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This article is about the current version of DF.
This page deals entirely with manufactured weapons. For natural weapons, see Natural weapon.

A weapon in the sense described on this page is any object specifically designed to be wielded in the pursuit of bodily harm to others. In fortress mode, weapons can be made at a metalsmith's forge (all metal weapons) using a single bar of metal, despite the fact that most weapons in the game (with the exception of swords and maces) would have wooden handles in real life, a bowyer's workshop (wooden and bone crossbows), or a craftsdwarf's workshop (obsidian short swords).


[edit] Basics

[edit] Native vs. foreign

In fortress mode, weapons can be split in two categories: those that you can produce, and those that you can't. Weaponsmiths can produce seven types of native weapons at a metalsmith's forge, but there are also fourteen foreign weapons that can be found in the hands of enemy combatants, or bought from trading caravans (note, however, that due to bugs, several foreign weapons currently are effectively unusable by dwarves). These may use skills your dwarves are unfamiliar with. It is impossible to buy them in bulk, and they are of variable quality and material. Like all weapons they tend to be expensive as trade goods. They may be worth using if you can secure a high-quality specimen (see Quality below). Since they are common for other nations, it is important to understand their properties when you have to fight enemies wielding them.

[edit] Types of weapons

Main article: Attack types

From another point of view there are four categories: slashing, piercing, crushing, and ranged.

Slashing weapons, like short swords and battle axes, work by concentrating their force along a sharp edge, allowing them to cut gashes in or to completely sever body parts. Severing is most likely when the body part's thickness is smaller than the weapon's contact edge. They make the quickest work of unarmored opponents who are not tremendously large. They are far less effective against armored targets, however, as armor may prevent the cutting, converting strikes into weaker blunt damage.

Piercing weapons, like spears and picks, work by concentrating their force at a point, allowing them to punch through armor and damage internal organs. They often get stuck in the opponent, giving their wielder further leverage on the target.

Crushing weapons, like war hammers and maces, work by concentrating their force behind a large, blunt mass, putting dents in armor and breaking bones beneath their blows. As broken bones cause extreme pain, living creatures that can feel it will often "give in" to it and fall unconscious very quickly. Attacks against such helpless targets will take the form of perfectly accurate and perfectly square strikes to the head, which will usually cause fatal brain injury. Nevertheless, blunt weapons are still slower to kill unarmored enemies than slashing weapons are.

Ranged weapons—crossbows, bows, and blowguns—are effectively piercing weapons which work at a distance. When used in melee combat as bludgeons, crossbows produce blunt weapon damage. Bows used in melee are treated like extremely weak swords.

There exists one more kind of weapon: the so-called training weapon. Training weapons are all wooden, and are all made at the carpenter's workshop. Training axes, spears, and short swords can be constructed in fortress mode. They do little blunt impact damage, due to the poor material properties of wood. While every weapon is actually safe to use in sparring, the primary purpose of training weapons in fortress mode is to allow your dwarves to train before you have a working metal industry. They can also be used during live combat exercises (beating upon a disarmed goblin, etc.) to extend the training session's length. Finally, they may be issued to the guards to reduce the lethality of a criminal beating.

[edit] Types of targets

One can divide the types of foes you will meet into three categories. The first is organic and unarmored (or poorly armored) enemies, like thieves, non-sentient creatures (be it local wildlife or siege mounts), semi-megabeasts and megabeasts besides the bronze colossus. Weapons that deal slashing damage work best and quickest against these types of enemies, severing whole body parts and leaving them severely incapacitated.

The second is organic and armored enemies, like ambushers and siegers. The way armor works, slashing blows that are countered by a piece of armor are converted into generally less effective blunt damage; the best damage against these kinds of enemies are piercing weapons, which punch through armor and damage their internal organs, incapacitating them and allowing the wielder to finish them off. Crushing weapons work as well, although they are slower.

The third and most dangerous types of enemies are inorganic enemies (or ones that don't feel pain), which are titans, forgotten beasts, bronze colossuses, and hidden fun stuff. These enemies have no internal organs, and depending on the material they are made of, may be very difficult to slash at (although a forgotten beast made of, for instance, mud is laughably easy to kill). Against these enemies, crushing weapons are the best, because they can chip at their foes until they collapse from cumulative damage.

[edit] Weapon skill

Every type of weapon has its own associated military skill. The higher a dwarf is in his skill with a weapon, the better he will be able to use it in combat, connecting hammer blows to more advantageous sweet spots and sending spears right through enemy hearts and lungs with greater accuracy. The higher the weapon skill, the better at fighting the dwarf will be.

Once a dwarf has reached "Great" skill in a certain weapon, they become weapon lords for that specific weapon. They are listed as such on the status screen, will love fighting, and will no longer complain about long patrol duties. Weapon skill is trained in fighting enemies in combat, demonstrations, and combat drills, but if you leave your dwarves shield-less, a danger room will train their skill very, very quickly. Note that this does not quite work for marksdwarves - danger rooming ranged weapons increases their melee skill, increasing their hammerdwarf skill, although this may be the point.

[edit] Attachment

A dwarf that has used a particular weapon for a long time will grow attached to it, equipping it whenever their uniform allows them to. This is fine if they are wielding a ☼steel mace☼, but a major problem if they are wielding what is meant to be a training weapon (be it a wooden axe or a copper spear). You can avoid this pitfall by not using training weapons and not forging weapons until you have real weaponsmithing underway. These events generate announcements. If a dwarf does become attached, you can easily force him to relinquish the weapon by assigning a 'specific weapon' instead in his equipment view.

In addition, dwarves that reach a certain number or level of kills, or train long enough with a weapon, will name it. This prompts a major announcement. The weapon in question may have no kills associated with it, legendary dwarves occasionally name their weapons while training with them. Once named, the weapon will appear in the artifact list, albeit in blue. It is unknown if named weapons perform better than unnamed weapons.

Dwarves may also become attached to shields and name them in the same way.

[edit] Quality and strange moods

The quality of a weapon has a significant (and currently poorly understood) impact on its combat performance, as well as its value.

Designation Description Value
Sharpness  Weapon To-Hit /
Armor Deflect Modifier
 Item Name —     1x 50% 1x
-Item Name- Well-crafted 2x 60% 1.2x
+Item Name+ Finely-crafted 3x 70% 1.4x
*Item Name* Superior quality 4x 80% 1.6x
≡Item Name≡ Exceptional 5x 90% 1.8x
☼Item Name☼ Masterful 12x 100% 2x
Unique name Artifact 120x 100% 3x
«Item Name» Decorated object Varies Varies unknown

Weaponsmithing is a moodable profession, which means that you can get artifact weapons. Artifact weapons have a 3x combat bonus and can be made out of a wide range of materials; ordinarily a hippo bone spear is impossible, but a moody dwarf can create one with a stack of hippo bone. Artifact weapons made of totally inappropriate materials are inferior to regular ones made of weapons-grade metal, although the exact balance is still under discussion. As with other moodable skills, a dwarf who creates an artifact using the weaponsmith skill stands a high chance of becoming a legendary weaponsmith.

[edit] Weapons as tools

Hunters use crossbows, wood cutters use battle axes (wooden training axes worked prior to version 0.43.01), and miners use picks. They must be in possession of these items to do their jobs, and it's as simple as that.

Hunters gain marksdwarf skill from hunting, but wood cutters do not gain axedwarf weapon skill from cutting trees. Miners gain mining skill, which is not considered a military skill, but is used as a weapon skill when fighting with a pick. A dwarf using a weapon as a tool will not use the same tool as a military weapon, instead dropping their tool to pick up another for military use.Bug:1451 Dwarves may carry only one weapon as a tool at a time; for example, woodcutters/hunters will drop their axes then go and pick up crossbows every time they begin hunting.

[edit] Ammunition

Main article: Ammunition

Crossbows and other ranged weapons require ammunition (in the case of the crossbow, bolts). This ammunition is carried in a quiver in packs of about 25, and when they run out they will switch to using their ranged weapons as crude hammers. It's often a good idea to try to get them to retreat once they run out of ammo — crossbows are meant for shooting, not bashing.

[edit] Secondary weapons

Although it sounds like a cool idea, equipping a marksdwarf with a backup short sword just in case doesn't often work, as dwarves are just as quick to run up to their foes and start bashing them with a crossbow as they are to draw their swords and do it properly.

[edit] Weapons

[edit] Native weapons

Type Size Attack Attack type Contact Area Penetration Velocity Skill Used Hands Used Metal Wood Bone Obsidian
Battle Axe 800 Hack Edge 40000 6000 1.25x Axe Singlegrasp Yes No No No
Flat slap Blunt 40000 (6000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0x
Crossbow (Melee) 400 Bash Blunt 10000 (4000) 1.25x Hammer Singlegrasp? Yes Yes Yes No
Mace 800 Bash Blunt 20 (200) 2.0x Mace Singlegrasp Yes No No No
Pick (foreign) 500 Strike Edge 100 4000 2.0x Mining Singlegrasp Yes No No No
Short Sword 300 Slash Edge 20000 4000 1.25x Sword Singlegrasp Yes No No Yes
Stab Edge 50 2000 1.0x
Flat slap Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0x
Spear 400 Stab Edge 20 10000 1.0x Spear Singlegrasp Yes No No No
Shaft bash Blunt 10000 (6000) 1.25x
War Hammer 400 Bash Blunt 10 (200) 2.0x Hammer Singlegrasp Yes No No No

Note that although the pick is a foreign weapon, it can be produced by dwarves and is therefore considered native.Bug:680

[edit] Details

  • If you find your dwarves wearing more than one weapon -- or any unwanted armor, for that matter -- one way to get rid of them is to dump the weapon from their v-i inventory screen. This does not always work, as they might re-equip the item. Another option is to remove any weapons and/or shields listed on their military equip screen. This too does not always work. At least "left-handedness" seems to not pose a problem. If you cancel the work by v-p and selecting a job that needs a tool they will sometimes put it back in the pile. Example: Miners use picks, cancel their mining job and they will put the pick away AFTER you ordered it to be dumped.
  • Using weapons is much more effective than unarmed combat -- an untrained swordsdwarf with an iron weapon can defeat a grand master wrestler, provided neither is wearing armor.
    • Larger weapons with more heft tend to do more damage. How damage is calculated is currently not fully understood, and this area begs for more !SCIENCE!.
  • The size for a weapon is its volume in cm3.
  • Attacks of type EDGE will either slice or pierce their target, depending on the contact area and penetration depth, while BLUNT attacks tend to damage internal organs without necessarily causing significant damage to outer layers.
  • The contact area represents the area of contact of the weapon, and the penetration determines how deep the attack goes (and is apparently ignored entirely for BLUNT attacks -- indicated by numbers in parentheses). Large contact areas combined with low penetration represent slashing attacks, while small contact areas with high penetration behave as piercing attacks.
  • The velocity seems to adjust the amount of actual force used during the attack (otherwise based on the size of the weapon, the material from which the weapon is made, and the strength of the wielder) - for example, war hammers have a 2x velocity multiplier, presumably to model the fact that the hammer's mass is concentrated at the tip which, when combined with a long handle, permits swinging it harder than a weapon whose mass is evenly distributed (such as a sword).
  • Crossbows can be made of metal, wood, and bone. Metal crossbows are made by a weaponsmith at a forge, while wood and bone crossbows are made by a bowyer at a bowyer's workshop. The material of a crossbow does not affect its firing ability, only its melee damage. A dwarf's marksmanship skill is only affected by the core quality of the bow. This may be a consideration when deciding which dwarf you want outfitting your marksdwarves: a legendary bowyer is a better choice than a proficient weaponsmith.
  • Dwarves will never select a pick for a weapon if allowed "individual choice." You must specify picks as part of their uniform or on the individual equip screen if you wish to utilize them as weapons.

[edit] Training weapons

All training weapons must be made of wood at the carpenter's workshop.

Type Size Attack Attack type Contact Area Penetration Velocity Skill Used
Training Axe 800 Hack Blunt 30000 (6000) 1.25x Axe
Flat slap Blunt 30000 (6000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0x
Training Sword 300 Slash Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25x Sword
Stab Blunt 50 (2000) 1.0x
Flat slap Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0x
Training Spear 400 Stab Blunt 200 (10000) 1.0x Spear
Shaft bash Blunt 10000 (6000) 1.25x

[edit] Foreign weapons

Using any multi-grasp weapon in a single hand (i.e. with a shield in the other hand) gives you a disability to hit. Do not equip two-handed swords with a shield, for instance.

In Adventurer Mode, however, it is possible to wield a two-handed sword, or any multi-grasp weapon in one hand, without penalty (allowing for the simultaneous use of a shield) if your character passes the one-handed check for single-handing a multi-grasp weapon. For example, if you create a Human character, and manage to spawn into a world with a "broad body" or a "tall body" in the character description, you will be able to single-hand any multi-grasp weapon (and will be forced to, much like you are forced to single-hand any single-grasp weapon), which allows for the simultaneous, disability-free use of a shield, thus making your damage and defensive capabilities much higher than they would be with a single-grasp weapon and shield. Note that upping Strength to Superior (and eventually Superhuman) will make all attacks more likely to deal extra damage, making cutting off the limbs of your enemies much easier.

Type Size Attack Attack type Contact Area Penetration Velocity Skill Used Used by Hands Used
2H Sword 900 Slash Edge 100000 8000 1.25x Sword Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Stab Edge 50 4000 1.0x
Flat slap Blunt 100000 (8000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0x
Blowgun (Melee) 150 Bash Blunt 10000 (4000) 1.25x Sword Subterranean animal peoples Single-grasp?
Bow (Melee) 300 Bash Blunt 10000 (4000) 1.25x Sword Elf, Goblin, Human, Kobold Single-grasp?
Flail 500 Bash Blunt 200 (4000) 2.5x Mace Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Great Axe 1300 Hack Edge 60000 8000 1.25x Axe Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Flat slap Blunt 60000 (8000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0x
Halberd 1200 Slash Edge 20000 8000 1.25x Axe Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Stab Edge 50 2000 1.0x
Shaft bash Blunt 20000 (6000) 1.25x
Dagger (Large) 200 Slash Edge 1000 800 1.25x Dagger Goblin, Kobold Single-grasp
Stab Edge 5 1000 1.0x
Pommel strike Blunt 20 (600) 1.0x
Long Sword 700 Slash Edge 60000 6000 1.25x Sword Elf, Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Stab Edge 50 3000 1.0x
Flat slap Blunt 60000 (6000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 100 (1000) 1.0x
Maul 1300 Bash Blunt 100 (6000) 2.0x Hammer Goblin, Human Multi-grasp
Morningstar 500 Bash Edge 10 500 2.0x Mace Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Pommel strike Blunt 50 (1000) 1.0x
Pike 800 Stab Edge 20 12000 1.0x Pike Goblin, Human Multigrasp
Shaft bash Blunt 10000 (6000) 1.25x
Scimitar 300 Slash Edge 20000 4000 1.25x Sword Goblin, Human Single-grasp
Stab Edge 50 2000 1.0x
Flat slap Blunt 20000 (4000) 1.25x
Pommel strike Blunt 50 (1000) 1.0x
Scourge 300 Lash Edge 10 50 2.0x Whip Goblin Single-grasp
Whip 100 Lash Blunt 1 (10) 5.0x Whip Goblin, Human Single-grasp

[edit] Special variations

Some rare entities have their own procedurally generated variations of weapons. Currently, these weapons are produced by copying the default properties of the "base" weapon, and adding an adjective ("bulky", "large-headed", "branching", etc.) or renaming the weapon altogether ("blade", "curved sword"). Dwarves in strange moods which select from all weapons with a certain tag may produce one of these procedurally generated weapons. Since they retain the properties of their base items, these weapons should be as usable as a standard weapon of the base type.

[edit] Size

Weapons have a minimum size to use at all, and a minimum size to use one-handed. Adult dwarves vary in size between 33750 and 93750 (average 60000) based on their height and broadness.

Unfortunately this is currently bugged in Fortress mode.Bug:0005812 'One-handed' vs. 'two-handed' checks are performed correctly, but 'can wield' vs. 'can't wield' ignores height and broadness modifiers. So Dwarves in Fortress mode will never equip two-handed swords, great axes, halberds, mauls, or pikes. Other weapons have a minimum wielding size of less than 60000, and are wielded one-handed if the individual dwarf is large enough. See this forum post.

The following table shows approximately how many dwarves should be able to use each weapon one or two handed (see this forum post for details), with all fractional numbers being approximate. While there are seven categories each for height and broadness, the number used is chosen randomly from within each category.

Where the size checking bug affects weapon wielding for dwarves, correct approximate figures are given in brackets.

Type Min Size


Min Size



Can't Wield

Dwarves Wield


Dwarves Wield


Battle Axe 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Crossbow (Melee) 15000 0 - - 49/49
Mace 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Pick 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Short Sword 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Spear 5000 47500 - 11/49 38/49
War Hammer 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Training Axe 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Training Sword 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Training Spear 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
2H Sword 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Blowgun (Melee) 15000 0 - - 49/49
Bow (Melee) 15000 0 - - 49/49
Flail 42500 47500 1/49 (0) 10/49 (11/49) 38/49
Great Axe 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Halberd 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Dagger (Large) 5000 27500 - - 49/49
Long Sword 52500 57500 11/49 (0) 7/49 (18/49) 31/49
Maul 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Morningstar 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Pike 62500 77500 32/49 (ALL) 14/49 (0) 3/49 (0)
Scimitar 32500 37500 - 1/49 48/49
Scourge 22500 27500 - - 49/49
Whip 22500 27500 - - 49/49

[edit] Material

Weapons and armor (with a few exceptions) can only be forged from weapon grade metal (Adamantine, Steel, Iron, Silver, Bronze, Bismuth bronze, Copper, and divine metal), wood, or bone. The exceptions include Obsidian short-swords and items created during a strange mood.

Metal Value Density Impact yield Impact fracture Impact elasticity Shear yield Shear fracture Shear elasticity Notes
Adamantine 300 0.200 5000 5000 0 5000 5000 0
Divine metal 300 1.0 1000 2000 0 1000 2000 0
Steel 30 7.85 1505 2520 940 430 720 215
Bismuth bronze 6 8.25 602 843 547 172 241 156
Bronze 5 8.25 602 843 547 172 241 156
Iron 10 7.85 542 1080 319 155 310 189
Copper 2 8.93 245 770 175 70 220 145
Silver 10 10.49 350 595 350 100 170 333
Platinum 40 21.4 350 700 152 100 200 164 Only available as Artifact Weapons.
Bone 1 0.50 200 200 100 115 130 100
Wood 1 0.50 10 10 1000 40 40 1000
Shell 1 0.50 200 200 100 115 130 100 Only available as Artifact Weapons.
Leather 1 0.50 10 10 50000 25 25 50000 Material data added for comparison.
Obsidian 3 2.67 1000 1000 2222 35 35 114 Only available for Short Swords.
Crystal glass 10 2.6 1000 1000 2222 33 33 113 Only available as Trap Components.
Clear glass 5 2.6 1000 1000 2222 33 33 113 Only available as Trap Components.
Green glass 2 2.6 1000 1000 2222 33 33 113 Only available as Trap Components.
  • Combat information is used internally by the game to determine the combat properties of weapons and armor made from this metal:
    • Density: Used in conjunction with other factors - heavier weapons (higher numbers) hit with more force, light weapons tend to have less penetration. Value shown here is g/cm3, which is the raw value divided by 103
    • Impact yield: Used for blunt-force combat; higher is better. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Impact fracture: Used for blunt-force combat; higher is better. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Impact elasticity (or strain at yield): Used for blunt-force combat; lower is better. This is the raw value.
    • Shear yield: Used for cutting calculations in combat; higher is better. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Shear fracture: Used for cutting calculations in combat; higher is better. This is the raw value divided by 103 (i.e., kPa).
    • Shear elasticity (or strain at yield): Used for cutting calculations in combat; lower is better. This is the raw value.
  • General Term Explanations (From Wikipedia)
    • Yield Strength - The stress at which material strain changes from elastic deformation to plastic deformation, causing it to deform permanently.
    • Fracture Strength - The stress coordinate on the stress-strain curve at the point of rupture.
    • Stress - Force per area = F/A
    • Strain - Deformation of a solid due to stress = Stress/Young's Modulus

[edit] Explanation

  • Yield Strength is the amount of stress required to permanently deform (bend) a material (plastic deformation).
  • Fracture Strength is the amount of stress required to permanently break (rupture) a material.
  • Elasticity or Strain at yield is the amount of deformation (bending) that occurs at the yield point.

[edit] Implications

Yield strength combined with strain at yield can tell what a material will do under stress (be it from a hammer, axe, or arrow); higher yield means that it takes more stress to deform, while lower strain at yield means that it will deform less when stress is applied.

[edit] Combat formulae

Penetration is poorly understood, but most of the rest of combat is fairly well understood.

First, you need to calculate your weapon's momentum.

Melee Weapon Momentum: M = Skill * Size * Str * Vel / (106 * (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size) )

  • Dwarf Melee Momentum: M = 0.06 * Str * Vel / (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size) )
  • Quick attacks halve melee momentum, wild and heavy attacks multiply it by 1.5
  • Attacking a prone opponent in melee doubles momentum.

Ranged Weapon Momentum: M = (w_density*w_size)/105 * min(105*(SHOOT_FORCE/20)/(w_density*w_size), SHOOT_MAXVEL/10)

  • Bow and Crossbow Momentum: M = (w_density*150)/105 * min(105/(w_density*3), 20)
    • If 20 is smaller because the ammunition is density 1666 or less, M = w_density*3/100 = w_density*0.03
    • If 20 is larger because the ammunition is density 1667 or larger, M = 50
  • Blowgun Momentum: M = (w_density*20)/105 * min(105/(w_density*4), 100)
    • If 100 is smaller because the ammunition is density 250 or less, M = w_density/50 = w_density*0.02
    • If 100 is larger because the ammunition is density 251 or more, M = 5


  • M is the momentum.
  • Skill is a gradual multiplier based on skill level, from 1x base up to 2x at Grand Master.
  • Str is the creature's strength (e.g. 1250 for the average dwarf)
  • Vel is the weapon's velocity modifier if present (e.g. 1.25x, 2x)
  • Size is the average creature size (e.g. 60000 for dwarves)
  • i_Size is the specific creature's size
    • Dwarves range from a minimum size of 33750 to a maximum size of 93750, with an average size of 60000.
  • F is "fatness modifier" (also includes muscle) = i_Size/Size; dwarf with size of 66150 will have F=66150/60000=1.1025
  • w_density is the weapon's material's density for melee weapons, or the ammunition's density for ranged weapons
  • w_size is the weapon's size for melee weapons, or the ammunition's size for ranged weapons
  • SHOOT_FORCE is the ranged weapon's SHOOT_FORCE constant, which is used to determine its maximum momentum.
  • SHOOT_MAXVEL is the ranged weapon's SHOOT_MAXVEL constant, which is used to determine its maximum velocity, where ammo momentum = ammo mass * ammo velocity.

An edged weapon undergoes the following comparison:

M >= (aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF) * (10 + 2*a_quality) / (Sha * w_quality),


  • aSY is the armor's SHEAR_YIELD, which is based on its material
  • wSY is the weapon's SHEAR_YIELD, which is based on its material
  • aSF is the armor's SHEAR_FRACTURE, which is based on its material
  • wSF is the weapon's SHEAR_FRACTURE, which is based on its material
  • A is attack contact area, typically between
  • Sha is weapon material sharpness multiplier (1x for most metals, 1.2x for divine metal, 1.5x for glass, 2x for obsidian, 10x for adamantine and 0.1x for all other materials)
  • w_quality is weapon quality multiplier (1x for normal quality, 1.4x for fine, 2x for masterwork, etc.)
  • a_quality is armor quality multiplier

Expressed in the above terms,

  • 0.06 * Str * Vel / (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size)) >= (aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF) * (10 + 2*Qa) / (Sha * w_quality)
  • 0.06 * Sha * w_quality * Str * Vel / (1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size)) >= (aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF) * (10 + 2*a_quality)
  • 0.06 * Sha * w_quality * Str * Vel / ((1 + i_Size/(w_density*w_size)) * (10 + 2*a_quality)) >= aSY/wSY + (A+1)*aSF/wSF

Because Shear Yield and Shear Fracture are always within a power of 10 of each other for actually available materials, but the smallest possible A value is 20 (a blowgun dart, which is smaller than the smallest item of clothing/armor a dwarf can wear), this means that in practice, Shear Fracture is significantly more important than Shear Yield, and you can reliably compare weapons and armor without paying attention to Shear Yield. In both cases, higher is better on both weapons and armor, as is quality. Sharpness only matters to the weapon, and smaller contact area is better for the attacker.

If the test is passed, attack momentum is decreased by some 5% and the layer is considered punctured/severed, and the process continues to the next layer, including working through layers of the defender's body. If the test is failed, the attack becomes blunt for this layer.

If the attack is blunt, either due to starting off blunt or due to failing the above test, it is then subjected to this test:

2 * w_size * wIY > A * a_density


  • a_density is the armor material's density
  • wIY is the weapon's impact yield in MPa (i.e. raw value divided by 106).

Failure means the attack bounces off, meaning denser, larger armor resists blunt attacks better, but larger blunt weapons with larger contact areas and higher impact yields get through armor better. This also means adamantine armor is some of the worst in the game at outright deflecting attacks, due to its poor density, but this is not typically relevant, as impact yields are typically at least 10 times larger than density values for the actual metals available, so this step is routinely passed by most weapons regardless of relative materials.

On success, the following test is applied:

M >= (2*aIF - aIY) * (2 + 0.4*a_quality) * A,


  • aIF is the armor's impact fracture in MPa (i.e. raw value divided by 106)
  • aIY is the armor's impact yield in MPa (i.e. raw value divided by 106).

Note that the armor wants as high impact yield as possible to make this test fail. The armor also wants low impact fracture, although the weapon's impact fracture does not matter, and high quality and high contact area.

On a success, attack momentum is decreased by some 5% and the layer is considered punctured/severed, and the process continues to the next layer, including working through layers of the defender's body. If the attack was edged, it becomes edged again. On a failure, the momentum is multiplied by SHEAR_STRAIN_AT_YIELD/50000 for edged attacks or IMPACT_STRAIN_AT_YIELD/50000 for blunt attacks, then it becomes *permanently* blunt, and is passed on to the next layer. This means most rigid metal armor will reduce blocked attacks by 98%-99%, but elastic armor, such as a mail shirt, has both strain at yield values raised to 50000, so it multiplies by 1 at this step (i.e. does nothing to the momentum, but does still convert it to blunt) regardless of material.

[edit] Combat testing

In regards to edged weaponry: Adamantine and steel take first and second place respectively, with iron the third best material in the game, matched by the bronzes. Beyond that is copper, the second worst material, and silver is the worst weapon material available (and due to the existence of training weapons, not even useful in that regard).

Additionally, with regards to blunt weapons almost all of the non-adamantine materials perform equally well, with a very slight edge towards steel and silver. Here is the thread with the details: [1].

Keep in mind with how unbelievably complicated this system is nothing should be taken as word of law yet.

Best Better Good Fair Poor Terrible Notes
Armor Adamantine Steel Iron Bronze, Bismuth Bronze Copper
Edged Weapons Adamantine Steel Iron Bronze, Bismuth Bronze Copper Silver For piercing iron armor, copper is better than bronze. For piercing copper or bronze armor, bronze is better than copper.
Ammunition Steel, Iron, Bronze, Bismuth Bronze, Copper, Silver Adamantine Adamantine bolts deflect off of adamantine armor, but otherwise their performance is on par with bolts made out of other metals.
Blunt Weapons Platinum Steel, Silver Copper, Bismuth Bronze, Bronze, Iron Adamantine All six standard weapon metals perform nearly identically. Steel has a slightly higher rate of critical wounds, while silver is slightly more likely to penetrate armor. Platinum (only available as artifact weapons) has twice the density of silver and several other improved properties, making it the best metal for impact weapons, though very limited in production. Adamantine's light weight makes it a terrible choice for blunt weapons, roughly the same as making a weapon out of featherwood or cork.

Cross referencing this table with the table at the top of this section seems to indicate that low densities, high impact fractures, and high shear fractures contribute to the killing power of edged weapons.

[edit] Analysis

Testing of weapons (15 dwarves vs. 15 dwarves combats) in the object testing arena shows that the best dwarven-made weapon against unarmored humanoids is the battle axe, while the war hammer performs the best against armored targets.v0.31.12.

Even in 15×(steel armor+silver war hammer) versus 15×(adamantine armor+adamantine battle axe) matches, hammerdwarves won with less than 50% casualties (mostly one-strike kills). However, when the dwarves in question were without armor or only wearing leather/cloth, the result was inverted — axedwarves won with less than 50% casualties. In battles against megabeasts, 6 silver hammerdwarves were barely able to scratch a bronze colossus (attacks were glancing away) due to bronze being a better "weapon" material.

This is because silver has the highest solid density of all materials that can regularly be made into weapons by dwarves. Tests show that indeed gold and platinum (increasingly dense) do increasing amounts of damage, and that war hammers remain the tool of choice, however they can only be produced by a moody dwarf (and a very lucky one at that).

For more on ranged ammunition see the forum thread Dwarven Research: A Comparison Study on the Effectiveness of Bolts vs Armors.

More arena tests are available in the Military testing article.

There is a bug with melee weapon momentum that causes certain weapons to swing faster than they should do, giving them greater performance. This bug is based on the weight of the weapon, with weapons weighing just under a whole number getting the greatest benefit. Two major beneficiaries of this weight bug are copper whips and iron or steel picks.

[edit] Bugs

  • Equipping weapons/armor on military is erraticBug:535
  • 'One-handed' vs. 'two-handed' checks are performed correctly, but 'can wield' vs. 'can't wield' ignores height and broadness modifiers, so dwarves in Fortress mode cannot equip two-handed swords, great axes, halberds, mauls, or pikes.Bug:5812

[edit] See also

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