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Version 0.14: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.

Wielding is the action of holding an item in the hand, performed with the w key.

While an item is wielded, it will be used by your character to perform melee combat, so the main use of wielding is to ready weapons. Ranged weapons also require wielding before they can be used.

Wielding is also required for some items before their powers can be evoked. This includes rods, magical staves, decks of cards, and various miscellaneous items.

Wielding is sometimes required for spells that require a material component to be held in the hand, like Sandblast, which uses stones, or Sticks to Snakes, which uses arrows or javelins.

The game will warn the player if they attempt to perform melee combat with an unsuitable weapon, as this is a common mistake.

Wielding nothing

The player may choose to wield nothing and go empty handed, by pressing ‘-‘ (the minus key) when prompted for an item. Characters who intend to use Unarmed Combat will usually wield nothing.

Switching between weapons

Pressing ' (the apostrophe key) will attempt to wield and switch between the contents of the special inventory slots "a" and "b". The player may set their favorite weapons to these two slots by pressing the = key, then selecting items.

Note that you will not wield an item in one of those slots if it is unsuitable for wielding (i.e. food, armour, etc.); instead, you will simply wield nothing. This is useful for Unarmed Combat specialists, who can keep a bread ration or something in one of their slots to have a way to easily switch back to their fists.

Wielding failure

Wielding will fail if:

  • the item the player is trying to wield is too large for them
  • the player is already wielding a cursed weapon
  • the player tries to wield the item they are already wielding
  • the player tries to wield an item they are wearing
  • the player is berserk
  • the item requires two hands to wield and the player is wearing a shield
  • the item is vampiric, and the player is a living creature and does not have a Full or better satiation level

Exceptions to wielding

There are several items that do not require wielding to use. Wands can be zapped and throwing weapons can be thrown directly from the inventory, and many evocable items function this way as well. Note that most of these items require thumbs to use, so characters without thumbs (i.e. Felids and those in certain form changes) still won't be able to use them. Worshipers of Nemelex Xobeh may also draw cards from decks in their inventory for a small MP cost.

Wielding cursed weapons

A cursed weapon will stick to your hand when wielded, making it impossible to unwield or drop. This does not apply to any cursed armour you may decide to wield (though wearing such armour will make it stick).

Wielding distortion weapons

Unwielding distortion-branded weapons can cause severe Translocation miscast effects, including banishment to the Abyss. For this reason, low-level players should exercise caution in wielding known and possible distortion weapons (e.g., artefacts, melee weapons found in troves or dropped by powerful monsters). Risk-averse players can identify suspect weapons before wielding. An identified distortion weapon will always ask for a confirmation before wielding.


Prior to 0.9, the player was required to wield a sharp weapon for butchering.

Prior to 0.12, wielding a cursed, blunt weapon prevented butchering.