D&D 5E Are ranged attacks too good in 5e?

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
While thinking about things being said in another thread, a common point of debate when it comes to the non-caster classes is their inability to fly without a magic item. But then I considered, why not just use ranged weapons?

The Fighter can be built to use a longbow, gain a fighting style that lets him effectively ignore soft cover (and get a +2 to hit targets not behind said cover). If he or she is a Battlemaster, they can use their maneuvers just as well from range. They can engage targets at any distance, be Dex-based, and if Feats are on the table, can fire in melee.

The only downside is you can't use a shield. I mean, there is a damage loss compared to a greatsword (4.5 vs. 7 average damage) but that seems a small price to pay for the versatility of being able to attack from anywhere on the battlefield without needing to move that much (and force enemies to move more to close with you, perhaps).

The Rogue is likely better as a ranged attacker than a melee combatant (barring debates about two weapon fighting to guarantee getting your sneak attack in, I guess- when I played a Fighter/Rogue archer, I missed so rarely, especially as a Halfling, that I was once told to make all attacks at disadvantage for a fight due to high winds, and because the DM didn't say otherwise continued to do so for the next two encounters and didn't miss once).

So this has me wondering- compared to being a melee martial, well, the thread title says it all.
 

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Horwath

Hero
I have no problem with range and damage of longbow.

But there should be some penalties for using a bow.

There should be AoO for using a ranged weapon, maybe even with advantage.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Hard to say. I think I'm gonna vote "no."

I mean, a Hexblade warlock, tricked out with Invocations and shooting Eldritch Blasts from within his dome of darkness is SCARY good. But so is an orc fighter/barbarian, tricked out with feats and potions, raging with a greataxe in melee. And so is a crit-fisher halfling Assassin rogue/Way of Shadows monk, tricked out with feats and Hasted, attacking from the shadows at range (or not) with daggers.

Ranged is good, but not too good. Really it's all good, depending on how you like to fight.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Hard to say. I think I'm gonna vote "no."

I mean, a Hexblade warlock, tricked out with Invocations and shooting Eldritch Blasts from within his dome of darkness is SCARY good. But so is an orc fighter/barbarian, tricked out with feats and potions, raging with a greataxe in melee. And so is a crit-fisher halfling Assassin rogue/Way of Shadows monk, tricked out with feats and Hasted, attacking from the shadows at range (or not) with daggers.

Ranged is good, but not too good. Really it's all good, depending on how you like to fight.
But one of things I'm taking into account is an encounter with a flying enemy, who cannot be attacked with a greataxe.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Ranged weaponry has an inherent advantage, tactically speaking, and has been so for all of history - however, for a long time the ranged weapons were not quite up to the task (vs today, where they absolutely dominate).

So a "balance" between the two is desirable, for gaming purposes. Is this balance achieved in 5e? No. Ranged attacks are too good, and also because dex is too good (there is a synergy between the two).

The root of the problem, IMO, is dex adding to damage and not just accuracy.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
But one of things I'm taking into account is an encounter with a flying enemy, who cannot be attacked with a greataxe.
Well yeah, if you are going to make ranged combat the only option, then ranged combat is going to be the best option. ;-)

I was looking at it more esoterically. Like, if you could choose whether to step forward and fight hand-to-hand, or step back and fight at range, which would be best? Would one be "too good" compared to the other?
 



James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I vote no. Full cover makes it easy for enemies to avoid ranged attacks completely, forcing melee or area affect spells to counter.
This is correct, but unfortunately, most enemies want to engage in melee themselves, and from what I've seen, even in published adventures, cover is not presented often enough in encounter design.

And as for the axe/bow fight comments, I'm talking about building a character who doesn't even bother with melee and just uses a bow the vast majority of the time.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I vote no. Full cover makes it easy for enemies to avoid ranged attacks completely, forcing melee or area affect spells to counter.
This is highly terrain dependent.

Also, there are no more penalties to shooting in melee (I do impose a cover penalty if your ally is between you and your target, but still). Also, cover penalties can be circumvented by sharpshooter and mitigated by archery fighting style.

Furthermore, high dex give ranged combatant an initiative advantage, stealth for positioning/ambushing... not to mention great ease of focus fire.
 

Horwath

Hero
And as for the axe/bow fight comments, I'm talking about building a character who doesn't even bother with melee and just uses a bow the vast majority of the time.
Why should a character bother with melee if not forced?

If I have 18 STR and 14 DEX barbarian and target is 150ft from me, why should I even close to melee range if target has no ranged attacks?
 

Horwath

Hero
This is highly terrain dependent.

Also, there are no more penalties to shooting in melee (I do impose a cover penalty if your ally is between you and your target, but still). Also, cover penalties can be circumvented by sharpshooter and mitigated by archery fighting style.

Furthermore, high dex give ranged combatant an initiative advantage, stealth for positioning/ambushing... not to mention great ease of focus fire.
that is why you give greatsword/greataxe/maul 2d8 damage and AoO for ranged attack in melee and all is good.
 

Undrave

Hero
So a "balance" between the two is desirable, for gaming purposes. Is this balance achieved in 5e? No. Ranged attacks are too good, and also because dex is too good (there is a synergy between the two).

The root of the problem, IMO, is dex adding to damage and not just accuracy.
What if stats to damage rolls wasn't a thing by default and just a thing certain classes get? Maybe tied to Fighting styles?
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
While thinking about things being said in another thread, a common point of debate when it comes to the non-caster classes is their inability to fly without a magic item. But then I considered, why not just use ranged weapons?
In 5e I suspect that if everyone was doing ranged attacks the game would quickly devolve into both sides sniping at folks behind cover, or the DM just forcing the issue and having the opponents rush the PCs to get a melee started (whatever made the most sense). That's basically what has happened at my tables in any edition of D&D whenever a group decides everyone is going to make ranged attacks. And the way ranged attacks work if the monsters rush in they can usually lock down a ranged attacker and force them into melee, so you need someone to play the guard to keep the monsters off the ranged attackers backs.

The Rogue is likely better as a ranged attacker than a melee combatant (barring debates about two weapon fighting to guarantee getting your sneak attack in, I guess- when I played a Fighter/Rogue archer, I missed so rarely, especially as a Halfling, that I was once told to make all attacks at disadvantage for a fight due to high winds, and because the DM didn't say otherwise continued to do so for the next two encounters and didn't miss once).
If find that the 5e ranged rogue is at their best when they have a partner that is engaging with the enemy in melee. Fighter engages with the foe, Rogue hits with a ranged attack, sneak attack damage every time they hit.

I think the game assumes melee combat as the default, and if you try to have a party with nothing but ranged attackers the party would be at a disadvantage.
 

Oofta

Legend
Yes. Well, yes in comparison to the other options since all things are relative. It's especially silly for things like hand-crossbows which should be nothing other than a toy unless they deliver poison, but as written can be devastating with the right feat combo.

The idea that you can hit someone at the distance of two football fields with pinpoint accuracy if you can see them at all is dumb. Don't even get me started on firing a heavy crossbow (which historically has the string drawn back with a winch) multiple times per round or the fact that your strength has no impact on using a longbow. I get that it's just a game, it's not particularly realistic, yada yada.

I don't house rule this other than to make longbows versatile, but I've been tempted to limit the damage bonus to bows to a maximum of double your strength modifier and ban crossbow expertise. For sharpshooter ... I don't know where to even start with that. Maybe choose one of the three options of ignore cover, range penalty or the -5/+10 when you make your attack.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
In 5e I suspect that if everyone was doing ranged attacks the game would quickly devolve into both sides sniping at folks behind cover, or the DM just forcing the issue and having the opponents rush the PCs to get a melee started (whatever made the most sense). That's basically what has happened at my tables in any edition of D&D whenever a group decides everyone is going to make ranged attacks. And the way ranged attacks work if the monsters rush in they can usually lock down a ranged attacker and force them into melee, so you need someone to play the guard to keep the monsters off the ranged attackers backs.


If find that the 5e ranged rogue is at their best when they have a partner that is engaging with the enemy in melee. Fighter engages with the foe, Rogue hits with a ranged attack, sneak attack damage every time they hit.

I think the game assumes melee combat as the default, and if you try to have a party with nothing but ranged attackers the party would be at a disadvantage.
That is a fair point, the ranged Rogue needs somebody to stand in melee for them. If everyone was ranged, the Rogue would be very sad.
 

Stalker0

Legend
In a white room scenario, if we were to look at all the times that ranged was offensively superior to melee (flying enemies, or enemies far enough out of range you couldn't hit them in melee) or times that ranged was defensively superior to melee (melee enemy can't attack me because stayed out of range) and compared it to the times melee was superior (I am in melee with an enemy and will have disadvantage for attacking)....

I feel pretty confident to say ranged would come out on top. Now combine that with the fact that dex is generally a superior stat for many things....yes I think objectively ranged is superior to melee.

However, in play, my players don't seem to care. I have never lacked for melee types in my games. Getting in close and kicking butt is just fun, and so the difference doesn't seem to be stark enough for people to abandon the archetype. Which is I'm guessing what WOTC discovered in their early playtesting, that people just didn't care that ranged was superior, they still liked playing playing melee types as well.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
That is a fair point, the ranged Rogue needs somebody to stand in melee for them. If everyone was ranged, the Rogue would be very sad.
I think it's true in general - you need to have some kind of meat shield up there for all of your ranged casters and ranged weapon attackers. If everyone is ranged then very quickly nobody is going to get to be ranged. (But the Fighter/Rogue partnership for ranged attacks is a very nice synergy). It's a team sport, and if the melee folks aren't there the team is probably going to get squashed.
 

Stormonu

Legend
While thinking about things being said in another thread, a common point of debate when it comes to the non-caster classes is their inability to fly without a magic item. But then I considered, why not just use ranged weapons?

The Fighter can be built to use a longbow, gain a fighting style that lets him effectively ignore soft cover (and get a +2 to hit targets not behind said cover). If he or she is a Battlemaster, they can use their maneuvers just as well from range. They can engage targets at any distance, be Dex-based, and if Feats are on the table, can fire in melee.

The only downside is you can't use a shield. I mean, there is a damage loss compared to a greatsword (4.5 vs. 7 average damage) but that seems a small price to pay for the versatility of being able to attack from anywhere on the battlefield without needing to move that much (and force enemies to move more to close with you, perhaps).

The Rogue is likely better as a ranged attacker than a melee combatant (barring debates about two weapon fighting to guarantee getting your sneak attack in, I guess- when I played a Fighter/Rogue archer, I missed so rarely, especially as a Halfling, that I was once told to make all attacks at disadvantage for a fight due to high winds, and because the DM didn't say otherwise continued to do so for the next two encounters and didn't miss once).

So this has me wondering- compared to being a melee martial, well, the thread title says it all.
And the wizard with Magic Missile, or even Firebolt does it better, as always.

Ever since the days of yore, I've ALWAYS equipped my fighter with a bow or some other ranged weapon. An enemy out of reach is always a possibility (and not just flying - a chasm or balcony is just as effective) - it's just foolish not to prepare for that eventuality.

As for ranged being better? Well, there's a reason "don't bring a knife to a gun fight" exists and why people don't hunt deer with axes or knives. Yet, we expect our fighters to rush Owlbears, Trolls, Dragons and the like with a trusty broadsword and shield because we think it's heroic, instead of being suicidal.

BTW, tower shields are thing for a reason - they are a bowman's best friend on the battlefield. That or a raging barbarian friend to stand in front of you (Face Towards Enemy, of course).
 

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