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In D&D 5e, moving within reach of an opponent does not provoke any attacks of opportunity unless you leave the opponents reach. Ranged attacks have disadvantage if you're next to an opponent.

Quixotically, this might suggests that it's actually a downside to have reach when it comes to defending against ranged attackers. After all, a ranged attacker next to an opponent with normal reach can't avoid the disadvantage by just stepping away without provoking an attack of opportunity. However, a ranged attacker can move away from a creature with reach as long as it stays within that reach; and if that ranged attacker is then non-adjacent, it doesn't sound like it has disadvantage.

This sounds a little weird to me, hence the question: Are ranged attacks within melee reach of an opponent disadvantaged if non-adjacent? If so, is this the rules intent?

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No.

Aiming a ranged attack is more difficult when a foe is next to you. When you make a ranged attack with a weapon, a spell, or some other means, 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. (BD&D p73)

This is explicitly 5' not melee range. If you're 10' away, you don't have disadvantage even if you are inside the creature's reach. This appears to be quite intentional as "next to" and "5'" are synonymous and you would not be considered to be "next to" something you are "10'" away from.

The issue is not only your opponent's reach. It's the actual aiming of the weapon, that's why it inflicts disadvantage rather than a penalty. If it was harder to hit your target because they threatened you, it would perhaps instead be modeled as a penalty or provoked an opportunity attack.

You do make a very good point about reach having a slight disadvantage when it comes to dealing with ranged attackers, and this is a very good point. It's something to think about when taking a polearm to a bow fight.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not too worried about a the polearm (which is conceivably inconvenient to use to harass a ranged attacker), but it feels odd for e.g. a giant to have essentially no way to harass nearby ranged attackers. Also, I think the intent is the opponents harassment to be the issue, given that the disadvantage applies to all ranged attacks - not just to ranged attacks against the specific adjacent opponent. In any case, thanks for the rules review! \$\endgroup\$ – Eamon Nerbonne Sep 26 '14 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ A historical context may be appropriate here; "you have disadvantage when someone is next to you" is a 5e rule change to encourage melee, replacing the "range causes AoO" from 3e and the "roll to see who in the melee you're attacking" from AD&D. \$\endgroup\$ – Bleep Sep 26 '14 at 19:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @EamonNerbonne yeah I guess the idea is that if you've got someone breathing down your neck, you're not going to have very good aim? And yeah, this is a marked contrast from "if you're in reach and you shoot, you eat an opportunity attack/attack of opportunity. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Sep 26 '14 at 19:55

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