Here’s something extra to celebrate this holiday season!...
Sometimes you want to customize your character, and the character’s class doesn’t have what you’re looking for. In that situation, feats are a great option.
This month’s Sage Advice is concerned with some feats that have sparked questions. Remember that feats are available to your character at the discretion of your Dungeon Master. As you read the answers to the questions below, keep chapter 6, “Customization Options,” of the Player’s Handbook handy. In a few spots, you’ll see a reference in parentheses to a page in that book.
If you have questions for a future installment of Sage Advice, please send them to email@example.com.
Is it intentional that the second benefit of Crossbow Expert helps ranged spell attacks? Yes, it’s intentional. When you make a ranged attack roll within 5 feet of an enemy, you normally suffer disadvantage (PH, 195). The second benefit of Crossbow Expert prevents you from suffering that disadvantage, whether or not the ranged attack is with a crossbow.
When designing a feat with a narrow use, we consider adding at least one element that can benefit a character more broadly—a bit of mastery that your character brings from one situation to another. The second benefit of Crossbow Expert is such an element, as is the first benefit of Great Weapon Master. That element in Crossbow Expert shows that some of the character’s expertise with one type of thing—crossbows, in this case—transfers to other things.
Do the first and third benefits of Crossbow Expert turn a hand crossbow into a semiautomatic weapon? The short answer is no.
The first benefit of the feat lets you ignore the loading property (PH, 147) of the hand crossbow if you’re proficient with that weapon. The upshot is that you can fire it more than once if you have a feature like Extra Attack. You’re still limited, however, by the fact that the weapon has the ammunition property (PH, 146). The latter property requires you to have a bolt to fire from the hand crossbow, and the hand crossbow isn’t going to load itself (unless it’s magical or a gnomish invention). You need to load each bolt into the weapon, and doing so requires a hand.
To dig deeper into this point, take a look at the following sentence in the definition of the ammunition property: “Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack.” The sentence tells us two important things. First, you’re assumed to be drawing—that is, extracting with your hand—the ammunition from a container. Second, the act of drawing the ammunition is included in the attack and therefore doesn’t require its own action and doesn’t use up your free interaction with an object on your turn.
What does that all mean for a hand crossbow? It means Crossbow Expert makes it possible to fire a hand crossbow more than once with a feature like Extra Attack, provided that you have enough ammunition and you have a hand free to load it for each shot.
Does Crossbow Expert let you fire a hand crossbow and then fire it again as a bonus action? It does! Take a look at the feat’s third benefit. It says you can attack with a hand crossbow as a bonus action when you use the Attack action to attack with a one-handed weapon. A hand crossbow is a one-handed weapon, so it can, indeed, be used for both attacks, assuming you have a hand free to load the hand crossbow between the two attacks.
How does the Lucky feat interact with advantage and disadvantage? The Lucky feat lets you spend a luck point; roll an extra d20 for an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw; and then choose which d20 to use. This is true no matter how many d20s are in the mix. For example, if you have disadvantage on your attack roll, you could spend a luck point, roll a third d20, and then decide which of the three dice to use. You still have disadvantage, since the feat doesn’t say it gets rid of it, but you do get to pick the die.
The Lucky feat is a great example of an exception to a general rule. The general rule I have in mind is the one that tells us how advantage and disadvantage work (PH, 173). The specific rule is the Lucky feat, and we know that a specific rule trumps a general rule if they conflict with each other (PH, 7).
If you’re a spellcaster, can you pick your own class when you gain the Magic Initiate feat? Yes, the feat doesn’t say you can’t. For example, if you’re a wizard and gain the Magic Initiate feat, you can choose wizard and thereby learn two more wizard cantrips and another 1st-level wizard spell.
If you have spell slots, can you use them to cast the 1st-level spell you learn with the Magic Initiate feat? Yes, but only if the class you pick for the feat is one of your classes. For example, if you pick sorcerer and you are a sorcerer, the Spellcasting feature for that class tells you that you can use your spell slots to cast the sorcerer spells you know, so you can use your spell slots to cast the 1st-level sorcerer spell you learn from Magic Initiate. Similarly, if you are a wizard and pick that class for the feat, you learn a 1st-level wizard spell, which you could add to your spellbook and subsequently prepare.
In short, you must follow your character’s normal spellcasting rules, which determine whether you can expend spell slots on the 1st-level spell you learn from Magic Initiate.
The first sentence of the Polearm Master feat mentions reach weapons, and goes on to benefit the quarterstaff. Does this make the quarterstaff a reach weapon if its user has this feat? No, the feat would tell you if the quarterstaff gained the reach property.
Can I add my Strength modifier to the damage of the bonus attack that Polearm Master gives me? Yep! If you have the feat and use the Attack action to attack with a glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff, you can also strike with the weapon’s opposite end as a bonus action. For that bonus attack, you add your ability modifier to the attack roll, as you do whenever you attack with that weapon, and if you hit, you add the same ability modifier to the damage roll, which is normal for weapon damage rolls (PH, 196).
A specific rule, such as the rule for two-weapon fighting (PH, 195), might break the general rule by telling you not to add your ability modifier to the damage. Polearm Master doesn’t do that.
About the Author
Jeremy Crawford is the co-lead designer of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, as well as the game’s managing editor. He was the lead designer of the new Player’s Handbook and one of the leads on the Dungeon Master’s Guide. He has worked on many other D&D books since coming to Wizards of the Coast in 2007. You can reach him on Twitter (@JeremyECrawford).