Tridents in DnD 5e: Gear Guide for Players and DMs

Last Updated on January 22, 2023

Traditionally a weapon of sea gods and gladiators, in Dungeons & Dragons 5e, is the trident just a slightly worse version of the spear? Welcome to our complete gear guide to everything you need to know about tridents in DnD 5e — from how they work to whether or not there’s any reason to carry one beyond the lure of an aquatic aesthetic.  


Martial Melee Weapon 

Proficiency with a trident allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with it.

How Do Tridents Work in DnD 5e? 

In D&D 5e, tridents are a martial melee weapon with the thrown property. Its range is the same as the Spear, and it can target enemies up to 20 feet away without disadvantage and with an additional long range of 60 feet. 

When wielded in one hand (leaving the other free for a secondary weapon, a shield, a net, a torch, some other piece of gear, or casting spells), the trident deals 1d6 + Strength piercing damage. It also has the versatile property, which means that, if the trident is wielded in two hands, its damage die increases to a d8. 

That makes it a pretty solid weapon on paper — in a vacuum… at the bottom of a tin mine on a cloudy night as my grandmother would say. The truth is that, once you start comparing the trident to other options available to a budding adventurer, it almost immediately looks like a subpar choice. Sure, it’s not bad. The versatile and thrown properties are great, and a d8 damage die is nothing to sniff at… if only it wasn’t a martial weapon. 

Trident vs. Spear

Here’s the issue. The trident is, in every way, either mechanically identical or inferior to the spear. They have the same range and deal the same amount of the same damage type, and both even share the versatile and ranged properties. It’s not even really a deal breaker that the trident weighs a little more and costs 5 gp when the spear is just 1 gp (hey now, extra prongs cost money — I get that), but there’s one crucial difference between these two weapons that makes the spear a staple of any adventurer’s arsenal and the trident a weird edge case. 

Spears are simple weapons, meaning they can be wielded by anyone. That means that, if you’re a druid, warlock, or another class without martial weapon proficiency, you can pick up a spear and get stuck in. And, with the opportunity to deal 1d8 piercing damage if used two-handed, the spear is one of the best simple weapons out there. 

The trident, on the other hand, has to go up against all the options in the martial weapon category. 1d8 damage two-handed starts to look pretty pathetic next to the 2d6 greatsword or 1d12 greataxe. 

So, all this begs the question…

Why Use a Trident? 

Well, if we’re back in our vacuum at the bottom of the tin mine on the longest night of the year in a snowstorm, the answer is: don’t use a trident. They’re basically the same as a spear, but they’re a martial weapon, which means that if you’re considering one, you have to compare it to all the other martial weapons, and the trident doesn’t really hold up. 

So, therefore we’re left with the only real answer: aesthetic.

Or it’s magical… That’s also a good reason. 

Trident of Fish Command 

Weapon (trident), uncommon (requires attunement)

This trident is a magic weapon. It has 3 charges. While you carry it, you can use an action and expend 1 charge to cast Dominate Beast (save DC 15) from it on a beast that has an innate swimming speed. The trident regains 1d3 expended charges daily at dawn.

Proficiency with a trident allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with it.

If you like the look and idea of a trident and want to play a Sea Elf ranger or a Water Genasi fighter with the gladiator background, then the trident is the glue that holds that character concept and aesthetic together. D&D is a game about making cool characters that you like, and one suboptimal choice really isn’t going to ruin your character, especially if it makes them fun to think about and play. At least, it shouldn’t.

To be honest, I think the weapons in 5e are simultaneously too varied and not meaningfully different enough. I think ideas like “optimal weapon choices” are not only based on such minuscule decision points — like a 4 gp price difference or a d6 versus a d8 — as to render them pedantic at best and meaningless joy thieves at worst, but they also have objectively “correct” answers in most cases. This makes choosing something you like for the sake of character and aesthetic an objectively bad decision in many cases. 

This is why I like the Black Hack’s class-based damage die system (wizards deal d4 damage no matter what weapon they use, fighters deal d10, etc.), or the broad weapon categories from games like Into the Odd. But I digress. 

If you like the idea of a trident but don’t have the martial proficiency, just ask your DM if they’ll let you reskin a spear and get on with your life. If you’re playing a martial character, ask if you can reskin a Halberd to deal piercing damage, or just grab a Pike.

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