I like feats, I think the way they customize characters and the game are really great. Each one generally adds a new suite of powers to a character, either complimenting the existing build or maybe shoring up some weak spots. There are two particular feat combinations in D&D that are extremely useful early game and hold up later game that I wanted to write about today. I group them together because they are similar in scope and effect.
Bonus actions abilities are relatively rare, so some classes never see their use. Polearm Master and Crossbow Expert are both feats that allow an additional weapon attack using a bonus action. The feats have additional powers, but let’s focus on the extra attack for the moment. Two attacks are better than one–two chances to hit, two chances for damage with full ability score modifier–making both these feats extremely useful at early levels before Extra Attack, and diminishing only slightly afterwards. They “stack” with Great Weapon Fighting or Archery Fighting Style choices–unlike Two-Weapon Fighting Style–and they only require one magical weapon to upgrade all the attacks. Their damage output is close to other weapon selections as well–greataxe or greatsword vs. glaive or halberd and longbow vs. hand crossbow. The bonus action attack definitely offsets the loss of a single point of average damage.
Where does this help? Rogues using a hand crossbow gets an additional chance on their turn to get a Sneak Attack off, barbarians can use a polearm and add Rage damage on both attacks, and everyone benefits from a close range weapon and a bit more reach. I hate it when I need to use a Dash action to move just 5 more feet. The paladin’s Divine Smite can be applied more times per round with more attacks, hunter’s mark and hex damage can be applied more often, and Maneuvers are always better when you can attack more often.
There are also the silly things you can do, like using a quarterstaff one-handed and attacking with each end or using a hand crossbow and a shield–riot police! Make sure your DM allows you to reload with your shield hand before trying that one at home.
Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter are the follow-up feats to take, mostly for the -5 penalty to attack for +10 damage–though removing range disadvantage and cover bonuses are handy too! Remember the bonus action attack can benefit from those feats as well.
All-in-all, those feats are some of my favorite combinations and I can guarantee–if the very surprised DMs in my early D&D Adventurers League games are any indication–they are effective too.
What are some of your favorite feats?
Next week, more about Polearm Master’s other ability…
But… what do I know…?