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Why do ranged weapons in D&D list two numbers separated by a slash to show their range?

For instance, the light crossbow lists "80/320".

As far as I know, you can use a ranged weapon at a range between 5 feet and its full range without being at disadvantage. I know that the second number - in this case, 320 - is how far it can shoot, but what is the first number for? Are you at a disadvantage when you use the light crossbow closer than 80 feet away from your target?

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The first number is the weapons' normal range

I think you've misunderstood slightly how ranged weapons work.
enter image description here Quoting from the Basic Rules (freely available online; the above table extract is on p. 48):

Range. A weapon that can be used to make a ranged attack has a range shown in parentheses after the ammunition or thrown property. The range lists two numbers. The first is the weapon's normal range in feet, and the second indicates the weapon's long range. When attacking a target beyond normal range, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. You can't attack a target beyond the weapon's long range.

There are two key things to draw out here:

  • Firstly, what those two numbers mean: "The first [number] is the weapon's normal range in feet, and the second [number] indicates the weapon's long range."
  • Secondly, what the consequence is of attacking at long range: "When attacking a target beyond normal range, you have disadvantage on the attack roll."

Therefore, you are not at a disadvantage when you use the light crossbow to attack a target up to and including 80 feet away; you are at disadvantage if you make an attack with it at a range farther than 80 feet. You also cannot attack a target beyond 320 feet at all.


You may also have misunderstood ranged attacks in close combat

When you make a ranged attack while in close combat, "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."

In other words, you have disadvantage when you make a ranged attack if there are any hostile creatures within 5 feet of you. That hostile creature might be the creature you're aiming your ranged attack at, but it might not be.

If you're aiming at a creature that's 60 feet away, but you're standing within 5 feet of another hostile creature ("who can see you and who isn't incapacitated"), you'll still have disadvantage on your attack because "[a]iming a ranged attack is more difficult when a foe is next to you."

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    \$\begingroup\$ thank you, that makes so much sence now. I'm just learning to play at the moment! \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20 '20 at 7:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So I plopped in an extract from the table to help illustrate your point. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21 '20 at 0:50
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The first number is the "normal range", in which you can roll your attacks normally. The second range is the "long range", in which you're given disadvantage to your attack rolls if you don't have the feat "sharpshooter".

So with the crossbow you can attack everything within 80 ft. with normal attack rolls. Everything above 80 ft. up to 320 ft. will be at disadvantage.

Source: https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Combat#toc_36

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since the OP seems a bit confused about how ranged attacks work in general, you might consider revising your comment that "you can everything within 80 ft. with normal rolls" to include a caveat about the rules for making ranged attacks in close combat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Apr 20 '20 at 7:33
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Other answers are good. I like to think of an implicit "5/" at the beginning of these ranged weapons. So it's "5/80/320":

  • 0-5: disadvantaged (and you'll be disadvantaged if anyone is within this range, not just the target).
  • 5-80: normal
  • 80-320: disadvantaged
  • 320+ weapon can't reach
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    \$\begingroup\$ Except you aren't at disadvantage shooting 0-5 if they can't see you or are incapacitated (but not prone) \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Apr 21 '20 at 10:41
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The first part of your question is incorrect. From chapter 9 of the Player's Handbook, and the Basic Rules:

Some ranged attacks, such as those made with a longbow or a shortbow, have two ranges. The smaller number is the normal range, and the larger number is the long range. Your attack roll has disadvantage when your target is beyond normal range, and you can't attack a target beyond the long range.

So for the example you give, a range of "80/320" means you can attack normally out to 80 feet, and with disadvantage from 80 to 320 feet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since the OP seems a bit confused about how ranged attacks work in general, you might also comment on their statement about making a ranged attack "from 5ft to it's full range." Making a ranged attack from 5 feet away would be subject to the rule about making ranged attacks in melee. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Apr 20 '20 at 7:27

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