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The D&D session ended with a bang. The gnollish fiend’s spiked flail missed the paladin by a narrow margin, and his slender, jet-black rapier thrusted from below like a lunging viper. As the blade dug into its neck, the sword’s wielder used it to force the demon to the ground, allowing the cleric to close in for the kill with a mighty two-handed swing of his warhammer. He turned the snarling head into a gruesome smear.
Weapons are a staple of martial classes and half-casters. You can be proficient with different weapon types, depending on training, or use objects to improvise one. They usually deal bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage but can be enchanted to deal magical pain, also. Each has its own benefits.
There’s a lot to cover, from weapon properties and materials to different ways to use them and how magic factors into this. Let’s get started.
The Weapons and Their Types
There are four main weapon categories: simple & martial melee weapons and simple & martial ranged ones.
Unarmed strikes count as melee weapon attacks and can benefit from things like Hex and Smite, but whatever bodily appendage is used to strike doesn’t count as a weapon, so no Booming Blade karate-chops for you. The same applies to improvised weapons; you can smite with a sausage but not summon it via Weapon Bond, for instance, following the Rules as Written (RAW).
Below are the tables containing the various weapons in the game, separated by category:
Simple Melee Weapons
|Club||1 sp||1d4 bludgeoning||2 lb.||Light|
|Dagger||2 gp||1d4 piercing||1 lb.||Finesse, light, thrown (range 20/60)|
|Greatclub||2 sp||1d8 bludgeoning||10 lb.||Two-handed|
|Handaxe||5 gp||1d6 slashing||2 lb.||Light, thrown (range 20/60)|
|Javelin||5 sp||1d6 piercing||2 lb.||Thrown (range 30/120)|
|Light Hammer||2 gp||1d4 bludgeoning||2 lb.||Light, thrown (range 20/60)|
|Mace||5 gp||1d6 bludgeoning||4 lb.||—|
|Quarterstaff||2 sp||1d6 bludgeoning||4 lb.||Versatile (1d8)|
|Sickle||1 gp||1d4 slashing||2 lb.||Light|
|Spear||1 gp||1d6 piercing||3 lb.||Thrown (range 20/60), versatile (1d8)|
Simple Ranged Weapons
|Light crossbow||25 gp||1d8 piercing||5 lb.||Ammunition (range 80/320), loading, two-handed|
|Dart||5 cp||1d4 piercing||1/4 lb.||Finesse, thrown (range 20/60)|
|Shortbow||25 gp||1d6 piercing||2 lb.||Ammunition (range 80/320), two-handed|
|Sling||1 sp||1d4 bludgeoning||—||Ammunition (range 30/120)|
Martial Melee Weapons
|Flail||10 gp||1d8 bludgeoning||2 lb.||—|
|Glaive||20 gp||1d10 slashing||6 lb.||Heavy, reach, two-handed|
|Greataxe||30 gp||1d12 slashing||7 lb.||Heavy, two-handed|
|Greatsword||50 gp||2d6 slashing||6 lb.||Heavy, two-handed|
|Halberd||20 gp||1d10 slashing||6 lb.||Heavy, reach, two-handed|
|Lance||10 gp||1d12 piercing||6 lb.||Reach, special|
|Longsword||15 gp||1d8 slashing||3 lb.||Versatile (1d10)|
|Maul||10 gp||2d6 bludgeoning||10 lb.||Heavy, two-handed|
|Morningstar||15 gp||1d8 piercing||4 lb.||—|
|Pike||5 gp||1d10 piercing||18 lb.||Heavy, reach, two-handed|
|Rapier||25 gp||1d8 piercing||2 lb.||Finesse|
|Scimitar||25 gp||1d6 slashing||3 lb.||Finesse, light|
|Shortsword||10 gp||1d6 piercing||2 lb.||Finesse, light|
|Trident||5 gp||1d6 piercing||4 lb.||Thrown (range 20/60), versatile (1d8)|
|War Pick||5 gp||1d8 piercing||2 lb.||—|
|Warhammer||15 gp||1d8 bludgeoning||2 lb.||Versatile (1d10)|
|Whip||2 gp||1d4 slashing||3 lb.||Finesse, reach|
Martial Ranged Weapons
|Hand crossbow||75 gp||1d6 piercing||3 lb.||Ammunition (range 30/120), light, loading|
|Heavy crossbow||50 gp||1d10 piercing||18 lb.||Ammunition (range 100/400), heavy, loading, two-handed|
|Longbow||50 gp||1d8 piercing||2 lb.||Ammunition (range 150/600), heavy, two-handed|
|Net||1 gp||—||3 lb.||Special, thrown (range 5/15)|
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Firearms in D&D
The arsenal can be expanded by adding firearms to your game—I myself play a Hupperdookian gunslinger in a Wildemount campaign—as the Dungeon Master’s Guide provides tables for on page 268. Firearms are a subset of martial ranged weapons and come in three flavors: Renaissance, modern-day, futuristic (pulp sci-fi). Modern firearms and up, in a D&D world, are priceless objects. Here are the tables:
Renaissance Firearms (Martial Ranged Weapons)
|Pistol||250 gp||1d10 piercing||3 lb.||Ammunition (range 30/90), loading|
|Musket||500 gp||1d12 piercing||10 lb.||Ammunition (range 40/120), loading, two-handed|
|Ammunition (10 bullets)||3 gp||(weapon damage)||2 lb.||(weapon range)|
Modern Firearms (Martial Ranged Weapons)
|Automatic pistol||2d6 piercing||3 lb.||Ammunition (range 50/150), reload (15 shots)|
|Revolver||2d8 piercing||3 lb.||Ammunition (range 40/120), reload (6 shots)|
|Hunting rifle||2d10 piercing||8 lb.||Ammunition (range 80/240), reload (5 shots), two-handed|
|Automatic Rifle||2d8 piercing||8 lb.||Ammunition (range 80/240), burst fire, reload (30 shots), two-handed|
|Shotgun||2d8 piercing||7 lb.||Ammunition (range 30/90), reload (2 shots), two-handed|
|Ammunition (10 bullets)||(weapon damage)||1 lb.||(weapon range)|
Futuristic Firearms (Martial Ranged Weapons)
|Laser pistol||2d6 radiant||2 lb.||Ammunition (range 40/20), reload (50 shots)|
|Antimatter rifle||6d8 necrotic||10 lb.||Ammunition (range 120/360), reload (2 shots), two-handed|
|Laser rifle||3d8 radiant||7 lb.||Ammunition (range 100/300) , reload (30 shots) , two-handed|
|Energy cell||(weapon damage)||5 oz.||(weapon range)|
There are also rules for throwable bombs, grenades, and dynamite on pages 267 and 268, but they aren’t categorized as weapons, although you use them to blow your enemies apart. A possible reason for this is that, instead of you making attack rolls with them, the targets must succeed on Dexterity Saving Throws (Dex saves). Still, here they are:
|Weapon||Price||Damage/Type||Weight||How it Works|
|Bomb||150 gp||3d6 fire||1 lb.||60 ft. throw range, DC 12 Dex save to avoid damage within 5 ft. of it|
|Gunpowder keg||250 gp||7d6 fire||20 lb.||DC 12 Dex save to take half damage within 10 ft. of it. Takes a round to detonate after lighting.|
|Gunpowder Powderhorn||35 gp||3d6 fire||2 lb.||Same as the above|
|Weapon||Price||Damage/Type||Weight||How it Works|
|Dynamite (stick)||3d6 bludgeoning||1 lb.||60 ft. throw range, DC 12 Dex save to take half damage within 5 ft. of it|
|Frag grenade||5d6 piercing||1 lb.||60 ft. throw range, DC 15 Dex save to take half damage within 20 ft. of it|
|Smoke grenade||3d6 fire||2 lb.||60 ft. throw range, heavily obscures area within 20 ft.. Moderate wind disperses it in 4 rounds, strong wind in 1|
|Grenade launcher||7 lb.||Shoots grenades up to 120 ft. away|
Apart from their categories, ranges, weights (which are likely to only ever come up if you use encumbrance in your game (more on that here) or play a small character), and damage dice, 5e weapons all have properties that affect the game differently.
Let’s go over the vanilla properties in alphabetical order:
This goes hand in hand with ranged, not thrown, weapons. Whenever you shoot or fire a ranged weapon, you expend one ammo to do it. You cannot attack with a ranged weapon without ammunition, and things like drawing an arrow from the quiver are assumed to be part of the attack action (this works differently when using a firearm with the Reload property or crossbow with the Loading property)
You need a free hand to load a one-handed ranged weapon—such as the hand crossbow.
After combat, you can take a minute to look for ammunition around the battlefield, allowing you to retrieve half of the ammunition spent.
When attacking with a Finesse weapon, you can choose to add your Dex modifier (mod) to both attack and damage rolls instead of Strength (Str). Rogues can only Sneak Attack in melee with finesse weapons.
If a small creature (think halflings, goblins, gnomes) attempts an attack roll with one, it does so with disadvantage.
You can dual wield them without getting the Dual Wielder feat (Player’s Handbook (PHB), pg 165).
This includes weapons that need to be loaded every time you shoot, and it takes time. Whenever you attack with one as an action, bonus action, or reaction, you shoot only once, even if you have all the Extra Attacks in the world.
The most notable workaround for this is the Artificer’s Repeating Shot infusion, which eliminates the need for reloading.
This is to do with how far you can throw your weapon or shoot its projectiles. This is written in parentheses next to the Ammunition or Thrown property, like this: (150/600), expressed in feet.
The smaller number is the normal range; the bigger one is an extended range at which you attack with disadvantage. You can’t attack anything beyond the extended range.
For gridded combat, every square has 5 ft. sides (roughly 1.2 m).
When attacking with this weapon, your normal melee range is extended by 5 ft.
Weapons with this property have special rules that apply just to them. On the tables above, these are:
- Lances: If you attack a target within 5ft. of you (adjacent in gridded combat), you do so with disadvantage. It also requires two hands to wield when you’re not on a mount.
- Nets: If you hit a Large or smaller target with it (more on size here), they are restrained by it until freed. It has no effect on huge creatures and up, as well as on formless ones.
- A creature can use its action to make a Difficulty Class (DC) 10 Str check, to free itself or another from the net. The net has an Armor Class (AC) of 10 and dealing 5 or more slashing damage to it also frees whoever it’s restraining as well as destroys the net. When you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to attack with it, you can only make one attack—regardless of how many attacks per action you can normally make.
You can throw these weapons to make ranged attacks. If you have several, you can throw each with an attack, provided you have Extra Attacks.
If it’s a melee weapon, you use the same stat you normally use to attack with it when throwing it (Str for a handaxe, for instance). You can, however, throw a dagger with either Dex or Str because it has the Finesse property.
Such weapons can only be wielded with two hands.
Makes you wonder about playing a four-armed fighter, doesn’t it? Would likely require monkeying with the bonus-action off-hand attack rule, though.
These are weapons that can be used wielded with one or two hands. When wielded with two hands, their damage dice sizes increase.
For example, a quarterstaff normally does 1d6, but two-handed, it will do 1d8.
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Firearms have specific properties just for them in the DMG. They are:
Firearm ammunition is destroyed upon use, so you recover none of the fired bullets (or energy from the cells) after a fight.
Firearms with this property can be used to, instead of firing however many shots the wielder can shoot with their attack action, spray a 10ft cube are with bullets (10, to be precise), and any creature within the area must succeed on a DC 15 Dex save or take the weapon’s damage.
After the firearm’s specified number of shots, you must take an action or bonus action (your choice) to reload it.
Improvising Weapons in D&D
A barstool, a hefty cheese wheel, a femur from the crypt floor—all of these could be weaponized in a pinch. Improvising weapons might be key to survival under less-than-ideal circumstances. If it’s sufficiently similar to a weapon with which you are proficient, the DM might even let you add your proficiency mod to your attack rolls with an improvised weapon.
Improvised weapons that bear no resemblance to a weapon deal 1d4 damage. It stands to reason that throwing a sufficiently heavy rock on someone could change this, but the rules don’t specify. We have an article that expands on this, found here.
Wielding a ranged weapon like a crossbow or a pistol as a melee weapon makes it an improvised weapon for this action. Likewise, throwing a weapon that’s not designed to be thrown makes it, for this particular action, an improvised weapon as well, and the range is 20/60 (see above for what this means). Both cases deal 1d4 damage.
There are character options that can make you proficient with improvised weapons, as we’ll see in the next section.
How to Get Weapon Proficiencies
To wield any given weapon to its fullest potential, you need to be proficient with it. The main way to gain a weapon proficiency is when choosing your character’s class, but race, background, and other factors come into the mix. The only one to include firearms, RAW, is the artificer.
Here’s a comprehensive list of all that:
- Dwarf: battleaxe, handaxe, throwing hammer, and warhammer.
- High elf, wood elf: longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.
- Dark elf: rapiers, shortswords, and hand crossbows.
- Hobgoblin (Volo’s Guide to Monsters, pg 119): two martial weapons of your choice.
- Artificer (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): simple weapons, firearms (if they exist in your world and the character has had access to them).
- Barbarian: all weapons.
- Bard: simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords.
- Cleric: simple weapons.
- Druid: clubs, daggers, darts, javelins, maces, quarterstaffs, scimitars, sickles, slings, spears.
- Fighter: all weapons.
- Monk: simple weapons and shortswords (both of which count as monk weapons so long as they don’t have the Two-handed or Heavy properties), unarmed strikes.
- Paladin: all weapons.
- Ranger: all weapons.
- Rogue: simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords.
- Sorcerer: daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows.
- Warlock: simple weapons.
- Wizards: daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows.
- Battlesmith (Artificer, TCE pg 19): martial weapons.
- College of Swords (Bard, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, XGE pg 15): scimitars.
- College of Valor (Bard, PHB pg 55): martial weapons.
- Death Domain (cleric, DMG pg 96): martial weapons.
- Tempest Domain (cleric, DMG pg 62): martial weapons.
- War Domain (cleric, PHB pg 63): martial weapons.
- Way of The Kensei (Monk, XGE pg 34): Choose one melee and one ranged weapon to be your kensei weapons. They can be any simple or martial weapon lacking the Heavy or Special properties, with one exception: you can choose the longbow. You are proficient with the chosen weapons and they count as monk weapons for you.
- Bladesinging (wizard, TCE pg 76): one one-handed melee weapon, simple or martial.
- Hexblade (warlock, XGE pg 55): martial weapons.
- Barbarian: all weapons.
- Fighter: all weapons.
- Monk: simple weapons, shortswords, unarmed strikes.
- Paladin: all weapons.
- Ranger: all weapons.
- Warlock: simple weapons.
- Tenser’s Transformation (6th-level transmutation): temporary proficiency with all weapons and armor, on top of becoming swole. Concentration, up to 10 minutes. (XGE, pg 168)
- Magical weapons whose descriptions specify that whoever wears them is proficient in wearing them
- Tavern Brawler (PHB pg 170): improvised weapons and unarmed strikes.
- Weapon Master (PHB pg 170): four weapons of your choice.
The PHB (pg 187) and DMG (pgs 131 and 231) provide training options for downtime by which you can gain levels, learn languages, become proficient with tools and skills, or earn a Feat like the ones above.
The PHB specifies that learning a skill takes 250 days (at 8 hours a day), costing one gold piece (gp) per day with a willing instructor. It’s up to the GM if you can use proficient teammates as instructors.
The books also suggest making up new downtime activities. Adding weapon proficiencies to the list of things you can get by training is a small, reasonable tweak.
Special weapon materials and builds
There are, in D&D 5E, materials that lend some extra oomph to weapons. For instance, silvered weapons famously bypass lycanthropes‘ resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
Adamantine weapons can also do that in some cases—like gargoyles. They also turn every hit against an object into a critical hit (XGE, pg 78). Not particularly useful against living, breathing creatures but, as a DM, I would rule that the autocrit characteristic applies to constructs, earth elementals, and similar.
Another Adamantine possibility is attacking an enemy’s armor to make it less effective (lower its AC) instead of hurting the wearer, which, now that I thought about it, sounds like a homebrew project waiting to happen.
There are no rules about making mithral weapons but, based on what we know from mithral armor, we can assume such weapons would be a lot lighter. Consider this idea from Dungeon Master Assistance:
An item made from mithral weighs half as much as the same item made from other metals. Mithral is too light to be used for Heavy weapons. If the weapon isn’t Heavy, it becomes Light. If it is already listed as Light it gains the Finesse property. If the weapon is Two–Handed it is now instead Versatile. Mithral ammunition is too light to be effective.
Pretty cool, right? And homebrew is an abyss. You can gleefully lose yourself in it. Why stop with trademarked materials? In one of the games I play, my rogue is looking for a blacksmith capable of making a mighty blade out of some fossilized shards of dragon bone he found.
Other possibilities for homebrewing weapons involve their build. Maybe a master craftsman somewhere can provide Dishonored-style foldable swords meant for concealment (and de-foldable as a bonus action) to shady types. Or perhaps the trick-weapons from Bloodborne tickle your fancy? Well, there’s a 5E supplement for that.
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The DMG (pg 213) lists weapons enchanted with straightforward increases to the to-hit score and damage capabilities like this:
- +1, rare
- +2, very rare
- +3, legendary
Rare magic items can cost anything from 500 to 5,000 gp (DMG, pg 135). Very rare items go for 5,001 to 50,000 gp. Legendary cost more than 50,000 gp and have no upper price limit. XGE offers alternative price tags based on item rarity:
- Rare: 2d10 x 1,000 gp
- Very rare: (1d4+1) x 10,000 gp
- Legendary: 2d6 x 25,000 gp
If magic items can be acquired at magic shops in your campaign, I strongly advise against having legendary items available like mere consumer products, high-end as they may be.
You can also enchant weapons yourself! XGE (pg 129) has a crafting rule for this:
- Rare: 10 workweeks, 2,000 gp
- Very rare: 25 workweeks, 20,000 gp
- Legendary: 50 workweeks, 100,000 gp
The work can be distributed over a longer period, depending on the time frame of your game. We proposed tweaks for crafting successes and failures in this post, if you’re curious.
Moving on, not all magic weapons come as “thing + number”. Those that have other abilities tend to be the most fun, as they provide extra possibilities and generally pack more roleplay flavor. Here are two examples from the 5E System Reference Document (SRD):
The Javelin of Lightning (uncommon) literally becomes a lightning bolt as soon as you hurl it, prompting everyone in a 120 ft. line in front of you to succeed on a Dex save to take half damage from the 4d6 lighting it deals. Once it is used in this way, the javelin can only be lightning again after the next dawn.
The Mace of Disruption (rare) is great for holy types and reinforces their identities as defenders against supernatural evil. This weapon is meant to wreck undead and fiends. Although this won’t come up all the time, when it does it’s always a joy and makes you feel powerful.
And here are a couple contributions of my own:
The Farseeker Whip (uncommon, requires attunement) can magically extend 30 ft. past normal whip range (10ft. from the wielder) per long rest. These 30 ft. are broken up in six 5ft. charges, and the wielder can spend as many of them as they want at any given time. They might use it to cross a chasm by using up the full 30 ft. at once or use it in combat to deliver Sneak Attacks or Smites repeatedly while staying out of a frost giant‘s melee range, for instance.
As a closing note: sentient weapons can bring new roleplay possibilities to the table and are some of the few things that can make alignment matter, if you’re into it.
Last week in the homebrew campaign I run, the warlock Logarius had acquired a sentient gauntlet claw pledged to our world’s Satan analog (Araphel).
Claw of Araphel (rare, finesse, light, requires attunement): a wicked, jagged, black claw-gauntlet. The wielder can choose to use their Charisma modifier instead of Dexterity or Strength on attack and damage rolls. The claw deals 1d4 slashing damage. Once per long rest, the claw’s wielder can cast Vampiric Touch at 3rd level without expending a spell slot. All damage dealt by the claw is doubled against celestials. The wielder can also use the claw to parry (add their proficiency bonus to AC) melee attacks as a reaction.
Logarius’ Old One patron recently punished him for taking a level of wizard, and he wanted to make amends by shifting the claw’s loyalty, so to speak, to the Old One. It took a ritual in which he suffered some damage and ended up killing the claw’s “mind” to convert it into an artifact of his patron—definitely a session highlight.
And there’s all you need to know about weapons in D&D 5E! Now, as usual, let’s quickly recap all the information from the article:
- There are four weapon categories in a normal D&D game: simple melee, simple ranged, martial melee, and martial ranged. With the addition of the DMG’s firearms and explosives, you get Renaissance firearms, modern day firearms, futuristic firearms, Renaissance explosives and modern-day explosives.
- There are 11 weapon properties in a normal D&D game, which become 14 if you add firearms and their 3 properties. They are:
- You can improvise weapons out of whatever is at hand (and even become proficient in it if you take the Tavern Brawler feat). Improvised weapons deal 1d4 of their damage type.
- If you throw a weapon without the Thrown property, it counts as an improvised weapon for this attack. If you use a ranged weapon to whack an enemy up close (say, with the butt of a crossbow), the same applies.
- Unarmed strikes count as melee weapon attacks, but the body parts used to deliver the strike never count as weapons. RAW, you can’t cast Holy Weapon on fists (though the rule of cool says otherwise), but you can Smite with them.
- Shortswords and simple weapons lacking the Heavy property are monk weapons, as are unarmed strikes. You can add two weapons to this by playing a Kensei monk, and then you may get the Longbow to count as a monk weapon for you (as an exception to the Heavy rule).
- You can get weapon proficiencies from your choice of race, class, subclass, multiclassed build, by magical means, by taking feats, and by training. Backgrounds don’t provide weapon proficiencies.
- Silvered and Adamantine weapons can bypass nonmagical damage resistances of certain creatures. Adamantine weapons are very good at damaging objects (which I suggest extending to constructs, golems, and the like).
- +1 weapons are rare, +2 are very rare, and +3 are legendary.
- Enchanting weapons is expensive and time-consuming.
- The best magic weapons have flavor. Go beyond the “weapon +X” standard fare, get creative!