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A party member in a D&D 5e game I'm in is playing a halfling paladin. It occurred to me (for whatever reason) to ask what weapon they were wielding, and they said their main weapon was a maul, and their backup was a warhammer/shield combo).

Upon checking the Weapons table, I discovered that mauls have the "Heavy" weapon property:

Heavy. Small creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls with heavy weapons. A heavy weapon’s size and bulk make it too large for a Small creature to use effectively.

The player seemed to be unaware of this (a similar character in Critical Role apparently wielded heavy weapons without issue - of course, CR is not necessarily a perfect demonstration of the rules as written).

As such, I was curious whether there is anything in the rules (i.e. not homebrew or a house rule) that cancels out this innate disadvantage for player characters, other than gaining advantage from some other source in combat.

(Note: the issue has already been resolved in our game between the player and DM, so it's purely a rules question.)

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A potion of growth or an enlargement spell

By changing to medium size, temporarily, that disadvantage will go away. Both the potion and the spell make that possible.

Comment: this point got some discussion early in this edition's release. (This question is related but not identical, as is this one). This little piece of verisimilitude -- which parallels a similar rule about weapons for Large and Huge creatures not getting a damage increase if a medium sized creature uses it (DMG p. 278)-- avoids the absurdity of a halfling wielding a greatsword, while still allowing for a variety of other absurdities.

FWIW, this small sized character can ride a medium sized creature. Gnome and halfling Rangers (for example) can take good advantage of that if they are Beast Masters.

In the interest of Rules as Fun (RAF1)

In making a ruling that is not strictly RAW, consider what is behind the character build, and the use it is making use of Small size. As the DM, consider the impact of ruling that the character counts as Medium for all rules purposes, such that the bulky paladin armor makes up the difference. In that case, a maul-wielding halfling might provide a bit of light comedy, but it would have very little impact on game balance. It's only if the player expected to get all of the benefits of Small and yet avoid any negative consequences of that size that the character concept begins to border on "cheesy" as well as funny. (Thanks to @NeilSlater for this point)
1RAF

Regardless of what’s on the page or what the designers intended, D&D is meant to be fun, and the DM is the ringmaster at each game table. The best DMs shape the game on the fly to bring the most delight to his or her players. Such DMs aim for RAF, “rules as fun.” We expect DMs to depart from the rules when running a particular campaign or when seeking the greatest happiness for a certain group of players. Sometimes my rules answers will include advice on achieving the RAF interpretation of a rule for your group. I recommend a healthy mix of RAW, RAI, and RAF! (Jeremy Crawford, Sage Advice Compendium, page 1-2)

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No. Not by RAW (without growing as per KorvinStarmast's idea).

You might consider some kind of treasure that would grant that property. I couldn't find anything in the DMG that gives it by RAW, but you could decide (as a house rule) that a Belt of Giant Strength (rare-legendary/attunement) or Gauntlets of Ogre Power (uncommon/attunement) would allow for small creatures to wield heavy weapons as part of their magical strength granting magic (even if the character has higher strength than it would grant, at least they could benefit from this aspect).

You could also invent Mithral Weapons. Based on Mithral Armor (uncommon/no attunement), I would suggest that these heavy mithral weapons could lose the heavy property (but still somehow be balanced/weighted well enough to do the same damage) and most other non-heavy weapons could gain the finesse property. As the DM, you of course decide when this appears as treasure or for sale. (I personally like the idea of high elves using special longswords like this.)

This option of course would be extremely unbalanced at level 1 and should only be granted as a reward of some sort later. I think that the halfling should start off using a warhammer (1d10 < 2d6 if used two-handed) as per RAW and if you like the ideas above you can let the player know that there might be some options for mauls in the future.

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Certain monsters, such as the Redcap in Volo's Guide to Monsters (p. 188), have an ability called "Outsize Strength". This ability specifically states that "wielding a heavy weapon doesn't impose disadvantage on attack rolls":

Outsize Strength. While grappling, the redcap is considered to be Medium. Also, wielding a heavy weapon doesn’t impose disadvantage on its attack rolls.

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By RAW and official sources, not without changing the size of the character from small to medium either by having the halfling be big enough to count as "medium" (as Phil Boncer suggested) or by putting the halfling under the temporary effects of Enlarge or similar spells/potions (as KorvinStarmast suggested). Both solutions grant the character the benefits and drawbacks of being medium-sized (during the duration of being that size, whether permanently or temporarily).

Homebrew remedy - As the DM, there are four main choices you can make:

  1. You can create a trait that allows the halfling the ability to wield Heavy equipment. This trait should come with some sort of drawback and/or limitation. For example:

    As long as {halfling} has Strength 19 or greater, {he/she} can use Heavy equipment without disadvantage.

    This allows them to maintain the benefits of being Small while still getting to use Heavy gear but also restricting the benefits to certain specific circumstances. Additionally, you could try

    The halfling must doff their Heavy equipment for the entirety of a rest in order to receive the benefits of resting.

    By having this as the drawback instead, you can have the halfling make a choice: wield the equipment while everyone else rests in case of an attack or remove the equipment and lose its effects all while hoping nobody tries to attack during the rest. If the former, then they'll take a level of exhaustion (unless they take their long rest on a different schedule where their party can protect them) and if the latter, they lose their safety in the case of a midnight ambush. It keeps a balance to the game while still granting them benefits and drawbacks of their size.

  2. You can create a Feat that allows the use of Heavy equipment.
  3. You can create a magic item that allows the wearer to ignore the "Heavy" property of equipped gear altogether or (if you want to be generous) that replaces "Heavy" with "Finesse" and/or "Thrown", depending on what you as the DM feel would be most fun.
  4. Ignore the "Heavy" property for that character altogether. While it's generally a bad idea to just hand-wave a situation, it's more important that your players have fun. As long as you don't go overboard on the hand-waving, you should be fine.

(Yes, I know "traits" how I used it generally refers to monsters. I'm talking things like a modified aspect to their background.)

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Another option could be to simply decide that this particular halfling was "a big 'un" -- he's 4 feet tall, and medium size, and treat him as a Medium creature for all intents and purposes, both benefits and detriments. e.g. the "big halfling" gets to use heavy weapons, but can't ride Medium steeds anymore, etc. It's not in the rules directly, but it won't break anything.

As an example of the idea from past play: The old AD&D 1e system had a limitation that you had to be 5' tall to use a 2-handed sword. I liked to play dwarves, so that was a little bit of a bummer. One time I rolled a new dwarf fighter, and rolled a 00 for how big he was, so I decided that he was a 5' tall dwarf, and used a 2-handed sword. Of course that also meant that he weighed 300 lbs, was very conspicuous, and had some difficulty with getting armor fitted, and with buying riding horses, etc. That just became part of the playing of that character. It balanced out fine, and made for interesting playing.

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