[RPG] What’s the point of blowguns


I don't get the blowgun. Given that a blowgun is just a pipe-like thing that you blow on one end and a dart-like thing flies out the other end, why is it the case that:

  1. it requires martial weapon proficiency?
  2. it only does 1 damage whereas a dart (a simple ranged weapon) does 1d4 damage?
  3. it has its own ammunition instead of using the same darts I just mentioned?

It seems like no-one would ever choose this weapon if they had martial proficiency, so there must be something I'm missing. Unfortunately I've not been able to find any info in the PHB about this. I wanted to make sure I'm not missing some crucial point that puts all this into perspective before I just homebrew what I think a blowgun should be like (in prep for a game I'll be running soon).

Could anyone provide some insight into why this weapon is as it is and why anyone would use it, ideally with quotes from the handbooks (especially if it's the PHB, I couldn't find anything and would like to know what I missed).

There was a related question, but it's about Pathfinder, and I'm interested in 5e specifically: Blowguns. What's the point?

In light of a comment pointing out the difference between a throwing dart and a blowgun needle, this question is now mostly about why such a thing requires martial proficiency given how it compares to the other martial weapons when dealing only 1 damage, and are their any other benefits to this weapon that justify this?

Best Answer

There are a few reasons for this weapon being what it is. But the main one is simply that stats are based on what makes sense for a weapon. Real blowguns deal trivial damage (unless poison-tipped) and are pretty hard to use properly, requiring some level of training to be accurate with them.

For example, the Trident is another choice of weapon that you'd never pick mechanically.

Of course, the main point to the blowgun is that it's traditionally used to poison people covertly. Especially when the goal is to disable targets without murdering them, it might come in handy. A blowgun with a tranq dart cannot accidentally murder the target, while a tranq dart delivered from a crossbow has a good chance of accidentally killing the target.

And while there is no mechanical property that makes the blowgun easier to hide, its light weight and small size would logically make it more easy to do so, likely reducing the DC of attempting to sneak one past people.

And it's cheap and light; you can have a blowgun and a case of 50 darts for 11gp and 2lbs, while even a light crossbow and 20 bolts would be 26gp and 6lbs.

(Of course, unless you're hunting chickens, the blowgun still isn't a very good choice without poison tipped darts, and the poison is likely to be way more expensive than the delivery mechanism, so it'll remain a very niche weapon either way. Such is the fate of some tools. You wouldn't see a medieval army outfitted with these things either.)