I've been trying to find a 'realistic' or at least believable depiction of a light throwing hammer, that would be the equivalent to the 'Light Hammer' in D&D 5E (which has the thrown property).

When I go looking for throwing hammers, I either get the sports item that resembled a ball and chain, or I get a large two handed warhammers, or more references to D&D/Role-Playing games.

The first time I remember seeing the 'light hammer' is in the 3.5e handbook, which looks completely unthrowable.

various bludgeoning weapons as depicted in the 3.5e player's handbook, with the light hammer circled

The reason I say that, is that the bit that it meant to hurt the opponent is also the heavy part that the handle would spin around.

So, is throwing a held hammer (not the sports item that resembles a Meteor Hammer, nor a throwing stick like a Rungu or Iwisa) something added in 3.5e to an existing unthrowable hammer, or do throwing hammers go further back to a historically accurate weapon?


1 Answer 1


Generally, no

Despite the common trope, throwing a melee weapon in real combat is not a good idea. You won't pick it up using a free action like in D&D, so this generally leaves you disarmed till the end of the fight.

Knives and javelins were the most popular throwing weapons, but they were designed specifically for throwing. This includes exotic throwing knife variants like chakram and shuriken. Throwing axes like tomahawk and francisca also worth mentioning, although they are still specifically designed.

This doesn't mean you can't throw a convenient hatchet at all. This is definitely possible - I personally saw this kind of trick in real life, but effectiveness of such attack would be far from perfect. Hammers, on the other hand, are particularly awkward for throwing, since they have their center of mass near the head.

There are medieval fencing guides which describe ridicules tactics like throwing an unscrewed pummel into an opponent, but these evidence are rather anecdotical than historical.

Although throwing hammers were known before D&D

In western culture, the most influential throwing hammer was Mjölnir - the hammer of the god Thor in Norse mythology. This concept was introduced into the pop culture by Marvel Comics in Journey into Mystery no. 83 (August 1962). Since then, many western media re-used the trope, so there is no surprise the concept came to D&D.

Mjölnir was magical and required special gauntlets in order to work properly. However, throwing a non-magical melee weapon looks plausible, can work in few situations, and just looks cool. A typical D&D player would be surprised if a light hammer could not be thrown. Presumably, you throw it like a tomahawk - that's how I'd describe this in my games.

A picture from the 3.5 handbook can be just wrong

Speaking of depictions, pictures vary from one edition to another. 5e depicts warhammers in more "realistic" way (long handle, small head). In 3.5 they have more "fantasy" design, and probably were drawn by an artist who didn't even know this was supposed to be a throwing weapon. In some cases, official materials fall short. The writers/artists are, after all, only human and can miss details.

At the end of the day, there can not be such thing as industrial standards in a pre-industrial setting. Every blacksmith craft their own weapons, so it's rather a group of weapons with similar properties, not a typical standard design.

The PHB doesn't claim this explicitly, but tangentially confirms in the Improvised Weapons paragraph:

a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon

So you presumably can throw something even it is just similar to a throwing weapon.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ I mean, throwing the pommel of your sword at your opponent is the only way to end him rightly. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 10, 2021 at 15:29
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ IIRC the pommel-throw was a distraction technique, allowing you to close the gap and stab them. Historical fencing manuals have a surprising number of such techniques, my favourite being pointing behind your opponent and saying “I only agreed to duel one of you”, and then stabbing him when he turns to see who you pointed at. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan W
    Sep 11, 2021 at 6:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This to me seems very similar to using the “help” action to give an ally advantage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan W
    Sep 11, 2021 at 6:36

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