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I was reading a closed question that proposed different rulings on Disarm, and it leads me to ask a proper question about the disarming abilities in 5th Edition. The Battle Master maneuver Disarming Strike is among the best example, but in all instances; when you succeed at disarming someone the weapon simply drops to the target's feet.

Is this redundant in that the same creature can then JUST bend over and pick it up again when it's their turn, as a free object interaction, that costs them nothing in the grand scheme of the combat action economy? Or is there something I am missing in how this can be effective in combat as opposed to just a slight annoyance?

I understand it MIGHT potentially rob them of opportunity or reaction attacks until they can pick up the weapon, provided it's the only weapon they have to make such attacks with; but there must be more to it, yes?

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5 Answers 5

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Grabbing it is easy but...

It is easy to grab it back on their next turn, but you could also grab the weapon as your free object interaction (maybe even on the turn you disarm them!), assuming you have a hand free.

Separate them from it

You could also knock them away with another action (like bull rush) or a spell (like Thunderwave) if you can't grab it, forcing them to waste movement getting back to the weapon (or at least eating an opportunity attack from you while they try).

Denying battlefield control

As you also state, it can easily deny them any opportunity attacks (most things that use weapons probably don't have excellent unarmed skills). That actually is quite good; there is a feat that does a very similar thing, but only for you. This could work for all of your allies until the target's next turn.

Denying features or abilities

Finally, there are some features that require a weapon, like the Fighter's parry ability, as well as some monsters' parry ability. Disarming a creature of a magic weapon might also prevent them from using its abilities/bonuses until they pick it up again (like the magical sword that allows you to turn attack bonus into an AC bonus).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the question is tagged 5e. There is no 'bull's rush'. There are Shove attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 16:49
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In addition to the factors mentioned in firedraco's answer, being forced to use your one free object interaction on picking up the dropped weapon prevents you from being able to use that free object interaction on something else, like pulling a healing potion out of your backpack. So it really doesn't "cost... nothing in the grande scheme of the combat Action Economy", after all - it costs you your free object interaction.

Additionally, if you're within an enemy's melee reach, it's quite possible that your DM will either rule that bending down to pick up the weapon provokes opportunity attacks from that enemy, or that picking up the weapon is not as easy when there's an armed opponent standing next to you and so you must use your action if you want to pick that weapon up right now.

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I think the core point is that you're usually not fighting alone. So with the enemy disarmed, another party member can now interact with this weapon.

Here's an example of what my players did once. They were facing off against a big bad, and were warned of the powerful weapon (axe) he wields. The boss goes first and hits the fighter for quite some damage. The fighter on his turn disarms the boss, making him drop his weapon. The rogue is next. He sprints up, picks up the axe and throws it into a nearby pool of water. The druid, on her turn, freezes the water over. Completely denying the boss access to his weapon.

This turned the entire encounter in their favor.

In short: Disarming is quite useful when you have others with you who can take advantage of it.

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Right after the weapon is dropped...

...you can use your free action to kick a non-heavy weapon up to 15 ft away (depending on terrain) -- at least at my table. Where the item ends up after the kick is determined by the DM.

You don't get to immediately take the weapon, but a benefit is that it doesn't create an opportunity attack upon you, which would happen if you bent down to pick it up. And the kick might place the weapon in reach of your ally to pick up later in the same round.

Admittedly this is a "house rule," but it doesn't run afoul of any RAW that I know of.

Page 190 of the PHB explains that you can "interact with one object or feature of the environment for free [i.e., without using an action]... For example, you could open a door during your move... or you could draw your weapon... The DM might require you to use an action for any of these activities when it needs special care or when it presents an unusual obstacle." (emphasis mine)

What makes this is a house rule is that (1) the PHB doesn't explicitly state that you can use your free object interaction to kick a dropped weapon, and (2) the part about considering whether such a kick "needs special care" could conceivably lead a DM to rule that the kick requires an action.

But my view is that if you did not already use up your one free object interaction per turn, and if you prevailed in the skills contest to disarm the weapon, then you can kick it.

In my experience, this has not created an imbalance in the game. It is used by the players only every once in a while. They have to spend a free object interaction to do it, and sometimes a foe picks up the weapon before an ally does. So it gives them an interesting option without automatically guaranteeing a better outcome.

Further details on the status as a "house rule"

Even though the PHB rule on free object interaction says you can "pick up a dropped axe" and "kick a small stone", that still doesn't answer all the questions about the situation.

As for "pick up a dropped axe", that does not mean you can avoid an attack of opportunity when picking it up, especially if it is close to a foe you are engaged with in melee. As for "kick a small stone", a weapon is considerably bigger and heavier than that. Therefore, a ruling by the GM that you can kick a just-now-dropped weapon without creating an opportunity attack, is a house rule, as I see it.

See also this question: How far away can dropped or disarmed weapons be kicked?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer would be improved by stating what the free object interaction rule actually is, comparing it to your house rule, and then describing what your experience has been with the house rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ The edit has definitely improved the answer. Note that two of the things explicitly listed as free object interactions are 'pick up a dropped axe' and 'kick a small stone'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 16:15
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Disarming Attack is Any Held Item

  • If you disarm a spell focus from a magic user, they lose some ability ability to cast spells due to material components and concentration.
  • You can make them drop items like light sources, which could extinguish them.
  • If holding an action, you can use it to knock away a potion (debatable if it spills/shatters), scroll, etc. For example, the Wind Fan risks destruction if activated more than once a day.
  • Knock tools out of someone's hand, which can completely reset the time needed to do a task (like picking a lock)
  • Interrupt a grapple when being done with a held object like a lasso
  • If chasing someone, you can make them drop the MacGuffin, thus forcing them to choose whether to lose the distance they can run to pick it up again
  • In that vein, force people who use their bonus actions for class abilities like a Rogue's cunning action to get their item back
  • Prevent Reaction skills like Parry (and other Maneuvers)
  • You might be in environments where retrieval is impossible such as underwater, flying, in a tree...

While yes, there's the obvious "make a combatant drop an actual weapon" conversation to be had, there are a lot of other, even non-combat uses for the ability. It's all a matter of setup.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There was previously some legitimate debate about whether a shield could be disarmed; there is lots of support in this question for yes, while this question received answers that a shield cannot even be willingly dropped. However, since the Sage Advice Compendium 2.5 (2020), the official ruling is that a shield cannot be disarmed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KirtnoQA4mewhilemodsstrike: List item removed. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 11:33

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