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Patty the Chatty Monk throws her handaxe at a growling wolf. It hits!
So... what happens?
This question is asked for the intent of further understanding the Object Interaction rule and also to add flavor to combat encounters. What happens to a thrown weapon after it is used?

On a hit: does it fall to the ground near the target's feet? Does it impale/latch/stick to the target? What about armored targets?

On a miss: does it land on the ground near the target's feet? Or does it travel the maximum distance (assuming there's nothing blocking its path) in a straight direction before landing? Can it accidentally hit a different target?

In any case, can anyone pick it up and use it again?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure why it would be handled significantly differently than an arrow would. \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Jul 6 at 17:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.E.D.: it's different for at least two reasons: the other question is asking about reuse generally (i.e. after combat is over), and arrows/bolts are significantly harder to find after use (if they missed) and much more likely to be permanently damaged after use (whether they miss or not). \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Duniho Jul 6 at 19:17
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It's a subject of the DM's ruling, depending on the situation

"Thrown weapons" include all things a creature can throw. You can throw a knife, a boulder, a glass bottle, a dead goblin, anything. If it hits a shield, it can stick or it can bounce away. A glass bottle will probably be shattered. If it misses the target completely then it falls somewhere behind the target, and so on. Since 5e rules only distinguish "hits" from "misses", the additional details are up to the DM.

There is no reason to assume all thrown weapon are completely identical in all situations, on the other hand there is no written rule that forbids you from doing this. A DM is free to provide specific details in each case, or completely ignore this issue for the sake of simplicity.

Basically, the rules don't say. That's how D&D differs from tactical wargames: it's the DM's job to make rulings; the DM is an active game facilitator, not just a rules-enforcing neutral arbiter.

The rule of thumb is thrown weapons stay somewhere on the battlefield until the end of the combat, then you are able to recover them all. This works by analogy with the ammunition, PHB p. 146, since thrown weapons and ammunition work the same way in most cases; the only differences is using STR instead of DEX in some cases and the chance to accidentally destroy a piece of ammunition:

At the end of the battle, you can recover half your expended ammunition by taking a minute to search the battlefield.

But tables differ so ask your DM.

Can it accidentally hit a different target?

5e rules assume an attack can either hit its target, or miss completely. There is the "hitting cover" optional rule (DMG p. 272), which can be used in this case if you want to.

Further reading:

Specific beats generic

There are specific traits and features which address thrown weapons and ammunition explicitly. For instance, Deflect Missiles monk feature lets you catch a piece of ammunition and throw it back:

If you catch a missile in this way, you can spend 1 ki point to make a ranged attack with the weapon or piece of ammunition you just caught

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to replace "D&D" with "5e" in your text. While the DM is, of course, also an active facilitator in all editions of D&D, early D&D indeed does refer to the DM as " a rules-enforcing neutral arbiter" and, in fact, 'the arbiter' and 'the Dungeon Master' are synonyms in early literature with 'arbiter' having been, in my estimation, somewhat more common a term early on. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 5 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil do you imply there is at least one edition that is similar to a wargame? Which one? AFAIK ad&d 1st and 2nd editions expected the DM to make rulings even more, comparing to, say, 3rd and 4th editions. But yes, 5e is closer to 2e in this sense \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 5 at 17:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil: I disagree that "arbiter" was ever a more common term; the early term was actually "referee". In 0E, neither arbiter or Dungeon Master are ever used, it's always "referee". In 1E, I can find arbiter 5 times total (always in conjunction with DM or referee, e.g., "THE REFEREE IS THE FINAL ARBITER OF ALL AFFAIRS OF HIS OR HER CAMPAIGN", 1E PHB p. 8). \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel R. Collins Jul 5 at 18:55
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The weapon is over there

Where “over there” is is entirely up to the DM.

On a hit: yes, yes, what about them?

On a miss: yes, yes, definitely no.

can anyone pick it up and use it again? Assuming they have hands (or something similar), yes.

Except for definitely not hitting anyone else, the rules don’t deal with this so you can do whatever you like. You can be consistent or spontaneous, it’s entirely up to you.

Some things to consider:

  • “Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck”. A hit does not necessarily mean the weapon made physical contact - a hit can be anything that depletes a) physical durability b) mental durability c) the will to live d) luck or e) any combination of a to e. An axe slamming into a wooden beam a fraction of an inch from the target’s ear can be as much of a “hit” as one that draws blood.

  • Similarly, a miss can physically make contact. An axe contemptuously brushed aside. Or one that, despite striking true is pulled out by the target who locks eyes and smiles as he licks his own blood from the blade. These can all be misses.

  • A miss on an agile opponent is more likely because of a clear miss while one on a heavily armoured opponent might make contact but not penetrate.

  • Ranges are effective ranges - a hand axe can be thrown further than 60 feet so long as you don’t care what it hits. Therefore a miss can go further than you think. Or it could hit the ground at the target’s feet. Or at the thrower’s feet if they really stuff up.

  • Rule of cool. A savage monster that ignores a half dozen hand axes buried in its flesh is cool and evocative. So is a bad ass who pulls it out and throws it back. Or a grappled PC stretching to reach the axe the threw earlier. Don’t limit your options.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for answering. Regarding the armored targets, I was asking about whether or not an arrow or a dagger could stick itself on the armor. But seeing your answer I'm guessing that's up to the DM? +1 on the HP and other considerations that you gave, but I'm gonna go with @enkryptor 's answer since his mentioned the "hitting cover" optional rule, which would mean that, yes, a projectile can accidentally hit a different target. \$\endgroup\$ – field158 Jul 6 at 2:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do the rules actually say that a miss doesn't hit anyone else? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jul 6 at 3:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells: Only insofar as they don't say a miss does hit anyone else. There is an optional rule for hitting cover in the DMG (p. 272): If the attack roll would have hit the target without the cover bonus, but missed due to the cover, the cover can be hit. If the cover's from an object, the object is simply hit; if the cover's being provided by a creature being in the way, the attack roll has to beat that creature's AC to hit it (you don't make a new attack roll, just use the same one). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 14 at 4:10

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