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In the equipment section of the D&D basic rules, it lists "light" as a keyword for the hand crossbow.

The "light" property offers the following attributes:

Light. A light weapon is small and easy to handle, making it ideal for use when fighting with two weapons. See the rules for two-weapon fighting in chapter 9.

So, this would mean I can use my hand crossbow in two weapon fighting.. Great! However, in the TWF rules in chapter 9 it says the following:

When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand.

Two weapon fighting only applies to melee weapons! Why does the hand crossbow have the light attribute? What purpose is it serving?

Now with the addition of the Feats in the players handbook my question still remains. The feat for crossbow expert says the following:

Crossbow Expert
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 hotstile creature doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged attacked rolls.
  • When you use the Attack action and you attack with a one-handed weapo, you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding.

As you can see the feet replaces the Two weapon fighting rules, and so the light keyword is still not needed.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You could use a loaded crossbow (hand or otherwise) as an improvised melee weapon to stab your opponent with the bolt. There is now a feat called "Tavern Brawler" that allows virtually unrestricted use of improvised weapons, thus making dual-wielding hand crossbows and using them for both ranged and melee combat a viable strategy specifically because they have the light property.

Tavern Brawler, PHB Page 159

Accustomed to rough-and-tumble fighting using whatever weapons happen to be at hand, you gain the following benefits:

• Increase your Strength or Constitution score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

• You are proficient with improvised weapons and unarmed strikes.

• Your unarmed strike uses a d4 for damage.

• When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike or an improvised weapon on your turn, you can use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the target.

Improvised Weapons, PHB Page 138

Sometimes characters don’t have their weapons and have to attack with whatever is close at hand. An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.

In many cases, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. At the DM’s option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.

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Ruleswise as of now, none

There are no class features or combat rules that benefit a player for dual-wielding hand crossbows as of the release of Basic and the Starter Set.

With PHB's release it will probably see use...

We don't really know what the other class paths will be nor what the final feat list will be. Most likely a feat will make use of the light property on ranged weapons or a class like ranger or rogue will be able to dual-wield them.

From the PHB feat list preview I'd say Dual-Wielder or Crossbow Expert are the feats most likely to allow a player to hold a light crossbow in both hands and shoot at the same time/make an attack with both in one turn.

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@GMNoob Submitted via my phone, and it shoes, edited to be more readable. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 21 at 12:01
Regarding the final feat list. We have a preview :) wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20140721 –  GMNoob Jul 21 at 12:07
This answer is spot-on. I'd expect feat support to add the use of light ranged, similar to the Two-Fisted Shooter feat in 4e. The other way it could go is that this section could be changed in errata. –  morningstar2651 Jul 21 at 14:58
question has been updated, with crossbow feat rules. –  GMNoob Aug 14 at 16:22

Well you left out the part about having the option to throw a light weapon instead of using it as a melee weapon if it has the thrown tag. I would assume that if you are allowed to throw a second weapon as a bonus action that the same exception would apply to firing the hand crossbow.

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GMNoob already knows about TWF allowing a dagger rouge, and its only tangentially related to his core question about why Light is a keyword/tag on the hand crossbow. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 22 at 0:52
This is hilarious. I guess it does have a mechanical use. –  doppelgreener Jul 22 at 2:38
A handcrossbow can not be thrown but you can use it as an improvised melee weapon! –  GMNoob Jul 22 at 4:15
Quesion has been updated with feat rules. –  GMNoob Aug 14 at 16:22

There's basically no mechanics reason for the "light" flag.

I would houserule a player being able to dual-wield them, but allow only one shot with them. They don't have a free-hand to reload. Alternately, they could have a weapon in one hand and a light crossbow in another, to get that one shot off. If for some reason you have cartridge-loaded light crossbows, then that might be particularly cool.

There are also some 3.5 feats which allow two-handed weapons to be wielded one-handed. I could see homebrewing an equivalent feat in 5e to allow dual-wielding heavy repeating crossbows for a particularly dedicated player/character.

Approach "why is there a light flag, does this mean they are considered in dual wielding?" and answer it with "sure, why not?"

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Hi and welcome, What do 3.5 feats have to do with a 5e question? Just an FYI it might behoove you to slow down with the answers just a little bit and spend a bit more time on individual answers. A lot of your answers so far cover ground in existing answer without providing much new information. –  wax eagle Jul 23 at 12:47
@waxeagle The explanation for the 3.5 reference was in there but easy to miss. I edited it to make it really obvious, as all mentions of other editions should be in a rules answer. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 23 at 14:29
Question has been updated with feat rules. –  GMNoob Aug 14 at 16:23

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