Fun story, the term “Parting Shot” comes from the Parthian Empire, who used to have mounted archers. As the archers retreated or fell back, they would turn almost 180 degrees in their saddle to fire shots at enemies who were chasing them. Hence the “Parthian Shot” or Parting Shot.
While this seems like a no brainer in ancient warfare, this was revolutionary in the ancient world.
The Samurai of Ancient Japan did not have access to superior steel, so their warfare was designed around swords folded many times to remove impurities, and armor that was layered wood and silk. This gave them a signature look and style that was very different from Europe, which often had superior steel in more abundance.
All of this is to say, cultures are different when they approach warfare and conflict.
This is definitely true when it comes to fantasy worlds as well. The Ancestries of Pathfinder Second Edition have differing cultures, and those cultures often have their own weapons for good and ill.
What is the Weapon Familiarity Feat?
To discuss the Weapon Familiarity Feat, it would most likely behoove us to discuss real quickly how weapon proficiencies work in Pathfinder 2e.
When you choose your class in Pathfinder 2e, you get a set of Initial Proficiencies which can range from Weapons, Spell DCs, Spell Attacks, and Skill Checks. As you level up, you gain a Proficiency Bonus. When it comes to an attack roll, those weapons you are proficient with gain your Proficiency Bonus on the roll.
Weapons you are not proficient in do not get your Proficiency Bonus.
The Weapon Familiarity Feat automatically makes you proficient with a certain set of weapons that are a part of your ancestry regardless of your Initial Proficiencies. It also makes certain weapons that are considered to be Advanced, to be considered Simple or Martial in Proficiency.
It should be noted that the Weapon Familiarity is always a level 1 feat. That means it’s always easy to access, and best to get early on in your build.
Who Gets Access to Weapon Familiarity Feats?
Several different ancestries get access to the Weapon Familiarity Feats:
Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Goblins, and Halflings all have options for Weapon Familiarity feats at level 1. Though that is just the common Ancestries found in the core Pathfinder 2e Book. In addition to these options, you also have Azarketi, Catfolk, Gnolls, Grippli, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Orcs, Tengu, and Conrasu.
A good way to think about who would normally have a Weapon Familiarity Feat is either an ancestry that has existed outside of the sphere of human influence for a long period of time. Speaking of Humanity…
Humans, Half-Ancestries, and Weapon Familiarity
Humans don’t actually have access to the Weapon Familiarity Feat, but they have something of their own known as Unconventional Weaponry.
Unconventional Weaponry allows you access to a specific singular weapon from one of the other cultures in question, allowing you to treat it as a Simple weapon for Proficiency purposes.
Branching off from human ancestries, you also have Half-Elves and Half-Orcs. Both can take their respective Ancestry’s Weapon Familiarity Feats, reflecting the fact that they may have been raised in their non-human culture.
Using Weapon Familiarity to Your Advantage
The most basic benefit from using the Weapon Familiarity Feat is gaining access to weapon proficiencies your chosen class might not normally have access to. So a Dwarven Cleric would have access to a Battle Axe out of the starting gate.
Same if you wanted to make an Elven Wizard who used a Rapier, or a Catfolk Monk wielding a pair of Hatchets. It can allow you to customize your character the way you want, really leaning into your Ancestry and Heritage to make something unique.
Overall, this feat is amazing for Casters who want to make sure they have the option of engaging in physical combat. For example, a long time in the history of Fantasy RPGs, Elves have had a trope of using light weapons and swords as a focus for their magic. This Feat is a way to make sure they can keep those swords as the rough equivalent of a “Spell Knight” or “War Wizard” type of build.
The Ancestry Weapon Familiarity Feat can also give each Ancestry access to their own other feats that grow in power.
Dwarven Weapon Cunning Feat 5
Source Core Rulebook pg. 37 3.0
Prerequisites Dwarven Weapon Familiarity
You’ve learned cunning techniques to get the best effects out of your dwarven weapons. Whenever you critically hit using a battle axe, pick, warhammer, or a dwarf weapon, you apply the weapon’s critical specialization effect.
This option allows you to access the extra power of weapons that you may not be able to because of your class. For example, the Warhammer can knock a target prone. The effect is different for each weapon.
Dwarven Weapon Expertise Feat 13
Source Core Rulebook pg. 37 3.0
Prerequisites Dwarven Weapon Familiarity
Your dwarven affinity blends with your training, granting you great skill with dwarven weapons. Whenever you gain a class feature that grants you expert or greater proficiency in certain weapons, you also gain that proficiency for battle axes, picks, warhammers, and all dwarven weapons in which you are trained.
This keeps your use of your specialized ancestry weapons in step with other options, making sure they don’t fall behind as you level.
With the exception of Conrasu, every Weapon Familiarity Tree has the Expertise feat. For the purposes of brevity, I won’t repeat myself on those entries.
Elven Weapon Elegance operates exactly like the Dwarven Weapon Cunning option, just with the same weapons listed under Elven Weapon Familiarity feat.
They also get access to Elven Weapon Expertise.
Third verse is the same as the first. Gnome Weapon Innovator is like Dwarven Weapon cunning, unlocking the Critical Specialization options for Gnome Weaponry.
They also gain access to Gnome Weapon Expertise.
Goblins get access to Goblin Weapon Frenzy, unlocking Critical Specialization effects.
Goblin Weapon Expertise is also added to their feat options as well.
For Halflings, they get the same two feats as the others. These two being known as Halfling Weapon Trickster and of course Halfling Weapon Expertise.
Would it surprise you if I told you that the Azarketi get the same two feats as everyone else? This one goes by Azarketi Weapon Aptitude, and is followed up with Azarketi Weapon Expertise.
Catfolk Weapon Rake is the same as the others, allowing access to the Critical Specialization Effects.
They also gain access to Catfolk Weapon Expertise.
Gnoll feats are when things get slightly different. Don’t get too excited though, the only real change is Gnoll Weapon Practicality (which allows access to the Critical Specialization abilities) is actually a prerequisite to their Gnoll Weapon Expertise feat.
The Grippli get access to Grippli Weapon Innovator and then Grippli Weapon Expertise.
Hobgoblins get Hobgoblin Weapon Discipline and Hobgoblin Weapon Expertise.
Kobolds have access to Kobold Weapon Expertise and then Kobold Weapon Innovator.
Orcs gain access to Orc Weapon Carnage and Orc Weapon Expertise.
The Tengu have the same as the others on the list: Tengu Weapon Study for their Critical Specialization Effects, and Tengu Weapon Expertise to keep pace with their other proficiencies.
The Tengu have a third and fourth feat as well: Eclectic Sword Training and Eclectic Sword Mastery.
Eclectic Sword Training Feat 9
Source Advanced Player’s Guide pg. 27 2.0
Prerequisites Tengu Weapon Familiarity
You were always taught that you needed to be able to use whatever weapon came your way. You can change any of the swords designated in your Tengu Weapon Familiarity to different swords that meet the same specifications. You have to practice with a sword during your daily preparations to designate it, and the designation only lasts until your next daily preparations. This changes only your proficiency; it doesn’t change your access.
This can let you customize your Tengu character more, allowing you access to different swords than just what comes with the Tengu Weapon Familiarity Feat.
Eclectic Sword Mastery Feat 13
Source Ancestry Guide pg. 59 2.0
Prerequisites Eclectic Sword Training
You instinctively learn how to use a sword with just a few practice swings. You change one of the swords designated in your Tengu Weapon Familiarity to a new one that you’re wielding, provided the sword meets the specifications of Tengu Weapon Familiarity.
You can Interact to draw a sword as part of this activity, designating the sword as part of drawing it; disrupting that Interact action prevents you from designating it as one of your swords. This designation lasts until your next daily preparations.
The Tengu with this feat can switch their proficiencies on the fly, knowing how best to use a sword in the moment, making them the true masters of swordsmanship.
Conrasu Weapon Familiarity unfortunately does not come with any extra feats in their tree, already being a powerful race to begin with. As a race of primarily caster, the ability to use weapons is already a powerful addition to their arsenal.
I would consider the Expertise feats in these trees as a necessary part of your build if you are wanting to be serious about using your weapon in combat. It really is the best option if you are wanting to make sure to be effective.
En garde, Pathfinder!