Apart from the Animated Shield, is there a way to fight with a shield (given that my character has proficiency with shields), and attacking at distance (I also have proficiency with some ranged weapons). Since ranged weapons are two-handed, it's seems very difficult to have a great defense and a ranged attack (that I'm aware of, I'm still pretty new to this game).

My goal is to still have the +2 AC while attacking ranged. I want to do it in a cheap way (Animated Shield is too rare and expensive). I have too little HP, and I want to stay far from combat. I already have studded leather armor.

I already had the idea of crafting a shield/bow (Is it possible to build a custom weapon, and if so, how will my character be able to use it?), but it seems very impractical at best.

If it can help, my character is a Rogue (Scout)/Ranger.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How far do you call "far from combat"? Is 30ft enough or do you want to be ~60-120ft away? \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Apr 12 '19 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ My character is a Scout with mobile, so 30ft is plenty enough. I really just don't want to be near, and I can move to be in range if necessary \$\endgroup\$ – Eradash Apr 12 '19 at 1:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ What are your race and rogue/ranger levels? \$\endgroup\$ – Alk Apr 12 '19 at 2:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ For now, I'm Rogue Scout lvl 4, but I'm planning taking 2 lvl in Ranger after lvl 5 (to gain Shields proficiency and 2 spells, mainly) \$\endgroup\$ – Eradash Apr 12 '19 at 3:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additional tactic because I played a ranger/rogue for a while: stay > 30ft away and drop prone to give disadvantage on ranged attacks against you. That ~+5AC is way better than a shield. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Apr 12 '19 at 8:49

Use thrown finesse weapons and the Sharpshooter feat

Thrown weapons only require one hand to draw and throw. You can use your free object interaction each round to draw a new one each round. This just requires you to be carrying enough to get through a combat encounter or two.

As a rogue, most of your damage will be coming from Sneak Attack, so the smaller damage die of the weapon won't matter so much. You do need to use a finesse thrown weapon, however, to activate Sneak Attack. The best option for this is the dagger or dart. The dagger has the added benefit of being useful in melee, but the dart is cheaper and lighter, which makes it easier to pick up a bunch of them.

The dart and dagger both have range of 20/60, so if you are throwing them beyond 20 feet, you will have disadvantage and lose the ability to use Sneak Attack. The solution to this is the Sharpshooter feat, which allows you so throw up to the weapon's maximum range without disadvantage.

Alternative: Grab the Dual Wielder feat

The Dual Wielder feat will give you a +1 to AC while you are dual wielding, and allow you to draw 2 weapons per turn. Have a dagger in each hand and you can attack twice per turn (once with a bonus action) for only the loss of 1 AC compared to using a shield. It does cost a feat, but this can be a good option.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note: the -1 AC is in reference to a mundane shield (+2 AC), a magic shield can have a bonus from +1 to +3, and therefore shields in general range from +2 AC to +5 AC, while the Dual Wielder feat does not scale. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Apr 12 '19 at 7:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately the Sharpshooter Feat doesn't help with disadvantage at long range. 'Attacking at long range doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls.' - From the Sharpshooter feat. Even when thrown, it's still a Melee weapon. Source from Sage advice - sageadvice.eu/2015/06/20/ranged-and-thrown-weapon \$\endgroup\$ – SoulMuncherr Apr 12 '19 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SoulMuncherr Those are two different things - the archery feat specifies "attacks made with ranged weapons", which specifies a type of weapon, whereas sharpshooter specifies "ranged weapon attack rolls" which specifies a type of attack (i.e. ranged weapon attack) rather than a type of weapon. Throwing a melee weapon is a ranged weapon attack, so the feat applies. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Apr 12 '19 at 15:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just sort assumed that a ranged weapon attack was made with a ranged weapon, but what you say makes sense. I also found this previous question supporting your point: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/87563/… \$\endgroup\$ – SoulMuncherr Apr 12 '19 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SoulMuncherr So, the problem of "ranged weapon attack" vs "attack with a ranged weapon" was known priot to 5e. The people who wrote 5e said "we don't care". \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Apr 12 '19 at 15:48

The quick answer; spells.

Rangers, and Arcane Tricker rogues, both eventually get spells. So you can hide behind a shield with one hand free to cast spells. But I don't think that's the answer you want.

More in line answer; thrown weapons.

There are a number of one-handed weapons that have the "thrown" property. They are weapons that you can hold in one hand, but you can throw them a short distance. The problem is that they are still considered melee weapons and will use the character's Strength bonus instead of their Dexterity (which I'm sure you're hoping for). It's been pointed out that the dagger and dart also has the finesse attribute so it qualifies as using your Dexterity bonus.

However this will allow you to hide in the back, use a shield, and still get some distance between you and the bad guys while screaming "Not in the face!"

Double checking your post, you want 30 feet. Of that list, almost all of them max out at 20 feet before going into the disadvantage spectrum. However, the javelin does make it the full 30 feet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The dagger has both Thrown and Finesse, so you should be able to use Dex with that: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/108337/… \$\endgroup\$ – divibisan Apr 12 '19 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth mentioning that there are a few thrown weapons with the finesse property, meaning you can use your Dex mod with those. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 12 '19 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ 30ft is not a minimum for me, even 20ft would be enough, I can easily move to this range if necessary. \$\endgroup\$ – Eradash Apr 12 '19 at 1:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did not tough of thrown weapons, this is really awesome! It will be a bit more expensive than arrows, but it will still be cheaper than magical items! \$\endgroup\$ – Eradash Apr 12 '19 at 1:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ It may also be worth mentioning that you can get a cantrip or two from a Feat as well, so a full level in a full casting class isn't necessary if you want to take the spell route. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon Apr 12 '19 at 3:36

Use the Magic Initiate feat to get access to a ranged attack cantrip.

The Magic Initiate feat grants two cantrips and one 1st-level spell. Some decent options from just the Core material for the unlimited use cantrips:

  • Acid Splash has a 60 ft range and hits two targets.
  • Chill Touch has a 120 ft range and shuts down healing. ^R
  • Create Bonfire has a 60 ft range and has other utility/control usage.
  • Eldritch Blast has a 120 ft, ties for highest damage, and is rarely resisted. ^R
  • Fire Bolt has a 120 ft range and the highest damage. ^R
  • Frostbite has a 60 ft range and causes Disadvantage on attacks.
  • Ray of Frost has a 60 ft range and slows movement. ^R
  • Toll the Dead has a 60 ft range and the most damage against wounded targets.

I marked the ones that make ranged attack rolls (as opposed to saving throws) with a ^R symbol in case you prefer those. Unfortunately, since spells aren't weapons, they don't trigger your Sneak Attack damage - options for one-handed ranged sneak attack are few, thrown finesse weapons are pretty much it.

When my party's Arcane Trickster asked me for help picking a ranged cantrip, I suggested Ray of Frost for the slow so they could stay at range easier. You'll also find more options with more books, of course. Using a cantrip or two for your ranged combat has the added benefit that you can basically never be disarmed, besides being in an anti-magic zone or similar.

You could take another ranged option with the other cantrip, get an area-effect, melee, or utility cantrip instead, or whatever you want to do with it; plus get a bonus 1st level spell to use once per day for an extra trick, but the point in this case will be unlimited access to a surprise ranged attack you can do with a shield in one hand and the other empty.

Example choices

  • Wizard: Ray of Frost, Minor Illusion, Disguise Self - buff your Rogue abilities with the ability to create objects or sounds, craft the perfect disguise, and slow your pursuers.

  • Cleric: Toll the Dead, Guidance, Healing Word - punish the wounded, boost key rolls (your own or others'), and put a fallen ally back into the fight.

  • Druid: Infestation, Thorn Whip, Earth Tremor - control the battlefield, moving enemies around as you wish and knocking them all prone.

  • Warlock: Eldritch Blast, Prestidigitation, Hex - spell-snipe, create half a dozen small magical effects, and get an hour-long buff against one foe at a time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You left out the best ranged cantrip Eldritch Blast. 120 ft and 1d10 that scales and Force damage too. \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Apr 12 '19 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eternallord66 I'm not familiar yet with the 5e Warlock and wasn't sure if there were good additional options to take for the second cantrip and the first level spell. It seems to be functionally identical to Fire Bolt except that you can split its scaled damage, so I didn't include it, but you can feel free to edit my answer. I also ruled out Magic Stone, a very interesting choice, because I felt the answer was getting too long and it would take some explaining of its own. \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Apr 12 '19 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Magic Initiate for Warlock I would choose Eldritch Blast, Prestidigitation and for the 1st lvl spell Hex. \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Apr 12 '19 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sneak Attack requires the attack to made with a (ranged or finesse) weapon, and so no cantrips (nor other spells) are eligible for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 12 '19 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 Them being thrown does not make them ranged weapons, and they are not given finesse, so No. As a technical correction to my comment, cantrips like booming blade does trigger Sneak Attack as the have you make an attack with a weapon. These do not grant ranged options though. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 12 '19 at 14:25

If you want to go with shield and crossbow, you can have a hand-crossbow, which is one-handed (no need to homebrew - it's in the PHB 149). Note, however, that you need a free hand to reload a ranged weapon that requires ammunition (it's done as a part of attack, PHB 146), so if you want to shoot more than once, you'll have to drop the shield before attack and pick it up afterwards.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Also, you can't just drop a shield that you have equipped, or reequip it just by picking it up; it takes an action to don or doff, meaning you can't do it on the same turn as your attack. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 13 '19 at 23:38

The sling is a powerful weapon in real life, but in D&D it only does 1d4. I think sling and shield is neat, but it might be underpowered.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That won't work - though the sling is a one-handed weapon, it has the Ammunition property, which means "...you need a free hand to load a one-handed weapon". You won't be able to sport a shield and (re)load your sling. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrzej Doyle Apr 12 '19 at 16:24

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