Weapon choice

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Version 0.31: This article is up to date for the latest stable release of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.
This article contains advice from other players, which may be subjective, outdated, inaccurate or ill-advised. Take advice as you see fit, and read at your own risk!

Crawl presents the player and character with a potentially bewildering array of weapon choices. However, when all the dust clears and the parade of short swords, demon whips, and clubs has passed by, weapons have a few main properties:

  • Damage per turn: How much damage a weapon deals, compared to how much time it takes to swing it.
  • Accuracy & Skill: How often you hit, and relatedly, how fast your species can learn to use the weapon type effectively.
  • Handedness: One-handed weapons can be wielded with a shield.
  • Special: Most types of weapon have their own unique properties.

In addition, you must consider various in-game factors, such as "what weapons are physically available", "what skills you have", and any artefacts you find. If your desired weapon isn't available, for example, you may have to go off-course.


Damage per turn

Damage per turn is simply equal to average damage / weapon delay.

Damage: A weapon's damage rating (~ maximum damage, rounded up) can be viewed in the inventory. You can also see damage rating by looking up (? / i) a given weapon. For details on how this is calculated, see weapon damage. Note that, as the damage formula is random and rounds down, weapons with weak attacks are a bit weaker than their damage rating suggests.

Weapon delay: Weapon delay is how long you swing your weapon. The bigger the delay, the slower you swing. It is equal to:

   Delay = base delay − weapon skill/2
   IF Unarmed Combat: Delay = base delay - skill/5.4

Weapons have a "minimum delay", where skill has no more impact on attack speed (though skill still increases damage/accuracy). This can also be viewed in the inventory. It is usually equal to:

    smaller of: 0.7 OR base delay / 2

With a few exceptions: rapiers and quick blades are set to 0.5 delay, a few Ranged Weapons are locked to 1.0 delay.

Your delay is displayed in units of decaAuts (0.8, 1.1, etc). It is then slowed by a shield, if wearing one. For Ranged Weapons exclusively, body armour also slows your attacks down.

Accuracy & Skill

"Skill" comprises of three related, but distinct factors. Other than damage, skill also boosts accuracy and weapon speed. In addition, your species may learn some skills faster than others.

Accuracy: How likely you are to hit with a weapon. Each weapon has a base accuracy, which is added onto factors from skill, dexterity, and enchantment. See to-hit for how this is calculated.

Base Delay: Weapons with a lower base delay are easier to train: they (usually) take less skill to reach mindelay.

Species Aptitude: How fast your species can learn a given weapon skill. Higher aptitudes mean it takes less skill XP to level up the skill.

Overall, a weapon with high base delay and low accuracy will be hard to use at low skill. The lower your aptitude, the harder it is to get skill levels.


Certain weapon skills cross-train with each other. If you train one weapon skill, any cross-trained skills will get 40% of the XP for free.

(Axes and Staves don't cross-train each other, neither do Maces & Flails and Polearms.)

While it's impractical to rely on cross-training alone, it does make it easier to switch between weapon types, E.g. if you were training Axes and come across an awesome artefact trident, it can be easier to use. It can also give you an out against hydras.


Weapons are either one-handed or two-handed. One-handed weapons can be used with a shield, two-handed weapons can't.

Shields provide a significant amount of defense, but come with penalties (slows attack speed, increases spell failure rate). These penalties mitigated by strength and Shields skill. Two-handed weapons, meanwhile, are almost always stronger than their one-handed counterparts. Ultimately, your strength and species' aptitudes should be taken into account.

Kobolds and Spriggans, as small species, have trouble wielding certain weapons. For them, some one-handed weapons are two-handed, some two-handed weapons are unusable. Formicids can wield all weapons but giant clubs with one hand.


Most weapon types have certain traits that distinguish them from the others:

Damage boosted by dexterity:

  • Short Blades are weak, but give a bonus to stab damage, and attack quickly.
  • Long Blades have no special features, but have above average stats.
  • Ranged Weapons can attack from any distance. However, they are weaker, and are heavily penalized for heavy body armour.

Damage boosted by strength:

  • Maces & Flails have no special features, but have above average stats.
  • Axes have cleaving: when attacking, you also hit all other adjacent enemies for 70% damage.
  • Polearms have reaching: they can attack from two tiles away, and can even attack behind allies.
  • Staves:
    • Non-magical staves have no special features, but have low base delay relative to their damage output.
    • Magical staves are weak, but enhance your spell power, and have special bonus to melee.
  • Unarmed Combat is always available. Skill has a strong impact on unarmed combat, but your fists cannot be enchanted or branded.

In addition, certain weapons cut hydra heads, including: Long Blades, Axes, two-handed Polearms, and lajatangs. Cutting hydra heads is a bad thing unless the weapon has the flaming brand. If you cut a hydra's head, two more will grow back.

Weapon Types

Short Blades

Highest aptitudes: +3 (Kobold), +2 (Merfolk)

Short Blades are best used for stabbers, whether you're using Hexes, stealth, or gods (namely Uskayaw) to stab enemies.

When not stabbing, Short Blades attack fast, but weak. Thus, they benefit most from sources of "flat" damage. For example, you have a chance to make an auxiliary attack per hit, no matter how strong it is. Short Blades, swinging faster, activate more auxiliary attacks. However, they are hindered most by AC, a flat source of damage reduction. Overall, Short Blades have below average damage output.

Note that an early Short Blade of venom or electrocution can be a boon for the early game. Both venom and elec are flat damage brands, and both daggers and short swords are more likely to have these brands. Even at 0 skill, a dagger of venom can tear monsters before Lair. (This does not mean you should train Short Blades skill, though. It's the brand that's doing most of the work, not the weapon, so no need to train further.)

Top Weapons

  • If you have good sources of flat damage, quick blades are the strongest short blade. Daggers might have a higher stab bonus, but since quick blades attack faster, they get more stabs.
  • Rapiers are a lot more common than quick blades. Without a major source of flat damage, they have similar or better damage output than quick blades.


  • Bonus stab damage. Daggers get an extra boost.
  • Fastest, most accurate weapons in the game.
  • Cross-trains with Long Blades, which also use dexterity.


  • Low damage without stabbing (even with flat damage)
    • Especially poor against foes with high AC.

Long Blades

Highest aptitudes: +2 (Barachi, Minotaur, Merfolk)

Long Blades are plain weapons. They scale with dexterity, so are suited towards Dodging-reliant characters. They also cross-train with Short Blades. However, you shouldn't ignore an awesome artefact Long Blade just because you're a "heavy armour character".

Top Weapons

  • The strongest one-handed Long Blades are double swords and demon blades. Both are roughly equal to each other. Demon blades are slightly better with flat damage, and double swords slightly less affected by AC, but the differences are small.
  • The strongest two-handed Long Blade is the triple sword.


  • Highest damage melee weapon that uses dexterity.
  • Cross-trains with Short Blades, which also use dexterity, and have stronger stabs.


  • Characters may prefer a strength-based weapon.
  • Cuts hydra heads.

Maces & Flails

Highest aptitudes: +2 (Minotaur), +1 (Barachi, Hill Orc, Tengu)

Maces & Flails have no special gimmick, but have better stats to make up for it. Unlike Long Blades, Maces & Flails scale with strength.

Top Weapons

  • The strongest one-handed weapons are eveningstars and demon whips. Eveningstars are fairly standard melee weapons. Demon whips are fast weapons, so they benefit more from flat damage effects (See #Short Blades for more).
  • If you are a large species or Formicid, giant spiked clubs are the strongest two-handed weapons.
  • For other species, great maces are the strongest two-handed weapons available.


  • Highest damage melee weapon that uses strength.
  • Cross-trains with Axes & Staves.


  • No cleaving or other special abilities.
  • If not a large species or Formicid, the two-handed options are relatively weak.


Highest aptitudes: +2 (Minotaur), +1 (Barachi, Hill Orc, Tengu)

Axes have cleaving - when you attack a monster, every other monster adjacent to you is hit for 70% damage. (The original target is still hit for 100% damage.)

Even with an axe, it's good practice to fight 1v1 or in hallways - this way, you avoid taking damage from multiple monsters. That being said, sometimes you'll be forced to fight multiple surrounding monsters at once. For example, you could be swarmed by fast monsters, or encounter a pack with no nearby hallway. In these cases, cleaving is helpful.

Top Weapons


  • Can cleave to hit multiple enemies.
  • Cross-trains with Polearms and Maces & Flails.


  • The game encourages you to take 1v1 fights, where cleaving doesn't help you.
  • Worse stats compared to other weapons.
  • Cuts hydra heads.


Highest aptitudes: +3 (Merfolk), +2 (Minotaur)

Polearms have reaching - they can attack from two tiles away, instead of just one. You can attack behind your own allies, but with a 50% chance to fail. Against most enemies, this lets you get one "extra" attack off.

Spears are the best "simple" starting weapons (before considering aptitudes). While their damage/turn is slightly worse, the reaching makes up for it. Also, spears can attack <= 1.0 delay with just your starting skill.

Top Weapons


  • Reaching; allows one extra attack in melee.
  • Synergy with summons, allies, deep water, etc. - you can attack behind them.
  • Cross-trains with Axes and Maces & Flails.


  • Worse stats compared to other weapons.
  • One-handed options can be limited. Until you get demon tridents, the next best weapons are regular tridents.
    • Small species have no good one-handed options.

Physical Staves

Highest aptitudes: +2 (Minotaur)

Quarterstaves and lajatangs are the two non-magical staves available. Both are "skill friendly" - they have a low base delay relative to their damage output. However, both of these weapons aren't very common.


  • Lower base delay (good damage/turn at lower skill)
  • Lajatangs can generate with the spectral and speed brands.
  • Cross-trains with Polearms and Maces & Flails.


  • No one-handed options.
  • Options in general are limited:
    • Lajatangs are rare.
    • Quarterstaves are good for the early game, but quickly outclassed.

Magical Staves

Magical staves' main purpose is to boost the power of certain spells. They can still be alright melee weapons, though. When using a magical staff in melee, you get a special damage bonus. This bonus scales off your skill in the staff's magic school, as well as Evocations.


  • Boosts spellpower.
  • Most magical staves provide a resistance.
  • Can be a decent option if you run out of MP..


  • Weak base type.
  • Most magical staves deal elemental damage, and are subject to enemy resistances.
  • Requires magic skill and Evocations to be competent, in addition to Staves skill.

Non-Standard Weapons

Unarmed Combat

Highest aptitudes: +1 (Barachi, Ghoul, Hill Orc, Minotaur)

Of course, you don't have to wield a weapon to kill foes; it's perfectly feasible to beat things to death with your fists. Whether or not it's worthwhile largely depends on your build.

There are a few quirks with Unarmed Combat. Your fists are not a weapon - it cannot be enchanted or branded by normal means. Also, Unarmed Combat gets more damage from each point of skill. Otherwise, it acts much like the other forms of melee.

There are two types of character who particularly like Unarmed Combat:

  • Claws - Claws provide a bonus to Unarmed Combat damage. While minor by the late game, species that start with Claws (Ghouls and Trolls) benefit a lot from the early boost.
  • Shapeshifting - Talismans can greatly improve the damage of Unarmed Combat.


  • Always available, no matter how bad RNG is.
  • Starts at 1.0 attack delay and has a minimum delay of 0.5.
  • Can be boosted by talismans.
  • Stronger damage bonus from skill.


  • No enchantment, brand, or artefact properties.
  • At low skill, if you don't have a transformation, Unarmed Combat is relatively weak.

Ranged Weapons

Main Article: Ranged Weapons#Strategy

Highest aptitudes: +3 (Deep Elf, Kobold)

Ranged weapons work quite differently from other weapons. Obviously, they can fire from an entire screen's distance, instead of being limited to melee. They are slowed down by armour encumbrance, so heavy armoured characters are hindered (even with high strength).

They all scale with dexterity rather than strength.

Top Weapons



  • Most ranged weapons are two-handed.
  • Slowed down significantly by body armour encumbrance.
  • Weaker damage output than comparable melee weapons.
  • Arbalests, hand cannons, triple crossbows all have a minimum delay of 1.0.

An Ingame Approach

While knowing about each weapon type is helpful, most of this page so far has been theory. Who cares if a double sword is technically the best weapon for you - if you don't have one, you don't have one. If you find an amazing randart mace, you shouldn't ignore it just because you are a "dexterity character".

Early Game

The biggest factors for weapons at this stage are the weapon's enchantment and brand, and the weapon's attack delay.

  • If you started with a weapon, you should probably use that weapon type over any plain (+0, no brand) weapons you find on the floor. E.g. if you start with a +0 hand axe, you shouldn't switch to a +0 mace.
  • A weapon with high enchantment and a brand can be worth swapping to. If all you have is a +0 hand axe, a +6 flail {flaming, Int+2} is an upgrade worth using. Both the +6 enchant and the flaming brand greatly increase damage. Plus, in this case, you benefit from cross-training. But, even if it was a +6 falchion of flaming (which axes don't cross-train), you might want to consider a swap.
  • Brands that deal flat damage - namely venom and electrocution - stand out. Their damage is unaffected by weapon or character strength; Venom is amazing on D:1, but is underwhelming by D:15. Electrocution remains viable for longer, but is still superb for the early Dungeon.
    • Thankfully, these brands are weighted to show up on early weapons, such as daggers, whips, and spears. These weapons have high accuracy and low base delay, so they are effective even at 0 skill. (Training Short Blades skill for a dagger of venom is not worth it.)
    • Distortion is even better than electrocution, but with a drawback: if you unwield a distortion weapon, you get nasty side effects.
  • If you find an endgame tier weapon early, consider using it, at least for the long-term. For example, Amaemon always wields a demon whip, a weapon which is great for an entire 3-rune game. In this case, demon whips don't require a lot of skill, so you can switch to it relatively early.
  • A key breakpoint is when you reach 1.0 weapon delay. When you're above 1.0 delay, a 100% speed monster can potentially get a double-turn for every weapon swing you make (i.e. 1.1 may effectively round up to 2). After you reach this point, there exists a major cost for switching weapon types. It's not impossible to switch, especially if you have cross-training, but it becomes less desirable to do so.
  • You'll want to keep a ranged weapon around, even without any training. Against a melee enemy, you can switch to the ranged weapon, take a few potshots, then switch back to your primary weapon. You should not fight ranged enemies this way, since an untrained weapon fires slowly.

Mid/Late Game

If you've finished the Lair of Beasts as a weapon-user, you probably have a "main" weapon type. Keep using it unless you find something especially good.

  • There is a point where, once you've invested enough in a weapon skill, you can win the game with said weapon skill. You could find another weapon with better stats... but switching to it would spend valuable XP. Short of finding something like Wyrmbane, the switch probably isn't worth it. This point may occur around 14-16 skill (mindelay for one-handers, 1.0 delay for two-handers), but might be sooner or later depending on the character.
  • You should save scrolls of brand weapon / scroll of enchant weapon if you can afford to do so.
    • If you can comfortably kill enemies, you should preserve these scrolls for a "top-tier" weapon of your class. E.g. a one-handed Axe user should save scrolls for a broad axe if possible.
    • If you do not expect to comfortably kill enemies, you should spend scrolls to increase immediate survival. For example, tackling the Lair branches with a +0 war axe will likely be a rough time. If you don't have a particularly great character, you might want to spend a few boosting scrolls to get past.
    • If you have a lot of scrolls (~3+ brand weapons; 9+ enchant weapons) early on, you can spend them as you please.

Judging Artefacts

Artefacts may look slick, have a cool name, and a bunch of perks. But when are they good?

  • Firstly, look at their enchantment, brand, and base type. A artefact +6 trident of freezing is still a +6 trident of freezing, except that you can't even enchant it. Whenever this is good is largely dependent on the gamestate: a novice Merfolk stuck with a spear will gladly take it, but its all but useless in combat when compared to a demon trident.
    • As mentioned above, if you've trained significant amounts in another weapon skill, and don't even have cross-training for the artefact, don't consider it. However, in the early game, you won't have significant skill training. Many artefacts - simply due to their high enchantment - will carry you through the early game, and are worth considering. You can swap to the artefact after training, or use it at 0 skill.
  • Some properties are dangerous to wield, namely *Slow and *Rage. It's certainly possible to use weapons with them, though you'll have to be aware of their risks. Other negative properties like *Drain and *Corrode are much more tolerable in comparison.
  • Small stat modifiers don't matter much; -2 strength is a minimal decrease to damage. However, big modifiers do: +8 strength increases your damage significantly; +10 dexterity will greatly improve EV. Also, certain characters might have to beware of stat zero.
  • It might be worth keeping a weapon around if it provides some resistances, even if you never use it as a weapon. Against a dangerous elemental opponent, you can wield the resistance-giving weapon, then use wands, Throwing, and/or god abilities to take it out.

Shield or Two-Handed?

Two-handed weapons deal more damage, but shields provide valuable defense. Which should you choose?

  • Even when counting unblockable attacks, a trained +8 tower shield can block >50% of all attacks you'll encounter in a game. Note that shields can only block so many attacks in 1 turn, so they are less effective when fighting multiple opponents.
  • Meanwhile, upgrading from a double sword to a triple sword provides ~28% more base damage.

At a glance, taking 30% less attacks and dealing 30% more damage might seem balanced. But in Crawl, raw defense is usually more valuable. The extra defense works when you aren't attacking; defense helps you survive an emergency. So, even when considering the Shields skill investment, and the penalties to EV/attack speed, shields are strong. That being said, two-handed is still somewhat viable, especially if you find a good artefact, or have poor aptitude in Shields.

Other things worth noting:

  • If you haven't found a shield yet, two-handed weapons lose their main disadvantage. While most of the 'big' two-handers are rare and require a lot of skill, there are a few early game two-handers, like dire flails and halberds.
  • If you've invested a lot of Shields skill, stick with one-handed + shields.


  • 0.29 reworked Ranged Weapons and changed Short/Long Blades and Ranged Weapons to scale with Dex.
  • 0.28 removed Long Blades' riposte. The XP costs for high-level skills were reduced, and the base delay of the biggest weapons in the game was also lowered.
  • 0.27 increased the penalty for wearing shields, indirectly affecting all one-handed weapons.
  • 0.24 reworked throwing. Tomahawks as well as blowguns/needles were replaced with boomerangs and darts. Javelins now had innate penetration.
  • 0.19 added riposte for Long Blades.
  • 0.15 introduced several new ranged weapons: greatslings, hand crossbows, arbalests, and triple crossbows.
  • 0.12 introduced cleaving for Axes. Prior to 0.12, there were two additional forms of handedness: hand-and-a-half weapons and double weapons. These each received further penalties when wielded with a shield, but were otherwise one-handed weapons.
  • 0.10 introduced innate reaching for Polearms.
Strategy Guides
General WalkthroughDealing with troubleTips and tricksIdentificationFAQ
Character Building Early GameMid GameLate Game

Beginner CharactersGod ChoiceWeapon ChoiceSpecialization

Community Guides Character guides
Axes BattleaxeBroad axeExecutioner's axeHand axeWar axe
Maces & Flails ClubDemon whipDire flailEveningstarFlailGiant clubGiant spiked clubGreat maceMace (Hammer) • MorningstarSacred scourgeWhip
Long Blades Demon bladeDouble swordEudemon bladeFalchionGreat swordLong swordScimitarTriple sword
Polearms BardicheDemon tridentGlaiveHalberd (Scythe) • SpearTridentTrishula
Ranged Weapons ArbalestHand cannonLongbowOrcbowShortbowSlingTriple crossbow
Short Blades DaggerQuick bladeRapierShort sword
Staves LajatangMagical staffQuarterstaff
Throwing BoomerangDartJavelinLarge rockStoneThrowing net