Haven't played D&D since ABBA was hot, and I'm trying to retool on 5e, playing a Wood Elf Monk.

I see that on p78 of the PHB it states in Martial Arts that monk weapons are "shortswords and any simple melee weapons."

However, as a Wood Elf, I am proficient with "longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow" (PHB p 24).

I also read in Diskmaster's 5e Monk Guide in section 1 that the Shortbow is recommended.

Am I allowed to use a shortbow? What, if any, class limitations apply?

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Since when is ABBA not hot anymore? ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Aug 14, 2015 at 7:27
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Dev 1978 called; it wants its polyester shirt and platform shoes back \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2015 at 11:17
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Did you warn them? \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Aug 14, 2015 at 13:05

4 Answers 4


So, first up - anyone can use any weapon. Proficiency merely determines whether you can add your proficiency bonus to your attack rolls.

Proficiency with a weapon allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with that weapon. If you make an attack roll using a weapon with which you lack proficiency, you do not add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll.

If you look under your Monk proficiencies, one of the things listed there is "simple weapons". The shortbow is a simple weapon, so you don't need to be a wood elf to be proficient with it.

As you've said, monk weapons are shortswords and any simple melee weapons. The shortbow is not either of these things, so it is not a monk weapon. However, this doesn't mean you can't use it - it just means that it won't benefit from your Martial Arts ability.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I likewise took a 40-year hiatus from D&D, and was pleasantly surprised to learn about the 5e proficiency rule. From my limited perspective, it felt more reasonable to roleplay this way than with the old "character of class X can only use weapons in set Y" rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – papidave
    Jun 19, 2020 at 21:34

With the addition of Xanathar's Guide to Everything, the Kensei Monk can use Ranged weapons as a Monk weapon.

Kensei Weapons. Choose two types of weapons to be your Kensei weapons: one melee weapon and one ranged weapon. Each of these weapons can be any simple or martial weapon that lacks the heavy and special properties. The longbow is also a valid choice. You gain proficiency with these weapons if you don't already have it. Weapons of the chosen types are monk weapons for you. (XGtE, p. 34)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you quote the rule for us please? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Sep 16, 2019 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Toysoldier, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. This answer is likely correct but you need to support it with a reference to the actual rule and a better description of how it is an answer to the question. We are looking for complete and supported answers. You can improve your post with an edit. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Sep 16, 2019 at 3:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've added the quote from Xanathar's Guide. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toysoldier
    Sep 17, 2019 at 1:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for coming back to edit that is a good improvement. You can further improve it if you add some context to what that means. How did it work prior of XGtE? How does it being a monk weapon help? Good luck! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Sep 17, 2019 at 1:26

There are things correct and incorrect in these comments.

For a monk, weapon fall into one of three categories;

Weapons you are not proficient in, and thus gain no proficiency bonus.

Simple weapons and shortswords (ranged and melee simple) - the monk has proficiency.

Monk weapons, shortswords and any simple melee weapons that don’t have the two-handed or heavy property. These enable you to use your Martial Arts.

So, yes, a monk CAN use a short bow, AND get their proficiency bonus. But it would not be a weapon which would work with their Martial Arts ability. (and grant the bonus attack).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. It seems like Miniman's answer (the currently accepted answer, and the one with the most upvotes) already points all this out, and also quotes the relevant rule regarding what proficiency with the weapon matters for (though some of the other answers do indeed seem to be wrong/incomplete). Could you clarify what your answer is pointing out that's not addressed there already? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 19, 2020 at 8:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, the structure of your answer is a bit confusing; the third "category" (monk weapons) you mention is not really related to the first two categories (which are mutually exclusive categories of "non-proficient weapons" and "proficient weapons"), but rather a different classification entirely ("monk weapons"). It's just also true that the requirements for monk weapons already limit that category to a subset of the weapons you're proficient with. Saying "For a monk, weapons fall into one of three categories:" is just wrong, because anything in category #3 is in category #2 as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 19, 2020 at 8:19

I have to respectfully point out that simple weapons include melee and ranged.

In the players handbook, page 77, it says "simple weapons;" it does not say simple melee weapons or simple ranged weapons.

By your explanation, a monk could not use a dart or a sling (both simple weapons) but the starting equipment for a monk includes darts.

So for me, as a DM, I would allow monks to use ANY simple weapons, range or melee so long as it falls under the simple category. That fits what it says in the players handbook.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How do you address that they are a wood-elf and given additional weapon proficiencies? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 25, 2019 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mig, welcome, I made an edit to your answer since it came across as a forum type response to the question, which does not really fit our format. What we do here is Question and Answer, which takes the question, as asked, and then someone (like yourself :) ) provides an answer to that. (Irrespective of other answers to the same question) . It is not a threaded forum discussion style. People then vote on which question is best/most helpful/whatever. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 25, 2019 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid your interpretation is incorrect, on page 78 the Martial Arts feature defines monk weapons as "shortswords and any simple melee weapons that don't have the two-handed or heavy property" \$\endgroup\$
    – Josh
    Sep 16, 2019 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the confusion here is between Monk Weapons (which are only melee) and weapons Monks are proficient with (which include simple ranged weapons). They're not the same thing. Any monk is proficient with a shortbow (and can thus add their proficiency bonus to attack rolls with it), but it is not a monk weapon (and so you cannot substitute your martial arts damage die for the weapon's normal die). \$\endgroup\$
    – Blckknght
    Sep 16, 2019 at 17:33

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