D&D 5e: Heavy Crossbow 5e Guide

A black bear comes out of the darkness to see some explorers building a campfire.

Lucky for them, an Elf Ranger sees what’s going on and immediately pulls out a Heavy Crossbow.

He shoots at the creature, and when he hits it a second time, it falls down. It is a powerful weapon, but not everyone should use it.

Some people who are new to D&D might think that using a heavy crossbow is one of the most common things that every character does.

Heavy crossbows are a classic and well-known weapon that many classes use, but only a few people are really good at them, which is fair.

Heavy crossbows are military weapons, so the average person doesn’t know how to use them.

But if someone had training like in the military, the heavy crossbow is a good choice if they want to shoot their enemies from a distance.

This heavy crossbow 5e guide will tell you what a heavy crossbow can do and how to use it.

What is a heavy crossbow in D&D 5e?

The Player’s Handbook, page 149, says that a heavy crossbow is one of the biggest crossbows and has an attack range of 100/400 feet after each round of ammunition.

When it comes to attacking monsters, other races, or even other battles in D&D, the heavy crossbow with regular ammunition has different pros and cons. The heavy crossbow weighs about 18 pounds, which is about right for a creature of average size.

They are heavier than most crossbows, as the name suggests. You can see them in movies and games set in the Middle Ages.

You can also see them in dystopian movies, like The Hunger Games, where technology hasn’t improved. If you play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds like I do, you would know this weapon.

How to use the heavy crossbow in D&D 5e

I wrote a guide all about the light crossbow in D&D 5e, and I would recommend reading this guide. Both crossbows have the same procedure for making an attack, but if you cannot read the other guide right now, below is a quick summary:

  1. Choose a target within 400 ft. of you.
  2. You have a disadvantage on your attack roll if any of the following situations are present:
    • Your target is 100 ft. or farther away from you.
    • Your target is within five ft. of you.
    • You are a small creature.
  3. Roll a d20 for your attack roll (two d20s if you are at a disadvantage; pick the lower result between the two).
  4. Calculate your final attack roll (your d20 result + your proficiency bonus + your Dexterity modifier). If you do not have proficiency with the weapon, you do not add your proficiency bonus.
  5. If there are other modifiers that can alter the attack roll (e.g., through spells or class features), factor them in.

After doing this procedure, the next step would be to determine if your attack hit your enemy. If it did, you then calculate the heavy crossbow’s damage. So, read the next section to commit the follow-up.

Read Also:  Kalashtar 5e D&D Guide

How does the heavy crossbow work in D&D 5e?

If you haven’t made an attack roll with the heavy crossbow yet, you should read the section before this one. If you do, please follow the steps below to find out if your attack worked and how much damage it could do.

  1. If your final attack roll is equal to or higher than your target’s Armor Class (or AC), your attack hits; otherwise, your attack misses.
  2. If your attack hits, roll a d10.
  3. Calculate your attack’s damage (your d10 result + your Dexterity modifier).
  4. If there are other modifiers that can alter the damage roll (e.g., through spells or class features), factor them in.

If you want a more simple way to understand how to do this, you can look at my other guide. If you’re still not sure, don’t worry. I’ll show you how to use a heavy crossbow in Arthur’s Lab.

Example scenario for using the heavy crossbow in D&D 5e

Welcome back to Arthur’s Lab, where scientists use bandits as test subjects for arrows. This time, we’re testing the heavy crossbow, and Marshal the Half-elf Wizard’s friends are taking part: Bucky the Gnome Fighter and an Elf Ranger who goes by the name “Mr. Operator” are on the hunt.

We also have a thief that we “convinced” to do science. Here are some important facts about the people involved in today’s demonstration:

 Hit PointsArmor ClassDexterity ModifierProficiency Bonus
MarshalN/AN/A-1+4
Mr. OperatorN/AN/A+4+2
BuckyN/AN/A+2+2
Bandit1315N/AN/A

I will divide this demonstration into circumstances that can cover many crucial considerations about the weapon, like its range, disadvantages, etc.

Using the heavy crossbow without proficiency

Marshal is the one who gets to shoot the bandit first. He grabs it and shoots at his target, who is 15 feet away.

He has no disadvantage when he rolls to attack, so he rolls a 20-sided die and gets a 15. Usually, this is how you figure out the final attack roll:

  • Attack Roll = d20 + proficiency bonus + Dexterity modifier

But since Marshal is not proficient with the weapon, he cannot add his proficiency bonus in calculating the final attack roll. So, the calculation is as such:

  • Attack Roll = d20 + Dexterity modifier
  • Attack Roll = 15 – 1
  • Attack Roll = 14

Since 14 is lower than the bandit’s AC of 15, Marshal’s attack misses.

Disadvantage due to size

Bucky will use the heavy crossbow to shoot the thief. The thief is within 100 feet of him, and he knows how to use the weapon well.

Bucky, on the other hand, is a Gnome, and Gnomes are small animals. Because small creatures have a disadvantage when using the heavy crossbow to attack, Bucky rolls two d20s and gets 16 and 5.

Bucky is at a disadvantage, so his attack roll is only five, even though sixteen would have hit. Then, here’s how we figure out the last attack roll:

  • Attack Roll = d20 + proficiency bonus + Dexterity modifier
  • Attack Roll = 5 + 2 + 2
  • Attack Roll = 9

Since nine is lower than the bandit’s AC of 15, Bucky’s attack misses.

Disadvantage due to far distance

Mr. Operator is going to use the heavy crossbow, which he knows a lot about. But the thief is now 110 feet away, which is far beyond the normal range of the weapon.

Even though Mr. Operator is good with the weapon, the bandit is still too far away for him to have an advantage on his attack roll. So, he rolls two 20-sided dice and gets 14 and 8.

Mr. Operator must choose the lower number, just like Bucky (i.e., the eight). Then, here’s how we figure out the last attack roll:

  • Attack Roll = d20 + proficiency bonus + Dexterity modifier
  • Attack Roll = 8 + 2 + 4
  • Attack Roll = 14
Read Also:  Rangers 5e D&D Guide

Since 14 is lower than the bandit’s AC of 15, Mr. Operator’s attack misses.

Disadvantage due to close distance

We “told” the thief to move closer to Mr. Operator so that he could make the shot. But this time, the thief is only five feet away.

Ranged attacks have a rule that gives Mr. Operator a disadvantage. He rolls two d20s and gets 12 and 6. Here’s how we figure out the final attack roll with the number six:

  • Attack Roll = d20 + proficiency bonus + Dexterity modifier
  • Attack Roll = 6 + 2 + 4
  • Attack Roll = 12

Since 12 is lower than the bandit’s AC of 15, Mr. Operator’s attack misses (again).

The right conditions to use a heavy crossbow

After a lot of “talking,” the thief is now 15 feet away from Mr. Operator. Since the thief is only 100 feet away, he doesn’t lose anything.

The thief is not five feet away from him, so he doesn’t lose anything. Mr. Operator is an Elf, and Elves are Medium-sized creatures, so he doesn’t lose anything.

We have the right conditions to use a heavy crossbow, and Mr. Operator knows it. He fires his gun, and his attack roll is 9 after rolling a d20. Then, here’s how we figure out the last attack rolls:

  • Attack Roll = d20 + proficiency bonus + Dexterity modifier
  • Attack Roll = 9 + 2 + 4
  • Attack Roll = 15

Since the bandit’s AC is also 15, Mr. Operator’s attack is finally successful. Then, we figure out the damage. For Mr. Operator’s ranged attack with the heavy crossbow, we roll a d10 and get an 8. Here’s how the last damage roll goes:

  • Damage Roll = d10 + Dexterity modifier
  • Attack Roll = 8 + 4
  • Attack Roll = 12

We then reduce the bandit’s HP by 12.

The Properties of a Heavy Crossbow in D&D 5e

Range

The heavy crossbow has an attack range of 100/400 ft., so it can be used to shoot enemies that are far away. The heavy crossbow has a normal range of 100 yards, and its maximum range is 400 yards.

You make a normal ranged attack if you hit a target within 100 feet of you. But if your target is more than 100 feet away from you, you are at a disadvantage when you roll to attack. Lastly, you can’t shoot at a target that’s more than 400 feet away.

Are you making battle maps with the standard square grid, where each tile is five feet? Well, to give you an idea of how far 100 ft. and 400 ft. are, the 100 ft. mark is 20 tiles away from you, while the 400 ft. mark is 80 tiles away.

If you want to know more about the “Ranged” property, I wrote more about it in this D&D 5e guide about light crossbows.

Heavy

Small creatures find it hard to attack with the heavy crossbow because it is so heavy. It weighs 18 pounds, and if a small creature tries to use it, it makes their attack rolls worse, so they have to roll two d20s instead of just one. Then, they choose the lower of the two numbers.

Even though small creatures can still use them, you shouldn’t. Putting yourself at a disadvantage on the battlefield is too dangerous.

Ammunition

To use the heavy crossbow as a long-range weapon, you need to have ammunition. Each heavy crossbow attack uses up a crossbow bolt, so you’ll need a lot of them if you want to keep hitting your enemies with piercing damage.

If you’re worried that loading the weapon with a bolt will take up your move, don’t be. Drawing the ammunition from any container, like a quiver or a case, is part of a ranged attack.

You can get back half of your used bolts at the end of every battle if you spend a minute looking for them on the battlefield.

Read Also:  Homebrew Magic Items Ideas D&D 5e

Each crossbow bolt costs one GP, so you need a good amount of money to buy a lot of them. If you are a DM, you should also let your players find crossbow bolts in loot so they don’t have to worry about having enough ammunition.

Read my guide about light crossbows (the link is in the “Range” section) to learn more about this property.

Loading

Remember when I said that part of a ranged attack is taking the bullets out of a container?

Well, here’s some bad news: no matter how many attacks you have, you can only fire one bolt with the heavy crossbow as an action, bonus action, or reaction.

For instance, if your class gives you three actions, you can use one action to fire a bolt from your heavy crossbow.

You can’t do that move again, though, for the rest of your turns. The reason for this is that it takes time to load a heavy crossbow.

Two-Handed

You need both hands to use a heavy crossbow, so you can’t hold another weapon or item while attacking with it.

But this restriction only applies when you use it to attack; it doesn’t apply when you just hold it.

Do you still not understand?

This property is explained in more depth in my guide to light crossbows.

Which classes can use the heavy crossbow 5e in D&D?

The heavy crossbow can be used by anyone to attack from a distance. The question is, who is good at using it?

If you know how to use the heavy crossbow well, you can add your proficiency bonus to both your attack roll and your damage roll.

Even though it might not seem like much, this simple change can change the way a battle goes.

Here is a list of the classes that know how to use the heavy crossbow well.

  • Barbarian (Player’s Handbook, page 46)
  • Fighter (Player’s Handbook, page 70)
  • Paladin (Player’s Handbook, page 82)
  • Ranger (Player’s Handbook, page 89)

Heavy crossbows are ranged martial weapons, so it would make sense that classes well-versed in physical combat are proficient in using them.

Which classes can start with the heavy crossbow in D&D 5e?

Even though the classes in the last section can use a heavy crossbow well, not all of them can start with one. Based on what they start with, here are the classes that can have a heavy crossbow.

  • Paladin (a martial weapon and a shield; or two martial weapons)
  • Fighter (a martial weapon and a shield; or two martial weapons)

Paladins and Fighters can start with a martial weapon, and heavy crossbows are martial weapons that can be used at a distance, so they can choose this option.

Barbarians can only choose melee weapons, while Rangers can only start with a longbow.

Are heavy crossbows magical in D&D 5e?

In D&D 5e, the heavy crossbow is not usually magical. Weapon smiths can make them, merchants sell a lot of them, and the military has plenty of them. But it is possible to make a magical heavy crossbow, and I will list them below.

Note that the “A” column tells you if the item needs to be attuned or not.

Item NameRarityA.Source
+1 Heavy CrossbowUncommonNoDungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
+2 Heavy CrossbowRareNoDungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
+3 Heavy CrossbowVery rareNoDungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
Ascendant Dragon’s Wrath Heavy CrossbowLegendaryYesFizban’s Treasury of Dragons, page 25
Corpse Slayer Heavy CrossbowRareYesExplorer’s Guide to Wildemount, page 266
Dragon Wing Heavy CrossbowRareYesFizban’s Treasury of Dragons, page 23
Drow +1 Heavy CrossbowUnknownNoMonster Manual, page 126
Drow +2 Heavy CrossbowUnknownNoMonster Manual, page 126
Drow +3 Heavy CrossbowUnknownNoMonster Manual, page 126
Hellfire Heavy CrossbowUncommonNoBaldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, page 223
Heavy Crossbow of Certain DeathRareNoExplorer’s Guide to Wildemount, page 270
Heavy Crossbow of WarningUncommonYesDungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
Ruidium Heavy CrossbowVery RareYesCritical Role: Call of the Netherdeep, page 216
Slumbering Dragon’s Wrath Heavy CrossbowUncommonYesFizban’s Treasury of Dragons, page 25
Stirring Dragon’s Wrath Heavy CrossbowRareYesFizban’s Treasury of Dragons, page 25
Vicious +1 Heavy CrossbowUnknownNoAcquisitions Incorporated, page 149
Vicious Heavy CrossbowRareNoDungeon Master’s Guide, page 209
Wakened Dragon’s Wrath Heavy CrossbowVery rareYesFizban’s Treasury of Dragons, page 25

FAQs

How much does a heavy crossbow cost in D&D 5e?

 A heavy crossbow in D&D 5e costs 50gp.

How much damage does a heavy crossbow do in D&D 5e?

A heavy crossbow in D&D 5e deals 1d10 piercing damage per crossbow bolt.

Are Rogues proficient with heavy crossbows in D&D 5e?

No, Rogues are not proficient with heavy crossbows in D&D 5e. The only ranged weapons that Rogues are proficient in are the simple ranged weapons, like the short bow and the hand crossbows.

Can I use a heavy crossbow and a shield in D&D 5e?

No, you cannot use a heavy crossbow and a shield at the same time in D&D 5e. Heavy crossbows are two-handed weapons, so you cannot hold something else when attacking with them.