I don't get the blowgun. Given that a blowgun is just a pipe-like thing that you blow on one end and a dart-like thing flies out the other end, why is it the case that:

  1. it requires martial weapon proficiency?
  2. it only does 1 damage whereas a dart (a simple ranged weapon) does 1d4 damage?
  3. it has its own ammunition instead of using the same darts I just mentioned?

It seems like no-one would ever choose this weapon if they had martial proficiency, so there must be something I'm missing. Unfortunately I've not been able to find any info in the PHB about this. I wanted to make sure I'm not missing some crucial point that puts all this into perspective before I just homebrew what I think a blowgun should be like (in prep for a game I'll be running soon).

Could anyone provide some insight into why this weapon is as it is and why anyone would use it, ideally with quotes from the handbooks (especially if it's the PHB, I couldn't find anything and would like to know what I missed).

There was a related question, but it's about Pathfinder, and I'm interested in 5e specifically: Blowguns. What's the point?

In light of a comment pointing out the difference between a throwing dart and a blowgun needle, this question is now mostly about why such a thing requires martial proficiency given how it compares to the other martial weapons when dealing only 1 damage, and are their any other benefits to this weapon that justify this?

  • \$\begingroup\$ If anyone is able to come up with a dev commentary on this particular weapon, will you be satisfied? The second answer to your linked question answers this question (at least it provides most of the justification). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 12:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yes; since I'm not on twitter I have no means to use their SageAdvice (assuming twitter is the only way to do that, my knowledge of SageAdvice comes purely from what I've observed in various answers on this site). \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS OK, there are a few folks who apparently get consistent responses from Mearls and Crawford on twitter, I'll see if I can convince one into sending a tweet with this question. Also, try your luck searching at this site: sageadvice.eu. I may not have parsed the search term correctly. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 12:49

6 Answers 6


There are a few reasons for this weapon being what it is. But the main one is simply that stats are based on what makes sense for a weapon. Real blowguns deal trivial damage (unless poison-tipped) and are pretty hard to use properly, requiring some level of training to be accurate with them.

For example, the Trident is another choice of weapon that you'd never pick mechanically.

Of course, the main point to the blowgun is that it's traditionally used to poison people covertly. Especially when the goal is to disable targets without murdering them, it might come in handy. A blowgun with a tranq dart cannot accidentally murder the target, while a tranq dart delivered from a crossbow has a good chance of accidentally killing the target.

And while there is no mechanical property that makes the blowgun easier to hide, its light weight and small size would logically make it more easy to do so, likely reducing the DC of attempting to sneak one past people.

And it's cheap and light; you can have a blowgun and a case of 50 darts for 11gp and 2lbs, while even a light crossbow and 20 bolts would be 26gp and 6lbs.

(Of course, unless you're hunting chickens, the blowgun still isn't a very good choice without poison tipped darts, and the poison is likely to be way more expensive than the delivery mechanism, so it'll remain a very niche weapon either way. Such is the fate of some tools. You wouldn't see a medieval army outfitted with these things either.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there an in-game description that makes the blowgun small? While 18 inches is a possible low end, 3-5 feet would be a better range, and I believe there was a monstrously large example at more than 20 feet long. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Point of interest: realistically getting a “tranq dart” right is fiendishly difficult. You can very easily kill something with a slightly-too-strong dose of tranquilizer. So even if the delivery mechanism is pretty safe, the overall process has some significant risks. Then again, so does almost every method of “non-lethal” subduing, which doesn't really come up in the fantasy narrative of D&D (see all the narrative examples of conking someone on the back of the head to knock them out—also very likely to risk their death or major injury in reality, but not in these narratives.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 14:21

A reason to use the blowgun has finally arrived! As a kensei monk;

  • You can gain proficiency in 1 melee and 1 ranged weapon (at 3rd level).
  • These weapons can then be used as monk weapons, allowing the damage to increase according to the table.

As previously stated, the blowgun pipe is

  • inconspicuous and could easily be disguised, and the darts are so small, they could easily be concealed.
  • really cheap, which is nice, because monks don't have much money either.

This could be furthered with the sharpshooter feat, the archery fighting style (multi-class required) and/or the crossbow feat (to ignore the loading property).


You have to realize that for a higher level rogue, direct weapon damage is not that interesting anyway - and a sneak attack from a blowgun is almost the same as from a crossbow. The difference is 3HP, I believe.


The "dart-like" thing that fly from a blowgun is lighter than the regular dart, hence the lower damage.

I tend to think of the blowgun as a discreet poison dispenser: far easier to use in a crowd than a bow, not immediately evident what happened to the poor target, and easy to drop discreetly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If it has some kind of "you can use it and remain hidden" property, that would help make this weapon seem like less of a waste. If you could find a quote to support that, I would be happy (since as it stands this seems like speculation, although I agree with you that it would make sense) \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS by RAW, there is none. Attacking with a blowgun will still reveal your position, and break you out of hidden club. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 15:28

Seen as a combat weapon choice there is no good reason.

Blowguns are included because they're a real world hunting weapon used in some parts of the world that has been traditionally included in D&D as a weapon. The designers of 5e chose not to give every weapon in the table a reason to use it so there are options on the table that have no mechanical reason to choose. These are presumably included for greater verisimilitude.

For the hunting of small game - which is what blowguns are really used for - the cheap ammunition possibly justifies their use in game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There absolutely is a good reason to use a blowgun as a combat weapon. You just have to remember that PCs aren't the only ones who use weapons. It absolutely makes sense for certain NPCs to use blowguns in combat, because it would be in keeping with the flavor of the setting. For example, Chult, or other primitive jungle settings where native humanoids would use them for hunting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Beofett
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Beofett: That's what "presumably included for greater verisimilitude" means. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, that's really not what that means. "Presumably included for greater verisimilitude" does not mean "despite my saying that there's no reason to use this weapon, there may be reasons to use this weapon". \$\endgroup\$
    – Beofett
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 14:46

Blowgun is a weapon your character can carry into the guarded area. If he conseals darts, blowgun itself is just a tube and can be carried openly. Typical guard would hardly think of such a weapon upon seeing the tube, he would assume it to be a flute or a smoking device. So it is a very situational stealth weapon.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Real blow guns look very conspicuous, and would be noticed by any competent guard. They are 4-5 feet long, have a large mouthpiece (to get greater pressure), and clearly don't have another good use (they don't look like flutes or smoking pipes). A dm might house rule that they are somewhat more concealable than other weapons, but that would be pretty generous in my opinion \$\endgroup\$
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 16:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KevinWells you could conceal it as a walking stick. But then again, you can do that with a quarterstaff as well, although the latter isn't a ranged weapon. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 10:42

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