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So bear with me, I'm trying to build a character around a specific, obscure racial feat. Thri-Kreen Shooter allows a Thri-Kreen character to wield a hand crossbow in their lower arms if they are wielding a melee weapon in their upper arms.

My character is a ranger, MC rogue to pick up the two-fisted shooter feat, which allows you to fire your hand crossbow when you make a critical hit. So let's say my thri-kreen is holding a superior crossbow in his upper arms, wearing some kind of weapon that leaves his hand free (spiked gauntlet, wrist-razors or some other free-hand weapon) as well- he can still load and fire his superior crossbow with the hand that has the melee weapon, correct?

Now, obviously, when holding his superior crossbow, the spiked gauntlet/wrist razor does not count as "wielded". However, in the course of one turn, let's say he fires that superior crossbow, gets a critical hit, then lets go of the crossbow with his other hand as a free action- that would make the gauntlet/wrist razor "wielded", right, allowing him to then fire his hand crossbow?

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@BrianBallsun-Stanton Yeah, I think that gets it. Interesting question, anyway! I’d be curious to learn if 4e has fixes for these sorts of loopholes, though I’d guess it does not. –  KRyan Dec 16 '13 at 5:59
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1 Answer

No, you can't take a free action during the resolution of damage.

While the argument about dropping a crossbow with one hand to count as wielding wrist razors makes sense, the problem is in the order of execution.

Free actions are like other actions, in that they are limited in when they can be used. Free actions can be used on any creature's turn in combat, but a creature must be able to take actions in order to take a free action (versus a no-action, which has no limits on when it can be used - handy for powers that work when you're dead, for example).

The trick is this: unless a power or action has a trigger that interrupts an action currently in progress, it can't interrupt an action currently in progress. In your example, you currently have an action in progress (an attack, which happens to be a critical hit). Without the trigger entry, the drop action has to wait until the current action concludes before it can happen.

Pages 194-195 of the Rules Compendium describe Free Actions and Triggered Actions and states "Free actions sometimes have triggers as well" (emphasis added).

Drop an Item is defined on page 245 of the Rules Compendium as a Free Action with no trigger.

Furthermore, Page 196 describes how to deal with ambiguity and states that, unless the trigger must be interrupted for the effect to make sense, it should be treated as a reaction (happening after the action). So even if you could argue that you had a "trigger: when you hit, take a free action to drop a weapon" it would be treated as a reaction, happening after the triggering action was resolved.

Also worth noting that your middle limb is not an off-hand, so Two-Fisted Shooter does not work regardless of actions.

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Well my character isn't dropping the crossbow to the floor- he's taking one hand off it. Does that count as an action, at all? It'd be he same as a character holding a versatile melee weapon and then taking one hand off the hilt. –  Max Dec 16 '13 at 10:32
I suppose one answer is that, unless the crossbow has the versatile property, you can't use the versatile mechanics with it. More precisely, versatile weapons can be USED with two hands, but you're still technically only wielding them with one hand, so wield-related actions don't apply to the transition between both states. A discussion on Swordmages seems to suggest they can indeed use their versatile swords with two hands for the bonus damage and maintain all their defensive benefits for a free hand, EXCEPT during the attack (eg: immediate interrupt, OA). –  Soulrift Dec 16 '13 at 14:31
You can always hold a 2-handed weapon with only one hand if you need that other hand to do something (like take a potion). Switching from holding a weapon with 2 hands to 1 hand is a free action as well as going from holding something with 1 hand to 2. Just wanted to clarify that for the discussion. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Dec 16 '13 at 16:28
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