The Oathbow, a magic weapon from the DMG, allows you to choose a target as your Sworn Enemy:

When you use this weapon to make a ranged attack, you can, as a command phrase, say, "Swift death to you who have wronged me." The target of your attack becomes your sworn enemy until it dies or until dawn seven days later.

The Oathbow's attacks against your Sworn Enemy gain a number of benefits, including extra damage:

When you make a ranged attack roll with this weapon against your sworn enemy, you have advantage on the roll. In addition, your target gains no benefit from cover, other than total cover, and you suffer no disadvantage due to long range. If the attack hits, your sworn enemy takes an extra 3d6 piercing damage.

Does the very first attack (i.e. the one where you say the command phrase) gain the benefits described in the second quote? Or does it not, because you have already made the attack?


Looking to similar wording elsewhere: you gain the benefits of the Oathbow even if the attack included declaring a target your sworn enemy

Note that the Oathbow grants you benefits

When you use this weapon to make a ranged attack [...]

It doesn't say after you make the attack, but at the same time as making the attack. This isn't particularly strong evidence, but also the item could have been more explicit if the first attack were not meant to gain the benefits.

Furthermore, while looking for similarly worded features I found the Battle Master Fighter's Lunging Maneuver which states:

When you make a melee weapon attack on your turn, you can expend one superiority die to increase your reach for that attack by 5 feet. If you hit, you add the superiority die to the attack's damage roll.

Though it does say that it increases your reach specifically for that attack it still occurs "when you make a [...] attack", which points towards "making an attack" happening before you've rolled to hit or damage.

For some more evidence there is the "Ranged Attacks in Close Combat" section which states:

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.

This disadvantage clearly applies to the attack you are making which supports that "when you make an attack" refers to the entire process and not once you have completely finished the attack.

Note that speaking the command word does not take any meaningful amount of time; it requires no action whatsoever. In contrast, if it had required a reaction then it could only be taken after you made the attack because reactions (typically) occur after their trigger.

The section on "Other Activity On Your Turn" states:

You can communicate however you are able, through brief utterances and gestures, as you take your turn.

This would also allow you to speak the command word even while doing anything else.

Upon looking more there are other features which happen "when you make an attack" which follow the same rules as above. Here are some examples:

The Barbarian's Reckless Attack feature states:

When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.

Note that this benefits your initial attack without even stating such, making it better evidence than the Battle Master Fighter Maneuver earlier.

Also the Cavalier, Monster Hunter, and Scout Fighter's Combat Superiority features can add a Superiority Die to an attack rolls "when you make an attack".


Yes, the first attack gains the Sworn Enemy benefits

Making an attack (with a longbow) does not just involve firing an arrow1. In the narrative, at least, it will involve drawing an arrow (unless you already had one in hand), drawing back the bow string, aiming, then firing the arrow; this is all simplified into one attack roll for gameplay purposes.

During this sequence of events that make up a ranged attack, there is plenty of time to also speak a command phrase (I imagine the most likely time would be while aiming) before actually releasing the arrow, which is the part that the attack roll usually represents (of course, a nat 1 could be treated as dropping the arrow if the DM decides so, in which case the attack roll isn't specifically only the firing of the arrow, but generally, that's how I imagine most DMs treat it - does your arrow hit the target or not?).

Borrowing from Medix2's answer, the Oathbow grants you benefits

When you use this weapon to make a ranged attack [...]

It doesn't say after you make the attack, but at the same time as making the attack (I thought I'd best make this explicit as Medix2 did, since my answer is otherwise assuming we all already agree on this).

1 One of the weapon properties is Ammunition, which says:

Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack (you need a free hand to load a one-handed weapon).

This isn't directly relevant to the Oathbow's sworn enemy benefits, but it backs up my argument that an attack (and therefore, making an attack roll) is more than just firing an arrow.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nit: You don't fire arrows, you shoot or lose them. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 22 '19 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nit²: loose, not lose. \$\endgroup\$ – Glen_b Oct 23 '19 at 4:55

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