Simple Weapons 5e
Published on January 15, 2024, Last modified on February 9th, 2024
Explore the how simplicity can sometimes be best with our simple weapons guide for D&D 5e, featuring optimization tips for druids, monks, and more.
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Simple Weapons in Dungeons & Dragons
The means by which your character defends themselves plays a crucial role in defining a character’s build, combat style, and effectiveness. But, in the wide worlds of D&D, there are many different adventurers who wield many types of weapons. Not every adventurer is a buff barbarian swinging a two-handed greataxe. Sometimes, all a sharp-eyed rogue needs is a well-placed dagger.
This guide aims to delve into the world of simple weapons in 5e, offering insights into their mechanics, usage, and strategic importance in your adventures.
What Are Simple Weapons in 5e?
Simple weapons in D&D 5e are characterized by their ease of use and accessibility. They are the basic armaments that most characters can wield effectively, regardless of their class or skill level. Unlike martial weapons, which often require specialized training, simple weapons are the go-to choice for characters who are not primarily combat-focused, such as spellcasters or support roles.
According to the Basic Rules of D&D 5e, here are the weapons that are considered simple:
|Finesse, light, thrown
|Thrown, versatile (1d8)
|Ammunition (range 80/320), loading, two-handed
|Ammunition (range 80/320), two-handed
|Ammunition (range 30/120)
Simple Weapons Vs. Martial Weapons
The primary difference between simple and martial weapons lies in their ease of use and damage potential. Simple weapons are designed to be straightforward, making them ideal for characters who aren’t primarily focused on physical combat. They are also quite a bit cheaper than their martial counterparts.
On the other hand, martial weapons typically offer higher damage outputs and more diverse combat features but require specific proficiencies granted by your class, subclass, race, or feats.
What is the Best Simple Weapon?
The best simple weapon depends on your build, but generally, these are the highest-performing simple weapons. These weapons can usually stand on their own, even when compared to martial weapons, because of certain mechanics that allow them to excel:
The reigning king of simple weapons. This simple weapon deals 1d6 bludgeoning damage (but can output 1d8 damage if you wield it with two hands), works with Polearm Master, and is a classic choice for monks. The reason this slightly outranks the spear, even though the spear can be thrown, is it enables shillelagh builds (discussed further down) and works with the Crusher feat, which is slightly better than the spear’s Piercer feat. It’s also cheaper, at 2 sp, compared to the spear’s 1 gp.
The runner-up by a hair. The spear is another solid simple weapon that has the versatile property and can be used with Polearm Master. If you do want to use the spear’s thrown property, I recommend buying a couple to keep on hand so you’re not left without a weapon after your spear misses and sails over the edge of a cliff.
Daggers are great for infiltration, can be used for Sneak Attack damage for rogues, and have the finesse property so stealthy Dexterity builds can make good use of them. All in all, most builds will want to have a dagger tucked in their belt for emergencies.
These ranged weapons match the damage of longbows, which are martial weapons, and can be useful for any ranged build that might not get access to marital weapon proficiencies. Plus, the restrictions imposed by the loading property, which only allows you to fire them once in a turn, can easily be negated by the Crossbow Expert feat.
Which Builds Work Best With Simple Weapons?
Druids and some rangers are prime candidates when it comes to using the shillelagh cantrip. This spell transforms a simple club or quarterstaff into a potent weapon that uses the caster’s Wisdom modifier for attack and damage rolls, bypassing the need for high Strength. Seeing as both druids and rangers focus on Wisdom for spellcasting, and they can both access the spell relatively easily (it’s on the druid’s spell list, which the ranger can access with the Druidic Warrior Fighting Style), it can be used to make SAD (single-ability dependant) martial casters with potent spellcasting.
Monks are a prime example of a class that excels with simple weapons. Their Martial Arts feature allows them to use simple melee weapons and shortswords as monk weapons, which means they can apply their Dexterity instead of Strength for attack and damage rolls, among other benefits. This greatly expands the range of weapons that are viable with monks, allowing them to choose weapons like spears or quarterstaffs for throwing options and versatility while still benefiting from their monk abilities.
Rogues don’t gain proficiency with martial weapons, so if they want to go for a ranged build, they usually have to opt for a shortbow or light crossbow. In the rogue’s case, the crossbow is usually best because it deals more damage and the loading property doesn’t get in the rogue’s way because they only get one attack per turn.
Embracing the Simplicity
Simple weapons in D&D 5e may not be as tough and scary as marital weapons, but they offer a unique blend of accessibility, versatility, and strategic depth. Whether you’re a spellcaster needing a backup option, a rogue looking for a reliable weapon to stash up their sleeve, or a druid looking to club down some pro-oil lobbyists, these arms can be just what you need for your weapon attacks.
They are a testament to the idea that, sometimes, simplicity is the key.