A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons
Category Archives: House Rules
November 19, 2017Posted by on
UPDATE: Download the latest (version 6) HERE.
I just updated this file. I had left out the Ranger page. It is included in this new version.
The 5.0-EZ book contains rules for using the common Races: Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling. This supplement contains rules for the uncommon races: Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Tiefling.
The 5.0-EZ book contains rules for using the classic classes: Fighter, Cleric, Wizard and Thief. This supplement contains rules for these additional classes: Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Ranger, Monk, Paladin, Sorcerer and Warlock
These additional races and classes are by their nature more complicated to play than those included in 5.0-EZ.
November 4, 2017Posted by on
Attacking With A Shield
I have addressed the fifth edition rules for using a shield in a previous post (HERE). But I recently had a player ask if he could use a spiked shield. I couldn’t think of a good reason that he shouldn’t be allowed to do that, but the rules as written don’t specifically address the issue.
Time for a new house rule.
I soon realized that to do this I really needed to re-examine all of the rules for attacking with shields. What I came up with is a redefining of a normal shield – when it is used as a weapon – as well as spiked shields and a couple of other issues.
Simple weapon: Normal shields can be used as simple light melee weapons.
Damage: 1d4 + STR bonus (bashing).
Proficiency: You are only proficient with normal shields used as weapons if you are proficient with all simple weapons.
(This shield is constructed with a sharpened spike at its center.)
Martial weapon: A spiked shield is a light martial melee weapon.
Damage: 1d6 + STR bonus (piercing).
Cost: You can add a spike to a normal shield for an additional cost of 2 gp. (Adding more than one spike does not change the damage.)
Proficiency: You are only proficient with spiked shields used as weapons if you are proficient with all martial weapons.
If you lack proficiency:
They can still be used as an improvised weapons, doing 1d4 + STR bonus damage. The damage type will be bashing for normal shields, or piercing if it is a spiked shield.
Two weapon fighting:
When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a shield that you’re holding in the other hand, but only if you are proficient with using it as a weapon. You don’t add your ability modifier to the shield attack damage, unless that modifier is negative
Effect on armor class:
Using a shield to make an attack doesn’t deprive you of the +2 AC bonus.
Dual wielder feat:
You do not gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a shield (spiked or not).
October 4, 2017Posted by on
Laws of Motion
I see the D&D universe as a pre-Newtonian world. Very much controlled by something similar to Aristotle’s Laws of Motion. At least, that is the way that the most intelligent thinkers of the time believe that it works. All spells that affect the target’s speed or location, such as fly, levitate, teleport, etc. cancel all current forces acting on the target and replaces them with the effects of the spell.
So first I will present the laws of motion as known by most magic users in the D&D universe.
This is how it might be explained to you by the smartest man in the kingdom. [Please understand that the ideas below may represent a view of the world similar to that held in 300 BC, but was later replaced by Isaac Newton’s much more accurate laws of motion.]
The Celestial Sphere
“Objects in the heavens (the celestial sphere) move in circular motion, without any external force compelling them to do so. Objects on Earth (the terrestrial sphere) move in straight lines unless forced to move in a curve.
First, although most commoners think that the Earth is flat, it is indeed spherical. You know. Round like a ball. It only appears to be flat because it is so large. The Earth is in the center of the universe. It is surrounded by the celestial sphere, where lie the sun, the moons, all of the planets and the stars. All of these celestial bodies circle the Earth. The apparent motions of the fixed stars and planets are accounted for by the fact that they are embedded in rotating spheres made of an aetherial, transparent fifth element (quintessence), like jewels set in orbs. The fixed stars do not change their positions relative to one another because they are on the surface of this single starry sphere.
The stars, Sun, Moon, and planets are all made of fire. But whilst the stars are fastened on a revolving crystal sphere like nails or studs, the Sun, Moon, and planets, and also the Earth, all just ride on air like leaves because of their breadth. And whilst the fixed stars are carried around in a complete circle by the stellar sphere, the Sun, Moon, and planets do not revolve under the Earth between setting and rising again like the stars do, but rather on setting they go laterally around the Earth like a cap turning halfway around the head until they rise again.”
The Terrestrial Sphere
“To the motion of non-living things, such as a stone dropped from the hand, is explained by two principles; Natural Motion and Violent Motion.”
“The 4 elements [earth, air, fire and water] tend to seek their natural place in the order of things. So earth moves downwards most strongly, water flows downwards too, but not so strongly, since a stone will fall through water. In contrast, air moves up (bubbles in water), and fire goes upwards most strongly of all since it shoots upward through air. Most materials that you see around you are mixtures of elements. For example, wood has both earth and air in it, since it does not sink in water.
Natural motion causes undisturbed inanimate objects to travel in a straight line either toward the center of the Earth or away from it. Left undisturbed, a pure Earth would consist of an inner ball of earth surrounded by a shell of water over which would be a layer of air and above all would be an outer layer of fire.”
“Things also move because they are pushed. A stone’s natural tendency, if left alone and unsupported, is to fall, but we can lift it, or even throw it through the air. We call such forced motion “violent” motion as opposed to “natural” motion. The term “violent” just means that some external force is applied to it.
Heavier things fall faster, the speed being proportional to the weight. The speed of fall of a given object depends inversely on the density of the medium it is falling through. So, for example, the same body will fall twice as fast through a medium of half the density.
For violent motion, the speed of the moving object is in direct proportion to the applied force. This means that if you stop pushing, the object will soon stop moving.”
How this Effects Magical Spells
So the magic caster thinks that a body in motion only stays in motion as long as the force causing it to move continues to push it. Otherwise, it will eventually slow to a stop. So for teleportation – when the subject of the spell arrives at its new destination all external forces stop acting on it and it arrives at its destination as intended. External forces, in this case, would include what we refer to as inertia.
This also makes answering questions like this much easier:
“What if the PC walks through a teleportation gate and arrives at another location thousands of miles away?” Think of the actual, physical conditions. The Earth is spinning about 24 thousand miles per hour from West to East. Depending on where on Earth the other portal is located, inertia could be a big problem. Not to mention orientation.
Even something a simple as a feather fall ring. “What if the wearer was shot out of a cannon?” At the top of the arc, he would begin to fall. So feather fall kicks in and he begins to fall slowly. If inertia is still in effect he will travel much farther and still hit the ground at the speed that he was shot out of the cannon. This is obviously not the intention of the feather fall spell. If on the other hand, inertia and gravity are no longer pushing on the PC and are replaced by the magical feather fall rules, he floats gently down from the point where he begins to fall.
“If you are flying through space on a sailing ship that has a magical gravity bubble surrounding it, what happens if you fall overboard?” I would say that you fall as if you were on earth until you reached the edge of the gravity bubble and then slowly stop when the force of the magical gravity stops pulling you down.
July 10, 2017Posted by on
Viaggi, Avventure, Abbordaggi e Combattimenti tra le onde dei sette mari
(Travel, Adventures, Boardings and Fighting between the waves of the Seven Seas)
You can get your free copy of this here: http://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/BJL8XcjyZ
Luke translated my D&D 5E – Nautical Adventures into Italian and created this amazing version. It is an excellent example of what can be done with the homebrewery site. http://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/
June 25, 2017Posted by on
UPDATE: Download the latest (version 6) HERE.
Download your free copy here..
If you sometimes feel that the fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons rules are too complicated, this is for you. I created this set of house rules to simplify character creation and advancement among other things. It also introduces a whole new way to select and track the casting of magic spells.
One thing I tried very hard to do was keep the characters levels and power as close as possible to the Player’s Handbook characters so that if you play using these rules, you can still use published 5th edition adventures, and the monsters will require little or no modifications.
Here is what is on the EZ character sheet.
May 2, 2017Posted by on
What is Magic? How does it work?
I was trying to figure out how (in 4th and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons) a character could learn all there was to know about a magic item by simply examining it for an hour. This wasn’t possible in earlier editions. You could only learn about an item by trial and error or by some magical means. It is only now coming up because I never played 4th edition, and this is the first time I have been the DM running a 5th edition game.
After a lot of research (Google is my friend) I finely came to the realization that the nature of magic has changed. To make logical sense out of it all (assuming you can apply logic to the rules of magic in a fantasy game), this is what I came up with.
Nothing below is official. It simply represents my ideas and house rules.
The Source of Magic
Behind reality as the player-characters know it, there is a sort of internal “skeleton”, over which reality exists like skin atop muscle and bone. This “skeleton” can best be envisioned as an unseen essence that pervades all parts of the multiverse, directly linking everything to every other thing. This is the source of all magic. When you cast a spell, you actually create a specific alteration in the local essence, which then causes the spell effect you wanted in the ‘real’ world. Some call this essence “Mana”. In the Forgotten Realms it is called the “Weave”. If the Weave in an area is damaged or destroyed, magic is unreliable or impossible – that’s what creates Wild Magic and Dead Magic zones in the Realms.
All the physical laws of the universe are simply reflections of the true, background laws that govern this universal essence. The average person can only perceive normal reality, but some creatures are born with the ability to sense the universal essence.
All magic-using beings share an innate ability to manipulate the essence. Likewise, almost all those “gifted” with these abilities must receive training in arcane (wizardly) or divine (clerical) magic in order to learn how to manipulate the essence with finesse.
Bards learn that words and music are not just vibrations of air, but vocalizations with power all their own. They learn to untangle and reshape the essence in harmony with their wishes and music.
Clerics and Paladins are conduits for Divine magic, the power of the gods. Divine casting is done by channeling the essence provided by their deities and forming spells out of that.
Druids and Rangers revere nature above all, and can draw essence from the land, gaining their spells and other magical powers either from the essence that flows through nature itself or from a nature deity.
Monks make careful study of the essence that flows through living bodies. Most monastic traditions call this ki.
Sorcerers learn to harness and channel their own inborn magical abilities. They gather the essence to them from force of will.
Warlocks receive their magical abilities from a pact they made with an otherworldly being. This is similar to the way gods channel essence through divine casters.
Wizards create elaborate mental structures within the mazes of their own minds, traps which funnel magical essence like a roof collects rainwater for a barrel, stored and ready to be used over the course of a day.
This magical substructure to the universe, this unseen essence, can be manipulated by users of magic. It can sometimes be concentrated and placed inside a creature or object. Examples would include casting a spell on a creature to make it resistant to fire, or creating a ring of protection. These magic infused creatures or items emit a type of magical radiation. A creature with the ability to sense the universal essence can detect this magical glow, but it is invisible to all others without some magical way to detect it.
The “Detect Magic” spell:
Magical radiation is similar to light in that it is dimmer the farther you are from it. It can pass through most objects, but is blocked from most forms of detection by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt. For the magic radiation to be strong enough to be detected by the “detect magic” spell, you must be within 30 feet of the magic creature or item. If you sense magic in this way, you sense the presence of magic, but can’t determine in which direction, or how far away the magic item is. Anytime during the duration of the “detect magic” spell, you can take an action to see if there are any specific items or creatures within sight that you can identify as magical. You will see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic. If you don’t see an aura around anything, then the magic that you sense must be out of sight. It could be one or more items or creatures that are invisible or hidden. For instance, they could be behind a door or in a box or under a secret panel in the floor. If you do not see it, you do not see the aura. This also means you cannot use this to locate invisible creatures or objects. Any aura detected can only be seen by the spellcaster. The color of the aura corresponds to the object’s school of magic. If the item has no particular school then the aura has no color. The brightness of the aura indicates the relative strength of the magic.
Unless the magic item is invisible, you can see it if it is within range but behind a transparent barrier, such as glass. You also perceive its magical aura. This includes potions that are in glass bottles. If the potion is in a container that is not see-through you will not see the aura unless you remove the cap and look directly at the potion.
If you were to touch a creature that possesses magic, you would not typically feel the magic. But if you were to hold a magic item for a few seconds (a round), you would feel the magical radiation generated by the item effecting your body and/or your mind in some way. The sensation will differ depending on the magic contained within the item. If you continue to hold the item and concentrate on it for a short rest, “At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them.”
“Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.” You can’t hold a potion in your hand. The bottle isn’t magical, just the liquid it contains. You could stick your finger into it, and leave it there for an hour, but a drop on your tongue is much faster. A taste is not enough to receive the effects of the potion. If it is poison, a taste is not enough to do harm to the taster. When tasting it, the magic of the potion enters your body and instantly reveals its nature.
Magic items want you to know their properties! The magic is alive! Or, rather, it contains a life force. All life has magic flowing through it to some degree, and all magic has some degree of life flowing through it. This explains why some powerful magical items possess sentience. The item’s creator forced so much magical essence into the item that it became sentient. This also explains why magical essence tends to be attracted to living creatures (and sometimes to dead creatures). And why magic can create or destroy life.
The Identify Spell
This spell makes you more receptive to the magical essence of the item. To identify the magic in an object with this spell, you must remain in physical contact with it for at least 1 minute. “If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them” (That much is the same as you can get from examination alone. But with the spell you also learn) “, whether it requires attunement to use, and how many charges it has, if any. You learn whether any spells are affecting the item and what they are. If the item was created by a spell, you learn which spell created it.”
To use this spell to identify a potion still requires one minute, but you must come into physical contact with the potion, not just the bottle it is in. A drop on your tongue or on any spot on your exposed flesh is enough.
The identify spell won’t trigger a curse, but it also doesn’t tell you if an item is cursed. There is no easy way to know if an item is cursed except by trial and error. Even the legend lore spell may only hint that it may be cursed. The curse on an item may cause you to misidentify it.
January 3, 2017Posted by on
The Alabaster Portal Key
How do you smoothly run a weekly game if there is a lot of turnover?
What if you have dedicated players, for the most part, but every week you don’t know how many will show up? Some may have to miss a session (or two or three). New players may show up and want to join the group. Existing players may need to drop out but may want to re-join the group in a few months.
I think that the best way to handle this will be to have every session end back at the tavern, or some other busy place, or back at their home base wherever that might be.
It solves most of the problems and creates some new ones. It solves any leveling-up in the midst of play problems, all leveling up will occur between sessions. It makes it easy to accommodate missing players, their PC simply doesn’t play but can play next session. It also makes adding new players easy, their character simply joins the group for the new session.
It also creates some problems. The first is how can you do that, especially when higher level characters may be traveling far and wide? Even low-level characters that are adventuring close to home may have a problem leaving the dungeon and coming back in any reasonable time frame. It also restricts somewhat which adventures you can run. For example, any “ticking-clock” adventure where the characters must finish in a set time frame would be hard to run. Also, you couldn’t stop an adventure in the middle of an encounter, which isn’t a big problem, but it does limit you somewhat.
Here is how I propose would do this. Give the PCs a magical artifact (maybe the tavern owner gives it to them or they save a strangers life and he gives it to them). At first level, they take this with them and when they activate it, they are all returned to the tavern. When activated again, it returns them to wherever they were before.
To introduce it into an existing campaign, the PCs could find it wherever they are adventuring. When activated it sends them to the tavern. The tavern owner can be a sympathetic NPC who lets them continue to use it.
Here is an example of how this might work:
The owner of the tavern escorted us down the stairs to a large dusty basement. He then called for the crowd to gather around. He held up a large white chess piece and declared “One of you lucky people will be allowed to purchase this tonight. It is a magical key.”
“Have you ever been a long way from home and wished you had a way to return home quickly? With this magical key you can instantly return here any time you like. Just take it with you wherever you roam and when you want to return simply hold this key in your hand and say the magic words. It will open a magical doorway between wherever you are and this archway.” He pointed to an ancient arched doorway in the wall behind him. It was completely sealed by the same stone that made up the rest of the walls of this old chamber. “But wait, there’s more! If you want to go back to where you were, simply approach this archway with the key and say the magic words. It will open the doorway at the same location you left. You could take a long trip and return home to your warm bead each night. ”
At that point most of the crowd turned around and returned to the drinks, snickering and shaking their heads as they climbed back up the stairs.
To the few of us that remained, he said “You appear to be adventurers. Just consider the possibilities! Imagine you are cleaning out a dungeon. You have fought many monsters, defeated deadly traps and collected ancient treasures, but at the end of the day there are still other dungeon levels remaining to explore. With this key you could return here, sell or lock up your treasure, identify any magical items you may have found, replace any lost or broken weapons and amination, rest and heal your bodies. Then when you are ready you can return refreshed and resupplied. You could even recruit other adventurers to help if you need to and they could return with you. And if one or more of your party needs to stay behind while you return to the dungeon, the ones who return only need the key and the activation word.”
I asked, “What if we are being chased by monsters? How quickly could we open the doorways?”
“Well …” He swallowed hard and said, “You know this was never intended to be used as an escape from battle.”
“The magic word is really more of a ritual. It takes 10 minutes to activate the portal.”
“And what if we are being pursued? Can anyone pass through? How long does it stay open?”
”Well, yes any creature could pass through once it is open and it normally stays open for one minute. However, you can close it at any time by tapping the key on the side of the passageway.”
I thought about this for a minute and then said, “Okay, say we are in a dungeon, a patrol is approaching so we hide around a corner and use this to return here, are you saying that we could just wait here for a few minutes and, watching through the doorway, go back when the danger had passed?”
“Actually, no. I may have neglected to mention that you must wait until the next day, at least 8 hours, before you can return. Also, the two portals are filled with a mist so you won’t be able to see what is beyond.”
I asked, “So if we go from here to a dungeon we will have to wait 8 hours before we can return?”
“No, not at all. When you leave here you can stay as long as you like or you can return immediately. Or, I mean, after the 10 minute activation ritual.
“It is just that when you return here you must wait until the next day to return to the dungeon. And, even if it is the next day, you cannot return unless it has also been at least 8 hours. So you can come back here a little before midnight and return 8 hours later. If you return here after midnight, you will have to wait until after midnight the following day.”
I then asked, “What if I am in the dungeon and just need to store something we found, or retrieve something that I forgot? You say that the portal stays open for one minute. Could I open it and then quickly come here to pick up something and return? Or if someone is wounded, I could open the portal, let them run through and then close it behind them. If I understand what you have been telling me, I should be able to do that as often as I wanted to. As long as I am not on this side when I open the portal, I can open it whenever I want.”
He answered, “Yes you can do those things, however there is another restriction I forgot to mention. Each time you use the key to activate the portal, the key must pass through to the other side and remain there when the portal closes or it resets and can’t be used again for 24 hours.”
He smiled at me and said, “So, if you bring me the small sum of 5,000 gp tomorrow, this alabaster portal key will be yours and I will teach you the ritual required to activate it.”
|Alabaster Portal Key
Wondrous item, artifact
This 3-inch tall alabaster statuette resembles a chess piece (a castle). Anyone who holds the key and knows the 10-minute activation ritual can activate the artifact. This person does not have to have any magical abilities. When activated, you create linked teleportation portals that remain open for the duration. Any creature or object entering either portal exits from the other portal as if the two were adjacent to each other. One portal is the one named in the activation ritual, which is a specific existing 4 foot wide by 8 foot tall stone archway which becomes filled with mist. This stone archway and the portal key are two parts of the same artifact. If you are not within 10 feet of the stone archway, the other portal is created at a location you choose within 10 feet of you and resembles a glowing arched gateway the same size as the stone archway. It is also filled with mist. If the key is activated when you are within 10 feet of the stone archway, it opens a portal in that archway and opens the remote portal at its previous location, allowing return travel to the point where that portal was last created.
The portals remain for one minute or you can close the portals early by touching the key to the side of either portal.
When within 10 feet of the stone archway, the key cannot be used to activate the portal until the day following its last use and at least 8 hours have passed. Otherwise, when not near the stone archway, the key can be used at any time.
The key must pass through the portal and be on the opposite side when the portal closes or it can’t be opened again for 24 hours.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic (or on this artifact).
December 23, 2016Posted by on
Just as characters take damage when they fall more than 10 feet, so to do they take damage when they are hit by falling objects. I was using these house rules for 3rd edition and they still work for 5th edition. I would typically allow a character to make a DC 15 DEX saving throw to jump out of the way and take no damage.
Objects that fall upon characters deal damage based on their weight and the distance they have fallen.
For objects weighing 200 pounds or more, the object deals 1d6 points of damage, provided it falls at least 10 feet. Distance also comes into play, adding an additional 1d6 points of damage for every 10-foot increment it falls beyond the first (to a maximum of 20d6 points of damage).
Objects smaller than 200 pounds also deal damage when dropped, but they must fall farther to deal the same damage. Use this table to see how far an object of a given weight must drop to deal 1d6 points of damage.
|Object Weight||Falling Distance||Maximum damage|
|200 lb. or more||10 ft.||20d6|
|100-199 lb.||20 ft.||10d6|
|50-99 lb.||30 ft.||5d6|
|30-49 lb.||40 ft.||4d6|
|10-29 lb.||50 ft.||3d6|
|5-9 lb.||60 ft.||2d6|
|1-4 lb.||70 ft.||1d6|
For each additional increment an object falls, it deals an additional 1d6 points of damage up to the maximum damage. Objects weighing less than 1 pound do not deal damage to those they land upon, no matter how far they have fallen.
December 19, 2016Posted by on
The only problem with a crossbow is that it takes so long to load most people can only make one crossbow attack each round. Because Player Characters aren’t “most people” they often are able to make multiple attacks each round. When the rules were written for fifth edition they attempted to restrict the number of times a crossbow could be fired and still allow for exceptions. Doing all of this and also keeping the rules simple and short created quite a bit of confusion. In my opinion, their subsequent attempt at clarifying the rules didn’t help all that much. This post represents my thoughts on the subject and how I deal with it using a couple of house rules.
General crossbow description: A crossbow has a wooden stock generally made from yew, ash, hazel or elm and coated with glue or varnish. The ‘bow’ is made of wood, iron or steel. The bow has a span of two to three feet. The crossbow string is made from hemp. The string has been soaked in glue as some protection against moisture. The string is pulled back by using a lever or winding a crank on a ratchet. This “cocking” of the crossbow is what gives a crossbow the “loading” property. The crossbow bolt is laid in a groove on the top of the stock and the trigger pulled. There are two or three notches to rest the thumb which can then be lined up with the bolt forming the crossbow sight. You add your dexterity bonus to crossbow damage to represent increased precision. A crossbow can be carried already loaded with a bolt.
Using a crossbow as an improvised weapon: If you have a crossbow in your hand and you are out of ammunition or it isn’t loaded (refer to loading below) you can still use your Attack action to try to hit somebody with it. As an improvised weapon it deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage. You don’t get your proficiency bonus on the attack but you can add your Strength bonus to both the attack and damage rolls. You could even throw it at them (range 20/60). That also deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage but rather than STR, you use your DEX bonus on attack and damage.
There are three types of crossbows listed in the Player’s Handbook. Here are my expanded descriptions.
Heavy Crossbow [Martial Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by winding a crank on a ratchet. Because it is a heavy weapon, small size creatures have a disadvantage when attacking with it. This crossbow is not inexpensive (50 gp) but it does the most damage (1d10) and has the longest range (100/400). It requires two hands to load or to attack with this weapon. Although it weighs 18 pounds most characters should be able to carry it with just one hand.
Light Crossbow [Simple Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by using a hinged lever which pulls the string into place. Despite its name, this weapon does not have the “light” property. It is the least expensive crossbow (25 gp) and does good damage (1d8) at a reasonable range (80/320). It requires two hands to load or to attack with this weapon, but it only weighs 5 pounds and can be carried in just one hand.
Hand Crossbow [Martial Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by using a lever. It is the only crossbow with the “light” property. It can’t be used for two-hand fighting because that requires a light melee weapon and this is not a melee weapon, it is a ranged weapon. The “light” property might come into play with other abilities or DM rulings. For instance, a tight passage where non-light weapons have a disadvantage. This is the most expensive crossbow (75 gp) and does the least amount of damage (1d6). It also has the shortest range (30/120). As its name implies, it only weighs 3 pounds and can easily be held in one hand. You can shoot a hand crossbow with one hand but it requires two hands to load it. You can shoot a hand crossbow in each hand (if you are allowed more than one attack on your turn), but only if they are both loaded at the start of your turn.
Most of the confusion with crossbows comes from the wording of the Loading property and the Crossbow Expert feat.
|Loading. (PHB p. 147)|
|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.|
|Crossbow Expert (PHB p.165)|
|Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow, you gain the following benefits:
• You ignore the loading quality of crossbows with which you are proficient.
• Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
• 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.
I suggest replacing both of these with the house rules listed below.
Loading. (This replaces the loading property in the PHB) You cannot attack with a crossbow unless it has been loaded. The act of loading a crossbow consists of pulling the string back and securing it, drawing the crossbow bolt, and placing it into the slot on the weapon. The act of loading a crossbow requires the use of both hands. You can load a crossbow once per Attack action regardless of the number of attacks you are allowed to make in that action. Any round in which you do not make an attack, you can use an Attack action, or your free “interact with one object” activity to load a crossbow.
Crossbow Expert (replaces the Crossbow Expert feat in the PHB)
Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow, you gain the following benefits:
- You gain proficiency with all crossbows.
- When you use the Attack action, every attack you make with a crossbow can include loading as part of the attack.
- Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on any attack rolls.
- When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use your bonus action to take one shot with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding in the other hand.
So, here are some examples of how the above house rules affect the game:
1) You can’t load any crossbow, even a hand crossbow, with a shield, hand crossbow, or any other weapon in your other hand.
2) You can use your “interact with one object” option to load (but not fire) a crossbow once a round provided you use both hands. But, you can’t do this and also load a crossbow as part of an Attack action that round.
3) You cannot load a crossbow as part of a Bonus action or a Reaction.
4) You cannot attack with a crossbow as a Bonus action or as a Reaction unless it is loaded.
5) If you are holding a loaded crossbow you can attack with it in any situation that permits you to attack, be that an Attack action, Bonus action, or a Reaction.
6) If you are allowed to use your Attack action to make two attacks, you can fire a crossbow that is already loaded and then load and fire it one more time in that action. You can only load it once per Attack action.
7) If you have two Attack actions, you can load and fire a crossbow once each action. In addition, you can fire it once at the beginning of your first Attack action if it is already loaded.
8) If you have the Crossbow Expert feat, you can load and fire a crossbow once for every attack you are allowed in an Attack action, but you cannot load a crossbow as part of a Bonus action or as part of a Reaction.