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What is a war pick weapon?

What is a war pick weapon

What is a war pick weapon?

war pick is an anti-armour weapon similar to the farming tool called a mattock. The idea is to concentrate a huge amount of force of a hammer swing into a small, sturdy point, which then has the power behind it to penetrate armour or mail.

Contrary to popular impression, armour-penetrating weapons like war pick tend to not actually be that debilitating compared to other weapons. Swords, for instance, can lop unarmored limbs off.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a powerful weapon that will wreck your day if you take a solid hit, but there’s a big tradeoff in damage to get through the armour.

In this article, I want to cover a dedicated anti-armour weapon known as Tsuruhashi (Crane’s beak ) also known as Motayu (藻弛) and often erroneously called Nanban hachiwari (more of this later on).

This war pick was a percussive weapon that resemble a European Warhammer or an Indian Zaghnal, both in shape but also in usage as well.

The war pick was made of iron or steel, usually fitted onto a lacquered wooden handle that could vary in length; most of the time it was one-handed, but there is at least one depiction showing it to be two-handed length.

The one-handed version occasionally had a “D-shaped” handguard on the handle.

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Even if it was rare, it was used from the 14th century onward to overcome the coverage of body armor through blunt impact and by piercing the zones covered with mail or with thin plates, thanks to its prolonged beak.

It was also used to destroy gates, shields, or other defensive implements used in the field, just like the Masakari (鉞).

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this is a war pick 2023

war pick is a military one-handed melee weapon in the pick weapon group.[PH:218][MME:21]

A war pick has high crits, dealing an extra 1d8 damage at levels 1-10, 2d8 damage at levels 11-20, or 3d8 damage at levels 21-30, on a critical hit. It is also a small and versatile weapon, so both Small and Medium characters may wield it two-handed to deal 1 extra damage.

Ardents, avengers, barbarians, battlements, fighters, paladins, rangers, wardens, and warlords are proficient with all military melee weapons, including the war pick.

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Other classes do not have proficiency with the war pick as a class trait, but any character can become proficient by taking a Weapon Proficiency feat.

It’s a sharp point at 90 degrees from a shaft, intended to pierce skulls and armour with little difficulty.


The majority of Tsuruhashi only had a peak without a “hammer side” although some artistic representations show a similar feature.

This weapon shouldn’t be confused with the Kama (鎌) or the Tobiguchi (鳶口) although they share some similar features; the Kama has a blade rather than a spike, and the Tobiguchi, besides being also a tool that could be “weaponized”, has a shorter beak and a top spike.

However, the “boundaries” in the nomenclature are rather slim; sometimes, a Tobiguchi could be considered a war pick, and in some examples of the famous Kusarigama.

There is a beak instead of a blade which should make the weapon a Kusari-Tsuruhashi but luckily nobody use such names to make things even harder in the world of arms and armour collectors.

Sometimes, a similar beak was fitted to some Yari, making the weapon highly effective in dealing against armour.

  • Attack bonus if proficient: +2
  • Weapon die ([W]): 1d8
  • Type: melee
  • Range: —
  • Handedness: one-handed
  • Proficiency category: military
  • Weapon group: pick
  • Weapon properties: high crit, small, versatile
  • Price: 25 GP
  • Weight: 6 lb.

Horseman’s pick

The horseman’s pick was a weapon of Middle Eastern origin used by cavalry during the Middle Ages in Europe and the Middle East. This was a type of war hammer that had a very long spike on the reverse of the hammerhead.

Usually, this spike was slightly curved downwards, much like a miner’s pickaxe. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with a war hammer. A metal-made horseman’s pick called “nadziak” was one of the main weapons of the famous Polish Winged Hussars.

A weapon of late make, the horseman’s pick was developed by the English and used by their heavy Billmen, a unit of heavy infantry. It was used with great success during the Hundred Years’ War. The use of the horseman’s pick was to tear men from their mounts.

The horseman’s pick was often used as a means to penetrate thick plate armour or mail which the standard sword could not.[citation needed] However, a number of drawbacks limited the weapon’s effectiveness.

Its relative heaviness made it unwieldy and, thus, easily avoided. The injury caused by the weapon was also small and rarely immediately fatal. Additionally, if swung too hard, the weapon often became embedded in the victim or their armor, making retrieval difficult.


One of the options for a martial weapon that has always confused me is the War Pick. It’s not that I don’t know what it is (I know how to use Google, thanks) but I’m kinda confused why it’s an option, and why it’s so limited as an option.

All the images I found of War Picks online display them as if they were attached to another weapon. (Usually a Warhammer.) This makes sense to me since it could be used in combat as an alternative form of damage if the other end of the weapon wasn’t proving effective.

As a result, I sort of expected the War Pick to have a “Special” trait where it could be used for both Piercing damages as well as Bludgeoning (Warhammer) or Slashing (Battleaxe) depending on which side of the weapon you used.

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This would obviously come with the downside of the weapon costing more or being heavier or something of the sort.

But instead, 5e’s War Pick is just a generic Piercing weapon. What’s more, is that the War Pick is just a cheaper version of the Morningstar (another weapon which I find odd that it’s just Piercing damage with no special attributes.

I think the Morningstar should be d4 bludgeoning + d4 piercing, but I realize this presents a lot of balancing issues that I’m not going to go into with this post) and the Rapier.

I understand why the War Pick is cheaper than the Rapier (it’s 5 times cheaper since the Rapier can be used by Dexterity fighters) but it’s three times cheaper and weighs half as much as a Morningstar.

The War Pick’s weird stat line (as well as general oddness in the realm of high-fantasy) has made it one of 5e’s many weapons that have fallen to the wayside in favour of other weapons.

If you want piercing damage you take a Rapier, and if you want a strength-based martial weapon you take either a Longsword or a Warhammer since they have the option of being used in two hands with Versatile.

My question is why the War Pick (as well as other weapons such as the Morningstar, Flail, Glaive / Halberd [both have the same stats but are separate weapons?], and Trident [martial spear?]) exist the way that they do.

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Are these fragments of older editions back when these weapons were more unique and carried more bonuses?

Was there a period in 5e’s development where these weapons were more special, but those features were dropped in favour of the simplistic approach 5e took?

Is there more that can be done with these weapons (either officially [in a weapon Unearthed Arcana akin to the new variant class rules] or with homebrew) or am I looking too deep into it?

I think the concept of having a fighter stabbing into enemies with a War Pick is interesting, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that I could be using something better whenever I see it as an option.

In addition, I find it very difficult to constantly have to pull up an image on my phone whenever I want to explain to other people at the table what my character is using, and then have to explain how “yes I know the image looks like a Warhammer but I’m not using a Warhammer.”

I guess the tl;dr of this post is “why does the War Pick look like a Warhammer when it’s clearly not a Warhammer?”

Final Words

In fact, nobody knew its original name; this is what led some collectors of Tobiguchi to call this weapon a “foreign head-breaker” (Nanban Hachiwari) since it resembled a European Warhammer.

However, this weapon existed before contact with the Europeans, so there is nothing “Nanban” in this war pick.

Probably it was a derivative of the everyday pickax used by the Japanese (nowadays the name Tsuruhashi means “pickax”); just like the Kama or the Tobiguchi, from ordinary tools, they were “weaponized” to be used effectively on the battlefield.

This weapon is highly effective in dealing with any type of armour and is capable of overcoming even the highest form of protection.

The War Pick is a better-made, more damaging version of the Heavy Pick. Its true danger lies in its chance for massive critical damage on every swing.

A War Pick used for a Sunder attempt grants the wielder +2 to their Combat Maneuver checks for that maneuver. The extremely top-heavy balance and rarity make this an exotic weapon. The War Pick belongs to the “Axes”, weapon group.

Hope that this short but neat article was informative enough! For any questions, there is a comment section below, and if you liked the article please feel free to share it!

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See also

  • War hammer
  • Shepherd’s axe

What is a war pick weapon? 2021