Weapon Alternatives (5e Other)
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The equipment listed in the 5e core books are not necessarily specific representations of real-world items, they are generic representations of common groups. The perfect example here is the so-called "short sword". In reality, there is no such thing, by title, as a short sword. A sword is only "short" when compared to something else. So, technically, there are hundreds of unique weapons throughout history that could be called "short swords". All of the weapons in the book are like that, as was exemplified in the Dungeon Master's Guide where it gave "asian" names for some of the weapons. We don't need a separate set of statistics for international variants that differ in design too granular for the abstract D&D rules. This page is intended to be a collection of all of the variants within each generic weapon category, and give a more detailed explanation of what makes something what it is.
Also see Monk Weapons (5e Other).
- 1 Simple Melee Weapons
- 2 Simple Ranged Weapons
- 3 Martial Melee Weapons
- 4 Martial Ranged Weapons
Simple Melee Weapons
- An elongated cone or teardrop shaped club, typically of wood. This is the weapon most people imagine when they hear the word, "club".
- Nothing more than a short, sturdy cylinder of wood or steel used for hitting people. May have a wrapped or turned grip, though this is uncommon.
- A leather-encased lead weight on the end of a leather grip. The grip had a flexibility or spring to it, depending on the exact construction details. Used on ships by authority figures to discipline and prevent mutiny. They deliver significantly more shock to the brain if a person's head is struck, and can easily cause irreversible brain damage.
- A metal rod with a rounded tip, used by guards in palaces where bladed weapons were forbidden. It has a hook that can be used to catch an enemy's clothes, nose or mouth. WP
- Kendo Stick
- A wooden training or sport sword used in the martial art of kendo.
- Two short rods attached in the middle by a short length of chain. The identical ends allow either segment to act as the trip or striking head. The segmentation allows the free end to swing, somewhat like a flail, allowing the user to generate a great deal of momentum in very little time, with very small movements. A highly versatile weapon.
- A broad, flat club, with a thin grip extending from its base. May have holes drilled through its broadside, to reduce resistance when swung that way. Designed to disperse force as much as possible, causing significant pain, but can also be swung edgewise to cause actual damage to tissue and bone.
- Straight Stick
- The traditional tranche on, no bells or whistles. Just a hard stick with a turned grip.
- A stiff, flexible material, (leather or rubber) sometimes filled with a weight, such as steel balls, in the form of a club. These are almost always flat in shape, to spread out the force across a larger area. Due to the flexibility of the material, it causes more pain and tissue damage than a stiffer weapon like a normal club. They are less likely to break a bone. They deliver significantly more shock to the brain if a person's head is struck, and can easily cause irreversible brain damage.
- A martial weapon in the form of a club with a sideways grip. The grip allows the weapon to be spun and swung in more ways than a typical club, making skilled use of this weapon superior in both offense and defense to your standard truncheon.
- A policeman's club, typically composed of wood or metal, less than an arm's length. (3ft or less) These often had a small guard and ridged grip turned (lathed) from their original blank/stock, and in older periods were emblazoned with the officer's seal of office or authority. Some are designed with a side-handle, like a Tonfa, which are sometimes called "night-sticks". Some of these may have the side handle attached by threading, like a bolt, allowing it to be converted to a standard truncheon at will. Many have a leather strap or loop extending from the butt of the grip. Though this was intended to wrap around the wrist to prevent disarming, creative people found other, less benign uses for the strap.
- A professionally crafted and weighted wooden training sword made for the western martial art of medieval fencing.
A dagger can represent any virtually form of lightweight, simple implement designed to stab. A more complex weapon that requires specific training might be better as a shortsword or rapier, while a heavier weapon might be more suited to be a spear.
- A term for butterfly knife used in the Philippines.
- Butterfly Knife
- A folded pocket knife. It is distinct for its twin rotating handles, which serve as the grip while the blade is deployed, and conceal the blade while the weapon is stored.
- Fan Knife
- A less common term used for a butterfly knife.
- A small Indonesian curved knife resembling a claw.WP
- a triangular-bladed push dagger, which was used for self-defense and as a status symbol in South Asia.WP
- Your average, run-of-the-Mill kitchen or utility knife. Not designed for combat, these blades are not hardened or built to take blows or split steel.
- A wave-bladed dagger, often of ornate decorative quality. These blades are rarely, if ever, used in combat, and are typically intended as ceremonial items for religious practices.
- Small, metal, dagger-like weapons with a finger sized whole at the end with the grip wrapped in cloth or leather.
- A makeshift knife, typically nothing more than a pointy stick.
- A "dagger" in only the loosest sense. Really, more of a hardened steel spike with a cross guard and handle. These weapons were meant to split mail links and find gaps in plate armor.
- A Japanese dagger built in the same technique and style as other Japanese martial blades. These traditionally came partnered with a larger weapon as a set.
- Giant Mallet
- A particularly large wooden hammer often used as a weapon in comedic or lighthearted fiction.
- A large wooden war mallet used primarily for battering doors, gates, and walls.
- A bladed throwing knife used by the Azande of northern Central Africa. It was about 22 inches in length and had three different shaped blades projecting at different angles within a plane, to maximize damage to the enemy.WP
- A Nepalese utility knife similar to a machete, with a curved blade. It is light, and used with a chopping motion, the handaxe statistics are ideal. WP
- Meat Cleaver
- A handaxe used by a cook, chef or butcher for cutting meat and bone into sections. Ranges from 1 to 2 lb.
- A handaxe originating in North America, often designed to be either wielded in melee combat or thrown from a short distance.
- A Roman javelin measuring about 2 meters in length. WP
- A Roman javelin.(they are usually one use) WP
- A Roman short javelin. WP
In this edition of D&D, spears and tridents have similar statistics, but spears are simple weapons while tridents are martial weapons.
A simple straight rod that has a sharp end and can be thrown could be represented with these statistics. A weapon with great reach, too heavy to be thrown, and too cumbersome to wield in one hand should instead use the pike statistics. A smaller weapon, or one designed primarily for throwing, might better use the javelin statistics.
- A Roman spear. While they were not used for throwing, this is more to do with their rank-and-file practice than their design - hastarii also carried javelins for attacking at range. WP
- A European spear with protrusions on the spearhead itself designed for parrying blades.
- Military fork
- A pole weapon adapted from an agricultural pitchfork. They are somewhat spear-like, with two parallel or flared prongs.WP
- A very tall and long staff weapon used in Okinawa and feudal Japan.WP
- Cudgel or Smallstick
- A stout stick carried by peasants during the Middle Ages. It functioned as a walking staff and a weapon for both self-defence and wartime. WP
Simple Ranged Weapons
Darts can represent any small throwing knife.
- Bo shuriken
- A straight iron or steel spike, about 6 inches long, with a round or octagonal cross-section. shuriken WP
Martial Melee Weapons
The statistics for a flail could represent any metal one-handed bludgeoning weapon that is more difficult to use than a mace or club. A similar weapon that can be used in either one or two hands should instead use warhammer statistics. If the weapon is too unwieldy for one-handed use, it might better use the maul statistics.
- Chang Xiao Bang
- Literally long-and-short pole, this Chinese weapon consists of a long staff with a shorter rod attached by a chain, to serve as a cudgel.
- A Japanese flail. It consists of a staff with an iron weight and chain on the end
In this edition of D&D, these weapons have identical statistics. Either is a polearm distinguished by its function as primarily a slashing weapon. In practical terms, one was more like a staff than a spear, though less balanced and more immediately deadly.
The halberd, in particular, is distinguished by having both an axe blade and a spear point on its end. Historically was used to give pikemen versatility in large-scale battles, as the different ends of the weapon had advantages in different situations.
- A historically more recent halberd with a slightly shorter staff and longer but narrower axeblade.
- Bill or Billhook
- An English glaive. WP
- Great Scythe
- A large scythe specifically made for martial combat—a long, polearm-sized iron rod with a large curved blade at one end.
- A Chinese glaive, and historically one of the oldest. Literal translation is 'reclining moon blade.' WP
- A Chinese spear with a crescent blade.
- Japanese glaive, the design of which is based on the guandao. It substituted the large, heavy, ornamental blade for a sleek, thin, katana-like blade, making the weapon lighter, faster, and more precise.
- Also poleaxe or poleax. An informal name used by commoners.
- Korean glaive.
Exceedingly long and heavy straight-edged swords of the western tradition, notable for their very long grip, which allowed two hands with some space between them for added leverage- like a sledge hammer, but less balanced. These weapons were... uncommon. In the few accounts of their use in actual warfare, it seems they either were treated the same as long swords, or the longest varieties took on a role similar to pike men, with a focus on slaying horses, or clotheslining riders from their saddles. Although they are designed for a thrusting kill-stroke, there isn't much record of them being used as such. Really, many of these were so heavy, that the broken bones and concussions from being struck by it were probably more than enough to kill most men. (Go find an industrial pry-bar, the 5-foot kind, and try swinging it around by the weighted end. It isn't easy, and it'll give you an idea of just how impractical and terrifying these things really are.)
- A Scottish word for a great sword. The Scottish weapon smiths crafted their hilts with forward-tilted crossguards more often than the craftsmen farther east or south. The Scots occasionally used these to arm their so-called "berserkers", though axes and various cudgels were more common.
- Also flammard or flammenschwert, a wave-bladed sword.
- Also Ōdachi, or literally Japanese for "great sword". Wood block prints of samurai show this sword was no larger than what we would expect from a greatsword, and the curved blade does not significantly change the greatsword's statistics.
- Two-Pronged Sword
- A trope in modern fiction, a dual-pronged sword usually consists of two parallel blades on one hilt, with sharp edges pointing outwards and blunt edges pointed inward. It is occasionally used to catch the heads of polearms, or create resonance at a particular frequency as a tuning fork does.
- The German great sword, and the longest style of great sword ever made in the real world. In the single account of their use in combat, they filled in the back ranks of a contingent of pike men, and their job was to kill horses and their riders during a cavalry charge.
Longswords are blades of at least 3 feet, with a grip just long enough to allow two hands, but not heavy enough to require it. These blades, like other western straight-edged swords, were defined mostly by their hilt and grip, which had enough length to place both hands right next to one another, like the grip of a baseball bat. Like other straight swords, the kill stroke was a good strong thrust, to split chain mail and end a fight fast, while the bladed edge was just a useful bonus. Back in the day, when someone said "sword", this is the weapon they were likely talking about.
- Arming Sword
- Notable for its triangular silhouette.
- Basket-Hilted Sword
- A medium length sword with a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand.
- Bastard Sword
- Also known as a Hand-and-a-Half Sword, is typically a slightly lighter variant of the long sword with a shorter hilt that the second hand can still grab. A Bastard Sword can also refer to an ordinary longsword if it is used in a fighting style that utilizes both single and double handed techniques, as opposed to only double-handed.
- Broad Sword
- A long sword blade on a short sword hilt, usually with a basket crossguard. They are considered broad only in comparison to the lighter rapiers and other dueling blades of the time period. WP
- An early-era Japanese straight sword. WP
- A wave-bladed long sword.
- Chinese double-edged straight sword, often with a tassel attached to the hilt.
- Japanese for "long sword". This sword was no larger than what we would expect from a longsword, and the curved blade does not significantly change the longsword's statistics.
- The miaodao (苗刀) is a Chinese two-handed dao or saber of the Republican era, with a narrow blade with a length of 1.2 meters (47 in) or more and a long hilt. WP
- Mortuary Sword
- A regional variant of the basket-hilted sword whose basket resembled a ribcage or the mortuary mask of a martyred king.
- Basically the original design for a broad sword, this style of hilt was applied to many different types of blades at the time.
- A regional broad sword hilt variation. The basket is formed of floral patterns attached to the crossguard, rather than the pommel.
- Walloon Sword
- A broad sword with an ambidextrous basket.
A maul is a long-handled hammer with a heavy metal head, such as iron or lead. Due to the length of the handle and weight of the head, it is difficult to wield effectively without using two hands.
- A Japanese spiked or knobbed club or truncheon used in feudal Japan as a weapon by samurai and their retainers.WP
- A wooden shaft with a metal hammerhead specially designed to apply more force than other hammers of comparable size and weight. WP
A morningstar, or morning star, is a metal club or mace with a head covered in spikes, which is was historically used to bludgeon or pierce through thick armor. Although historically less common, a war pick generally takes the form of a wooden handle or grip attached to a metal piecing point. Either one is generally designed to be swung swung like an axe, as opposed to being thrust like a rapier. It lacks the fidelity of other piercing weapons such as rapiers or daggers, but allows the wielder to put more strength behind each blow. In D&D 5e, morningstars and war picks use essentially the same statistics, though a morningstar is of greater weight and costs more.
- A common tool used for both chopping and digging. Although intended to be used as a tool, a sharpened mattock has the same effect as a war pick.
- A digging tool used to pierce solid rock or other hard surfaces. A sharpened pickaxe is effectively a war pick in of itself.
- Langya Bang
- A chinese morningstar. It is narrow at the grip, and grows thicker towards the head. The heavier end is armed with iron spikes.
- Spiked Hammer
- Any hammer or mace with a head covered with an abundance of spikes may be best represented with these statistics, as it would deal more piercing damage than bludgeoning.
- A wooden bat lined with obsidian blades historically used in Mesoamerica. WP
Any long piercing polearm can use the pike statistics.
- Historically there aren't many "longspears", as normal throwing spears evolved through the middle ages to become long pikes, or variants such as the spetum and partisan.
A more accurate name for this group might be "sabre", as that was an actual generic group as the was used in Europe. However, one can see why they chose the scimitar as the representative of the group; the east has a far longer history of curved blades than the west. That's what these are, by the way, curved swords intended to kill by slashing, as opposed to thrusting. Their history goes back farther than the straight edged blades of the west, as their design predates the invention of chain mail- the armor that redefined warfare. It is a shame that all curved blades get lumped in as one though; there's no separation for middle-eastern two-handed curved blades, nor does this category accurately represent far-eastern curved blades, such as the dao or katana. (In particular, Japanese blades were designed for a very specific style of single combat that doesn't mesh well with the combat rules of D&D at all.)
- A straight sword with a flat, unsharpened back edge, and a curved slashing front edge. Evolved from naval sabers for utilitarian purposes.
- A type of sword typical of pre-Rome Iberia, whose blade is concave near the hilt, but convex near the point. WP
- A single-edged sword of European origin designed to be wielded in one hand. WP
- A relatively modern tool comprised of a scimitar-like blade between 12 and 18 inches in length. WP
- An ancient type of sword or large knife, generally with a single cutting edge. WP
- A germanic "long knife" with a slightly curved blade and occasionally a clipped point. WP
- A military sword, carried by the cavalry and navy. It was a riding weapon mainly, but it's weight and keen edge proved useful at sea, both in combat, and as a tool.
- The shamshir is a one-handed, curved sword featuring a slim blade that has almost no taper until the very tip. Instead of being worn upright (hilt-high), it is worn horizontally, with the hilt and tip pointing up. It was normally used for slashing unarmored opponents either on foot or mounted. WP
- A single-edged, slightly curved sword from the Caucasus. It's an oddity among sabres as it doesn't have a knucklebow. WP
A short sword can be any is a one-handed bladed weapon that is at least 2ft long. They are distinguished by having a one-handed grip, as it is the hilt which distinguishes blade categorization far more than its blade. To hold a short sword in two hands means overlapping your hands, or clasping them together. This category specifies western-style straight-edged swords, whose killing stroke was a thrust, intended to navigate between plates and split chain links. The bladed edge was more to add damage to armor when swung as part of fencing, not to actually rend flesh or limb. (Though it was, of course, sufficient to do so)
The D&D statistics can be used to represent any lightweight blade larger than a dagger.
- Back Sword
- Often only sharpened on one edge. Most Sinclair or Scottish broad swords were of this type. WP
- A Greek and Roman short sword. It was typically a side-arm alongside a spear and shield. Often had a leaf-like silhouette. WP
- A German short sword with the crossguard curled into an S shape, to provide protection all the way around the top of the hilt, rather than just in front of the bladed edges.
- Khyber Knife
- An Indo-Persian blade typically used for thrusting, though more severely curved blades can cut rather well. WP
- Side Sword
- A military dueling blade.
- Small Sword
- One of many stylish dueling blades.
- Japanese for "side inserted [sword]". This sword was no larger than what one would expect from a shortsword, and the curved blade does not significantly change the shortsword's statistics.
- A double-edged, one-handed Iron Age straight shortsword used by the ancient Greeks. The xiphos' leaf-shaped design lent itself to both cutting and thrusting. WP
- Flanged Mace
- A mace with particularly large flanges surrounding the head.
- A steel, blunt weapon of Indian make designed to be wielded in one or two hands.
This is a special case, as Player's Handbook lacks a martial non-light one-handed sword that might come between the shortsword and longsword in weight and length. There are many historical weapons that qualify for this type.
The most common way to interpret this is a martial weapon that deals 2d4 damage, weighs 3 lb. and costs 20 gp. (It costs more than a longsword, as the one-handed damage is half a point greater on average). It might deal piercing or slashing damage:
Characterized by wide, often curved, blades; including "heavy knives".
This is a special case, as the Player's Handbook lacks a finesse 1d8 slashing martial weapon. Like the rapier, weapons in this category might be considered fencing weapons, such as the homebrew saber on this wiki.
Martial Ranged Weapons
- Composite Bow
- The PHB longbow does not specify if it is a composite bow WP or a self bow WP, but perhaps we can say that in terms of D&D mechanics the differences are negligible: A composite bow may be shorter with a higher draw strength, but is more susceptible to humidity. These are not things we need to simulate.
Automatic Pistol and Revolver
The automatic pistol and revolver (DMG p.268) can cover any number of modern by merely adjusting the number of rounds.