A Beginner's Guide to Weapons in D&D 5e, Sword and chainmail

A Guide to D&D 5e’s Weapons

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition tends to put a lot of emphasis on combat. It’s a big part of learning how to play 5e and one aspect to understand is how weapons work in-game.
 
What are the types of weapons available? What does Weapon Proficiency mean? What are weapon Properties?
 
This guide outlines everything beginner Game Masters and players need to know about weapons in D&D 5e.

Let’s first take a brief look at how weapons work in 5e.

How Weapons Work in D&D 5e

Weapons 5e, Sword held high

Every player character has some ability to use at least one weapon in D&D 5e. The weapon rules in 5e essentially dictate how well a creature is able to wield any given weapon with special rules altering how they work in combat.

Basically, every character has some ability to use certain weapons. The weapons mechanics tie-in closely with D&D 5e’s rules for attacking as you’ll use a specific Ability Score to attack based on the type of weapon you use, the damage resulting from an attack also depends on the weapon, and you’ll need to follow specific mechanics determined by a weapon’s Properties.

At its most basic, a weapon determines four things:

  • The range at which you can make an attack
  • What Ability Score to use when making an attack roll
  • Whether you add your Proficiency Bonus or not to the attack
  • The die you use when rolling for damage

Essentially, weapons in 5e work by telling you how to use them in a combat encounter and what sort or prerequisites must be met to use them effectively.

Of course, there are more specific rules for each weapon including differing ranges, whether they require two hands, if they have a longer reach than others, and more.

Before we get to all that, let’s look at the list of default weapons available in D&D 5e.

D&D 5e Weapons List

Pair of daggers laying on a sheet

D&D 5e has a list of default available weapons. This list, often compiled into a table outlining damage and properties, is meant as an easy reference for both players and Game Masters when figuring out what weapons a character can make the most use of.

We’ll only look at the basic weapons listed on page 149 of the Player’s Handbook or the basic rules on DnD Beyond. Firearms are technically available in D&D 5e, but they’re an optional rule and warrant a separate discussion.

Anyway, here’s a table of the list of weapons in D&D 5e.

D&D 5e Weapon Table
Weapon Name Damage Properties
Simple Melee Weapons
Club 1d4 Bludgeoning Light
Dagger 1d4 Piercing Finesse, Light, Thrown (Range 20/60)
Greatclub 1d8 Bludgeoning Two-Handed
Handaxe 1d6 Slashing Light, Thrown (Range 20/60)
Javelin 1d6 Piercing Thrown (Range 30/120)
Light Hammer 1d4 Bludgeoning Light, Thrown (Range 20/60)
Mace 1d6 Bludgeoning
Quarterstaff 1d6 Bludgeoning Versatile (1d8)
Sickle 1d4 Slashing Light
Spear 1d6 Piercing Thrown (Range 20/60), Versatile (1d8)
Simple Ranged Weapons
Crossbow, Light 1d8 Piercing Ammunition (Range 80/320), Loading, Two-Handed
Dart 1d4 Piercing Finesse (Thrown 20/60)
Shortbow 1d6 Piercing Ammunition (Range 80/320) Two-Handed
Sling 1d4 Bludgeoning Ammunition (30/120)
Martial Melee Weapons
Battleaxe 1d8 Slashing Versatile (1d10)
Flail 1s8 Bludgeoning
Glaive 1d10 Slashing Heavy, Reach, Two-Handed
Greataxe 1d12 Slashing Heavy, Two-Handed
Halberd 1d10 Slashing Heavy, Two-Handed
Lance 1d12 Piercing Reach, Special
Longsword 1d8 Slashing Versatile (1d10)
Maul 2d6 Bludgeoning Heavy, Two-Handed
Morningstar 1d8 Piercing
Pike 1d10 Piercing Heavy, Reach, Two-Handed
Rapier 1d8 Piercing Finesse
Scimitar 1d6 Slashing Finesse, Light
Shortsword 1d6 Piercing Finesse, Light
Trident 1d6 Piercing Thrown (Range 20/60), Versatile (1d8)
War Pick 1d8 Piercing
Warhammer 1d8 Bludgeoning Versatile (1d10)
Whip 1d4 Slashing Finesse, Reach
Martial Ranged Weapons
Blowgun 1 Piercing Ammunition (Range 25/100), Loading
Crossbow, Hand 1d6 Piercing Ammunition (Range 30/120), Light, Loading
Crossbow, Heavy 1d10 Piercing Ammunition (Range 100/400), Heavy, Loading, Two-Handed
Longbow 1d8 Piercing Ammunition (Range 150/600), Heavy, Two-Handed
Net Special, Thrown (Range 5/15)

There’s a lot to take in here. The damage is fairly easy to understand, simply roll the corresponding die whenever you hit with that weapon. But, the types of weapons (Simple vs Martial, Melee vs Ranged) and the Properties may need further explanation.

So, let’s move on to the different categorizations of weapons in 5e.

Weapon Types in 5e

Person drawing an arrow in a longbow

There are four basic weapon types in D&D 5e using a combination from two sets of two descriptors; two for establishing their style of combat (Melee vs Ranged) and two for giving an idea for the level of training required to use them appropriately (Simple vs Martial). Aside from these, there are also three special types which exist outside the normal categorization; Silvered, Magic, and Improvised.

D&D 5e categorizes its weapons for easy designation and reference. These categorizations make it easier for assigning and understanding class proficiencies. Basically, if a class includes "Simple Weapons" under its Proficiencies, that class adds their Proficiency Bonus to all attacks made with Simple Weapons.

Now, of the four categorizations, 5e uses four elements to compose them.

  • Melee
  • Ranged
  • Simple
  • Martial

These each then combine to create the four types of weapons; Simple Melee, Simple Ranged, Martial Melee, and Martial Ranged.

Melee Weapons

Melee weapons in 5e are those which require the wielder to be adjacent to, usually within five feet, of a target creature or object. However, some melee weapons may also be used at a range. Examples of these types of weapons include the longsword, spear, and handaxe.

Basically, a creature wielding a melee weapon (usually) needs to be within five feet of their target to make an attack.

Now, this only applies to normal attacks made using these weapons. Some melee weapons may also be used at a range thanks to the Reach and Thrown Properties. We’ll get into these later, so just know these weapons normally require your character to be adjacent to their target before making their attack.

Another important thing to remember is the Ability Score you use for a melee weapon depends on whether said weapon has the Finesse Property. Every melee weapon in 5e uses Strength as the default, but Finesse weapons give you the option to use Dexterity instead.

List of Melee Weapons in 5e:

  • Club
  • Dagger
  • Greatclub
  • Handaxe
  • Javelin
  • Light Hammer
  • Mace
  • Quarterstaff
  • Sickle
  • Spear
  • Battleaxe
  • Flail
  • Glaive
  • Greataxe
  • Greatsword
  • Halberd
  • Lance
  • Longsword
  • Maul
  • Morningstar
  • Pike
  • Rapier
  • Scimitar
  • Shortsword
  • Trident
  • War Pick
  • Warhammer
  • Whip

Ranged Weapons

Ranged weapons in 5e involve making attacks at a distance greater than five feet. Example ranged weapons include the shortbow and heavy crossbow.

Basically, ranged weapons are the opposite of melee; you make attacks using them at a distance greater than five feet.

Now, unlike with melee weapons, any normal attack you make using a ranged weapon uses Dexterity…unless of course you’re making a ranged weapon attack by using a melee weapon with the Thrown Property that doesn’t have the Finesse Property. In this case, you still use Strength. Additionally, you can thrown any melee weapon to make a ranged weapon attack with a range of 20/60 (we’ll get to this in a second) but the weapon only deals 1d4 damage regardless of what the weapon’s description usually states.

One of the more important things to remember when attacking with any ranged weapon in 5e is every one has two ranges, each measured in feet. The first number lists the normal range which means an attack targeting a creature or object out to the stated number gets treated normally. The second number is the weapon’s maximum range; this means any attack made against a target between the normal and long range has disadvantage. A creature can’t make an attack against a target further away than a weapon’s maximum range.

So, take the shortbow for example with its range of 80/320. Attacks made against any creature out to 80 feet aren’t affected by range (not including other mechanics like cover). You can then target creatures between 80 and 320 feet out, but those attacks automatically have disadvantage due to being between the shortbow’s normal and maximum range.

Another thing to remember, and this is one which always gets under ranged character’s skin; you can target a creature within five feet of you with a ranged weapon attack (or any ranged attack, for that matter), but the attack has disadvantage.

So, ranged weapon attacks have disadvantage against targets within five feet of the attacker and further than a given weapon’s normal range out to a specified maximum.

Also, just because it may come up in your game, you can make a melee weapon attack using a ranged weapon. A character who does this treats the ranged weapon like a melee one for the purposes of the attack but deals 1d4 damage regardless of what its statistics state.

List of Ranged Weapons in 5e:

  • Dagger (Thrown)
  • Handaxe (Thrown)
  • Javelin (Thrown)
  • Light Hammer (Thrown)
  • Spear (Thrown)
  • Crossbow, Light
  • Dart
  • Shortbow
  • Sling
  • Trident (Thrown)
  • Blowgun
  • Crossbow, Hand
  • Crossbow, Heavy
  • Longbow
  • Net

Simple Weapons

Simple weapons in 5e are essentially implements which most people could use with little to no training. They’re easy to use and often readily available to the populace. Example simple weapons include the club, handaxe, and dart.

In essence, a simple weapon is one which requires little to no training. Any commoner could pick one up and use it effectively as they’re relatively straightforward; bash with the blunt object, stab with the pointy stick, or hack with the sharpened bit.

Because of their simplicity, many character classes have Proficiency with all simple weapons or, at the very least, in a few of them. Not all classes, mind you. The Sorcerer and Wizard get comparatively few proficiencies despite simple weapons being supposedly easy to use. But, they get magic, so it’s fine.

List of Simple Weapons in 5e:

  • Club
  • Dagger
  • Greatclub
  • Handaxe
  • Javelin
  • Light Hammer
  • Mace
  • Quarterstaff
  • Sickle
  • Spear
  • Crossbow, Light
  • Dart
  • Shortbow
  • Sling

Martial Weapons

Martial weapons in 5e require more specialized training to use appropriately and effectively. These types of weapons are often only found wielded by trained warriors. Examples of martial weapons include the longsword, warhammer, and longbow.

The next stage up from simple weapons, martial weapons basically require actual training to use effectively. They’re the more advanced counterparts to simple weapons and usually more deadly as a result.

The martial classes in 5e as well as some of the more mundane combat-focused subclasses (like the College of Valor Bard) get proficiency with martial weapons. These classes tend to put more of a focus on their physical prowess even if some of them rely on spellcasting as their main priority.

List of Martial Weapons in 5e:

  • Battleaxe
  • Flail
  • Glaive
  • Greataxe
  • Greatsword
  • Halberd
  • Lance
  • Longsword
  • Maul
  • Morningstar
  • Pike
  • Rapier
  • Scimitar
  • Shortsword
  • Trident
  • War Pick
  • Warhammer
  • Whip

Silvered Weapons

Silvered weapons in 5e are basically modified basic weapons to incorporate silver into their construction. Almost any weapon can get silvered depending on the Game Master’s ruling and availability of services. Certain monsters resist or ignore damage from non-silvered weapons, so silvering a weapon is a good way for overcoming these situations.

Some creatures (like the Werewolf either resist or ignore damage from non-silvered weapons. Granted, they’re relatively few amongst the full list of monsters in 5e. But, it may come up during your game.

Silvering a weapon gets around those resistances and immunities.

Luckily, any weapon or ammunition can get silvered assuming your Game Master allows it. The Player’s Handbook states on page 148:

You can silver a single weapon or ten pieces of ammunition for 100 gp.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 5: Equipment

Simple as that. You can silver any weapon or 10 pieces of ammunition given availability in your game and whether your character has the coin for it.

Aside from overcoming specific resistances and immunities, a silvered weapon works in the exact same way as a non-silvered one. There’s no reduction to attack or damage rolls to worry about, rules as written.

Magic Weapons

Magic weapons in 5e can be any sort of weapon but enchanted with an additional, magical effect. The most basic magic weapons add a bonus to your Attack or Damage rolls, but many other have extra effects a creature may call upon.

Certain specific weapons in D&D 5e have enchantments bestowed upon them. For all intents and purposes, these weapons behave like their mundane, non-magical counterparts but provide other benefits like granting a bonus to Attack and Damage rolls or giving a character extra options for their Actions.

Now, you need to keep in mind two things concerning with magic weapons; identifying them and attuning to them.

First off, identifying magic items in 5e is usually a good idea before trying to wield an enchanted weapon. By spending a short rest or casting the identify spell, you’ll learn the weapon’s features and whether it requires attunement or not (more on that in a second). Now, this usually won’t reveal a curse, so that’s still something to keep in mind.

Whether you identify them or not, some magic weapons require a creature to attune to them to use the item’s abilities. Attunement in 5e is actually pretty easy; all you need to do is spend a short rest concentrating on and maintaining contact with for the duration. After that, you’ll have access to all abilities (and suffer and curses) of the attuned magic weapon.

Improvised Weapons

Improvised weapons in 5e include anything that isn’t a standard or deliberately crafted item meant for combat. Wielding a glass shard, breaking a chair over a creature’s back, or swinging a shovel at a creature all are examples of using an improvised weapon. In these cases, a Game Master may rule an improvised weapon is close enough to an existing one and use the rules for the equivalent weapon.

Attacking with an improvised weapon in 5e can get a bit tricky as it sometimes relies on the judgement call of your Game Master. But, at the end of the day, it’s not that complicated.

An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.
Often, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such… At the DM’s option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.
An object that bears no resemblance to a weapon deals 1d4 damage (the DM assigns a damage type appropriate to the object). If a character uses a ranged weapon to make a melee attack, or throws a melee weapon that does not have the thrown property, it also deals 1d4 damage. An improvised thrown weapon has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 5: Equipment

Basically, see if you can make a rough comparison between the object and an existing weapon. If it’s close enough, like a table leg serving as a club, use the existing weapon’s description. If the improvised weapon doesn’t have a comparable, existing counterpart, the object does 1d4 damage on a hit which most likely uses Strength for its Attack Modifier.

D&D 5e’s improvised weapon rules also apply to melee attacks made with ranged weapons (for example, whacking a creature with a longbow) and making ranged attacks using melee weapons without the Thrown Property (for example, hucking a longsword at a creature). In both instances, the weapons deal 1d4 damage regardless of the weapon’s normal damage.

Characters and creatures don’t really have Proficiency with improvised weapons by default. If the object is similar enough to an existing one, your GM may let you use your Proficiency bonus. Aside from that, you’d need the Tavern Brawler feat.

Weapon Proficiency

Chainmail-clad warrior holding an axe

Having proficiency in a weapon means adding your character’s Proficiency Bonus to any attack roll you make with that weapon. If you lack proficiency with a weapon or weapon type, you don’t add your bonus.

It’s easy as that; characters may have Proficiency in a weapon or group of weapons which allows them to add their Proficiency Bonus to attack rolls made with those weapons.

Proficiency with a weapon allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with that weapon. If you make an attack roll using a weapon with which you lack proficiency, you do not add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 5: Equipment

Without proficiency, a character or creature making an attack with any given weapon only uses the corresponding Ability Score Modifier as their Attack Modifier. But, if that character or creature has Proficiency with that weapon, they’ll also add their Proficiency Bonus to their Attack Modifier, increasing their chance to hit based on their level.

Now, the main source of gaining proficiency with weapons is through a character class, but players have a variety of options for learning more weapon proficiencies from racial traits to class features to feats. So, let’s outline some of the ways to gain weapon proficiencies in 5e.

Race

Some character racial traits in D&D 5e can grant proficiency with certain weapons. Many of those which do are older as the design choices of later races and lineages have started leaning away from granting these types of traits as proficiency with a weapon is less racial and more cultural.

That said, 5e does have some races which grant a weapon proficiency by default. Of course, your GM may allow you to switch out an existing trait using the Customizing Your Origin rules in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, at which point, any race may give you a weapon proficiency.

Here are the races which grant proficiency in a weapon or selection of weapons by default.

  • Dwarf: Dwarven Combat Training (PHB)
  • Elf (High Elf): Elf Weapon Training (PHB)
  • Elf (High Elf): Elf Weapon Training (PHB)
  • Elf (Dark Elf): Elf Weapon Training (PHB)
  • Hobgoblin: Martial Training (VGtM)
  • Gith (Githyanki): Martial Prodigy (MToF)

Class

The bulk of weapon proficiencies come from character classes. Every class in D&D 5e grants some weapon proficiencies with the martial classes granting the most.

Honestly, it’s a simple as that.

Literally every character class grants a handful of weapon proficiencies. Now, some grant more than others, so you’ll need to thoroughly read your desired class’ list of proficiencies at character creation.

The real trick comes in your subclass choice and whether you decide to multiclass or not.

Subclass

Some subclasses grant a character more weapon proficiencies. These subclasses usually belong to spellcasting base classes for character who put more of a focus on martial capabilities.

Not all subclasses grant extra weapon proficiencies. For example, pretty much none of the martial classes do so because there’s no need. But, certain spellcaster subclasses do give y our character proficiency in a weapon or two (or more).

  • Bard (College of Valor): Bonus Proficiencies (PHB)
  • Cleric (Tempest Domain): Bonus Proficiencies (PHB)
  • Cleric (War Domain): Bonus Proficiencies (PHB)
  • Bard (College of Swords): Bonus Proficiencies (XGtE)
  • Monk (Way of the Kensei): Path of the Kensei (XGtE)
  • Warlock (The Hexblade): Hex Warrior (XGtE)
  • Cleric (Twilight Domain): Bonus Proficiencies (TCoE)
  • Wizard (Bladesinging): Training in War and Song (SCAG, TCoE)

Multiclassing

Multiclassing into other classes can give your character more weapon proficiencies.

If you’re considering multiclassing in 5e, your character not only gets access to the new class’ features but also some of their weapon proficiencies. Now, this doesn’t apply to all classes. Only certain ones grant proficiency in a selection of weapons.

Here’s a list of the classes which grant weapon proficiencies when you multiclass into them:

  • Barbarian: Simple & Martial Weapons
  • Fighter: Simple & Martial Weapons
  • Monk: Simple Weapons & Shortswords
  • Paladin: Simple & Martial Weapons
  • Ranger: Simple & Martial Weapons
  • Warlock: Simple Weapons

Feats

Certain Feats in D&D 5e give a character more weapon proficiencies.

That said, there aren’t many feats which give a weapon proficiency. Only three out of the those available in 5e. Even then, one only grants proficiency in improvised weapons and another in firearms which is usually only allowed through GM approval.

But, these feats are an option for gaining weapon proficiencies in 5e, so I figured I’d include them.

Here’s the list of feats to get proficiency in weapons:

  • Tavern Brawler (PHB)
  • Weapon Master (PHB)
  • Gunner (TCoE)

Weapon Properties

Woman wielding a sword

Most of D&D 5e’s weapons have additional features called Properties. These Properties inform players and GMs what a weapon can do outside of the default damage it does including whether they can be used at range, require two hands to wield, or can’t be used effectively by smaller creatures.

Almost every weapon in 5e, with a few exceptions, has at least one Property. A weapon Property essentially categorizes that item and describes how it may be used in combat. Each one helps players and GMs better understand how a weapon works in 5e or some restrictions concerning its use.

Now, there are quite a few of them, so let’s breakdown each of the different weapon properties in 5e. I pulled each of the basic descriptions from DnD Beyond’s basic rules or pages 146 and 147 of the Player’s Handbook for reference.

Ammunition

You can use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a ranged attack only if you have ammunition to fire from the weapon. Each time you attack with the weapon, you expend one piece of ammunition. Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack (you need a free hand to load a one-handed weapon).

Basically, a weapon with the Ammunition Property requires a secondary item for its use. This includes arrows for bows, crossbow bolts, blowgun darts, and bullets for firearms.

Also, this Property applies to only certain ranged weapons by default.

List of Ammunition Weapons in 5e

  • Crossbow, Light
  • Shortbow
  • Sling
  • Blowgun
  • Crossbow, Hand
  • Crossbow, Heavy
  • Longbow

Finesse

When making an attack with a finesse weapon, you use your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier for the attack and damage rolls. You must use the same modifier for both rolls.

A weapon with the Finesse Property gives you the option to use either your Strength of Dexterity modifier on your attacks. Normally, melee weapons only use Strength, but this property overrides that rule.

Now, it’s important to remember; whichever Ability Score you choose you have to use that modifier for both your Attack and Damage Modifier. For example, you can’t use your Strength for your Attack roll and Dexterity for the Damage roll. It’s one of the other for the entirety of any given attack.

List of Finesse Weapons in 5e

  • Dagger
  • Dart
  • Rapier
  • Scimitar
  • Shortsword
  • Whip

Heavy

Creatures that are Small or Tiny have disadvantage on attack rolls with heavy weapons. A heavy weapon’s size and bulk make it too large for a Small or Tiny creature to use effectively.

Basically, weapons with the Heavy Property can only be wielded by Medium or larger creatures. This is one instance when size in 5e comes into play almost from the start of a game. These weapons are simply too big for Small or Tiny creatures to use effectively, so they have disadvantage on any attack made with them.

An example is the longbow. Normally, a small-sized player character like a Halfling would be really good at Dexterity-based attacks, including ranged ones. But, it wouldn’t be optimal to play a Halfling character using a longbow because the weapon has the Heavy Property.

Just remember this if you’re planning on playing a Small character.

List of Heavy Weapons in 5e

  • Glaive
  • Greataxe
  • Greatsword
  • Halberd
  • Maul
  • Pike
  • Crossbow, Heavy
  • Longbow

Light

A light weapon is small and easy to handle, making it ideal for use when fighting with two weapons.

Honestly, the Light weapon Property is pretty much most useful if you plan on engaging in two-weapon fighting in 5e. This Property basically makes it possible to use two weapons, one in each hand, during combat.

Now, you need to remember; you can only wield two weapons if both weapons have the Light Property. That means using two daggers, two handaxes, two scimitars, etc. But, it means you can’t hold a rapier in one hand and a shortsword in the other as only the latter has this Property by default.

The Dual Wielder feat is about the only way to use two weapons lacking the Light Property.

List of Light Weapons in 5e

  • Club
  • Dagger
  • Handaxe
  • Light Hammer
  • Sickle
  • Scimitar
  • Shortsword
  • Crossbow, Hand

Loading

Because of the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

Some ranged weapons require time to reload. As such, you can usually only attack with a weapon with the Loading Property once per action even if you have the ability to make multiple attacks. It basically negates abilities like Extra Attack which allow a character to make multiple attacks as part of a single action.

In other words, you can fire a weapon with the Loading Property up to three times per round; once as an action, once as a bonus action, and once as a reaction. This, of course, all assumes you have the ability to do so.

Most of these weapons are crossbows (light, hand, and heavy) but some of the optional firearms in the Dungeon Master’s Guide also have the Loading Property. So, regular bows or Thrown weapons don’t require the extra time to load them.

Basically, how the Loading Property works is a weapon with it can only make one attack per action (regular, bonus, or reaction) even if you could otherwise make more.

List of Loading Weapons in 5e

  • Crossbow, Light
  • Blowgun
  • Crossbow, Hand
  • Crossbow, Heavy

Range

A weapon that can be used to make a ranged attack has a range shown in parentheses after the ammunition or thrown property. The range lists two numbers. The first is the weapon’s normal range in feet, and the second indicates the weapon’s long range. When attacking a target beyond normal range, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. You can’t attack a target beyond the weapon’s long range.

Every weapon has an effective range measured in feet. Technically, this even includes melee weapons but they have a strict range of five feet (unless thrown or have the Reach Property). A weapon’s Range features two numbers; normal and long. Attacks made within the normal range behave, well, normally. But, attacks made out to the long range have disadvantage.

For example, the shortbow has a range of 80/320. So, a creature may make an attack against any target between 10 and 80 feet away (remember, ranged attacks made against a target within five feet also have disadvantage). After that, any attack made against a target between 80 and 320 feet is at disadvantage. Anything beyond a weapons long range is untargetable with that weapon as the object lacks the ability to send a projectile that far.

You’ll normally see the Range Property alongside ranged weapons, of course, and those with the Thrown Property. But, using a weapon without the Thrown Property also has a default range of 20/60.

Reach

This weapon adds 5 feet to your reach when you attack with it, as well as when determining your reach for opportunity attacks with it.

Basically, a weapon with the Reach Property has an effective melee range of 10 feet. Melee weapons without this Property can only target creatures within five feet of the creature wielding the weapon (or at a range of 20/60 feet if thrown). Aside from that, weapons with the Reach Property work the same way as those without.

So, a Reach weapon works as a regular melee weapon does but out to 10 feet instead of five.

List of Reach Weapons in 5e

  • Glaive
  • Halberd
  • Lance
  • Pike

Special

A weapon with the special property has unusual rules governing its use, explained in the weapon’s description.

There are no established rules for the Special Property. It varies depending on the weapon it applies to as these items work a bit differently than others. The two default weapons in 5e with this property are the lance and net. Each one has unique rules which apply only to them.

Lance

You have disadvantage when you use a lance to attack a target within 5 feet of you. Also, a lance requires two hands to wield when you aren’t mounted.

Basically, a lance is so unwieldy its harder to strike a target that stands too close to you. This weapon also has the Reach feet to account for this. Also, it effectively has the Two-Handed Property while a creature wielding it isn’t on a mount. If a character is mounted though, they can use it one-handed.

Net

A Large or smaller creature hit by a net is restrained until it is freed. A net has no effect on creatures that are formless, or creatures that are Huge or larger. A creature can use its action to make a DC 10 Strength check, freeing itself or another creature within its reach on a success. Dealing 5 slashing damage to the net (AC 10) also frees the creature without harming it, ending the effect and destroying the net.
When you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to attack with a net, you can make only one attack regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

The net is a weird case when it comes to 5e’s weapons. It’s a ranged weapon with a Range of 5/15 which means an attack made at minimum range suffers disadvantage because of normal ranged attack rules and any attack made further than that is also at disadvantage because of long range rules. Now, if you do manage to hit a Large or smaller creature with the net (since it doesn’t work on bigger ones), that creature suffers the Restrained condition and must either use its action in an attempt to escape (DC 10 Strength) or attack the net, dealing five cumulative damage to destroy it. It also can only make one attack with the net, so it doesn’t benefit from abilities like Extra Attack.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 5: Equipment

Thrown

If a weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon to make a ranged attack. If the weapon is a melee weapon, you use the same ability modifier for that attack roll and damage roll that you would use for a melee attack with the weapon.

The description for the Thrown Property is a little dishonest.

Yes, specific weapons have this Property as part of their construction deliberately accounts for throwing as a viable combat tactic. But, any weapon or object may be thrown with the intent to deal damage, you just need to follow the Improvised Weapons rules for these situations (range 20/60, 1d4 damage).

Now, some weapons with the Thrown Property have a longer range or deal more damage which warrants the specification for them. For example, the javelin has this Property and deals 1d6 piercing with a range of 30/120, making it a better candidate for throwing than other weapons.

List of Thrown Weapons in 5e

  • Dagger
  • Handaxe
  • Javelin
  • Light Hammer
  • Spear
  • Dart
  • Trident
  • Net

Two-Handed

This weapon requires two hands when you attack with it.

Simple and easy.

Weapons with the Two-Handed Property in 5e must be wielded with two hands for any attack you make with it. So, even if you picked up the Dual Wielder feat looking to fight with two mauls, you’ll be sadly disappointed.

This also means you won’t be able to use a shield and use a Two-Handed weapon at the same time as one hand is occupied maneuvering the shield.

List of Two-Handed Weapons in 5e

  • Greatclub
  • Crossbow, Light
  • Shortbow
  • Glaive
  • Greataxe
  • Greatsword
  • Halberd
  • Maul
  • Pike
  • Crossbow, Heavy
  • Longbow

Versatile

This weapon can be used with one or two hands. A damage value in parentheses appears with the property–the damage when the weapon is used with two hands to make a melee attack.

Some weapons give you the option to attack one- or two-handed. This is thanks to the Versatile Property.

Every weapon in 5e with the Versatile Property has a default damage die and a second, higher damage die if you attack using two hands. For example, the longsword has the Versatile Property and deals 1d8 slashing damage normally or 1d10 if used with both hands.

List of Versatile Weapons in 5e

  • Quarterstaff
  • Spear
  • Battleaxe
  • Longsword
  • Trident
  • Warhammer

Swapping Weapons in 5e

Various swords leaning against a shield

A creature may switch their weapon in 5e in two steps as part of the Other Activity on Your Turn and object interaction rules. First, a character may freely stow one weapon as part of their turn. Then, they must use their normal Action to interact with a second object by drawing their second weapon.

The rules for swapping weapons in 5e technically count as an Object Interaction which come from page 190 of the Player’s Handbook.

Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move….
You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.
If you want to interact with a second object, you need to use your action. Some magic items and other special objects always require an action to use, as stated in their descriptions.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 9: Combat

Additionally, the "Interacting with Objects Around You" sidebar includes "draw or sheathe a sword" as an option.

So, what does this all mean?

Basically, this means a character may draw or sheathe one weapon as part of their action or move. This counts as your free object interaction for your turn. If you wanted to switch weapons or draw / sheathe a second weapon, you’d need to use your action.

So, rules as written, this means you can’t freely swap weapons in D&D 5e. You must use at least one regular action to stow one weapon and draw a second.

5e Weapons FAQ

Crossbow leaning against an arrow rack

What Weapons Use Dex in 5e?

Most ranged weapons and weapons with the Finesse Property use your Dexterity Ability Score in 5e.

Ranged weapon attacks typically use Dexterity for their attack rolls, but this doesn’t apply to some Thrown weapons, like the handaxe, as they must use the same Ability Score (Strength) that normally applies to their attacks. That said, any melee weapon with the Finesse Property gives characters the option of using either Strength or Dexterity on attack and damage rolls made while using them.

Can You Dual Wield Versatile Weapons in 5e?

Not by default. Normally, you can not dual wield weapons with the Versatile Property in 5e as none of the default options have the Light Property.

Normally, to dual wield weapons in 5e, both weapons must have the Light Property. None of the basic Versatile weapons also have the Light Property, so a player character may not engage in two-weapon fighting with them.

That said, the Dual Wielder feat removes this restriction. This means, if you take this feat, you may dual wield any one-handed weapons regardless if they have the Light Property or not.

Do Improvised Weapons Use Strength or Dexterity?

Whether an Improvised weapon uses Strength or Dexterity depends on the object used. It also depends on what your Game Master rules. For example, a table leg may use Strength since it’s similar to a Club but a glass shard may use Dexterity because of its similarity to a Dagger.

By default, most improvised weapons will most likely use Strength in their attack and damage rolls. This applies to both melee and ranged weapon attacks as a character either swings with or throws the improvised weapon, both of which would use Strength.

That said, if an improvised weapon is sufficiently similar to an existing weapon with the Finesse property (a large splinter of wood akin to a javelin, a shard of glass serving as a makeshift dagger), your GM may allow using Dexterity instead.

 

Summary of Weapons in D&D 5e

That pretty much covers the basics of how weapons work in 5e.

Basically, a weapon’s description outlines how to use it effectively. They fall into one of four categories; Simple Melee, Simple Ranged, Martial Melee, and Martial Ranged. Each category helps in establishing which characters have proficiency in a group of weapons but many abilities outline specific Weapon Proficiencies too. And, many have one or more Properties telling you how they may be used or restrictions involving wielding them.

What’s your favorite weapon to use in 5e? Have you modified any from their default to give them unique? Leave a comment below to help follow players and GMs out!

Be sure to follow Role Player’s Respite for more mechanics breakdowns, rules clarifications, and inspiration for your game!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.