Sometimes you choose a weapon because it looks cool. Other times you choose a weapon that’s practical. And sometimes you choose a weapon that’s cheap. But most often you choose a weapon because it deals the most damage.
Two weeks ago we looked at building a 1st level character capable of dealing more damage than any other character. As part of the preparation for writing that article, I looked at a lot of weapons. It seemed wrong to just let all that number crunching go to waste, so presented here are the details about axes, hammers and spears.
If you’re going to choose an axe or a hammer and you’re playing a Dwarf, then you should seriously consider taking the Dwarven Weapon Training feat. This gives you proficiency with all axes and hammers and a +2 feat bonus to damage rolls.
If you’re going to choose a spear and you’re playing an Eladrin, then you should seriously consider taking the Eladrin Soldier feat. This gives you proficiency with all spears and a +2 feat bonus to damage rolls.
One-handed Axes: The frontrunners
- Khopesh, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d8 (brutal 1)
- Battle Axe, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d10
- War Axe, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d12
- Hand Axe, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d6 (heavy thrown)
Two-handed Axes: The frontrunners
- Double Axe, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d10 / 1d10 (defensive +1 AC)
- Urgrosh, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d12 (axe) / 1d8 (spear) (defensive +1 AC)
- Great Axe, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d12, high crit
- Halberd, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d10 (reach)
- Execution Axe, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d12 (brutal 2), high crit
The best choices are War Axe (one-handed) or Execution Axe (two-handed). The War Axe does more damage than the Battle Axe, otherwise they are identical. The Khopesh makes the short-list because it has the brutal property, but I’d still give the edge to the War Axe. I’ll trade much higher maximum damage (d12) for the ability to reroll a 1 on a d8 any day.
The Execution Axe is your absolute best two-handed axe. It provides the same +2 proficiency bonus as all the other axes, it does 1d12 damage just like the Great Axe, it’s got the high crit property and it also lets you re-roll a 1 or a 2 on damage thanks to its brutal property. The other choices just can’t compete with that kind of raw power.
You should also take a Hand Axe or two rather than an ordinary bow since the Hand Axe is heavy thrown which will allow you to use Str instead of Dex. And if you’ve got the Dwarven Weapon Training feat then you also get to add an additional +2 to damage. If your opponent is too far for you to hit it with a Hand Axe, then let a striker take care of it.
One-handed Hammers: The frontrunners
- War Hammer +2 proficiency bonus, 1d10
- Craighammer, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d10 (brutal 2)
- Throwing Hammer +2 proficiency bonus, 1d6 (heavy thrown)
Two-handed Hammers: The frontrunners
- Maul +2 proficiency bonus, 2d6
- Mordenkrad +2 proficiency bonus, 2d6 (brutal 1)
No contest, the best choices are Craighammer (one-handed) or Mordenkrad (two-handed). They’re the same in every way to the War Hammer and Maul respectively, except that my choices have the brutal property. Hey, if you want to keep the 1 you just rolled, that’s fine. I’d rather reroll it.
And as was the case with the axes, you should also take a Throwing Hammer or two in stead of a bow. The Throwing Hammer is heavy thrown which means you use your Str instead of your Dex. And as with the axes, if you’ve got the Dwarven Weapon Training feat you get to add an additional +2 to damage. Anything beyond your throwing arm isn’t your problem.
One-handed Spears: The frontrunners
- Spear, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d8
- Javelin, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d6 (heavy thrown)
- Trident, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d8 (heavy thrown)
- Tratnyr, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d8 (heavy thrown)
Two-handed Spears: The frontrunners
- Greatspear, +3 proficiency bonus, 1d10 (reach)
- Long Spear, +2 proficiency bonus, 1d10 (reach)
Compared to axes and hammers, there’s a lot less choice when it comes to spears. Your only one-handed melee option is the regular Spear. As far as two-handed melee options go, the Greatspear and the Long Spear are identical in all respects except for proficiency bonus. That gives the Greatspear the edge. A difference of +1 on attack scores can make all the difference especially at low levels.
I’d once again suggest taking a spear with the heavy thrown property in order to maximize Str bonuses and get that additional +2 bonus to damage if you’ve taken the Eladrin Soldier feat. The Javelin, Trident and Tratynr all have the same proficiency bonus and damage, so any of these three are good choices.
There you have it, axes, hammers and spears reviewed and analyzed for the maximum benefit of your character. The most significant hurdle with some of the choices I’ve recommended is that you need to select a special feat to get the most benefit out of the weapon. And therein lays the trade-off: If you want to deal a whole lot of damage, then you’ll most likely need to take a feat or two to have the most options. But if you’re all about dishing out the hurt,then I don’t think you’ll have any problems spending a feat on weapon training.