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All physical weapons have one of two attack types: blunt weapons, which deal damage through crushing blows that break bones and penetrate armor, and edged ones, which deal damage by cutting into and slicing through foes. Edged weapons can be further broken down based on the shape of the blade, into "slashing" weapons that aim to slice into your foe, and "piercing" ones that penetrate vital organs. Some weapons have more than one attack type: for instance, the multipurpose short sword has a slashing cut, a piercing stab, and a blunt pommel strike. For a greater discussion on the properties of the weapons themselves, see weapon.
Blunt weapons distribute strong blows along a wide surface area; examples include war hammers, maces, melee attacks with crossbows, and even whips; punches and kicks are also considered blunt attacks. For these types of weapons a high mass and density are the most important material properties (for this reason the best blunt weapons tend to be both heavier and slower than their edged counterparts). Blunt attacks do little contact damage but have an extremely high degree of armor penetration; in fact, blunt weapons completely ignore armour weaker than iron, are somewhat blocked by steel armour, and usually (but not always) blocked by adamantine armour.
Blunt weapons are unlikely to produce fatal wounds in the heat of combat, but broken bones cause extreme pain, which causes creatures that feel it to quickly "give in" and fall unconscious. AI attacks against helpless targets are always perfectly accurate, perfectly square strikes to the head, which should nearly always cause fatal brain trauma (barring exceptional head armour, which dwarves will never attempt to remove). Blunt weapons are most effective against heavy and heavily armored foes that can be incapacitated with internal injuries and pain. They are also invaluable against the undead, as a corpse which has been mangled through significant blunt damage cannot be reanimated again and the lower chance of severing parts makes it less likely that you will be overwhelmed by a swarm of reanimated zombie limbs.
Blunt weapons have some difficulty damaging very small creatures such as rabbits.
Slashing weapons have a long, sharp blade that is designed for cutting and severing limbs. Examples of slashing weapons include short swords, battle axes, and scourges. Of the three weapon classes they do the most damage, hacking through tissues and severing limbs and heads, especially those of smaller and weaker creatures, especially unarmoured or weakly armoured foes. Slashing weapons are at their best cutting through small organic creatures, but fare extremely poorly against armor of equal or better material parity, which converts most of the blow into weak blunt damage. Thus high material quality is paramount for effective slashing weapons.
Piercing weapons focus large forces on a single sharpened point, allowing deep penetration on even the largest of creatures. The weapons often get stuck within their targets, allowing your dwarves to leverage them into tearing apart your foes internally. This gives piercing weapons such as spears, daggers, bolts, arrows, and pikes combat properties between those of the blunt and slashing weapons, not quite as good at piercing armor as blunt weapons, not quite as good at cutting off things as slashing ones. These properties are correlated to the contact area of the weapon; as the weapon's point of contact becomes smaller, it becomes better at penetrating armour, but worse at cutting things off.
Piercing weapons are the most effective weapon class at killing large, unarmored creatures due to their ability to penetrate vital organs: although hits to the limbs will be largely ineffective, it doesn't take much for a spear strike to puncture a lung or a kidney, so it's possible (although unlikely) to kill even a dragon with one decisive hit from a spear or pike. Piercing weapons remain viable against equivalent and better armors, although they do not maintain blunt weapons' levels of penetration.
If you're fighting in adventure mode, try to tailor the attack type you're using to the creature you're attacking (see above). It's also a good idea to keep several different kinds of weapons in your hands, in addition to a shield, at all times, since holding on to multiple weapons at once doesn't seem to have any effect in current versions.
If at all possible, go for headshots when using a blunt weapon or an unarmed attack, as the head is the only place where you have a chance of killing with one hit. If you don't think that you'll be able to execute a headshot, switch to some other kind of weapon if you have a choice.
When using a slashing weapon, an effective tactic is to attack the arms and legs to disable your opponent, then to finish off by attacking the neck or throat. Do not use a slashing weapon against armour of an equal or stronger material than your weapon's. For example, if you have an iron great axe and your opponent has an iron chainmail shirt, don't bother attacking the body as it will not get you anywhere. Aim for some other target.
If you're faced with a megabeast, this is the only kind of weapon that'll do; it can penetrate internal organs, causing massive pain and bleeding. A piercing weapon is also somewhat better at going through armour than a slashing weapon (though not as good as a blunt weapon), so if you don't have blunt weapon to attack an armoured foe, that spear or pike might just come in handy.
Sometimes, the best way to fight isn't with weapons; it's with your bare hands. See Wrestling for more details.
|Ranged and ammunition|
Flail · Mace · Maul · Training weapons · War hammer · Whip
Battle axe · Great axe · Halberd · Long sword · Scimitar · Scourge · Short sword · Two-handed sword
Dagger · Morningstar · Pick · Pike · Spear
|See also: Attack types|