Is this homebrew “Throwing Weapons Master” feat balanced?

I'm trying to create a Fighter/Warlock character based on Kratos in the newest God of War game, who wields a two-handed axe which he can throw and summon back to his hands.

Pact of the Blade Warlock covers summoning the weapon back, but I would like to be able to throw something more substantial than a hand-axe.

My DM has agreed to let me take a custom feat if I can show that it is reasonably well-balanced. Our game is pretty casual and I'm more interested in flavour than pure efficiency but I would like to know if there is anything game-breakingly good or bad about the following feat.

Throwing Weapons Master

You can throw any melee weapon that you have proficiency with as if it had the thrown (range 20/60) property. Weapons that already have the thrown property are unaffected.

Is this feat overpowered (or underpowered)? If so, how could I fix it?

• Welcome to RPG stackexchange! Feel free to take the tour. Personally, I always love looking over "is this feat balanced" questions ^_^. – goodguy5 Dec 10 '18 at 16:22
• Welcome to Role-playing Games! We have an excellent Meta question on How to Ask Homebrew Balance Questions.I strongly recommend that you read this and try to follow through with the content inside. I think it'll help you put together better homebrew, better homebrew questions, and give you results that you can use at your table. It'll also vastly increase the odds of a successful Q&A for you here. – NautArch Dec 10 '18 at 16:34
• If it's not absolutely critical to be flinging a greataxe or a maul around, you may also consider simply flavoring your eldritch blast as throwing phantasmal weaponry. – user24827 Dec 11 '18 at 21:34

First of all, I recommend taking a look at the Unearthed Arcana (D&D 5e playtest material) about feat design.

The main issues mentioned in the first section are not a problem for this feat, nor are those listed later on. Still, let's keep the UA in mind since it gives us insight into how the designers design feats.

Power comparison:

Let's take a look at the existing rules for throwing weapons without the Thrown property. The PHB states on page 148:

If a character uses a ranged weapon to make a melee attack, or throws a melee weapon that does not have the thrown property, it also deals 1d4 damage. An improvised thrown weapon has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

So basically, your homebrew feat currently allows someone who has it to bypass the damage reduction to 1d4, keeping the original damage instead. Therefore, the best you can get with this feat is 1d12 or 2d6 (both can be situationally better), with a range of 20/60.

That's not bad, but the most damaging ranged weapon, the Heavy Crossbow, deals 1d10 at a 100/400 range, and you don't end your turn without your weapon. Therefore, I believe the feat is clearly underpowered.

Furthermore, with the Warlock's Pact of the Blade feature, you have to use an Action to summon your weapon back. This is horribly inefficient, so I suggest that, instead of a feat, you design an Eldritch Invocation. I don't think you can really balance the feat as long as it takes you an action to summon back your weapon - and carrying around 20 greataxes around is not really viable, unless you're Steve from Minecraft who can apparently carry a bunch of Eiffel Towers in his trouser pockets. While you could certainly design a feat that allows warlocks to summon their pact weapon as a bonus action, feats are not meant to be so limited in scope. Therefore, an invocation is the only real choice, as I see it.

Eldritch invocation instead of a feat

So, concerning the eldritch invocation: the main issues when throwing a non-Thrown melee weapon without any invocation or feat are currently that 1) you'll deal significantly reduced damage as opposed to melee, 2) you end your turn without a weapon, preventing you from making attacks of opportunity, and 3) you have to spend an entire Action to get your weapon back.

As a comparison for power, let's take a look at the Improved Pact Weapon invocation (from here on, IPW) from Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 57), which gives your Pact of the Blade weapon a +1 to attack and damage rolls, as well as allowing you to summon ranged weapons like bows and crossbows (which is pretty similar to the effect you want to achieve).

Let's deal with the issues listed above:

1. Reduced damage: ranged weapons deal less damage than melee weapons by design, since you get the benefit of being out of range of melee opponents while still damaging them. The IPW invocation allows you to summon a Heavy Crossbow with a +1 to hit and damage rolls, equaling a mean damage of 1d10+1 = 6.5 before modifiers, while the strongest melee weapon (in terms of mean damage) deals 2d6 = 7 (a 1d12 melee weapon also has 6.5 mean damage). Still, the Heavy Crossbow has a greater range, so these are roughly equal in power.
2. We can fix 2) at the same time we fix 3) - by allowing the user to summon their weapon as a bonus action. Now, you can throw your weapon as an Action, then summon it back as a bonus action, meaning that you don't end your turn without a weapon and can therefore make opportunity attacks. Simultaneously, you can attack each turn, without having to waste an Action every second turn. However, an issue is that warlocks will want to use their bonus action frequently already - namely, the Hex spell, unless against stronger high-health targets (where you don't have to shift it as often). Furthermore, you'll run into problems when you also have the Thirsting Blade invocation, since you only have 1 bonus action to summon your weapon, but you have 2 actions to throw it. It also doesn't give you any noticeable benefit as opposed to using an IPW crossbow.
3. As an alternative, we could, therefore, allow you to summon the weapon back as part of your attack. This means you don't end your turn without a weapon, you deal a little more damage than an IPW crossbow, and you can benefit from Thirsting Blade. To compensate for these advantages over IPW, you only have a range of 20/60.

In my opinion, the invocation is now fine as it is, but it would not be overpowered to give the thrown Pact of the Blade weapons a 60/60 range (i.e., 60 feet without disadvantage, but no further at all). Hence, here's the final invocation as I would design it:

Thrown Pact Weapon (feel free to switch this out for something fancier, like Arcing Weapon of Destructive Doom)
When you make an attack as part of the Attack action with a pact melee weapon on your turn, you can throw your weapon at a target, and you can choose to have it return back to the hand you threw it with as part of the same attack. For this attack, your weapon gains the Thrown property with a range of 60/60 if it doesn't already have it (existing ranges are, however, overwritten). If your pact weapon exists within 60 feet but isn't in your hand, you can still make the attack if you choose to have it return to one of your hands afterward.

• “1d12 or 2d6 (both can be situationally better),” is so misleading that I felt the need to downvote. While there is a situation where 1d12 is better (you need to roll 11 or 12 and if you fail, it doesn’t matter how much you fail by), that situation is absurdly contrived. In all other situations, 2d6 is mathematically superior. Your current wording implies they are about even, which is not remotely true. – KRyan Dec 10 '18 at 20:20
• @KRyan I'd assume they're talking about builds that add an extra weapon damage on a crit, like the half-orc barbarian who does 7d6 on a crit with a greatsword, or 6d12 on a crit with a greataxe. Which is a terrible reason to use a greataxe over a greatsword, but a lot of people believe in it. – Miniman Dec 10 '18 at 21:28
• @Miniman I did the math once, a 1d12 is mathematically better than 2d6 once you add 3 bonus damage dice on a crit (which happens at Barbarian level 17, or Barbarian level 13 if you're a half-orc). If you've got improved critical (crit on 18 or 19) or are using Reckless Attack, the effects become more visible. See my answer to a corresponding question here. – PixelMaster Dec 11 '18 at 8:32
• That is still an extremely contrived case, and this character is not a barbarian in the first place. That line is extremely misleading. – KRyan Dec 11 '18 at 13:45
• @KRyan since you're complaining that "this character is not a barbarian in the first place": no he's not, he's a fighter/warlock attempting to emulate Kratos from God of War. Maybe the line is misleading, but if you google Kratos, you'll discover that he throws axes, not great swords or mauls (which are the only 2d6 weapons RAW). Hence, OP's character won't be dealing 2d6 damage, but 1d12. Size-wise, he should probably be throwing hand axes, but great axes are close enough (closer than greatswords, anyway). – PixelMaster Dec 11 '18 at 16:03

Underpowered when you consider the problems

The actual benefit of the feat is good—until you consider the context in which you would have to use it in order to get that benefit. Then all of the problems that thrown weapons have rear their ugly heads, and this feat starts looking quite poor indeed, particularly since making the most of it requires you to avoid the only things that can start to help with thrown weapons.

Anyway, my thoughts:

The name

“Throwing Weapons Master” is a very strange name for this effect—it doesn’t do anything with throwing weapons, much less master them, it turns otherwise-non-throwing weapons into throwing weapons, which is rather different.

D&D 3.5e also had a feat that did this, called Throw Anything. Though it only calls out melee weapons as benefiting from the feat, the ability to use anything you can lift as an improvised melee weapon means you really could use it to throw anything. The same is true in D&D 5e, so I suggest that Throw Anything would be a good name.

The benefit

Remember that even without this feat, you can throw a melee weapon that lacks the thrown property. It just reduces the weapon’s damage to 1d4—a loss, for sure, when you throw a maul or greatsword, with their 2d6 damage dice, but the difference isn’t that large. A d4’s expected value is 2½ while 2d6’s is 7, so this feat effectively gains you +4½ damage. That’s pretty good, but it helps to keep things in perspective.

The usage

Throwing a weapon, only to re-summon it in the following round using Pact of the Blade, is a poor plan. You only get one attack every two rounds that way, because it takes your action to re-summon the weapon. Without a way to summon the weapon faster, you will halve your damage from the start, and then do even worse because you cannot benefit from multiattack options. This is even worse than the usual situation for throwing weapons—where you can draw a weapon as your item interaction and throw it in the same round, for 1 attack per round rather than 1 attack per two rounds—and that situation was already largely non-viable.

Unfortunately, there are just not a lot of solutions to this problem. The best answer we currently have on how to optimize throwing weapons focuses on sneak attack as a way to make up for the lack of extra attacks. The only answer we have for more attacks relies on having multiple weapons drawn and in hand before you start (and then, the next round, you’re back down to one attack per round).

There are pretty obvious problems here with both of these: a maul or greatsword does not qualify for sneak attack, so you cannot go the rogue route, and throwing one takes two hands, so we cannot rely on having more weapons already in-hand to enable more attacks. Pact of the Blade, since it requires an action, doesn’t help here at all—an item interaction is still superior.

And this is the real reason why that “+4½ bonus damage” is kind of fictitious—you only get that when using large weapons that will not work very well here. Moreover, since really what we are doing is eliminating a penalty, this feat kind of “puts you back where you should be” rather than “puts you ahead of the curve,” which is important. Your “+4½ bonus damage” doesn’t mean you’re doing more damage than someone who just swings a greatsword, only that you are doing the same damage. Except the person who holds onto their sword can keep swinging it, which means everything.

You could go with rapiers instead, but then you only get a d8 (expected value 4½) instead of 2d6, dropping your damage bonus to +2 instead of +4½. And a +2 bonus to damage on all attacks isn’t bad, but you’re still dealing with the very-awkward situation that throwing puts you in. Even with assassin, it still isn’t good.

Ultimately, the only way it would make a lot of sense to use this feat is to enable a final shot against a fleeing enemy that you cannot, for some reason, catch up with. Then you could throw your weapon, get in more damage than you otherwise would, and the fact that you cannot throw again doesn’t matter (because either you down them, or they escape as they would have anyway). A feat is a huge investment for a situation that won’t come up very often, and even then it only somewhat improves your odds of success in that situation.

• Maul/Greatword provide a even greater average damage: 7. There also is an additional benefit: you can use Strength instead of Dexterity for damage of thrown weapons. Using this feat the char doesn't need to boost both attributes. Furthermore it's a way of dealing bludgeoning damage with a ranged weapon. – fabian Dec 10 '18 at 17:15
• @fabian Thanks for pointing out the 2d6; I just went with the greataxe mentioned in the question. Except Dexterity is the better ability score. For damage, non-Strength sources of bonus damage are heavily recommended over pumping Strength. As for damage type, that is so but it’s not as though bludgeoning is generally-speaking superior to other damage types. – KRyan Dec 10 '18 at 17:18

This feat is probably a little underpowered in its current form.

My method

I like to compare feats (especially weapon feats) to other weapon feats. We usually see a formula that is something like:

• it's easier for you to hit with the weapon (remove disadvantage, +1 to hit, etc)
• some extra way to deal another attack's worth of damage (bonus action, reaction, etc)
• maybe some utility or ability increase based on how good the other two things are

The examples

A couple of existing feats are

Crossbow Expert

• You ignore the loading quality of crossbows with which you are proficient.
• Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
• When you use the Attack action and attack with a one handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a hand crossbow you are holding.

and (well, I simplified polarm master's text to make my point)

Polearm Master

• 1d4 damage as a bonus action
• opportunity attack as a reaction when someone enters your range (which is often)

My take on this

The feats I mentioned allow one to deal 1d10 damage, with some increased utility, and/or deal some lesser amount of damage as a bonus action.

Honestly, I would ask my DM if I could just take crossbow master and say that my crossbow is actually a warglaive-sword-axe-Kratos-thing. It meats all of the criteria and 1d10 is nothing to shake a crossbow bolt at. However, I think.....

You want to deal up to 1d12 damage at 20/60 range. That's on average one more damage per attack than a heavy crossbow (which is, incidentally, the increase you would get from an asi). But you're removing your weapon from your possession, so it seems a fair tradeoff to me.

I'm vary wary of chewing up your bonus action here as its kind of your bread and butter of this build. So, I propose the following minor adjustment.

Weapon Hurler

• You can throw any melee weapon that you have proficiency with as if it had the thrown (range 20/60) property. Weapons that already have the thrown property are unaffected.
• When a creature within 60 feet hits you with an attack or damaging effect, you can use your reaction to make an attack against that creature with a melee weapon you are holding.
• I think the current wording in your answer implies that the reaction doesn't actually require throwing the weapon. I'm not certain how to improve it though. – Kamil Drakari Dec 10 '18 at 19:25
• @KamilDrakari Well, I didn't want to require it to be a ranged attack. I wanted to allow it to just hit things in melee range. Maybe it should be narrowed down to "hits you with a ranged attack" – goodguy5 Dec 10 '18 at 19:35
• I see. I think "weapon hurler" should only provide benefits if actually throwing the weapon though. – Kamil Drakari Dec 10 '18 at 19:39
• @KamilDrakari I mean, sure. But really the feat should be called "Kratos Knockoff", but that felt unoriginal. – goodguy5 Dec 10 '18 at 19:51

This Feat is probably underpowered

A Handaxe normally allows you to deal 1d6 damage at a range of 20/60 feet, using Strength as your Attack and Damage modifier. Using a Greataxe bumps that damage up to 1d12, meaning all your thrown attacks will, on average, deal 3 more damage per attack per round—for your character, this generally means dealing ~+4.2 damage per round at most levels of play (complicated math arriving at that number omitted for brevity; hit me up in chat if you want the details) by taking this feat and therefore being able to always use a Greataxe while fighting in combat.

So the question becomes, how does this compare to another feat a character (especially a Strength-based character) could take?

Great Weapon Master

GWM is, by comparison, the most likely other feat a character built like yours might consider taking to boost their damage output. Considering only the normal use case of the weapon (taking the -5 accuracy hit for the +10 damage output), the DPR adjustment that a GWM character gains is generally better than what you're gaining with this feat. So at the very least, it's not more powerful than another competitive feat at this level. That's a good sign that your feat is at least balanced with respect to the Feats found in the core sourcebooks.

Below is a table of DPR values, assuming mundane weapons and a target AC of 16. These aren't exhaustive (obviously), but they should give a pretty good sense of how your feat is competing with Great Weapon Master.

$$\begin{array}{|l|l|l|l|} \hline Level & Normal\ (Handaxe) & HB\ Feat & GWM \\ \hline 5 & 9.35 & 13.25 & 15.00 \\ \hline 7 & 9.35 & 13.25 & 15.00 \\ \hline 9 & 12.25 & 16.75 & 20.00 \\ \hline 11 & 12.25 & 16.75 & 20.00 \\ \hline 13 & 13.10 & 17.90 & 22.15 \\ \hline 15 & 13.10 & 17.90 & 22.15 \\ \hline 17 & 13.95 & 19.05 & 24.30 \\ \hline 19 & 13.95 & 19.05 & 24.30 \\ \hline \end{array}$$

Again, ask me in chat for the calculation details if necessary.

It also helps that this feat has some disadvantages

Throwing your weapon is going to mean you'll—realistically—only get one attack every other turn. Your feature as a Warlock with Pact of the Blade means you'll be able to get your weapon back once per turn, but that replaces your Action. You might be able to bump that up by running around and picking up your axe using your free object interaction, (or having many axes you can pull out of your Backpack...) but you're not going to be able to just throw axes all day and be as competitive damage-wise as you would normally be in melee combat.

So since this isn't boxing out another competitive feat, and it's not strictly better than normal ranged options that characters might take, I'm inclined to argue that this feat is definitely not overpowered, and may actually be somewhat underpowered depending on the circumstances. There just aren't a lot of situations where throwing your weapon is a tactically good option, and the +3 damage on the one situation where you really feel you need to do so is nice, but not game breaking.

I would say underpowered. The other answers tackle the main problems with it better than I could. But I'll take the solution in a different direction.

This feat is made to make you bonkers throwing weapons right? So I think instead of allowing you to throw more weapons, it should make you better at the weapons that can already be thrown. So here's a template you can do whatever you what with it.

Throwing weapon master.

You are skilled with throwing weapons and gain the following benefits.

If you deal a creature using a weapon that has the throw property, you gain advantage your next attack on that creature.

In addition when wilding two light weapons with the throw properly you may add your proficiency bonus to the damage of second attack.

Once per short rest when you deal damage to a creature you can use a bonus action to give them disadvantage on one saving throw of your choice, until your next turn ends.

You can do what you like with this template. Reskin it kill, it with fire, or keep it. It's just to give you a few ideas. But I would encourage you to make this feat your own.

Now this version might be a little overpowered. But I'll give you an optimized build for your ultimate throwing champion. Again just to give you some ideas take it or leave it.

Race human variant, Ability score increases dex and whatever, it doesn't matter for this build. And get the throwing weapon master feat.

4 levels in fighter.

1. get the archery fighting style.
2. Survive to level three and get the battle master archetype.
3. Survive to level 4 and get the sharpshooter feat.

1 level in rouge. for sneak attack

This is just a skeleton I made a full build on dnd beyond. You can play with that build or make your own. It's not a perfect build,I don't even know if it's any good but here ya go https://ddb.ac/characters/7278671/f2w6Fo

• Have you used this build in combat? – NautArch Dec 10 '18 at 19:00
• No I haven't, I did edit my answer to make it clear that it hasn't been tested I mostly use homebrew stuff so I have some experience with balancing homebrew content. And I like making characters, I will try and play test it at some point but I not sure when that would be possible. – Josiah Riggan Dec 11 '18 at 0:47