Clashing swords against swords is a part of the thrill of the fight. If your DM knows how to flavor their descriptions, exchanging heavy blows against your enemies is satisfying to imagine. Most of the time, when you ask someone to imagine what the words “combat” and “battle” are, they would describe it as two people fighting each other with blades on their hands.
However, combat is not all about melee attacks. After all, you need to be creative and witty while at the same time cautious when it comes to attacking. Sometimes, the best course of action on the battlefield is to keep your distance and keep the pressure on your opponents by dealing damage at a range. To do this, you need to use a ranged weapon.
Enter, the longbow. It is an amazing weapon when it comes to doing ranged combat. You would need to be proficient in handling the longbow to use it effectively, but it can deal with big numbers of piercing damage. If you are looking for a weapon to use if you want to stay away from being hit by your enemies, consider the Longbow.
There are certain requirements that you should know if you want to use this weapon. It is important to know its properties such as its damage. So, if you are having doubts about picking this up and leaving a space for it in your inventory, keep on reading our Longbow 5e Guide to conclude whether or not you should use it.
What is the 5e Longbow?
The longbow is a martial-ranged weapon that deals 1d8 piercing damage, costs 50 gp, and weighs about 2 lbs. In appearance, it is a bow roughly 6 ft. in height allowing the user to draw its arrow fairly long. It is only slightly curved and its limbs are narrow. The longbow as well as its arrows are typically made from wood. The arrows are usually adorned with natural feathers while its tip is made of brass or iron.
Since it is a ranged weapon, you can attack anyone within the weapon’s given range (which will be discussed later on in the “Range” section). It is a martial weapon because only those with experience in combat such as soldiers, skilled fighters, and the like are well-versed with its usage. Thus, only a select few can handle the weapon effectively.
How to Use the 5e Longbow
When you attack using the longbow, you do the same procedure as attacking with a melee weapon. First, you determine your target within the longbow’s range.
Next, the DM would determine the necessary modifiers to apply to your attacks, such as whether or not you have an advantage or a disadvantage. Finally, you roll for your attack roll. When using the longbow, the attack roll would be a 1d20 + your Strength modifier + your proficiency bonus (if you are proficient with the longbow).
If you attack with the longbow but you do not have proficiency in using it, you would not add your proficiency bonus in the attack roll. Although it may seem not much at the first level since the proficiency bonus is merely a +2, it would matter a lot on higher levels as the proficiency bonus increases.
For example, a level one fighter with a Strength modifier of +2 wants to attack a creature with an Armor Class (or AC) of 15 using the longbow. Fighters are proficient in martial weapons, so they are proficient with the longbow since the longbow is a martial ranged weapon.
By level one, their proficiency bonus would be a +2. Thus, the player rolls a 1d20 for their attack roll and gets a 12. Their attack roll would then be 16, since 12 (1d20) + 2 (Strength modifier) + 2 (proficiency bonus). 16 reaches the target’s AC, so it hits.
5e Longbow Properties
It has the following properties:
- 150/600 ft. range
Range (150/600 ft.)
As you can see, there are two numbers when talking about the range of a longbow. The first number within the parenthesis is the longbow’s normal range (150 ft.) while the second number is the longbow’s long-range (600 ft.). The normal range means that you can attack any creature within 150 ft. from you. Considering that each square tile in battle maps is usually measured as 5 ft., this means that you can attack anyone normally within 30 squares from you. That’s a lot!
You can still attack a creature farther than 150 ft. (or 30 squares) from you. However, you will have a disadvantage on your attack roll. What this means is that you need to roll 2d20 instead of a 1d20, and you choose the lower number between the two dice. The chosen die would then be the attack roll, plus your Strength modifier and proficiency bonus (if you are proficient with the weapon).
Another way to have a disadvantage when doing a ranged attack would be if a hostile creature who is not incapacitated and can see you is within 5 ft. of you. So, if you prefer to fight using ranged attacks, it is best to steer clear from foes getting near to you, or else your attacks would have a disadvantage.
As an example for normal ranges, your target is 80 ft. away from you. Since its distance does not go further than the longbow’s normal range (150 ft.), then you make an attack roll normally. However, if your target is 200 ft. away from you, then you will have a disadvantage on your attack roll. So, when you roll for it, you roll 2d20. Let’s say that you have rolled a 17 and an 8. If that is the case, your attack roll would be the 8, since it is the lesser of the two rolls.
As for the longbow’s long range, it simply means that you cannot attack a creature farther than 600 ft. By standard battle maps, that would be 120 squares. It would be overkill for the player to be able to attack farther than that!
When using the longbow, you can only perform a ranged attack when you have the ammunition for it (i.e. longbow arrows). If you do not have at least one in your inventory, you cannot do the ranged attack using the said weapon. Furthermore, when you attack, you expend one piece of your ammunition. Thus, it is very important to be prepared and have a stock of these when planning to use the longbow. Always remember to stop by the local fletcher in the town or city if you are starting to run out of arrows.
Picking an arrow from its container when making a ranged attack is part of the attack. Then, when the battle is finished, you can spend a minute searching the battlefield to recover half of the arrows you used during the fight. So, when you used 20 arrows during the fight, you can recover 10 of those when searching for a minute around the area.
When worse comes to worst and your enemy gets close to you, you can use your longbow to do a melee attack. When done, it is counted as an improvised weapon. On page 148 of the Player’s Handbook, it states that ranged weapons used as improvised weapons would deal 1d4 damage. You also cannot add your proficiency bonus for attack rolls when attacking using this method.
Weapons classified as heavy weapons are too bulky and large for Small and Tiny creatures to use efficiently. Thus, when such a creature tries to make an attack using the longbow, they gain a disadvantage on their attack rolls. This means that you roll 2d20 instead of a 1d20 for your attack roll, and you must choose the lower roll between the two. Listed below are races classified as Small and Tiny creatures.
|Custom Lineage||Small/Medium||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 8|
|Kobold||Small||Volo’s Guide to Monsters, page 119|
|Halfling (including subraces)||Small||Player’s Handbook, page 26|
|Goblin||Small||Volo’s Guide to Monsters, page 119 (for Forgotten Realms campaign setting)
Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, page 16 (for Ravnica campaign setting)
Eberron: Rising from the Last War, page 26 (for Eberron campaign setting)
|Gnome (including subraces)||Small||Player’s Handbook, page 35|
Some weapons need to be handled using both hands to effectively make an attack, and the longbow is one of those weapons. To properly use the longbow and make ranged attacks, you would need to wield it using two hands. Because of this, you cannot use a shield while attacking with a two-handed weapon. However, you do not need two hands to hold the longbow; you can use one.
If you are only holding the longbow with one hand, you cannot use it to make a ranged attack. If you want to make a ranged attack with the longbow on one hand but you have something on your other hand, you would need to get rid of the object somehow.
You can put the object inside your backpack, or if the object is a weapon, you can sheathe it in its case. However, this would cost you your action if you are in combat. Another alternative would be to drop it entirely as it would not warrant an action.
Which Classes can Use a longbow?
Anyone can use a longbow, but not everyone is proficient in using it. Below is a list of classes that can use a longbow effectively and proficiently. All of these classes are proficient with the longbow because they are proficient with martial weapons. So far, no class is proficient with the longbow alone.
- Barbarian (Player’s Handbook, page 46)
- Fighter (Player’s Handbook, page 70)
- Paladin (Player’s Handbook, page 82)
- Ranger (Player’s Handbook, page 89)
As expected, only classes deemed as skilled fighters would be proficient in using the longbow. Spellcasters such as bards, sorcerers, wizards, and warlocks are not heavily into martial combat, so it would make sense that they are not proficient with it. However, the Fighter class can have the spellcasting ability through its Eldritch Knight subclass, while the Paladin and Ranger classes gain their spellcasting ability when they reach level two.
Which Classes Start with a Longbow?
Out of the four classes that have proficiency in using the longbow, only two of them can start with a longbow. They are listed down below.
- Fighter (chain mail; or leather armor, longbow, and 20 arrows + a martial weapon and a shield; or two martial weapons)
- Ranger (A longbow and a quiver of 20 arrows)
For the Fighter class, they can start with a longbow in three ways. First, they can choose to have leather armor, a longbow, and 20 arrows over a chain mail. Second, they can choose to have a longbow as the martial weapon of choice and a shield (which is not recommended as shields are useless if you plan on using a longbow). The other option is to choose at least one longbow as a martial weapon of choice when picking the “two martial weapons” option instead.
As for the Ranger class, it is built for the usage of longbows. They start with the longbow without the need to choose, along with a quiver of 20 arrows. This weapon goes well if the ranger chooses Archery as their Fighting Style of choice. The Archery Fighting Style states that you gain a +2 bonus on your attack roll when performing attacks using ranged weapons.
Are Longbows Magical?
No, not normally. Longbows are martial weapons, but they are still mundane objects. Only a select few are indeed able to handle the weapon with proficiency, but that does not make it magical. You can find a longbow easily especially in a city. However, there are magical longbows available, which you will find in the table 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.
|+1 Longbow||Uncommon||No||Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213|
|+2 Longbow||Rare||No||Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213|
|+3 Longbow||Very rare||No||Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213|
|Corpse Slayer Longbow||Rare||Yes||Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, page 266|
|Drow +1 Longbow||Unknown||No||Monster Manual, page 126|
|Hellfire Longbow||Uncommon||No||Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, page 223|
|Longbow of Certain Death||Rare||No||Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, page 270|
|Longbow of Warning||Uncommon||Yes||Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 213|
|Vicious +1 Longbow||Unknown||No||Acquisitions Incorporated, page 149|
|Vicious Longbow||Rare||No||Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 209|
Longbow 5e Guide: FAQs
Question: How much damage does a 5e longbow deal?
Answer: It deals 1d8 piercing damage.
Question: What is the range of a 5e longbow?
Answer: It has a normal range of 150 ft. and a long range of 600 ft. Making a ranged attack on a target 150 ft. from you is fine, but making it further than 150 ft. from you puts you at a disadvantage. Thus, when you roll for your attack roll, you roll 2d20 and choose the lower number between the two. You cannot make a ranged attack further than 600 ft.
Question: How much does a longbow cost?
Answer: It costs 50 gp and weighs about 2 lbs. A pack of 20 arrows would cost you 1 gp.
Question: Can you use a longbow and a shield at the same time?
Answer: No, you cannot since the longbow is a two-handed weapon, meaning you need to use both hands to properly make an attack. A shield requires you to have a free hand, which using a longbow cannot offer.
Question: What can make longbow ranged attacks have a disadvantage?
Answer: You will have a disadvantage on your attack rolls if you attack further than the longbow’s normal range of 150 ft. Furthermore, you also gain a disadvantage when you make a ranged attack while a hostile creature who isn’t incapacitated and can see you is within 5 ft. from you.
Question: Which is added for longbow attack rolls, strength or dexterity?
Answer: Since the longbow is not a finesse weapon, you need to add your Strength modifier to your attack roll, even if it is a negative number.
Question: Which is better, longbow or heavy crossbow?
Answer: Longbows deal 1d8 piercing damage, while heavy crossbows deal 1d10 piercing damage. While the heavy crossbow deals more damage, they suffer from a shorter range (100/400 ft.) as well as the “Loading” property, which states that you can only use one ammunition when you use an action to fire it regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make. Thus, it depends on whether you want more damage but shorter range, or less damage but farther range + being able to make multiple attacks.