As she sits in the tree, she steadies her hand, the hand crossbow aimed at a target a couple of dozen feet away. She can make them out between the leaves and boughs of the tree. A heavy crossbow would be too loud, too difficult to carry up; a bow too large or too unwieldy in this cramped position.
The hand crossbow was a perfect choice. Her gaze is unwavering as she watches, waiting for her prey to come into range. With a soft intake of breath, her thumb brushes over some runes carved into the handle, and they light up for a brief moment in acceptance, weaving magic into her bolt.
She releases that breath and pulls the trigger. Silently, the bolt zips through the air and finds a home in its target, the extra bit of radiant damage imbued in the bolt dealing just enough damage to take down her undead foe, and not a soul around is wiser. Welcome to a Hand Crossbow 5e Guide.
Table of Contents
At a Glance
- Simple, Light, Martial Weapon
- Properties: Ranged, light, loading
- Range: 30/120
- Deals 1d6 piercing damage and uses your Dex modifier.
- Everyone but Wizard and Druids can use them unless the Weapons Specialization Feat is used oryour character is also a Drow.
- Unless otherwise modified, it can only use bolts as ammunition.
- The only way to get expertise is with the Crossbow Expert Feat.
- There are a lot of magical homebrewed hand crossbows and not that many magical standard, base-game hand crossbows.
The hand crossbow in D&D 5e is a ranged, martial weapon. It deals 1d6 Piercing damage and has the properties of Light, Loading, and Ranged. Its range is 30/120, and it has a carrying weight of 3.
For most games that I’ve played in or Dm’d for, the carrying weight doesn’t matter too much, but if you’re uncertain about your own games, don’t hesitate to bring it up to your Dungeon Master.
Although we’ve broadly defined what the hand crossbow is in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, there are a few specifics that can be confusing for both veteran players and newbies. Plus, there are a few ways you can get creative with this weapon outside of the traditional ‘trigger pull.’
What is the “Loading” Property?
In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, if your weapon has the Loading property tagged onto it, it means that you cannot make extra attacks with it in the same turn.
If your character could make a bonus action attack or a second attack (like a 5th-level fighter), the Loading property keeps you from using that specific weapon for all of your attacks. There is a way to get around this – the Crossbow Expert feat, but that will be covered later on.
How Range Works
For those who are unfamiliar with ranged attack weapons, generally, they will give you the max range you can make an attack without disadvantage – in the case of the hand crossbow, this would be “30.”
The following number, “120,” is the longest range you can make an attack with while using the hand crossbow, but any attack made back the 30-foot range, while possible up to 120 feet, is done with a disadvantage.
Ranged attacks also have to beranged.They cannot be within your melee attack range. For most players, this range will be 5 feet. If you’re trying to attack in this short range then it will be a disadvantage.
Getting Around the Ranged Demands
But what if your enemy is right in front of you, in touching range, and all you have is your hand crossbow? What if you don’t have the elusive Crossbow Expert feat I have yet to discuss? Well, the simple solution is to hit them with the crossbow. Don’t pull the trigger; just grip it with both hands and swing like you’re swinging a club.
Sure, it could run the risk of breaking your crossbow, but you don’t have much to lose besides your life and the 75 GP it will take to buy a new one.
If you take this move, you get to use it as an improvised weapon. This will depend on your DM for what stats it would have, but in the case of a hand crossbow, considering that it’s lightweight and small, I would have it roll 1d4 bludgeoning damage using your Dex stat instead of strength.
You can only use bolts with hand crossbows unless they have been outfitted for another type of ammunition. To save some funds, especially in the early game, you’ll want to scower the battlefield after each fight.
By doing so, you can recover half of the ammunition you used by searching through the battlefield. There is a chance your DM will make you roll an investigation check to find all your lost bolts, so “half” isn’t a guarantee. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with more than you used, thanks to the enemies.
If you’re very, very unlucky, you may only end up walking away with the materials to make them, if anything at all.
Using Magic Bolts with Non-Magical Weapons
There aren’t that many magical bolts on the market in standard, non-homebrewed DnD, so your options are limited. Regardless, you don’t need to have a magical hand crossbow in order to use magical bolts.
If you do find magical bolts, remember that they only lose their magic upon hitting their target, unless otherwise stipulated in their description – so go out and find them again after the battle is over!
Simplified, proficiency generally just means that you are capable of doing something with relative ease. Considering that the hand crossbow is a simple weapon, it is more than likely that you’re already proficient with it.
A wide variety of classes are perfectly capable of using the hand crossbow, though none are able to obtain expertise in their crossbow unless they take a feat.
As previously mentioned, there is a whole slew of classes that are proficient with crossbows. The simpler a weapon, the more people can use them. In the hand crossbow list, we have Artificers, Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, Fighters, Monks, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues, and Warlocks.
Pretty much every single class on the list will have proficiency with simple weapons, and as such, they can have proficiency with a hand crossbow. Everyone except for the poor Druids and the squishy Wizards.
There is a single race that is proficient with hand crossbows, no matter what class you take. It’s my favorite, and it’s the race of the Dungeon and Dragon’s Poster Boy, Drizzt Do’Urden: the Drow.
Drow have an innate proficiency with hand crossbows that supersedes the proficiency of any class, though we will likely never see Drizzt touch a crossbow outside of the Legend of Drizzt books (and even then, he doesn’t do it for long).
However, even if you were to take a class with proficiency in hand crossbows, it wouldn’t give you expertise. Unfortunately, doubling up on proficiency doesn’t do much of anything without some homebrew rulings.
How to Gain Proficiency
So you’re one of the two classes that aren’t proficient in hand crossbows: Druid and Wizard. You still desperately want to use a hand crossbow, even if you have to do some weird workaround for it – after all, it’s for the aesthetic, the flair, the ability not to have to use up your spell slots all of the time.
The 5e Weapon Specialization feat is just what you need. This feat allows you to gain proficiency in any weapon of your choice, along with a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with this weapon, prevents you from having a disadvantage with this weapon, and it makes your chosen weapon considered to be magical, even when it’s not.
Better than Proficient: Be an Expert
The only way to obtain expertise with crossbows is the Crossbow Expert feat. This feat allows the wielder to ignore the loading property of their weapon; have no disadvantage when firing upon an enemy within five feet; and, as an added bonus, when they attack with a one-handed weapon, they can also use their bonus action to attack with their hand crossbow.
If you’re using a hand crossbow, it falls into the category of a “one-handed weapon,” allowing for you to use it multiple times in a row – If you have an action, second action, and bonus action, you can use all three actions to shoot.
The Pros and Cons
Like with everything in DnD 5e, there are some pros and some cons to using the hand crossbow – and in the case of this weapon, some reasons are very situational specific and thus can be both a pro and a con.
Why You Should Have One
- Reloading is a free action
- Being Dex-based makes it the perfect weapon for most classes (especially Assassin Rogues).
- It’s like the precursor to a gun, and we all know that everyone (kind of) wants a gun in DnD.
- Technically it’swaymore inconspicuous than the heavy crossbow.
Why it Kind of Secretly Sucks
- Without the Crossbow Expert feat, you need both hands to reload, even if it is a one-handed weapon.
- It is heavily dependent on the Crossbow Expert feat to be a great weapon
- There isn’t much magic ammunition available for hand crossbows
- Let’s be honest… the Shortbow is a better option in terms of range
- It iswayless intimidating than the heavy crossbow.
This concept has come up a few times now, so we finally have to consider, what are the different types of hand crossbows? Beyond the standard +1, +2, and +3 enchantments, there is a whole world of enchanted and magical hand crossbows that have been made by homebrew content makers and the additional content for Dungeons and Dragons 5e.
Each one offers a unique experience that adds a little something extra to the game and some extra fun to your combat.
Vicious Hand Crossbow
Found in the standard Player’s Handbook, the Vicious hand crossbow is not one that you have to search long and hard for. The main benefit of this hand crossbow is that whenever you roll a 20, be it natural or otherwise; your target will take an extra seven points of piercing damage or whatever other damage your arrow does.
The Tinkertop Boltblaster 1000
If you’re familiar with Critical Role’s the Mighty Nine, you’ll know and love the Tinkertop Bolt Blaster 1000. This crossbow is built off of a +1 crossbow, giving it a +1 to attack and damage rolls. As some additional treats, on a natural 20, the crossbow automatically reloads and fires a second bolt. If you roll a natural 20 for the second bolt, it doesn’t do it again.
However, this bolt does have a dangerous side – if you roll a natural 1, the Tinkertop Bolt Blaster 1000 misfires and pierces the user instead for 1d6 piercing damage, as the unfortunate Nott the Brave discovered.
Orner’s Venomous Crossbow
Designed bythe Griffon’s Saddlebag, this hand crossbow is exceedingly special.
Similar to the Tinkertop Bolt Blaster 1000, it gives a +1 to attack and damage rolls made with it. However, this hand crossbow has four charges. One charge can be expended to coat your fired bolt with venom.
On a hit, the target has to make a DC 13 Con save and take 1d6 poison damage. On a failed save, the target is poisoned until their next turn.
If you expend the last charge in the crossbow, you have to roll a d20. On a natural one, the attached tubes and vessels shatter and spray poison in a large 25-foot sphere.
Creatures in that sphere have to roll a DC15 Con save and take 1d12 poison damage. On a failed save, they are poisoned for one minute. With that natural one, the crossbow loses all of its magical abilities.
Designed byDungeon Strugglers, this crossbow also gives you a +1 to attack and damage rolls. The Subtle Cricket has three charges, and you can expend one to three to empower your bolt. On a hit, for each charge you put into the bolt, your target will take an additional 1d12 force damage and be pushed five feet away.
When you fire a kinetically charged bolt, you have to save on a DC 10 Strength save, which goes up by two for every charge used over one, maxing out at 14. On a failed save, you are knocked prone. If you roll a natural 20, your target is pushed three times as far away and is knocked prone without a save.
Question: Can You Duel-wield Hand Crossbows in 5e?
Answer: As cool as the idea is, no… unless your crossbow can auto-reload itself, in which case, yes. Otherwise, unfortunately, you’re going to need a hand free to load it yourself.
Question: Do Hand Crossbows Use Dexterity or Strength?
Answer: Hand crossbows are considered to be light weapons or light crossbows; as such, they would use dexterity. On the other hand, something like a heavy crossbow would use strength.
Question: Can I Make Multiple Attacks with a Crossbow in One Turn?
Answer: Traditionally, no, you can’t. That is unless you have the Crossbow expert feat.
This feat allows you to ignore the loading property on your crossbow and make multiple attacks with it in the same term – e.g., if you’re a fighter and have multiple attacks, congratulations, you can now attack with your heavy crossbow as many times as you want (so long as you’re proficient with them).
As an added bonus with this feat, you can ignore the ranged requirement and don’t make your attacks at a disadvantage when your enemy is within five feet of you.
Hand crossbows, at their core, are a simple item, but when you start to get into the world of homebrew and magic items, they can become something very joyful and cool. Magic and homebrew add a little extra fun to games, whether you’re a veteran or a new player.
There were a lot of games where I would recommend that people play the “vanilla” version first to get the full, original experience, but Dungeons and Dragons are not one of those games. The best part about it is a tabletop game, mainly played in the theater of the mind, is that you can customize it to your taste.
I only briefly touched on some of the enchanted hand crossbows available to the public for use, and that’s only talking about the pre-made stuff. There’s so much you could create on your own or with your table – don’t let the borders of what has already been done stop you from exploring what could be done.
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Since she entered the world of Dungeons and Dragons (and other Table Top games), Tallis has completely immersed herself, indulging in the rules and game expansions. She's completely thrown herself into homebrew, creating an entire world for her frequent one-shots and campaigns to take place in. She believes the most important thing with DnD is to communicate with everyone at the table because when everyone is on the same page (and comfortable improvising), the game ends up being even better than expected.
Latest posts by Tallis Spalding (see all)
- Hand Crossbow 5e Guide – For Everyone but Druids and Wizards - December 16, 2022
- Compelled Duel 5e Guide - November 14, 2022
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Can wizards use crossbows 5E? ›
Wizards aren't proficient with "crossbows," they're proficient with the heavy crossbow and light crossbow exclusively. Weapon Focus would fix this? No, but weapon proficiency would. You'd need to take it once for each type of crossbow, though.Can a druid use crossbows? ›
The Druid is not proficient in bows and crossbows. The Druid can still use those weapons but it will not add the proficiency bonus to the attack roll.Can you fire two hand crossbows 5E? ›
Conversation. So the answer is no, you cannot dual wield hand crossbows then since one hand needs to be available to load it as part of the attack. You can wield one and fire the same one twice using the extra attack feature as long as your other hand is free to load it.Do you need a free hand to use a hand crossbow 5E? ›
Does a hand crossbow with the repeating shot infusion still require a free hand to use in D&D 5E? No. The Repeating Shot infusion clearly states that “If you load no ammunition into the weapon, it produces its own, automatically creating one piece of magic ammunition when you make a ranged attack with it.”What weapons can wizards use 5e? ›
- Dagger: Carry one or two for utility purposes at any level, but the damage isn't good enough to make it better than shocking grasp. ...
- Light Crossbow: Until you hit level 5, a light crossbow can do more damage than firebolt. ...
- Quarterstaff: A great cosmetic item, but totally useless in combat.
You can cast spells while wielding a weapon with both hands just fine as long as it doesn't have a Material or Focus component.Can a druid use a crossbow 5e? ›
Shortbows, longbows, light crossbows and heavy crossbows are the ranged weapons of choice, as a result. If can wield one of those weapons, you should normally take one with you into the dungeon. Only druids are unable to use any of those weapons, so they're the only character who probably should be using a sling.What is the best weapon for a druid 5e? ›
As far as weapons are concerned, druids can use slings, spears, darts, staves, daggers, and many other types of weapons. But because of the Shillelagh cantrip, a staff is almost always your best choice.Why was the crossbow banned? ›
In 1139, a Church council declared crossbows unfit for Christian use -- except against Infidels. In the next decades other councils repeated the ban. So Crusaders carried crossbows to the Holy Land, and they kept on developing the technology.Is it OK to fire a crossbow without an arrow? ›
Never “dry fire” a crossbow, which is shooting the crossbow without an arrow mounted in the correct shooting position. Dry-firing can damage the crossbow and possibly injure you or a bystander.
Does hand crossbow use Dex or Str? ›
All users of the Light Crossbow and Hand Crossbow in the MM apply Dex bonus to the damage roll.What is the point of hand crossbow 5e? ›
Because they're one-handed, you can carry a loaded one and get one shot off without worrying about loading. This makes it a handy backup weapon for someone who normally uses a single melee weapon and no shield.Does Dueling work with a hand crossbow? ›
Duelling fighting style only works with melee weapons and any weapon in the other hand prevents the +2, so melee in one hand and hand crossbow in the other doesn't get the +2.Is a repeating crossbow possible? ›
The basic construction of the repeating crossbow has remained very much unchanged since its invention, making it one of the longest-lived mechanical weapons. The bolts of one magazine are fired and reloaded by simply pushing and pulling the lever back and forth.Does two weapon fighting apply to hand crossbows? ›
Hand crossbows are the only ranged weapon listed in PHB with the “light” characteristic which means it can be held and fired with one hand. Unfortunately, because they are ranged weapons, they do not qualify for the Two Weapon Fighting feature because the rule specifically states that the weapons must be melee weapons.Which wizards can use Wandless magic? ›
In Rowling's series, Dumbledore demonstrated the ability to possess wandless magic on several occasions, most memorably when he cast Aresto Momentum without a wand to save Harry from falling to his death during a Quidditch match. Lord Voldemort was also able to practice powerful wandless magic.Can all wizards do Wandless magic? ›
To perform magic without a wand is beyond most wizards. As much like fire, magic can be raging, chaotic and volatile – that's why wizards use wands to channel it – and requires the utmost skill and discipline to control. Wandless magic is like riding a bike with no hands.What is the best magic weapon for wizard 5E? ›
The staff is one of the most, if not the most, powerful in 5e. The staff has multiple features, such spell absorption that allows the user to have advantage on all saving throws against spells and use their reaction to absorb the spell, nullifying it and getting charges equal to the spell's level.Would a crossbow bolt go through a skull? ›
If the crossbow bolt makes it to the back of the skull (0.25m from PART 1) with enough kinetic energy to pierce it, it will go right through.How long can you leave a crossbow in the cocked position? ›
Do not leave your crossbow cocked for longer than a 24-hour period, as premature stretching of the string and cables may occur, leading to a loss in crossbow performance.
Does sleight of hand work on crossbow? ›
For the weapon perk, players should equip Sleight of Hand so that they can reload faster. The result is a crossbow that can potentially kill most Warzone players in a single shot.Can druids use Handaxes? ›
Druids are proficient in every simple weapon except the greatclub, handaxe, light crossbow, light hammer, shortbow, and unarmed strike.Do weapons matter for druids? ›
no, on your character sheet it will still show your weapon skill… but when in cat or bear… the only thing that matters on a weapon is the stats it gives you. Talk about being overpowered.Can druids use ranged weapons? ›
Druids cannot use wands or ranged weapons, and while they can use melee weapons, they do not benefit from them in the same way as other melee classes.What class makes the best druid? ›
- Wood Elves. A variant of the Elf, they have a +2 bonus to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom, increased movement speed, and the Mask of the Wild ability. ...
- Water Genasi. ...
- Winged Tiefling. ...
- Ghostwise Halfling. ...
- Variant Human. ...
- Firbolg. ...
- Owlin. ...
Focusing on wind spells Twister, Tornado, and Cyclone Armor, alongside the icy Hurricane, this build is one of the Druid's best due to its damage output at high levels. 20 points will go into each of these, with Arctic Blast getting one point as a prerequisite.
In fact, during field-battles the longbow had a clear advantage over its counterpart. Not only could a longbow fire further than a crossbow – at least until the latter half of the 14th century – but a longbowman's average rate of fire was significantly greater than that of a crossbowman.Does the military ever use crossbows? ›
Modern military and paramilitary use
In modern times, crossbows are no longer used for war, but there are still some applications. For example, in the Americas, the Peruvian army (Ejército) equips some soldiers with crossbows and rope, to establish a zip-line in difficult terrain.
It's hard to find a more powerful crossbow than the Ravin R29X which offers a high velocity of up to 450 fps. The integrated cocking system is suitable for hunters who are not strong enough. It also features a frictionless flight system that offers zero rail friction when launching each bolt.Do crossbow limbs weaken over time? ›
Through time, strings and cable stretch, including steel cables, resulting in lower draw weight. This will affect arrow speed, range, trajectory and energy.
What happens if the archer dry fire a bow? ›
Dry firing a crossbow, compound bow, or recurve bow could cause a literal explosion! Plastic or wood parts flying through the air, metal pieces becoming shrapnel, and a tightly coiled string lashing back at your face—these are real possibilities as a result of a dry fired bow.Will cold hurt a crossbow? ›
day or several days in 80 to minus 20 degrees will have no effect on today's crossbows. should have little if any effect on efficiency.”Does sharpshooter work with hand crossbow? ›
To do that we are using a hand crossbow (1d6 damage). Sharpshooter adds +10 damage, plus another 5 from dexterity modifier. You can increase this damage for one hour using the Hex spell for an extra 1d6 (provided you don't lose concentration).What is the advantage of a crossbow? ›
Pro: No Draw Time
Once a crossbow is cocked, a mechanism maintains full draw until the trigger is released. This not only conserves energy for the hunter, it allows him to focus solely on his or her target and properly aiming their shot, increasing overall accuracy.
Each time you Attack with the weapon, you expend one piece of Ammunition. Drawing the Ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the Attack. At the end of the battle, you can recover half your expended Ammunition by taking a minute to Search the Battlefield.Why the crossbow is better? ›
Eliminates Shot Setup, Crossbows are Preloaded
Unlike a compound bow, a crossbow is preloaded before the potential shot ever transpires. You get set up in your hunting position; the crossbow string is drawn back, sometimes with the use of a cocking device; and it's locked into ready position with a safety catch.
The only physical requirement is that the caster has to have his hands free to use the focus. So this means a bow (or other weapon) with a focus embedded can only be used as one or the other.Who can use a heavy crossbow 5e? ›
Out of all classes, only Battlesmith Artificers, War Clerics, and Beast Master Rangers can use a heavy crossbow to full effect.What weapon do wizards use? ›
As others have said, a sword is just about the best weapon for said wizard.Can mage hand reload a crossbow? ›
No, for several reasons. Mage Hand is mostly limited to one object. All of the descriptors of mage hand, even disarming traps and picking locks, only refer to one object. Even loading one crossbow would require the manipulation of two objects: the bolt and the crossbow itself.
Which wizards can do Wandless magic? ›
In Rowling's Harry Potter series, Dumbledore demonstrated the ability to possess wandless magic on several occasions, most memorably when he cast Aresto Momentum without a wand to save Harry from falling to his death during a Quidditch match. Lord Voldemort was also able to practice powerful wandless magic.Should I use wizards or archers? ›
Wizards are often used by high-level players in place of Archers, because of their high damage and relatively high health (when compared to Archers that will be killed in a single hit by most high level Defensive Buildings).Does a +1 bow do magic damage? ›
No & Yes. A +1 weapon overcomes Resistance which requires a magic weapon which is rare in PF2 even though common in DnD/PF1. It's still doing physical damage and gets resisted by Resistance Physical unless it says "Except magical" or something similar. A scimitar only does Slashing damage, so yep.What is the most overpowered crossbow? ›
RAVIN R29X Sniper – The Most Powerful Crossbow.Can a Druid use a crossbow 5e? ›
Shortbows, longbows, light crossbows and heavy crossbows are the ranged weapons of choice, as a result. If can wield one of those weapons, you should normally take one with you into the dungeon. Only druids are unable to use any of those weapons, so they're the only character who probably should be using a sling.Do crossbows use strength or Dex? ›
All users of the Light Crossbow and Hand Crossbow in the MM apply Dex bonus to the damage roll.What are wizards without magic called? ›
Muggles in the Harry Potter series refer to those who show no magical ability. For example, people who live unaware of the magical world are called Muggles by witches and wizards with magical ability.What is the most powerful wizard wand? ›
Riddle's original wand, 13 1/2 inches long, was made of a phoenix feather core. Wands made from the cores of phoenix feathers are one of the highest of the breeds, as they are extremely rare, and produce Harry Potter wands with the greatest range of power, with allegiances that are very hard to win.Does sleight of hand help crossbow? ›
Sleight of Hand will make the reload of the Crossbow much quicker, allowing for a higher rate of fire when necessary, and making the reload much less dangerous to perform.