Staves count as both an implement and as a weapon (a “weapliment” in common parlance). When used as a weapon, they are treated as quarterstaves, a two-handed weapon, so undoubtedly when used to make weapon attacks it requires two hands.

But what about when used as an implement? Here, I’m seeing a lack-of-a-rule that suggests one-handed usage is just fine for this, which is also fitting for typical fantasy tropes (not to mention the wizard art itself!). Furthermore, if its status as a two-handed weapon transferred to its usage as an implement, that might imply that small characters cannot use a staff as an implement at all, since they cannot use two-handed weapons—if this were the case, I would expect this disadvantage to be noted!

Relevant rules I’ve found:

Using an Implement

Implements are used with powers that have the implement keyword. A creature must be holding an implement to use it, unless otherwise stated.

An implement cannot be used to make a weapon attack. Some types of implements, such as staffs, expressly break this rule.

(emphasis mine)

Here we see the requirement is merely “holding” rather than “wielding” or what have you, and staves’ exception to the rule about weapon attacks with implements is explicitly addressed without mentioning any requirement to use two hands.

Staff: A staff is a shaft, usually of wood, that is typically as tall or slightly taller than its wielder. Staffs are sometimes crowned with decorative crystals or other symbols of magical power.

This implement also counts as a quarterstaff. Even a creature who doesn’t have proficiency with the staff as an implement can use it as a weapon, but if the staff is magical, the creature cannot use its properties or powers, only its enhancement bonus and critical hit effect.

And this is where the staff exceptions are really spelled out, and again, no mention of requiring two hands to use it as an implement (in fact, it requiring two hands, even for weapon attacks, is completely unmentioned).

I have not been able to find any more information in the books about this, and I am not familiar with any rulings offered by the developers. Citing some authoritative source, that is a book or a developer, can a staff be used as an implement with one hand, or does it require two hands even in this case?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Putting this as comment because it doesn't contain requirements, but in the old (discontinued) offline Character Builder, there is a Quarterstaff 2-H wepaon, or a 1H Staff Implement item. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frezak
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Frezak I wouldn’t accept that answer most likely, but I would upvote it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 20:59

3 Answers 3


Cutting to the chase: there is actually an official rule stating that staffs are one handed as implements and two handed as weapons. The text is found in the errata for the Eberron Player's Guide, where it discusses embedding weapons into a Warforged. The errata-ed text is as follows:

The staff is a one-handed implement. It can be embedded in one hand and used an implement, but it cannot be used as a weapon because a quarter- staff is a two-handed weapon.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welp, bizarre place for that to be found, but this looks likely to be the best answer we’ll see. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've always presumed that they didn't think it was worth clarifying (or thought that hold vs. wield was clear enough), but since the original embedding text called staffs "a two-handed implement," they felt the need to explicitly state it. \$\endgroup\$
    – JLan
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:09

Firstly, I'll say that you're absolutely right. In my experience basically everyone agrees that staves require one hand to use as implements (and two to use as a weapon).

Finding the ruling for this is surprisingly difficult, but I think that's because as you pointed out:

Here, I’m seeing a lack-of-a-rule that suggests one-handed usage is just fine for this

As far as I can see there's no explicit ruling that says wands are one-handed implements (or that short-swords are one-handed weapons), either. So I think you're right, and the lack of rule creating a two-hands requirement, means that staff implements are fine in one hand.

Note however that there is a rules distinction between "wielding" and "holding". You can hold a two-handed weapon with a single hand; in this case you're not considered to be wielding it and thus cannot make weapon attacks with it. However, since the "Using an Implement" rules only require you to hold the implement and not to wield it, this is close to an explicit ruling that all implements work one-handed.

And if you think about it from a game balance approach, it makes sense that some weapons are two-handed as a drawback to balance out their higher damage. However, an implement power does the same amount of damage regardless of what type of implement was used to deliver it (assuming equivalent enhancements, etc.). Therefore, I don't think the two-handed rule needs to apply to implements anyway, thus it makes sense that it's a special case for weapon attacks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a rule that defines the handedness of various weapons (e.g. the short sword): “weapons are classified as either one-handed or two-handed. A one-handed weapon is light enough or balanced enough to be used in one hand,” followed by short sword (et al.)’s placement in the one-handed category in the table. But you are correct about implements; none of them specify how many hands they use. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, could you please cite “You can hold a two-handed weapon with a single hand” if there’s an explicit statement to that effect? I know 3.5 specified that explicitly, and I looked for a similar statement when looking up this question but couldn’t find one. I did kind of assume it in my argumentation in the question, but an explicit statement of that would be nice. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, hah, one more thing: please avoid the term RAI unless you can back it up by citing actual developer commentary. None of us is actually telepathic, so we can only speculate about what other people intended; speculation is poor in an answer. Something like a narrative approach (i.e. trying to approximate the kinds of stories we expect games of D&D to tell) or an approach seeking verisimilitude (i.e. trying to make the game world seem more “real”) seem closer to what you meant there. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan all good points! Thanks for mentioning the handedness of weapons - I was looking at the online compendium, where none of the individual entries explicitly mention that short swords are one-handed (but you're right that it's in the table). As for holding items in one hand, the Manipulating Objects rules doesn't explicitly mention the number of hands required. Perhaps this is just an extremely common/ubiquitous DM ruling, though I've never seen someone say that you need two hands to lift/hold a quarterstaff. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 20, 2016 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for the RAI term, I've replaced that too (with "game balance", which is really where I was coming from). \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 20, 2016 at 11:44

According to the (sadly) discontinued Offline D&D Character Builder created by WotC, there is an entry under Weapons for Quarterstaff, being presented as a Simple 2-Handed weapon weighing 4lbs and priced at 5GP.

There is also an entry under Staffs for "Staff Implement" ,weighing 4lbs and costing 5GP, which can be equipped in a single hand.

This would lead me to conclude that a staff can be used as an implement in a single hand, though the Builder is no longer up to date, and I have not paid to access the online builder.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have a sub so I just checked; it's rather unconclusive and isn't a good measure. With the builder, you can equip a quarterstaff in one hand and an implement staff in the other hand, or vice versa, without any problem. In fact, there is nothing to stop your from dual wielding quarterstaves! I don't think the Character Builder is a good tool to answer this question. i.imgur.com/b9gS7lQ.png \$\endgroup\$
    – Linkyu
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Linkyu It’s not a good source but it might be the only source, which is why I encouraged Frezak to include this answer. Your comment is also useful in much the same way, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 19:44

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