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The Crossbow Expert feat says:

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

While I am aware that in general, the order of action/bonus action is irrelevant. My question is: does the wording of the feat require the action before the bonus action?


Compare and contrast with:

  • Monk's Martial Arts

When you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action. For example, if you take the Attack action and attack with a quarterstaff, you can also make an unarmed strike as a bonus action, assuming you haven't already taken a bonus action this turn.

  • Monk's Flurry of Blows

Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action.

If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 1 '17 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Meta discussion: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/6798/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 1 '17 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sweet Jesus people. Post your own answer, vote your mind on the extant answers. All these arguments in comment threads don't help anyone once the poster has made it clear they refuse to listen to it. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 2 '17 at 1:54
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Per Crawford, the order is important.


Jeremy Crawford reversed his original ruling on this topic (found here). This reversed ruling was formalized in the 2019 Sage Advice column here.

This ties the causality of the option with the order of events. If you must do Y to qualify for doing X, then you must do Y first. You may not do X, and then qualify to do X by doing Y afterwords.

In this specific example, that means you must take the Attack Action before using your bonus action to shove someone 5ft.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 2 '17 at 1:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Crawford has since reversed his ruling here as per V2Blast's answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer May 12 '18 at 11:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ -1 until you take the new Crawford rulings into account. \$\endgroup\$ – Voromir Kadien May 12 '18 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VoromirKadien, I have updated the post. \$\endgroup\$ – Shem May 15 '18 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Crawford's revised ruling is now formalized in the 2019 Sage Advice Compendium. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 30 at 19:12
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Yes, the order is important

Bonus action (PHB p.189)

You choose when to take a bonus action during your turn, unless the bonus action's timing is specified, and anything that deprives you of your ability to take actions also prevents you from taking a bonus action.

Crossbow Expert (PHB p.165)

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

While this is perhaps not as clear as it could be, the order is implicit in the logic of the description: When you take the attack option (this must happen first for the condition to be satisfied) you can use a bonus action (therefore this must happen after taking the action).

It would perhaps be better if it had been written: "then you can use a bonus action", but omitting the "then" does not change the fact that there is a when condition.

To make it clearer here are examples one where the order is specifically not constrained and one using the same wording as the Crossbow Expert feat which gives an explicit example of its use.

First: Shield Master (PHB p. 170)

If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield.

This uses specific language to make it clear that the triggering condition of an Attack action allows you to have the bonus action available anywhere on your turn. If you shove with a bonus action first, you are constrained to take an Attack action later in your turn. That is not the language used in Crossbow Expert.

Second: Martial arts (PHB p.78):

When you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action. For example, if you take the Attack action and attack with a quarter-staff, you can also make an unarmed strike as a bonus action, assuming you haven't already taken a bonus action this turn.

This uses the same language as the Crossbow Expert feat and outlines how it works with an example where you have to make the attack, in this case with a quarter-staff as it is a monk weapon, for the condition to be triggered. You have to use the action.

The language is clear that the availability of the bonus action is triggered when you actually use your Attack action, not when you nebulously declare that you are going to use it.

On a practical level the order is important as, for example, if you use a bonus action to shoot a crossbow bolt and then as a reaction (perhaps triggered as an AOO because of a move) someone hits you and puts you down you never get to use your action that triggered the use of the bonus action, so it should never have happened. The whole thing becomes invalid after the event which is a RAW paradox.

There are related questions and answers here and here though neither answer this specific point they provide some context.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 2 '17 at 1:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Crawford has recently tweeted this, which supports your answer: "Clarification about bonus actions: if a feature says you can do X as a bonus action if you do Y, you must do Y before you can do X. For Shield Master, that means the bonus action must come after the Attack action. You decide when it happens afterward that turn." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 12 '18 at 1:38
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Order is irrelevant

When you take the attack action ...

This implies that the bonus action must be taken contemporaneously with an attack action; not with any particular attack that the attack action allows. At the start of your turn you declare the attack action which allows this bonus action. The order in which the actual attacks of that attack action can be before and/or after the bonus action attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 1 '17 at 21:00
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You can't take the bonus action attack before the Attack action, because the bonus action attack is conditional upon you taking that action.

Jeremy Crawford addresses this on Twitter here (prompted by the similar wording of another feat):

Clarification about bonus actions: if a feature says you can do X as a bonus action if you do Y, you must do Y before you can do X. For Shield Master, that means the bonus action must come after the Attack action. You decide when it happens afterward that turn.

Crossbow Expert's third bullet point is worded the same way; since its bonus action attack is predicated on you using the Attack action (specifically attacking with a one-handed weapon as part of it), by the same logic above you can't take that bonus action attack until after your Attack action.

This contradicts a previous ruling by him via Twitter, in which he stated that, "As with most bonus actions, you choose the timing, so the Shield Master shove can come before or after the Attack action." Crawford acknowledges this change here:

In 2017, I changed the ruling on bonus action timing because the old ruling was illogical. The original ruling failed to account for the fact that X relying on Y is a form of timing. The new ruling corrects that oversight.

And further explains his reasoning here:

The old ruling on bonus action timing didn't quiet questions on that timing. Instead, the illogical ruling fueled questions, and it even inadvertently led some fans to think our choice of words like "if" or "when" had super-precise meanings in bonus actions. They don't.

This ruling on Shield Master and similarly worded features is now formalized in the updated 2019 Sage Advice Compendium, and mentions that "the same sort of if-then setup" appears in other rules (which matches Crossbow Expert):

The Shield Master feat lets you shove someone as a bonus action if you take the Attack action. Can you take that bonus action before the Attack action?

No. The bonus action provided by the Shield Master feat has a pre-condition: that you take the Attack action on your turn. Intending to take that action isn’t sufficient; you must actually take it before you can take the bonus action. During your turn, you do get to decide when to take the bonus action after you’ve taken the Attack action.

This sort of if-then setup appears in many of the game’s rules. The “if” must be satisfied before the “then” comes into play.


In addition, if you can make multiple attacks as part of the Attack action, you can not take the bonus action attack until after your Attack action (as well as any intervening movement, if desired) is complete. Crawford confirms this here:

No general rule allows you to insert a bonus action between attacks in a single action. You can interrupt a multiple-attack action with a bonus action/reaction only if the trigger of the bonus action/reaction is an attack, rather than the action.

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No, the order is not important.

By limiting your possible actions to only the attack action (with a one handed weapon in this case), you are eligible for the bonus action. If your bonus action somehow prevents you from making the actual attack from the attack action (e.g. the target dies from the crossbow attack), you cannot use your action for something else; when there is nothing to attack, your action is lost.

In my opinion, "when" does not imply timing. I read "When you take the attack action" as "As long as you only take the attack action on your turn". Since the rule does not explicitly state a timing, the general rule for bonus actions should apply.

It seems, that the confusion results from a different interpretation of what "using the attack action" means:

For me, using the attack action is done at the beginning of your turn, when you announce it. That does not require you to attack right away. You can still move, draw a weapon or use a bonus action before you make the attack (or attacks, if you have extra attacks).

It does not matter whether you do or even can actually attack with your attack action or not, you have used the attack action and thus you can use your bonus action for a crossbow attack. You must have been able to use an attack action when you announced it though.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In game, how does "taking an Attack Action" but not yet actually attacking so that you can attack with a Bonus Action look like, exactly? I'm envisioning it as just an attack, and then another attack... Is that what you mean that the order isn't important? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Mar 1 '17 at 9:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 I announce, that I use the attack action. That does not require me to attack immediately, since I could still move, or draw my weapon, or use a bonus action, which is what I am doing here. If something prevents me from actually attacking with the attack action, I have still already taken the attack action and cannot use my action for something else. \$\endgroup\$ – Varicus Mar 1 '17 at 10:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've removed the edit markers in the text. (We have an edit history to track that sort of thing, and they otherwise just make it harder to read the answer. See our FAQ article on edit markers for more details.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 2 '17 at 3:09

protected by mxyzplk Mar 2 '17 at 1:54

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