Versatile Weapons 5e

Published on February 29, 2024

Lean how versatile weapons can help support your sword-and-board playstyle with flexible trade-offs between damage and defense!

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Versatile Weapons in Dungeons & Dragons

Sometimes two hands are better than one. Sometimes, one hand and a shield is the right play. When you wield a versatile weapon in D&D, you’ll get to choose whether to grasp your weapons with two hands to deal some extra damage or keep one hand free for casting a spell or wielding a shield.

Let’s get right into our versatile weapon breakdown for D&D 5e!

What Are Versatile Weapons in 5e?

Versatile weapons in D&D 5e are a category of melee weapons that can be used with one or two hands. The key feature of these weapons is the option to change the grip during combat, allowing the wielder to switch between one-handed and two-handed attacks as the situation demands.

When wielded with two hands, the weapon’s damage scales by a damage die. For example, the longsword normally deals 1d8 slashing damage, but when wielded with two hands, it deals 1d10 slashing damage.

According to the Basic Rules of D&D 5e, here are the weapons that are considered versatile:

Weapon Cost Damage Weight Properties Type
Longsword 15 gp 1d8 slashing 3 lb. Versatile (1d10) Martial Melee
Battleaxe 10 gp 1d8 slashing 4 lb. Versatile (1d10) Martial Melee
Warhammer 15 gp 1d8 bludgeoning 2 lb. Versatile (1d10) Martial Melee
Quarterstaff 2 sp 1d6 bludgeoning 4 lb. Versatile (1d8) Simple Melee
Spear 1 gp 1d6 piercing 3 lb. Thrown (range 20/60), Versatile (1d8) Simple Melee

Versatile Weapons Vs. Heavy Weapons

Versatile and heavy weapons cater to different combat styles in D&D 5e. Versatile weapons, such as the longsword or quarterstaff, offer flexibility by allowing characters to switch between one-handed and two-handed grips. This adaptability is perfect for builds who want to balance offense and defense, especially those who might also use shields.

Heavy weapons, like the greataxe or greatsword, require two hands and are designed for maximum damage output. They excel in the hands of characters who prioritize sheer power over versatility, often benefiting from features like the Dueling or Great Weapon Fighting, or Protection fighting stylem or the Great Weapon Master feat.

What is the Best Versatile Weapon?

Choosing the best versatile weapon in D&D 5e largely depends on your character’s build, strategy, and proficiencies. That said, certain versatile weapons stand out from the crowd because of how ubiquitously useful they are.

Even though they may not output the most damage of any weapon, these versatile weapon choices offer a balance between flexibility and power, making them competitive even against some martial weapons due to their unique properties:


While the longsword may be a default favorite among many classes, the warhammer is actually the epitome of versatile weapons. With a damage range of 1d8 (1d10 when wielded with two hands), it’s a solid choice for fighters, paladins, and any class that can afford to switch between offense and defense fluidly. Its versatility is further enhanced when paired with feats like Crusher, which is superior to the longsword’s Slasher feat, or Shield Master, depending on the wielder’s style.


Not far behind, the spear is highly valued for its thrown property in addition to being versatile (1d6/1d8 damage). This makes it an excellent choice for characters who want to maintain effectiveness at both close and medium ranges. Its also commonly used with the Polearm Master feat, which allows you to get opportunity attacks when enemies enter your reach.


A simple yet surprisingly effective weapon, the quarterstaff can deal 1d6 (1d8 with two hands) bludgeoning damage, making it a potent weapon for monks and spellcasters like druids who can use shillelagh to wield it with their spellcasting ability. Its compatibility with Polearm Master also makes it a versatile choice for characters looking to maximize their action economy.

Changing Your Grip in Combat

When wielding a versatile weapon, you may want to switch from a one-handed to two-handed grip midcombat to capitalize on a prone enemy or requip your shield if you’re surrounded.

While there’s nothing in the versatile weapon property that suggests the mechanics for this, we can glean some information from the “Other Activity on Your Turn” section describing combat in 5e:

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.

Chapter 9: Combat – Basic Rules

Seeing as you can draw your weapon as part of your attack action, it stands to reason that you could draw or put away your shield as part of your attack action.

But you can’t put away your shield, attack, then draw your shield back out for the +2 AC bonus:

If you want to interact with a second object, you need to use your action.

Chapter 9: Combat – Basic Rules

Which Builds Work Best With Versatile Weapons?

Sword and Board Melee Builds

Going sword and board means wielding a one-handed weapon in one hand and a shield in the other. This playstyle focuses on defense while still outputting a solid amount of melee damage. Using a versatile weapon with these builds will allow you to increase your damage output when you need to. For example, you have a prone enemy to attack with advantage. But, in cases where you need to tank for your party, you can put your shield up and increase your AC.

Martial Spellcasters

Casting spells with a sword and shield occupying your hands can be tricky. If you don’t want to spend resources on War Caster, you can use a versatile weapon to output more damage when you’re simply attacking with a weapon, and free up a hand when you want to cast your spells.

The Art of Versatility

Versatile weapons in D&D 5e offer a unique combination of flexibility and power, making them a valuable choice for adventurers who value the ability to adapt to changing combat scenarios. Whether you’re a front-line fighter seeking the balance between attack and defense or a tactical warrior looking to maximize your combat options, versatile weapons provide a compelling choice for your armament.

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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