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As a Hexblade Pact of the Blade warlock with the Improved Pact Weapon eldritch invocation, what effects carry over using a bow from Pact of the Blade for melee attacks (e.g. if an enemy is too close to shoot)?

Are you still proficient with it? Does it still use Dex? Does it benefit from Lifedrinker, Improved Pact Weapon, and Thirsting Blade?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 2 at 4:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Deceptecium It’s not necessary to bold part of every post. We tend to reserve bolding the core question for only when it would be otherwise hard to find, such as in a long question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 3 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just so you're aware, being close to a target does not prevent you from making ranged attacks with it \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Feb 3 at 22:27
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When you make a melee attack with your pact bow, it counts as an Improvised Weapon that you are proficient with, uses Str or Cha (your choice) as the modifier, and all the pact features still apply, but your DM may rule otherwise.

From the Player's Handbook section on Weapons (chapter 5):

If you use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a melee attack, you treat the weapon as an improvised weapon.

The bow has the Ammunition property and you are making a melee Attack with it.

According to the rule on Improvised Weapons in the same chapter, the bow deals 1d4 damage if you hit:

If a character uses a ranged weapon to make a melee attack, or throws a melee weapon that does not have the thrown property, it also deals 1d4 damage.

You are proficient with your pact weapon when using it this way:

See this passage from the PHB entry on the Warlock (Pact of the Blade):

You are proficient with it while you wield it.

You're wielding your bow even though you're making a melee attack, so you're proficient with it. Note that this specific rule may contradict the general rule that characters are not usually proficient with Improvised Weapons, but may be proficient at the DM's discretion:

Often, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. At the DM's option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.

In D&D 5e, the specific rule "you are proficient with it", trumps the general rule "at the DM's option". The introduction to the Player's Handbook has a section titled Specific Beats General:

Remember this: If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.

You use Str or Cha as the ability modifier:

The ability modifier used for a melee weapon attack is Strength, and the ability modifier used for a ranged weapon attack is Dexterity.

Making an improvised melee attack with the bow counts as a "melee weapon attack". So your attack and damage modifier is Strength. However, since this character is a Hexblade, the Hex Warrior feature applies:

Whenever you finish a long rest, you can touch one weapon that you are proficient with and that lacks the two-handed property. When you attack with that weapon, you can use your Charisma modifier, instead of Strength or Dexterity, for the attack and damage rolls. This benefit lasts until you finish a long rest. If you later gain the Pact of the Blade feature, this benefit extends to every pact weapon you conjure with that feature, no matter the weapon’s type.

So you can use Cha as the modifier, even with the improvised melee attack.

Lifedrinker, Thirsting Blade, and Improved Pact Weapon all apply:

There is no reason that I can see that your eldritch invocations wouldn't apply. E.g. Lifedrinker applies...

When you hit a creature with your pact weapon

That's unambiguous. If your attack hits, you have in fact hit a creature with your pact weapon.

As for Thirsting Blade:

You can attack with your pact weapon twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

That also applies. Ditto for Improved Pact Weapon from XGtE. As the adage goes, "the rules do what they say".

But your DM may rule otherwise:

The DM could rule that if you're using your pact weapon in an improvised way, then it's "no longer your pact weapon" somehow.

See also this tweet from Jeremy Crawford (the lead rules designer for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition):

If you use a weapon in a way that turns it into an improvised weapon—such as smacking someone with a bow—that weapon has none of its regular properties, unless the DM rules otherwise.

If the DM rules this way, then your pact bow is just an improvised weapon that you're not proficient with, uses Strength as the modifier, and none of the pact features apply.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What's your basis for deciding that proficiency with the pact weapon takes precedence over non-proficiency with improvised weapons? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Feb 4 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells See "Specific Beats General" in the introduction to the Player's Handbook. dndbeyond.com/compendium/rules/phb/… \$\endgroup\$ – Apocalisp Feb 4 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ What's your basis for deciding which of them is more specific? "Improvised pact weapon" is more specific than either "improvised weapon" or "pact weapon". \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Feb 4 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is no rule on "improvised pact weapon". The rule about the pact weapon is specific to Pact of the Blade warlocks while the rule on improvised weapons is a rule for weapons in general. If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins. The specific rule says "you are proficient with it". Of course, the DMG also says "feel free to change or ignore rules." \$\endgroup\$ – Apocalisp Feb 4 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Every pact weapon can be used as an improvised weapon, but not every improvised weapon is a pact weapon. \$\endgroup\$ – Apocalisp Feb 5 at 17:17
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The bow is treated as an improvised weapon

The relevant part is within the Weapons section, under "Weapon Properties":

If you use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a melee attack, you treat the weapon as an improvised weapon (see “Improvised Weapons” later in the section).

You are not proficient with improvised weapons, unless you have the Tavern Brawler feat. However, the Pact of the Blade description says:

You are proficient with [your pact weapon] while you wield it.

This creates a strong case that you are proficient with it nonetheless. Note that your DM might not agree and rule you are not proficient.

You are making a melee weapon attack, so the ability modifier normally used is Strength.

However, as a Hexblade Warlock (XGtE, p. 55-56), you can use your Charisma as the ability modifier instead of Strength.

You don't suffer disadvantage on the attack roll because you are making a melee attack, not ranged attack.

Aiming a ranged attack is more difficult when a foe is next to you. When you make a ranged attack with a weapon, a spell, or some other means, you have disadvantage on the attack roll if you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature who can see you and who isn’t incapacitated.

Lifedrinker, Improved Pact Weapon, and Thirsting Blade should still work fine, because the requirement is attacking with your pact weapon, even if it is used as improvised weapon.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've added D&D Beyond links to your rules quotes (and fixed the capitalization in them to match the books), and a page number for the non-SRD reference. I also eliminated one redundant quote that literally just restated what you said in the sentence before it. Hope you don't mind :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 3 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ This section is also relevant, as wielding a weapon simply means holding it in your hand dndbeyond.com/compendium/rules/basic-rules/… \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Feb 3 at 22:37
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You are not proficient with an Improvised Weapon unless your DM says you are

I'll play devil's advocate here for a moment. As others have pointed out, when you use your bow to make a melee attack, you treat it as an improvised weapon. The section on Ammunition says:

If you use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a melee attack, you treat the weapon as an improvised weapon (see “Improvised Weapons” later in the section).

The key here is that you are treating your bow as an improvised weapon. This is an exclusive clause, meaning that your bow should no longer be treated as a pact weapon. This is basically where your DM can decide if your bow is treated exclusively like an improvised weapon or if it rather uses only the rules for damage. Is the weapon treated only like a improvised weapon, or additionally as an improvised weapon. I would rule the former.

Again, proficiency relates to you wielding your pact weapon

You are proficient with it while you wield it.

But you are no longer wielding your pact weapon, you are wielding an improvised weapon. Or rather, your proficiency applies to attacking with your pact weapon, not with your improvised weapon. However, your DM can rule otherwise and this is encouraged in the rules regarding improvised weapons

Often, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. At the DM's option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.

Because we're treating this weapon as a different kind of weapon, rather than as a pact weapon, you would use strength for its attack roll and damage. Additionally you would not get any other pact features, as we're now treating it as an improvised weapon.

Lastly, there are no rules stating that a creature that is too close cannot make a ranged attack, just that it is more difficult. Unless your DM rules otherwise given the context.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Apocalisp I think PB is suggesting that "it" is no longer the proficient weapon once it becomes an improvised weapon. "It's" no longer referencing the weapon, but something else improvised. Not necessarily agreeing with that, but I think that's the point they're trying to make. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 4 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Apocalisp Then that's what your and PBs answers should be arguing. Comments are not for that :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 4 at 19:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am indeed suggesting that you are no longer holding your pact weapon. I would ask for explanations regarding the downvotes. I don't believe disagreement is a valid reason, even if you might be right regarding the ruling. I believe this is a valid ruling given the phrasing, even if its not the one I would make \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Feb 4 at 19:21

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