Weapon choice

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Version 0.30: This article is up to date for the latest stable release of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

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 six main properties:

  • Damage: How much damage, on average, the weapon does per strike.
  • Accuracy: How likely the weapon is to actually hit.
  • Speed: How long you must wait after attacking before you can act again.
  • Handedness: Whether the weapon requires one or two hands to use.
  • Skill: How fast your species can learn to use the weapon.
  • Special: Weapons like Axes and Polearms have unique traits that distinguish them from the others.

As a rough rule, you'll want the weapon that deals the most damage/turn, to the largest set of monsters, without too much investment. You may also consider factors like shield and special properties.


Each of these properties is described below:


For most weapons, the damage formula is approximately:

   Damage = 1d(base damage × stat bonus) × skill bonus + 1d(weapon enchant + slaying)

You can see this damage rating in-game by viewing the weapon in the inventory.

  • Stat bonus = +2.5% per point of either strength or dexterity, with a base of 100% at 10 str/dex. Which stat depends on the weapon type.
  • Skill bonus = combined damage bonus of Fighting and weapon skill. Fighting adds +1.67% dmg/level, weapon adds +2% dmg/level, these bonuses are multiplied.
  • Weapon enchant is the "+9" of a +9 broad axe.

For Unarmed Combat and Throwing, the formula is slightly adjusted:

   Damage = 1d([base damage + skill] × stat bonus) × fighting bonus + 1d(weapon enchant + slaying)
  • Skill = the level of the weapon skill. So 10 Unarmed Combat increases base damage by +10 (instead of the percentage modifier of other weapons).

Then, your weapon's brand boosts damage; see the appropriate Brand page for details.


A weapon's speed is measured by attack delay - the smaller the delay, the faster you swing. It is calculated as:

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

It is displayed in units of decaAuts (0.8, 1.1, etc). It is then slowed by a shield, and for Ranged Weapons only, body armour.

All weapons have a limit, or "mindelay". This limit is usually:

   smaller of: 0.7 OR base delay / 2

A few weapons break the rule - rapiers and Unarmed Combat are set to 0.5 delay, a few Ranged Weapons are locked to 1.0 delay.

Both weapon delay and mindelay can also be viewed in the inventory.

Damage over Time

Damage over time is simply Damage / Delay. Maximizing DoT is generally better for damage, though it doesn't take into account slaying (benefiting faster attacks), AC (punishing faster attacks), brands effects, or other factors.


Accuracy (or to-hit) is one of the more complex attributes of a weapon, being affected by the base type, weapon skill, slaying bonuses, and dexterity. It is important to choose accurate weapons in the very early game. Later on, accuracy becomes a secondary consideration - both reasonable accuracy and sane weapon delay come from having good weapon skill.


There are two categories of weapons: one-handed or two-handed. The difference is simple; one-handed weapons can be used along with a shield, while two-handed weapons can't.

Shields can provide a significant amount of defense. However, they come with penalties (slows attack speed, EV penalty), mitigated by strength and Shields skill. For the larger shields, the skill investment can be quite large. Also, two-handed weapons are almost always stronger than their one-handed counterparts. Ultimately, your strength and species' aptitudes should be taken into account.

Kobolds and Spriggans are small, so certain one-handed weapons (like double swords) are two-handed. Formicids can wield all weapons, except giant clubs/giant spiked clubs, with one hand.


Each species has an aptitude for each of the skills in Crawl; taking advantage of the skills you're good at will allow you to become powerful faster, greatly increasing your chance of survival. Unless you're intentionally trying to challenge yourself, you should usually try to wield weapons suited for your species.


One aspect of weapon choice is cross-training: training one weapon type can make others easier to use. When a weapon crosstrains, you get 40% of the XP, for free, in the second type. Cross-training skills are linked as follows:

(Axes and Staves don't crosstrain 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. Cross training can also give you an out against hydras.


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

  • Short Blades: Although they do low damage, they attack extremely fast and give a large bonus to stabbing.
  • Long Blades: Deal moderate-to-high damage and scale with dexterity, a good option for former Short Blades users.
  • Axes: Moderate damage, but cleaving makes Axes excellent for crowd control.
  • Maces & Flails: Moderate-to-high blunt damage, common. Giant spiked clubs offer immense damage, but only Trolls, Ogres, and Formicids can wield them.
  • Polearms: Although they only deal moderate damage, these weapons can attack from afar thanks to their innate reaching.
  • Staves: Mundane staves deal moderate damage, but take very low skill to master. Magical staves are best for casters looking to enhance their spells, but can make decent backup weapons.

Unarmed Combat: A Special Case

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.

Unarmed strikes start with the speed of Short Blades, and quickly gain damage with skill. The Claws mutation provides a special bonus to UC - species with this mutation (Trolls, Ghoul, some Demonspawn) are especially good with it. You can also benefit from Transmutations magic, like Spider Form or Blade Hands.

However, your fists do not benefit from brand or enchantment. It takes lots of skill for UC to match a +9 branded weapon - that's a large portion of the game where you are weaker than weapon-users. This makes Unarmed Combat relatively weaker in the early game. Many later Transmutations spells will give +damage and a brand, though this also requires training the magic school (and any other quirks that forms provide).

See the Unarmed Combat page for more details.

Combining these: Small or Large Weapons?

In the simplest terms, every player wants to maximize their weapon's damage divided by delay. However, considerations from every which way have to be made. The first such consideration is the weapon's speed.



Only a few weapons naturally swing at 0.5 delay or lower: certain early-game weapons (whips, spears), Short Blades, demon whips, and their holy counterpart. These weapons benefit the most from "flat damage" effects; e.g. slaying adds +1 damage, no matter how much the weapon actually did. So if you swing faster, you benefit from +1 damage faster.

Weapons of a flat damage brand - namely electrocution, pain, distortion - can be very effective. In addition to slaying and brand, fast weapons also benefit more from auxiliary attacks. However, swinging 'fast but weak' means that AC, a flat damage penalty, has a greater effect.

On the plus side, faster weapons are easier to train. With high accuracy and low base delay, it takes less skill to be effective.


Weapons like Broad axes, demon tridents, and eveningstars are the largest one-handed weapons of their type. They combine good offense, even against high AC, with the use of a shield. They take less skill than two-handed weapons to reach mindelay, so you can afford to spend XP into Shields or other defensive skills.

Most of the 'best' one-handers are rare - you'll often have to settle for the likes of morningstars and scimitars while waiting for a stronger overall weapon.


In most cases, the difference between "top tier fast" and "top tier strong" one-handers are quite small. There isn't much of a practical difference between demon whips and eveningstars, or demon blades and double swords; one is stronger by a few %.

But in some cases, it does matter. For example, Vine Stalkers have an antimagic bite, a powerful auxiliary attack. For a Vine Stalker, demon whips are noticeably more effective than eveningstars. However, this doesn't mean that you should use a measly whip over a morningstar "just because it's fast".


Two-handed weapons, like executioner's axes, bardiches, and triple swords, are the strongest of their type. If you have enough skill, an executioner's axe swings at 0.7 delay, as fast as a broad axe, but hits much harder.

Of course, these weapons sacrifice the shield slot, trading defense for offense. This isn't always an equal trade. When you're trying to escape, having a big axe won't do you much good. When you're being pelted from a distance, dealing more damage in melee is useless. In addition, reaching mindelay with the biggest weapons requires lots of skill (20-24 levels).

In addition, the best two-handed weapons like the best one-handed weapons, are quite rare. You'll often settle for a battleaxe.

Weapon Availability and You

Searching for the perfect weapon can take a while unless you worship one of the weapon-gifting gods (Trog or Okawaru). God gifts, along with scrolls of acquirement, favor weaponry that you have skill investment in. The latter also tends to create items that you haven't seen yet. Finally, the Hall of Blades will always spawn 'rare' weapons, though uninfluenced by your skill decisions.

Otherwise, it's simply unrealistic to expect to find the perfect weapon type for your character. A few key aspects are also important when you determine what weapon you should be using right now.

  • Delay: Having a delay below 1.0 decaAut prevents regular speed monsters (i.e. most of them) from potentially hitting you twice per swing.
  • Damage: Maximize damage over time. At first, a highly-enchanted or branded weapon will deal more damage than a mundane one -- even if its a measly whip. However, base damage becomes more important as you gain skill.
    • Brands like electrocution and venom are not only better on fast weapons, but are relatively better when you deal less damage in general. In the early dungeon (before Lair), a weapon of these brands can easily hold their weight -- even with zero training.
    • Both scrolls of enchant weapon and a scroll of brand weapon can improve a mundane weapon of a strong base type.
  • Skill: While you can't predict when a good weapon will drop, you can predict which weapon schools will be good. Most often, you should aim to use whatever type of weapon your species has a good (positive) aptitude for. But if you find a particularly strong weapon that you have a reasonable (at least -1) aptitude for, feel free to switch.
    • Once you've invested enough in a weapon skill, you should generally stick with that weapon type. even if you find an absolutely amazing weapon of a different school. Short of finding something like Wyrmbane, reaching 14-ish skill is definitely enough to decide your weapon skill of choice for the rest of your run.
      • A weapon in a crosstrained skill is easier to swap to; you can still consider them even with a fairly high original skill, assuming it has good enough properties (brand, enchantment, artefact properties).
    • Base type matters with your initial skilling -- you shouldn't expect to use a +9 artefact spear for very long, even if you are training in Polearms. But finding a +4 demon trident of freezing early on is 100% a reason to train that weapon school. Yet, if your species is proficient in polearms, the spear certainly isn't a bad reason to start!
    • Gnolls, with their unique method of learning, might want to refer to their article for weapon choice.
  • Shields: If you don't have a shield, two-handed weapons (the smaller ones, at least) lose their main disadvantage. Meanwhile, swapping to a two-hander is a waste if you have already invested skill to wear a kite shield.

Ultimately, don't be afraid to settle for a "weaker" weapon like a war axe, scimitar, or trident during most of the early-mid game. Your immediate survival is more important.

Weapon Schools: Advantages and Disadvantages

Short Blades

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

Short Blades are best for stabbers, whether you find opportunities from natural stealth or a variety of Hexes. Their accuracy and extremely small skill requirements make them good choices for untrained characters, especially if you get a brand like venom or electrocution. As stabbing gets harder to pull off, skill in Short Blades transitions well into Long Blades. Quick blades are excellent for regular combat purposes, while daggers deal the most damage from a stab. Many small and/or stealthy species already have good aptitudes with Short Blades.

Short Blades use dexterity for their damage.


  • Early Short Blades often come with strong brands.
  • Fastest, most accurate weapons in the game.
    • Little/no skill to get to 1.0 delay.
    • Stacks well with slaying, might, and brands like pain.
  • Receives a large bonus to stabbing (Daggers are boosted more).
  • All one-handed.
  • Crosstrains with Long Blades, which also Dex scale and are better against AC.


  • Very poor damage output against high AC.
  • Low damage overall without stabs or the particularly rare quick blade.

Long Blades

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

Long Blades are decent weapons on their own, though their most notable feature is their crosstraining with Short Blades. Their best one-handers (scimitar, demon blade, double sword) deal respectable damage at a good delay, and a well-branded great sword or triple sword isn't shabby, either.

Long Blades use dexterity for their damage.


  • Somewhat common in the Dungeon -- many monsters wield them.
  • Crosstrains with Short Blades, which also scale with dex and can provide highly-damaging stabs.
  • Marginally more accurate than Maces & Flails, with the same damage.


  • Cuts off hydra heads if they don't have the flaming brand.
  • Double swords and triple swords are quite rare.

Maces & Flails

Highest aptitudes: +3 (Meteoran), +2 (Minotaur), +1 (Barachi, Hill Orc, Tengu)

Maces & Flails are perhaps the blandest melee weapons, but they deal respectable damage and are fairly common. Trolls and Ogres may delight in the giant spiked club, often wielded by the common enemy ogre, and sporting the highest base damage in the game. Regular sized species prefer the eveningstar, the most powerful one-hander, and easier to find than double swords. Plain whips are extremely common and very low-skill options, while dire flails are a two-hander with great specs (for the early game).

Maces & Flails use Strength for their damage.


  • Fairly common.
  • Great fast (whips / demon whips) and slow (dire flail / eveningstar) options.
  • Does not chop hydra heads.
  • Crosstrains with Axes and Staves.


  • No cleaving or other special abilities.
  • Comparatively weak two-handers for regular size species.


Highest aptitudes: +3 (Hill Orc), +2 (Minotaur, Meteoran)

Axes cleave, hitting every target around them for 70% damage. While risky, Axes can make any crowded situation that much easier, so are extremely useful for speedruns and regular games alike. Pick the biggest axe you can; whenever it'd be a broad axe + shield or executioner's axe. Battleaxes are a decent, oft-dropped 2-handed choice for those who haven't found either, and war axes are passable for those who haven't found (or trained for) any of the three.

Axes use Strength for their damage.


  • All Axes can cleave to hit multiple opponents.
  • Crosstrains with Polearms and Maces & Flails.


  • Somewhat weaker and slower compared to single-target weapons.
  • Actually taking advantage of cleaving is often risky.
  • Cuts off hydra heads.


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

Polearms have inherent reaching, meaning they can attack from 2 tiles away. This matters most in the initial stages of the game, where an extra attack can make all the difference, especially since the school's early options (spears and tridents) are common, high-accuracy, and low-skill. Demon tridents are an overall great pick, being one-handed, fast, high-damage, and often wielded by the merfolk dwelling the Shoals. Two-handed Polearms, namely glaives and bardiches, are damaging, but require much higher skill investment.

Polearms use Strength for their damage.


  • Reaching is a strong perk for many stages of the game.
  • Synergy with Summonings, god-granted allies (Beogh, Yredelemnul, etc), and spells like Conjure Flame.
  • Crosstrains with Axes and Maces & Flails.


  • Lower base damage than most other weapon types.
  • Small species have no good one-handed options.
  • Few species have great aptitudes with them (Merfolk are the most notable exception).

Physical Staves

Highest aptitudes: +2 (Minotaurs, Meteoran)

There are two physical Staves in the game -- quarterstaves and lajatangs. Both staves take little skill to master and deal great damage for said investment. They are also one of the few non-artefact weapons that can come with the speed brand. While not very common, Gladiators may start with a quarterstaff. Hybrid characters, especially those who are lucky or worship Okawaru, may enjoy Staves the most.

All staves use Strength for their damage.


  • Low skill requirements.
  • High power relative to skill investment.
  • Crosstrains with Polearms and Maces & Flails.


  • Two-handed.
  • Rather weak, overall.
    • Lajatangs are barely stronger than the largest one-handed weapons.
    • Quarterstaves are outdamaged by even common weapons like war axes (once they hit mindelay).
  • Somewhat rare.

Magical staves

Highest aptitudes: +2 (Minotaurs, Meteoran)

Magical staves' primary purpose is to boost the spellpower of whatever school they are specialized in. However, that doesn't mean you can't use them as bludgeoning tools! With 12 Staves skill, some Evocations, and the school of their choice, a magic staff can be used as an effective MP-saving weapon. The spellpower boost alone may convince a staff-finder to invest in a different school of spells; the actual item is just a nice bonus. A staff of conjuration in particular provides irresistible damage, in addition to buffing a very wide and versatile spell school.


  • Boosts spellpower, in addition to melee.
  • Most magical staves come with a resistance.
  • Surprising damage if you have a lot of skill in the magic school.


  • Fairly weak base type.
  • Unable to be enchanted or branded.
  • Most magical staves deal elemental damage, and are subject to enemy resistances.
  • Investing a lot in three skills (Magic, Staves, and Evocations) in addition to defensive skills and everything else is often a tough ask.

Ranged Weapons

Main Article: Ranged Weapons#Strategy

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 (at least without a lot of strength).

They all scale with dexterity rather than strength.



  • Most common ranged weapons are two-handed.
  • Slowed down heavily by armour encumbrance.
  • Weaker per hit than comparable melee weapons.
  • Arbalests, hand crossbows, triple crossbows all have a minimum delay of 1.0.

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 you can't even enchant it. Whenever this is good is largely gamestate dependent: a novice merfolk stuck with a spear might gladly take it, but its all but useless in combat compared to demon trident wielders.
    • As mentioned above, if you've trained another weapon skill and don't even have cross-training in that weapon, don't consider it. The exception is when you don't have many skills in the first place. Many artefacts, simply due to their high enchantment, will carry through the early game. Whenever you use their properties untrained or decide to use 'em as a jumping point, is mostly up to you.
  • Some properties are dangerous to wield, namely *Slow and *Rage. It's certainly still possible to use weapons with them, though you'll have to remain aware of their risks. Other negative properties like *Drain and *Corrode are much more tolerable in comparison.
  • Stat modifiers aren't the biggest deal in the world, though -5 Strength obviously won't help with damage, while +3 Int provides benefit even if you never actually hit your foes. Certain characters might have to beware of stat zero, however.
  • It might be worth keeping a weapon around if it provides some needed resistances, even if you only wield it when running away.


  • 0.29 Short/Long Blades and Ranged Weapons scale with Dex. Ranged weapons rework.
  • 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 greatly 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 crossbowLongbowShortbowSlingTriple crossbow
Short Blades DaggerQuick bladeRapierShort sword
Staves LajatangMagical staffQuarterstaff
Throwing BoomerangDartJavelinLarge rockStoneThrowing net