Dungeon Master Assistance

A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons

D&D 5E – Mana-Based Spellcasting (Variant Rule)

There has always been a lot of discussion regarding the magic system used in Dungeons and Dragons. It doesn’t seem to be very “logical” and there are other systems that might be better. This is my attempt to address this with an alternative to the “spell slots” system that fifth edition uses. This uses the same spells and everything else as presented in the Players Handbook (PHB) except for replacing its “spell slot” system with a “mana” system. There are several systems out there that use Mana or Spell Points for magic. Let me know what you think of mine.

Magic Points – Mana

Each day a spell casting character has a magic threshold. We’ll call these mana points.

The mana cost of a spell is equal to the spell’s level. So to cast a 2nd level spell would require deducting 2 mana from a character’s mana points. Casting the spell does not remove the spell from the spell casters memory, and the same spell can be used over and over as long as there are mana points in the character’s mana pool. Spells that can be cast at higher levels require one additional mana point for each additional level.

Cantrips use a negligible amount of mana and do not deduct from a character’s mana points. Refer to the tables in the PHB for the number of cantrips each class receives based on their level.

To recover mana a character must rest. All spell casters except for Warlocks recover 100% of their mana after a long rest. Warlocks recover 100% of their mana after a short or long rest.

Wizards

You cannot cast a spell that you have not memorized. To memorize a spell it must be in your spellbook. You prepare the list of wizard spells that are available for you to cast. To do so, choose a number of wizard spells from your spellbook equal to your Intelligence modifier + your wizard level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level that you can cast.

Bards, Clerics, Druids, Rangers, Sorcerers, and Warlocks

You prepare the list of spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the spell list for your class. When you do so, choose a number of spells equal to your primary ability modifier + your spell caster level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level you can cast. The primary ability for Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks is Charisma. The primary ability for Clerics, Druids and Rangers is Wisdom.

Paladins

You prepare the list of spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the Paladin spell list. When you do so, choose a number of spells equal to your primary ability modifier + half your Paladin level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level you can cast.

All Spell Casters

You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of spells requires at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.
When you gain another level in your current spell casting class, you can replace one spell that you know with another that is on your list and that is of a level you can cast.
Spells of 6th level and higher are particularly taxing to cast. You can only cast two spells each of levels 6th and 7th, and one spell each of levels 8th and 9th. You can’t cast another spell of the same level until you finish a long rest.

Multi Class Spell Casters

You add your total mana points from all your classes. Multi class Warlocks only recover mana points equal to their mana points as a Warlock during short rests.

Mana Points Table

The maximum number of mana points a spell caster can have and the maximum level any spell can be is listed on the following table:

Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard Paladin, Ranger Warlock
LVL Max. spell level Mana LVL Max. spell level Mana LVL Max. spell level Mana
1 1st 2 1 1 1st 1
2 1st 4 2 1st 2 2 1st 2
3 2nd 8 3 1st 4 3 2nd 4
4 2nd 10 4 1st 4 4 2nd 4
5 3rd 16 5 2nd 8 5 3rd 6
6 3rd 20 6 2nd 8 6 3rd 6
7 4th 24 7 2nd 10 7 4th 8
8 4th 28 8 2nd 10 8 4th 8
9 5th 36 9 3rd 16 9 5th 10
10 5th 42 10 3rd 16 10 5th 10
11 6th 48 11 3rd 20 11 5th 15
12 6th 50 12 3rd 20 12 5th 15
13 7th 54 13 4th 24 13 5th 15
14 7th 58 14 4th 24 14 5th 15
15 8th 62 15 4th 28 15 5th 15
16 8th 64 16 4th 28 16 5th 15
17 9th 72 17 5th 36 17 5th 20
18 9th 76 18 5th 36 18 5th 20
19 9th 82 19 5th 42 19 5th 20
20 9th 90 20 5th 42 20 5th 20

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D&D 5E – Abilities Explained

I found this online a while back. Thought I would share.

D&D Stats Explained

  • Strength
    • 1 (–5): Morbidly weak, has significant trouble lifting own limbs
    • 2-3 (–4): Needs help to stand, can be knocked over by strong breezes
    • 4-5 (–3): Knocked off balance by swinging something dense
    • 6-7 (–2): Difficulty pushing an object of their weight
    • 8-9 (–1): Has trouble even lifting heavy objects
    • 10-11 (0): Can literally pull their own weight
    • 12-13 (1): Carries heavy objects for short distances
    • 14-15 (2): Visibly toned, throws small objects for long distances
    • 16-17 (3): Carries heavy objects with one arm
    • 18-19 (4): Can break objects like wood with bare hands
    • 20-21 (5): Able to out-wrestle a work animal or catch a falling person
    • 22-23 (6): Can pull very heavy objects at appreciable speeds
    • 24-25 (7): Pinnacle of brawn, able to out-lift several people
  • Dexterity
    • 1 (–5): Barely mobile, probably significantly paralyzed
    • 2-3 (–4): Incapable of moving without noticeable effort or pain
    • 4-5 (–3): Visible paralysis or physical difficulty
    • 6-7 (–2): Significant klutz or very slow to react
    • 8-9 (–1): Somewhat slow, occasionally trips over own feet
    • 10-11 (0): Capable of usually catching a small tossed object
    • 12-13 (1): Able to often hit large targets
    • 14-15 (2): Can catch or dodge a medium-speed surprise projectile
    • 16-17 (3): Able to often hit small targets
    • 18-19 (4): Light on feet, able to often hit small moving targets
    • 20-21 (5): Graceful, able to flow from one action into another easily
    • 22-23 (6): Very graceful, capable of dodging a number of thrown objects
    • 24-25 (7): Moves like water, reacting to all situations with almost no effort
  • Constitution
    • 1 (–5): Minimal immune system, body reacts violently to anything foreign
    • 2-3 (–4): Frail, suffers frequent broken bones
    • 4-5 (–3): Bruises very easily, knocked out by a light punch
    • 6-7 (–2): Unusually prone to disease and infection
    • 8-9 (–1): Easily winded, incapable of a full day’s hard labor
    • 10-11 (0): Occasionally contracts mild sicknesses
    • 12-13 (1): Can take a few hits before being knocked unconscious
    • 14-15 (2): Able to labor for twelve hours most days
    • 16-17 (3): Easily shrugs off most illnesses
    • 18-19 (4): Able to stay awake for days on end
    • 20-21 (5): Very difficult to wear down, almost never feels fatigue
    • 22-23 (6): Never gets sick, even to the most virulent diseases
    • 24-25 (7): Tireless paragon of physical endurance
  • Intelligence
    • 1 (–5): Animalistic, no longer capable of logic or reason
    • 2-3 (–4): Barely able to function, very limited speech and knowledge
    • 4-5 (–3): Often resorts to charades to express thoughts
    • 6-7 (–2): Often misuses and mispronounces words
    • 8-9 (–1): Has trouble following trains of thought, forgets most unimportant things
    • 10-11 (0): Knows what they need to know to get by
    • 12-13 (1): Knows a bit more than is necessary, fairly logical
    • 14-15 (2): Able to do math or solve logic puzzles mentally with reasonable accuracy
    • 16-17 (3): Fairly intelligent, able to understand new tasks quickly
    • 18-19 (4): Very intelligent, may invent new processes or uses for knowledge
    • 20-21 (5): Highly knowledgeable, probably the smartest person many people know
    • 22-23 (6): Able to make Holmesian leaps of logic
    • 24-25 (7): Famous as a sage and genius
  • Wisdom
    • 1 (–5): Seemingly incapable of thought, barely aware
    • 2-3 (–4): Rarely notices important or prominent items, people, or occurrences
    • 4-5 (–3): Seemingly incapable of forethought
    • 6-7 (–2): Often fails to exert common sense
    • 8-9 (–1): Forgets or opts not to consider options before taking action
    • 10-11 (0): Makes reasoned decisions most of the time
    • 12-13 (1): Able to tell when a person is upset
    • 14-15 (2): Can get hunches about a situation that doesn’t feel right
    • 16-17 (3): Reads people and situations fairly well
    • 18-19 (4): Often used as a source of wisdom or decider of actions
    • 20-21 (5): Reads people and situations very well, almost unconsciously
    • 22-23 (6): Can tell minute differences among many situations
    • 24-25 (7): Nearly prescient, able to reason far beyond logic
  • Charisma
    • 1 (–5): Barely conscious, probably acts heavily autistic
    • 2-3 (–4): Minimal independent thought, relies heavily on others to think instead
    • 4-5 (–3): Has trouble thinking of others as people
    • 6-7 (–2): Terribly reticent, uninteresting, or rude
    • 8-9 (–1): Something of a bore or makes people mildly uncomfortable
    • 10-11 (0): Capable of polite conversation
    • 12-13 (1): Mildly interesting, knows what to say to the right people
    • 14-15 (2): Interesting, knows what to say to most people
    • 16-17 (3): Popular, receives greetings and conversations on the street
    • 18-19 (4): Immediately likeable by many people, subject of favorable talk
    • 20-21 (5): Life of the party, able to keep people entertained for hours
    • 22-23 (6): Immediately likeable by almost everybody
    • 24-25 (7): Renowned for wit, personality, and/or looks

D&D 5E – Weight of Bolders

I found this on-line (I forget where). Thought I would share.  [If you know who created the original, please let me know so I can credit them.]

D&D 5E – How far can you see

worldknit

So What Can I see From Here?

Usually, the limit to how far characters can see will be some obstruction, such as a building, a forest, or some hills. Mist and darkness also limit vision. Sometimes, however, the characters will be on flat plains on a clear day and the only limit to their vision will be their perception and the horizon. Once something goes below the horizon, it can’t be seen. But where is the horizon?

Height in feet Miles away
3 2
6 3
10 4
20 5
30 6
40 7
50 8
60 9
70 10
80 11
90 12
100 13
300 20
500 25
1,000 40
5,000 80
10,000 100
30,000 200
100,000 400
500,000 800

This table has been simplified for gaming use. On an earth-sized planet, the horizon for a six-foot tall person standing at sea level or on flat plains will be about 3 miles. This means that they can see features that are at ground level for up to three miles (depending, of course, on the quality of their vision and the size of the object). Features that are higher than ground level can be seen further.

To determine how far away you can see something, just add together all of the heights. For example, if a 6 foot man is on a 4 foot horse standing on a 30 foot hill, how close would you have to be to a 60 foot tall tower to see it?  First add all the heights together 6 + 4 + 30 + 60  = 100 feet. Look at the table under “height in feet” and find 100 feet. Then look across under “miles away” to find 13 miles. So the tower could be spotted if it was no farther away than 13 miles.

You could see a 14,000 foot mountain a little more than 100 miles away.

 

This is good for seeing features on a map, such as lakes, forests, mountains, towns, etc. but knowing how far you can see is often not what your Player Characters need to know. Just because you can see 3 miles doesn’t mean that you can see a monster on the horizon. For that we need another table.

Perception Distance Table

Item Size Perceive Identify
Creature – Fine 6” or less 30 ft. or less 5 ft. or less
Creature – Diminutive 6” – 1 ft. 30 ft. – 60 ft. 5 ft. – 10 ft.
Creature – Tiny 1 ft. – 2 ft. 60 ft. – 120 ft. 10 ft. – 25 ft.
Creature – Small 2 ft. – 4 ft. 120 ft. – 240 ft. 25 ft. –  50ft.
Creature  – Medium 4 ft. – 8 ft. 240 ft. – 480 ft. 50 ft. – 100 ft.
Creature – Large 8 ft. – 16 ft. 480 ft. – 960 ft. 100 ft. – 200 ft.
Creature – Huge 16 ft. – 32 ft. 960 ft. – 1,920 ft. 200 ft. – 400 ft.
Creature – Gargantuan 32 ft. – 64 ft. 1,920 ft. – 3,840 ft. 400 ft. – 800 ft.
Creature – Colossal 64 ft. or more 3,840 ft. or more 800 ft. or more

In this table “perceive” means that you can see it and may notice it with a perception check. If you do notice it you will recognize the creature type if you have seen one before. If you don’t know what type of creature it is you will be able to tell the creature’s coloration, size, shape, number of limbs, wings, etc. If the creature is moving, you will also be able to tell which direction it is traveling and about how fast.

“Identify” means that you can see details and may recognize an individual that you have met before.

 

Here is a simple rule of thumb that is accurate enough for gaming use:

Distance away (in feet) that you can perceive an item is its size (in feet) times 60.

Distance away (in feet) that you can identify an item is its size (in feet) times 12.

Round fractions down to the nearest 5 ft.

The item’s size is its longest dimension (height or width).

 

One more thing.

You can perceive a burning candle 1 1/2 mile away.

DM Inspiration

Looking for Inspiration?

I ran across this Facebook site. Whenever you, as a DM, are trying to think of an original location for your next adventure, just browse through the photos on this “Abandoned World” site.

 

D&D 5E – Alabaster Portal Key

alabaster-portal-panel

The Alabaster Portal Key

How do you smoothly run a weekly game if there is a lot of turnover?

What if you have dedicated players, for the most part, but every week you don’t know how many will show up? Some may have to miss a session (or two or three). New players may show up and want to join the group. Existing players may need to drop out but may want to re-join the group in a few months.

I think that the best way to handle this will be to have every session end back at the tavern, or some other busy place, or back at their home base wherever that might be.

It solves most of the problems and creates some new ones. It solves any leveling-up in the midst of play problems, all leveling up will occur between sessions. It makes it easy to accommodate missing players, their PC simply doesn’t play but can play next session. It also makes adding new players easy, their character simply joins the group for the new session.

It also creates some problems. The first is how can you do that, especially when higher level characters may be traveling far and wide? Even low-level characters that are adventuring close to home may have a problem leaving the dungeon and coming back in any reasonable time frame. It also restricts somewhat which adventures you can run. For example, any “ticking-clock” adventure where the characters must finish in a set time frame would be hard to run. Also, you couldn’t stop an adventure in the middle of an encounter, which isn’t a big problem, but it does limit you somewhat.

Here is how I propose would do this. Give the PCs a magical artifact (maybe the tavern owner gives it to them or they save a strangers life and he gives it to them). At first level, they take this with them and when they activate it, they are all returned to the tavern. When activated again, it returns them to wherever they were before.

To introduce it into an existing campaign, the PCs could find it wherever they are adventuring. When activated it sends them to the tavern. The tavern owner can be a sympathetic NPC who lets them continue to use it.

Here is an example of how this might work:

The owner of the tavern escorted us down the stairs to a large dusty basement. He then called for the crowd to gather around. He held up a large white chess piece and declared “One of you lucky people will be allowed to purchase this tonight. It is a magical key.”

“Have you ever been a long way from home and wished you had a way to return home quickly? With this magical key you can instantly return here any time you like. Just take it with you wherever you roam and when you want to return simply hold this key in your hand and say the magic words. It will open a magical doorway between wherever you are and this archway.” He pointed to an ancient arched doorway in the wall behind him. It was completely sealed by the same stone that made up the rest of the walls of this old chamber. “But wait, there’s more! If you want to go back to where you were, simply approach this archway with the key and say the magic words. It will open the doorway at the same location you left. You could take a long trip and return home to your warm bead each night. ”

At that point most of the crowd turned around and returned to the drinks, snickering and shaking their heads as they climbed back up the stairs.

To the few of us that remained, he said “You appear to be adventurers. Just consider the possibilities! Imagine you are cleaning out a dungeon. You have fought many monsters, defeated deadly traps and collected ancient treasures, but at the end of the day there are still other dungeon levels remaining to explore. With this key you could return here, sell or lock up your treasure, identify any magical items you may have found, replace any lost or broken weapons and amination, rest and heal your bodies. Then when you are ready you can return refreshed and resupplied. You could even recruit other adventurers to help if you need to and they could return with you. And if one or more of your party needs to stay behind while you return to the dungeon, the ones who return only need the key and the activation word.”

I asked, “What if we are being chased by monsters? How quickly could we open the doorways?”

“Well …” He swallowed hard and said, “You know this was never intended to be used as an escape from battle.”

“How long?”

“The magic word is really more of a ritual. It takes 10 minutes to activate the portal.”

“And what if we are being pursued? Can anyone pass through? How long does it stay open?”

”Well, yes any creature could pass through once it is open and it normally stays open for one minute. However, you can close it at any time by tapping the key on the side of the passageway.”

I thought about this for a minute and then said, “Okay, say we are in a dungeon, a patrol is approaching so we hide around a corner and use this to return here, are you saying that we could just wait here for a few minutes and, watching through the doorway, go back when the danger had passed?”

“Actually, no. I may have neglected to mention that you must wait until the next day, at least 8 hours, before you can return. Also, the two portals are filled with a mist so you won’t be able to see what is beyond.”

I asked, “So if we go from here to a dungeon we will have to wait 8 hours before we can return?”

“No, not at all. When you leave here you can stay as long as you like or you can return immediately. Or, I mean, after the 10 minute activation ritual.

“It is just that when you return here you must wait until the next day to return to the dungeon. And, even if it is the next day, you cannot return unless it has also been at least 8 hours. So you can come back here a little before midnight and return 8 hours later. If you return here after midnight, you will have to wait until after midnight the following day.”

I then asked, “What if I am in the dungeon and just need to store something we found, or retrieve something that I forgot? You say that the portal stays open for one minute. Could I open it and then quickly come here to pick up something and return? Or if someone is wounded, I could open the portal, let them run through and then close it behind them. If I understand what you have been telling me, I should be able to do that as often as I wanted to. As long as I am not on this side when I open the portal, I can open it whenever I want.”

He answered, “Yes you can do those things, however there is another restriction I forgot to mention. Each time you use the key to activate the portal, the key must pass through to the other side and remain there when the portal closes or it resets and can’t be used again for 24 hours.”

He smiled at me and said, “So, if you bring me the small sum of 5,000 gp tomorrow, this alabaster portal key will be yours and I will teach you the ritual required to activate it.”

Alabaster Portal Key

Wondrous item, artifact

This 3-inch tall alabaster statuette resembles a chess piece (a castle). Anyone who holds the key and knows the 10-minute activation ritual can activate the artifact. This person does not have to have any magical abilities. When activated, you create linked teleportation portals that remain open for the duration. Any creature or object entering either portal exits from the other portal as if the two were adjacent to each other. One portal is the one named in the activation ritual, which is a specific existing 4 foot wide by 8 foot tall stone archway which becomes filled with mist. This stone archway and the portal key are two parts of the same artifact. If you are not within 10 feet of the stone archway, the other portal is created at a location you choose within 10 feet of you and resembles a glowing arched gateway the same size as the stone archway. It is also filled with mist. If the key is activated when you are within 10 feet of the stone archway, it opens a portal in that archway and opens the remote portal at its previous location, allowing return travel to the point where that portal was last created.

The portals remain for one minute or you can close the portals early by touching the key to the side of either portal.

When within 10 feet of the stone archway, the key cannot be used to activate the portal until the day following its last use and at least 8 hours have passed. Otherwise, when not near the stone archway, the key can be used at any time.

The key must pass through the portal and be on the opposite side when the portal closes or it can’t be opened again for 24 hours.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic (or on this artifact).

 

Plans for 2017

Thoughts on 2016 and Plans for 2017

2016 was good for me as far as gaming goes. I was able to start playing again after a long time away from the table. I am now playing in a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition game every Tuesday night and running one every Saturday. On Tuesdays, I am playing an orc barbarian in a Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign. (I was playing a human bard until she got killed.) On Saturdays, I am the DM for an Age of Worms campaign. It was written for 3.5 but I am running it converted to 5th edition.

Earlier in 2016, I subscribed to Dungeon Crate and I have just started a subscription to RPG Crate. So far I like Dungeon Crate and will let you know what I think of RPG Crate. Reading the reviews, I have high hopes for it.

The response to this blog has been very encouraging. In January 2015 I had 58 followers. I now have 265 followers. Thank you very much! I will be adding my thoughts and ideas as well as reference material and updates to my player’s sheet. I didn’t work on my “Dragon Hunt” novel much last year, but I intend to get back to work on that this year. I expect there to be a lot of new material published for 5th edition this year. I am sure that I will be getting copies of all of the supplements, adventures, and expanded rulebooks, but I will continue to focus this blog on the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manuel.

Happy new year. I hope all of your rolls are successes!

D&D 3.5 – Classes with Class

pcs

Classes with Class

In 2004 and 2005 Skip Williams (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition) put a series of articles on the Wizards website with tips on playing each of the various character types. Wizards of the Coast has moved them to their D&D Archives, but you can still find them there if you are diligent in your search.

These are an excellent reference. They were written for D&D 3.5 but even if you are running a fifth edition game you will find then a useful reference.

 

Here are direct links to them:

Fighters with Class

Rogues with Class

Wizards with Class

Clerics with Class

Barbarians with Class

Bards with Class

Sorcerers with Class

Druids with Class

Rangers with Class

Paladins with Class

Monks with Class

Warlocks with Class

 

And here is a link to the 3.5 D&D Archives page:

3.5 D&D Archives

 

D&D 5E – Falling Objects

falling-objects

Falling Objects

Just as characters take damage when they fall more than 10 feet, so to do they take damage when they are hit by falling objects. I was using these house rules for 3rd edition and they still work for 5th edition. I would typically allow a character to make a DC 15 DEX saving throw to jump out of the way and take no damage.

Objects that fall upon characters deal damage based on their weight and the distance they have fallen.

For objects weighing 200 pounds or more, the object deals 1d6 points of damage, provided it falls at least 10 feet. Distance also comes into play, adding an additional 1d6 points of damage for every 10-foot increment it falls beyond the first (to a maximum of 20d6 points of damage).

Objects smaller than 200 pounds also deal damage when dropped, but they must fall farther to deal the same damage. Use this table to see how far an object of a given weight must drop to deal 1d6 points of damage.

Object Weight Falling Distance Maximum damage
200 lb. or more 10 ft. 20d6
100-199 lb. 20 ft. 10d6
50-99 lb. 30 ft. 5d6
30-49 lb. 40 ft. 4d6
10-29 lb. 50 ft. 3d6
5-9 lb. 60 ft. 2d6
1-4 lb. 70 ft. 1d6

For each additional increment an object falls, it deals an additional 1d6 points of damage up to the maximum damage. Objects weighing less than 1 pound do not deal damage to those they land upon, no matter how far they have fallen.

D&D 5E – Crossbows

davinci_crossbow

Crossbows

The only problem with a crossbow is that it takes so long to load most people can only make one crossbow attack each round. Because Player Characters aren’t “most people” they often are able to make multiple attacks each round. When the rules were written for fifth edition they attempted to restrict the number of times a crossbow could be fired and still allow for exceptions. Doing all of this and also keeping the rules simple and short created quite a bit of confusion. In my opinion, their subsequent attempt at clarifying the rules didn’t help all that much. This post represents my thoughts on the subject and how I deal with it using a couple of house rules.

General crossbow description: A crossbow has a wooden stock generally made from yew, ash, hazel or elm and coated with glue or varnish. The ‘bow’ is made of wood, iron or steel. The bow has a span of two to three feet. The crossbow string is made from hemp. The string has been soaked in glue as some protection against moisture. The string is pulled back by using a lever or winding a crank on a ratchet.  This “cocking” of the crossbow is what gives a crossbow the “loading” property. The crossbow bolt is laid in a groove on the top of the stock and the trigger pulled. There are two or three notches to rest the thumb which can then be lined up with the bolt forming the crossbow sight. You add your dexterity bonus to crossbow damage to represent increased precision. A crossbow can be carried already loaded with a bolt.

Using a crossbow as an improvised weapon: If you have a crossbow in your hand and you are out of ammunition or it isn’t loaded (refer to loading below) you can still use your Attack action to try to hit somebody with it. As an improvised weapon it deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage. You don’t get your proficiency bonus on the attack but you can add your Strength bonus to both the attack and damage rolls. You could even throw it at them (range 20/60). That also deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage but rather than STR, you use your DEX bonus on attack and damage.

There are three types of crossbows listed in the Player’s Handbook. Here are my expanded descriptions.

heavy-crossbowHeavy Crossbow [Martial Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by winding a crank on a ratchet. Because it is a heavy weapon, small size creatures have a disadvantage when attacking with it. This crossbow is not inexpensive (50 gp) but it does the most damage (1d10) and has the longest range (100/400). It requires two hands to load or to attack with this weapon. Although it weighs 18 pounds most characters should be able to carry it with just one hand.

 

light-crossbowLight Crossbow [Simple Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by using a hinged lever which pulls the string into place. Despite its name, this weapon does not have the “light” property. It is the least expensive crossbow (25 gp) and does good damage (1d8) at a reasonable range (80/320). It requires two hands to load or to attack with this weapon, but it only weighs 5 pounds and can be carried in just one hand.

 

hand-crossbowHand Crossbow [Martial Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by using a lever.  It is the only crossbow with the “light” property. It can’t be used for two-hand fighting because that requires a light melee weapon and this is not a melee weapon, it is a ranged weapon.  The “light” property might come into play with other abilities or DM rulings. For instance, a tight passage where non-light weapons have a disadvantage.  This is the most expensive crossbow (75 gp) and does the least amount of damage (1d6). It also has the shortest range (30/120). As its name implies, it only weighs 3 pounds and can easily be held in one hand. You can shoot a hand crossbow with one hand but it requires two hands to load it. You can shoot a hand crossbow in each hand (if you are allowed more than one attack on your turn), but only if they are both loaded at the start of your turn.

 

Most of the confusion with crossbows comes from the wording of the Loading property and the  Crossbow Expert feat.

Loading. (PHB p. 147)
Because of the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.
Crossbow Expert  (PHB p.165)
Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow, you gain the following benefits:

• You ignore the loading quality of crossbows with which you are proficient.

• Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

• When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding.

I suggest replacing both of these with the house rules listed below.

Loading. (This replaces the loading property in the PHB) You cannot attack with a crossbow unless it has been loaded. The act of loading a crossbow consists of pulling the string back and securing it, drawing the crossbow bolt, and placing it into the slot on the weapon. The act of loading a crossbow requires the use of both hands. You can load a crossbow once per Attack action regardless of the number of attacks you are allowed to make in that action. Any round in which you do not make an attack, you can use an Attack action, or your free “interact with one object” activity to load a crossbow.

Crossbow Expert (replaces the Crossbow Expert feat in the PHB)

Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow, you gain the following benefits:

  • You gain proficiency with all crossbows.
  • When you use the Attack action, every attack you make with a crossbow can include loading as part of the attack.
  • Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on any attack rolls.
  • When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use your bonus action to take one shot with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding in the other hand.

So, here are some examples of how the above house rules affect the game:

1) You can’t load any crossbow, even a hand crossbow, with a shield, hand crossbow, or any other weapon in your other hand.

2) You can use your “interact with one object” option to load (but not fire) a crossbow once a round provided you use both hands. But, you can’t do this and also load a crossbow as part of an Attack action that round.

3) You cannot load a crossbow as part of a Bonus action or a Reaction.

4) You cannot attack with a crossbow as a Bonus action or as a Reaction unless it is loaded.

5) If you are holding a loaded crossbow you can attack with it in any situation that permits you to attack, be that an Attack action, Bonus action, or a Reaction.

6) If you are allowed to use your Attack action to make two attacks, you can fire a crossbow that is already loaded and then load and fire it one more time in that action. You can only load it once per Attack action.

7) If you have two Attack actions, you can load and fire a crossbow once each action. In addition, you can fire it once at the beginning of your first Attack action if it is already loaded.

8) If you have the Crossbow Expert feat, you can load and fire a crossbow once for every attack you are allowed in an Attack action, but you cannot load a crossbow as part of a Bonus action or as part of a Reaction.