I am working on statistics for the royal guards of a home capital, using the Captain Guard as a template. I gave them a hand crossbow and the feat of Crossbow Expert, thinking that it would allow them to hold a shield in one hand and a crossbow in the other.
Crossbow expert mentions in PHB p. 165:
• You ignore the load quality of the crossbows. with which you are competent.
• Being less than 5 feet from a hostile creature does not impose disadvantages on your ranged attacks.
• When you use the Attack and attack action with a one-handed weapon, you can use an additional action to attack with a hand crossbow that you have.
At first I thought that would be enough to use a shield while attacking with a hand crossbow, but the Loading the property actually says:
Due to the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition when you use an action, bonus action or reaction to shoot it, regardless of how many attacks you can normally do.
So "load" refers to the loading speed, and the feat makes you faster. Is the Ammunition property that, by RAW (PHB page 146), does not allow to hold a shield while attacking and reloading a hand crossbow:
[…] Removing ammunition from a quiver, box or other container is part of the attack (You need a free hand to load a weapon with one hand.). […]
How to unbalance the game to eliminate the limitation "requires a free hand to charge" for hand crossbows? Thematically, it makes sense, because in my environment this city is rich enough to have a technology as sophisticated as the "semi-automatic" hand crossbows (however, that would work). Given that my world configuration allows it, it would be fair if it were also an option for PCs, if they acquire that type of weapon and / or training. I am more interested in the combination of shield and crossbow hand, but if I forget other possible feats that could unbalance the game, inform me.
I'm fine with allowing it for NPCs (for my guards) because I can calculate the new CR, based on an increase in DPR and AC. As DM I have enough control to maintain that Balanced on the table. By allowing it for PC. although fine, I'm not sure what unbalanced farms I might be overlooking. A good response includes an analysis of the mechanical costs and benefits for PCs when the limitation "requires a free hand to load" is removed.
To eliminate this limitation, I am thinking of three possible ways:
- Adjust the ownership of hand-held crossbows munitions specifically.
- Adding a feature to the Crossbow Expert feat.
- Solve it through magic by making the extravagant crossbows of the royal guard unusual magical weapons that can be recharged without having a free hand.
A surprising answer includes an analysis of the balance of the game in these possible solutions as well.