-5 to Hit, +10 to Damage

Most players and DMs know the following feats: Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter. Both feats have the ability, to take a -5 penalty on your attack roll to add +10 to the damage roll. Some DMs have a bit of trouble with these feats.

  • Since most ACs of monsters aren’t that high, even with -5 to hit it’s still seems pretty accurate
  • Classes who have reliable means of gaining advantage (like the barbarian) or ways to grant their allies advantage (like a lot of spellcasters with spells like Guiding Bolt, Faery Fire, etc.) or those ways to grant +hit (like the Bless spell or a Battle Master’s Precision Attack maneuver) trades the intended reliability to outright more damage potential
  • Both feats overall (and especially that trait) boosts the overall combat ability of two builds (ranged weapon and two-handed weapon), while other weapon builds seems to have only subpar feats (due the more specific use of Shield Master, the somewhat lacking feeling advantages of Dual Wielder and the seemingly lack of something, which enhances your one weapon, one hand free style [try Tavern Brawler; one of the best ways to be a defender, imo])

OK, I have to admit: These feats are really good. But after seeing both in action, I don’t think, that they’re broken. It only seems that way at first, since at the beginning of a campaign, those +10 damage will kill monsters outright, however, after getting around 5th level, the monsters won’t be taken down that easily and . And remember, bounded accuracy actually makes it so, that the to hit chance decrease by 25%, unless the enemy’s AC is outright horrible.

But the farther you go, the less it means in math. At least for some classes. Of course the statistic will change, with different means to give your damage. Let’s compare the paladin and fighter: While the fighter gets another attack at 11th level, the paladin does more damage with his attacks. So the fighter gets more reliability (which means he can take the -5 while having a buffer attack left), while the paladin begins to want more of his attacks actually hit (especially under Divine Favor or another damage buff). Even though the math is the same (-5 to hit, +10 to damage), the paladin player wants all his attacks to hit, while the fighter will think, that one attack missing won’t negate the +10 damage most of the time. A ranger (hunter) with Colossus Slayer will rather try to get his bonus damage done first and then switch to the more unreliable but powerful attacks afterwards, to make most of this subclass trait.

What really makes those both feats shine early on are the other effects. Like making an attack as a Bonus Action when scoring a critical (say hallo, Champion)/killing one or ambushing enemies by shooting from far, far away. Of course these don’t seem all that powerful, until you see it in action. With the +damage the GWM is able to kill a lot of early enemies and trigger the bonus attack, while the sharpshooter can make more shots by retreating.

So, how can I think, that these feats aren’t broken? Simply, because I learned how to soften them without ruling. A special way to ensure it is: More enemies. More enemies makes more damage less important than reliability, since you need to take some of them out, otherwise the bounded accuracy will kick your ass.

As long as you don’t place them that all of them will be spellslinger-fodder, your weapon users will get a hard time, since even with all the damage and all the extra attacks, there will be more rolls, which makes a combat more statistically stable. And the joke is, that even then the XP won’t be as much, since using more enemies makes a encounter more difficult, so you won’t need as much to make it challenging.

Another reason why I don’t go WTF is because most of the real ‘unbalanced’ stuff comes from resources (Superiority Dice), risk (Reckless Attack) or teamwork. And I think teamwork should be strong, playing a game together is one of the reasons why you play D&D in the first place. Even though you should disrupt it occasionally. in the Forgotten Realms are places, where spells won’t work like the caster might think (weaveless areas and spellplague) or the setting makes it impossible to pull off (like balancing on a 2 foot width bridge).

Conclusions

If you really think, that those two feats are bad, you should simply not allow them. If you think, that the -5/+10 aren’t balances, either allow a -5/+5 variant for all other characters or simply switch it with +1 STR for GWM and +1 DEX for Sharpshooter, so the other effects stays in place.

Or maybe you’re like me as a DM and customize some of your enemies to have those feats as well or increade their accuracy/damage otherwise, so the combats will be quicker without loosing their menace.

Build: The defending Ranger

Back in the blog! My PC had some issues (refusal to work, absenteeism, blue screen of doom) and because of work, I couldn’t find enough time to fix it myself, so I brought it to a friend and finally it works. Even though I really consider to get a new one. Without PC, I couldn’t make all the posts I’d like to do and today I just completed the one, which I was working on the moment, when my PC decided to be a jerk.

 

Since I didn’t got the time back then to make an actual overview after reading the ranger class once more, I decided to make a more unusual build today and named it ‘the defending ranger’.

What makes this build exactly work? Don’t have an idea, but I build from the base, that ranger aren’t especially supposed to be front-line characters, which are actually able hold a line, but more of skirmishing striker characters. But it’s unusual and maybe even fun.

The first question is, which of the few ranger features are the ones who can enhance the defending capabilities of this class.

  1. Armor Proficiency: Here we have primary the shield, but since the feat Medium Armor Master does increase the cap of usable dex-mod. to medium armor additionally with getting rid of the annoying disadvantage on stealth makes it a useful choice here
  2. Fighting Style: The only one who can enhance your defending qualities is the Defense-Style, which gives you more AC and make it harder to hit you.
  3. Spellcasting: The ranger don’t have actual defender spells, but he’s able to heal himself per Cure Wounds and brings some damage boosts with him, which might persuade the DMs who let monsters decide their target per ‘aggro’ to attack the ranger instead of its allies
  4. Extra Attack: Another aggro boost.
  5. Hunter-Subclass: The better subclass for this build is the Hunter, since even though you might be able to protect your animal companion, too, I take the approach in this case, that this ranger won’t have another front-row PC as back-up and it won’t be that good to spread attacks only between you and your companion.
    1. Horde Breaker: As a defending character, you better be able to take care of more enemies
    2. Multiattack Defense: This will definitely help you with staying alive, while at that level, a lot of monsters and humanoids you’re going to face in melee will have more than one attack. Best of all: Only triggers after a hit, so until the enemy hits, he won’t have an excuse to not attack you with the subsequent attacks
    3. Whirlwind Attack: We’re talking about a melee build here.
    4. Evasion: Since the Sentinel Feat is one of the best ways to ensure your defending capabilities, you shouldn’t take anything which robs you from your reaction

The ranger doesn’t have too many great defending capabilities in the first place, so you should be rather looking forward to use feats to fill that hole, instead of maxing out your abilities. Better to see first, which feats are essential and at least practical. Here my ranking:

  1. Sentinel: Without this feat you won’t have any bite in your defending stuff.
  2. War Caster: As long your DM won’t allow you to cast with weapon and shield by quickly put your weapon in your shield hand and take it after the spell again in one turn (by interacting with one object), then this feat will ensure, that you will be able to heal yourself without forfeiting your Sentinel attack of opportunity. And of course you want your concentration spells to not disappear.
  3. Resilient (Constitution): This should help to prevent you concentration spells going downhill.
  4. Medium Armor Master/Heavily Armored: To pick up a better AC will be useful to get less hits. Depending on your main attribute to hit, this might differ.
  5. Tough: If you think that your con-mod. won’t be able to max, this feat might proof even more useful than before.
  6. Shield Master: Your dex-saves are already pretty good, but the shoving might get useful and every bit of bonus will help greatly.
  7. Martial Adept: Some great maneuvers are out there to help you, but I personally wouldn’t bother here.

In my version, I just blindly forfeit all the ability score options and simply plan to make most use of the ability scores from the start. Since I didn’t want to use a human variant (because even a monkey would be able to build everything with this) and a wood elf ranger wouldn’t less likely to use such a ranger build, I took the stout halfling.

With Medium Armor Master as a goal, I have to end up with dexterity 16, wants to have an uneven score at constitution to get more bonus out of Resilient, some wisdom and as much even scores as possible. So I use the point array for: 12, 14, 14, 10, 14, 8. As a stout halfling I end up with 12, 16, 15, 10, 14, 8. The halfling is trained, but not bulky, is a more cunning but intelligent character and socially awkward.

The feats would be: 4th Sentinel, 8th Medium Armor Master (since spellcasting isn’t that impressing at that point), 12th War Caster, 16th Resilient (Constitution) and 19th Tough. The weapons of choice are one-handed melee weapons plus a shield, the ranger capabilities aren’t at the higher, but definitely not the lower end and the character is actually good enough in taking hits and protecting others to actually do its job, even though it lacks the capabilities of a defense specialized barbarian or paladin, it can most likely keep up with most fighters.

Afterwards pick background, skills, personality traits and such as your liking. Here my personal choices:

  • Background: Folk Hero
    • Artisan’s Tool Proficiency: Woodcarver’s tools
    • Defining Event: I stood alone against a terrible monster.
  • Personality traits: I avoid to speak long sentences, since I stutter. If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help.
  • Ideal: The peaceful compromise beats a violent solution.
  • Bond: I rather see myself hurt than the innocent.
  • Flaw: I may be too naive when it comes to other humanoids.
  • Ranger Skill Proficiency: Nature, Perception, Stealth

After buying equipment (since the ranger’s equipment choices don’t include shields) we’re ready to go. Here my level 1 version.

This evening (local time) I begin the ranger overview, so it should be ready tomorrow.