I'm the DM of a 5e campaign and have a 5th level Fighter with a heavy crossbow.

He has the crossbow expert feat, and at 5th level has extra attack feature. Using crossbow expert he is able to reload and fire his crossbow twice a turn. He's also got the sharpshooter feat, so he can take a -5 to attack roll—if it hits +10 damage. And a high dex (+3 at 5th level).

He is able to do 1d10 +3 + 10 with sharpshooter = around 17-20 damage per shot. And with extra attack he can now do 17-20 damage twice per turn. That's roughly 34-40 damage per turn.

He also has a bonus action that allows him to make one more attack. (3 attacks per round) That he uses sharpshooter with, and so, does an additional 17-20 damage. He also can add in superiority dice to add to his attack roll with precision attack (1d8 to his attack roll). He has a limited amount of those, but this seems extremely over powered with a heavy crossbow that probably weighs in the neighborhood of 40-50 pounds and is two handed. I know these are heroes but with the bonus action of one more attack, that's literally reloading a heavy crossbow bolt of a heavy crossbow every 2 seconds. He's dexterous, but, that doesn't make him a machine gun.

How would you scale this back if you were the DM? My thought is why be a Fighter with extra attack if you can't fire a heavy crossbow twice, at the same time…this seems insane. I don't want him to have to rebuild his character.

Thoughts, anything in the rules that I'm missing?

I agree, the feats do not add the "third attack". No doubt about it. I need to look at his character sheet, going off of memory here. But, I believe one of the "fighter" (not sure what archetype of fighter) provides him an extra attack or bonus action. He can't attack twice using the bonus action, but has used it to make one more attack. This is limited to so many times per short rest or per day (again not very helpful since I don't have the exact ability in front of me.)

So, with the two attacks he gets as a fighter, can he switch targets with those attacks. Nothing really stated about that. I've let him switch targets, but question if that's appropriate since it's part of the same attack.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Heavy crossbows weigh 18lbs, not 40-50. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 6:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you referring to Action Surge, which allows the Fighter to do another Action? This should be once per Rest (i cant remember if Short or long) \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 10:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your damage per round math is wrong, as it presumes 100% chance to hit. On a miss this fighter does ZERO damage. Suggest you dig a little deeper into the AC he's typically facing and adjust the DPR you are assessing with the chance to hit accounted for. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik: Heay crossbows have draw weighs of at least 250 lbs and can reach 1000 lbs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish the questions speaks about the weight of the crossbow itself, not the draw weight of the string. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 17:48

7 Answers 7


Crossbow Expert

  • Ignore Loading Quality on Crossbows you are proficient with (This allows for the extra attack).
  • No 5ft Disadvantage
  • When you use the attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding.

So no Heavy Crossbow 3rd attack, nor a hand-crossbow 3rd attack as a heavy crossbow is a 2-handed weapon.


  • No Disadvantage at long range
  • Ranged weapon attacks ignore 1/2 and 3/4 Cover
  • Take a -5 penalty to attack roll for +10 damage

This is on par with each of the weapon masteries. You sacrifice accuracy (25% of the D20) for around a 50% increase on damage.

As far as the superiority dice, they're not OP, just spells for that Fighter archetype. They're on par with Paladins' Smite, Rangers' at will Hunter's Mark, and Rogues' Sneak attacks.

According the the DMG level 5-10 is when the group begins to feel its power, so it's natural for them to begin to feel more powerful. Make sure you're using the Encounter calculator on Page 82 of the DMG. This will allow for more control on your part, if you feel the group isn't being challenged enough, step up the difficulty a bit.


First, the player should not be able to attack with a heavy crossbow as a bonus action. So at fifth level, the player should only be attacking twice. The bonus action attack in the Crossbow Expert feat only applies to hand crossbows.

Crossbow Expert excerpt:

When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding.

Second, as you stated, superiority die are limited, and at 5th, the player will have 4 shots like this with the Precision Attack bonus, and even then they are still not guaranteed to hit.

Is 1d10 + 3 + 10 damage per hit a hell of a lot of damage? Yes. Does Precision Attack help mitigate the -5 penalty to attack? Sometimes. But even then, the player can't sustain that bonus for more than two rounds and there is still no guarantee those hits will land.

If you want to give your sniper some problems, have your enemies use cover (it will have to be full cover), use lots of weak enemies so that high burst damage is wasted.

Summation: the build is fine. I do not recommend nerfing it. Your player spent two feats to get here. That's a considerable investment. It should have some benefits.

PS: In my opinion, I think the concern you're sensing is the Sharpshooter feat. It's a really, really good feat. But in my experience, it's not OP.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty sure 1d10+3+10 is the every-round damage with Sharpshooter; it's the 1d10+3+10+1d8 that's limited to four attacks with Precise Shot superiority dice. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec The maneuver in question is likely Precision Attack, which doesn't add to damage, only to the attack roll making it easier to hit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Javelin
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I was referring to Precision Attack, I need to clarify my wording a little. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alaric
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 18:36

As @TestingTesting123 pointed out, the "bonus action that allows him to make one more attack" seems highly suspicious; I can't think of any rule that would allow that. So definitely re-check where that's coming from. You might be thinking of two-weapon fighting, but that requires light, one-handed melee weapons - 0 for 3. More likely you and the player are looking at Crossbow Expert:

When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding.

But a heavy crossbow is a two-handed weapon, which rules that out.

Furthermore, a 5th-level fighter with +3 Dex using the Sharpshooter feat should only have a net +1 attack bonus, which will hit less than half the time for most opponents - meaning the actual DPR is, oh, somewhere around 15 (less than one hit per round at 1d10+13 per hit).

It's true that this can be improved with limited-use abilities like Action Surge and Precision Attack, but these are still less powerful than the limited-use abilities of 5th-level casters - the strength of a Fighter is in ongoing damage over the adventuring day when you're saving your resources or have exhausted them. As long as you're using the encounter building guides and occasionally have high HP/AC monsters (or many smaller ones), I don't think this is a problem.


I'm pretty sure the player is using Action Surge for that 3rd attack, and that's perfectly legal. In fact, using Action Surge to take an additional Attack Action he can benefit from Extra Attack again. He can't, however, use his bonus action to attack. My advice is to not let the party short rest after every encounter, so that the fact that Action Surge and the Superiority Dices are limited actually becomes relevant.


The other possible (and from the description, likely) source of the third attack would be if the character has taken a level of War Cleric, which allows an additional weapon attack as a bonus action, limited to the number of your wisdom bonus per long rest.

A Battlemaster Fighter build with a 1-level dip in War Cleric, and Crossbow Expert feat, would indeed allow 3 shots per round of a heavy crossbow for a few rounds. And Sharpshooter could add to that. This would require a minimum of 6 levels to achieve (variant human for a feat, 5 levels fighter, another feat at 4th level, and 1 level war cleric) and would indeed be a very powerful build under the right circumstances.

Once per Short Rest, he could add his Action Surge to that, and get an additional 2 shots, so yes, if he went full nova on an easy enough target, he could do an immense amount of damage, on the order of 5d10 + 15 + 50 +4d8 = `110 HP, if he hits with every attack even with the -5 from Sharpshots, and gets to use all of his Superiority Dice for damage and not Precision. If he's got 1 level of Warlock, and he can set up a Hex ahead of time, he could add another 5d6 to that. Etc.


The issue was that he was using action surge for the third attack. And part of it was he was thinking he got his multiattack with action surge, which I verified is not true. You do not get your full multi attack as part of action surge.

However, he quickly realized he couldn't hit stuff using sharpshooter all the time. It became very evident eventually. He was missing 2/3rds of the time going from the 50 damage a turn to 0 at times.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Assuming that the multiattack you're talking about is from the Extra Attack feature, that is incorrect. Extra Attack applies anytime you take the Attack action, which you can do using Action Surge. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrReynolds
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 0:25

Just my two cents, but if your fighter really wants that 3rd attack at lvl 5, tell him (or her) that he can make an improvised weapon melee attack (1d4) if he wants. But the others are right. He shouldn't be getting the 3rd bonus action attack with a heavy crossbow.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are there rules backing up that you can get an improvised melee attack after shooting twice? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 23:38

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