [28 March 05] The strange ranged melee weapon.

The whip is one of the oddest weapons in Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, it bears a rereading:

Whip: A whip deals nonlethal damage. It deals no damage to any creature with an armor bonus of +1 or higher or a natural armor bonus of +3 or higher. The whip is treated as a melee weapon with 15-foot reach, though you donít threaten the area into which you can make an attack. In addition, unlike most other weapons with reach, you can use it against foes anywhere within your reach (including adjacent foes). Using a whip provokes an attack of opportunity, just as if you had used a ranged weapon. You can make trip attacks with a whip. If you are tripped during your own trip attempt, you can drop the whip to avoid being tripped. When using a whip, you get a +2 bonus on opposed attack rolls made to disarm an opponent (including the roll to keep from being disarmed if the attack fails). You can use the Weapon Finesse feat to apply your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier to attack rolls with a whip sized for you, even though it isnít a light weapon for you.

Let's count the ways this weapon is just strange:

  • It does no damage to opponents with thick hides. Frankly, this makes it next to useless as a damage-causer.
  • It gives a nonstandard 15-foot reach, but you can't threaten any squares with it. That means you can't use it for attacks of opportunity.
  • Using it provokes attacks of opportunity, just like making a ranged attack does.

So you can't use the whip to threaten squares, and using it provokes AoOs -- just like a bow or sling. In addition, it is unusual -- but not unique -- in several other ways. You can use it to trip and disarm foes, like a flail. It inflicts nonlethal damage, like a sap. You can use it to attack those nearby and those farther away, and you can apply the Weapon Finesse feat to its use, like a spiked chain.

The comparison to the spiked chain is important. Both are exotic weapons. Both are among the best tripping and disarming weapons. Both let you target squares that are close and farther away. The advantage of the whip over the spiked chain is that it reaches an extra five feet and can be used in one hand. The advantage of the spiked chain is that it causes real damage and lets you threaten squares normally, so you can make attacks of opportunity.

Moreover, although it is an exotic weapon, bards, of all people, know how to use it. Which is odd, because to use it effectively you need both Combat Expertise and either Improved Trip or Improved Disarm -- but bards usually have better things to use their feats on, like Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus (Enchantment).

Which begs the question, if you are not a bard, and you have a feat to spend on an exotic weapon, who would choose a whip over a spiked chain? Very few, I think, since the advantages of the chain beat those of the whip.

But the whip is a nifty weapon, and it deserves some boosting. Therefore I suggest the following feats, designed to make the whip a more viable choice.

Crack the Whip [General]
Prerequisite: Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Whip)
Benefit: As part of your normal skill use, you can crack your masterwork whip to gain a +2 on Ride, Handle Animal, and Intimidate checks. You must be wielding the whip to gain the bonus. (The whip is, in essence, a masterwork tool for these skills.)

Alert Whip [General]
Prerequisite: Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Whip), Alertness
Benefit: When using a whip, you threaten all squares into which you can attack.
Normal: A character using a whip cannot threaten any squares.
Special: A fighter can use a bonus feat to take Alert Whip.

Retrieve [General]
Prerequisite: Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Whip), Improved Disarm
Benefit: After you disarm a character with a whip, the disarmed item drops to the ground in your space, not the defender's.
Normal: A disarmed item normally falls in the defender's space.
Special: A fighter can use a bonus feat to take Retrieve.

Entangle [General]
Prerequisite: Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Whip), Improved Trip
Benefit: After successfully tripping an opponent, you may choose to entangle the defender, exactly as if you were using a net with a trailing rope. The entanglement ends at the beginning of your next turn; after entangling, you cannot use the whip for any other purpose until the beginning of your next turn, when the whip is free.
Special: A fighter can use a bonus feat to take Entangle.

But let's talk about a few more neat whip tricks. As I mentioned in a recent screed, per an idea by Gwendolyn Kestrel, a +1 Whip of Spell Storing is a sweet item. One option is to store a beneficial spell in the whip, like a Cure Serious Wounds. Use the whip to deliver the spell to a friend on the front line of battle -- if the friend has even a +1 armor bonus to AC, the whip does no damage, but does deliver the spell.

Give the whip a Holy enchantment as well, and it becomes an effective 2d6 damage causer even against enemies with tough hides -- although the whip's base damage is ignored, the holy damage applies to evil opponents. And you can still deliver helpful spells to friends, at least so long as they are not evil!

If you can afford it, buy several +1 whips of spell storing, and switch them out as you use up the spells. After battle, or the next day, you can recharge them. You can also use them to deliver offensive touch attacks. Here are a list of arcane spells that work well for that: Chill Touch, Ghoul Touch, Shocking Grasp, Touch of Fatigue, Touch of Idiocy, Vampiric Touch. I list arcane spells because if you are an armored druid or cleric, why are you so afraid to get up on the front line! LOL! But speaking of the divine, Bestow Curse, Contagion and Poison are good divine spells to get your friends to cast into your whip.

An even sweeter option, if you can get your DM to agree, is to use a prestige class that lets a mage deliver touch spells through a melee weapon, like an arcane archer can deliver area spells through arrows. One such example is this Weapon Master.

The whip is a neat weapon, especially after you beef it up a little!

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