"I'd probably say they can throw one axe, while holding their polearm in their other hand, and be ready to use it again next turn. I don't think it's reasonable to allow a character to stow their polearm and draw two axes within the same turn."

I had seen this but I wanted to ask if it'd be the same if the main weapon was heavy? My player is trying to argue that he could draw a javelin from his back and throw it while still holding his Greatsword in the other hand (which I would be fine with but it has the heavy property). How should this be played out?


3 Answers 3


Two-handed weapons give you a free hand when not attacking

It's important to remember what the weapon properties actually do. Heavy weapons are just too big for a small character to use effectively; for a medium character, that property is entirely meaningless.

I think "two-handed" is what you're thinking of:

Two-Handed. This weapon requires two hands when you attack with it.

Note what it does NOT say there: It doesn't say you need two hands to hold the weapon, only to attack with it.

A perfect example is the shortbow. Consider how a bow is used: You easily carry it in one hand and you have your other hand free to do things. When you decide to shoot an arrow, you need both hands on the bow for a few moments, but as soon as the attack is done, your hand is free again.

Yeah, some of the biggest two-handed weapons are close to 20 pounds, which is a lot to one-hand, but most of them are much lighter than that, and what you're talking about is making a melee attack, then taking your free hand off for a few seconds to draw and throw a weapon. There's no reason that shouldn't be possible.

From both an in-universe and a game-rules perspective, there's no issue at all with doing this, no need to stow your greatsword before you draw and throw an axe or javelin.

It's worth noting that this is why two-handed weapons are very popular with gish characters (that is, melee-spellcasting hybrids) such as Eldritch Knights and Paladins. A two-handed weapon allows them to instantly switch between attacks and spellcasting essentially at will.

Don't worry too much about it

That said, I've never found much benefit in being hard-nosed about tracking the number of interactions involved in switching weapons. There may be some tactical interest in having to think about whether it's worth your time to stow a melee weapon to switch to ranged if the enemy is likely to close with you next turn (which might push you to do something different, like Dodge or Ready), but in most cases if a player wants to, say, put away their bow and pull out two daggers in the same turn, I'm not going to make a fuss about that even though it's technically three object interactions. Combat in 5e tends to be pretty fast and vicious, so as a DM, I'm very invested in the idea of my players getting to do something cool or interesting every turn. It's no fun to hear "no, sorry, you can't do that, it'll take your whole action to put away your bow and draw one sword, you can get the other one out next turn"; at least for me, that feels like bookkeeping getting in the way of the fun. (I'm not completely without limits -- I just tend to consider "switch weapons" to be one interaction regardless of how many individual objects we're talking about. If you already switched from sword to bow at the start of your turn, you can't then switch back at the end of your turn!)

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a reason to hard-nose weapon switching: if a melee user rushes a ranged user only for them to instantly become a melee user undermines the drawback of using ranged weapons. Assuming dropping is considered a free action a ranged user can switch to two daggers and still have an attack action if they have the Duel Wielder feat. First they drop their bow to the ground as a free action and then use Duel Wielder to pull both daggers out at the same time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anketam
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no drawback to ranged weapons. If somebody runs at you, you can use your free hand to draw a weapon and attack with it. Viola, you're fighting in melee with a melee weapon, and a currently useless bow in your other hand. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Being less picky just means I'm not going to make the player keep track that their bow is in their one hand (or on the ground) and they can't technically make a bonus action attack because they aren't dual wielding right this second. Which means I'm letting them potentially make one extra attack with lousy damage, once in a while. Big deal. The player has a lot more fun and a lot less confusion by using their 'normal' melee combo. I've tried it both ways, and I've never had a better time by waving a finger and going "Ah-ah! You can't make a second attack this turn!" than by letting it go. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Outside of game statistics, it does make sense to hold a two-handed weapon with one hand if you don't attack, since even if it's too heavy to hold in the air with one hand, you can simply have the end of it rest on the ground. It's probably more comfortable to hold like this if you're not attacking or blocking right away anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 6:29

You can draw a javelin while you are holding a two-handed weapon in the other hand

There's no "polearm" in the list of weapons for 5E (PHB, p. 149) so I am assuming you mean one of those listed in the Polearm Master feat - glaive, halberd, quarterstaff, spear. Out of these, glaive and halberd have the two-handed property, meaning you need both hands to attack with it, whereas quarterstaff and spear have the versatile property - can be used with either one hand or both (PHB, p. 146). You can hold a two-handed weapon in one hand but you cannot attack with it for as long as you're holding something else in the other hand.

The same thing applies to the greatsword. The heavy property only means a Small creature rolls at Disadvantage while attacking with the weapon, it has no effect on being able to draw an additional weapon while holding it.

If you want to stow one weapon and draw another one, you need to use your action for it. According to PHB (p. 190), you can use your free interaction to interact with objects around you and, conveniently, the first example is "drawing or stowing a weapon". You can only interact with one object this way though, so if you want to draw another weapon after stowing one, you need to take the Use an Object action (PHB, p. 193). This consumes you Action, so you cannot attack with it in the same turn. Needless to say, you cannot stow one weapon and draw two other ones either, it would require you to have two Actions and take Use an Object with both.


You can hold a greatsword in one hand, just not attack with it

Here's what the heavy property means, according to the PHB.

Heavy. Creatures that are Small or Tiny have disadvantage on attack rolls with heavy weapons. A heavy weapon’s size and bulk make it too large for a Small or Tiny creature to use effectively.

Nothing in that description suggests that a character would have to use both hands to even hold it - it's just that the size and/or bulk of it makes wielding it normally impractical for particularly small creatures. It is in fact the two-handed property that mandates you need to two-hand a weapon, and even then it's clear that doesn't mean you can only carry it with both hands:

Two-Handed. This weapon requires two hands when you attack with it. This property is relevant only when you attack with the weapon, not when you simply hold it.

In your example of the greatsword, the actual weight of the sword is 6lbs. That's not very heavy, in the grand scheme of objects; any character of average strength could carry a couple dozen of them at a time. I could definitely hold a six pound weight in my off hand for a few seconds while I did something else with my dominant hand, and I'm pretty sure I'm somewhere south of what D&D considers average strength.

On top of that, there are other weapons which weigh the same or more and aren't considered "heavy"; the lance, for instance, is 6lbs as well but doesn't count as heavy, a greatclub is 10lbs but isn't heavy, just two-handed. These weapons weigh as much or more than the greatsword, but because of their shape and balance, they're not considered heavy; they're not impractical for small characters to use. The longbow is a mere 2lbs, but it does count as heavy - it's simply so long that it's unwieldy for a small character to use. But you would never rule that a 2lb longbow requires both hands to even carry.

Ultimately, "heavy" is just a measure of how difficult it would be to use the weapon as a weapon for a particularly small creature. It has no connotation beyond that, and there doesn't seem to be any reason you couldn't hold (but not wield) a heavy weapon in one hand and attack normally with a weapon in the other hand.

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    \$\begingroup\$ They might have better called the property "Bulky", that would have helped to avoid the confusion, \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 8:47

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