The halberd has been a favorite weapon of mine for a long time because I’m a history geek and Medieval history is just awesome. I’ve also watched a couple of long-time D&D players use the Halberd as their main carrying weapon with great effectiveness, especially when piling on multiple feats that made its reach devastating against anything a DM could throw at the party. So is the 5E halberd the ultimate martial weapon in D&D?
The Halberd is one of the best reach weapons in Dungeons & Dragons providing a respectable 1d10 of slashing damage in addition to a rare 10 feet of reach. Since most weapons only give 5 feet of reach and more often do 1d8 in damage, this makes the halberd an excellent choice that isn’t hampered by special requirements to use outside of the heavy property.
Lets dive into this awesome weapon, see what classes and builds should use it, and give you all the information you need to decide whether or not it’s the right choice for your character or not.
The Halberd In 5E D&D
The halberd in D&D is the same one from Medieval history, which was a great equalizer when it came to fighting cavalry since that extra reach and the design meant it could be used in a line of pikes to create a long spear wall, or you could hack a figure on a horse with enough force to knock them off or injure them through armor.
This is a weapon with a lot of history and is often imagined with heavy armor because of its storied history of these used by Swiss mercenaries and are seen modern day with the Swiss Guard in the Vatican City.
How does this weapon compare in the actual game world of D&D?
5E Halberd Core Stats
- 10 foot reach
- 2-handed weapon
- Heavy weapon (can only be effectively used by Medium and larger creatures)
- Uses Strength modifier
- 1d10 slashing damage per hit
- Cost of 20 gp
Take a look at how the Halberd not only compares to the other original weapons that have the valuable “Reach” property in 5E’s The Player’s Handbook, but also some of the most popular or other unique melee weapons.
|Heavy, Reach, 2-Handed
|Heavy, Reach, 2-Handed
|Heavy, Reach, 2-Handed
There’s a decent amount to break down from this comparison. Let’s start by stating the obvious: the glaive is an exact clone of the halberd. There are some pretty good reasons for this, which I discuss in the article a little bit further down.
For now, let’s look at the specific properties of the halberd both good and bad.
This pretty much disqualifies the halberd as a weapon for characters who are small in size since they have disadvantage any time they attempt to use a heavy weapon.
So this makes halberds a “no-go” for characters playing races like Gnomes, Halflings, Goblins, Fairies, or other small folk. However, a Dwarf is so broad they are considered medium sized, so a Dwarf could conceivably use the halberd, which makes for a potentially interesting Cleric build.
This is the biggest restriction the weapon has.
Damage & Reach
The damage is a respectable 1d10 and is slashing damage. This means if you’re looking to boost your weapon attacks through feats you want the 5E Slasher Feat as opposed to the Crusher or Piercer feats if you’re going to be using the halberd since that is in line with the slashing damage that a halberd causes.
The reach is great. Being able to hit enemies at 10 feet when most of them can only attack within 5 feet is a great advantage, especially if you look at the best 5E feats to make the 10 foot reach, heavy weapon halberd a nightmare for opposing enemies like the polearm master feat and sentinel feat.
The polearm master feat allows you to use a reaction to attack when an enemy enters your combat range, since that creates an attack of opportunity. The sentinel feat means when you hit them, their movement points fall to zero. On most enemies, that pretty much stops them while too far away to attack you, but allows you to go to town.
Does that sound insanely powerful?
There’s a reason that the polearm master + sentinel combination is near the top of our list of the most overpowered feat combos in 5E DnD. The ability to keep enemies off the line and keep attacking them is crazy good and can really create even more battlefield control for the party of adventurers in your current D&D campaign.
Why Is the 5E Halberd So Popular?
Because there are two main reasons: one is a very specific overpowered build, and the other is the halberd is a great weapon for “mid-level” martial characters.
Characters who can use that reach:
- Melee based Warlocks
- Medium Armor Clerics
- Light or medium armor builds that are melee – using that distance to avoid more hits
The halberd’s reach gives extra advantage here, especially for characters with lower hit points who are more support line versus frontline as a result.
There are also heavy armor builds that can use this well. Fighters and Paladins tend to want to be more in the middle of it, and using the bonus of a shield (which can’t be used with a halberd). However, heavy armor clerics who are there to support, or become murder hobos, can also love the halberd as it lets them move around the front or backline as needed and still have the reach to attack when they are switching to melee from support and spellcasting.
The “Blender Cleric”
This is a terrifying build that I frankly had virtually no answer for outside of homebrew when running my years’ long 5E campaign, and it’s a marvelous build that you will want the advantage that a reach weapon like a halberd brings to the table.
The Ingredients for a “Blender Cleric Build”
- 1 Creative Min-Maxing monster of a player
- 1 Halberd
- The Polearm Master Feat
- The Sentinel Feat
- The War Caster Feat
- The Spirit Guardian Spell
- The Spiritual Weapon Spell
This is an insane combination. The Spirit Guardians rotating around create a killing field that hits round after round, and having the polearm-sentinel combination means you get to attack and keep freezing an enemy NPC inside the killing zone. Bonus action used to attack with the Spiritual Weapon while any lucky jerk who somehow actually makes it to the Cleric, then somehow manages to hit them, has to hope the Cleric with advantage from War Caster fails their concentration saving throw.
It doesn’t happen often. The fact that the Cleric can freeze one enemy, survive a round, then hit and freeze the enemy that somehow closed in before moving back (but keeping them in the killing zone) means this build is just terrifying.
And the halberd’s reach makes all the more difference in making this work.
This build is one of the reasons that the 5E halberd is often a popular weapon among Clerics in D&D.
5E Halberd Vs Glaive: What’s The Difference?
Mechanically in 5E D&D there is no difference between the Halberd and Glaive as weapons. They are mechanically 100% the same.
Was this a mistake?
No, the designers actually were being fairly realistic when looking at how the glaive and halberd should be compared. There are very good reasons why mechanically the weapons should be pretty much the same: they are in the same family of weapons with the same design, making them extremely similar weapons.
Basically the only difference is the blade design at the end of the pole. The halberd is an axe-shaped blade at the end of a pole while a glaive will be a sword-shaped blade. This makes the two very similar in weight, function, and even in appearance with many laypeople seeing the two as potentially interchangeable…or both as “different types of halberds.”
However, this does bring up a problem that 5th Edition has yet to solve with weapons, including the 5E halberd: which is that they often overlap and are uninteresting as weapons with the same stats really aren’t different in any way other than maybe a little bit of flavor text in story telling depending on how detail observant your DM is.
Homebrew Rules to Spice Up the Halberd
While I haven’t added a lot of homebrew rules to common weapons, in part because using magic weapons makes sense at a certain point beyond the obvious +1, +2, +3. However, there are some cool common sense homebrew dnd rules that can spice up the halberd even more.
While it might not come up often, giving a halberd wielder advantage on any action to unmount a mounted combatant makes sense, as does simply forcing a mounted opponent to make a basic Strength or Dexterity save to stay on the horse whenever a player armed with a halberd connects with an attack.
These are two homebrew halberd rules for 5th Edition D&D that can make this weapon (and also the glaive) stick out from pikes, lances, or other martial weapons available in D&D.
Concluding Thoughts on the 5E Halberd
Is the halberd/glaive the ultimate weapon in 5E D&D? Probably not – but it can be an incredibly effective weapon for the right build, offering a little extra reach and value while providing a very respectable d10 in damage. This is a solid choice for a starting weapon and for certain builds it does add a bit of a bonus that can make all the difference when it matters most!
Other DnD Articles You May Enjoy:
- 5E Best Feats for Fighters
- 5E Best Feats for Paladins
- 5E Best Feats for Clerics
- 5E Flameskull Guide
- All R.A. Salvatore Drizzt Do’ Urden Books
- 5E Eldritch Knight Class Guide
- 5E Arcane Trickster Class Guide
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.