Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Axes are not simple tools. There are dozens of different varieties out there, each for a different purpose.
The thickness of the wedge, the length of the handle, and the method of securing the two pieces together all play an important role in determining the specific use and effectiveness of each particular ax.
And that doesn’t even get into the magical ones!
Magical axes are a tool for the discerning warrior. Any idiot can pick up a sword and think they look cool.
Swords are all the same, and most people out there think all you have to do is take the pokey bit and put holes in the other guy until he stops fighting. Amateurs.
No amateur can pick up an ax and wield it effectively.
Magical axes require even more discernment. Depending on their rarity, you could be paying a whole cart load of money for the best tool on the planet. (For more on that, check out our post here on magic item pricing.)
So, we put together a list of Magic Axes you can use at EVERY tier of play. Most of these will be in the WoTC published material, but there will be some homebrew thrown in as well.
A Brief Guide for Magic Axes
There aren’t as many magic axes in Dungeons and Dragons as there are swords or other types of weapons.
Truthfully, it seems the designers only have three images in mind when making axes: dwarves, barbarians, and Dwarven Barbarians.
Not a lot to go on.
About half of what we have listed here is homebrew, all brought together by the sharpest minds here at Black Citadel.
Of course, the easiest way to homebrew a magic ax is to take your favorite sword and make an ax out of it. Just melt it down and make it your own.
Call it Axcalibur.
Axes in Tier I
Tier I magic items are generally considered “common” in rarity.
You’d think that axes, being such a universal weapon and tool, would have loads of enhancements that would qualify as common.
Sadly, not true.
Other than the special Warforged Armblades, there are exactly zero Magic Axes in the Common Category. If you make an ax in Tier I, it should be Common and should cost anywhere between 50-100 gp.
Uncommon Axes tend to be a bit more powerful for early levels but could still be handed out as major rewards.
Here is our list for Tier I Magic Axes followed by a detailed explanation of how and when to use them.
Usable only by Warforged, this ax is a special attachment that lets you holster your weapon inside your robotic body – like Robocop’s gun. You remember Robocop, right? From 2e?
You could easily make this available for any other race by having the ax magically fold into a bracer or shoulder pad. Remember shoulder pads? Also from Robocop? Ah, the 80s.
This homebrew hand ax with a heavier head and lightweight handle is designed to be thrown. You can throw this handaxe at long range (60 ft.) without disadvantage.
Smoking Handaxe (Homebrew)
This handaxe has a pipe bowl on the opposite end of the blade and a hollow tube for a handle. Typically, a handaxe like this was used in ceremonial function to signify “burying the hatchet” or letting go of grudges.
However, in Dungeons and Dragons, violence is usually the answer. Therefore, this ax grants you advantage on Deception checks when presented as a token for tokin’ and not as a usable weapon.
You could also use it to snorkel!
A maul is an ax of any size with a double-sided head that is bladed on one end and smoothed like a hammer on the other.
Typically designed for splitting wood, this item allows you to switch freely between slashing and bludgeoning damage.
Axes in Tier II
In Tier II, magic is starting to get a bit more accessible. Magic Axes could be found in small treasure hoards, attached to important bad guys, or on display at a magic item shop for 101-500 gp.
Ax of Warning
Weapons of Warning are fairly ubiquitous. You can find warning weapons of any type. They won’t spare you from the need to keep watch, but they will prepare you for an ambush. Make sure that whoever is on watch is holding it.
Returning Ax (Homebrew)
This hand ax is paired to a leather holster. When thrown, it will return to its holster at the start of your next turn.
Should you wish, you can combine this enchantment with the Tomahawk above and have a returning hand ax that can be thrown 60 feet.
Hook Ax (Homebrew)
This Ax is not magical, but it is specially crafted with a hook on the back end of the bladed head. As a bonus action, you may grapple your opponent with the hooked end, causing them to be restrained.
If successful, the opponent is restrained until the start of their next turn. If you attack with the ax immediately after grappling, the grapple ends; however, you gain advantage on that attack.
Splitting Ax (Homebrew)
This ax has a wide, heavy wedge. When used to break against inanimate objects that are neither wrong nor carried, you gain advantage on the attack roll and automatically deal maximum damage.
Axes at Tier III
In Tier III, you are expected to be a powerhouse. Even in low-magic settings, like Dragonlance, you should have some magic at your disposal.
In general, Rare items cost between 500 – 5,000 gp.
These Axes are flashy and useful – perfect for Tier III.
Other than the obvious misunderstanding of the historical uses of the term berserker, this ax is deceptive and dangerous for your PCs — which makes it perfect for DMs!
Hide this ax among the spoils of a battle or give it to a monster the party must cut down. If you can get someone to attune to it, the next combat should be interesting indeed.
Not only will the character gain a +1 to all attack and damage rolls, but they will continue attacking everyone until they are the only living character.
Be sure to add the unfortunate berserking character to the total XP the party receives because if the party can’t separate the ax from the victim, they’ll have to watch the ax separate their limbs from their body.
This is a simple Magical Ax. When you score a critical hit, deal an extra 7 damage. Now, I have no idea why WotC decided 7 was the magic number here or why it only worked on a critical, but there it is.
If you think about it, 7 is a good amount of damage. It’s like an extra 1d10, except you roll high every time.
Giant Slayer Axe
This is an oddly specific weapon that was probably inspired by the designer’s simplified idea of the complex relationship between axes, berserkers, and giants.
Despite that, it is a very useful item, dealing an extra 2d6 damage to Giants and forcing a DC 15 Strength save or making them fall prone. That being said, DC25 probably isn’t that difficult for a giant.
A very easy modification for homebrew is to make this ax specific to any other creature type.
The idea of making Giants fall prone is how we can bring them down to our size, so if you made this an aberration slayer ax, for example, you could force a DC 15 Charisma save or make them stunned for a round. Just thoughts.
Flame Tongue Axe (Homebrew-ish)
The Flame Tongue sword is too cool a weapon to categorically be denied as an ax user. You could easily put the same magical abilities on an ax. You could go one further and change the energy type if you like.
Cold or Thunder would do nicely if you like to play the idea that all ax users are berserkers from the frozen lands of the North.
Axes at Tier IV
A simple rule of thumb for Artifacts and Legendary items at Tier IV is that they do not exist in our world unless explicitly allowed for the simple reason that legendary items change the focus of your game from the plot to the power of the item itself.
These items create plot.
Here are two game-changing Axes you could drop into your world if you need a powerful McGuffin or an enemy with a signature weapon.
Ax of the Dwarvish Lords
Pulled straight from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, this Magic Ax comes with its own backstory you can lift directly into your campaign.
It also comes with randomly determined artifact properties and several ancillary abilities that increase the smack you can lay on your foes.
This item also comes with a little curse that slowly turns you into a dwarf, but… c’mon… is that really a curse?
From the DMG:
Necromancer’s Cleaver (Homebrew)
This great ax was created and designed for necromancers; therefore it grants proficiency with the weapon to any attuned spellcaster who can cast animate dead.
Once attuned, it uses the wielder’s spellcasting modifier for attack and damage rolls.
The Necromancer’s Cleaver functions as an Arcane Focus for the spellcaster attuned to it, allowing them to cast spells while wielding the great ax.
If the wielder uses their action to cast a cantrip, they may make an additional attack with Necromancer’s Cleaver as a bonus action. It does an additional 2d12 necrotic damage on a strike.
Finally, on a critical hit, the target must make a DC 16 Constitution save. On a failure, the cleaver slices off a chunk of flesh, which lands in the nearest unoccupied space.
On the wielder’s next turn, the chunk of flesh turns into a zombie with a number of Hit Points equal to the damage dealt on the critical hit that created it.
The zombie bears a horrible resemblance to the target and immediately attacks them or the nearest person, excepting the wielder of the Necromancer’s Cleaver.
The Necromancer’s Cleaver
There once was a butcher of world-renown fame
Butcher was his trade, Butcher was his name
He was a human like so many others,
But felt no connection, no sisters, no brothers.
His gift was his passion and his only respite
His only love: muscle red and bone white
He butchered beef for nobles. For peasants? Their pigs.
He butchered quail for the elves. For Demons? Street kids.
He butchered beasts for the humans and humans for the fiends.
Elves for thri-kreen and fairies for the Queen!
When he butchered, he smiled.
Not a protein reviled.
When the towns folk came for their forks and their knives,
They roasted him aflame as a taker of lives.
But did they count the beasts he served them for dinner?
Did they count the aberrations he faithfully delivered?
No, they only cared for the mortal and bipedal.
So, he laughed at their hypocrisy, their logic so feeble.
His cleaver that tested the flesh of all
Was lost in the press of the butcher’s last fall.
Some say it was taken by shadow to the realm
Of Kas or Vecna or held safe by Helm.
Wherever it went or wherever it be,
This Necromancer’s blade longs only to cleave!
We hope you can use these items in your game tonight. Roll on!
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].