I'm making a character, and this part always had me confused, so a friend helped me but never explained.

When you do your weapon damage, like 1d12 + 4, you use your Strength modifier for the damage bonus of 4. But what ability do you use for javelins - is it Dexterity or Strength?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 11 at 1:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ BTW, you don't always use strength for weapon damage, as you said in the question. It is strength or dexterity based on the weapon. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Mar 11 at 13:26

You use strength

This is spelled out in the Basic Rules where it describes the Thrown weapon property (emphasis mine):

If a weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon to make a ranged attack. If the weapon is a melee weapon, you use the same ability modifier for that attack roll and damage roll that you would use for a melee attack with the weapon.

The modifier you use for a melee attack with a javelin is strength (can also be found in the Basic Rules in the Combat section):

Ability Modifier. The ability modifier used for a melee weapon attack is Strength

Since you would have been making a melee weapon attack with Strength, the Thrown property causes you to continue to use Strength, even though it's a ranged attack in this instance.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Vylix I'm more worried that a person may not know where to find the rule for what to use with a melee attack in general. I added a clarifying paragraph instead, \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 11 at 1:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ It took us a few months into our 5e sessions in 2014 to grok that the jav used str for damage and hit boost. Not an uncommon issue when coming from other editions. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 11 at 1:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast which editions used Dex for javelins? \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 11 at 6:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ 3e/3.5/Pathfinder all used Dex for to-hit with all ranged attacks (I think one of them had a feat allowing you to use Str for to-hit with thrown weapons specifically), I think 4e did as well but my 4e experience is pretty limited. They used Str for damage for thrown weapons (and composite bows) but Dex to hit... \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Mar 11 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András In the original game there was a +1 to hit for missile weapons with a 13+ dex. The details varied with editions, see gatherer's comment. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 11 at 15:28

Javelins use Strength.

Basically, Strength is the ability you use for calculating hit/damage, unless otherwise specified. For example, the Monk can use their Strength, or Dexterity, as they see fit:

You can use Dexterity instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of your unarmed strikes and monk weapons.


Or the finesse property, again allows you to use Strength, or Dex (the dagger, and darts have this property, for example):

Finesse. When making an attack with a finesse weapon, you use your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier for the attack and damage rolls. You must use the same modifier for both rolls.


The important thing to differentiate is that Ranged weapons use Dex, and Thrown weapons use Strength (unless they have the "Finesse" property, as explained above).


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