An elven ranger sits perched in a tree, arrow knocked. Five hundred feet in the distance, her party negotiates with a band of orcs for safe passage.
She keeps her eyes on the scimitar at the chief’s waist and finally, it happens. He reaches for it.
She’s been waiting for this.
No sooner does the chief let out a vicious war cry, than her arrow flies from her fingers. It soars through the air and lands square in his wrist, he won’t be double-crossing them today.
How Does Sharpshooter Work?
The sharpshooter feat turns your character into a superhuman assassin, capable of letting off near-impossible shots with ease. It’s an essential feat for any character who utilizes ranged weapons because it lets you finally play your character like every single archer, or gunslinger, that you’ve seen in any media.
- You have mastered ranged weapons and can make shots that others find impossible. You gain the following benefits:
- Attacking at long range doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls.
- Your ranged weapon attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters cover.
- Before you make an attack with a ranged weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +10 to the attack’s damage.
I know that essential is pretty absolute, but hear me out. The sharpshooter feat allows you to shoot from a distance with no penalty, ignore most cover, and even deal more damage with your hits.
If your character uses ranged weapons, you don’t want to be sitting close enough to the battle for some melee combatant to come up and knock you down.
It’s called a ranged weapon for a reason, it’s always been insane to me that using a weapon at long range imposes disadvantage. Opinions aside, this allows you to do some wild things.
A longbow’s longest range is 600 ft, four times the short-range distance which you’d normally be able to shoot from with a normal roll of the dice.
The introduction example paints a picture of a sniper waiting in the trees for signs of betrayal, and that is just one of the many doors opened for you with this feature
We then get to ignore half and three-quarters cover, a status that increases the target’s ac by two and five respectively. A master marksman isn’t aiming for any part of the target’s body, they’re aiming for the kill shots constantly.
If your character is specializing in combat with their ranged weapon it makes perfect sense that they’d gain this mechanical advantage.
Then, we have the big one. The cherry on top. You can take a penalty to your attack roll and deal 10 extra damage on a successful hit! Most ranged weapons don’t even get the opportunity to deal 10 damage in general. It isn’t until we start using heavy crossbows or firearms that we cross into d10 territory.
I’ve seen it explained that the penalty to hit your target is accounting for your increased aim on a vulnerable part of the body. While this is the default for any attack, it makes sense that a sharpshooter would have more accuracy if they chose to than someone swinging an axe around, or even simply a less skilled archer.
Getting the Most Out of Sharpshooter
Sharpshooter should be on any character sheet that has a ranged weapon as a primary weapon, for me, it’s as simple as that.
If you’re using a bow, crossbow, firearm, or even some weird slingshot contraption this is a worthy inclusion. I’d go as far as to say this should be the first feat you pick up.
If you’re looking at a high attack modifier early on, you should have no problem taking the -5 penalty to deal extra damage. If you rolled poorly, you’re the exception, and I’m sorry bud, get that ability score up before taking this.
The earlier you take this the more insane that +10 will feel. Since it’s a static damage amount, it doesn’t scale with level, it will start to blend into the background as you get stronger equipment.
That being said, even at level 20 that kind of bonus is nothing to shake a stick at.
Which Classes Should Take the Sharpshooter feat?
Need I explain why rangers should take this?
Okay sure, rangers don’t actually have to use ranged weapons, but if you do choose Archery as your fighting style, you should be all over this.
Fighter’s are some of the most versatile combatants, and as such there are plenty of ways you can improve upon sharpshooter with this class. Just the amount of attacks you can get off in a turn should be enough to grab this up.
As a master of long ranged combat you can unleash a volley of arrows upon your enemies.
Fighter also includes the gunslinger subclass, an excellent addition in my book. The way guns work in 5e, you have enough problems to overcome without having to worry about cover or distance getting in the way of your boom boom powder.
Sneak attack. Rogues get… sneak attacks. Without getting too much into how sneak attack works, it suffices to say that you can deal some incredible sneak attack damage at a far range.
And, since sneak attack hits require you to have advantage, you have an even better chance of hitting your target, even if you take your penalty for extra damage. That’s up to 10d6 of extra damage, and 10 more for that extra umph.
Which Feats Pair Well With Sharpshooter?
- Crossbow Expert – While this is obviously important for someone who is using a crossbow, there’s also one line that mentions ranged weapons as a whole: “Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.” Now you’re just avoiding disadvantage at any range. You’re welcome.
- Lucky – Taking a penalty to your roll can be a tough pill to swallow, and can often lead to plenty of indecision. When you’re in a bind and really need to let off that perfect shot to finish combat, nothing is worse than missing that AC. So just reroll your dice! Have a little more comfort taking the penalty knowing that you have a lucky safety net.
- Skulker – This is a niche one, and is particularly important for ranged rogues. “When you are hidden from a creature and miss it with a ranged weapon attack, making the attack doesn’t reveal your position.” Even without disadvantage on long ranged attacks, you still might miss a shot or two. Along with other benefits, this feat keeps you hidden when you blunder.
- Piercer – Almost all ranged weapons deal piercing damage, so the damage bonuses just pair excellently. Plus, this feat comes with a +1 bonus to strength or dexterity, so it’s half an ASI already.
Oliver Queen and Legolas can eat their hearts out, you’re the new ace archer in town. Using this skill to the best of its potential will put you on the all time damage leaderboards, and your team will thank you.
There are plenty of racial features and class abilities out there that pair well with this feat, go out there and find the ones that make you the most excited. Nothing can stand in your way with the mastery you’ve gained.
Go get some target practice in, and aim for perfection, you just might get there.