How Strong Is Sharpshooter?

In January of 2018, I ran a poll asking D&D players about feat strength. Nearly 60% felt that the Sharpshooter feat is “broken”:

Sharpshooter

Are they right? If so, when? Nobody is always right–except the Dungeon Master.

To find out, I built a calculator to determine the benchmarks where Sharpshooter is advantageous to use. Introducing “The Sharpshooter Shot Chart” to determine the best times to use your Sharpshooter mechanic.

“The Sharpshooter Shot Chart”
The Shot Chart

Using The Sharpshooter Shot Chart

  1. Input your statistics
    • Level
    • Relevant Ability Score
      • Dexterity for most ranged weapons
      • Strength for most thrown weapons
    • Weapon
      • All Ranged Weapons listed in dropdown
      • Also some higher damage ranges included
      • If you want a +1 weapon, increase the “Ability Score” by 2
  2. Input the Target’s Cover
    • No Cover adds +0 Armor Class (AC)
    • Half Cover adds +2 Armor Class (AC)
    • Three-Quarters Cover adds +5 Armor Class (AC)
  3. Results!
    • Advantage/Disadvantage
      • Regular Shots are solid lines
      • Shots with advantage/disadvantage are dotted lines
    • Standard Shots are in warm colors:
      • Regular shot is red
      • Advantage is yellow (dotted)
      • Disadvantage is orange (dotted)
    • Sharpshooter Shots are in cool colors:
      • Regular Sharpshooter Shot is green
      • Advantage Sharpshooter is blue (dotted)

When To Use Sharpshooter

Use “No Cover” comparisons to find out when to Sharpshooter’s-5 Attack/+10 Damage feature.

If you want to see your Sharpshooter damage output without the -5 Attack/+10 Damage modifier, select “No Cover” and review the standard damage output. This will allow you to compare your regular Sharpshooter damage output with your Sharpshooter feature damage output. This comparison will allow you to see when you should be using the Sharpshooter damage feature.

Observations

After tinkering with the chart a bit, I came to some interesting conclusions regarding the use of Sharpshooter. I’ll spare the obvious (Sharpshooter is good, worse against higher ACs, ignoring cover helps) and move into explaining some of the less apparent interactions.

Sharpshooter Gets Worse With Higher Damage Dice

This is because with higher damage dice, it becomes more important to hit your target.

Think of it like this: Sharpshooter’s +10 damage is like adding a d10 and a d8 to your damage roll (average 5.5 + 4.5). So if you’re making an attack that adds dice worth more than 10 on average, don’t use sharpshooter against higher ACs. This benchmark is probably a little lower, depending on other factors, but 10 is a safe number to use if you don’t have access to the calculator.

Also, damage dice multiply on a critical hit. Straight bonuses don’t. So while Sharpshooter’s +10 damage bonus is like adding a d10 and a d8 to your damage roll, it doesn’t multiply. Consider this when attacking with advantage, where you have a 9.75% chance of rolling a critical hit.

This is important to note for characters who use a lot of attack dice, as they may be hurting themselves against higher AC targets by using Sharpshooter. For example, a Rogue making a ranged sneak attack at 5th level should be careful not to lose their 3d6 bonus in an effort to add an extra 10 damage, since the sneak attack dice are worth more (average 3.5 + 3.5 + 3.5).

To illustrate, here is the chart for that Level 5 Rogue (18 Dexterity) making a 1d6 + 3d6 sneak attack against a target with no cover. You can see that the damage output breaks even against a 14 AC target. Against higher ACs, it’s worse.

Rogue Sharpshooter

If You Have Advantage, Always Use Sharpshooter

Advantage massively multiplies the damage bonus of Sharpshooter. By offsetting the -5 attack penalty, advantage brings Sharpshooter’s +10 damage bonus into play much more often. As a result, gaining advantage will often double or even triple the damage output increase from using Sharpshooter over a standard attack.

To illustrate, take a Level 8 Character using a +2 Longbow. We assume they used their ASI to increase their Dexterity to 20 and took the Sharpshooter feat. Here you can see the comparison between a regular Sharpshooter attack as the warm color lines and the -5/+10 Sharpshooter attack as the cool color lines:

Longbow Sharpshooter.png

You can clearly see that there’s more space between the blue and green lines than there is between the yellow and red lines. That’s because the advantage benefit is bigger when you employ the Sharpshooter damage feature.

Happy Hunting! Make sure to get ranged advantage by taking the high ground!

3 thoughts on “How Strong Is Sharpshooter?

    1. Hi Randall!

      Thanks for commenting. Sharpshooter does indeed ignore these penalties, which is built into the chart. This allows you to compare how strong the Sharpshooter feat is vs. a character without it.

      You can also set the chart to “no cover” to get an idea of whether you should be using the Sharpshooter -5/+10 mechanic in any given situation. Your “no cover” baseline will be a Sharpshooter’s regular attack without the -5/+10 modifier.

      I hope that makes it clear!

      Like

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