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How is throwing distance computed for improvised weapons? I have a player whose favorite tactic is chucking oil flasks at opponents and lighting them on fire, so this comes up a fair amount.

I haven't found anything in the PHB that covers throwing things, nor in the DMG. It seems to me that things which aren't balanced for throwing would have less distance than things which are (20/60 for dagger, handaxe, etc). Are there explicit rules, or am I on my own?

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The flask of oil has this in its entry:

As an action, you can splash the oil in the flask onto a creature within 5 feet of you or throw it up to 20 feet, shattering on impact. Make a ranged attack against a target creature or object, treating the oil as an improvised weapon (PHB 152).

So for oil, the answer is 20 feet. Improvised weapons in general have this under their entry:

An improvised thrown weapon has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet (PHB 148).

So in general, the answer is 20 feet, or 60 feet with disadvantage. You may want to allow oil and other things like it to be thrown up to 60 feet with disadvantage, especially since it says that you treat oil as an improvised weapon. This would be a houserule, but it seems like a fairly obvious one.

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I would say that the oil flask is effectively the same as Alchemist's Fire, so you can use the same mechanism for throwing them. Alchemist's Fire can be throw up to 20 feet, and the attack counts as a ranged attack with an improvised weapon. Unlike Alchemist's Fire, the oil won't automatically deal the 1d4 fire damage.

Hope that helped!

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