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The criteria for a Rogue's Sneak Attack is

The Attack must use a Finesse or a ranged weapon.

The criteria for an Eldritch Knight's soulbound weapon is

Over the course of 1 hour short rest, you can bond a weapon to you.

The criteria for the Archery fighting style is simply

You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

Do all of these skills work with Siege Equipment like catapults and ballistas and trebuchets?

In the DMG (pg. 255), a Ballista is classified as

Large object

Armor Class: 15

Hit Points: 50

It takes one action to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it.

Bolt. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 120/480 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (3dl0) piercing damage.

Does this imply that siege weapons are actually objects (with HP, AC and static attack bonuses, unlike weapons) you use, and are not weapons you wield?

What is the RAW (and does it match the developer's intention) of these skills with siege weapons?

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I've read the rules quite extensively and will try to compile an answer to my own question.

No, they can't be used for those skills.

Siege Equipment are objects, not weapons.

They are classified as Large Objects, not weapons. Despite being occasionally referred to as "weapons", they don't fall under the category of Weapons, in the sense they can be equipped, disarmed and, above all, used in an Attack Action.

They don't require proficiency to be used

Your class grants proficiency in certain weapons, reflecting both the class's focus and the tools you are most likely to use.

Usually something like: proficiency with martial weapons, proficiency with swords. Siege weapons are usable by anyone, with the Use an Object action.

They are not listed in the weapons tables

Instead, they show up in the DMG, together with objects like Suspended Cauldrons. These cauldrons, despite being siege weapons (defensive mostly), are clearly not weapons in the regular sense, they don't even have an attack roll.

The PHB claims the table mentions only most common weapons, but these weapons all share many characteristics (which are also shared by improvised weapons):

  • they can be equipped and disarmed.

  • you add your own modifiers to their attacks

  • you use the Attack action to attack with them

  • they are neatly arranged into categories

We will see that Siege Weapons have none of these traits.

They have fixed damage and attack rolls

You don't add modifiers to them (Proficiency, Strength or Dexterity), either to Attack or Damage rolls. This is because it's the Siege Weapon's Attack Roll, and not yours.

They require actions to be used (not Attack Action).

It takes one action to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it.

Meaning Extra Attack or similar features are off the table as well. Meaning anyone can use them, no proficiency with it is necessary.

When an object requires your action for its use, you take the Use an Object action.

So, you are not making the attack rolls at all, you are Using an Object, and the object's use has an Attack and a Damage roll. You fire the weapon (using the "Use an Object" action), and it's the object's attack roll (not yours). This also furthers the point that Siege Weapons are Objects you use, not Weapons in the classical sense.

Weapons belong to a class of weapons: simple or martial or natural, ranged or melee

Every weapon is classified as either melee or ranged.

The three categories are simple, martial, and natural.

This is supported by Crawford

There are three categories of weapons in the game:

  • simple
  • martial
  • natural

A weapon is in only one of those categories, unless a rule makes an exception

No siege weapon is actually defined as belonging to any of theses classes. In fact, some would be quite hard to describe (Suspended Cauldron drops something on top of enemies, is this a ranged attack?).

Doval's comment also makes a great point:

Being able to make a ranged weapon attack doesn't make something a ranged weapon.


Now, let's closely examine each of the skills we looked at.

Sneak Attack

Once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. The attack must use a finesse or a ranged weapon.

It requires ranged or finesse weapons, which Siege weapons are not (they are objects). You are also not attacking, you're using an object. You couldn't trigger Sneak Attack with a magical staff that threw a fire bolt at someone when used.

Flavor-wise, Sneak Attack is about using finesse to hit the soft-spots of a distracted target. It doesn't sound right to do this with a gigantic trebuchet, does it?

Fighting Style

You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

Like before, siege weapons are not ranged weapons (just like you wouldn't get a +2 when throwing a Spear).

Plus, I still defend that you are not the one making the Attack Roll, as you don't add any modifiers to it. You are using an object, and its the object's attack roll, not yours.

Weapon Bond

you learn a ritual that creates a magical bond between yourself and one weapon.

These are not classical weapons, but Objects. You wouldn't be able to bond with a table, just because you can throw it at people. Just because you can use it as a weapon, it doesn't mean it IS a weapon. Also,

you can't be disarmed of that weapon unless you are incapacitated.

This implies you can equip a weapon and be disarmed from it, which does not happen with Siege Weapons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not all objects are weapons. But all weapons are objects. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Nov 15 '17 at 17:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well-supported! \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Nov 15 '17 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're conflating attacks with the attack action in here... if you needed the Attack action to apply Sneak Attack, you couldn't use it on any opportunity attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Speedkat Nov 15 '17 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer would be improved if you split your "they are not weapons" and "they are not ranged weapons" conclusions from the implications of said conclusions explicitly. As it stands you do some of this, but not systematically, which makes the second half of your answer a bit muddled. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Nov 15 '17 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am very concerned with the "they are objects so they are not weapons" argument. As enkryptor says all weapons are also objects, as is clear from spells that target objects being able to target an unattended weapon just as easily as a table. Personally I do not think that the parts of this answer that rely on that specific argument are supported at all and should be removed to see if the overall conclusions stand. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Nov 16 '17 at 9:40
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Sneaky Siege Weapons may work

As you have listed above, the only criteria requirement for consideration of Sneak Attack in this case is that it be a ranged weapon. The DMG (p. 255) requires Ranged Weapon Attack, which may qualify it as a ranged weapon for both Archery and Sneak Attack* (see final section on Weapon Classification).

Advantage still required

From the PHB, 96

...if you have advantage on the attack roll...or if another enemy of the target is within 5' of it, that enemy is incapacitated, and you don't have disadvantage on the attack roll.

You still need advantage in order to trigger Sneak Attack. If you can generate Advantage - or can apply the the other sneak attack requirements, then everything above applies.

*The question of Weapon Classification

Siege weapons aren't listed in the PHB and don't have a weapon type classification. Does that mean they don't have one? Or can we use some common sense that they are Ranged Weapons? A DM could rule they are a Siege Weapon which is separate from Melee/Ranged, but calling a Trebuchet a Ranged Weapon seems reasonable as well. The bigger hurdle is in gaining advantage and how to do that at extreme range.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 Being able to make a ranged weapon attack doesn't make something a ranged weapon. Most thrown weapons (daggers, light hammers, javelins, spears, handaxes) are melee weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Nov 15 '17 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doval I updated my answer to discuss weapon classification. I understand if you want to keep the downvote :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 15 '17 at 19:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Doval, does that mean a suitably-sized giant could make a ranged weapon attack with a trebuchet by throwing it at the target? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Nov 16 '17 at 2:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does that mean a suitably-sized giant could make a ranged weapon attack by throwing a Rogue at the target? Would the Rogue or the Giant's bonuses to damage apply? \$\endgroup\$ – Sir Adelaide Nov 16 '17 at 3:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SirAdelaide Yes. To giants, hobbits are a class of weapon, even though boulders are better balanced and do more damage. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 21 '18 at 13:53
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No, you can't backstab with a ballista

Paradoxically enough, a "Ranged Weapon Attack" doesn't mean it have to be made with a ranged weapon. A well-known example is thrown weapons — a creature makes a "ranged weapon attack" when throwing a handaxe (or a javelin), but a handaxe itself (or a javeling) is still a melee weapon. Notice that the creature still uses its STR modifier while throwing them.

Now, the Sneak Attack feature explicitly requires the Rogue to use a ranged weapon, not just to "make a range weapon attack". Siege weapons, like Trebuchet or Ballista aren't listed as "ranged weapons":

  • The chapter's title is "Siege equipment"
  • Things like Ballista and Trebuchet are called "siege weapons"
  • The equipment descriptions say it is a "Large object"

So, despite it makes a "Ranged Weapon Attack", a ballista is NOT a ranged weapon, hence, isn't eligible for Sneak Attack.

So why the Sneak Attack description is so ambiguous?

Perhaps it would be easier to say a Rogue can Sneak Attack when they "uses their DEX modifier for the attack roll". It is basically the same as "the Attack must use a Finesse or a ranged weapon", but less ambiguous, right?

No it is not, when you're fiddling with multiclassing. For instance, a Rogue/Monk can use DEX modifier with monk weapons, but he still must use a Finesse or a ranged weapon performing a Sneak Attack.

Moreover, "the Attack" implies the Sneak Attack is a part of the Attack action. But the Ballista operator isn't attacking anybody directly. In terms of mechanics, it's the Ballista who is performing the attack (hence the static hit bonus).

Lore-wise, siege equipment isn't eligible for a Sneak Attack as well:

you know how to strike subtly and exploit a foe’s distraction

It's hard to imagine how is it possible to hurl a giant stone to someone and "strike subtly".

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I think just some simple common sense would suffice here.

a) Sneak Attack is all about finesse, using a weapon you can carefully and precisely aim for maximum damage. No siege weapon qualifies, although I could see an argument for it in the specific case of a ballista against a gargantuan creature.

b) Weapon Bonding I would be reluctant to allow, due to the size and unwieldiness of siege weaponry. Whipping a trebuchet out of your pocket is absurd.

c) The +2 for Archery I would probably allow. Skill in ballistics is applicable.

d) Extra Attack could apply, to siege weaponry that do not have the Loading quality, and do not have specified actions for operating that are not Attacks, but that's going to be a very small category.

Other questions raised:

e) Siege weapons are weapons. The weapon table is not a comprehensive list of every possible weapon, and it makes no sense to treat it so. I would classify siege weaponry as a separate class from either simple or martial weapons, requiring its own proficiency. (Likewise for firearms, should they come up in a campaign. Separate category, separate proficiency.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Common sense and opinions don't speak to rules as written or rules as intended. Which the OP specifically asked. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Nov 15 '17 at 23:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ If using common sense approaches, then you could possibly sneak attack someone with an aimed giant cross bow style weapon, if they weren't looking and didn't know it was coming. Should it do more damage though? Being prepared or not is unlikely to help the victim in this situation (except in the example you gave of the large creature, when scale means that you may have a chance to aim for a weak spot). Against normal humanoids 'whole of torso' would be the target and surprise isn't really going to help you hit a weak spot within that target. \$\endgroup\$ – Sir Adelaide Nov 16 '17 at 3:41
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Are siege weapons weapons?

They are clearly called weapons. They aren't in weapon tables, they don't behave like other weapons. This is a DM call. But making the call that a "Siege Weapon" is not a "Weapon" should probably only be done if there are extremely good reasons not to.

I will call "Siege weapons are weapons" claim (A).

Are seige weapons ranged weapons?

This is less clear. When you throw a spear, it is a melee weapon being thrown, not a ranged weapon. Siege Weapons not belonging to the Ranged Weapon category seems reasonable, much like a thrown weapon isn't a Ranged Weapon, but in many cases so does the opposite (they are mostly weapons that shoot projectiles, like Ranged Weapons are). This is a DM call.

I will call "Siege weapons are ranged weapons" claim (B). I will assume if (B) holds, so does (A).

Is the attack made with the attack action?

No, you use the Use and Object action. This means that Extra Attack definitely doesn't work, as does anything else that talks about the Attack Action.

Sneak Attack

The Attack must use a Finesse or a ranged weapon.

If (B), then Sneak Attack can apply when you have advantage and/or the target has one of your allies adjacent to it.

If (B) is not true, then Sneak Attack doesn't work, even if (A) holds.

Soulbound Weapon

Over the course of 1 hour short rest, you can bond a weapon to you.

If (A) is true, then this works. If (A) is not true, then you cannot bond something that isn't a weapon.

There is a sensible problem here; once Soulbound you can make the weapon appear. being able to make a ballista appear out of nowhere may make some people go "what?" when doing the same with a sword doesn't.

You could argue that the ability to make a ballista appear out of nowhere is good reason not to treat Siege Weapons as Weapons in general.

Archery fighting style

You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

If (B) is true, then this works. If not, this doesn't work. (A) being true isn't enough here.

Conclusion

These all depend on something not clearly described in the rules. The rules explicitly state that the weapon tables are incomplete. Siege Weapons don't behave like other weapons, nor do they behave like Ranged Weapons. There are good, solid arguments on both sides.

This answer merely attempts to break down the process to two decisions -- are they weapons, and are they in the ranged weapon category -- and describes the conclusions falling from those assumptions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well reasoned, and something I can use. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 18 '17 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Upon further review being able to make a ballista appear out of nowhere may make some people go "what? provides reason enough to rule in favor of this. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 21 '18 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast it is all fun and games until someone summons a trebuchet. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Aug 21 '18 at 14:19
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I am going to address two of the three questions you are asking:

Can a siege weapon trigger a Rogue's Sneak Attack:

The Attack must use a Finesse or a ranged weapon.

Can a siege weapon qualify the criteria for the Archery fighting style:

You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

The problem here is the nomenclature of D&D which, while they have tried to be really careful, is complicated enough to cause confusion sometimes between a qualitative description, i.e. one that describes something by what something can do and a quantitative description, one that requires a specific rules defined property.

In the case of Sneak Attack it is the term "ranged weapon" that is the confusing term. So do the rules mean a weapon that can be used at range, i.e. a qualitative description, or a weapon that is on a Ranged Weapon list (the title of the list in the PHB p.149), i.e. a quantitative property?

I think there is a key point here: the term "Finesse" has a capital F making it a proper noun, describing a weapon that has a quantified property, that of having Finesse.

However the term "ranged weapon" is not capitalised, is not a proper noun, the difference making it a qualitative description of a weapon that can used at range.

Another example of this is the use of "Attack" or "attack", the first being and action you can take on your turn, a quantified thing in the rules, the second being a qualitative description of hitting someone somehow. They are different terms and are used quite carefully to mean different things in the rules.

It is also the case that the list of Ranged Weapons has capitals in its title and you would have hoped that with the care the writers have taken elsewhere that limiting an ability to weapons on this list would be quantitatively defined. This is an important property of the rules.

As a bit of negative evidence supporting this point, if it is the case that a non-Finesse weapon must on the Ranged Weapon list then rogues cannot sneak attack with a thrown hand axe, javelin, spear, trident etc. nor shuriken, boomerangs etc. not defined in the PHB nor gunpowder weapons. This seems incorrect.

So my interpretation of the RAW is that a siege weapon, a weapon you use to make a ranged attack, does indeed meet the RAW criteria for both abilities.

However I am not so sure about RAI as this might be a case where the care in use of the nomenclature has not covered this case. I would, as a DM, have to apply my judgement in allowing the sneak attack case, for instance, as it seems thematically incorrect, unless the weapon is being used, say, to attack a large enough creature to scale properly.

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