Are ranged weapons assumed to be unloaded until the Attack action or is it possible (within the rules) to enter a fight with a loaded weapon?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would that matter? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jun 18 '18 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Because loading requires a free hand (in particular for hand crossbow). Entering the fight with it already loaded makes you able to shoot with it while not having a free hand. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 18 '18 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ [rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/124723/… answers this question too. \$\endgroup\$ – MrHiTech Jun 18 '18 at 22:04

Yes, but ask your DM

Certainly there is no rule saying the action of loading must be done immediately before attacking, however depending on the level of realism applied to the game, this could be dangerous.

An unloaded crossbow cannot misfire and in real life a crossbow left loaded will break down pretty quickly. Your DM may allow it with these risks applied.

However DnD is not real life and has no weapon durability mechanic, and this certainly would not be a game breaking allowance and certainly falls within the rules so yes, you can preload a crossbow

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. But since crossbow is only an example, it would be worth noting that there is no problem with stone keep in sling all the time, and a bit of skill allows you to keep a bow and arrow in one hand without a problem. This does not change much, of course. Mentioning for the sake of completeness. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jun 19 '18 at 10:53

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