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The Bandit Captain has the following Multiattack text:

Multiattack. The captain makes three melee attacks: two with its scimitar and one with its dagger. Or the captain makes two ranged attacks with its daggers.

There is no amount of daggers mentioned, but usually the official adventures usually consider a bandit captain has one scimitar (cutlass?) and two daggers.

I read it as the following: the captain can either...

  1. perform two melee attacks with its scimitar and one melee attack with its dagger

or

  1. perform two ranged attacks with its daggers

Now, if the captain performs two ranged attacks with its daggers, I guess that they are thrown and that they subsequently have lost those daggers. And therefore they have two less daggers at their disposal.

When the Bandit Captain has no daggers anymore, can they perform any of their Multiattack? Can they still attack twice with their scimitar or are they restricted to a single attack with their scimitar?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Very related on Do thrown weapons in monster blocks have ammunition? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch indeed that's very related but this question is more about the loss or not of the multiattack action. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that your description requires no ammo left, then it's highly relevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I read it, the ranged attack part of this question isn't the focus, but rather "can a Bandit Captain attack twice with a scimitar (as per multiattack) if they have no daggers"? Other scenarios involving no daggers that don't involve any ranged attacks being made could be that a Bandit Captain escapes a jail cell, grabs a scimitar (but no daggers; there just weren't any nearby), and attacks a nearby guard - could they swing that scimitar twice or just once? \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS you are correct, that's the question \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 17:12

3 Answers 3

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Until they run out of daggers

From the Monster Manual (p.11):

AMMUNITION

A monster carries enough ammunition to make its ranged attacks. You can assume that a monster has 2d4 pieces of ammunition for a thrown weapon attack, and 2d10 pieces of ammunition for a projectile weapon such as a bow or crossbow.

The Bandit Captain typically starts the encounter with 2d4 daggers. Once they are gone the Bandit Captain’s melee multiattack is reduced to 2 Scimitars.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with this answer, the original question seeks to answer whether or not simply possessing a dagger is a strict condition to enable any sort of multiattack. Perhaps a clarification of that particular point and this answer relating to it is in order. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zigmata
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 23:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zigmata having run bandit captains on multiple occasions (and easy and fun monster/npc for tier 1 adventures) I've done it just as Dale suggests. decide via MM outline how many daggers, and then decide when to throw and when to use off hand weapon. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 4:13
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Looking at the stat block (Page 344 of the Monstrous Manual), the Bandit Captain appears to be an NPC variant of a fighter with 10 hit dice.

The Multiattack ability basically allows it to use it's normal two attacks followed up by an attack with his off hand weapon.

It is safe to assume that if he has no off hand weapon, he is still able to attack twice with his primary weapon.

Summary: Basically, they are able to attack twice, and when applicable follow up with an off hand attack. Using the daggers as thrown weapons, that means two thrown daggers. Using them for melee means that they are using the scimitar to attack twice, followed by the extra off hand attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Can you support your answer by citing the rules? Nothing seems to indicate that the dagger attack in the first part of its Multiattack is necessarily an "offhand weapon"... But then that doesn't really seem to be the crux of the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I came to my conclusion by looking at the information on the encounter and comparing it to other existing rules. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 6:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ The stats in the monstrous manual are super simplified, but it seems counter intuitive to assume that a "creature" that is effectively a normal human(oid) would not operate as a normal humanoid when the stats and abilities imply that they would. So, perhaps it's not directly stated, but their attack operates exactly like a standard fighter with an off hand weapon would with the same number of hitdice/levels \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 6:05
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I don't see why not, though a strict RAW approach suggests no.

The rules seem unclear, but if you want to go with an ultra-strict RAW approach then there is zero ambiguity in the multiattack description: if the Bandit Captain doesn't have a dagger, they can't complete the written sequence of attacks. Since there is no conditionality or separability in the text, all-or-nothing is the most RAW-conforming ruling.

However, that conclusion is at odds with other applications of multiple attacks in a turn. Aside from the use of and in the description, there isn't any reason to assume the dagger is important to the preceding scimitar strikes-- various situations can be argued (maybe the dagger is part of some practiced pattern of strikes and parries), but all rely on moving beyond the text. Consider the following four scenarios:

  • A Bandit Captain only has a scimitar equipped, but mimes holding a dagger in their off hand. The third attack (with the mimed dagger) wouldn't be very effective, but would that matter for the attacks made with the weapon the captain actually is holding?
  • A Bandit Captain is in a tricky spot, and while not carrying any daggers has fashioned a shiv out of materials at hand. The shiv is an improvised weapon (and so is not properly a dagger), but is otherwise dagger-like in size, weight, and use. This shiv is like a dagger in all game-mechanically-defined ways except its name and proficiency category. This would run afoul of the text (it's not a dagger), despite creating a situation nearly identical to what the text describes.
  • A Bandit Captain is fully equipped with scimitar and at least one dagger. Different attacks within a multiattack are separable, and so can target different things within that one action. This Bandit Captain, for some reason unimportant to this situation, chooses to target a PC with both scimitar strikes and then empty space with the dagger. This is allowed, but clearly neither a meaningful target nor intent to hit and cause damage are required for the multiattack action to occur. And so if an effective attack with the dagger is not a requirement, should a situation where that factor alone is forced (due to not having a dagger at all) be considered so different as to disable the entire action?
  • A PC Fighter of sufficient level has a multiattack class feature enabling three attacks per turn. They can, however, opt to only make one or two attacks should they choose to do so. While there are obviously differences between a PC with class levels and an NPC opponent without, is this weapon-restricted multiattack description so different from the multiattacks available to PCs that the Bandit Captain does not have the flexibility to attack less than three times?

Notes:

Ammunition is odd for NPCs (and PCs too, frankly). There isn't any reason to insist that Bandit Captains carry some specific number of daggers at all times. They might have zero, or one hundred. Unless a table is faithfully tracking ammunition amounts, there's not reason to assume that any dagger is a Bandit Captain's last dagger no matter how many are thrown. The situation in the question is interesting, but is an edge case that may not ever actually come up at the table.

Tactics for a Bandit Captain would probably change depending on how this is ruled. A Bandit Captain who throws their last dagger and then drops from three melee attacks to one is a captain that will probably not throw their last dagger. Possibly dealing 1d4 damage is a poor tradeoff for future attacks which would otherwise include that same chance of 1d4 damage and also an additional scimitar strike. Multiattack is one of Bandit Captains' major features, and losing it for such a weak attack is nearly always going to be dominated by other options.

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