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I saw this question here. The way the questioner wrote it (at the time I am writing this one) was quite broad. I have been through a similar issue, which ultimately led me to homebrew a new class, and I decided to share my problem and my solution.

Background

I am running a new Curse of Strahd campaign with players that are more used to D&D than most groups I DM for. One of my players wants to play a ranged weapon-based character, but that, at the same time, has "holy" characteristics, similar to a Paladin or Cleric. Basically, the player wants to shoot arrows that deal radiant damage and deal some extra nice damage against Undeads and other evil creatures.

Additionally, the player feels like the holy aspect should provide some kind of support to the party, similar to what Paladins and Clerics do, not only be a damage dealer that deals radiant damage and extra against evil.

The Issue

Well, there is the first obvious issue: clerics don't have much supporting ranged weapon-based playing style, nor do Paladins. But not only that, the Paladin class as a whole is quite melee-based. Creating a new subclass to the Paladin that fits with ranged combat still seems hard - it is not just about changing Divine Smite to ranged and allowing Archery as a Fighting style. The channel divinities are melee based, the auras are mostly melee-tankish based. On the other hand, re-flavoring a Ranger to something more "sacred" also does not feel the same (especially since the player wants something to support the team).

The question

How can I allow my player to play with the concept they have in mind and have a fun time? I should mention that I am totally okay with homebrew content, as long as it is fairly balanced, and I am also okay with build suggestions that make such a playstyle viable. Answers explaining why this is a bad idea are also welcome, if that is the case and I am unaware.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The War priest answer is a good one. How open are you to modify green flame blade and make it radiant damage and with the range of the weapon? To balance it you can reduce the damage dice to a d6 or even a d4. This may add the smite feeling a bit \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Jun 13 '20 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chepelink as I said I am open to homebrewing as a whole, so, changing only a small feature is completely fine to me. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 14 '20 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you looked at the Blood Hunter class, subclass Order of the Ghostslayer? dndbeyond.com/classes/blood-hunter#OrderoftheGhostslayer. They don't have the same kind of party support as cleric or paladin, but can buff their weapon to add Radiant damage. (And the class lets you take the Archery fighting style.) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jun 15 '20 at 14:53
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For ranged attacks and a holy feel, Celestial Warlock fits well

Eldritch Blast has a variety of invocations that makes it useful in a lot of situations. The 90' range makes it applicable in a lot of tactical situations.

Sacred Flame does radiant damage. The two additional cantrips with this patron (Light, sacred flame) are a nice fit with the theme of Curse of Strahd's dark and undead setting.

The first level feature, Healing Light, is a fair enough approximation of Lay on Hands to fit.

The level 6 class the Radiant Soul feature adds radiant damage to some attacks and spells.

when you cast a spell that deals radiant or fire damage, you can add your Charisma modifier to one radiant or fire damage roll of that spell against one of its targets.

Banishment, a Warlock spell, at level 7 can be chosen to get a very nice cleric / paladin feel for handling undead.

EB as your bread and butter is as good as any archery, better with Agonizing Blast, and by using either Repelling Blast or Eldritch Spear, can provide some battlefield control or added range. It does good damage in tiers 1, 2, and 3 if you take Agonizing blast right away at level 2.

If the party is beginning at level 1, taking variant Human and the Moderately Armored feat to allow for medium armor and a shield fits a Dexterity based paladin.

Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
You gain proficiency with medium armor and shields.

Pacts: Tome or Chain fits well here.

Pact of the Tome provides a few things that support your concept.
1. Additional cantrips like spare the dying, chill touch, or toll the dead.
2. Rituals when you take the Book of Magic Secrets invocation

The Pact of the Chain Warlock familiar provides a lot of scouting and a few control spells. Depending on your party you may need a scout. Gift of the Ever-Living Ones boosts healing; it's sort of clericky in that regard.

Whenever you regain hit points while your familiar is within 100 feet of you, treat any dice rolled to determine the hit points you regain as having rolled their maximum value for you.

You will probably be done with the campaign before the at will 'hold monster' invocation is available: chains of Carceri. But it's another way to control a foe that fits with the general cleric/paladin anti undead theme.

If willing to wait for level 5 - Pact of the Blade

Improved Pact Weapon allows for the Warlock's weapon to be a bow; if the player is willing to be patient, the Eldritch Smite, Improved Pact weapon, and Thirsting Blade invocations will support this character concept if Pact of the Blade is chosen at level 3. (Thanks @NathanS, @anaximander)

The additional spells from the Celestial patron offer thematic support.
1st: cure wounds, guiding bolt
2nd: flaming sphere, lesser restoration
3rd: daylight, revivify
4th: guardian of faith, wall of fire
5th: flame strike, greater restoration

Going to home brew may be satisfying but also takes more work. For a package that is already in the box, Celestial Warlock fits.

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    \$\begingroup\$ After presenting the ideas in this question to my players, they loved this one and even players that were not thinking about making a ranged paladin liked the concepts presented here, so I will go on and accept it. Another thing I completely failed to mention in my question is that we already had a melee war cleric, probably one of the reasons the player preferred this one (so to not overlap exactly the same class I guess). \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 18 '20 at 16:39
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Choose Cleric and use the War Domain.

The War Domain supports ranged weapons just as well as a front-line approach.

It gives proficiency with martial weapons (such as the longbow) and has a number of features that enhance your weapon attacks. At no point does it say "melee weapon" - you can make bonus action bow attacks with the War Priest feature, and Divine Strike applies to a longbow as much as a longsword.

(I should note in passing that War Clerics can take advantage of the superior damage of the heavy crossbow - the Loading property doesn't cause any meaningful difficulties when you're only attacking once per action or bonus action anyway.)

The domain's spell list is focused on combat-related buff spells, meeting your party support goals; notably, Divine Favour is available to add a little radiant damage to every attack you make, in situations where that's helpful.

The only spell on this list that's less helpful for a primarily ranged character is Spirit Guardians, as you're less likely to be in the middle of a large number of enemies, but its 15-foot radius means you can still deal a lot of damage with it while shooting from the sidelines.

Other Domains

The other martial-weapon Domains - Tempest from the PHB and Forge from XGtE - do allow similar results but focus much less on weapons and have some less suitable details. You wouldn't get much benefit from Searing Smite on the Forge spell list, as it's melee-only, and the Tempest domain's Wrath of the Storm only triggers when you're hit in melee range. Unless your player particularly wants the flavour of one of these two, I'd strongly recommend choosing War over either of them for a Cleric focusing specifically on ranged weapons.

Any Domain that gives Divine Strike (such as Life, Nature, Trickery and Order (published in the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica)) can use a shortbow or light crossbow as effectively as the traditional mace; however, none of these put as much focus on weapon attacks in their features, so they're less likely to suit the style your player wants.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Tempest Domain also gives a bunch of good ranged attack options. Sometimes it feels more like a damage-dealing than healing class, between Sacred Flame and Call Lightning. Those are both save-based rather than attack-roll-based, though, which may be a flavor turnoff for OP's player's preferences. Or not! \$\endgroup\$ – Jenn D. Jun 15 '20 at 7:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JennD. I might be reading a bit too much into what the question's said about the flavour the player wants, but I think that's less suitable for the "classic Paladin feel, but with a bow" description we've got. I'm a huge fan of Tempest in general - I love the flavour - but I'm aiming quite specifically at the ranged weapon angle with this answer, and Tempest doesn't line up quite so well as War there, even with martial proficiency and Divine Strike. \$\endgroup\$ – LizWeir Jun 15 '20 at 8:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ LizWeir is right haha. Tempest feels more like a spellcaster rather than a ranged weapon paladin. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 18 '20 at 16:31
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Use the optional multiclassing rules

D&D has existing rules for creating characters that are hybrids of existing classes. You should leverage these rules instead of creating an entire new class - that's a mammoth endeavour and would take an epic amount of time and effort to get right.

The player can make a character that is part Cleric, part Ranger/Rogue/Fighter. That will fulfil both their desire to have some Cleric-like abilities, and be a ranged damage-dealer. Each class has its advantages and disadvantages, so it would be fun to try and craft an interesting character.

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So, I will answer how I approached this problem in order to create my Holy Archer (link to the PDF of the class for anyone interested).

Homebrew it!

Basically, I decided to homebrew a new class (link above) which fits the concept my player wanted. I will share my thought process on how to homebrew the class starting just from the concept.

Choose a baseline from an existing class

The best way to start is to choose a class which is the closest to the design you are aiming and try to mimic the feature progression and power levels from that class. In this case, Paladin seems like the obvious choice.

Choose basic features

All classes have basic features that are shared among them.

  • Spellcasting. Is it a full caster, half caster, third caster or no spells at all? Since we are basing on the Paladin, we are going with half-caster.

  • Hit dice. Choose what feels appropriate to your concept. Usually, ranged squishy classes have a d6, ranged, but a little more vulnerable classes have a d8, classes that might see themselves in melee frequently have d10 and the Barbarian has a d12, which I believe should be reserved to extraordinarily resilient classes.

  • Saving Throw proficiencies. All classes have one major ST (Dex, Con, Wis) and one minor (Str, Cha, Int). Again, pick whatever feels better for your class.

  • Weapon and armor proficiencies. Well, this one should be straight forward from the concept itself. In this case, the class certainly should have access to martial and simple ranged weapon proficiencies, it makes little sense to give it shield proficiency and probably it should be using light or medium armor, not heavy.

  • Skills. Most classes have 2 skill proficiencies, chosen from a list that makes sense for the class. Classes supposed to be versatile outside of the combat, such as the Bard and the Rogue, have a few more proficiencies (3 and 4). Usually this will be the same as the class you are using as a base line. For this one, I talked to the player about what they thought it would make sense for their concept of class and we decided together for something close to the Paladin, but also with Acrobatics.

  • Starting equipment. Again, this should be straight forward from the concept, usually you have some idea on what kind of equipment the class is supposed to use. Here we gave it a longbow or a light crossbow.

Feature progression

Then, you need to worry about how your class progresses. All classes get to choose their subclass by 3rd level. How early the choice should be made depends on how much the class is dependent on the subclass. For example, a Cleric or a Warlocks are mostly defined by their pacts/domain, so that should be chosen at first level.

Usually, following the progression imposed by the base line class should be fine, with some minor tweaks. For example, for the Holy Archer, since at first level it does not have many interesting features, I gave it Archery already, similar to the Fighter fighting style at 1st level (as it is more of a damage dealing class, I took Lay on Hands out).

Most spellcasting classes don't get a new feature when they get a new spell slot level, so if you have a spellcasting class, some levels are already given.

It is also important to let your class get some thematic and situational, but not necessarily incredibly useful features. For example Rangers get the Favored Enemy, Paladins get Aura of Courage, Monks get Slow Fall and improved unarmored movement. These are useful in very specific situations, but you should not see yourself using them all the time. In the spirit of the Undead hunter, I have added some extra radiant damage against undeads, for example.

Tier breaks

There are three levels which consist of a major power spike for all classes, which are the tier breaks. These are 5th, 11th and 17th level. Make sure you keep it up with the power level in these levels. Do not give your class a minor feature discussed earlier in these levels.

General design choices

As for races, 5e has taken out most of the "negative effects" from classes and races. A "mistake" I have seen in many homebrews is to try to balance a very strong bonus with a very bad drawback. This usually is a bad choice and leads to something not much fun and very hard to balance. As I said, this edition avoids this as much as it can, and usually when they don't, the result is either something never played or something arguably broken.

Personal thoughts

If you are making the class with some player in mind, some campaign or anything similar, remember to input your own personal ideas of what is fun and what would be interesting for your class. Most likely, you are not creating the homebrew in order to publish it, just to have fun with friends or something similar. Include aspects you know the players who will use the class think are fun. In this case, the player seems to have fun providing some support to the team, so include some supportive features, that may be useless "in a vacuum" but will make everyone in the team glad that character exists with this class. For the Holy Archer, I gave a feature that the players liked a lot: the ability to reroll a dice that failed to all the party members, except the character itself. It is a feature that, we hope, will make the party go "thank you for being here!" - while it is completely useless from the character point of view.

Play it, test it

For any homebrew, it is incredibly hard to armchair balance, and make a perfectly balanced, fun-to-play, amazing class/race/spell/item/w/e. Wizards have a team of experienced game designers, playtesters and they still release content through Unearthed Arcana to be tested by players and receive feedback and still some classes, races or w/e feel underwhelming or just too good. Don't be ashamed of trying it out and finding out that the 5th level feature you thought was overpowered is actually too specific and was never used, or that the dump feature you created which should be thematic allows a broken exploit, or that the feature you gave that class actually makes it very frustrating to play "against" as the DM. Then, remake it with your new experience and perfect it more and more, keeping in mind that the goal is mostly to have fun with that content.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS this should be an answer to a homebrew review question, really. HellSaint have you considered putting it here for the review? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jun 13 '20 at 10:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ As an answer to a question about how to make a character who plays like a ranged Paladin, I think this answer could use more explanation about your homebrew class and why it fits what’s requested in a balanced way. \$\endgroup\$ – Weaveworker89 Jun 13 '20 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Good catch, for some reason I thought Wizards got it at lvl 1 but only the cheaper scribing thing haha \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 14 '20 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot I have, but a whole class is quite hard to review in a SE format. Usually it works best for specific features or minor contributions, from what I have seen. The reason I made this Q&A, as stated in the Q, is that we got a similar question around and I wanted to make it in the format of SE. I provided this answer just as the way I solved the problem - the only I saw by the time. But I got great answers that show that there are less complicated ways to do it. The OP in the question I was referring to may as well have a simpler way to solve this problem rather than hbwing a whole class. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 14 '20 at 16:47

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