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Disarming in D&D seems to be very trivial, as explained in this question. Rules as Written, disarming a creature does not prevent them from attacking you with that weapon on their turn as they can use their free object interaction to pick it up and take the Attack action with that weapon. To me, this seems like Disarm was added in as an afterthought, it appears to be near-useless because the disarmed creature can pick up their weapon immediately on their turn.

Over the years, numerous people have suggested using your own object interaction to get the weapon away from the enemy, including Jeremy Crawford suggesting this not once but at least twice.

Others have suggested creating a homebrew rule that allows for Opportunity Attacks against a creature that tries to pick up a disarmed weapon in combat.

Although, whilst both of these options serve to make disarming a creature more beneficial to the disarmer, one of them isn’t an official rule and the other isn’t exactly intuitive, forcing you to use your own interaction just to prevent the opponent from using theirs on their turn.


However, what if there already was a rule that made disarm better, but it was simply overlooked? If “searching for a disarmed weapon” was a feature of the Search action, all of a sudden Disarm becomes significantly more useful. If in order for a disarmed opponent to use their object interaction to pick their weapon up, they first had to use the Search action to find it, this would prevent them from taking the Attack action on that same turn, as per the action economy.

Now, an opponent still could attack instead of searching for their missing weapon; however the disarmed weapon would likely be their main one, meaning future attacks will likely do less damage (e.g. losing their 1d8 rapier and instead using their backup weapon, a 1d4 dagger). Essentially though, disarming your opponent might allow you to avoid, or at least reduce, their damage on their next turn.

As far as I am aware, there is no mention of the Search action being used in this way. However, the wording of the Search action would seem to allow for this and again, as far as I am aware, there is no published list of examples for what a Search action can or can’t be used for.


So, my question is:

What are the ramifications of requiring a creature who has been disarmed having to Search for their weapon before being allowed to use an object interaction to pick it up?


Disclaimer:

Many people seem to be under the assumption that you would have to make some kind of check to find your weapon. At no point did I mention this; I suggested simply using the Search action - not using the Search action and then making a check to see if you find it or not, as that would be ridiculous, as has been pointed out in several comments.

The Search action states:

When you take the Search action, you devote your attention to finding something. Depending on the nature of your search, the DM might have you make a Wisdom (Perception) check or an Intelligence (Investigation) check.

The use of the word “might” implies they may force you to make a check, or they may choose not to make you roll a check - the fact that you used an action is enough.

So, to reiterate, under this proposed resolution, you would not need to make a check to find a disarmed weapon after taking the Search action. As soon as you take the Search action, you would find the weapon and could then pick it up with an Object Interaction.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Something you might consider is randomizing the location of the weapon. That helps avoids the unrealism of losing track of a polearm or greataxe, while still allowing for powerful, strategic use of disarm - it forces the disarmed creature to use movement, as well as provoke one or more opportunity attacks (particularly powerful if the disarmer is a PC, as there are several AoO-related feats and class features). If the weapon happens to land nearby, PCs can still use an object interaction to kick the weapon away. \$\endgroup\$ – Larkeith Oct 9 at 19:04
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Is it RAW to require the Search Action for finding and picking up an item that has been Disarmed? The Answer depends on if you are using the variant rule Disarm.

Further, what ramifications are there for including this requirement?
More realistic and difficult encounters for all parties.

If you mean the Disarming Attack option of the Fighter

When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one superiority die to attempt to disarm the target, forcing it to drop one item of your choice that it's holding...The object lands at its feet.

then the answer is NO. This is due to the item being guaranteed to land at their feet.

However, if you are referring to the variant rule Disarm

A creature can use a weapon attack to knock a weapon or another item from a target's grasp. The attacker makes an attack roll contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) check or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If the attacker wins the contest, the attack causes no damage or other ill effect, but the defender drops the item.

Then the answer could be yes. This is because while the item is dropped, the variant rule does not say where it is dropped, so it could be anywhere within the space (or spaces, depending on creature size), requiring the creature to spend a few moments finding it.

The Search action states

When you take the Search action, you devote your attention to finding something. Depending on the nature of your search, the DM might have you make a Wisdom (Perception) check or an Intelligence (Investigation) check.

So, by comparing the variant rule Disarm with the Search Action, it would appear that requiring a Search to find an item dropped via Disarm would make sense.

As to the ramifications:

Because it becomes possible for all participants to Disarm an opponent that is wielding an item, the combat becomes more realistic, likely leading to somewhat more tactical fights (do I hit the enemy for more damage, or do I try to force their weapon away, risking that neither happens).
Further, the combat would likely become more difficult, due to the fact that the players are most likely to be wielding items, requiring them to act more carefully if Disarmed (do I risk failing the Search to find my item, or try something else to regain control of the fight).
Additionally, characters that can perform the Search Action as a bonus action due to some feature or effect would become more viable during combat, since they would not need to consume their main Action after being disarmed.
Finally, it may cause players to spend resources on readily accessible backup supplies, in the event of Disarmament in a critical moment.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "answer is NO" and "the answer could be yes" make no sense with the updated question. You should edit your answer to address the current version of the question. Perhaps title your current answer as "Is this RAW?" which you answer well. Then extend your section on ramifications. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Oct 9 at 1:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin thanks for notifying me about the edit. I have adjusted my answer in response. \$\endgroup\$ – Journer Oct 9 at 1:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would also note...as your players may protest to this...that requiring a full Action to search for a dropped Greataxe, (or similar such weapon) an item which is huge and thus trivial to locate if it was just knocked out of your hand is a bit...odd, in my personal opinion. Skill checks should only come out when there is a chance for failure...losing a dagger in a cluttered battlefield? Might be hard to find. A Greataxe in a dungeon room with only a few people? Eh, that doesn't seem like something that would require a skill check. Personally, I'd roll in Scatter rules instead. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Oct 9 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 thanks for the reminder; I so rarely see anything about the Search Action that I honestly cannot think of any RAW classes or subclasses that features it, but it is good to include. \$\endgroup\$ – Journer Oct 9 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 while true for RAW, including such info can still be useful for homebrew, so I will leave it in. \$\endgroup\$ – Journer Oct 9 at 15:29
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You might annoy your players

I am not (in this answer at least) concerned about balance implications, but having to spend an action looking for something that isn't hidden would drive me from your table.

By the rules your character knows the exact location of an invisible creature trying to be stealthy but failing to roll a high enough stealth check, in a world where that happens, having to spend time looking for a 6 ft great sword which is 2 feet away and I have likely watched JUST fall out of my hands and loudly smack on the ground would smack of punishment.

So, before introducing this rule; know your players

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a few points, whilst you may have just watched the weapon fly out of your hands, chances are that it hasn't just fallen neatly at your feet (except in the case of the Battlemaster Disarm which specifies that it does). Theoretically, it could have fallen anywhere within your reach, meaning the 8 tiles around you - thats a 15 by 15 ft area to search. Further, the Search action can be used to abstract you looking for the weapon, leaning over to pick it up (without leaving your 5 by 5 ft area so it doesnt cost Movement) and then returning to a combat-ready position. continued \$\endgroup\$ – Liam Morris - Reinstate Monica Oct 9 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Finally, whilst it is more punishing, it is not meant as a punishment towards players. Players can equally use Disarm on a creature, forcing that creature to take the Search action to find their weapon. Also, as a slight aside, this would encourage investment in a back-up weapon incase they were disarmed of their primary weapon, as was done historically. It also makes the Eldritch Knight’s Weapon Bond ability slightly more potent. \$\endgroup\$ – Liam Morris - Reinstate Monica Oct 9 at 12:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Liam Morris I understand your intent, but in real life when I drop something I tend to see where it lands, and the things I drop aren't as big as a weapon. Making people make checks like this says (to me) that my character isn't a hero, just some schmuck who can't do basic tasks like pay attention to their surroundings. In fact being disarmed itself is a problem, because that's what straps are for, and as the DM it is your job to ensure I know that and don't get caught out by easily avoidable mechanics... tbc \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 9 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want to model this, you would have the weapon make a stealth check (with a penalty for low dex, and disadvantage for being metal and heavy), contested by passive perception (because having to spend an action to use your senses is crazy) but since the weapon isn't behind total cover or in an area of obscured vision it will be an automatic success anyway. There are ways to make disarming a thing, this isn't one of them. All in my humble opinion of course, and you know your players, and are very likely not my DM 🙂 \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 9 at 13:56

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