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The PHB entry for the "Ram, portable" (page 153) says that you get a +4 to your strength check when you use it to break down a door. However one of my players contacted me and asked if he could use it as a combat weapon.

I figured that since his barbarian character would be essentially swinging a log at people, that it would be thematic and I decided to allow it. However when I tried to find an equivalent source of damage (i.e. what type of dice the Barb should roll) I found nothing.

What I know is that it will deal bludgeoning damage and be both two-handed and heavy. However what I am wondering about is whether I should impose some sort penalty to the attack role for using an unwieldy item? What is an appropriate damage roll (obviously it needs to be greater than the 1d8 quarter staff)? Should it have a knockback effect? Should it do more damage to creature to creatures huge or bigger (like the siege effect that some monsters have deal bonus damage to structures)?

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up vote 19 down vote accepted

The rules for improvised weapons are on p. 147 of the PHB.

In many cases, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. ... 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.

You have decided that it does bludgeoning damage, is heavy and two-handed - sounds like a maul to me. You have also decided that it is awkward to use, not being designed as a weapon - sounds like proficiency should not apply.

Treat it as a maul and only allow proficiency if the wielder has the Tavern Brawler feat.

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Good example of applying the "ruling" principle as DM. – KorvinStarmast Jan 24 at 2:35
I liked everyone's ideas a lot but after discussing it with the PC we decided that your idea was the best. thanks a lot for the help we sincerely appreciate it! – name moniker Jan 25 at 3:54

First of all, the portable ram's price suggests it would be a very cheap weapon. It is worth only 4 gp while most heavy martial weapons are worth at least 10 gp if not more. Also, it weighs 35 lb and should be extremely heavy and difficult to swing around in combat. Therefore, I would treat it as an improvised weapon and give it disadvantage on the attack roll.

Since the weapon is so damned heavy, I'd think about putting a minimum strength requirement to swing it too, like 15.

For the matter of damage, 1d10 seems realistic enough, a bit more than a warhammer. Raising the damage beyond that would be overpowered for the quality of the weapon.

Concerning the +4 modifier for the strength check, I'd leave that uniquely for the door ramming, since it was made for that purpose. The weapon damage (1d10) already reflects the weapon's strength capacity in combat.

I'd allow the guy to use it but it would be more to his disadvantage than otherwise. Think about it... Would you be able to swing something almost as heavy as a gym plate around efficiently in combat? Not so sure ... ;)

Hope that helped!

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What I particularly liked about this answer is that it addresses the "purpose built weapon" feature as reason not to allow a bonus for other than door bashing. – KorvinStarmast Jan 24 at 2:20

Improvised weapons deal 1d4 damage. Unless the wielder has the tavern brawler, they aren't proficient with it, so they just add their strength modifier to the attack roll. So, it's exactly the same as using a tree branch, broken bottle, etc. Those are the rules, and therefore probably what you should do.

Here's why this makes sense. Heavy objects are difficult to move and especially difficult to move quickly. This object is roughly twice the weight of the heaviest weapons. If you hit someone with this, it's not going to be moving very quickly, so it will have much lower kinetic energy than a lighter weapon, and so not going to hurt as much. It will, however, probably push them a bit, but not enough to call it 5 feet.

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Why would the kinetic energy be lower? The character applies the same force over the same distance. – Michael Jan 24 at 18:04
Because f=ma but ke=mv^2. Ask for a more complete explanation. Same reason lightweight aluminum baseball bats are better than wood. – Derek Stucki Jan 24 at 21:44
But how do you get up to speed? The total energy imparted on the object is force over distance. Kinetic energy is mv²/2 because every time you double this acceleration distance the velocity quadruples. It’s probably easier to swing e.g. a heavy hammer with all your might (more force) because you are not limited by the speed of your arms. – Michael Jan 25 at 8:18

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