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Ranged Options for All Classes

Lord Twig

Adventurer
A few months back I ran the climactic battle for an official D&D adventure path and found a fatal flaw. The BBEG appeared on the opposite side of the room filled with lava, up on a balcony. This is a great cinematic scene, but on the first turn it immediately became apparent that the only characters that were going to be able to participate in this battle were the spell casters and those martial characters that specialized in a bow. The barbarian, paladin and sword and board fighter were relegated to spectating after throwing their few javelins (at disadvantage because of range). I quickly changed up the BBEG tactics by having him summon a hoard of fodder and teleporting to the other side of the room. This was a stupid thing for the highly intelligent antagonist to do, but it made the game a lot more fun for the players.

Now I am deciding on a character to make for a game and I realized I didn't want to be useless at range. This makes playing a barbarian, paladin and monk almost out of the question. As well as a large number of fighter builds and even quite a few ranger and rogue builds.

So is there a way to make primary melee classes not completely suck at range strait out of the box? Or will it require house rules?
 

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Having 12-14 dex and a longbow makes you at the least competent at ranged combat. You wont' be going toe to toe with a sharpshooter, but you'll be doing enough damage to feel that you're contributing.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad
My sword and board fighter carries a longbow. Why wouldn't anyone proficient with all melee weapons do the same? Sort of chargen 101, isn't it? You WILL fight a flying dragon at some point, after all.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
Dex of 10 means that at 11th level the paladin would be doing 1d8 damage with a +4 to hit, twice a round. This is opposed to his normal 2d6+1d8+4 damage with +8 to hit (18 Str). The wizard's cantrips were doing 3d10 with +9 to hit (20 Int), and he wasn't throwing cantrips in the boss fight.

Are you saying that Dex 10 characters are just a trap? I thought trap options were supposed to be a thing of the past in this edition.

Edit: Keep in mind that this was an actual character in a AL game. Not just theorycrafting. He started with a 10 Dex and put +2 to Str at 4th level and +2 to Cha at 8th.
 
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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad
I am saying it's a feature rather than a bug that a sword and board melee combatant is meant to be weaker at ranged combat. Just as the ranged combatant is weaker at melee combat.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
There is weaker, and there is nearly useless. I think the paladin has the biggest problem. Of course he is probably the biggest melee monster, but that makes it even more painful when you are completely removed from the battle (or very nearly). Is there maybe a paladin spell I am overlooking that could help?

It doesn't necessarily need to be a ranged attack spell. In fact a spell that allowed him to fly or teleport would probably be better. The one that immediately comes to mind is Find Greater Steed from Xanathars to get a flying mount. You can't get it until level 13, and it may not be helpful inside unless the rooms are really large, and it takes 10 minutes to cast, but it is something.
 

MarkB

Legend
Dex of 10 means that at 11th level the paladin would be doing 1d8 damage with a +4 to hit, twice a round. This is opposed to his normal 2d6+1d8+4 damage with +8 to hit (18 Str). The wizard's cantrips were doing 3d10 with +9 to hit (20 Int), and he wasn't throwing cantrips in the boss fight.

If a character is that super-specialised in melee, it's up to them to figure out how to engage an uncooperative opponent in melee, because it's something that intelligent opponents will otherwise exploit. By 11th level the party should have access to at least some means of flight or short-range teleportation or magical wall-climbing etc., and if they don't, they really shouldn't be surprised when it bites them in the ass.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
Wow. There is a lot of "you are doing it wrong posts" going on here, but no specifics on what I can do to do it right. Lucky for me I am proactive and found some answers. In case anyone else reading this thread has had the same issue, here are some constructive suggestions:

Spells. The paladin gets a fair amount, and while it is tempting to save them for those sweet divine smites, there are a few that can really help you out against ranged opponents.

Command. It has a range of 60' and the first suggested command is 'Approach'. This will force the creature to close with you if they fail their Wis save.
Compelled Duel. I have never really given this spell much serious consideration, but it can be pretty useful at higher levels. It only has a range of 30', but can be cast as a bonus action and last for a minute. The target does get a Wis save to resist initially, and it gets additional saves to try to move away from you after, but it doesn't end the spell effect.
Banishment. Range of 60' and forces a Cha save or they are gone for up to a minute. This would hopefully give the paladin some time to figure out how to get to where it is going to reappear and get a smite ready for its return. He will have to wait till 13th level before he can get it though.

Auras and mantles. They are all concentration, so you just cast one of them then stand around providing a buff (while shooting off some pretty minor damage with a bow), but it is something.

The first two are 1st level spells, but they are worth casting on even the toughest of foes. Even a dragon of the appropriate level might fail against these 30% to 40% of the time and if they have to spend a Legendary save against a 1st level spell, great! It was still worth it.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
I am still looking for solutions for barbarians, fighters and monks. Rangers have spells that I am sure would help them and Rogues, with their typical high Dex and sneak attack can probably do pretty well. So if you can think of something for those three classes I would be happy to hear about them.
 

jgsugden

Legend
There are fights where each option shines, and others where each options struggles. If the battle is a climax, it is best to build it in a way that everybody can contribute, unless the DM intends it to be a spotlight moment for a PC.

For my melee PCs, some tools (uncommon, not attuned) to consider to allow them to contribute to a 'ranged' combat are:

* Wand of magic missiles
* Broom of flying
* Deck of Illusions
* Elemental Gem

Also, some unattuned Rare items can be ueful, such as a bird feather token.

If you want to keep it to a magicless situation, a flying mount is possible. In my campaign world it is not uncommon to be able to buy a winged mount (or hire the services of one).
 

cbwjm

Hero
Sadly I think the main options are just thrown weapons or a back up bow. Fighters and barbarians might have to rely on thrown weapons if they are strength focused although even a +2 dexterity modifier will make them okay with a bow. The monk is probably high dex and they are proficient with simple weapons which includes the shortbow, might be worth them carrying one around as well.

Otherwise, the best way to help, I think, is to provide a way for the melee characters to be able to engage, you changed up the encounter to do so which sounds like it made for a memorable one, but for future you might want to have a way for them to cross that fiery magma and engage the bad guy and/or his minions without having to make changes on the fly. That or trust that the players will make choices that will help them engage. If a wizard commonly preps the fly spell then you might rely on them casting that on the melee PCs to allow them to get into melee range. You might also want to provide magical items that will help early on in the campaign. Give boots of flying at levels 5 or 6 so that they are available to (hopefully) one of the melee PCs for encounters like this one.
 

I am still looking for solutions for barbarians, fighters and monks.

Given the Barbarian and Monk AC calculation, you should have a reasonable DEX, so the solution is "carry a bow".

A Barbarian can use a bow while raging. They won't get the damage boost but the other features still apply.

Monks definitely get the shaft here (heh, archery pun :). Crossbows and shortbows have the two-handed tag so they aren't monk weapons. You might just have to live with shooting a bow for default damage for one or two rounds while you use your items of flying to close with the dragon.

Fighters are supposed to spread their features around. They get lots of feats so that they can become good at both melee and ranged. If a fighter's player has spent all their feats and ASIs getting solely at melee then the tradeoff for that is being poor at ranged. The GM shouldn't do anything about this - that would invalidate the player's choice.

Most battlemaster manoeuvres work fine at ranged. If there is a dedicated archer in the party then using Commander's Strike is an awesome move.

And as other people here have said already... flying items.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Short version: give PCs the option to buy longbows that add their strength to their attack and damage instead of dex.

Longer version/rant: Personally, I think dex being the only thing that influences damages from longbows is silly. Traditional longbows required significant strength to use (most were 150 lb pull or more), so I allow reinforced bows that let you add strength to your damage.

In addition, dex is already an uber- stat. You can do as much melee damage if you use a shield (more with dual rapiers), aren't limited to javelins which have extremely short range and limited number of attacks per round (usually only 1 per round) and you can get an AC nearly as good as the full plate guy. Add in better saving throw for dex that matters far more often than strength, you only need a slightly above average strength to succeed at most strength/athletics checks and to carry most of your gear if anyone even tracks it. Let's not forget better initiative to boot.

It's why I made my AL sword-and-board paladin Oath of the Ancients, so he could at least get misty step. But barbarians? Yeah, find a way to fly buddy. Good luck.

Anyway, giving strength based characters an option to be decent at ranged fits historically and with myth (only Ulysses was strong enough to wield his bow) and I don't think it hurts the game in the least.
 

Any martial character can use a longbow. That will allow a contribution at most ranges that combat is likely to take place at.

There is the environment: Is there somewhere to hook a grapple and swing across? Can a pillar or wall be toppled to form a path or jumping-off point?

There is the rest of the party: are they team players who would be willing to aid the other character in reaching a place where they can be effective.

Its pretty hard to get to the point where a character is unable to contribute in 5e. Levels of acceptance can vary depending upon the success of your last munchkin fumigation, but most characters can find something to do to help the group, even if that something doesn't rely on making damage rolls.
 


5ekyu

Hero
I am still looking for solutions for barbarians, fighters and monks. Rangers have spells that I am sure would help them and Rogues, with their typical high Dex and sneak attack can probably do pretty well. So if you can think of something for those three classes I would be happy to hear about them.
Teamwork.
DnD 5e is built as a team game. If your group doesnt take time or prep to get melee guys the mobility to get to the target in a puzzle fight, they lose out.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Have the wizards and sorcerers take the Fly spell and then the melee fighters can get into melee.

Teamwork.
DnD 5e is built as a team game. If your group doesnt take time or prep to get melee guys the mobility to get to the target in a puzzle fight, they lose out.

I was about to make these two points (which are really the same point), and found two good folks already had.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
Given the Barbarian and Monk AC calculation, you should have a reasonable DEX, so the solution is "carry a bow".

A Barbarian can use a bow while raging. They won't get the damage boost but the other features still apply.

I didn't realize that making ranged attacks would keep up rage, but I guess it does. That's good to know. Also, if the barbarian goes totem path they can pick up limited flying at level 14 from the eagle attunement.

Monks definitely get the shaft here (heh, archery pun :). Crossbows and shortbows have the two-handed tag so they aren't monk weapons. You might just have to live with shooting a bow for default damage for one or two rounds while you use your items of flying to close with the dragon.

Yeah, picking up a short bow isn't something I immediately thought of, but it works. Step of the Wind allows for long jumps, Shadow monks get shadow step at 6th level (needs darkness, but could work), and an Four Elements monk can get fly at level 14 (that seems to be the magic number) plus ranged attack spells.

Fighters are supposed to spread their features around. They get lots of feats so that they can become good at both melee and ranged. If a fighter's player has spent all their feats and ASIs getting solely at melee then the tradeoff for that is being poor at ranged. The GM shouldn't do anything about this - that would invalidate the player's choice.

Most battlemaster manoeuvres work fine at ranged. If there is a dedicated archer in the party then using Commander's Strike is an awesome move.

True, and champion fighters get their expanded critical hits with anything, so there is something for them. Plus they could pick up the Archery fighting style as their second style for another +2 to hit. (I think champions are better than most people give them credit for. Still not great, but not that bad either.)

And as other people here have said already... flying items.

I think this is the major way to fix things without adding house rules. There are a lot of items that can give characters something to do when the enemy is at range. The eldritch knight in the party had a wand of fireballs that he was blasting away with.

Finally I think another factor was that the situation was that this was the big climax fight at the end of a campaign. It shouldn't have been setup as a ranged only combat. This is when all of the characters should have been pulling out their big guns and just barely winning (hopefully) after a big fight and expending every available resource. At just about any other time I would have been fine with the melee heavy hitters standing on the sidelines for a bit. Firing arrows and doing a little damage while the ranged combatants have their moment to shine.

Oh, I guess there is one more thing. I really hadn't thought ahead about ranged options in advance. I don't know why I didn't. In previous versions of the game I would hit up character optimization boards and study up on effective builds. But I don't have that kind of time anymore and I let the simpler/streamlined feel of 5th edition lull me into complacency. At character creation it suggests thrown weapons for melee characters and I just assumed they would be good all the way to 20th level. So this has been a good exercise for me and I will definitely keep it in mind in the future.
 
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Why don't any of the characters have ranged weapons, magic items that let them fly or otherwise cross the gap, and failing that why don't any of the casters in the group prepare spells like conjure animals, fly, dimension door, teleport, or the like? These are 11th level characters, not 3rd level, there are a lot of ways to cross a gap to engage an enemy in a fight. Exactly what to do will depend on the party makeup and magic item availability, but there are a lot of ways to get across the gap to engage the enemy in melee. And failing that, 11th level characters should at least be able to afford bows so that they can do something other than sit around after tossing javelins.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
Have the wizards and sorcerers take the Fly spell and then the melee fighters can get into melee.

Teamwork is another great option. Good suggestion. In this case I think the party was so used to cramped space that it didn't occur to anyone that it would be needed. None of the casters had a way to fly. A couple had Misty Step, but that can only be used on yourself.
 

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