Since the Kensei's Path of the Kensei weapon choices include ranged weapons, making them count as monk weapons for the purposes of applying Martial Arts features, do these features apply even when using the ranged weapon to make an improvised melee attack?

For a clarifying example of nuance, this is a level 3 monk who has chosen shortsword and longbow as their kensei weapons, and is attempting to use the longbow as an improvised melee weapon.


2 Answers 2


Here are the official rules on improvised weapons according to the Player's Handbook (pg. 147-148):

Sometimes characters don't have their weapons and have to attack with whatever is at hand. An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.

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.

An object that bears no resemblance to a weapon deals 1d4 damage (the DM assigns a damage type appropriate to the object). 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. An improvised thrown weapon has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

From this we can assume that when using a ranged weapon for melee combat (or vice versa), it loses all previous labels, including martial. However, it does say that the DM may decide that if it is similar to another weapon, then you may classify it as that weapon, so your DM may let you treat it as a weapon that is eligible for your Martial Arts trait.

Hope this helps!


Yes, with a DM judgement on longbows acting as quarterstaves

In the scenario you've provided, you have a character wielding a Long Bow as an improvised weapon for a melee attack.

In general, improvised weapons are not simple melee weapons but their own thing. Except in the case where it resembles an existing weapon:

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.

A longbow as a melee weapon is similar to a quarterstaff

I don't think it's unreasonable for a DM to equate the longbow with the quarterstaff. They are similar in form and if they are ruled as such, then the improvised weapon would be

treated as such [a quarterstaff]

A quarterstaff is one of the options for monk weapons, which only require:

any simple melee weapons that don’t have the two-handed or heavy property.

The quarterstaff has neither of those properties and is a simple weapon so it would be eligible for martial arts die.

Therefore the longbow, acting as a quarterstaff in an improvised fashion, would use martial arts die if the DM thinks the relationship between the two weapons is close enough - and I do think it's reasonable to do that.

Is it strong enough to withstand an attack?

This will also be up to the DM. In form it's similar, but in strength it may not be. A DM could rule that it is similar enough to function, but there may be a risk of damage to it as well if you try and smack someone with it.

However, just like in the example given that a table leg is akin to a club, a table leg is much more likely to break on impact than a club weapon would. If that is allowed, then I don't see a huge issue in the longbow as stave.

I hate bringing real life into fantasy, but Gerald of Wales discussed the Welsh longbows as follows (my emphasis):

They are made neither of horn, ash nor yew, but of elm; ugly unfinished-looking weapons, but astonishingly stiff, large and strong, and equally capable of use for long or short shooting.

But is this a good idea?

The biggest concern here is that you now allow a character to be wielding a ranged weapon that can also be used as a melee weapon and they can choose which they want to use at any given time. This on its face seems a little overpowered but it can still be up to the DM to allow or just allow as needed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenjaminOlson: Yeah, I'd agree with you and disagree with the answer that a longbow used as an improvised melee weapon is similar in any real way to a quarterstaff - both in its ability to do damage and in its ability to withstand the impact of the strike. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The archetypical longbow wood was yew, or elm where yew was not available. Although these are exceptionally hard softwoods, they are softwoods nonetheless, crafted so as to have the correct pliability and spring. Tthe rarity of suitable woods was the major limiting factor on longbow production. A quarterstaff was thicker, usually longer, and of the hardest wood they could manage. While it is true that you could almost certainly get a few good thwacks out of a longbow, that would likely be the end of it against a proper melee weapon. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ The longbow could probably function as a Rattan Bo staff with DM approval. To avoid creating a weapon that could be used from 600 feet to melee in consecutive rounds, the DM could require the bow to be strung/unstrung as an Action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alk
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 2:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Staffs need to be very stiff/rigid and are blunt on the ends since they are designed for hitting things. Most quarterstaffs in a European-based setting will have metal tips or metal bands at the ends to keep the wood from splintering when it hits metal armor. Bows need to be bendy/flexible/springy so they can launch arrows. They taper towards the ends to increase velocity. They also need some type of notch arrangement to hold the bowstring in the right spot which would be damaged if the bow is used as a melee weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – krb
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 3:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the general "unless it resembles an existing weapon" is over-ruled by the specific "If you use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a melee attack, you treat the weapon as an improvised weapon..." from the PHB description of the ammunition property. \$\endgroup\$
    – krb
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 3:51

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