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If I fire an arrow from a short bow, which has a range of 80/320, and apply the Seeking Arrow Arcane Shot option from the Arcane Archer, which of these ranges is the 'maximum distance'?

This matters as the arrow disappears if it runs out of 'range':

If the target is within the weapon’s range and there is a path large enough for the arrow to travel to the target, the target must make a Dexterity saving throw. Otherwise, the arrow disappears after traveling as far as it can.

Intuitively, it feels like the maximum range of the Arcane Shot should be the second number, the 'long range', however that would require making an attack roll with disadvantage, despite not making an attack roll, which is not possible.

The Range weapon property reads:

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.

Which number do I use? And if only the normal range is permitted, and I wish to target a creature outside of that range am I not allowed to apply this arcane shot when firing my arrow, or does the arrow still try its best despite being doomed to fail?

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4 Answers 4

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"Range" is never defined without the qualifiers "normal" and "long".

You have quoted the definition of the Range property:

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.

This includes the qualifiers "normal" and "long", and from what I can tell, every other rule and feature is consistent about using these qualifiers to identify which range is being referred to. The lack of either qualifier in the description of Seeking Arrow tells me it is using the word in the usual English sense, rather than specifically referencing one of the two game terms "normal range" and "long range".

If this is the case, then we must ask the question, "In the usual English sense, what is a weapon's range?" Would we say a weapon's range is only 80 feet when it can reach 320 feet? Probably not. It seems more consistent with typical use of the word "range" without qualifier to refer to its maximum range. This is based on my experience using firearms for long range target shooting and hunting. If you were to ask me "what's the range on your hunting rifle" I probably wouldn't respond with a single number, but would instead give you two numbers, similar to how the rules here define normal and long rage: I can hit a moose at 800 yards, but I can hit a dime at 200 yards. If I had to respond with a single number, I would go with 800, because 800 yards is within the weapon's capability.

So to succinctly give a ruling on the definition of "range" in the Seeking Arrow description, I would say:

the distance that is within the weapon's capability.

which in this case, is the range that the rules refer to as the weapon's "long range". This is consistent with the portion of the feature description that says:

Otherwise, the arrow disappears after traveling as far as it can.

That said, I've done enough hedging here to merit a final note: "but it's up to the DM."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Arguing in favor of using the long range is the text that describes what happens if the target is not in range: "Otherwise, the arrow disappears after traveling as far as it can." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Ah, good catch, I’ll integrate that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree. The difference between long and normal ranges is made because of the characters' ability. They get disadvantage because it is harder for them to hit a target that is far away, not because of a weapons quality. If it was a weapon quality we would also have to consider reducing the inflicted damage (e.g. disadvantage on the damage role) as well. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 9:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agree with your conclusion, though I would note that the long range is probably not “traveling as far as it can” - at least for a firearm, whilst the effective range (~long range) might be 1200 yards for hunting a moose or human, the lethal range can be several miles, which is why we have big danger zones beyond ranges. This is probably less pronounced with arrows and crossbows though? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan W
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 10:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Peter Cordes had an excellent idea, which is that all other Arcane Shot effects (not counting piercing shot) have a range of 320 feet. Maybe that could be added to this answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 13:16
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The description seems to assume the use of the weapon's long range

Notice what happens if you use Seeking Arrow on a target is not in range (emphasis added):

The arrow flies toward that creature, moving around corners if necessary and ignoring three-quarters cover and half cover. If the target is within the weapon’s range and there is a path large enough for the arrow to travel to the target, the target must make a Dexterity saving throw. Otherwise, the arrow disappears after traveling as far as it can.

"As far as it can" pretty unambiguously refers to the weapon's long range, not its normal range. If you fire a Seeking Arrow from your short bow (normal/long range = 80/320) at a target 100 feet away, it doesn't seem to make sense that the arrow would "fly toward the creature" but then automatically miss and then continue flying another 220 feet before disappearing.

On the other hand, if we assume that "range" refers to the weapon's long range, then this contradiction goes away and we get a much more logical interpretation: once fired, the arrow continues seeking until it either reaches its target or until it flies "as far as it can", at which point the magic ends and the arrow disappears.1

Ultimately, since the ability is not explicit about which range to use, it is up to the DM to make a ruling. However, using the long range seems more consistent with the rest of the description and less likely to result in nonsensical results such as a seeking arrow flying right past its target with no attempt to seek. Hence, I suggest that using the weapon's long range should be the preferred ruling.


1You can still get some weird results, such as if your target is in range, but the arrow has to fly out of range in order to go around a large obstacle on the way to the target. However, this remains true regardless of whether you use the weapon's normal range or long range, so it doesn't help us decide which range is the correct one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ ...but the arrow can travel thousands of feet through a maze, then vanish after leaving the range threshold, right? "As far as it can" isn't a clear measurement of 320 feet like you seem to assume. Maybe I should ask a question about that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices Put that exhibit in the circus right next to Tenser's Carnival Attraction. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ And put the Floating Disk caster, the target of the seeking arrow, on a 20-ft plank in front of the disk, after attaching the arrow to the disk (I don't know, maybe it's a giant's arrow). Now the caster cannot be hit. Make the plank curved slightly, and it can go in a giant circle forever. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ More seriously, yes, technically the seeking arrow can travel a linear distance significantly longer than the weapon's long range (or even transiently leave its long range!), but this remains true regardless of which range increment you use, so it's not really germane to the question at hand. I believe this effect (and others like it, such as the targeting rules for message), is written for simplicity of adjudication rather than realism. You could add a house rule that limits the linear travel distance of the arrow to the weapon's long range, if you don't mind adjudicating such a rule. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices The ability doesn't specify a range of its own other than referring to the weapon's range. So "as far as it can" should mean whatever it normally means for the weapon. If you have an item or ability that modifies the range of your weapon, that would modify the range of Seeking Arrow as well. I'm not aware of any ability that is worded so as to extend the range at which a weapon can hit without extending the weapon's actual range. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:44
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By plain English meaning, any available range is valid.

The definition of Range says

"The range lists two numbers."

Is the smaller number within range? Yes.

Is the larger number within range? Yes.

Is a number higher than that within range?

"You can't attack a target beyond the weapon's long range."

No.

The only difference between one distance and another is where in the range it is. You can make a ranged attack at melee, normal, or long range.

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Its range is equal to its normal range.

When Seeking Shot says

within the weapon's range

it is referring to the normal range.

Firstly, most spells have a range within a hundred feet. It makes perfect sense for this magical effect to have about that much range. Very, very few effects have a range over 200 feet - longbows, Eldritch Blast, Meteor Swarm and maybe a few other things. For a character to use many spells at such a high range requires a feat (Spell Sniper), so it's not surprising for this magic-using fighter subclass to have such a low range on a shot that goes around walls and corners.

Second, the feature talks about "range." Normal range and range, I would say, are the same thing. "Long range" is like a "special range" - it's something I can sometimes hit, and sometimes not, but making a shot at long range is an extraordinary thing in this game. "Range" and "normal range" are the same concept, and "long range" is not. It's like someone claiming "Yes, yes, Control Water allows me to control a Water Elemental, because it lets me control 'freestanding water' and a water elemental is 'magical, animated, living freestanding water.' There's a case to be made for that, but the spell doesn't mean that you can control water elementals.

Third, at a range of 320 feet, this power is ridiculous. You can snipe enemies who have no way to defend themselves. At a range of 80 feet, it's not simple to find and kill you, but at a range of 320 feet it's almost impossible. Your enemies can't run, can't hide, can't use cover, and can't track you down.

I do not think that Thomas Markov's answer is wrong, and I don't know which I'd go with if this came up in a game I was running. But I think there should be an answer arguing the other side, because there is a plausible case to be made. As with his answer, this all comes with the caveat that it's up to the DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What if you also have the Sharpshooter feat? (every Arcane Archer I’ve played or played with had Sharpshooter). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov eh, I'd say that that's an alteration of what long range does - it doesn't eliminate the definitions of "long range" and "normal range," it just removes the disadvantage condition. An effect that lets me hit someone within normal range isn't changed. Compare to spell sniper - if I had an effect that did something to someone in range of a spell of mine, it would be altered by spell sniper because spell sniper actually alters the variables. Sharpshooter doesn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Eldritch Blast has 120 ft range, like some other cantrips such as fire bolt (but twice that of Toll the Dead or Sacred Flame). A few damage spells of 4th level and above have 300 ft range, like Ice Storm and Insect Plague, and non-damage 2nd-level Earthbind. Very few have above that, like 500 ft (Earthquake), Sight (Tsunami), or 1 mile (Meteor Swarm). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 7:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Out of non-damage spells, since this is just guiding an arrow, with the damage coming from the archer's dex / weapon / ammo, there's 3rd-level Clairvoyance with 1 mile range, and 2nd-level Skywrite with "Sight" range. And 2nd-level Earthbind with 300ft range. An Arcane Archer gets a limited number of these per short rest; this isn't something that can on its own kill a tough enemy with impunity. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ All the other Arcane Shot options create magical effects at the target, even if it's 320 feet away, or whatever the long range of your weapon is. But for those, it's easy to argue that the arrow is carrying the magic until it hits, so it's not like casting a spell at that range. (Or Piercing Arrow is specifically a 30-foot line.) So this probably isn't relevant. I don't find your argument convincing overall, but it's not totally crazy. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 7:48

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