Monday, January 13, 2014

The Five Most Underrated Weapons in D&D

This week I wanted to explore five weapons that get very rare use in D&D but deserve better and I hope that I might open your eyes to some new possibilities. Far too often players attempt to make unique and colorful characters only to then reach for a boring short sword or dagger. Why not entertain these odd yet useful options instead:

Image: Wikipedia
1)  The Halberd. With more heads to choose from than a Swiss army knife, extra reach, and a charging bonus, who wouldn’t want to swing one of these bad-boys around. Want a weapon that both slashes and bludgeons? You got it. Why carry around that ten foot pole when you can have a ten foot weapon? And if intimidation is your thing then these weapons were made for you!

In all seriousness, Halberds are very underused in D&D and I think many players would be wise to consider these when choosing their next heavy weapon. They do more damage than either a       battleaxe or longsword and are yet much more practical and lighter than either a greatsword or greataxe. Also, the extra reach of ten feet over the usual five can come in very handy. That being said, they can be a nuisance in tight spaces and do have a tendency to break if not magically protected so they are by no means perfect. However, if you are looking at creating a more dexterous/acrobatic Fighter, paring them with a Halberd can be very fun. Medieval Darth Maul anyone?

Image: Wikipedia
2) The Sickle. I know what you’re thinking…(Really Al? The Sickle?) But take my word for it, I have seen these put to very good use, especially when paired with a length of chain or rope as depicted in the picture. For starters they can be great grappling hooks in a pinch. Use these suckers to climb walls, pull levers from a distance, and swing around a la Tarzan. Use them as throwing weapons and you can pull them right back to you (assuming something doesn't try to pull you!). No rope to tie up that NPC you must interrogate? Use this instead. Need to carve wood? Chip ice? Mountain climb? Harvest wheat? Our operators are standing by!

Sure there might be better bladed weapons out there, but sometimes you want a weapon that can act like a tool and the Sickle is very good in that regard. It might also be important to note that the sickle is labeled a 'simple weapon' in D&D Next and can therefore be used by any class. It is also lighter than most weapons at 2 pounds. It’s only real flaw is the 1d4 damage but that can always be improved via magic, acid, or poison.
I highly recommend this one for Bards and Wizards.                               

Image: Wikipedia
3) The Dart. For the most part I’ve always pictured the dart in D&D as more of the Japanese Shuriken than the modern Pub Dart. Either way, why would you want to equip yourself with such a small and very harmless looking weapon? To begin I’ve got three words for you: poison and acid. Who cares that the dart only does 1d4 damage when you can add acid to the tip for an extra 1d6? Or you could throw on a sleeping poison and go in for the Coup De Grรขce!

Also, let’s not forget that these suckers can be concealed almost anywhere (oh my!) and could be invaluable in a captured or arrested scenario. Throw in (pun intended) the facts that darts are finesse weapons in D&D Next (add your Dexterity modifier to damage instead of your Strength modifier) and they also have just as good a range as javelins and these little guys start to show their worth. The chief weakness of the dart lies in recovering them. Finding all of your darts at the end of battle can be near impossible especially if there is water or thick foliage around. If you use these, be prepared to go through a half-dozen or so every fight.      

4) The Garrote. Very few people even know that this weapon exists but in D&D it is essential equipment if you want to be an efficient assassin. Unlike daggers, arrows, bolts, and many other “sneaky” weapons, the garrote not only kills your target but it will also keep them quiet while it works. A simple weapon, light weight, cheap to make, and easy to conceal, it really is a rogue’s dream. That might be the reason why these nasty stranglers have been used by real-world and fictitious mobsters for decades. (Michael Corleone says hello!)  

The obvious deficiencies in this weapon are the facts that: A) it requires a neck; and B) it requires a neck small enough to get the wire/rope around. So, if you’re facing a Beholder you are out of luck my friend. Similarly, you might not quite have the reach to garrote a Hill Giant or Dinosaur. But for your standard small/medium creature you can go nuts!

Image: Wikipedia
5) The Sling. Before the bow and arrow, slings made up the backbone of ranged attacks in ancient armies and there is a reason why. A properly trained person can do some real damage with one of these puppies and their accuracy is more than impressive. In D&D terms, the sling still does the 1d4 damage (which can be supplemented as mentioned before with acid, poison, or magic), just like the dart it is light weight, easy to conceal, and cheap to buy/make. Unlike the dart however, slings can make ammo out of almost anything: rocks, pellets, pieces of metal, marbles, glass shards, small body parts,etc.
Usually the forte of Halflings, slings and staff-slings can easily be the go-to ranged weapon of Rogues, Druids, and Wizards. And here is something else to keep in mind with the sling: it makes an excellent potion/poison/acid delivery system! Imagine using this baby to throw two or three Oils of Impact into a host of monsters or sending a much needed potion of healing flying across a battlefield into the hands of a hurting PC. No other weapon I know can do that.

In conclusion, I don’t expect everyone to rush to their character sheets and make some instant changes. Nor do I recommend that you never reach for the longsword or longbow. However, I do hope I’ve put some ideas into your heads about making your weapon choice with more than just damage in mind. Your weapon is an extension of your character and it deserves just as much attention as your alignment, class, race, or any other aspect. You might find that sacrificing the “cool” weapon for the “practical” one can be an improvement in the long run.           


  1. A sling can also make an excellent weapon for a low level strength-based character, since it is the only cheap, long-range weapon that adds your strength bonus to damage.

    Also, unlike a composite bow with a set strength modifer, it's great for characters like barbarians whose strength score changes frequently.

  2. I'd like to suggest another weapon that is often overlooked; the shield!

    A medium round shield defends you, can be used for attacking, can be used for utilitarian measures (need to cover up a small pit/foot trap in your campsite at night?), thrown as a (large) disc to knock over items/trigger traps at a distance.

    You can also 'trick out' your shield; strap a small knife to the inside of it encase you are disarmed, sharpen one edge of the shield or embed a blade in it for a surprise cutting attack, polish it so that it is shiny and use it to signal your friends over long distances (a little mud takes that polish off so you can walk unseen too)!