There’s Other Weapons Besides Swords
The most iconic weapon in D&D is the sword. That doesn’t mean that other weapons aren’t used, but the sword is far and away the weapon used the most. You’ve got your Shortsword, Longsword and Greatsword, and they cover the bases for weapon properties. The shortsword is a finesse and light weapon doing 1d6 damage, the longsword a versatile weapon doing 1d8 damage, and the greatsword is your two-handed weapon doing 2d6 damage. So if you don’t know what weapon to take, there is always a sword that will fit your needs.
Maybe you are playing a class or race that doesn’t like pointy weapons. Clerics use maces, Dwarves got hammers, Wizards got their staves, and Elves got their traditional weapons of bows. Now I know these are stereotypes, but it’s one of those things that have stuck throughout the editions. There is nothing wrong with tradition. But with so many weapons available, why not spread your wings and try something new.
There are a couple issues/deterrent with wanting to use non traditional weapons. Some people think that there is no difference in what weapon you use. Sure, my character can only use finesse weapons, so I’ll just take the weapon with the highest potential damage. That limited thinking prevents adding fun and flavor to you hero. On top of that, with the advent of custom miniatures, you can have a truly original looking mini if you try one of the more obscure weapons.
Another argument is that why bother with obscure weapons when most magic items are “standard” weapons…swords, maces, hammers, etc. Sure, you have your Javelin of Lightning and Trident of Fish Command (now known as the Aquaman Trident), but these are few and far between. Again, that’s limited thinking. A DM worth his salt will be creative and make some homebrew items if the player really wants a unique weapon. Maybe they will allow the weapon to be imbued with runic gems to give them magical properties. No matter how it happens, you are only limited by your (and the DM’s) imagination and creativity.
So here are some weapons I would like to see used more of, and if you and your DM broaden your minds a bit, there is a ton of potential for them.
The war pick is another weapon that if you look at the picture, you can see the potential for it depending on the situation. Now that potential is limited by the description in 5e, but talking to your DM may unlock the fun of the fantastic weapon known as the war pick.
The 5e version does 1d8 piercing damage, and is one of the few weapons with no properties listed. It is a handheld weapon with a long handle, a slightly curved blade on one side and a ‘hammer’ on the other. It’s that hammer side of the war pick that I wish was shown some more love. A player should have the option to hit with either end of the war pick, dealing piercing or bludgeoning damage based on the type they want/need to attack with. I understand that the hammer isn’t going to do the same damage as a warhammer (1d8) based on its size, but why not 1d6 bludgeoning damage? Having a weapon versatile enough to have two types of damage would be neat to have and the possibilities for a magical homebrew item are only limited by one’s imagination. Maybe only the hammer has magical abilities. Could one side be powerful, but the other be cursed? There seems to be so much potential with this weapon, I think it deserves another look.
Listed as a special weapon in the DMG (pg. 148), it’s pathetic. It does no damage, and anyone hit with it only needs to make a DC 10 Strength check or do 5 points of slashing damage to break free. Now it does restrain the creature it is used on, but given the stats above, the creature will not be restrained for very long.
Based on the simple description its given, and the properties it has, I’m tempted to say it shouldn’t even be classified as a weapon. It sounds more like an item that should be listed under adventuring gear. It’s usages seems to be like that of a flask of oil or ball bearings… items that players usually forget about, only using in very specific circumstances (like we discussed on our podcast when the players try to burn the Sea Ghost in Saltmarsh). The net as described seems more like an item you’d use when you are trying to subdue a creature so you can question it and find out where all that glorious treasure is.
So how do we make the net a weapon? In doing some research for the Sahuagin Deep Dive, I came across a net that did damage in one of the editions. This was a barbed net, and while it didn’t do a ton of damage, it did do 1d4 damage per round, and made it more difficult to escape from. Simply put, the net was covered in small little hooks (I envision a net covered with small barbed fish hooks). On a successful hit with the net, the hooks attach themselves to the creature doing 1d4 points of damage and the creature is restrained. Armor type is important here, since the hooks have little effect on someone wearing plate, but if your gnome wizard with no armor is trapped by a net, it’s an issue.
Escaping from the net is made harder now, as you can no longer simply shrug off the net since it is attached to you. Someone could pull the net off you, but that would incur additional damage from the hooks. The net can still be cut, but it would still be attached to the creature. I would argue that the creature is no longer restrained, but would incur some disadvantage of some sort, maybe just disadvantage on attack rolls or they take 1d4 points of piercing damage if they move more than half their speed in a round. Now the net goes from an inconvenience to a serious problem.
The net is definitely not a traditional weapon. You don’t swing it and you’re not hitting someone to do typical damage. That doesn’t mean you should disregard the net. If used in a original fashion, the net can be a fun, inventive weapon that players can use to capture instead of kill. That may confuse your normal murder hobo players, but for thoughtful player, a net can be a cool item to have.
The flail was used a lot in my old campaigns. It was the fallback weapon for the cleric if he didn’t want to use a mace or hammer. I don’t see many flails out there today and it makes me wonder why. Sure, it’s basically a mace head attached to a chain, but, once again, it has potential to be so much more.
The standard flail has historically had a small wooden or metal handle, usually 1-4 feet long, to which is attached a length of chain. The chain length varies but can be anywhere from a few links of chain to several feet long, at the end of the chain is usually attached a metal spiked ball. Sometimes the bludgeoning part of the weapon is a flange mace head or metal weights with which you hit your sworn enemy with. Basically it’s a stick with chain attached to it, with a large piece metal at the end that you hit people with.
In D&D, the flail is a martial weapon that does 1d8 of damage. The mace is only a simple weapon that does a 1d6, so while you may not be able to use a flail, if you can use martial weapons, the bump in damage is nice.
Where one could have fun with the flail is when you find one that has a 4 foot handle and another 3-4 feet of chain. Now we’re talking a weapon with reach. The flail in the picture is over 6 feet in total length. That makes it around the same size as the traditional halberd and only slightly shorter that the glaive. Is it possible to give this weapon reach? Possibly. Something of this length does fit the length of a weapon that would normally have reach, but it would be up to you and your DM to discuss.
Indiana Jones was a bad ass, and part of the reason why was because he had a whip. The problem with the whip is….well, it just sucks. Sure you have range, but it only does 1d4 damage. So maybe it could be used as an off hand weapon to give you the reach advantage on a second attack if its available to you, but beyond that, why bother?
My biggest problem with the whip isn’t that it doesn’t do much damage, but that you have no chance to do any of the other cool things we’ve all seen whips do in the movies. Where’s my chance to knock that gun out of my opponents hand with a ear splitting crack that leaves them disarmed and holding their throbbing hand? Or what about using the whip to grapple your opponent, pulling them in so your allies can attack them with ease? None of these properties exist in the Player’s Handbook or the Dungeon Master’s Guide and that stinks.
Looking around, the whip has inspired some decent homebrew, some of which capture what I am looking for in the whip. There are specialized whips, whips whose sole purpose is to restrain a creature or even swords that can change into chain whips to give the players reach and damage. There are even feats that give you the ability to grapple and disarm your opponent. It’s a shame that 5e doesn’t provide these properties in the core rules, but if you look around, and your DM is open to it, the whip can become a very effective and useful weapon in the hands of a skilled character.
Got a weapon you’d like to see used more? Put it in the comments below!