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At 3rd level, My Battlemaster Fighter chose Commander's Strike for one of his maneuvers. He is a Dex-based fighter and uses shortsword and dagger in melee. This previous question was whether he could forgo his two-weapon fighting bonus action dagger attack to activate his Commander's Strike. Answers to the question included the rule that the forgone attack had to be granted as part of the Attack action, and the ruling that 'You cannot 'forgo' an attack you cannot make'. Both of these answers were reasonable and well-argued.

In our next session, my Battlemaster will level to 5th and gain Extra Attack. For his missile weapon he uses a Heavy Crossbow. Since my DM has not offered feats, this is sub-optimal, but was chosen for background and flavor reasons.

The loading property means that even with Extra Attack, I can fire the crossbow only once per action. I plan to have him fire once, let go of the crossbow with one hand, and throw a dagger as his second Extra Attack1.

When I would like to have him use Commander's Strike, I plan to have him take the crossbow shot and then spend a bonus action to forgo his thrown dagger attack and call out the Strike. This should work well so long as I have enough daggers and I have targets remaining within 60 feet.

However, suppose I am out of daggers and/or all enemy targets are beyond 60 feet.

I couldn't make a crossbow attack on a distant target (because of the loading property). I couldn't make a dagger attack on a distant target (either because I am out of daggers, or because the weapon properties say "You can't attack a target beyond the weapon's long range").

Under the principle of 'You cannot forgo an attack you cannot make', can I not make Commander's Strike in this situation, because I don't have a legal attack to make?

Commander's Strike says:

When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can forgo one of your attacks and use a bonus action to direct one of your companions to strike.

It does not say that my forgone attack has to be on an opponent, nor that my companion's attack has to target someone that I could have attacked. If I am out of daggers and all enemy targets are at greater than 60 feet, but I have allies within 60 feet, can I forgo throwing my crossbow at one of my allies (not take my second Extra Attack as an improvised attack with something I already have in hand) in order to give Commander's Strike?


1My understanding is that I can pull forth the crossbow bolt as part of the crossbow attack (ammunition property), draw the dagger as his one free object interaction, and throw the dagger as his second attack in the same attack action. Switching from having the crossbow held in one or two hands is free and does not require actions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The accepted answer of the first question is that the commander's strike has to forgo an attack as part of the attack action, and thus the bonus attack cannot be forgone. This question has the forgone attack as part of the attack action, but is about how things like range, loading property, and whether the target is an ally affect whether the attack can be forgone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 29, 2023 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The other question was about giving up an attack that is not part of the attack action (it was granted by dual weapon fighting’s bonus action). That is a fundamentally different situation than the one described here. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2023 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch This is a different question, and I’ve upvoted it because to me, it’s a much more interesting question than the previous one. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2023 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ For context, "You cannot 'forgo' an attack you cannot make" was originally a phrasing I made for the situation that you cannot make an attack because you do not have the bonus action needed. I did not think it out for whether or not you can make a "legal" attack, since it was not the point of the other question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    May 2, 2023 at 12:32

5 Answers 5

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Yes

I think "you can't forgo an attack you can't make" is a bit too blithe -- the rule is you have to have an attack that you are choosing to give up, not that you need to have an enemy target within range and a weapon you could use on the target.

Forgoing an attack doesn't have to mean there's an actual legal attack you were about to make and didn't. It just means you have to have an attack granted to you by the Attack action that you can choose not to use.

In other words: The Attack action itself gives you a potential attack roll; you can decide not to roll the attack and instead use your maneuver. It doesn't matter if you're behind a wall so that you can't see any enemies from your position. It doesn't matter if you're armed only with melee weapons and all the enemies are 100 feet away. You had the potential to make an attack, and you decided not to.

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It’s irrelevant

Taking the Attack action gives you one or more attacks. It doesn’t matter if you can effectively utilize these against anyone or anything - you have attack(s) and you can forego one of them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So with just a crossbow in hand and no creatures in 60 feet, after I shoot my first bolt I still can forgo my second attack even if I could not take it due to the loading property? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 30, 2023 at 22:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt yes. You could have used your second attack to throw the crossbow at somebody or something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Apr 30, 2023 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or not - there’s no requirement to use the attacks the Attack action gives you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    May 1, 2023 at 2:29
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The situation of only being able to attack an ally doesn't exist.

The rules for making an attack in 5e do not require you to target a creature. As previously answered in this post, and as per the SRD, the first step of making an attack is:

Choose a target.

Pick a target within your attack’s range: a creature, an object, or a location.

Therefore, you can use Commander's Strike even if you and your ally are the only two creatures on your plane of existence and are hundreds of feet apart as long as your ally can see you.

The only requirements for Commander's Strike are as follows:

  • You can take both an Attack action and a Bonus action
  • You use the Attack action and make at least one less than your maximum number of attacks for the round
  • You have an ally who can either see or hear you. Note that you don't have to be able to see them. You can use Commander's Strike while both blind and deaf.
  • Expend your Bonus action and a Superiority Die to use Commander's Strike choosing that ally.
  • Then its up to the ally to use their reaction to attack (even if they just target an empty space), or let your Superiority die go to waste
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  • \$\begingroup\$ The situation of only being able to attack an ally doesn't exist. - except via some charm/confusion effects that make you attack the nearest creature, e.g. blood hunter lycan bloodlust. Depending on the wording of those abilities, you might not have the option of forgoing the attack to weasel out of damaging your ally. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2023 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes If you're charmed or confused, the targeting step of attacking is being overridden to force the selection of that target, and argubly forces the attack to be made (ex: Bloodlust forces the first attack to be made - as you have no control over yourself.), and in most other cases you wouldn't have control of your bonus action to spend it on Commander's Strike. 'Forgoing an attack' is not something specific to Battlemasters using Commander's Strike - if you allow charmed/confused Battlemasters to not make the attack, then you have to allow all afflicted creatures to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – RisingZan
    May 1, 2023 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I like that reasoning, that "forgoing" an attack is something you have to be able to willfully do, and creatures compelled to attack can't. So good, I'm glad there isn't actually a loophole for battlemasters or Pact of the Chain warlocks. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2023 at 14:19
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There is a very simple set of operations that avoids most of your concerns.

You can take the attack action. You can now make two attacks.

You forgo your first attack to commander's strike.

You then make an attack with your crossbow.

You have made only one attack with your crossbow, so all is good with the crossbow rules.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That is clever, and most of the time would work - I can imagine in some cases you would want to see the result of your crossbow shot before deciding which ally got to strike. It does highlight a weirdness of the rules - why can I forgo my first attack and take a second, but in some cases if I take the first attack I can't forgo the second? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    May 1, 2023 at 4:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt sure. But even that 2nd attack; once you have made your crossbow attack, your attack action isn't over. You just can't use the 2nd attack on a crossbow attack. "I have no attacks I can make, as there are no targets, so I cannot forgo one" worry does show up here. Others have dealt with that worry I think. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    May 1, 2023 at 13:50
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Yes, you can forgo an attack on an ally

This looks pretty straightforward to me. Can you attack with your thrown dagger as part of your attack action? If yes, then you have an attack that you can forgo.

The rule does not care about who or what you attack. If you have an ally in range, you can opt to attack them, forgo the attack, and instead use a bonus action to direct one of your companions to strike. (As this answer elaborates, you could even attack a location.)

You could argue that this is bad taste, because in-game the character has no intention or reason to attack their ally or a location, so it is an attack they never would want to make, and should not be able to forgo. I can see a DM ruling this is not legitimate. However, the character is still spending one of their superiority die here, and giving up their bonus action they could use for something else, and they took a crossbow for flavor reasons which is mechanically suboptimal and not powegamey at all. They could use a longbow instead to get more damage output and make the problem entirely go away. I as a DM would find it only fair to grant them this liberal use of their ability to not nerf them, especially as the rules technically also allow it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Care to explain why the downvotes? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2023 at 18:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov, Thanks for responding. So you say RAW the answer is correct, but the implications smack of powergaming and narratively make no sense. I agree that as a DM, you could to decide to overrule the rule text with justification; I as the DM would not mind — they are using a feature, and they gave up not only the attack (which they would not have made) but also a use of their superiority dice, and a bonus action they could have used for something else. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2023 at 18:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ “RAW the answer is correct” - No, I’m saying the RAW answer is the wrong answer to the question. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2023 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I agree that it is distasteful for the player to forgo an attack that the PC would never attempt. OTOH, my PC would definitely attempt a dagger attack on an enemy at 65 feet, thinking 'maybe there is a chance I can hit, or at least distract him' while my player (and maybe DM) have to say - no, you can't even attempt an attack beyond long range. The rules are written for players, and it can be tricky to represent that fairly within the narrative. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 29, 2023 at 21:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov In many ways I think this question is like the questions about the best way for a barbarian to damage themselves to maintain rage. As I player, I find myself having my character do things they should not do, because the rules do not permit me to have them do the things they should be doing within the narrative. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 29, 2023 at 21:21

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