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I was thinking about creating a wizard character. Reviewing the spellcasting rules, I saw this:

Most spells that require attack rolls involve ranged attacks. Remember that you have disadvantage on a ranged attack roll if you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature that can see you and that isn't incapacitated (see chapter 9).

There are a lot of occasions that might arise that would make this a problem, or at least a bit of a hindrance. So as a D&D player normally would when they wanted to break a rule without actually cheating, I went to a list of feats and found 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 hostile creature doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

When you use the Attack action and attack with a one handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a hand crossbow you are holding.

I may be (am) overthinking things, but does this apply to magic attacks, such as cantrips like Eldritch Blast or Fire Bolt? The literal meaning of the feat says that I can, but it could also imply by the title and also the effects of the feat that this only applies to crossbows, or any other ranged weapon, excluding magic. The strongest evidence that it might not affect ability with ranged magic attacks is:

Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow

With a crossbow, not with magic.

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Yes, you can use the Crossbow Expert feat in this manner.

It's a fairly common build for spellcasters.

As you have realized, the point in question in the feat affects "ranged attacks". It says nothing about ranged weapon attacks. A ranged spell attack is indeed a ranged attack.

Here is a designer tweet to that effect

Just wondering, is crossbow expert working on ranged spell attacks rules as intended?

Mike Mearls yes - feat does not specific crossbow or weapon attacks

and better yet, here is the official word from the SA Compendium:

Is it intentional that the second benefit of Crossbow Expert helps ranged spell attacks? Yes, it’s intentional. When you make a ranged attack roll within 5 feet of an enemy, you normally suffer disadvantage (PH, 195). The second benefit of Crossbow Expert prevents you from suffering that disadvantage, whether or not the ranged attack is with a crossbow. When designing a feat with a narrow use, we consider adding at least one element that can benefit a character more broadly—a bit of mastery that your character brings from one situation to another. The second benefit of Crossbow Expert is such an element, as is the first benefit of Great Weapon Master. That element in Crossbow Expert shows that some of the character’s expertise with one type of thing—crossbows, in this case—transfers to other things

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Any ranged attack roll works with that part of crossbow expert

Notice how the first and third benefit of this feat both specify what weapons they apply to (crossbows and one-handed weapons respectively). The second benefit had no such restriction. You can use it with any ranged attack roll you use. So, if the spell you are using gives you a ranged attack roll, the benefit applies.

The names of many abilities in D&D can be misleading. Just remember that only the effect description has any mechanical effect.


The Sage Advice Compendium even addresses this question directly:

Is it intentional that the second benefit of Crossbow Expert helps ranged spell attacks? Yes, it’s intentional. When you make a ranged attack roll within 5 feet of an enemy, you normally suffer disadvantage (PH, 195). The second benefit of Crossbow Expert prevents you from suffering that disadvantage, whether or not the ranged attack is with a crossbow.

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