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This article is about the current version of DF.
Note that some content may still need to be updated.

This page deals entirely with manufactured weapons. For natural weapons, see Natural weapon.
Weapons sprites preview.png

A weapon, in the sense described on this page, is any item specifically designed to be wielded in combat against others. In fortress mode, weapons can be made at a metalsmith's forge (all metal weapons, including crossbows, and bolts in stacks of 25) using a single bar of metal*, a bowyer's workshop (wooden and bone crossbows and bolts in stacks of 25 or 5 respectively) with a single log or bone, or at a craftsdwarf's workshop (obsidian short swords* only) with one stone of obsidian plus one log.

(* No "wooden handle" is required for most non-wooden weapons. The unique obsidian option for short swords is the sole exception to this. Any metal weapons, including short swords made from metal, need no wood for their production.)

Graphically, each weapon's color palette will change according to the material used to make them, though this is currently the case with only dwarves. With kobolds, humans and goblins, all wielded weapons will appear as steel-made. A slight exception to this is elven "grown" wood weapons.

Many creatures with a humanoid form (giant, magma men, animal people, etc.), or even some non-humanoid creatures with hands can also wield weapons, which can be seen in the items tab after clicking on a creature, although their sprite will not reflect this. This is because only dwarves, humans, elves, goblins and kobolds currently have dedicated sprites to resemble what they're wearing and wielding.


Native vs. foreign[edit]

In fortress mode, weapons can be split into two categories: those that you can produce, and those that you can't. Weaponsmiths can produce seven types of native weapons at a metalsmith's forge, but there are also fourteen foreign weapons that can be found in the hands of enemy combatants, or bought from trading caravans (note, however, that due to bugs, several foreign weapons currently are effectively unusable by dwarves). These may use skills your dwarves are unfamiliar with, it is impossible to buy them in bulk, and they are of variable quality and material. Like all weapons, they tend to be expensive as trade goods, and may be worth using if you can secure a high-quality specimen (see Quality below). Since they are common for other nations, it is important to understand their properties when you have to fight enemies wielding them.

Types of weapons[edit]

Main article: Attack types

Mechanically, all weapon attacks are separated into "edge" and "blunt" types, although these can be further split into four practical categories:

  • Slashing
  • Piercing
  • Crushing
  • Ranged

(Weapons that are native to dwarven culture, that dwarves can create for themselves, are listed first, with foreign weapons, types that must be looted off dead enemies or traded for, listed in parentheses and italics. Dwarves can use many types of foreign weapons, but finding a good-quality one is rare.)

Slashing weapons[edit]

These work by concentrating their force along a sharp edge, allowing them to cut gashes in or to completely sever body parts. Severing is most likely when the body part's thickness is smaller than the weapon's contact edge. They make the quickest work of unarmored opponents who are not tremendously large. They are far less effective against armored targets, however, as armor will usually prevent the cutting, converting strikes into weaker blunt damage. An advantage of severing parts is that they cannot be targetted again, allowing dwarves to better focus on more vital parts.

Short swords are, generally speaking, less effective than axes. Although categorized as a "slashing" weapon, analysis of combat statistics shows that short swords also deliver piercing and bludgeoning blows (the latter from the butt-end of the handle). However, they do all of these less effectively than other weapons in those categories, making them the "Jack of all trades, master of none" weapon. However, if going against heavily armored opponents, they do have that occasional piercing attack as an advantage over axes, if only that. Also, if obsidian is available (along with spare wood), obsidian short swords can be produced outside of the usual metal industry chain of production.

Crushing weapons[edit]

Also known as "blunt" or "bludgeoning" weapons, these work by concentrating their force behind a tiny, blunt point, (notably, war hammers have half the contact area of spears), smashing right through armor and breaking bones beneath their blows. As broken bones cause extreme pain, living creatures that can feel it will often "give in" to it and fall unconscious very quickly. Attacks against such helpless targets will always result in perfectly accurate and perfectly square strikes to the head, which will usually cause fatal brain injury. Nevertheless, blunt weapons are still slower to kill unarmored enemies than slashing weapons are.

Piercing weapons[edit]

These work by concentrating their force at a point, allowing them to punch through armor and damage internal organs. They often get stuck in the opponent, forcing their wielder to spend valuable time pulling the weapon back out between uses.

Ranged weapons[edit]

These are effectively lightweight piercing weapons which work from a distance. When opponents engage the user in melee, the users are then forced to wield these weapons as melee weapons. Bows and crossbows both do extremely bad blunt damage over a contact area 100 times as wide as a war hammer, meaning it's far less likely for them to get through armor than such weapons.

Training weapons[edit]

There exists one more umbrella category of weapon: the so-called "training weapon". Training weapons are wooden, and are made at a carpenter's workshop. Training axes, spears, and short swords can be constructed in fortress mode. They all do blunt impact damage, but only a tiny amount due to the poor material properties of wood for a combat weapon. While every weapon is actually safe to use in sparring, the primary purpose of training weapons in fortress mode is to allow your dwarves to start training before you have a working metal industry. They can also be used during live combat exercises (beating upon a disarmed goblin, etc.) to extend the training session's length. Finally, they may be issued to the guards to reduce the lethality of a criminal beating.

Weapon skill[edit]

Every type of weapon has its own associated military skill. The higher a dwarf is in his skill with a weapon, the better he will be able to use it in combat, connecting hammer blows to more advantageous sweet spots and sending spears right through enemy hearts and lungs with greater accuracy. The higher the weapon skill, the better at fighting the dwarf will be.

Once a dwarf has reached "Great" skill in a certain weapon, they become [weapon] lords for that specific weapon. They are listed as such on the status screen, will love fighting, and will no longer complain about long patrol duties. Weapon skill is trained in fighting enemies in combat, demonstrations, and combat drills, but if you leave your dwarves shield-less, a danger room will train their skill very, very quickly. Note that this does not quite work for marksdwarves - danger rooming ranged weapons increases their melee skill, increasing their hammerdwarf skill, although this may be the point.


A dwarf that has used a particular weapon for a long time will grow attached to it, equipping it whenever their uniform allows them to. This is fine if they are wielding a ☼steel mace☼, but a major problem if they are wielding what is meant to be a training weapon (be it a wooden axe or a copper spear). You can avoid this pitfall by not using training weapons and not forging weapons until you have real weaponsmithing underway. These events generate announcements. If a dwarf does become attached, you can easily force him to relinquish the weapon by assigning a 'specific weapon' instead in his equipment view.

In addition, dwarves that reach a certain number or level of kills, or train long enough with a weapon, will name it. This prompts a major announcement. The weapon in question may have no kills associated with it (legendary dwarves occasionally name their weapons while training with them). Once named, the weapon will appear in the artifact list, albeit in blue. It is unknown if named weapons perform better than unnamed weapons. Dwarves may also become attached to shields and name them in the same way.

Quality and strange moods[edit]

The quality of a weapon has a significant impact on its combat performance, as well as its value.

Designation Description Value
Sharpness Weapon To-Hit /
Armor Deflect Modifier
Item Name +0 50%
-Item Name- Well-crafted 1.1× +3 60% 1.2×
+Item Name+ Finely-crafted 1.2× +6 70% 1.4×
*Item Name* Superior quality 1.333× +10 80% 1.6×
≡Item Name≡ Exceptional 1.5× +15 90% 1.8×
☼Item Name☼ Masterful +30 100%
Unique name Artifact 20× +300 100%
«Item Name» Decorated object Varies Varies unknown

Weaponsmithing is a moodable profession, which means that you can get artifact weapons. Artifact weapons have a 3x combat bonus and can be made out of a wide range of materials; ordinarily a hippo bone spear is impossible, but a moody dwarf can create one with a stack of hippo bone. Artifact weapons made of totally inappropriate materials are inferior to regular ones made of weapons-grade metal, although the exact balance is still under discussion. As with other moodable skills, a dwarf who creates an artifact using the weaponsmith skill stands a high chance of becoming a legendary weaponsmith.

Weapons as tools[edit]

Hunters use crossbows, wood cutters use battle axes, and miners use picks. They must be in possession of these items to do their jobs, and it's as simple as that.

Hunters gain marksdwarf skill from hunting, but wood cutters do not gain axedwarf weapon skill from cutting trees. Miners gain mining skill, which is not considered a military skill, but is used as a weapon skill when fighting with a pick. A dwarf using a weapon as a tool will not use the same tool as a military weapon, instead dropping their tool to pick up another for military use.Bug:1451 Dwarves may carry only one weapon as a tool at a time; for example, woodcutters/hunters will drop their axes then go and pick up crossbows every time they begin hunting.


Main article: Ammunition

Crossbows and other ranged weapons require ammunition (in the case of the crossbow, bolts). This ammunition is carried in a quiver in packs of about 25, and when they run out they will switch to using their ranged weapons as crude hammers. It's often a good idea to try to get them to retreat once they run out of ammo — crossbows are meant for shooting, not bashing.

Secondary weapons[edit]

Although it sounds like a cool idea, equipping a marksdwarf with a backup short sword "just in case" doesn't often work, as dwarves are just as quick to run up to their foes and start bashing them with a crossbow as they are to draw their swords and do it properly.

"Best" weapon choices[edit]

To put it simply, the combat system behind Dwarf Fortress is very complicated. It's not just a question of "What is the weapon with the biggest number?" - no such thing here. If you want technical specifics, that's addressed in the bottom half of this article (and elsewhere), but for now, from both study of the formulae and observed behavior, there are some patterns for what weapons seem to work "best" against certain targets, and what don't, and (basically) why.

Dwarf Fortress combat is rarely "one-shot", nor is it a long process of whittling away a huge pile of "hit points" (which do not exist in DF). Your best tactic is to try to quickly cripple or stun an opponent, so that you can then deliver a killing blow against a (momentarily) defenseless target, and then move on to the next opponent. The recommended weapons are chosen with this in mind.

Superior metal rule[edit]

As a general rule, if a weapon slashes or pierces, it wants to be made from a "better" metal than the armor it's trying to penetrate. If it is, it goes through more easily; if it is equal, it has some problems, and if it's inferior, it has some real problems. That does not mean that a copper spear can't hurt a superior-metal-clad target - just understand that the odds drop compared to weapons of equal metal, and, similarly, superior weapons start to ignore armor of inferior metal.

Also, note that this effectively works in steps - copper is weak against bronze/iron targets, but feeble against steel.

(Note: In this section, if 2 metals are equivalent to each other, they will be placed together in parentheses for ease of comparison.)

  • steel, the clear best*
  • (bronze or iron), very respectable, roughly equivalent** to each other
  • copper, a distant third
  • silver, a very distant last (included only because silver is listed to make slashing/piercing weapons)
(* There is also adamantine, which is late game only, in a different league from the rest. That is not the subject of a "basic" discussion.)
(** There are some "X weapon vs Y armor" situations where iron is slightly better, but a couple where bronze is actually better than iron - but each is a very specific case. "Roughly equivalent" is a good rule of thumb.)

Ranged attacks (for dwarves, crossbows, but also bows and arrows for enemies) are also piercing, and suffer even more from the "superior metal" rule, especially since everything except adamantine has essentially equal density when it comes to bolts due to their max velocity and force. It can be very disheartening to see all those cheap bolts bounce off their armored targets when it matters most.

vs. unarmored[edit]

This includes most wild animals, siege-mounts, thieves, kobolds, etc. Leather/bone armor helps against animal attacks, not against metal weapons.

It may also include some semi-megabeasts and megabeasts, depending on specifics.

  • recommended weapon: any sharp weapon

Most unarmored creatures are biological beings much larger than dwarf, a situation where spear excels at reaching the vitals. Axes have 60% the penetration and swords 40% of the penetration of spears, but much larger areas, which leads to much more bleeding and more chance of pulping. In theory, all edged weapons follow the "superior metal" rule, but, against unarmored targets, skin and bone will always lose to any edged metal weapon - even silver! (However, see "vs. undead", below.)

Blunt weapons can break bones, which stuns the target and allows a killing blow, but removing a limb is obviously better. War hammers break bones more easily than maces, causing pain, though maces achieve total pulping blows sooner. However, unless you're facing small enemies even the best blunt weapon is going to lose to the worst sharp weapon.

Crossbows can hit a vital organ, knee or guts if lucky, but otherwise are slow to cripple and may get off only 2-3 shots before melee combat begins. They are, however, excellent for chasing down fleeing targets, making them ideal against various thieves/wildlife.

And the bonus lesson here is... armor your military.

vs. armored[edit]

Usually showing up only during a siege or ambush. Quality has a significant effect, but copper chain pieces have much less stopping power than bronze/iron plate pieces.

  • recommended weapon: steel spear
  • other choices: any steel sharp weapon, any warhammer or pick

Your typical goblin or human sieges will never have steel. Even when undead have it, the coverage is only partial.

Steel spears are the only edged weapon that can consistently pierce armor. Unless held by an extremely strong dwarf or made of adamantine, a sword will have difficulty getting through a breastplate, and an axe never will.

Steel swords have biggest variety of attacks, allowing them to both stab organs and remove limbs. Picks have the velocity of a blunt weapon with the edge of a sharp weapon, giving them extra punch. Functionally, having "superior metal" will make the battle much like removing enemy armor.

(Note also that piercing weapons have a chance to get stuck in an opponent, which can lead to wrestling to get the weapon out, or to apply more punishment.)

Blunt weapons work on flexible chain just as well as against an unarmored opponent, and can deform solid armor (which is everything "not chain") to land a killing blow. Warhammers are superior to maces in penetrating solid, "non-chain" armor and breaking bones.

Slashing weapons really suffer here, and especially so against non-chain targets. It's critical that they be superior metal if you want any chance of them having much reliable effect against heavy armor. A lucky blow can still take a limb, but often slashing blows just do little more than anger the target, even with steel.

Crossbows suffer doubly from superior metal issues against chain, and it only gets worse against plate 3

vs. undead[edit]

  • recommended weapon: mace or war hammer if you want to have a single corpse, axe if you want efficiency.
  • other choices: sword will do a fine job.


"Maces did indeed perform the best in terms of creating the smallest number of additional reanimated opponents. They always scored perfectly and thus don’t have a margin of error. Axes produced the largest number of additional reanimated opponents, and spears produced relatively few reanimated body parts...(However) Axes and spears tie for fastest and maces come a distant third. Although it is true that an axe is much messier than a mace, it seems that an axe’s greater killing ability more than compensates for this problem. Maces thus appear to be the best choice when cleanliness is a priority but the worst choice when combat efficiency is important."

  • Newest Dwarven !!Science!! shows that while axe create a messy pile of reanimated corpse, the axe generally takes only 1/3 the time to kill all the reanimated bits. Therefore without considering the extra hauling labor, battle axe is the superior solution to reanimated corpse.

War hammers can be preferable to maces when fighting living enemies that you don't want to resurrect. Killing a living enemy with a war hammer will usually result in a mangled corpse just like in the case of maces, but a war hammer will deal more damage due to its superior ability to penetrate outer layers and damage internal organs and bones, as well as better ability to stun enemies. An axe can still kill unarmored living creatures faster, but it will cut off limbs and head which can later resurrect. Resurrected body parts are often easy to kill, even for unarmed dwarves (although sometimes they are significantly stronger, such as a resurrected neck killing multiple dwarves), but can generate job cancellation spam and unhappy thoughts from being attacked by the dead. Also, resurrected body parts may need to be killed many times before they are mangled, even when using maces or war hammers.

vs. Undead megabeast and other large fleshy creatures[edit]

    • recommended weapon if has access to steel: large army with steel spears.
    • recommended weapon if has access to adamantine: adamantine axe.
    • unrecomended weapon: anything inferior than steel.

The result varies between axe, spear and sword. When a squad of 4 armored dwarves fight an undead cyclops with metal inferior to adamantine, only the ones armed with steel spears have a chance of winning. The squads with axe, mace and sword stand no fighting chance.

With an adamantine weapon, however, axe and sword outperforms spear. Even one grandmaster axedwarf with an adamantine axe stands a chance to defeat the undead cyclops.

vs. others[edit]

This category consists of the rare "not like anything else" creature, the type you get when you breach the caverns or magma (or deeper), or once your fortress is large enough to get their attention.

  • recommended weapon: (varies)
  • other choices: any steel axe (depending), crossbow (from behind fortifications), whip

There are many different types here, and no one approach works for all. Some are merely gigantic but (more or less) "normal", but many are non-organic, and most enjoy the "don't feel pain" tag, including titans, forgotten beasts, bronze colossuses, iron men, and hidden fun stuff. Many of these enemies have no internal organs while being huge, weakening the effectiveness of pain and pierce. Some are still flesh and blood, and they're functionally like unarmored wildlife, but some are made from some material that may be very difficult to slash at.* In the worst case of being made of steel, it leaves chipping away at the target until they collapse from cumulative damage, which means either penetrating a LOT of armor (warhammer or ideally whip) or breaking everything (mace). Some few megabeasts are metal (e.g. bronze colossus), and the "superior metal" rule goes strongly in effect there - use steel sharp weapons for them, though whip would be best if you don't have those.

(* although a forgotten beast made of, for instance, "mud" is laughably easy to kill)

Ranged attacks are useful for taking care of the ones who are unapproachable themselves while being incredibly fragile. And at the very least, you're at less risk when raining down bolts from above, even if it won't do much damage.

Final verdict[edit]

Now, all that said, overall, if you had to choose one "least worst" weapon, it would probably have to be... the steel short sword. It has no true counters, no enemy it cannot ever defeat - while axes falls to iron men and copper armor and maces/hammers/spears falls to big creatures. If you cannot get steel, a second option would be the goblin-made whip, which is still somewhat effective against bronze colossuses and big beasts, and maces and hammers will always be effective no matter what they're made of.

Outside that, for edged/piercing weapons (axe, spear, bolts, and sword) against unarmored (and non-"unusual" targets) any metal will be overpowered, easily cutting/chopping/piercing all equally. Soft targets aside, make edged/piercing weapons out of the best metal you can (steel > iron > bronze > copper > silver) for use against armor, if/when you meet that. Crushing weapons (in order: hammer, mace, and crossbow in melee) can be any metal, with silver or steel each slightly preferable. If you want to add megabeasts into the consideration, go with steel to be safe, for any weapon type.


From here down, there are tables of values pulled from the raws, some technical analyses, a few statistical observations, and some solid and speculative inferences and conclusions.

Insert obligatory "math warning" here.


Native weapons[edit]

Type Graphic Size Attack Attack type Contact Area Penetration Velocity Skill Used Hands
Metal Wood Bone Obsidian
Battle Axe Battle axe sprite.png 800 Hack Edge 40000 6000 1.25× Axe one Yes No No No
Flat slap Blunt 40000 (6000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0×
Crossbow (Melee) Crossbow sprite.png 400 Bash Blunt 10000 (4000) 1.25× Hammer two Yes Yes Yes No
Mace Mace sprite.png 800 Bash Blunt 20 (200) 2.0× Mace one Yes No No No
Pick (foreign) Pickaxe sprite.png 500 Strike Edge 100 4000 2.0× Mining one Yes No No No
Short Sword Short sword sprite.png 300 Slash Edge 20000 4000 1.25× Sword one Yes No No Yes
Stab Edge 50 2000 1.0×
Flat slap Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0×
Spear Spear sprite.png 400 Stab Edge 20 10000 1.0× Spear one Yes No No No
Shaft bash Blunt 10000 (6000) 1.25×
War Hammer War hammer sprite.png 400 Bash Blunt 10 (200) 2.0× Hammer one Yes No No No

Note that although the pick is a foreign weapon, it can be produced by dwarves and is therefore considered native.Bug:680


  • If you find your dwarves wearing more than one weapon – or any unwanted armor, for that matter – one way to get rid of them is to dump the weapon from their v-i inventory screen. This does not always work, as they might re-equip the item. Another option is to remove any weapons and/or shields listed on their military equip screen. This too does not always work. At least "left-handedness" seems to not pose a problem. If you cancel the work by v-p and selecting a job that needs a tool they will sometimes put it back in the pile. Example: Miners use picks, cancel their mining job and they will put the pick away AFTER you ordered it to be dumped.
  • Using weapons is much more effective than unarmed combat – an untrained swordsdwarf with an iron weapon can defeat a grand master wrestler, provided neither is wearing armor. Larger weapons tend to do more damage due to the momentum formula
  • The size for a weapon is its volume in cm3.
  • Attacks of type EDGE will either slice or pierce their target, depending on the contact area and penetration depth, while BLUNT attacks tend to damage internal organs without necessarily causing significant damage to outer layers.
  • The contact area represents the area of contact of the weapon, and the penetration determines how deep the attack goes (and is apparently ignored entirely for BLUNT attacks – indicated by numbers in parentheses). The game does not distinguish between "piercing" and "slashing" attacks, despite this page using those terms often--the only difference is that piercing weapons have small contact area and slashing ones have large contact area. Penetration tends to be the same between either, but large contact area makes it much more difficult for weapons to get through armor--armor that a spear can barely pierce would require 400 times as much momentum for an axe to pierce.
  • The velocity is a direct multiplier on the attack's momentum - for example, war hammers have a 2x velocity multiplier, presumably to model the fact that the hammer's mass is concentrated at the tip which, when combined with a long handle, permits swinging it harder than a weapon whose mass is evenly distributed (such as a sword).
  • Crossbows can be made of metal, wood, and bone. Metal crossbows are made by a weaponsmith at a forge, while wood and bone crossbows are made by a bowyer at a bowyer's workshop. The material of a crossbow does not affect its firing ability, only its melee damage. A dwarf's marksmanship skill is only affected by the core quality of the bow. This may be a consideration when deciding which dwarf you want outfitting your marksdwarves: a legendary bowyer is a better choice than a proficient weaponsmith.
  • Dwarves will never select a pick for a weapon if allowed "individual choice." You must specify picks as part of their uniform, or on the individual equip screen, if you wish to utilize them as weapons.

Training weapons[edit]

All training weapons must be made of wood at the carpenter's workshop.

Type Graphic Size Attack Attack type Contact Area Penetration Velocity Skill Used
Training Axe Training axe sprite.png 800 Hack Blunt 30000 (6000) 1.25× Axe
Flat slap Blunt 30000 (6000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0×
Training Sword Training sword sprite.png 300 Slash Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25× Sword
Stab Blunt 50 (2000) 1.0×
Flat slap Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0×
Training Spear Training spear sprite.png 400 Stab Blunt 200 (10000) 1.0× Spear
Shaft bash Blunt 10000 (6000) 1.25×

Foreign weapons[edit]

Using any multi-grasp weapon in a single hand (i.e. with a shield in the other hand) gives you a disability to hit - do not equip two-handed swords with a shield, for instance. The game will not stop you from doing this, so be wary about it.

In adventurer mode, however, if your character passes the one-handed check for single-handing a multi-grasp weapon, it is possible to wield a two-handed sword, or any multi-grasp weapon, in one hand without penalty (allowing for the simultaneous use of a shield). For example, if you create a human character, and manage to spawn into a world with a "broad body" or a "tall body" in the character description, you will be able to single-hand any multi-grasp weapon (and will be forced to, much like you are forced to single-hand any single-grasp weapon), which allows for the simultaneous, disability-free use of a shield, thus making your damage and defensive capabilities much higher than they would be with a single-grasp weapon and shield. Note that upping Strength to Superior (and eventually Superhuman) will make all attacks more likely to deal extra damage, making cutting off the limbs of your enemies much easier.

Type Graphic Size Attack Attack type Contact Area Penetration Velocity Skill Used Used by Hands Used (average human)
Two-handed sword Two handed sword sprite.png 900 Slash Edge 100000 8000 1.25× Sword Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Stab Edge 50 4000 1.0×
Flat slap Blunt 100000 (8000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0×
Blowgun (Melee) Blowgun sprite.png 150 Bash Blunt 10000 (4000) 1.25× Sword Subterranean animal people Single-grasp
Bow (Melee) Bow sprite.png 300 Bash Blunt 10000 (4000) 1.25× Sword Elf, Goblin, Human, Kobold Single-grasp
Flail Flail sprite.png 500 Bash Blunt 200 (4000) 2.5× Mace Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Great Axe Great axe sprite.png 1300 Hack Edge 60000 8000 1.25× Axe Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Flat slap Blunt 60000 (8000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0×
Halberd Halberd sprite.png 1200 Slash Edge 20000 8000 1.25× Axe Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Stab Edge 50 2000 1.0×
Shaft bash Blunt 20000 (6000) 1.25×
Dagger (Large) Dagger sprite.png 200 Slash Edge 1000 800 1.25× Dagger Goblin, Kobold Single-grasp
Stab Edge 5 1000 1.0×
Pommel strike Blunt 20 (600) 1.0×
Long Sword Long sword sprite.png 700 Slash Edge 60000 6000 1.25× Sword Elf, Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Stab Edge 50 3000 1.0×
Flat slap Blunt 60000 (6000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0×
Maul Maul sprite.png 1300 Bash Blunt 100 (6000) 2.0× Hammer Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Morningstar Morningstar sprite.png 500 Bash Edge 10 500 2.0× Mace Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Pommel strike Blunt 50 (1000) 1.0×
Pike Pike weapon sprite.png 800 Stab Edge 20 12000 1.0× Pike Goblin, Human Multigrasp
Shaft bash Blunt 10000 (6000) 1.25×
Scimitar Scimitar sprite.png 300 Slash Edge 20000 4000 1.25× Sword Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Stab Edge 50 2000 1.0×
Flat slap Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25×
Pommel strike Blunt 50 (1000) 1.0×
Scourge Scourge sprite.png 300 Lash Edge 10 50 2.0× Whip Goblin Single-grasp
Whip Whip sprite.png 100 Lash Blunt 1 (10) 5.0× Whip Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Stone axe Stone axe sprite.png 400 Hack Edge 800 400 1.25× Axe Player in adventurer mode Single-grasp
Slap Blunt 800 400 1.25×
Strike Blunt 20 400 1.0×
Carving knife Carving knife sprite.png 150 Slash Edge 800 600 1.25× Dagger Non-warrior NPCs in adventurer mode Single-grasp
Stab Edge 4 800 1.0×
Strike Blunt 15 400 1.0×
Boning knife Boning knife sprite.png 50 Slash Edge 500 300 1.25× Dagger Non-warrior NPCs in adventurer mode Single-grasp
Stab Edge 2 400 1.0×
Strike Blunt 10 200 1.0×
Slicing knife Slicing knife sprite.png 150 Slash Edge 900 700 1.25× Dagger Non-warrior NPCs in adventurer mode Single-grasp
Stab Edge 3 900 1.0×
Strike Blunt 15 400 1.0×
Meat cleaver Meat cleaver sprite.png 300 Hack Edge 800 400 1.25× Axe Non-warrior NPCs in adventurer mode Single-grasp
Clap Blunt 800 400 1.25×
Strike Blunt 20 400 1.0×
Carving fork Carving fork sprite.png 150 Stab Edge 1 100 1.25× Dagger Non-warrior NPCs in adventurer mode Single-grasp
Strike Blunt 15 400 1.0×

Special variations[edit]

Some rare entities have their own procedurally generated variations of weapons. Currently, these weapons are produced by copying the default properties of the "base" weapon, and adding an adjective ("bulky", "large-headed", "branching", etc.) or renaming the weapon altogether ("blade", "curved sword"). Dwarves in strange moods which select from all weapons with a certain tag may produce one of these procedurally generated weapons. Since they retain the properties of their base items, these weapons should be as usable as a standard weapon of the base type.


Weapons have a minimum size to use at all, and a minimum size to use one-handed. Adult dwarves vary in size between 33750 and 93750 (average 60000) based on their height and broadness. Unfortunately, this is currently bugged in fortress mode.Bug:0005812 'One-handed' vs. 'two-handed' checks are performed correctly, but 'can wield' vs. 'can't wield' ignores height and broadness modifiers. So dwarves in fortress mode will never equip two-handed swords, great axes, halberds, mauls, or pikes. Other weapons have a minimum wielding size of less than 60000, and are wielded one-handed if the individual dwarf is large enough. See this forum post.

The following table shows approximately how many dwarves should be able to use each weapon one- or two-handed (see this forum post for details), with all fractional numbers being approximate. While there are seven categories each for height and broadness, the number used is chosen randomly from within each category.

Note that there are other factors (such as fat and muscle mass) affecting dwarf size, and e.g. DFHack Alt+I will take them into account, but (at least in adventure mode) only base height and broadness appear to determine weapon wieldability.

Additionally, even if a creature is large enough to wield a weapon with one hand/appendage, it is still possible to wield it with both/more through wrestling by first lodging it into a target, then grabbing it with a free hand/appendage, and then pulling it free.

Where the size checking bug affects weapon wielding for dwarves, correct approximate figures are given in brackets.

Type Min Size


Min Size



Can't Wield

Dwarves Wield


Dwarves Wield


Battle Axe 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Crossbow (Melee) 15000 0 - - 49/49
Mace 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Pick 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Short Sword 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Spear 5000 47500 - 11/49 38/49
War Hammer 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Training Axe 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Training Sword 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Training Spear 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
2H Sword 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Blowgun (Melee) 15000 0 - - 49/49
Bow (Melee) 15000 0 - - 49/49
Flail 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Great Axe 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Halberd 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Dagger (Large) 5000 27500 - - 49/49
Long Sword 52500 57500 11/49 (0) 7/49 (18/49) 31/49
Maul 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Morningstar 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Pike 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Scimitar 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Scourge 22500 27500 - - 49/49
Whip 22500 27500 - - 49/49


Weapons and armor (with a few exceptions) can only be forged from weapon-grade metals (adamantine, steel, iron, silver, bronze, bismuth bronze, copper, and divine metal), wood, or bone. The exceptions include obsidian short-swords and items created during a strange mood.

Metal Value Density Impact yield Impact fracture Impact elasticity Shear yield Shear fracture Shear elasticity Notes
Adamantine 300 0.200 5000 5000 0 5000 5000 0
Divine metal 300 1.0 1000 2000 0 1000 2000 0
Steel 30 7.85 1505 2520 940 430 720 215
Bismuth bronze 6 8.25 602 843 547 172 241 156
Bronze 5 8.25 602 843 547 172 241 156
Iron 10 7.85 542 1080 319 155 310 189
Copper 2 8.93 245 770 175 70 220 145
Silver 10 10.49 350 595 350 100 170 333
Platinum 40 21.4 350 700 152 100 200 164 Only available as artifact weapons.
Bone 1 0.50 200 200 100 115 130 100
Wood 1 0.50 10 10 1000 40 40 1000
Shell 1 0.50 200 200 100 115 130 100 Only available as artifact weapons.
Leather 1 0.50 10 10 50000 25 25 50000 Material data added for comparison.
Obsidian 3 2.67 1000 1000 2222 35 35 114 Only available for Short Swords.
Crystal glass 10 2.6 1000 1000 2222 33 33 113 Only available as trap components.
Clear glass 5 2.6 1000 1000 2222 33 33 113 Only available as trap components.
Green glass 2 2.6 1000 1000 2222 33 33 113 Only available as trap components.
  • Combat information is used internally by the game to determine the combat properties of weapons and armor made from this metal:
    • Density: Used in conjunction with other factors - heavier weapons (higher numbers) hit with a bit more force, very light weapons tend to have less penetration. Value shown here is g/cm3, which is the raw value divided by 103
    • Impact yield: Used for blunt-force combat; higher is better for blunt weapons, but lower is better for armor. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Impact fracture: Used for blunt-force combat; higher is better. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Impact elasticity (or strain at yield): Used for blunt-force combat; lower is better. This is the raw value.
    • Shear yield: Used for cutting calculations in combat; higher is better. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Shear fracture: Used for cutting calculations in combat; higher is better. This is the most important indicator of edged strength. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Shear elasticity (or strain at yield): Used for cutting calculations in combat; lower is better. This is the raw value.
  • General Term Explanations (from Wikipedia)
    • Yield Strength - The stress at which material strain changes from elastic deformation to plastic deformation, causing it to deform permanently.
    • Fracture Strength - The stress coordinate on the stress-strain curve at the point of rupture.
    • Stress - Force per area = F/A
    • Strain - Deformation of a solid due to stress = Stress/Young's Modulus


  • Yield Strength is the amount of stress required to permanently deform (bend) a material (plastic deformation).
  • Fracture Strength is the amount of stress required to permanently break (rupture) a material.
  • Elasticity or Strain at yield is the amount of deformation (bending) that occurs at the yield point.


Yield strength combined with strain at yield can tell what a material will do under stress (be it from a hammer, axe, or arrow); higher yield means that it takes more stress to deform, while lower strain at yield means that it will deform less when stress is applied.

Combat formulae[edit]

Penetration is poorly understood, but most of the rest of combat is fairly well understood. Maybe it defines how deep a blade may go through layers of armor and flesh and bones and even cut off limbs. This may explain why it does not apply for blunt attacks that do not go through layers.

First, you need to calculate your weapon's momentum.

Melee Weapon Momentum: M = Skill * Size * Str * Vel / (106 * (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size) ))

  • Dwarf Melee Momentum: M = 0.06 * Str * Vel / (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size) )
  • Quick attacks halve melee momentum, wild and heavy attacks multiply it by 1.5
  • Attacking a prone opponent in melee doubles momentum.

Ranged Weapon Momentum: M = (w_density*w_size)/105 * min(105*(SHOOT_FORCE/20)/(w_density*w_size), SHOOT_MAXVEL/10)

  • Bow and Crossbow Momentum: M = (w_density*150)/105 * min(105/(w_density*3), 20)
    • If 20 is smaller because the ammunition is density 1666 or less, M = w_density*3/100 = w_density*0.03
    • If 20 is larger because the ammunition is density 1667 or larger, M = 50
  • Blowgun Momentum: M = (w_density*20)/105 * min(105/(w_density*4), 100)
    • If 100 is smaller because the ammunition is density 250 or less, M = w_density/50 = w_density*0.02
    • If 100 is larger because the ammunition is density 251 or more, M = 5


  • M is the momentum.
  • Skill is a gradual multiplier based on skill level, from 1x base up to 2x at Grand Master.
  • Str is the creature's strength (e.g. 1250 for the average dwarf)
  • Vel is the weapon's velocity modifier if present (e.g. 1.25x, 2x)
  • Size is the average creature size (e.g. 60000 for dwarves)
  • i_Size is the specific creature's size
    • Dwarves range from a minimum size of 33750 to a maximum size of 93750, with an average size of 60000.
  • F is "fatness modifier" (also includes muscle) = i_Size/Size; dwarf with size of 66150 will have F=66150/60000=1.1025
  • w_density is the weapon's material's density for melee weapons, or the ammunition's density for ranged weapons
  • w_size is the weapon's size for melee weapons, or the ammunition's size for ranged weapons
  • SHOOT_FORCE is the ranged weapon's SHOOT_FORCE constant, which is used to determine its maximum momentum.
  • SHOOT_MAXVEL is the ranged weapon's SHOOT_MAXVEL constant, which is used to determine its maximum velocity, where ammo momentum = ammo mass * ammo velocity.

An edged weapon undergoes the following comparison:

M >= (aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF) * (10 + 2*a_quality) / (Sha * w_quality),


  • aSY is the armor's SHEAR_YIELD, which is based on its material
  • wSY is the weapon's SHEAR_YIELD, which is based on its material
  • aSF is the armor's SHEAR_FRACTURE, which is based on its material
  • wSF is the weapon's SHEAR_FRACTURE, which is based on its material
  • A is attack contact area
  • Sha is weapon material sharpness multiplier (1x for most metals, 1.2x for divine metal, 1.5x for glass, 2x for obsidian, 10x for adamantine and 0.1x for all other materials)
  • w_quality is weapon quality multiplier (1x for normal quality, 1.4x for fine, 2x for masterwork, etc.)
  • a_quality is armor quality multiplier

Expressed in the above terms,

  • 0.06 * Str * Vel / (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size)) >= (aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF) * (10 + 2*Qa) / (Sha * w_quality)
  • 0.06 * Sha * w_quality * Str * Vel / (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size)) >= (aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF) * (10 + 2*a_quality)
  • 0.06 * Sha * w_quality * Str * Vel / ((1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size)) * (10 + 2*a_quality)) >= aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF

Because Shear Yield and Shear Fracture are always within a power of 10 of each other for actually available materials, but the smallest possible A value is 20 (a blowgun dart, which is smaller than the smallest item of clothing/armor a dwarf can wear), this means that in practice, Shear Fracture is significantly more important than Shear Yield, and you can reliably compare weapons and armor without paying attention to Shear Yield. In both cases, higher is better on both weapons and armor, as is quality. Sharpness only matters to the weapon, and smaller contact area is better for the attacker.

If the test is passed, attack momentum is decreased by some 5% and the layer is considered punctured/severed, and the process continues to the next layer, including working through layers of the defender's body. If the test is failed, the attack becomes blunt for this layer.

If the attack is blunt, either due to starting off blunt or due to failing the above test, it is then subjected to this test:

2 * w_size * wIY > A * a_density


  • a_density is the armor material's density
  • wIY is the weapon's impact yield in MPa (i.e. raw value divided by 106).[Verify]

Failure means the attack bounces off, meaning denser, larger armor resists blunt attacks better, but larger blunt weapons with smaller contact areas and higher impact yields get through armor better. This also means adamantine armor is some of the worst in the game at outright deflecting attacks, due to its poor density, but this is not typically relevant, as impact yields are typically at least 10 times larger than density values for the actual metals available, so this step is routinely passed by most weapons regardless of relative materials.

On success, the following test is applied:

M >= (2*aIF - aIY) * (2 + 0.4*a_quality) * A,


  • aIF is the armor's impact fracture in MPa (i.e. raw value divided by 106)
  • aIY is the armor's impact yield in MPa (i.e. raw value divided by 106).

Note that the armor wants as high impact fracture as possible to make this test fail. The armor also wants low impact yield, although the weapon's impact fracture does not matter, and high quality and high contact area.

On a success, attack momentum is decreased by some 5% and the layer is considered punctured/severed, and the process continues to the next layer, including working through layers of the defender's body. If the attack was edged, it becomes edged again. On a failure, the momentum is multiplied by SHEAR_STRAIN_AT_YIELD/50000 for edged attacks or IMPACT_STRAIN_AT_YIELD/50000 for blunt attacks, then it becomes *permanently* blunt, and is passed on to the next layer. This means most rigid metal armor will reduce blocked attacks by 98%-99%, but elastic armor, such as a mail shirt, has both strain at yield values raised to 50000, so it multiplies by 1 at this step (i.e. does nothing to the momentum, but does still convert it to blunt) regardless of material.

Combat testing[edit]

In regards to edged weaponry: adamantine and steel take first and a distant second place respectively, with iron a slightly less distant third best material in the game, nearly matched by the bronzes. Beyond that is copper, the second worst material, and silver is the worst weapon material available (and due to the existence of training weapons, not even useful in that regard).

Additionally, with regards to blunt weapons, almost all of the non-adamantine materials perform equally well, with a very slight edge towards steel and silver. Here is the thread with the details: [1].

Keep in mind with how unbelievably complicated this system is very little should be taken as word of law yet.

Best Better Good Fair Poor Terrible Notes
Armor Adamantine Steel Iron Bronze, Bismuth Bronze Copper
Edged Weapons Adamantine Steel Iron Bronze, Bismuth Bronze Copper Silver For piercing iron armor, copper is better than bronze, but when piercing copper or bronze armor, bronze is better than copper.
Ammunition Steel, Iron, Bronze, Bismuth Bronze, Copper, Silver Adamantine Adamantine bolts deflect off of adamantine armor, but otherwise their performance is on par with bolts made out of other metals.
Blunt Weapons Platinum, Slade Steel, Silver Copper, Bismuth Bronze, Bronze, Iron Adamantine All six standard weapon metals perform nearly identically. Steel has a slightly higher rate of critical wounds, while silver is slightly more likely to penetrate armor. Platinum (only available as artifact weapons) has twice the density of silver and several other improved properties, making it the best metal for impact weapons, though very limited in production. Adamantine's light weight makes it a terrible choice for blunt weapons, roughly the same as making a weapon out of featherwood or cork.

Cross referencing this table with the table at the top of this section seems to indicate that low densities, high impact fractures, and high shear fractures contribute to the killing power of edged weapons.


Testing of weapons (15 dwarves-versus-15 dwarves combat) in the object testing arena shows that the best dwarven-made weapon against unarmored humanoids is the battle axe, while the war hammer performs the best against armored targets. v0.31.12.

Even in 15×(steel armor+silver war hammer) versus 15×(adamantine armor+adamantine battle axe) matches, hammerdwarves won with less than 50% casualties (mostly one-strike kills). However, when the dwarves in question were without armor or only wearing leather/cloth, the result was inverted — axedwarves won with less than 50% casualties. In battles against megabeasts, 6 silver hammerdwarves were barely able to scratch a bronze colossus (attacks were glancing away) due to bronze being a better "weapon" material.

This is because silver has the highest solid density of all materials that can regularly be made into weapons by dwarves. Tests show that indeed gold and platinum (increasingly dense) do increasing amounts of damage, and that war hammers remain the tool of choice, however they can only be produced by a moody dwarf (and a very lucky one at that).

For more on ranged ammunition see the forum thread Dwarven Research: A Comparison Study on the Effectiveness of Bolts vs Armors.

More arena tests are available in the Military testing article.


  • Equipping weapons/armor on military is erratic. This is likely due to a single piece of weapons/armor being erroneously assigned to multiple dwarves and seems to occur when dwarves are upgrading their equipment or going on raids. Removing and reassigning equipment for all military dwarves can temporarily fix this problem.Bug:535
  • 'One-handed' vs. 'two-handed' checks are performed correctly, but 'can wield' vs. 'can't wield' ignores height and broadness modifiers, so dwarves in Fortress mode cannot equip two-handed swords, great axes, halberds, mauls, or pikes.Bug:5812
  • In the Premium version, the sprite sheets for equipped gear are mostly incomplete. The material of equipped gear is currently distinguished for dwarves, for elves' and kobolds' armor (including metal armor), and for elves' wooden weapons; everything else has a default, 'gray' color palette.
  • The Premium version has placeholder sprites for equipped artifact gear (which can be any material), but these are not used for gear of nonstandard materials spawned in the object testing arena, resulting in creatures that use them appearing un-equipped.

See also[edit]

Ranged and ammunition
Blowgun and blowdart · Bow and arrow · Crossbow and bolt
Edged (slashing)
Edged (piercing)
Dagger · Morningstar · Pick · Pike · Spear
See also: Attack types
Beekeeping · Farming · Fishing · Gathering · Meat · Poultry · Stone · Wood
Alcohol · Armor · Arms · Ceramic · Extract · Finished goods · Fuel · Furniture · Gem · Glass · Metal · Paper · Soap · Textile