Most of us have heard the phrase, “if you shoot for the moon, at least you’ll land among the stars.” Well, Dungeons & Dragons is one of the places where you might actually be trying to shoot the moon, and you won’t want to miss it. There are plenty of ways to enhance your attacks, but many players prefer to rely on feats.
GameCows Tip: Feats are an optional rule and may not be allowed at every table. Check with your Dungeon Master before taking a feat.
For those who could use a crash course here, a feat is a unique ability granted to characters (and races) at specific levels. Your character becomes eligible for an Ability Score Increase (or ASI) at certain levels. If your Dungeon Master allows it, you can choose to take a feat instead. Some feats give you a partial score increase in addition to other effects, but most allow you to do something you can’t usually accomplish.
In this case, you might be considering the Sharpshooter feat, which has the following descriptor text from The Player’s Handbook:
“You have mastered ranged weapons and can make shots that others find impossible.”
Most people read it as a feat that will help them make more difficult shots, but that’s not the case. There are a few things to keep in mind here.
- This feat only applies to ranged weapon attacks. Spellcasters have a different feat (Spell Sniper) and cannot use Sharpshooter for their spell attacks. Similarly, melee attackers cannot use Sharpshooter but can use Great Weapon Master.
- Sharpshooter does not increase your likelihood of hitting your target under normal circumstances. It decreases your chances of hitting. Let’s look at this in more depth.
Contrary to its name, Sharpshooter doesn’t give you better aim; it relies on the fact that you are already routinely hitting your targets. There are plenty of ways to provide you with a higher chance of hitting, like flanking the enemy, stealthily hiding before you attack, buying or finding better weapons or ammunition, taking the Fighting Style Archery, and other magical items or class features.
By saying you’re taking a Sharpshooter shot, you indicate that you will subtract five from your attack roll in exchange for an additional ten points of damage. You’re less likely to hit, but you’ll do much more damage.
GameCows Tip: Sharpshooter works best for classes with multiple attacks. Don’t risk missing your only attack and wasting your turn!
Remember how we said Sharpshooter doesn’t improve your chances of hitting under normal circumstances? There are two other parts of the feat that do improve your chances in particular cases. First, you can attack at long range without suffering disadvantage on your attack roll.
The second is that your ranged weapon attacks ignore half and three-quarters cover. Half cover typically gives the enemy a +2 bonus to their Armor Class, and three-quarters cover gives a +5 bonus.
Now that you know how to use it, get out there and shoot your heart out!