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A Fighter with the Improved Sunder feat wielding a Greataxe is performing a sunder attack on a longbow-wielding opponent.

PHB p113 indicates that a longbow is a projectile weapon and that most projectile weapons requires two hands to use. Then the PHB futher explains on p314 that a two-handed weapon is "a weapon designed for use in two hands".

The Sunder description indicates that the wielder of a two-handed weapon has a +4 bonus on the sunder attempt.

In that case would the defending player resisting the greataxe's sunder benefit from a +4 bonus on his opposed attack roll?

Some precisions I found: In the weapon table in the PHB, the longbow is listed as a Ranged weapon category, not a light, 1H or 2H weapon category. Even though it is written in the longbow description that 'it requires two hands to use', nowhere is indicated it is considered a 2 handed weapon category. In the sunder description it is indicated that you get the bonus if the weapon is a 2 handed weapon(emphasis mine), it is not indicating a bonus on how the weapon is wielded (which is the way it is written in the disarm attack). So I am wondering, if there is so much of clear difference in the RAW rule of the sunder and disarm rules...Wouldn't there be a clear difference between the weapon category (light, 1H or 2H) and how it is used ?

NOTE: I AM LOOKING FOR THE RAW rule on this not RAI.

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Ranged weapons are not classified as light, one-handed or two-handed, unless they are also melee weapons. Yet there are times when this classification is necessary, like Sunder, but also Two-Weapon Fighting.

Thrown weapons are classified for the purposes of Two-Weapon Fighting:

Treat a dart or shuriken as a light weapon when used in this manner, and treat a bolas, javelin, net, or sling as a one-handed weapon.

Strength:

Damage rolls when using a melee weapon or a thrown weapon (including a sling). (Exceptions: Off-hand attacks receive only one-half the character’s Strength bonus, while two-handed attacks receive one and a half times the Strength bonus. A Strength penalty, but not a bonus, applies to attacks made with a bow that is not a composite bow.)

And for Composite longbow:

A composite longbow can be made with a high strength rating to take advantage of an above-average Strength score; this feature allows you to add your Strength bonus to damage, up to the maximum bonus indicated for the bow.

From Sunder:

The wielder of a two-handed weapon on a sunder attempt gets a +4 bonus on this roll, and the wielder of a light weapon takes a –4 penalty.

These are clearly references to the category, not the hands used to wield them. For example, when wielding a one-handed weapon with two hands, you would not gain the +4 bonus.

Up to this point, the longbow is basically not classified, so the determination is up to the DM. It isn't clear cut, since while the weapon requires two hands to wield, you do not gain the one and a half times Strength bonus.

However, if we look at the Elvencraft Bow, from Races of the Wild (pp 166)

An elvencraft shortbow functions as a club when wielded as a melee weapon. An elvencraft longbow functions as a quarterstaff when wielded as a melee weapon.

If we use this as a guide, then a shortbow functions as a club, a one-handed weapon and a longbow functions as a quarterstaff, which is listed as a two-handed weapon. However, if we read the text on quarterstaff:

A quarterstaff is a double weapon. You can fight with it as if fighting with two weapons, but if you do, you incur all the normal attack penalties associated with fighting with two weapons, just as if you were using a one-handed weapon and a light weapon. A creature wielding a quarterstaff in one hand can’t use it as a double weapon—only one end of the weapon can be used in any given round.

Since text trumps tables, you begin to scratch your head...

Because with two-handed weapons:

Two hands are required to use a two-handed melee weapon effectively.

Ultimately a longbow simply isn't classified in the rules-as-written as a light, one-handed or two-handed weapon, thus it's up to the DM.

This DM would recommend, with respect to two-weapon fighting:

  • Treat any bow (except a hand crossbow that specifically can be fired one-handed) as a two-handed weapon

And with respect to Sunder:

  • Treat longbows and heavy crossbows as two-handed weapons and shortbows and light crossbows as one-handed weapons.

But those are purely recommendations at this point. You might rule differently, in that you might think the hands on the item are where the bonus should come from, and read it as wielding with two hands instead of wielding a two-handed weapon.

I would not go any further than that, however, since you may introduce weapon size bizarreness (like dark wanderer's mention of dual wielding small shortbows). One could argue the two hand requirement comes from the text, however, not the size, so it is a mechanical function of the weapon itself, and not the size of the weapon (hence a shortbow still requires two hands).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The rules you are mentionning comes from the d20SRD system. I have seen that the RAW wording for that ressource diffeers from the real WotC book ressources... so I do not think for RAW dnd 3.5 WotC core ruling that this ressource dcan be officially applied \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly Dec 9 '18 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly - I'm pretty sure I've answered this for you before, but just in case - The d20SRD is a subset of the core rule books (Player's Handbook, Monster Manual and DM's Guilde), including the core game mechanics but leaves out the Product Identity and much of the flavor text. The missing text is not intended to change the core rules in any way. I'm sure that isn't the case 100% of the time, but it is intended to be the same rules, and is absolutely appropriate for rules citation. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Dec 21 '18 at 17:29
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Many ways work, but beware massive problems

So, the rules don't really specify a handedness for ranged weapons, but then they sort-of assume one much of the time and there is an argument to be made that the contrast between the section labeled "Light, One-Handed, and Two-Handed Melee Weapons" and e.g. the inappropriate sizing rules which talk just about "The measure of how much effort it takes to use a weapon (whether the weapon is designated as a light, one-handed, or two-handed weapon for a particular wielder)" implies that, in addition to the specific rules for melee weapon handedness, there must be identical categories for ranged weapons as well.

That argument is not super strong and faces its own problems (Can I dual-wield small longbows?), but it is RAW permissible-- nothing comes even close to explicitly saying that ranged weapons don't have a handedness and thus a GM in ruling ranged weapons to possess handedness equal to the hands used to wield them would not have violated the RAW. Note that 'doesn't violate the RAW' and 'is mandated by the RAW' are two very different propositions, and were a GM to claim such a ruling to be the RAW rather than to be consistent with the RAW they would be pretty clearly in the wrong.

Another, slightly more strongly based in the rules, argument can be made that ranged weapons do have a handedness, because many rules imply that all weapons must have a handedness, but they possess a handedness that is not 'light', 'one handed', or 'two-handed', because those are reserved to melee weapons alone (except when they're not, like with some-but-not-all thrown weapons). This is both RAW consistent and works pretty well in play except that it makes inappropriately sized ranged weapons completely unusable regardless of the degree of size changing unless those weapons are also melee weapons in which case size penalties work like normal. Besides the size issues, I think this is the best ruling to make, and this plus house-ruling away the size issues is what I do in my games most of the time (though house rules are obviously outside the scope of this question).

An argument with a quite strong rules basis can be made that ranged weapons have no handedness, which seems to be the argument you favor, but while this may seem to avoid the issue of rules expansion regarding weapon handedness, it causes the most problems for play. If ranged weapons have no handedness, rather than either a normal handedness or a handedness that is not light, one-handed, or two-handed, then the inappropriately-sized cut-off mechanism does not apply to ranged weapons and any character, regardless of size, can make use of e.g. a colossal longbow, dual-wielded colossal slings, or swarms of colossal shuriken.

Inappropriately sized weapons are usually worse than appropriately sized ones, and the -2 penalty to hit for each degree of size difference still applies, but the increase in damage from size is exponential and so a diminutive creature (like many wizards' familiars) employing a heavy crossbow which might ordinarily hit roughly 25% of the time and deal 1d4 damage may now hit but 5% of the time yet deal 6d8 damage. That's 10.8 times as much damage, on an average hit, in exchange for hitting 1/5 as often, which more than doubles expected damage. This damage is also extremely swingy and players will suffer greatly from being on the receiving end of it.

That said, the answer to whether or not your sunder attempt's opponent gets a +4 to their opposed roll while wielding a longbow depends on which of these RAW-valid systems you are using. If it is the first option presented, then, yes, longbows are two-handed ranged weapons and so entitle their weilder to said +4 bonus. If either of the other two systems are in play then they are not two-handed weapons and so a bonus should not for that reason be conferred.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the special attack two-weapon fighting in its note on thrown weapons offer anything to this answer? (Its use of treated as is where I got hung up trying to answer this question!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 1 '18 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I think it's just more evidence that this is a bit of a mess. Sometimes, especially with thrown weapons, the writers are sure that ranged weapons have no handedness. Other times, like with Sundering and size rules, they seem sure that all weapons have one of those three handednesses. I was thinking that compiling the actual rules (which I believe favor options two and three by a decent margin in terms of implication, but not enough nor sufficiently explicitly for me to say that option 1 isn't RAW compatible) that imply one direction or the other would make the answer overlong \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Dec 1 '18 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @the dark wanderer: Most, if not all, thrown weapon have a consideration for weapon size since all of them can be used in melee and thus have the light,1H or 2H designation. So for thrown weapon, this is very clear RAW rules. For Example a dagger is a light melee ranged weapon and a spear is a one-handed melee ranged weapon. The projectile weapons are the ones 'left out' of the equation here it seems... \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly Dec 1 '18 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly That's not actually how thrown weapons work, but that's maybe better left to another question. (Shuriken, Javelin, Dart, Net, Bolas from the PHB have no certain handedness for example) \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Dec 1 '18 at 22:45
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(sorry, can't comment yet so here is what I would add) As the dark wanderer mentioned (

The measure of how much effort it takes to use a weapon (whether the weapon is designated as a light, one-handed, or two-handed weapon for a particular wielder)" implies that, in addition to the specific rules for melee weapon handedness, there must be identical categories for ranged weapons as well.

and

ranged weapons do have a handedness, because many rules imply that all weapons must have a handedness, but they possess a handedness that is not 'light', 'one handed', or 'two-handed', because those are reserved to melee weapons alone

), you can rule it one way or the other as two statements are in contradiction as by the rules unless you consider the implied rule (see below): 1. From page 113, both the header and the description seems to refer only to melee weapons

Light, One-Handed, and Two-Handed Melee Weapons: This designation is a measure of how much effort it takes to wield a weapon in combat. It indicates whether a melee weapon, when wielded by a character of the weapon’s size category, is considered a light weapon, a one-handed weapon, or a two-handed weapon.

  1. Glossary term p. 314 which doesn't specify if it is for melee only but might imply it by the example listed

two-handed weapon: A weapon designed for use in two hands, such as a greatsword. A two-handed weapon is considered to be an object of the same size as its designated wielder (for example, a Medium greatsword is a Medium object).

I would simply determine that ranged weapon are neither light, one handed or two handed and by this definition do not have any bonus or penalty on a sunder attempt. By going this way, again as dark wanderer stated (

works pretty well in play except that it makes inappropriately sized ranged weapons completely unusable regardless of the degree of size

), I would ensure that the implications of determining that the designation of light, one-handed and two-handed weapons are solely for melee weapons will be followed across the other rule references.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You should fill in any missing information even if it's in other answers. We expect answers to stand on their own instead of supplementing others. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Dec 1 '18 at 21:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Fair point. Will go and edit my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – jonDraco Dec 1 '18 at 22:30
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RAW: yes

You already quote the rules which govern this situation. So RAW the longbow wielder gets a +4 bonus to resist the sunder.

This off course feels wrong as anyone who has ever held a bow knows you technically hold it with 1 hand most of the time. and only have the second hand on it when actually shooting.

If you dislike this you can always as a DM decide to make an exception. Or you can consider the bonus coming from the fact that the archer can easily move the bow without being afraid to hit himself with any sharp/pointy bits

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    \$\begingroup\$ I Have a question on this. In the weapon table in the PHB, the weapon is listed as a RAnged weapon category, not a light, 1H or 2H weapon category. Even though it is written in the longbow description that 'it requires two hands to use', nowhere is indicated it is considered a 2 handed weapon category. In the sunder description it is indicated that you get the bonus only if the weapon is a 2 handed weapon, not a weapon used in both hands (which is the way it is written in the disarm attack). So there seems to be a clear difference. \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly Dec 1 '18 at 18:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ thing is, the Glossary of the phb states that: "two-handed weapon: A weapon designed for use in two hands, such as a greatsword. A two-handed weapon is considered to be an object of the same size as its designated wielder (for example, a Medium greatsword is a Medium object). " So I guess the fact that the description of the weapon says it requires two hands to use makes it a two handed weapon. Going this way though as other implications in the game mechanics compared to staying with what the table present in the phb. \$\endgroup\$ – jonDraco Dec 14 '18 at 4:19

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