D&D 5E Homebrewing a Crossbow Feat

Chaosmancer

Legend
I hesitated to bring this here, but I am stumped and frustrated, so let me see what the wisdom of the crowd might offer me.

I've been going through and applying a homebrew change to the various fighting styles and weapon builds. To make sure the changes weren't too crazy, I did some math and confirmed a few things that everyone basically knows is true. Pertinent examples, one of the best melee builds for damage is Polearm Master + Great Weapon Master. It is generally better than just Great Weapon Master with a Greatsword. Which makes sense, because two feats should be better than one.

However, one of the best damage builds (for just looking at X number of attacks per turn and nothing else) is the Hand Crossbow + Crossbow Expert + Sharpshooter. Which, makes sense right? Two feats. The issue is... It is ONLY Hand Crossbows.

Again, nothing I'm stating here is really blowing anyone's mind, but laying out the math and color-coding it made it glare at me. Taking the Heavy Crossbow, it generally sucks for everyone. About the only classes that use Crossbows at all are Rogues and Artificers who ignore the limits of crossbows with their infusions. Even Clerics generally avoid crossbows in favor of Toll of the Dead. Because, since the loading property stops extra attack, no one uses a crossbow over a longbow.

But then, it gets more annoying. A Heavy Crossbow fighter can get the feat to make the crossbow... as good as the longbow already was. And a Crossbow Expert + Sharpshooter with a Heavy Crossbow is.... just as good as a Longbow with Sharpshooter. You've doubled your feats and gotten to the same place. Additionally, Rogues and Artificers generally don't want Crossbow expert. If I have a rogue with Crossbow Expert, I've basically added nothing to my usage of a Heavy crossbow. Except if I ended up in melee, but that's a really minor benefit to spend an entire feat on when I could have gotten Sharpshooter instead.

Unless you go Hand Crossbow which immediately catapults you to one of the best damage builds in the game.


So... I want to fix this. I want to have a feat for crossbows that is makes Heavy/Light Crossbow + this feat a viable choice. And I'm blanking.

I know I want to keep the removal of the loading property. And I know I want to delete the hand crossbow bonus attack, because it feels out of line for the rest of the feat (and for those who still want to melee sword then fire a hand crossbow, I've re-written two-weapon fighting to allow that) but I don't know what else to do. Keeping the within 5ft seems fine, but I don't need it. And the only idea I've had so far is this:

Revised Crossbow Expert:
  • 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 hit a creature with an attack from a crossbow, you push them 5 ft

But not only does that feel like an anemic and weak feat, but this is what Crusher can do, and I liked the sling being able to benefit from crusher and give control. So, I'm not a fan of this. But I'm stumped.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I hesitated to bring this here, but I am stumped and frustrated, so let me see what the wisdom of the crowd might offer me.

I've been going through and applying a homebrew change to the various fighting styles and weapon builds. To make sure the changes weren't too crazy, I did some math and confirmed a few things that everyone basically knows is true. Pertinent examples, one of the best melee builds for damage is Polearm Master + Great Weapon Master. It is generally better than just Great Weapon Master with a Greatsword. Which makes sense, because two feats should be better than one.

However, one of the best damage builds (for just looking at X number of attacks per turn and nothing else) is the Hand Crossbow + Crossbow Expert + Sharpshooter. Which, makes sense right? Two feats. The issue is... It is ONLY Hand Crossbows.

Again, nothing I'm stating here is really blowing anyone's mind, but laying out the math and color-coding it made it glare at me. Taking the Heavy Crossbow, it generally sucks for everyone. About the only classes that use Crossbows at all are Rogues and Artificers who ignore the limits of crossbows with their infusions. Even Clerics generally avoid crossbows in favor of Toll of the Dead. Because, since the loading property stops extra attack, no one uses a crossbow over a longbow.

But then, it gets more annoying. A Heavy Crossbow fighter can get the feat to make the crossbow... as good as the longbow already was. And a Crossbow Expert + Sharpshooter with a Heavy Crossbow is.... just as good as a Longbow with Sharpshooter. You've doubled your feats and gotten to the same place. Additionally, Rogues and Artificers generally don't want Crossbow expert. If I have a rogue with Crossbow Expert, I've basically added nothing to my usage of a Heavy crossbow. Except if I ended up in melee, but that's a really minor benefit to spend an entire feat on when I could have gotten Sharpshooter instead.

Unless you go Hand Crossbow which immediately catapults you to one of the best damage builds in the game.


So... I want to fix this. I want to have a feat for crossbows that is makes Heavy/Light Crossbow + this feat a viable choice. And I'm blanking.

I know I want to keep the removal of the loading property. And I know I want to delete the hand crossbow bonus attack, because it feels out of line for the rest of the feat (and for those who still want to melee sword then fire a hand crossbow, I've re-written two-weapon fighting to allow that) but I don't know what else to do. Keeping the within 5ft seems fine, but I don't need it. And the only idea I've had so far is this:

Revised Crossbow Expert:
  • 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 hit a creature with an attack from a crossbow, you push them 5 ft

But not only does that feel like an anemic and weak feat, but this is what Crusher can do, and I liked the sling being able to benefit from crusher and give control. So, I'm not a fan of this. But I'm stumped.
Well, I'm going to offer you something, but I'm not sure you'd call it wisdom. :p

Heavy Crossbows do a bit more damage than a longbow, so with two feats you are slightly better than a longbow, but it's not enough to make the feat investment worth it. I agree with you there.

One of the main attributes of a crossbow is distance and power. That and not requiring training like a longbow, which isn't represented well in D&D. That distance and power can be represented as you do it with a pushback, but it's such a narrow focus at the point of impact that I don't think it would have that effect. Perhaps advantage is the way to go. Advantage on an attack would help overcome the -5 to hit that Sharpshooter imposes and make the extra feat investment worth it.

Revised Crossbow Expert:
  • 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.
  • Your first attack with a crossbow is at advantage.
 



Chaosmancer

Legend
Well, I'm going to offer you something, but I'm not sure you'd call it wisdom. :p

Heavy Crossbows do a bit more damage than a longbow, so with two feats you are slightly better than a longbow, but it's not enough to make the feat investment worth it. I agree with you there.

One of the main attributes of a crossbow is distance and power. That and not requiring training like a longbow, which isn't represented well in D&D. That distance and power can be represented as you do it with a pushback, but it's such a narrow focus at the point of impact that I don't think it would have that effect. Perhaps advantage is the way to go. Advantage on an attack would help overcome the -5 to hit that Sharpshooter imposes and make the extra feat investment worth it.

Revised Crossbow Expert:
  • 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.
  • Your first attack with a crossbow is at advantage.

I could see that, but there are a LOT of abilities for various characters that grant advantage, so it doesn't feel very impactful to me. Like, no rogue is going to bother with this, since snipe exists.

It is an interesting way to take the feat though, in applying an effect to the first attack per turn.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I could see that, but there are a LOT of abilities for various characters that grant advantage, so it doesn't feel very impactful to me. Like, no rogue is going to bother with this, since snipe exists.

It is an interesting way to take the feat though, in applying an effect to the first attack per turn.
I can see a Rogue taking both. Sniper uses up an entire round of doing nothing but aiming to get an attack the next round with advantage, cover reduction, and a crit if you hit. It's pretty good, but advantage on every shot is probably better. That and you could pick one over the other. Someone might want to be able to shoot in close combat. It would seem very much a preferential decision, or perhaps an RP one.

You might also remove the range penalty for exceeding short range. Or roll damage on the first shot with advantage, so you're more likely to do greater damage. There are lots of ways to go. :)
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Well, I am just going to put in my piece for historical reasons:

Crossbows were more accurate at longer ranges due to the (relatively) level flight of the bolts.

Crossbows (especially heavy) took much longer to load than bows, so had a slower rate of fire. For comparison, a longbowman could fire about 6-10 times per minute, but would become fatigued quickly at faster paces. A light crossbow could fire maybe 6 times a minute, and a heavy crossbow 2-3 times per minute.

So, here is what we did:

Crossbows get a +1 to attack rolls (the level flight factor).
Heavy Crossbows do d12 damage.

Now, as far as the rate of fire is concerned, it is pretty crazy for someone to fire two arrows in 6 seconds doing a FULL PULL on a longbow! Once in 6 seconds is tiring enough! This is where shortbows make a different or not doing a full pull. Optionally, firing for several rounds at full speed with full pull might impose a level of exhaustion.

It just depends on how "real" you want to me.

Now, for your revision:
Revised Crossbow Expert:
  • 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 hit a creature with an attack from a crossbow, you push them 5 ft
It all looks good. I would probably swap out the last option for the +1 to attack rolls or damage, though.
 

SakanaSensei

Adventurer
Well, I'm going to offer you something, but I'm not sure you'd call it wisdom. :p

Heavy Crossbows do a bit more damage than a longbow, so with two feats you are slightly better than a longbow, but it's not enough to make the feat investment worth it. I agree with you there.

One of the main attributes of a crossbow is distance and power. That and not requiring training like a longbow, which isn't represented well in D&D. That distance and power can be represented as you do it with a pushback, but it's such a narrow focus at the point of impact that I don't think it would have that effect. Perhaps advantage is the way to go. Advantage on an attack would help overcome the -5 to hit that Sharpshooter imposes and make the extra feat investment worth it.

Revised Crossbow Expert:
  • 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.
  • Your first attack with a crossbow is at advantage.
I love looking at 3rd Party Products from all kinds of designers, because a lot of the time their takes on mechanics speak to me more than what WotC has put out. On the point of "not requiring training like a longbow, which isn't represented well in DnD," I love how Mage Hand Press handled firearms: don't add your modifier to damage rolls, but the weapons deal an extra die of damage. So where a hand crossbow is a d6+dex damage, a revolver is 2d6. There's chance for a higher swing, especially if you critically hit, but you will have less consistency.

For crossbows, if you're willing to fiddle with numbers, a way to represent this in game would be to adjust the damage dice in a similar fashion. Heavy Crossbow does 2d8 damage (baseline it's a d10, but 2d10 seems quite good, mathematically equivalent to a +5 mod which maybe shouldn't be assumed) but doesn't get benefit from your Dex modifier on damage. Then, with the feat, you can add your dex mod back on because while it's easier to use a crossbow than a longbow for your average Joe Shmoe, YOU are an expert and know how to put bolts where they need to go. Either that or increase critical hit range to have some nice synergy with the increased number of damage dice. Just my thoughts.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I can see a Rogue taking both. Sniper uses up an entire round of doing nothing but aiming to get an attack the next round with advantage, cover reduction, and a crit if you hit. It's pretty good, but advantage on every shot is probably better. That and you could pick one over the other. Someone might want to be able to shoot in close combat. It would seem very much a preferential decision, or perhaps an RP one.

You might also remove the range penalty for exceeding short range. Or roll damage on the first shot with advantage, so you're more likely to do greater damage. There are lots of ways to go.

Um... Sniper is a Bonus action? Double Checks Oh, the ability was called Steady Aim. Stupid memory. But, sure, you can't move that turn but as long as you don't move you have advantage on every attack.

The range penalty is what Sharpshooter does. So that's out, as it overlaps.

Roll twice and take the better damage? That has some possibilities I suppose?

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I love looking at 3rd Party Products from all kinds of designers, because a lot of the time their takes on mechanics speak to me more than what WotC has put out. On the point of "not requiring training like a longbow, which isn't represented well in DnD," I love how Mage Hand Press handled firearms: don't add your modifier to damage rolls, but the weapons deal an extra die of damage. So where a hand crossbow is a d6+dex damage, a revolver is 2d6. There's chance for a higher swing, especially if you critically hit, but you will have less consistency.

For crossbows, if you're willing to fiddle with numbers, a way to represent this in game would be to adjust the damage dice in a similar fashion. Heavy Crossbow does 2d8 damage (baseline it's a d10, but 2d10 seems quite good, mathematically equivalent to a +5 mod which maybe shouldn't be assumed) but doesn't get benefit from your Dex modifier on damage. Then, with the feat, you can add your dex mod back on because while it's easier to use a crossbow than a longbow for your average Joe Shmoe, YOU are an expert and know how to put bolts where they need to go. Either that or increase critical hit range to have some nice synergy with the increased number of damage dice. Just my thoughts.

Yeah, I haven't found a 3rd party product that does something I like with crossbows either.

2d8 is essentially 1d10+mod (Both average to almost 9, assuming mod is +3 or +4) so under this thought, you could double the dice of a crossbow shot for the feat.

plugging some math

Base Longbow at 5th level 9+8 = 17 * 0.6 = 10
Bow + Style = 17 * 0.7 = 12
Bow + Style + Sharp = 37 * 0.45 = 16.5

Crossbow normal at 5th assuming two shots 11+8 = 19 *0.6 = 11.5
Crossbow + style still assume two shots 19*0.7 = 13.5
Crossbow + style + double damage dice 22+8 = 30*0.7 = 21
Same as above, but 2d8 instead of 2d10 18+8 = 26*0.7 = 18

Max damages
Longbow + Sharp = 44
Crossbow w/2d8 = 40

Okay, you couldn't just straight double the damage die, because that is too strong. But you could change the die, taking 1d10 and making it 2d8 and 1d8 and making it 2d6. This has a few effects, not only does it increase the damage, but it makes it more consistent as well. It is slightly stronger on average than longbow sharpshooter, but has a smaller max (not by much though)

But Sharpshooter allows you to ignore cover and range, which this doesn't. though I may keep the point blank shot feature. I think this ends up being strong enough that it doesn't need to include the crit range increase, so the new feat would read

Revised Crossbow Expert V2:
  • 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.
  • Crossbows you wield are better cared for and mechanically more efficient. Change their damage die as follows. Heavy Crossbow 1d10 -> 2d8, Light Crossbow 1d8 -> 2d6, Hand Crossbow 1d6 -> 2d4

This is something I could see any crossbow user wanting. And it competes as a stand-alone feat.
 

Horwath

Hero
My idea for crossbows is:

make all crossbows simple and all bows martial weapons.

shortbow and longbow are essentially the same weapon, just difference in weight of pull.

make light and heavy crossbow loading an Action.
damage; 2d6 for light and 2d8 for heavy crossbow. Add dex as normal.

Crossbow expert feat would reduce loading time to Bonus action.
 

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