Finesse Weapons 5e
Published on March 16, 2023, Last modified on January 15th, 2024
From rapiers to shortswords, this overview covers everything you need to know to add some finesse to your combat!
Bryan Sola - Wizards of the Coast - Zulaport Duelist
Table of Contents
What Are Finesse Weapons in 5e?
Are you looking to add some finesse to your combat in D&D 5e? Look no further than finesse weapons!
Finesse weapons in 5e rely on precision and agility rather than brute strength. They are an excellent option for characters with high DEX scores, as they allow you to use your DEX modifier for attack and damage rolls instead of STR.
Here’s what the Basic Rules has to say about finesse weapons:
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.
Looks pretty straightforward, but finesse weapons have a lot of intricacies surrounding their mechanics that aren’t explored here. Let’s go ahead and dive into what you need to know before choosing a finesse weapon for your 5e build.
A List of All Finesse Weapons in 5e
Before we get into it, what are your options for finesse weapons? Here’s a quick overview of your choices, as well as their properties:
|Finesse, light, thrown
Some magical weapons also come with the finesse property, including:
- Revenant double-bladed scimitar: This magic weapon from Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron is the wicked signature blade wielded by the Valenar elves.
- Shadow blade: While not technically a magic weapon, this weapon is summoned by casting the 2nd-level spell shadow blade. This potent weapon is the favorite of Bladesingers and Eldritch Knights, as it does more damage than even the hefty greatsword while only taking one hand to wield.
Finesse Weapon Tips
- Dexterity-based: If your class isn’t stacking into DEX and instead choosing to attack with STR or spells, the finesse property will have nothing to do with your build.
- Check your classes’ proficiencies: Some classes that want to use rapiers, like bards and rogues, don’t have proficiency with martial weapons. Fortunately, they have a specific proficiency with rapiers, allowing them to be used in combat.
- Turn MAD into SAD: DEX builds are notorious for the significant payoff from investing in DEX. Not only does the ability score factor into AC, attack rolls, and damage, but DEX also helps improve your Stealth skill and the all-important DEX saving throw.
Finesse Weapon Interactions
So, why are some weapons in 5e labeled as “finesse?” Let’s take a look at how these weapons shape the idea of a character as much as their playstyle.
This potent rogue ability requires either a finesse or ranged weapon to activate. This can be important to note if your rogue wants to use a longsword or start stacking into other martial feats like Polearm Master and Great Weapon Master. If the weapon you’re attacking with doesn’t have the finesse property, it won’t matter if you attack with advantage or if an ally is within 5 feet of your enemy; you won’t get Sneak Attack on your strike.
This feat is meant for players that want to be an agile, swashbuckling warrior who is an expert at parrying with their sword. As such, you need to be wielding a finesse weapon to use the ability granted by the feat.
The Valenar elves from Eberron are experts with revenant blades, to the point where they can use them with brute force or as agile warriors. This feat allows you to boost your STR or DEX and, when wielding a double-bladed scimitar, pump your AC and wield your weapon as though it had the finesse property.
Which Builds Work Best With Finesse Weapons?
If you want your rogue to be in melee, finesse weapons are all but required to activate your Sneak Attack ability. When considering your choice of weapon, rapiers can do the most damage (1d8), but they can’t be dual-wielded because they don’t have the light property. Instead, you could wield a shortsword and dagger so you can use your offhand attack to attack with your bonus action to deal more damage and hopefully land your Sneak Attack more consistently.
Valor and Swords bards are likely to stack into DEX as they only get light and medium armor proficiencies. This means that their DEX score affects their AC, so they might as well pump it and use it for attacks and damage as well.
Some fighters opt to use finesse weapons so they can stack fully into DEX and be more well-rounded out of combat. Seeing a DEX helps you sneak, and most medium armors don’t give you disadvantage on Stealth checks, DEX fighters can remain unseen like rogues and rangers while still outputting a ton of damage. Fighters wielding finesse weapons will likely want to choose either the Defense, Dueling, or Two-Weapon Fighting Fighting Styles and may even want to consider the Dual Wielder and Defensive Duelist feats.
Like fighters, rangers that want to get up close and personal but want to avoid the clunkiness of STR-based heavy armor can choose to use DEX and finesse weapons to create a more well-rounded build. Especially because rangers are usually expected to sneak up in front of the party or be the party’s scout.
Light Weapons Vs. Finesse Weapons
Light weapons are easy to handle and are meant to be used when fighting with two weapons. While some finesse weapons are light, not all light weapons are finesse. Unfortunately, the highest damage-dealing finesse weapon, the rapier, isn’t light and can only be dual-wielded by picking up the Dual Wielder feat.
Are Bows Finesse Weapons?
Bows are ranged weapons, not finesse weapons. That said, for the purposes of triggering a rogue’s Sneak Attack, both ranged and finesse weapons can be used. The only ranged weapon also considered a finesse weapon is the dart, which allows monks to throw them with DEX rather than having to use STR.
Finish With Finesse
Now that you’re a master with finesse weapons, go out into the world and strike with precision! As the dueling master Syrio Forel once said, “There is only one God, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: Not today!”