After pouring over the 5e books, there seems to be a lot of advantages to playing a ranged character. This goes double for non-spellcasters.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that a game heavily influenced by Tolkein would favor ranged characters:
Ranged characters can deal comparable, if not better damage than their melee counterparts and with the release of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, ranged characters gained some potent damage options.
The Eldritch Sniper
The Eldritch Sniper is a character that deals competitive amounts of ranged damage thanks to some peculiar multiclassing, while remaining relevant outside of combat encounters.
Let’s start off the the core of the build:
- Fighter (Champion) 3
- Warlock (Pact of the Blade) 5
- Elven Accuracy (Feat)
That’s the core. It’s a bit weird for a start and it’s only going to get weirder as we continue to build the ultimate D&D tactical sniper.
To get all these pieces together, we could play a single-classed Warlock up to level 4 when we gain Elven Accuracy and boost our primary stat up to a nice +4 bonus.
However, to get better armor and weapon proficiency, as well as that sweet, sweet CON save proficiency, it may be better to start off with a single level of fighter before taking the Warlock levels. Then we’ll throw on the Champion levels (picking up Archery fighting style) and switch from Elritch Blast to a bow as our primary source of damage.
Eldritch Blast scales with Character Level and not Warlock levels, so if we take the Agonizing Blast invocation, our damage will stay competitive with other characters, even when their second attacks come online at level 5.
Once we have Elven Accuracy, we’re rolling 3d20 on each attack that we make with advantage, giving us a ~14% chance of a crit on each advantaged attack. As soon as we add in the 3 levels of Champion, we switch to using a bow and we can now crit on a roll of 19 or 20, giving us a whopping 27.1% crit chance every time we attack with advantage and 10% to crit without advantage.
Now we just pick up the Eldritch Smite Invocation. Which allows us to trade our spell slots for damage:
Once per turn when you hit a creature with your pact weapon, you can expend a warlock spell slot to deal an extra 1d8 force damage to the target, plus another 1d8 per level of the spell slot, and you can knock the target prone if it is Huge or smaller.
If we conserve our spell slots and use them on our smites, then we could easily be dealing 8d8 (smite) + 2d8 (bow damage)+4 (STAT) + damage on a crit 2 times per short rest. This averages out to 98 damage per short short rest if we use all of our spell slots.
Not a bad trade for 2 spell slots at level 8. Doubly so, since we recharge spell slots on a short rest.
The best part is that even if we’re out of spells, we’re still a competent damage dealer. With Eldritch Blast and the Agonizing Blast invocation as a back-up option, our damage output is still on par with a melee fighter and resisted much less often thanks to the force damage type.
To top it off, we can always remain relevant outside of combat encounters: between six Warlock spells to choose from and being a high-Charisma character we’ll always have something to contribute.
Improving the Sniper
This build benefits greatly from the feat Sharpshooter; when used in conjunction with the Tri-vantage from Elven Accuracy and the +2 to hit from the Archery Fighting Style, we can freely use the -5 to attack and +10 to damage option of Sharpshooter with no fear of missing.
Essentially we’re breaking bounded accuracy.
The quickest way to pick up this feat is to take one more Champion level, but if you can wait, it may be better to tough it out and keep leveling in Warlock. At the next level (Warlock 6/Champion 3), we can pick up the Thirsting Blade invocation to make 2 attacks with each Attack action.
When we hit Warlock 7 we gain access to the level 4 spell Shadow of Moil which will make us Heavily Obscured from our foes and therefore have advantage to attack enemies.
If you’ve chosen the Archfey patron you could also learn Greater Invisibility instead. The Archfey patron also grants a nifty short-rest based feature called Misty Escape which allows you to, upon taking damage, use your reaction to teleport away (60 ft) and turn invisible until you attack or until the start of your next turn. Very handy for getting out of tough spots.
By the time we hit Warlock 8 and pick up Sharpshooter, we can now use Greater Invisibility or Shadow of Moil to grant us advantage on all of our attacks for a single combat, which means we get Elven Accuracy on every shot.
Now we can make two attack each round: (-5) Sharpshooter + 4 (Stat) +2 (Archery Style) + 4 (prof) = +5 to hit rolled 3 times on each attack.
Our normal damage looks like: 1d8 (weapon) + 4 (stat) + 10 (SharpShooter) = 18.5 average damage.
Our Crit damage looks like: 10d8 (smite) + 2d8 (weapon) + 4 (stat) + 10 (SharpShooter) = 68 average damage.
Keeping in mind we have about a 72% chance to crit in any two rounds, this is looking pretty good.
Taking it further
To recap: we’re a level 11 character (Champion 3, Warlock 8), we can choose to be either DEX or CHA based, we have our choice of any elf or half-elf for our race, and we only need 1 of our Warlock spells to be combat effective. We’ve taken the Sharpshooter feat and the Elven Accuracy feat in conjunction with Archery fighting style.
This also gains the seal of 100% Adventurer’s League compatible.
Our build is playable at all levels, relevant outside of combat, not locked into a single patron, and flexible in the order in which we level.
If we wanted to take it further, there are many possible shenanigans that we can tack on:
- The lowest level of shenaniganry is to keep going Warlock: we get 5th level spells and warlock goodies. We stay with only 2 classes and most GMs will probably be OK with it. It’s a solid option, but may not be the most exciting.
- Rogue – Sneak Attack is only once per turn, but adding some d6s to our Super Crits would be pretty nice. This is a great path to advance the character as a kind of dark, Arcane Trickster type of character, but more effective. Swashbuckler could be good here to gain +CHA to initiative.
- Kensei – I don’t recommend doing this, but if you pick up Kensei you can get an extra 1d4 damage (woot) added to each of your bow attacks in a round for the low cost of your bonus action. You are better off going Rogue.
- More Champion – While it doesn’t give as many options as more Warlock levels it does give better HP, Remarkable Athlete and an Additional fighting style. Again, you’re better off going with more Rogue.
- Bard (College of Swords) – For just a 3 level dip you gain some great tactical options (higher AC, a little bit of AoE damage, and a limited push effect). Not the greatest option, but it is far from the worst (plus you gain more spells and spell slots).
- Gloom Stalker Ranger – For a 3 level investment we get to be invisible in darkness, and on the opening round of combat we get to make an extra attack that deals an extra d8 damage. A very nice option indeed.
All in all, I’d probably finish out the Warlock just because I don’t usually like to add a 3rd class onto a character, but between Gloom Stalker, College of Swords, and straight Rogue, there are some tantalizing options to finish out the remaining 9 levels.
How would you round out the Eldritch Sniper? What type of elf would you pick?
Let me know in the comments below.