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I was going through the weapon options and I realized something: the scimitar is 3lbs and considered light, but the flail, rapier, war pick, warhammer, whip, longsword, spear and javelin are all 2 or 3 pounds each.

In weight, these match the other light weapons. I don't understand what Light means, because it seems like it's about weight.

What are the mechanics that classify a weapon as Light?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @wolfsshield Please don't answer in the comments. If you want to make an answer, flesh it out and put it in the answer section below. See here for our policy and why it exists. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 13 at 14:12
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In practice, "light" actually means "suitable for two-weapon fighting"

Here's the description of the "light" weapon property from the rules:

Light. A light weapon is small and easy to handle, making it ideal for use when fighting with two weapons.

Ironically, the description doesn't refer to the weapon's weight at all. Rather, it refers to it being "small and easy to handle". Mechanically, the only effect of a weapon being "light" is that this makes the weapon "ideal for use when fighting with two weapons". To see what this means, we refer to the rules on two-weapon fighting:

Two-Weapon Fighting

When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you're holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you're holding in the other hand. You don't add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative.

As far as I know, this is the only mechanical impact that "light" has: it allows two-weapon fighting with that weapon. This isn't merely a consequence of being light, it's literally the definition of "light" as a weapon property.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just like "heavy" really means: "screw small characters". \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Sep 11 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 It is odd that the light crossbow isn't considered light and neither is the simple dart. \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Sep 11 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ The accepted answer to "What function does the "light" weapon property serve on the hand crossbow?" argues that they do gain that benefit when improvised. However this other answer explains that improvised weapons are neither melee nor ranged weapon: "Are Improvised Weapons used in melee actually melee weapons?". Using a ranged weapon to make an improvised melee attack does not turn the weapon into a melee weapon \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 11 at 20:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eternallord66 Nope, Crossbow Expert doesn't mention the light property at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Sep 12 at 0:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @krb Your interpretation is reasonable, but isn't really consistent with the rules as written. 5e doesn't model handedness, and two-weapon fighting requires a light weapon in both hands, regardless of whether or not one is dominant. And while the Crossbow Expert feat does allow wielding a crossbow in one's second hand, it doesn't reference the light property. (Also, Crossbow Expert strongly incentivizes firing a single crossbow twice per turn rather than dual-wielding one with a melee weapon in the other hand.) \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Sep 12 at 3:38
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"Light" is not a matter of weight but of balance. D&D models handedness to the extent that it speaks of an off-hand, which in a two-weapon fighting context means the hand you are not giving your full attention to. A light weapon's balance makes it a bit easier to make the weapon go where you want even though you aren't giving it your full attention. A light crossbow isn't light in that manner. To fire it with one hand, you tuck the stock between your elbow and your side, which makes aiming tricky for either hand but more so for a second shot that you have to line up quickly after your first. With a hand crossbow, you can extend your arm fully to sight along the "barrel", which makes it a bit easier to line up that second shot quickly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note in 5e that "off-hand" is actually not a term that is used unlike in previous editions. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 13 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Also, note that two-weapon fighting requires both weapons to be light, not just one. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 14 at 6:16

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