Haven't played D&D since ABBA was hot, and I'm trying to retool on 5e, playing a Wood Elf Monk.

I see that on p78 of the PHB it states in Martial Arts that monk weapons are "shortswords and any simple melee weapons."

However, as a Wood Elf, I am proficient with "longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow" (PHB p 24).

I also read in Diskmaster's 5e Monk Guide in section 1 that the Shortbow is recommended.

Am I allowed to use a shortbow? What, if any, class limitations apply?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since when is ABBA not hot anymore? ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – DevSolar Aug 14 '15 at 7:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dev 1978 called; it wants its polyester shirt and platform shoes back \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 14 '15 at 11:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Did you warn them? \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 14 '15 at 13:05

So, first up - anyone can use any weapon. Proficiency merely determines whether you can add your proficiency bonus to your attack rolls.

Proficiency with a weapon allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with that weapon. If you make an attack roll using a weapon with which you lack proficiency, you do not add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll.

If you look under your Monk proficiencies, one of the things listed there is "simple weapons". The shortbow is a simple weapon, so you don't need to be a wood elf to be proficient with it.

As you've said, monk weapons are shortswords and any simple melee weapons. The shortbow is not either of these things, so it is not a monk weapon. However, this doesn't mean you can't use it - it just means that it won't benefit from your Martial Arts ability.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I likewise took a 40-year hiatus from D&D, and was pleasantly surprised to learn about the 5e proficiency rule. From my limited perspective, it felt more reasonable to roleplay this way than with the old "character of class X can only use weapons in set Y" rules. \$\endgroup\$ – papidave Jun 19 at 21:34

With the addition of Xanathar's Guide to Everything, the Kensei Monk can use Ranged weapons as a Monk weapon.

Kensei Weapons. Choose two types of weapons to be your Kensei weapons: one melee weapon and one ranged weapon. Each of these weapons can be any simple or martial weapon that lacks the heavy and special properties. The longbow is also a valid choice. You gain proficiency with these weapons if you don't already have it. Weapons of the chosen types are monk weapons for you. Many of this tradition's features work only with your Kensei weapons. When you reach 6th, 11th, and 17th level in this class, you can choose another type of weapon- either melee or ranged- to be a Kensei weapon for you, following the criteria above.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pg 34

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you quote the rule for us please? \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Sep 16 '19 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Toysoldier, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. This answer is likely correct but you need to support it with a reference to the actual rule and a better description of how it is an answer to the question. We are looking for complete and supported answers. You can improve your post with an edit. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Sep 16 '19 at 3:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've added the quote from Xanathar's Guide. \$\endgroup\$ – Toysoldier Sep 17 '19 at 1:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for coming back to edit that is a good improvement. You can further improve it if you add some context to what that means. How did it work prior of XGtE? How does it being a monk weapon help? Good luck! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Sep 17 '19 at 1:26

I have to respectfully point out that simple weapons include melee and ranged.

In the players handbook, page 77, it says "simple weapons;" it does not say simple melee weapons or simple ranged weapons.

By your explanation, a monk could not use a dart or a sling (both simple weapons) but the starting equipment for a monk includes darts.

So for me, as a DM, I would allow monks to use ANY simple weapons, range or melee so long as it falls under the simple category. That fits what it says in the players handbook.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you address that they are a wood-elf and given additional weapon proficiencies? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 25 '19 at 17:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Be sure to check out the tour and the help center if you have any questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Peregrine Lennert Mar 25 '19 at 17:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mig, welcome, I made an edit to your answer since it came across as a forum type response to the question, which does not really fit our format. What we do here is Question and Answer, which takes the question, as asked, and then someone (like yourself :) ) provides an answer to that. (Irrespective of other answers to the same question) . It is not a threaded forum discussion style. People then vote on which question is best/most helpful/whatever. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 25 '19 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid your interpretation is incorrect, on page 78 the Martial Arts feature defines monk weapons as "shortswords and any simple melee weapons that don't have the two-handed or heavy property" \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Sep 16 '19 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the confusion here is between Monk Weapons (which are only melee) and weapons Monks are proficient with (which include simple ranged weapons). They're not the same thing. Any monk is proficient with a shortbow (and can thus add their proficiency bonus to attack rolls with it), but it is not a monk weapon (and so you cannot substitute your martial arts damage die for the weapon's normal die). \$\endgroup\$ – Blckknght Sep 16 '19 at 17:33

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