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For 5e, ranged weapon attacks are associated with a normal range and a long range distance. For a flying attacker, how does attacking downwards affect that range?

Say a flying PC with a handaxe was flying 150 feet above an enemy. Can they throw their weapon down to hit it? It's outside both the handaxe's standard and long range, but the handaxe has nowhere to go but down.

Does it automatically miss? Does it become an improvised weapon?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While written about underwater rather than aerial combat, you might find this question a good place to start in thinking about the limitations of 5e for combats in three dimensions and what adaptations you might want if such verisimilitude is important in your game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 2, 2021 at 1:39

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The rules for ranged attacks make no distinction.

The rules for ranged attacks state:

You can make ranged attacks only against targets within a specified range.

If a ranged attack, such as one made with a spell, has a single range, you can't attack a target beyond this range.

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.

Nothing here distinguishes between shooting up, down, or sideways, so the rules are the same in all cases.

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Here be dragons.

A strictly rules-as-written interpretation suggests that attempting to hit a target 50 feet below you is just as difficult as a target 50 feet above you; long range imposes disadvantage on the attack, and beyond long range it becomes an automatic miss, regardless of the direction of the attack.

If this breaks verisimilitude at your table (and I'd say asking this question is a big sign that it does), you're going to have to decide among yourselves how to resolve that.

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