Simple Weapons 5E | How Do They Work?

When building your character in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, your weapon might be the most important thing to consider. Many types of adventurers are nothing without a trusty combat tool by their side. And even those with mighty magic might want a little something in case things go awry. So, if you’re really wanting to know what you can strap to your side, figuring out the Simple Weapons of 5E is a great place to go. These cheap tools are usually more affordable, but less effective, than their Martial weapon counterparts. Many more classes have proficiency in these as well, making them universally effective. So, let’s talk about the Simple Weapons in D&D 5E in this quick guide.

What are Simple Weapons in 5E?

simple weapons 5E

Simple Weapons are a type of weapon that most classes are proficient in. Only Druid, Sorcerer, and Wizard do not gain proficiency in all Simple weapons; they instead get a handful of simple weapons that they can add their proficiency modifier in.

If you are proficient in “Simple Weapons,” then you may use all weapons in that category with your full proficiency bonus, as well as your Strength or Dexterity modifier. For instance, a level 1 Orc Fighter with 18 Dexterity can use a Dagger with a +6 bonus to attack rolls. That’s because Fighters are proficient in Simple Weapons.

List of Simple Weapons

These are all the simple weapons available to all players in the Player Handbook. If you are playing a standard game of 5E, you should expect to find these items in standard armories and as loot for encounters. This is also a list of most of the simple weapons that have been released for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition in any book. 

Notable exceptions are the Light Repeating Crossbow from Out of the Abyss and the Yklwa from Tomb of Annihilation. These are rather specific weapons that you should not expect to find except in those specific campaigns.

Simple Melee Weapons

These weapons are specifically used as melee weapons. They can be thrown at opponents if they have the “Thrown” weapon property. Otherwise, they are only effective within arm’s reach.

Club1 sp1d4 bludgeoning2 lb.Light
Dagger2 gp1d4 piercing1 lb.Finesse, light, thrown (range 20/60)
Greatclub2 sp1d8 bludgeoning10 lb.Two-handed
Handaxe5 gp1d6 slashing2 lb.Light, thrown (range 20/60)
Javelin5 sp1d6 piercing2 lb.Thrown (range 30/120)
Light hammer2 gp1d4 bludgeoning2 lb.Light, thrown (range 20/60)
Mace5 gp1d6 bludgeoning4 lb.
Quarterstaff2 sp1d6 bludgeoning4 lb.Versatile (1d8)
Sickle1 gp1d4 slashing2 lb.Light
Spear1 gp1d6 piercing3 lb.Thrown (range 20/60), versatile (1d8)
  • Finesse. This weapon can use Dexterity for attack and damage rolls. See our guide to Finesse property weapons for more!
  • Light. This weapon is easy to use for dual wielding, allowing you to use this weapon in your off-hand to attack as a bonus action.
  • Thrown (Range X/Y). You can throw this weapon as an attack action. You can use your attack roll within the first range listed. You roll with disadvantage up to the second range listed, rolling 2d20 and taking the worse result.
  • Two-Handed. You must hold this weapon in two hands in order to attack with it.
  • Versatile. You can hold this weapon in one hand and deal the normal damage. If you hold it in two hands, you instead deal the Versatile weapon damage. This deals the same type of damage as the normal weapon, unless otherwise stated.

Simple Ranged Weapons

Crossbow, light25 gp1d8 piercing5 lb.Ammunition (range 80/320), loading, two-handed
Dart5 cp1d4 piercing1/4 lb.Finesse, thrown (range 20/60)
Shortbow25 gp1d6 piercing2 lb.Ammunition (range 80/320), two-handed
Sling1 sp1d4 bludgeoningAmmunition (range 30/120)
  • Ammunition (Range X/Y). You can attack up to the first range listed, as long as you have the ammunition to load the weapon. To the second range listed, you attack with disadvantage, rolling twice and taking the worse result.
  • Finesse. You may use Strength or Dexterity for attack and damage rolls with this weapon.
  • Loading. You can only make a maximum of one attack per round with this weapon, even if a feature would allow you to make an Extra Attack.
  • Thrown (Range X/Y). You can throw this weapon as an attack action. You can use your attack roll within the first range listed. You roll with disadvantage up to the second range listed, rolling 2d20 and taking the worse result.
  • Two-Handed. You must hold the weapon with both hands in order to attack with it.

Simple Weapon FAQ

The rules for simple weapons are actually pretty complex, ironically enough. There are a lot of very specific elements of these weapons that can be a bit jarring. Here are a few questions that are often asked about simple weapons in 5E.

What Are The Best Simple Weapons in 5E?

Each 5E build is going to want something different from their Simple Weapon of choice. We think the Dagger is the best and most versatile simple weapon in 5E, but there are arguments for others.

The Dagger is a very common and exceptionally versatile weapon. It allows players to use Dexterity to attack, which is very useful. You can also throw it, which can come up every now and then.

For Strength characters, you’d want to gravitate towards the Handaxe. That does 1d6 and allows you to chuck it. You can also use a Quarterstaff if you want to dedicate more to the d8 damage dice, though it comes with fewer properties.

Ranged weapons are a bit easier, since there are just not many of them. The Light Crossbow tends to be perfectly fine for most classes that can use it. Darts don’t do much damage, and Daggers can take their role much easier. The Light Crossbow does the most damage and has the most range, so they should handle stuff.

What Classes Can Use Simple Weapons?

Almost all classes have proficiency in Simple Weapons. If you are playing an Artificer, Barbarian, bard, Cleric, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, and Warlock, you get full proficiency in every one of these.

The Druid only gets proficiency in clubs, daggers, darts, javelins, maces, quarterstaffs, slings, and spears. They also get some Martial Weapon proficiency. Sorcerers and Wizards gain proficiency in daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, and light crossbows. They can use those specific simple weapons with their Proficiency Bonus. They cannot use any other simple weapon without using additional features; their class does not let them grant proficiency bonuses in any other simple weapons.

Are Firearms Simple Weapons in 5E?

Nope! Firearms are considered to be Martial weapons if you are using the standard variant rules. For standard Firearm rules, players must either take the Artificer class feature which allows them to get Firearm Proficiency or have Martial Weapon Proficiency.

However, since this is a variant rule set, your Dungeon Master could allow you to take it as a simple weapon. Just know that that is not the base rule for firearms in 5E.

Should I Care More About Damage or Properties for Simple Weapons in 5E?

When choosing a weapon, selecting between damage and properties can be very difficult. 

First of all, if you have high Dexterity, you should prioritize Finesse over everything. The difference between 1d4 and 1d8 damage is an average of 2. 2 whole points of damage, assuming you roll what is expected. If you have, say, 12 Strength and 16 Dexterity, you’re making up for 2 points of damage. You also gain a +2 to the attack roll, making it more likely for you to deal damage in the first place. That’s critical!

But, how about the difference between a Handaxe and a Greatclub? A Handaxe does 1 less point of damage, on average, than a Greatclub. However, the Handaxe has both Light and Thrown. This means that the Handaxe is more useful in two-weapon fighting scenarios and if you need an emergency ranged attack. That’s not always worth losing that higher average damage, though. If you think you can consistently get to your enemies, need the bonus action to do other things, and aren’t planning on doing any dual wielding, wield a Greatclub! That damage is handy, and it’s super cheap. Otherwise, having the extra utility is usually going to be worth one extra damage.

That being said, many of these comparisons are assuming you have good Strength or Dexterity and are weapon-oriented. If you are a Wizard and just want an emergency weapon… Just go for whatever beans your opponent harder. If you’re in the position where you need to stab an enemy – you can’t cast magic, for whatever reason – then you just want the stab to hurt. Kill that guy as fast as possible. Other utility doesn’t really matter, since you shouldn’t be using a weapon all that often. Its utility is it being in your inventory!

Is a Scythe a Simple Weapon in 5E?

The Scythe is not an official weapon in Dungeons & Dragons 5E. If you want to use the Scythe as a weapon, you’ll have to talk to your DM and see what weapon you can base it off of. 

If your DM thinks it is a Simple Weapon, which is possible, you can make it a Slashing version of the Greatclub weapon. Otherwise, a similar item to the Greatsword or a slashing version of the Pike might be a good path to take.

Is the Shortsword a Simple Weapon in 5E?

No, the Shortsword is not a simple weapon in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. In fact, there is no Sword weapon that is a simple weapon. Swords are more for soldiers and knights, so they’re more related to Fighters and similar classes.

While you can’t use a Shortsword as a simple weapon, a Rogue is still proficient in it. Some classes have Simple Weapons and then some specific Martial Weapons as their proficient tools.

Conclusions for Simple Weapons in 5E

Simple weapons are here for their namesake. They are basic tools and items that almost any character has access to, and can use their proficiency bonus to improve their accuracy. However, in very few cases will Simple Weapons be the best possible option for your character. Most classes that want to use weapons will have better options. Knowing how Simple Weapons work will make emergency situations much easier. So, we hope this guide helped you understand how this category works and how you can use them to your advantage.

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