Dagger 5e Guide: An In-Depth Examination at Its Damage, Properties, & More

Daggers are one of the most recognizable and fundamental weapons in D&D. They are a universally well-accepted tool for fighting since anyone can use them, even if your character’s build is not for combat. Plus, they are notable for being very helpful because of their diverse attributes.

Is your character more heavily focused on the dexterity score rather than strength? The dagger has your back because of its “finesse” property. Do you visualize them as a dual-wielding fighter who wants to cut anything in their way? Daggers can fulfill your wish because of their “light” property.

Indeed, they are invaluable tools with uses inside and outside of combat. They are also common and simple weapons, which means they are readily accessible. Even a shop in a dainty town could have one of these for sale if your DM is reasonable enough.

Persistently, daggers become overshadowed by their beefier counterparts like the handaxe and the greatclub. After all, why use a weapon which only deals 1d4 piercing damage when you can use 1d6 slashing damage or 1d8 bludgeoning damage? Reading this article will help you understand the dagger. It will also help you determine for yourself if they are advantageous.

What is a dagger?

A dagger is a simple melee weapon that deals 1d4 piercing damage. Visually, it is usually characterized as a small blade made out of steel, although making it from other materials works too. It usually has a very sharp point in its end and sharp edges on each side of the blade. They are commonly used for stabbing, hence the piercing property.

The dagger is categorized as a simple weapon because, by definition, a simple weapon is a basic weapon that can be properly used with little skill necessary. Thus, anyone can use this weapon and that extra 1d4 damage might even save your party. It costs 2 GP, weighs 1 lb., and has the following properties: finesse, light, and thrown (20/60 ft.).

Finesse

Finesse gives you the option to use your dexterity modifier instead of your strength modifier during attack and damage bonuses. When you attack with a weapon during combat, you roll an attack roll to determine if your attack hits your opponent. Your attack bonus is then either added or subtracted to that roll, and that final number determines the outcome. 

Normally, your attack bonus consists of your proficiency bonus and your strength modifier. For example, if your character is a level 1 barbarian with a strength modifier of +2, their attack bonus would be +4 since level 1 barbarians have a +2 proficiency bonus. To hit a monster with an armor class of 15, they would at least need an attack roll of 11 to hit since their attack bonus is +4 to reach said armor class.

But what if your character is a nimble level 1 rogue who has a strength modifier of -2? Normally, that would mean that their attack bonus would be 0 since the +2 proficiency bonus and the -2 strength modifier cancel each other out. This is where finesse comes to play: if your rogue has a dexterity modifier of +2, they can use the dagger and opt to add that instead of the strength modifier to make the attack bonus a +4.

This also holds for the damage bonus. The damage bonus is the modifier added to the damage roll once your attack successfully hits. Normally, it consists of your strength modifier. However, because of finesse, you can instead use your dexterity modifier. The finesses property is really helpful for characters not made with strength in mind, like stealthy rogues or magic-focused wizards.

Light

When you have two light weapons wielded, you can perform two-weapon fighting with them. Light weapons are small and easy to handle, so using both of them simultaneously during the same attack is achievable. But what is two-weapon fighting?

According to the Player’s Handbook, when you successfully land an attack against your opponent using a light melee weapon in one hand, you can attack again with another light melee weapon in your other hand. This action is considered a bonus action, so you do not need to roll for an attack roll again to hit your second attack.

However, you cannot add your ability modifier to the second attack unless the ability modifier is negative. For example, your rogue with a +2 dexterity modifier is wielding a dagger on each hand. When they successfully land an attack, they deal 1d4 + 2 piercing damage. For the second attack, they deal 1d4 piercing damage only.

Now let’s say that your rogue has a -2 dexterity modifier instead. In the same scenario, they deal 1d4 – 2 piercing damage. For the second attack, they deal the same 1d4 – 2 piercing damage. This is because according to the rules, you add your ability modifier if it is negative.

Thrown (20/60 ft.)

A weapon with the thrown property can be used to throw said weapon at an opponent to make a ranged attack. This is very helpful especially when your opponent is far away from you and you cannot reach them to make a melee attack. When the dagger is thrown, the finesse property still applies for the attack and damage bonus’ ability modifier, meaning you can use either your strength modifier or dexterity modifier.

You might have noticed the two numbers enclosed in parenthesis next to the thrown property. Since throwing the dagger makes it a ranged attack, these numbers indicate the range from which you can attack. The first number is the dagger’s normal range, which is 20 ft. Throwing the dagger at an opponent within 20 ft. is fine. But when attacking beyond 20 ft., you have a disadvantage on the attack roll.

Having a disadvantage on an attack roll means you need to roll twice and the lesser among the two rolls is your attack roll. For example, my level 1 rogue with a +2 dexterity modifier plans on throwing their dagger at an orc 30 ft. away from them. Since it is beyond the dagger’s normal range, my rogue has a disadvantage on their attack roll. I roll twice and get 9 and 15. So, my final attack roll is 9 + 4 (attack bonus).

The second number indicated the dagger’s long-range, which is 60 ft. This means you cannot throw a dagger beyond 60 ft. To recap, you can throw the dagger within 20 ft. Within 21 to 60 ft., you have a disadvantage on your attack roll. Beyond 60 ft., it is impossible to land a hit.

Which classes can use a dagger?

In this context, “using a dagger” means “being proficient in using it”. Even in that case, every class in the Player’s Handbook and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything can use a dagger, from the Artificer and Barbarian classes to the Rogue and Wizard classes.

It is truly a universal weapon to which all characters can use and come together. Is your character an elf barbarian? Or possibly a Halfling warlock? Maybe a half-orc wizard? Whatever they may be, they can surely properly wield it. Here is a list of all the classes so far, since all of them can use a dagger.

  • Artificer
  • Barbarian
  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Monk
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Rogue
  • Sorcerer
  • Warlock
  • Wizard

Almost all of them can use a dagger because they are proficient with simple weapons. A few minorities of the classes are not proficient with simple weapons but instead are proficient with the dagger specifically, i.e. the druid, the sorcerer, and the wizard.

Which classes start with a dagger?

All of the classes above except for one can start with a dagger. The only exception is the Fighter since the class’ starting equipment is focused on martial weapons instead. Seven of the 12 classes can start with a dagger as a weapon of choice when selecting the simple weapon option.

For example, the Artificer starts with any two simple weapons of their choice, and daggers are viable for this pick. Sometimes, the class lets you pick between two choices. The Barbarian lets you pick between having two handaxes as your starting equipment and any simple weapon. Five classes can begin with having a dagger specifically rather than having the simple weapon option.

These four classes are the Bard, the Rogue, the Sorcerer, the Warlock, and the Wizard. Each of them is unique as well. The Bard starts with one dagger; the Rogue starts with two daggers; the Sorcerer starts with two daggers plus the simple weapon option; the Warlock class starts with two daggers and any simple weapon, plus another simple weapon option; the Wizard can choose between a dagger and a quarterstaff.

To summarize, these classes can start with a dagger:

  • Artificer (any two simple weapons of choice)
  • Barbarian (two handaxes; or any simple weapon)
  • Bard (one dagger)
  • Cleric (a light crossbow and 20 bolts; or any simple weapon)
  • Druid (a wooden shield; or any simple weapon)
  • Monk (a shortsword; or any simple weapon)
  • Paladin (five javelins; or any simple melee weapon)
  • Ranger (two shortswords; or two simple melee weapons)
  • Rogue (two daggers)
  • Sorcerer (two daggers + a light crossbow and 20 bolts; or any simple weapon)
  • Warlock (two daggers and any simple weapon + a light crossbow and 20 bolts; or any simple weapon)
  • Wizard (a quarterstaff; or a dagger)

Are daggers magical?

Normally, daggers are not magical items. They are simple weapons that can be used by anyone and found anywhere. Of course, you can make a dagger magical through the use of spells such as Elemental Weapon, a 3rd-level transmutation spell. Casting the spell on a dagger will make it have an elemental damage type of your choosing for up to one hour. Plus, it will have +1 on attack rolls and additional 1d4 elemental damage.

Another way to make daggers magical would be to use the Artificer’s Infuse Item ability which can be obtained at the 2nd level. After every long rest, an Artificer can touch a weapon and infuse it to turn it into a magical item. Artificer Infusions that can be applied to a dagger would be Enhanced Weapon, Radiant Weapon, or Returning Weapon.

There are also magical daggers that a DM could put into their campaign. These items come from various sources such as the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, and more. They all have different properties and different rarities, so use them accordingly.

Item Name Rarity Source
Dagger of Blindsight Rare Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage
Dagger of Guitar Solos Unknown Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage
Dagger of Venom Rare Dungeon Master’s Guide
Dagger of Warning Uncommon Dungeon Master’s Guide
Dragontooth Dagger Rare Rise of Tiamat

FAQ

Question: How much damage does a dagger do?

Answer: The dagger deals 1d4 piercing damage, plus either the strength or dexterity modifier. You can choose between the two, whichever is larger since the dagger has the finesse property.

Question: What is the range of a dagger?

Answer: Since the dagger is a melee weapon, you can attack an opponent 5 ft. away from you. However, since the dagger also has a thrown property, you can also make a ranged attack with the dagger. When thrown, it has a normal range of 20 ft. and a long range of 60 ft.

Question: What are the dagger’s properties?

Answer: The dagger is a simple melee weapon with finesse, light, and thrown (20/60 ft.) properties. Finesse grants you the ability to choose between the strength and dexterity modifier during attack and damage bonus; the light property enables you to dual-wield two daggers; the thrown property allows you to make a ranged attack with the dagger.

Scroll to Top