-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.

Buying and Selling Magical Items

Anyone who plays D&D in campaigns comes to the realization, that the characters will have more gear at some point than they need. Be it due the numbers of attuneable items (I love the attunement system for the limit, normally) or because they found simply better gear and the old one is not needed anymore. Or, of course, because you, the DM, gave all these enemies some cheap magical items, for whatever reasons.

Or maybe your players wants to buy some simpler magic gear, like a Battle Axe +1 without going through all the trouble of a great adventure.

The main question remains: How do you determine the price. Of course the DMG have a table, which shows the value of a magic item, but it’s always in a range.

  • Common: 50-100 gp
  • Uncommon: 101-500 gp
  • Rare: 501-5.000 gp
  • Very Rare: 5.001 – 50,000 gp
  • Legendary: 50,001+ gp

For my campaigns, I use simple pointers.

  • Potions are always the least possible price
  • Scrolls are twice as valuable as Potions, this is also the standard price for one-time consumables
  • for every further charge of non-rechargeable consumables add a potion
  • Weapons and Armor uses a special table, depending on their type (see below)
  • non-combat gear is 30% of the highest possible price, if you have to attune it and 60% if you don’t have to
  • 60% for attuneable combat gear and 90% for gear you don’t need to

This won’t be helpful for all items, but at least it covers a lot. For weapon and armors, I simply take the highest possible price for the rarity and takes a portion of it, depending on the type of item. Since I personally think, that a dagger is much easier to enchant than a greatsword (since it’s simply lesser you need to work on) and the power of a weapon or armor often synergies with its price.

Armor (Rare; x10 for very rare and x100 for legendary)

Here you have consider the fact, that there are some things to consider. First, the most powerful armor in each category have to be more expensive than a lesser armor of a category before, since they are less useful. And heavy armors in general are bad except the Plate Armor or if you have a sub-par Strength score. You always have disadvantage and only your STR determines the final outcome and most characters which uses heavy armor, should have STR 15 to see it through.

  • Padded 501 gp
  • Leather 550 gp
  • Studded leather 1100 gp
  • Hide 550
  • Chain shirt 1100
  • Scale mail 1100
  • Breastplate 3500
  • Half plate 4000
  • Ring mail 550
  • Chain mail 1500
  • Splint 3000
  • Plate 5000
  • Shield (Common 110gp, Uncommon 550 and then use the x10 formula)

Weapons (Uncommon, rare x5, very rare x50, legendary x500)

Since most weapons aren’t as pricey as armor and there are actually reasons to have a certain weapon within your proficiencies, these should be normally less valuable. But don’t hesitate to push up the value of certain weapons, like Flametongue, which seems to be too great of a weapon for the ‘over the thumb ruling’ I provide.

  • Club 101 gp
  • Dagger 110 gp
  • Greatclub 110 gp
  • Handaxe 120 gp
  • Javelin 120 gp
  • Light hammer 110 gp
  • Mace 120 gp
  • Quarterstaff 110 gp
  • Sickle 101 gp
  • Spear 101  gp
  • Crossbow, light 250 gp
  • Dart 120 gp
  • Shortbow 250 gp
  • Sling 101  gp
  • Battleaxe 150 gp
  • Flail 150 gp
  • Glaive 200 gp
  • Greataxe 300 gp
  • Greatsword 450 gp
  • Halberd 200 gp
  • Lance 150 gp
  • Longsword 175 gp
  • Maul 150 gp
  • Morningstar 175 gp
  • Pike 120 gp
  • Rapier 250 gp
  • Scimitar 250 gp
  • Shortsword 150 gp
  • Trident 120 gp
  • War pick 120 gp
  • Warhammer 175 gp
  • Whip 110 gp
  • Blowgun 150 gp
  • Crossbow, hand 500 gp
  • Crossbow, heavy 450 gp
  • Longbow 450 gp
  • Net 101 gp

Be beware

These are only quick and dirty rules for the value of items. If a player asks about a certain item, like: “How much would it be, if I want to acquire a Longsword +1?”, you can look this list up, to say: “At least 175gp, but be prepared to spend more.”

If the players asks about a “Manual of Bodily Health”, of course you’re supposed to answer in mean laughter. A permanent boost to an ability score is of course something, which isn’t measured in gold pieces, but in mercy.

Consider always the possibility to lower or raise the price, if you can or if the item is especially powerful or too specialized to be useful most of the time. You should even go over the normal limits of the category, if you think it’s doable.

And of course, it’s only the value. For selling, you should adjust it (normally half the value, but I often use reputation and such to raise or drop the selling price).

Magic Items aren’t necessarily boring!

Since I’m preparing for my first real 5e campaign next week, I’m kinda into the preparing stuff. And since I read HotDQ now, I address some issues early, to be able to counter them. And this time it was the magic items at the end, I’d like to include one of the items early as ‘the stolen treasure of Greenest’ kind of thing, so my players can looking forward to it (they keep track of the plot, so this info will be around for a long time).

Non-consumable Magic Items were in some editions a necessity and sometimes you’ll just find a sword. The DM will say ‘That sword has a magical aura’, after checking it with Detect Magic, then comes the identify process and wow, you got a longsword +1. While in 3e Detect Magic was a 0th level spell and in 4e a use of the Arcana skill, the ability to see magical auras came back into 5e in form of a 1st level spell/ritual. So before you go to the short/long rest, a ritual caster might take a look at the stuff you collected from your enemies and dungeons.

You can say a lot about 4e (I personally played that editions until the playtest came), but at least there were descriptions to all magic items in there, which already emphasized the idea, that magic items were special and the best: No further work for the DM. In 3e you had a toolbox to customize magic items, which doesn’t really fare well imo, but without any further lead on how magic items could be remotely more interesting than their stats.

In the playtest and I’m sure in the DMG, too, there are a few pages to customize your magic items. If you as the DM are lazy, you can simply look into it and make easily magic items, which gets more interesting for your players without adding something to the stats. If you’re a player, these things might make your gear much more likable and you should ask the DM if you may customize that item yourself.

For now I’ll go into the stuff, WotC already considered:

Creator: The creator of the item and its culture says a lot about the appearance of the item. A elven sword would most likely be more thin and light than a normal counterpart, while vines and leaf ornaments are adorned. A weapon of a ifrit may be made out of black iron, while orange and red colors prevail the rest of the color scheme. And a gnomen weapon might look like well-used and tattered, so a thief won’t steal it. Even some side effects (like base temperature) might be different.

Nature: This contains the purpose and the mark it left. An item like a sword of truth would definitely leave a mark in legends and history, while its purpose could be to be a ceremonial weapon for court. The axe Giantbane would definitely have a history of slaying giants, while the lance Eternal Ice might be a present from the Prince of Frost, leader of the winter feys.

Minor Properties: These are tiny little boons items could grants, even though in the playtest some were stat-wise benefitting, which I kinda disliked. A shield with ‘guardian’ would grant +2 initiative, while a longbow with ‘compass’ let you only know which way is north. I do think, there can be a bit of power, but it shouldn’t be as brief as a bonus to one or more stats. A ‘floating’ breast plate which actually helps you swim? That’s cool! And the best, it stacks with any other properties the item already had.

Minor Quirks: A item might have a quirk, which usually doesn’t downgrade its innate power, but makes it a bit less conformable to use. Like a ‘confident’ belt, which makes you feel stronger, a ‘loud’ maul, which always thunders when smashing the ground or an enemy or a ‘muttering’ magic book. Some were either bothersome, like ‘hungry’ which meant that the item can only use it’s properties when tasting fresh blood that day or ‘possessive’ which meant that you can only attune that specific item.

If you run that whole process every non-consumable item, they’ll become more interesting. But there are some other things you might consider, here two of my personal choices:

Personality: Even though not all magic items are intelligent, most of them were created for a specific reason (like Nature already covered). So even without real intelligence an item might see a calling. When creating the orcish item ‘Dwarf Smasher’, then that item might not attune to dwarfs or might give disadvantages to attack rolls, when there is a dwarf nearby, but not the target of the attack. These can play out benefiting, too, in giving advantage to an attack roll, when attacking a dwarven leader.

Oddities: Sometimes a item can be odd, without having a real quirk. Like the fact, that the Great Sword is only about 4 feet long, but has a blade twice as big. Or that the armor has hatch to make it easier to relieve oneself. Or a spelling error at the runes. Or even a missing comma. Even a minor oddity might bother the new owner for a whole life.

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For now I’ll simply make the items at the end more interesting and let’s see if I stumble onto something else which seems to be interesting enough to share.

Weapons of Massive Destruction

I talked about weapon-focused builds, but never took my time to talk about actual weapons. Weapons are the most used tools in D&D, using to kill about everything that might stand in the way of the heroes’ quest. In different editions, different takes were used to express the beauty of smashing, slashing and stabbing in numbers.

In 5e it was imo mostly well done, even though I still dislike the idea of 2dx weapons when there is a 1d2x weapon with about the same properties out there. And especially with the Great Weapon Fighting Style option, since it boosts the average damage much more.

The list is about a page, instead of of two pages, some weapons were kicked out, like the whole exotic/superior table. But generally not having exotic/superior weapons is a relief, even though I really think they’ll return. Like in Eberron, where the halflings of the Talenta Plains wield more unique weapons and I think those weapons will be either included as a subrace (which I don’t hope) or a background instead of a tool proficiency/language (which I rather believe). There could be a remotely chance that they’ll

I think the term ‘superior weapon’ nailed it down pretty well: Most of these weapons were simply superior and nobody cared about the others. And since it cost a bit of resource (depending on edition [or Pathfinder] it varied in value), some options weren’t as good after all, considering other ones.

If the developers are smart, they’ll just makes the tangat, sharrash and such based of an existing weapon in the table and maybe just swap the damage type. But here and there that alone won’t be sufficient, since for example the sharrash is the halfing version of a reach weapon. So it’d better have reach and not the heavy keyword.

But back to the basic topic: Even in the 5e list, it seems that there are simply options which aren’t as good as others. Here these two reasons work, first: Realism, if a club were such a great weapon, we’ve never invented the sword. Of course an actual weapon like the light hammer trumps it by the possibility to throw it. The designers went for weapons and armors not only for PC-use alone, but for NPCs in all their variety (caveman, bandit, soldier, etc.), too.

The second reasons (which includes the first one) is the following: “In many cases, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. At the DM’s option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.” (Base Rules p. 47; PHB pg. 147) So the most mundane things (like table legs as clubs, broken bottles as daggers, etc.) had to be be included.

Except some cases, most weapons are more or less defined by their category (simple, martial) and their properties. So if you know how, you can actually simply modify some weapons to fit your needs, especially if you’re missing some like the spiked chain (for whatever reason) and maybe are even able to make up rules for the (not) missed double weapons. And this is how I’ll do it.

First pick a weapon which seems to resemble the one you wants to rebuild. For this example, we make a spiked chain, since I saw some people demanding it. Since the spiked chain was a finesse weapon with reach, we take the only weapon which have these properties, the whip.

Then you add properties. Every property that makes it harder to use, should improve the damage die by one step, every property which makes it easier to use should decrease the damage die by one step. Since the spiked chain have to be wielded in two hands, it gets the two-handed property. Since using both hands makes it harder to use, we simply increase the damage die to d6. You can argue, that a small character would have this problems, but there are various reasons to not add the heavy property and one of them is, that a chain more than 10ft long isn’t as wieldy for medium characters, too.

Finally you can consider changing the damage type, since it’s a spiked chain, swap the bludgeoning with the piercing damage type. And the spiked chain is ready to go.

Some properties shouldn’t mix, like two-handed and light, heavy and finesse and heavy and light. Most of those combinations makes sense, especially when considering numbers and synergy with feats and other features. But to be honest: If a heavy weapon is too bulky for a small character to use it, how could a medium-sized character use it dexterous?

Here would be one properties I’d like to add:

Small: Medium sized characters have disadvantage on all attack rolls with this weapon. A small weapon’s size and handhold is too compact for a medium sized character to use it effectively.

This should cover the sharrash and tangat. 😉

Maybe I’ll make a list of some weapons that seems to be missing in 5e and make a House Rule Page for it. But let’s see, if I’ll find the time to do it. -_-‘

But which would be the best weapon for a PC? Actually I think it’ll b the Longsword. The reason: Because there are plenty of magical swords out there, so the odds to find one is higher. 😀