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Can I choose to not use the Ranger's Colossus Slayer feature when I hit an injured target with a bow and arrow?

When my DM found out about Colossus Slayer, he started making all my 1s on attack rolls a guaranteed hit against someone in my party as long as they're in my range. We're level 3 at the moment, and essentially half- and one-shotting my teammates every time I roll a 1 feels pretty sucky.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Colossus Sparer. \$\endgroup\$ – Sebkha Jul 4 '16 at 3:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rodger The question didn't actually change much; its main thrust has always been, verbatim, “Can I choose not use the Ranger's Colossus Slayer feature when I hit an injured target?” The only thing that was changed was to make the title read better, mention the weapon used, and to add in background for why they would ever want to not use it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 20 '17 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize we could just tag "revisions" on the URL after the question post number to see that! You are right, i did recall incorrectly as it didn't have to do with knockout. The bow and arrow bit was new though and is an important change in regards to rendering answers that were previously accurate, inaccurate... 3 out of 6 answers were affected. The answers could definitely have been better though and specific to melee and excluded the knock out info if the ranger was using a bow. \$\endgroup\$ – Rodger Jul 20 '17 at 18:13
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Yes, it's optional.

The official ruling by Crawford himself in answer to Is the damage from Colossus Slayer optional?:

Jeremy Crawford
‏@JeremyECrawford
You choose whether to deal the extra damage of Colossus Slayer. #DnD
12:04 PM - 3 May 2016

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer should be improved to establish the reference-value of Jeremy Crawford, for those of us who aren't sufficiently initiated into 5e. I know from reading other 5e answers that 5e designers are sometimes quoted from their tweets, but that context should be provided in each answer, as users aren't expected to read multiple questions on this site in order to understand one answer on this site. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 20 '17 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand your point, however I, and many others, aren't going to be prefacing answers with all the information people might not know. If you don't know who I'm referencing when you're reading it on the internet, Google can answer your question readily. And please don't misunderstand, I'm not trying to be snarky. I'm just not going to fill answers with information people MIGHT not know. Like all the fine details of fireball, saving throws, spell slots, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jul 20 '17 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ The fine details of a fireball, saving throws and spell slots, I'd agree with you on, but the authority of a particular author to speak on the subject of the rules is not a default assumption that can be made. And in 3.5, the opposite is explicitly true. And what little googling I dare do at the moment, I can't figure out if his tweets are validly official sources for rules adjudication. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 20 '17 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a question pertaining to 5e, not 3.5, so the comparison is irrelevant to this edition (it's like comparing North American Football to European Football, two entirely different games with vague similarities between them). I understand your position, really I do. I just don't feel that explaining things not related to the question being asked is necessary or relevant. If you're curious about a person, questions about Colossus Slayer aren't the place to find the answer. In fact, you could simply ask a question like: "Who is Jeremy Crawford?" right here on the stack. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jul 21 '17 at 2:52
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As far as the rules are concerned, no.

When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, the creature takes an extra 1d8 damage if it’s below its hit point maximum.

There's no "you can" or anything like that here, it's given as a definitive statement. When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, it takes extra damage. So if you don't want to deal extra damage, don't hit it with a weapon attack.

With that said, ask your DM - they might be totally ok with you choosing not to gain the benefit of one of your class features. After all, if you didn't have the ability, there wouldn't even be a question.

With that also said, it sounds like you're worried about killing something. It's worth pointing out here that as long as you use a melee attack, you can knock an enemy out rather than killing them if you reduce their hit points to 0.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Alrighty thanks for the clarification. And to the killing something part, yeah basically. When my DM saw my damage he started making my 1's a guaranteed hit against my teammates as long as in they're in my range. We're level 3 so I'm essentially putting most of teammates unconscious or almost straight up killing them. Don't think I'll get around to the knock out part because its in the scenario of a 1 but I'll talk to my DM about holding back the feature part. \$\endgroup\$ – SleepyUrchin Jul 6 '16 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Looks like the actual problem is the house rule that makes 1's hit your buddies. Maybe open a question about that? \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Jul 29 '16 at 20:52
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It is Not Optional

When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, the creature takes an extra 1d8 damage if it's below its hit point maximum.

—PH page 93

There is no wording that hints at it being optional. Compare this wording to that of volley or whirlwind attack, which both state that "[y]ou can use your action to…" (bold mine for emphasis).

Or, if you prefer, compare it to another damage-adding feature: the cleric's Divine Strike (PH page 63):

Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 damage…

Again, bold added by me for emphasis. 5e is very good at calling out features that are optional with appropriate wording.

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1) You can choose not to use the ability BUT you decide when you roll.

So your question now, based on the info with your question is something like:

"Can I choose not to use Colossus Slayer after rolling a 1"

2) House rule. There isn't an official version that says anything about hitting friendlies on 1s in 5e. There isn't any sort of critical fumble rule at all. So it is up to the DM/group.

2a) Typical implementations are along the lines of declare the attack you are using, roll, and the DM makes the call on the results. So if you intend to use the Colossus Slayer when you let the arrow fly, it uses it where it lands, enemy, friendly, self, or broad side of a barn.

That being said, 1s always hit friends is terribly daft. You would be very hard pressed to find a worse implementation of the critical failure concept. (They are out there, yes, but this is easily in the running for worst.) There is no logical justification for that other than the DM isn't willing to just pull Colossus Slayer from the rules and say you can't use it. e.g.: think of all those poor people that are killed every year near the archery ranges and Renaissance fests... oh? that doesn't happen? exactly.


Original answer to the question about using the ability. I don't recall the wording but it didn't specify ranged nor did it have the details of accidentally injuring party members. It was specific to choosing to limit damage vs do full damage while using the Colossus Slayer option:

Kind of... you can choose to knock out instead of kill which I think is what you really care about right? PHB pg. 198:

When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant damage is dealt

So you have to use the 1d8 but if they only have 1 hit point left and you manage to do way more than you wanted, you don't have to "apply" more than it takes to knock them out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The OP is asking while using a bow and arrow in mind, knocking a creature out requires a melee weapon attack. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Jul 7 '17 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the downrank daze. The OP originally asked an entirely difference question. That is why 3 of the 6 answers deal with knocking someone out. \$\endgroup\$ – Rodger Jul 7 '17 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ (1) The question was whether Colossus Slayer was optional, I don't see how "knock him out, instead" alone is an answer to that- ranged or melee, hence the downvotes. (2) Yes, questions change when adding in context, but answers should also change because they are as permanent as (and more important than!) questions. A random googler/user would find this question 1 year later (hey, this happened to me :D), would see the question and answers and wonder why you're suggesting to knock out the guy- then downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Jul 7 '17 at 22:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ true. Part of the problem is that we don't get notified when someone edits their question. So until you down-voted, I had no idea it changed. As you can see, I did edit the answer and included the original question reference along with an answer specific to the completely different question. A comment here asking why 3 of 6 answers seem unrelated would have achieved the same thing :-) I don't really mind the downvote. Just caught me on a bad day I guess. LOL \$\endgroup\$ – Rodger Jul 20 '17 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't realize we could pull revision info. I did recall a bit incorrectly, adjusted it. -removed "knock out" and replaced with "limit damage" \$\endgroup\$ – Rodger Jul 20 '17 at 18:14
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The wording may suggest that it's not optional. Someone who's a real stickler for the letter of the law would say that the ability does not give you the option to not do the extra damage.

Conceptually, however, I would say that makes no sense. The ability represents your superior combat skill. You could always choose to go easy on your foe and not use that superior skill. As a DM, I absolutely make it optional.

Alternately, I might rule that the extra damage from a critical hit is not optional. A crit means that you got lucky and struck a vital point on your enemey. If your goal was to go easy on your opponent, then you donked up by accidentally stabbing their kidney.

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You can always have a choice in not killing an opponent. Just land a knockout blow

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not applicable to ranged attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 6 '16 at 22:14

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