When using either the quarterstaff or spear as a Monk weapon, do you still gain the unarmed bonus action from Martial Arts if using 2 hands(1d8)?

On pg.78 of the PHB under Martial Arts it states that a Monk weapon cannot have the 2-handed or heavy property, so I assume since the versatile property is not the 2-handed property or heavy property then it does not matter if I use it in one or two hands. However, why then would a distinction be needed since the only simple weapon that does have the 2-handed property is a Greatclub, which is also mechanically identical to a quarterstaff used in two hands. Why make a rule that doesn't apply to anything?

The other interpretation is that you're meant to use 1d6 for damage in order to gain the Monk's Martial Arts bonus action, and using a 1d8 will forfeit the bonus because the quarterstaff is now considered 2-handed. Pg.147 under Versatile states "A damage value in parentheses (in this case 1d8) appears with the property—the damage when the weapon is used with two hands to make a melee attack."


3 Answers 3


The answer to your question is No, using versatile weapons with two hands does not disqualify them as monk weapons.

But not because of any reason that made you ask the question, because your whole question is wrong as it's clear from your question you haven't understood the paragraph in question.

The paragraph in question on pg. 78, PHB says (emphasis mine):

At 1st level, your practice of martial arts gives you mastery of combat styles that use unarmed strikes and monk weapons, which are shortswords and any simple melee weapons that don't have the two-handed or heavy property.

Let's look at what that paragraph really says.

The first thing it does is stating that at 1st level a monk has a master of different combat styles using unarmed strikes and monk weapons.

The second thing it does is stating that monk weapons are shortswords and any simple melee weapon that doesn't have either the heavy property or the two-handed property.

That's everything that paragraph states. It simply tells you that monks fight unarmed or with monk weapons and then defines monk weapons as either shortswords or any simple melee weapon that isn't heavy or requires two-hands to use.

Simple melee weapon with heavy or two-handed property = not monk weapons.

Simple melee weapon without heavy or two-handed property = monk weapons.

So what about the versatile property? A weapon with that property just gives you the option to use two hands during an attack for greater damage. However, in this case whether a weapon has the versatile property or not has no impact on the RAW as it only purpose in this case is to define what a monk weapon is, which is a shortsword or any simple melee weapon without either the heavy property or the two-handed property. Any other properties such as light, finesse, reach or versatile has in this case no bearing on the rules. Nor does how you use said weapon.


Yes, monks can use Versatile weapons for bonus damage.

As you say, there are no simple melee weapons that have the Two-handed property other than the greatclub, and none with the Heavy property. The class feature doesn't say anything about using the weapons with two hands, only that they can't have that property. Since quarterstaves and spears don't have that property, you can use them as versatile weapons all you want.

It's very likely that rule is in place to account for additional weapons that may appear in the future. It's nearly certain that future books will have more weapons in them, so any simple weapons included will only be Monk weapons if they don't have the Heavy or Two-handed properties. It's also possible that at one point in development, there were other simple weapons that had those properties, but they were removed before the final printing.


versitile weapons allow you to use their two handed damage without loosing the monk benefit. You are limited however to Simple Monk Weapons or improvised weapons. As such, if the damage is more than your unarmed martial arts damage, you would need to limit it to the martial arts damage quarterstaff excluded. But you could improvise based on the quarterstaff. For instance, the 3 piece staff could qualify as versitile, so could nunchucks.

The reason is with these weapons, your two hands aren't always on it to operate it. A giant two handed warhammer can barely be picked up one handed let alone weilded, but a staff goes from one handed to two handed and back sometimes several times a turn. Same with nunchucks, you could wild them as two separate weapons and only get your unarmed damage for them, or have one which switches between hands as a versitile two handed.

The unarmed attack treatment doesn't mean you can't use the weapon for you bonus attacks and it doesn't mean you have to be hands free, it just means any attack you do will do the same "damage" as if unarmed.

Think about it for a moment, watch a kungfu movie. The guy with the staff can make a heavy devastating blow as his first attack, and all the followup attacks are limited to the staff only moving a few feet usually in some flourished attack, you don't have time to build another back swing for your attacks when you are attacking 3 or 4 times a single turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are so many things wrong here... Switching between hands is not "versatile" or "two handed". Using a weapon does not require you to use the monk damage if it is lower. A weapon cannot be used for the bonus action monk attacks. The last paragraph doesn't make much sense... \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Nov 4, 2019 at 14:24

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