Hello, everyone! When playing a character who uses a ranged weapon, you’ll often find inconsistent rulings on whether a storyteller will track your ammunition, require you to do so, or simply shrug it off altogether. No matter how you look at it, it’s a pain to tick off a tally of arrows, throwing knives, etc. which are largely inconsequential until.. well.. they’re not. As a result, I’ve come up with a compromise which I think works fairly well, a new Ammunition skill.
The Ammunition Skill
As a broad overview, the Ammunition skill is a wisdom-based skill. A character who has proficiency with a weapon which requires ammunition may choose Ammunition as a skill proficiency.
The goal of the ammunition skill is to make it possible to run out of ammo, without the nuisance of bookkeeping. Counting your load of arrows, bolts, daggers, and darts is an extra quantity to track in your inventory which will go up or down based on far too many factors – will you be able to salvage arrows that you used? How many bolts can you carry before encumbrance becomes an issue(do you seriously use encumbrance?)? Can you craft extra ammunition during your downtime, such as a short rest? This skill keeps the bookkeeping to a minimum while still making an ammunition shortage a very real possibility for the careless.
Under normal circumstances, you can safely assume that you have plenty of ammunition – if a weapon requires that you have it, you probably do. (A storyteller might make exceptions to this rule for rarer types of ammunition, but we’ll talk about that later.) When you make a ranged weapon attack, you take whatever action, interaction, or bonus action is normally necessary to prepare your weapon, and make the attack roll as normal.
When you are fully stocked, you have no concern about ammunition – you have plenty to keep up a regular, controlled volley of arrows or what-have-you, and while keeping pace, you’ll have plenty for any given combat situation. If you use more than one piece of ammunition in a round(that is, if you make two or more ranged attacks before the start of your next turn), you are “spending ammo.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are running out, but that you are risking running low.
At the end of any combat situation in which you have risked running low, you must make a DC 10 Wisdom(Ammunition) check. On a success, you remain fully stocked. On a failure, you are running low on ammunition. If you use more than one type of ammunition, your storyteller must decide if that means that all types of ammunition are running low, or on an individual basis. (If you’re using multiple types of ranged ammunition, my inclination would be to say to track the status of each ammunition type separately)
Archery Fighting Style In order to not punish rapid-firing rangers and ranged fighters as severely, consider increasing the number of shots before spending ammo to 2 if a character invests in this fighting style.
The DC of your Wisdom(Ammunition) check may change to reflect various circumstances, depending on your storyteller’s best judgment. If your arrows stuck into a retreating goblin’s wooden shield, for example, you will have a tougher time recovering the ammunition you used. Additionally, by design, as your proficiency bonus increases, so too will your chances to recover ammunition(you’re becoming more competent with your weapon, so why wouldn’t you also be more competent about recovering its ammunition?)
When you are running low, you might be starting to think about conserving your ammunition – if you pepper an enemy with throwing stars, you’ll certainly run out of ammunition at this point. If you use more than one piece of ammunition in a round, you are spending ammo.
At the end of any combat situation in which you have spent ammunition after running low, you are now out of ammo.
If it’s appropriate, you can recover from running low on ammunition to fully stocked at the end of a short rest.
Out of Ammo
You no longer have the ammunition you need. You cannot make attacks requiring any ammunition. Now would be a good time to switch to melee or to find a peaceful solution to your problems.
You can recover from out of ammo to fully stocked at the end of a long rest. This is an abstraction for gathering enough mundane supplies to replenish your ammunition reserves, either by crafting new ones or picking some up in a town.
In practice, these rules produce an interesting nuance that a player might initially overlook – there is no penalty for spending ammo more than once in a combat encounter! If you want to Rambo your way through a fight with some mooks, or to take as many shots at a dragon as you possibly can, you should feel empowered to do so – you won’t run out of ammunition midway through a fight. This is by design; 5E relies on a system of attrition over the course of an adventuring day. As you adventure, your resources will dwindle, and the intended effect is to tempt a player to rest.
Of course, if you play it safe, you’ll never run out of ammunition, but since so many class features include multiple attacks, you’ll have to weigh whether it’s worth risking your ammunition in a given fight, considering that it’ll only impact later combat encounters in the day.
One issue that this system has over the more intuitive direct-tally method of tracking ammunition is that rarer ammunition would become much more readily available. At your discretion as a storyteller, don’t be afraid to divorce these ammunitions from the skill. If it makes more sense to track special ammunition separately, then, by all means, do so. Otherwise, you can increase the Ammunition DC to recover these special ammunition types.
Hopefully, with these rules in place, you can reduce the bookkeeping for both players and storytellers at the table, instead focusing on the game itself instead of a spreadsheet of equipment.