I'm a DM playing D&D 5e and have a barbarian in my game. He is using the usual advantage on attack with reckless attack. But then he says he chooses to "hit a limb" like a headshot which, he says, gives disadvantage. He says this means that means he rolls normally.

I believe there are contradictory options because when swinging recklessly you can't choose where to hit. Can someone shed some light on this please?

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    \$\begingroup\$ very related: Aiming at specific body parts \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 30 '18 at 3:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ My ruleset for 5e doesn't have any provision for called shots. Are you using an unearthed arcana, or a homebrew? Is this a houserule? I think people are going to need a little more info about how a called shot translates into disadvantage at your table in order to answer. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 30 '18 at 3:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is also related, as regards attacking a body part \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 30 '18 at 4:47

There are two parts to this answer...

Advantage and Disadvantage Always Cancel Out

If you have Advantage on a roll, and do something that would impose Disadvantage on said roll, then the two cancel out and you roll normally. Always. Regardless of the specifics around how you gained those sources of Advantage or Disadvantage.

If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa. In such a situation, you have neither advantage nor disadvantage.


Thus, regardless of the source, if you have any source of Advantage and any source of Disadvantage on the same roll, you roll normally.

Called Shots Don't Exist in 5E

There are no rules to support them in any of the rulebooks or in Unearthed Arcana. There is no material for 5E that was released by Wizards of the Coast that includes such rules. You cannot target specific body parts in 5E's combat system. If you are playing with called shots ("I aim for the head"), then you are playing with homebrew rules. If you want to impose extra restrictions on these rules as the DM, that is your prerogative.

However, See here for an excellent explanation for why Called Shots can be a problem for use in 5E

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thankyou iv been umming and ahhing about it for a few games. I think ill just turn it to flavour rather then mechanic \$\endgroup\$ – jacob Jan 30 '18 at 4:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jacob That sounds like a good option. My only concern here (and I might have this all wrong) is that your barbarian player might expect that a "headshot" may kill an enemy instantly despite it still having HP left, or that chopping a leg off means they are always prone, or other mechanical advantages that don't exist RAW. I assume this because they were willing to sacrifice advantage for it, so they might be expecting some mechanical pay off like that. I may have this all wrong, or you may be cool with your player's expectations, but I just wanted point out a concern I have, is all... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jan 30 '18 at 11:30

There are no real rules for "hit a limb" in this game (outside of a few monsters like the roper who specifically have limbs you can hit for specific effects). It would be reasonable for a DM to make the call to allow an attack at disadvantage to get a specific effect, but that's entirely a DM call to respond to a player's desires. (In this situation I'd be starting from 'what do you want to accomplish' rather than 'how do I hit him in the head/arm/foot/etc'. 'I want to make him drop his sword' is entirely different from 'I want him to fall down' or 'I want to dismember him'.)

That said, to address your direct question, there's nothing about a Reckless Attack that implies it's not being made with careful aim. The recklessness is in the barbarian abandoning his defenses, leaving himself open to counter-attack in order to get a better strike, not swinging wildly without looking what he's doing. From a narrative perspective, nothing about Reckless Attack is contradictory to acting with planning and precision.


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