Light Crossbow 5e Guide

Light Crossbow 5e Guide: Everything You Need to Know

In a game of D&D, there are always situations wherein you need to be creative or think outside the box. If the game would always keep throwing you the same stuff that you have been dealing with already, it could become stale for everyone playing. For example, in combat, there are times when we have to stay away from our enemies. It will not always be about getting near them to get a hit.

What if you and your enemy are divided by a large chasm that you cannot cross? Or what if your target is surrounded by flames that could damage you severely? When you think outside the usual combat routine, the answer to this dilemma would be to use ranged attacks such as ranged weapons and spells. However, your party does not always have access to spells. What if all your casters in the party have run out of spell slots? What would you do?

There is a simple solution for that using a simple weapon, which is the light crossbow. It is a fairly good weapon to use because it is a simple weapon. See, those who are proficient with martial weapons are only a select few; they are those who have experienced being on the battlefield with their blades such as soldiers, warriors, and the like. Simple weapons, on the other hand, can be proficiently used by a wider demographic.

If you are a caster who is proficient in simple weapons and looking for a ranged weapon to defend yourself, this might be the weapon for you. Continue reading our Light Crossbow 5e Guide to find out everything you need to know about the Light Crossbow.

What is the 5e light crossbow?

The light crossbow in the 5th edition of D&D is a simple ranged weapon that deals 1d8 piercing damage, is worth 25 gp, and weighs 5 lbs. Its full description can be found in the Player’s Handbook on page 149. In appearance, the light crossbow is like a small bow (which is called the prod) being mounted horizontally on a wooden mainframe (which is called a tiller). It is usually made from wood but it can also be made from light steel.

Being a ranged weapon, its user can attack at a far distance within its given range of 80/320 ft. (if these numbers are confusing, do not worry because they will be explained in later sections). Since the light crossbow is a simple weapon, many classes are proficient in its usage; a character does not need to have martial experience and exposure to use this. Read on further to the next sections to see which classes are proficient with this.

How to use the 5e light crossbow

Attacking an opponent using the light crossbow counts as a ranged attack. When you make a ranged attack, the first thing you must determine is your target, and they must be within the light crossbow’s range. After that, you need to check if you have bolts or ammunition for your light crossbow. If you have at least one, your DM would then determine the necessary modifiers. For example, if your target is surprised by your attack, you would be given an advantage on your attack roll.

After your DM does this, it is time to roll your attack roll, which is usually a 1d20. The final attack roll would be the result of your 1d20 + your proficiency bonus + your Dexterity modifier. However, if you are not proficient with the light crossbow, then you do not add your proficiency bonus when computing for the attack roll.

For example, a level five rogue with a Dexterity modifier of +3 would like to hit an opponent with an armor class (or AC) of 15 using his light crossbow. Since rogues are proficient in using simple weapons, and level five rogues have a proficiency bonus of +3, then they would need at least a 9 on their 1d20 attack roll. The final attack roll is a 1d20 + their proficiency bonus (+3) + their Dexterity modifier (+3). If the 1d20 would be a 9 or higher, then it would result in a number that reaches the target’s AC, which is 15.

5e light crossbow properties

The light crossbow has the following properties:

  • 80/320 ft. range
  • Ammunition
  • Loading
  • Two-handed

Range (80/320 ft.)

If one would look at ranged weapons in the Player’s Handbook, they would find two numbers as its range. The first number is the weapon’s normal range while the second number is the weapon’s long range. For the case of the light crossbow, its normal range is 80 ft. while its long range is 320 ft. The normal range of a ranged weapon is the distance from the attacker in which attacking is done normally. So, you can attack any creature within 80 ft. of you.

When we consider the standard measurement for each tile in the battle map which is 5 ft., then that would mean you can attack any creature with the long crossbow that is 16 squares away from you. That is a fairly long distance!

Attacking a creature beyond the normal range (80 ft.) would mean that you gain a disadvantage on your attack roll. So, when you roll for your attack roll which is a 1d20, you need to roll 2d20 instead. Then, you choose the lower roll between the two. For example, if a rogue tries to hit an opponent that is 120 ft. away from them, they gain a disadvantage on the attack roll. If they roll a 19 and a 3, the rogue picks the 3. Talk about bad luck.

You cannot attack a creature beyond the weapon’s long range. For light crossbows, their long range is 320 ft. which would be 64 squares in standard battle map tile measurement. On a final note, you also gain a disadvantage when a hostile creature is near you, they are not incapacitated, and they can see you. So if you make a ranged attack on an enemy in the distance but there is an enemy nearby, then you gain a disadvantage on that attack.


You can only do a ranged attack with the light crossbow when you have at least one ammunition for it. Without them, your attack would be impossible to perform. For light crossbows, their ammunition is called bolts. In appearance, the bolt is a dart-like projectile that is usually much shorter yet heavier than the arrows used by bows. They also have fletching much like arrows that are made from feathers.

When you attack using the light crossbow, you expend a bolt from your inventory. Picking up the bolt from its designated case such as a quiver will count as part of the action of your attack. So, you must have a stock of these before diving into the wilderness. They are not rare at all; you can find them in weapon shops, armories, and fletchers. 20 crossbow bolts are sold at roughly 1 gp only.

When you shoot out bolts as you use your light crossbow on the battlefield, you can retrieve half of those bolts after the battle. To do this, you need to spend a minute on the battlefield searching for your spent ammunition. You can only do this after the battle has finished, or else you will risk getting damaged by your enemies while searching. So if you have spent 20 bolts in a single fight, you can retrieve 10 of those after the battle by searching for them for a minute.

In the scenario where your enemies have gotten near you, you can use your light crossbow as an improvised weapon to perform a melee attack. Once that happens, the attack deals 1d4 damage, as stated in the Player’s Handbook on page 148. Furthermore, you cannot add your proficiency bonus to your attack rolls for attacks made from improvised weapons.


Because of their structure and the way it is used, light crossbows take time to load up a new bolt every time one is used. As consequence, those who use a light crossbow to attack can only fire one piece of bolt every time they use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it. So features or abilities that grant you to make extra attacks are worthless when using this weapon. No matter how many extra attacks you can do, you can only attack once using the light crossbow.


The light crossbow is a weapon that needs to be wielded with both hands to make an effective attack. It is impossible to attack a foe using only one hand to wield the light crossbow. This renders other valuable items that need to be carried to gain effect useless, such as the shield which grants +2 AC to those using it on one hand. You can hold the light crossbow on one hand, but you cannot use it that way to do a ranged attack.

If you have something on your other hand yet want to use your light crossbow, you would need to dispose of the object somehow. There are many ways to do this. One would be to simply put the object inside your inventory such as a backpack or a Bag of Holding. If what you are holding is a weapon, you can sheathe it in its case. However, this costs an action to perform when in combat. Another way would be to just drop it because that would not cost you an action. Remember to pick it up after the battle, though.

Which classes can use a light crossbow?

Everyone can use a light crossbow, but not everyone is proficient in using one. Yet almost everyone has proficiency except for one class: the Druid class. Listed below are the classes that can handle the light crossbow efficiently and proficiently.

  • Artificer (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 9)
  • Barbarian (Player’s Handbook, page 46)
  • Bard (Player’s Handbook, page 51)
  • Cleric (Player’s Handbook, page 56)
  • Fighter (Player’s Handbook, page 70)
  • Monk (Player’s Handbook, page 76)
  • Paladin (Player’s Handbook, page 82)
  • Ranger (Player’s Handbook, page 89)
  • Rogue (Player’s Handbook, page 94)
  • Sorcerer (Player’s Handbook, page 99)
  • Warlock (Player’s Handbook, page 105)
  • Wizard (Player’s Handbook, page 112)

As mentioned before, all classes except the Druid class are proficient with the light crossbow. Almost every one of them has that proficiency because they are proficient in using simple weapons, and light crossbows are categorized as such. The Sorcerer and Wizard classes, however, are proficient with the weapon because it is explicitly stated as so.

Which classes start with a light crossbow?

Out of the many classes that are proficient with a light crossbow, all of them except for five classes can start with one as part of their starting equipment. They are listed down below.

  • Artificer (any two simple weapons of your choice + a light crossbow and 20 bolts)
  • Barbarian (two handaxes; or any simple weapon)
  • Bard (a rapier; a longsword; or any simple weapon)
  • Cleric (a light crossbow and 20 bolts; or any simple weapon)
  • Monk (a shortsword; or any simple weapon)
  • Sorcerer (a light crossbow and 20 bolts; or any simple weapon)
  • Warlock (a light crossbow and 20 bolts; or any simple weapon + any simple weapon)

The five classes not included in this list are the Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, and Wizard classes. Fighters cannot start with a simple weapon; they start with a martial weapon which is logical because they are experienced in battle. Paladins can only have any simple melee weapon but not a ranged one.

Rangers are the same as paladins, however, this is more because they already have a longbow as part of their starting equipment. Rogues can have a shortbow instead of a light crossbow, so they have another ranged weapon alternative available. Wizards only have between a quarterstaff and a dagger to choose from as weapons.

Are light crossbows magical?

Usually, no. Light crossbows are mundane weapons that can be crafted by skilled weaponsmiths. They are common tools in a battle that can be purchased easily especially since it is a simple weapon. Still, there are magical light crossbows that can be added to your campaign and these items are listed down below. The “A” column in the table means “needs attunement”, and if it is a yes, then the item would need attunement. If no, then otherwise.

Item Name Rarity A. Source
+1 Light Crossbow Uncommon No Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
+2 Light Crossbow Rare No Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
+3 Light Crossbow Very rare No Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
Corpse Slayer Light Crossbow Rare Yes Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, page 266
Drow +1 Light Crossbow Unknown No Monster Manual, page 126
Hellfire Light Crossbow Uncommon No Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, page 223
Light Crossbow of Certain Death Rare No Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, page 270
Light Crossbow of Warning Uncommon Yes Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213
Vicious +1 Light Crossbow Unknown No Acquisitions Incorporated, page 149
Vicious Light Crossbow Rare No Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 209


Question: How much damage does a 5e light crossbow deal?

Answer: It deals 1d8 piercing damage.

Question: What is the range of a 5e light crossbow?

Answer: It has a normal range of 80 ft. and a long range of 320 ft. So, you can make a ranged attack on a target 80 ft. from you normally. Attacking further than 80 ft. from you will make you gain a disadvantage on your attack roll. You cannot make a ranged attack further than 320 ft.

Question: How much does a light crossbow cost?

Answer: It costs 25 gp and weighs about 5 lbs. A pack of 20 bolts would cost you 1 gp.

Question: Can you use a light crossbow and a shield at the same time?

Answer: No, you cannot. Light crossbows are two-handed weapons, so you need to use both hands to wield the weapon and attack. It would be impossible to attack with a light crossbow using only one hand. A shield requires you to have a free hand.

Question: Which is added for light crossbow attack rolls, strength or dexterity?

Answer: Since the light crossbow is a ranged weapon, you add in your Dexterity modifier instead to your attack rolls using the weapon as well as the damage.

Question: What is the difference between a light crossbow vs. heavy crossbow?

Answer: Both are ranged weapons, but heavy crossbows deal 1d10 piercing damage while light crossbows deal 1d8 piercing damage. Furthermore, heavy crossbows are martial weapons while light crossbows are simple weapons. Thus, fewer classes have proficiency in heavy crossbows compared to light crossbows.

Question: What is the difference between a light crossbow vs. hand crossbow?

Answer: Hand crossbows are similar to heavy crossbows in the sense that they are both martial weapons. However, hand crossbows only deal 1d6 piercing damage. On the bright side, they are light weapons, which means that one could wield a hand crossbow on each hand and perform two-weapon fighting.

Question: What is the difference between a light crossbow vs. shortbow?

Answer: Shortbows are very different in terms of appearance and how they function when compared to light crossbows. Shortbows use arrows instead of the light crossbow’s bolts. Furthermore, they only deal 1d6 piercing damage. However, both are simple ranged weapons.

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