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My long-term RPG instinct is to say "clearly they don't". (Pathfinder, 3.5, AD&D, etc.)

Looking at some NPCs seems to be back this up. The Veteran (MM 350) deals a straight 1d10 with their Heavy Crossbow, despite having Dex+1, and the Scout (MM 349) deals 1d8+Dex with their Longbow.

However, I cannot actually find where this is detailed in the PHB...

  • Section on Dexterity (PHB 176) does not have any exception for the crossbow.

    You add your Dexterity modifier to your attack roll and your damage roll when attacking with a ranged weapon, such as a sling or longbow.

  • Crossbow features are Ammunition and Loading, but neither of these seem to address damage. (PHB 146-9])
  • The sections on "Making an attack" (PHB 196-8) don't mention anything about damage modifiers at all.

Also, I cannot find any mention in the latest errata (v1.1) (Oct 2015).

Does anyone else have a RAW for "crossbows don't add Dex to damage?".


UPDATE: the MM has a few other examples that are not consistent with "Dex on damage", but in general, most are accurate. The answer below seems to back my findings, crossbows do add Dex modifier to damage.


UPDATE 2: the MM errata (2015-12) corrects the Veteran example.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand why a crossbow would work differently from other ranged weapons when it comes to damage. Would it be possible to unpack where your "instinct" comes from? \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Oct 31 '15 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ In 3.5 & Pathfinder they did not. In fact bows added Strength to damage with a bunch of limitations. \$\endgroup\$ – Gates VP Oct 31 '15 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be helpful to make that explicit in the Q. When I hear "long-term RPG instinct" it makes me think that you're referring to something broader than two systems. Even broadening that to "All pre-4th D&Ds" would be helpful, if that's what you're referring to. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Nov 1 '15 at 1:10
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PHB pg 177 under 'Attack Rolls and Damage' gives you all the detailed rules you would need on adding Dexterity modifier to ALL ranged weapon attacks. As follows:

"...you add your dexterity modifier to your attack roll and damage roll when attacking with a ranged weapon (gives you some examples that include but are not limited to those listed)..."

It does likewise for weapons with the 'Finesse' property, giving two examples that include, but are not limited to, the 2 weapons listed.

Alright, awesome. So from this we know I get to add my Dexterity Modifier to any ranged attacks I make with weapons that are considered 'ranged', which means any and all weapons found on the Simple and Martial Ranged Weapon table on page 149, as well as any weapons that follow the rules on page 147 under the 'Ranged' tag. Clearly we can see Light Crossbows, Hand Crossbows, and Heavy Crossbows are included in these tables, along with several other weapons that were not directly mentioned in the entry on page 177.

Alright, I'm with you so far Players Hand Book! Let's make sure none of these crossbows have any exceptions to the rule, since we know 'Specific beats General' when it comes to rulings. No? Nothing? Sweet.

We can conclude that there are no existing RAW printed in the PHB that forgo adding your Dex Mod to crossbow damage, and we can farther conclude that all forms of Crossbows add your Dexterity Modifier to both the attack (to hit) roll, and the damage roll when making an attack.

Creature design in the Monster Manual is inherently and purposefully NOT the same as Player Character design. The potential examples are astounding and so wont be listed here, but if you tried to build each Monster Manual entry on a PC character sheet, you are going to notice the majority have inconsistencies. Perhaps that extra +1 damage every turn from the Veteran would have changed it's Challenge Rating.... we aren't sure WHY the inconsistency is there, but it's present, and its inclusion has nothing to do with the rules Player Characters must follow.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that it is an error in the calculation. All users of the Light Crossbow and Hand Crossbow in the MM apply Dex bonus to the damage roll. Most other users of the Heavy Crossbow have +0 Dex mod and so have no damage bonus, but the Half-Red Dragon Veteran (p.180) has a +1 Dex mod that applies to the damage roll of the Heavy Crossbow. \$\endgroup\$ – Pitzy Nov 1 '15 at 4:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pitzy, or maybe not. AngryGM wrote quite an interesting articale on this topic. \$\endgroup\$ – DM Nailz Nov 2 '15 at 11:33
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There is not a RAW exception to the rule about ranged attacks adding the Dex bonus to damage on a crossbow. Monster stats sometimes bear some similarity to the way PCs operate, but that's far from universal, and it's generally not possible to reverse-engineer game rules from their stat blocks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But they seem to be consistently different. The Knight and Veteran both have Heavy Crossbows with no damage bonus, while the Assassin and Bandit use Light Crossbows and do get a damage bonus. Looks like "Drow" and "Half-Dragon" veteran are consistent with damage bonuses on both Light and Heavy, so I just had to look further to find exceptions to their exceptions. \$\endgroup\$ – Gates VP Oct 31 '15 at 7:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're right that the difference seems to happen more with monsters that wield crossbows. However, that still doesn't matter because monster stat blocks aren't built using player character rules, full stop. It wouldn't matter if it were 100% to 0%, the two just don't follow the same rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Polisurgist Oct 31 '15 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Knight has +0 Dex mod, and thus cannot be compared to the Veteran, who has a +1 Dex mod. For a better comparison, check out the Half-Red Dragon Veteran, who has +1 Dex mod, wields a Heavy Crossbow, and has a +1 bonus to the Heavy Crossbow's damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Pitzy Nov 1 '15 at 4:55

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