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The loading trait reads,

Loading. Because of the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

I interpreted this as meaning the weapon can make only one attack per round.

For brevity, can I use this on any homebrew weapon I want to restrict to one attack per round, or is its description fluff too tied up with the ammunition trait for this to be clear? Would it be better to just use the special trait as a general catch-all for anything not pre-scripted by the developers?

The homebrew weapon in question is an oversized spiked flail+maul with 2 striking heads. It deals 2d12 piercing damage, weighs 30 lb., and has the heavy, two handed, and reach properties. I want to simulate the idea of each attack being a big, slow swing which tactically inconveniences the character using it. It's going to be in the hands of a LBEG and used against the players, but I want it to be something they can take from him and use if they'd like after he's defeated. (It's an inconvenient weapon, but at 2d12 it could make for a quick shortcut through first tier random encounters, and possibly be worth a bit of loot once the characters have outgrown it. I award XP by plot progression, so reducing the difficulty of diversionary combat isn't an issue.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ A bit of clarification: it's not limited to once per round, but once per action. For example, a ranger with extra attacks can only attack once with it, even if they normally can attack twice with one action. However, that won't stop the very same ranger from attacking again when their fighter buddy uses commander's strike to let the ranger attack as a reaction. \$\endgroup\$ – Christopher Dec 1 '16 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that there are feats like Crossbow Expert which allow the loading property to be ignored (in this case, for crossbows), so adding the loading property on its own might not limit a weapon to 1 attack/round like you want. In this case you're talking about a melee weapon so it isn't applicable, but it's worth keeping in mind for future homebrews. \$\endgroup\$ – JBC Dec 1 '16 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also keep in mind that if you a multi-attacker and swinging a great weapon, you're going to get 2d6 + STR damage on each attack that hits. If you have 2 or even 3 attacks, that easily outpaces a 2d12 +STR. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 1 '16 at 17:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch they don't get extra attacks until second tier anyways, and by then this thing will have been turned in for coin long beforehand. I'm not too concerned about it remaining useful for a long time- only that it be threatening and kind of neat at low level. \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Dec 1 '16 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JAMalcolmson. Gotcha. Didn't know what level they were at, just wanted to raise the potential issue :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 1 '16 at 19:26
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The trait states that you can only fire one piece of ammunition, not that you can only make one attack. For example, someone could use one attack to fire the weapon, and a second one to use it as an improvised weapon to bludgeon an enemy.

Given that you're already homebrewing this weapon with special properties, it's not a stretch to homebrew your own trait for it. Why not add something like:

Unwieldy. Because of the awkwardness of this weapon, you can only make one attack with this weapon per round, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

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For clarification, 5e doesn't use fluff text. If the rules say something, then what is said applies. A perfect example of this is the spell text of burning hands, which states that you touch your two thumbs together with your hands flat and fingers pointed outward. That is how burning hands works, not just a "fluffy" description of how it works.

The same reasoning can be applied to the loading property.

Because of the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

Since the loading property applies only to ranged weapons, and it implies the weapon must be loaded with ammunition, it doesn't make sense to use it for your homebrewed weapon.

However, since you're already venturing into homebrew territory, what is stopping you from coming up with a new weapon property? Based on your description, you could do something like this:

Slow. Because of the weight of this weapon, you can only make one attack when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to swing it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

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    \$\begingroup\$ LegendaryDude, @JAMalcolmson: Maybe figure out how to phrase a decent [terminology] question about “fluff” and/or “crunch”. Meanwhile, these comments weren't going anywhere useful and were drawing flags. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 1 '16 at 23:22

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