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Right now I'm DMing for an entire party of level 9 Paladins. We have the Paladin that is the Spank (rerolls 1 & 2), the Tank Paladin (has a AC of 19), and the Paladin Controller (uses mainly Buffs and Debuffs while attacking at other parts of the map). During our 1st session during Character creation our Spank was wanting to make a Ranged Paladin. I told him he could but would not be able to use Divine Smites.

What my players and I want to know is: would it be alright to allow Divine Smites in the normal range of a Bow, Crossbow, etc. or should it be Magical Weapon that allows a Paladin to Smite at range?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Related question \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 22 '18 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related Crawford tweet: "Divine Smite works with melee attacks only because the paladin is traditionally a melee combatant (story angle). Divine Smite is generously designed partly because the paladin has to use it in melee, and melee abilities often pose a risk to the user (rules angle)." (This could form the basis for an answer, but isn't really an answer to OP's question on its own.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 26 '18 at 9:31
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My Experience with Ranged Smiting

I have created a magic item for my players that allows for ranged smiting. They are magical arrows that cost gold (I give my PCs the ability to craft magic items), and they deal smite damage on hit. In exchange for ranged smiting, however, the paladin must declare the smite and expend the spell slot for the smite before they fire the arrow. If the attack misses, the smite is wasted.

Why I like this compromise

I feel like this creates a useful middle ground for the paladin. In play, she still goes for the melee attacks most of the time; only when the enemies are truly out of reach does she turn to the arrows. In effect, you are balancing the incredible versatility of a ranged smite with the possibility of wasting a spell slot, turning the smite into a ranged attack roll. Moreover, because firing the arrow requires DEX, your paladin has to make the same spellcasting stat vs. attack stat decision that they normally do. Finally, because they are consumable magic items, you can give out fewer of them if you think they're too strong, and there's an aspect of resource management to them as well.

Also, this makes sense in-universe: the Paladin can choose to use the smite from her weapon because she's always holding it, but if she shoots an arrow, she can only infuse it with the smite while it's in her possession.

How this applies to your situation

Unlike your situation, my party was not all paladins. However, it's clear that even within your party, there are distinct specializations, and not all paladins will be able to benefit from ranged smiting. A dex-focused paladin would benefit far more than a str-focused paladin, for example, and it might feel unfair if the ranged paladin can do everything the melee ones can, but be out of harm's way as well.

Since your situation is unusual, I'd suggest phasing in smite arrows slowly. At first, you can introduce arrows that can only deliver 1st level smites. If those work out with the party, you can introduce arrows that are capable of higher level smites, as well as the smite spells. Ranged smites too powerful? Then give fewer smiting arrows. The ranged paladin's too weak? Then give more powerful arrows. Because the arrows are consumable magic items, you can easily "titrate" the ranged smite ability you give.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As regards your last section: thrown weapons not addressed. (Love the experience based answer as well as your reasoning). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 22 '18 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Good point. I'll just take it as a limitation to my suggestion, though, since I don't have any experience with thrown smite weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire May 23 '18 at 0:35
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This is an interesting scenario. Generally I'd look at ranged smites--an unambiguous upgrade in the Paladin--and think about how it could cause your paladin to outshine other builds, spotlight, how to challenge them while not killing off others, &c. &c. &c. These are the problems that, in my experience, tend to crop up most when introducing homebrew into my games.

But none of that applies here.

Your pure-paladin party would all have access to this, presumably. There's no imbalance because they can all take advantage of it.

There are things to worry about watch for:

So what are the other issues that homebrews tend to cause?

You're making your party more powerful: it may be hard to challenge them, it may mean that challenging encounters are more "swingy" (as you're using high-CR creatures or large mobs).

This may be too good: if one paladin can deal their bursts at whomever they like while dancing away from too much targeting, all your paladins may find it irresistible to do so.

But you're never going to know until you try. Which means you need to have a conversation with your players about what they think of testing the option, what concerns they have, what sorts of things would be signs to them that this is awesome or crappy, and when you're going to have the next conversation about whether to continue the modification or scrap it. I strongly suggest you set that date before the first time you put it into play.

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Preface: RAW, Smiting is intended for melee weapon attacks only. The following is going to be opinion based.

Would it be alright to allow Divine Smites in the normal range of a Bow, Crossbow, ect.

This is very much up to the discretion of the DM. You have to ask yourself how much impact it will have if a character primarily built for frontlining in combat can instead drop Divine Smite nukes from 60ft away.

Personally, I would allow it. The factors I've considered are:

  1. The damage output would be the same.
  2. It adds diversity to a Paladin party.
  3. The player would be taking the risk of separating themselves from the herd.

Whilst being able to nuke an enemy from afar would certainly be safer for the player, it also means that an enemy can sneak up and harass them without the rest of the team to help. I'd also consider restricting the player to light or medium armor if they want to use ranged smiting.

My reasoning is that giving the player the ability to smite at range is a pure power increase, and there needs to be a drawback somewhere. Perhaps the full plate armor is too bulky to negotiate a longbow with? Once again, up to DM discretion.

Should it be Magical Weapon that allows a Paladin to Smite at range?

This is a good idea in my opinion, making the player work for their food. It also gives you the ability to customise the weapon(s) that they use for ranged smiting, adding disadvantages/drawbacks as you see fit.

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