As a monk in 5e D&D, you get 10 darts when starting out. How does one actually use these darts: I imagine that they are thrown overhand in a vertical movement as if they were throwing knives. This implies they would spin around in the air before hitting their target (or missing). Is this correct?


5 Answers 5


The Player's Handbook gives an explicit reference to how darts are thrown. In the section on Underwater Combat (PHB 198) we find:

the attack roll has disadvantage [underwater] unless the weapon is a crossbow , a net, or a weapon that is thrown like a javelin (including a spear, trident, or dart).

This means that a dart is not thrown spinning like a knife, but rather directly (or in a low arc), like a javelin or spear. I suppose this motion could range from that of the modern sport to an overhand (overhead) throw "like a javelin".


Just as modern darts do, medieval military darts have fletching of some kind. A dart just looks like a short arrow with a thicker shaft. (In fact, the arrow is thought to have developed from the dart.)

Being fletched missiles, they fly straight without tumbling, just like an arrow does, though perhaps with a bit of fishtailing immediately after the throw as the fletching cancels any sideways momentum caused by the arm's motion. They don't spin end-over-end unless it broke mid-throw.

  • \$\begingroup\$ «arrow developed from the dart» would you have reference on that one? It seems to me that prehistorical people only had arrows and knives. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 1:59
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexisWilke It's not certain, just thought to be likely. Darts were used during the Paleolithic; bows appeared only at the end of the Paleolithic. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 2:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexisWilke They had spears before arrows, and even atlatl's \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 22:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast which is kind of logical. A spear is just a pointy stick, and a dart is just a shorter pointy stick with feathers attached for stability. A bow is (despite generally being a simple concept) much more complicated. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 10:52

There are many types. Most would class as a light javelin and were weighted near the point to give more penetration. Used heavily by Romans as a more ranged weapon alternative to simply carrying two pillae as they could carry 5 of these lighter versions, but didn't work well standing off calvary charges. I have always considered D&D darts to refer to something much shorter, like a heavy crossbow bolt, but designed to be thrown by pulling them directly from your quiver and throwing them by hand. Thus the varying descriptions and rules as are really two different things.

The shorter variety were a historical weapon used by young, new combatants to attack enemy lines, along with slingers, javelin throwers, and light bow, prior to a pitched battle. Less range than the others, but greater rate of fire and required much less skill when aiming at large targets.

Generally appear to have been similar to crossbow bolts, but maybe with longer and thinner heads and 6 inches or more of handle just past the fletching and thrown overhead, but unlike a dagger , the feathers force it to fly straight and point first. Not great range, but often used in large groups so just throwing up and in the right general direction at a mass of people. I've been told they could get an acceptable max range that way with enough practice, but uncertain how far and Irealize their range with specific targets would be much less. without a machine to give them force and velocity, they drop pretty fast, but they are indeed a rapid fire simple weapon. If light enough one could even throw more than one at a time if targeting a large group.

Try looking up lawn darts for a modern equivalent. If you don't think they look like effective weapons, then try looking up how many people have accidentally killed or severely injured one another with them, without even trying, albeit, not wearing armor at the time. There is a way to toss somewhat longer throwing arrows over 100 meters, but requires a cord to add leverage and essentially sling it, but would greatly reduce rate of fire and would be imparctical for most to try to set the cord while holding a shield.

Important point of interest is that they could easily be fired one handed while holding a shield, so I have been advised by one military historian they were sometimes used as a form of archery for light cavalry in some historical cultures. Trying to recall which, but am thinking the Eastern Roman Empire used them as archery supplement for cavalry, as they could get close enough to launch a volley, then gallop away or on past enemy and repeat.


For Monks specifically, the dart can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In the Martial Arts section of the PHB, it states:

Certain monasteries use specialized forms of the monk weapons. For example, you might use a club that is two lengths of wood connected by a short chain (called a nunchaku) or a sickle with a shorter, straighter blade (called a kama). Whatever name you use for a monk weapon, you can use the game statistics provided for the weapon in the Weapons section.

While yes, a monk weapon is restricted to short swords and simple (melee) weapons, the idea of modification still applies, especially considering a Shadow Monk is straight-up called a ninja, which would give way for the dart to be flavored into a shuriken or Throwing Star (btw, kunai were garden trows, so they made horrible throwing weapons).

With that in mind, we can look at the different kinds of darts used by the different monks, such ask:

The Shaolin Rope Dart: (remove the rope, though the art form can be duplicated with a grappling hook with ninjas, called a Kaginawa)

Dart on a rope

Throwing Needles:

enter image description here

Mini Arrows: This one was a small, thick arrow Ninjas could conceal easy

OG spike hat

Here is a video showing this hat in action (at the right time code) https://youtu.be/2WB-vkjUcww?t=131

Throwing Stars: These made good impromptu hooks and multi-tools as well!

Twas beauty's fall that killed the Beast.

In short, a dart is like a small, guardless dagger in most cases I could find through history regarding Martial Arts, designed mainly to be a weight thrown to your enemy. While some were sharpened, it's better to think of them as "what if a dagger and a club had a baby?"

However, as the PHB says, you are the one who names them and decides what they look like. The only limitation is that its use is Thrown, its range is (20/60), and it deals 1d4 damage.


The closest real world analogue to a DnD 'dart' is a Bo Shuriken, Biao or similar. These weapons were thrown in the modern manner (beer in one hand, beer belly getting in your way, and with some annoying guy shouting "one hundred and eighty").

What we historically call a dart (well, there's lots of things we call a dart), but the things people are referring to that are thrown like a stick grenade are bludgeoning weapons, not piercing, with a weighted tip. These weapons rely on getting them above the opponent and having grvity do the work. Realistically, this sort of weapon would be almost unusable underwater, and any DnD representation of this sort of weapon would have disadvantage underwater.

The DnD weapon referred to as a dart is piercing weapon, and are thrown similar to a javelin, as described in the underwater combat rules. This may not be what you think of as a dart, so if your group is likely to be bothered by issues, I would recommend either changing the name of the weapon to Bo Shuriken. And/or to create a new weapon, based on the 'stick grenade' style darts, which would deal bludgeoning damage, have disadvantage underwater, have a higher range than the Bo Shuriken, and weigh more.

Alternatively, just accept that the game is not 100% historically accurate.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ To the contrary: western darts look pretty sharp. That aside, your last paragraph is perplexing, as the question doesn't have anything to do with replacing darts with something else. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think rolled in the answer concerning disadvantage underwater into the original post and then confused the question for "why doesn't the dart have disadvantage underwater?". This is due to me being great at attention to detail. There may be other Western darts similar to what we usually think of as darts, but those ones will likely be thrown in the normal way (no rotating), whereas the ones mentioned that are thrown like a stick grenade are a different thing entirely \$\endgroup\$
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 2:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what purpose the discussion of the "stick grenade" style really serves. The dart in D&D isn't based on those "darts" (which are not real darts, and only referred to as such by archeologists because no better word exists), and nobody else mentioned them before this answer. It seems somewhat off topic actually. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 3:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's mentioned right there in the OP. "thrown overhand in a vertical movement as if they were throwing knives" This is where you grab the throwing implement by the tip, and throw it, such that it rotates along the axis it is travelling (as opposed to a rifled bullet, arrows etc which rotate at right angles to the direction of movement) Someone else used the phrase "stick grenade", presumably in a comment that has since been deleted/edited. \$\endgroup\$
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 5:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer, because it addresses the confusion that arose in me when reading the Wikipedia article on thrown darts (which suggested the stick grenade method of throwing). I also like this answer because I hadn't heard of bo shuriken before and they are infinitely cooler than those mentioned in the Wikipedia article. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maarten
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 8:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .