Is Ranged really better than Melee?
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  1. #1

    Is Ranged really better than Melee?

    I think most of us here have jumped aboard to ranged is superior to melee in 5e bandwagon and for good reason. Good ranged characters typically have:
    #1 Higher Initiative
    #2 Better ability to focus fire on enemies
    #3 Nearly the same damage output as melee builds
    #4 Ability to kite enemies / kill them before they get into their effective ranges

    There's probably some unmentioned advantages as well. But the same point ultimately exists, if I'm looking for the most individually useful and survivable character then a ranged one definitely appears to edge out a melee one.

    That said D&D is a team based game and while melee characters don't appear individually better they provide a number of team benefits that only become apparent when looking at the team.
    #1 More melee characters better spreads damage around. Spreading damage around saves lives. This is accomplished both by proximity and the threat of opportunity attacks.
    #2 Opportunity attacks can cause significantly more damage if enemies choose to take them.
    #3 Typically higher AC or other damage reduction abilities so even if they are being attacked they tend to last longer than their ranged brethren
    #4 Slightly higher damage

    All in all I think these factors should cause us to reevaluate ranged superiority over melee superiority. Thoughts? Opinions?
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Las Cruces, NM
    Cramped dungeon corridors.

    'nuff said
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  3. #3
    Ranged sure does look stronger damage wise, but I don't find it better because it just isn't as fun as pretending to be all up in my enemies face as I stab him through the heart.

    I'm just happy that ranged isn't so much stronger that my inner powergamer would compel me to pick up a bow.
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  4. #4
    Melee has much larger and much higher quality magic item draw. Ranged has: Bracers of Archery. That's really it.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Medellin, Colombia
    One thing I've noticed is that if I use the variant encumbrance rules (as I do in dungeon runs), players abandon Dex-based builds and thus ranged attack reliant characters. They seem to value moving normally and carrying supplies/treasure more than how far away they are when they attack in these scenarios.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    IMNSHO, every character should have the ability to do both. The crazed berserker with a greatsword is going to be impotent against a flying creature unless they have at least some thrown weapons. Ranged characters need something they can do well when forced into melee, be it a melee weapon or a melee/saving throw cantrip (for spellcasters), because swarms can and will get to the ranged attackers.

    IME, groups consist of some of each, usually with 1 that can switch hit. I think ranged characters are slightly more common, but YMMV. I have never seen an all ranged or all melee group, and while I suppose they could exist, I think they'll likely be at a disadvantage. All-melee won't be able to engage the enemy fully, but all ranged will have different problems.

    In theory, a group could consist of all ranged attackers, and attempt to start each combat from ranged, moving away from the enemy as much as possible. In reality, the DM should be using terrain and story to limit this strategy, forcing the characters to usually start in close range. Without any melee, there will likely be deaths, which will then cause the group to re-evaluate its strategy, and the new PCs being melee based.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Arizona, USA
    I find it's easier to build a character that is great at Range, and still really good at Melee, than it is to build one that is great in melee, but still really good at range, specifically longer ranges.

    Still I'll always make a melee focused character. I mean if you can't feel the blood of your enemies splatter across you face whats the point?
    Last edited by BookBarbarian; Wednesday, 7th November, 2018 at 12:28 AM.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Okinawa, Japan
    As a rule if you have range and you ensure you have the distance to use it then you have the defensive advantage and as long as you can kite or keep enemies out of melee range the damage and AC of each doesn't matter because the melee does not get to attack meaning their Average DPR becomes 0. If on the other hand a fighter walks into a 10 x 10 room stands in front of the other door and your a ranged character in the at room... expect a bad day. So I am in no way saying melee doesn't have a place and do its job well. I am just pointing out any battle using a lot of melee "minions" my ranged attacker m is usually not in real danger because they stop to attack what they can actually hit and I continually move around ensuring they can't move to me in one turn and attack. I misty step to elevation without easy access, I keep at 80ft range, and I am able to do this the majority of the time... until a ranged enemy gets involved, then I target them first as my biggest threat. Even in dungeons, that are often "close quarters" you can stack ranged behind allies and still shoot enemy targets where in a 5 or 10ft wide hallway vs 6 melee enemies it results in a blockage waiting for the front enemies to die so the rear enemies to move forward. That alone means as a ranged character, I very rarely miss a turn attacking while our melee tanks is VERY important to me holding distracting enemies or blocking their path to me. Then we get flying enemies and the tank just twiddles his thumbs.

    The real proof of this is that if you have an all melee group your going to get ambushed from a higher cliff, flying enemies, or kitting enemies they just can seem to get to then they will have hard time fighting at all mush less winning.

    A group of entirely ranged can have Draconic Sorcerers AC18 + 5 for shield, Tortle with Bracers of defense for 19 AC, Fighters with Half-plate, defensive fighting style, & Medium Armor Master sporting AC19, Clerics some with plate armor, a shield, and shield of faith for AC22, Monks with Unarmed combat AC20 taking dodge as a bonus action for an "effective AC of 25. So not counting magic items its still very possible to make a descent AC group of ranged attackers... sure … that's not how it usually plays out. Usually, you get a melee or two in the group who shield their ranged allies by engaging and invoking the fear of opportunity attacks. Then Ranged focuses on damage not defense making them less divided on using resources between the two where melee know they need some level of defense because they are going to get attacked in melee. So this ranged group who can shoot flying and elevated targets back and who are difficult to kite because usually if you can shoot them … they can shoot you, can work more effectively then melee in a group containing only one or the other. If you were in an all ranged group you would see some taking a more defensive build which might not eliminate the gap but it would defiantly close it to point where its not a big deal.

    I mean this is all displayed in the real world were when guns became able to punch through armor, melee became a back up fighting style, and when we gained the ability to fire more than once without reloading it all but vanished with the exception of stealth... then we made silencers, making range preferred all around unless your trying to save precious ammo. If your still not convinced then consider one question... where are our melee plains and tanks? I know its a game but the tactical advantages are still their and to balance that the would have to make melee supper powered compared to ranged and they didn't.

    The only real advantage of melee is infinite reusability. When you fight large groups of 10+ you start running out of arrows, bolts, and spell slots. So if you want melee to shine, do continual waves of enemies however if your like my group everyone will get tired of "the grind".
    Last edited by ClaytonCross; Wednesday, 7th November, 2018 at 02:29 AM.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Anecdotes, data, plural, etc., but last night we were fighting purple worms and my Gloomstalker archer pretty much won the fights while the melee acted like meat shields for him. The +2 from fighting style is huge.

    A few things I would do to fix ranged
    1. You should draw attacks of opportunity if you try to shoot an arrow within reach of an enemy
    2. Ranged sneak attack should only be possible with Surprise or at very close range. Getting sneak attack from 100' against a medium sized target engaged in a sword fight with your ally is...ridiculous.
    3. In general, ranged penalties should kick in at shorter ranges.

    None of which would have reduced my ranger's effectiveness last night, of course.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Lawrenceville, NJ
    Yea, the main problem with ranged superiority is that you need an all-ranged party to really take advantage of it, and let's fact it, 99.9% of D&D parties aren't going to optimize to that degree.

    As soon as you have 1 party member that wants to be in melee, the ranged plan to kite enemies, use terrain to your advantage, and never engage starts to break down.
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