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I'm optimizing a character that uses nets to immobilize and darts to deal damage.

The character will be holding a shield, so bonus action offhand throwing is not really a consideration.

What is the optimal build for this net/dart character?

Requirements

  • Officially-released, first-party materials, books, adventures, etc.
    • any race, class, etc
  • Level 6
  • Throws darts
  • Throws a net

I'm assuming that the best use for a character's turn is to throw the net with an action and then throw the dart with something like The Battle Master's Quick Toss, but would like to know if there is a better option.

Additionally: How long is this build viable?

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2 Answers 2

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Variant Human Battlemaster Fighter 6

Build

  • Crossbow Expert feat (Variant Human) to eliminate the disadvantage from using missile weapons within 5 feet
  • Sharpshooter (Fighter 6 ASI) for that sweet -5 to hit/+10 to damage to eliminate disadvantage on long-range attacks. We will try to get into melee range, but this may not always be possible.
  • Shield Master feat (Fighter 4 ASI) to allow you to knock your netted opponents prone, giving you advantage on your subsequent attacks and giving them disadvantage on their Strength checks to escape or attacks to break the net (or you)
  • Useful Manouvers are Goading Attack (force them to attack you rather than the net), Quick Toss (throw an extra dart per turn), and Trip Attack (as well as or instead of the Shield Master to knock them down).
  • Proficiency in Athletics
  • Put your best scores into Dex, Str, Con and then as you wish.

Technique

Round 1

  • Declare an attack action but take your Bonus action first to attempt to knock your opponent prone.
  • Attack with the net (with advantage if you knocked them prone). If they aren't prone, use Trip Attack to try to get them prone; if they are, use Goading Attack to prevent them from trying to escape. Depending on your DM, they may allow the superiority die damage on a net attack (because you wrapped it around their neck, or bent their fingers back or whatever narrative reason you like), or they may not - ce'st la vie.

Subsequent rounds

  • If they aren't prone, use your Shield Master to try to knock them down with your bonus action. Use Quick Toss to stick a dart in their eye if they are prone.
  • Use your action to throw two darts using maneuvers as desired with Sharpshooter if you seem likely to hit.

If you are using Tasha's variant origin, the Elf or Half-Elf are good, swapping out Shield Master for Elvan Accuracy and relying more on your Trip Attack.

If you go to level 7, a Rogue dip is good to get Sneak Attack and Expertise in Athletics. It might almost be worth it to go Fighter 5 / Rogue 1 but I think the extra feat is better.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Afaik, RAW you can't shove with shield master until after you finished attacking \$\endgroup\$ Apr 27, 2023 at 11:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slaves_of_the_Coast true. I'd fix it but I'm too tired. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Apr 27, 2023 at 11:53
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Let's start with a baseline dart thrower

If we are building a net and dart character, we will want them to be at least better than a basic dart thrower. The simplest optimized dart thrower that I could come up with is a Custom Lineage Fighter 1/Ranger (Gloom Stalker) 5 with the Piercer and Sharpshooter feat.

Thus the relevant factors for our damage are:

  • 18 Dexterity
  • 2 attacks with Extra Attack (3 with Dread Ambusher on the first turn; which we will call 1/3 of turns)
  • 50% chance to hit with Sharpshooter attacks (includes the Archery Fighting Style, and using the expected AC of 15 for a solo monster in a medium difficulty encounter according to the Dungeon Master's Guide)
  • One reroll on damage with the Piercer feat
  • Extra critical hit damage with the Piercer feat
  • 10 extra damage with Sharpshooter
  • 2 extra damage with the Thrown Weapon Fighting Fighting Style

Calculating this damage, we get 22.75 DPR:

$$(\frac{2}{3}*2+\frac{1}{3}*3)*(50\% *(\frac{2.5+2.5+3+4}{4}+4+10+2)+5\%*5)=22.75 \text{ DPR}$$

What does the net do?

If we replace one throw of the dart with a net, we get the following changes to the damage factors:

  • No dart attacks on the first turn
  • When our net hits (75% of the time), our remaining dart throws improves to 75% chanced to hit, and are chance to score a critical hit improves to 9.75%

Calculating this damage, we get 17.988 DPR:

$$(\frac{2}{3}*2+\frac{1}{3}*0)*((\frac{3*75\%}{4}+\frac{50\%}{4}) *(\frac{2.5+2.5+3+4}{4}+4+10+2)+(\frac{3*9.75\%}{4}+\frac{5\%}{4})*5)=17.988 \text{ DPR}$$

As you can see, we lose considerable damage because that first round is spent on the net. Firstly, Gloom Stalker ranger is wasted with this strategy, but more importantly, we need to find a way to deal damage during that first turn or to be able to guarantee the restrained condition.

Optimizing for the net

The first basic solution is to get our hands on Action Surge so we can attack on the turn we use the net. Unfortunately, Action Surge forces us into straight Fighter to maintain our Fighting Styles (using the level 6 ASI to gain the Fighting Initiate feat).

Let's say we have Action Surge about half of our first turns. Our new damage is 22.484 DPR:

$$(\frac{5}{6}*2+\frac{1}{6}*0)*((\frac{3*75\%}{4}+\frac{50\%}{4}) *(\frac{2.5+2.5+3+4}{4}+4+10+2)+(\frac{3*9.75\%}{4}+\frac{5\%}{4})*5)=22.484 \text{ DPR}$$

Now we are fast approaching parity with the dart thrower and we haven't even included our subclass yet. But before we get to that, let's talk a bit about nets.

What if they break out of the net?

If the target breaks free from the net, our damage drops precipitously. While it is nice to have wasted their turn, calculating the drop in damage on the proceeding turns, we get 17.497 DPR:

$$(\frac{2}{3}*2)*(50\% *(\frac{2.5+2.5+3+4}{4}+4+10+2)+5\%*5)+$$ $$(\frac{1}{6}*2+\frac{1}{6}*0)*((\frac{3*75\%}{4}+\frac{50\%}{4}) *(\frac{2.5+2.5+3+4}{4}+4+10+2)+(\frac{3*9.75\%}{4}+\frac{5\%}{4})*5)=17.497\text{ DPR}$$

As such, we want to make breaking free as hard as possible. And the best way to do that is with the hex spell:

Also, choose one ability when you cast the spell. The target has disadvantage on ability checks made with the chosen ability.

As a Fighter 5/Warlock 1, we miss out on the Piercer feat, setting our Dexterity to only 17 (lowering our chance to hit as well) and we don't get the rerolls on damage dice and extra damage. However, hex (and Genie's Wrath from our patron choice) gives us a bit of that damage back, and helping maintain the net restraint is very worth it.

Our chance to hit is now 45% without the net, and 69.75% with the net. The net attack now has a 70% chance to hit instead of 75%.

Our new damage with hex and Genie's Wrath is 22.025 DPR:

$$(\frac{5}{6}*2+\frac{1}{6}*0)*((\frac{7*69.75\%}{10}+\frac{3*45\%}{10}) *(2.5+3.5+3+10+2)+(\frac{7*9.75\%}{10}+\frac{3*5\%}{10})*(2.5+3.5))+(\frac{5}{6}*((1-(1-(\frac{7*69.75\%}{10}+\frac{3*45\%}{10})^2))*3)+\frac{1}{6}*(70\%*3))=22.025 \text{ DPR}$$

We miss out on about 0.75 DPR compared to a quick-and-dirty dart throwing build, but get the benefit of applying the net for our party to possibly benefit from.

What subclass to play

We could eek out a little more damage with Battle Master, but I think the best course of action is to help guarantee the restrained condition. Hex is making a difference, but there is still a chance they will break free despite the disadvantage.

For these situations, I recommend the Rune Knight subclass for the Fire Rune on your shield:

In addition, when you hit a creature with an attack using a weapon, you can invoke the rune to summon fiery shackles: the target takes an extra 2d6 fire damage, and it must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be restrained for 1 minute. While restrained by the shackles, the target takes 2d6 fire damage at the start of each of its turns. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, banishing the shackles on a success. Once you invoke this rune, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.

It also gives a bit of extra damage between short rests (4d6+ instead of 4d8), and can reengage that restrained condition on those occasions where the target breaks free.

You also get Giant's Might for a bit more sustained damage in fights where you use it.

As for warlock, I chose The Genie for a bit of extra damage per round, but you could certainly choose something else at the cost of about 2.5 DPR.

The final build

Our character is Custom Lineage for the Fighting Initiate feat (Archery) with the following classes:

  • Fighter 5 (for Thrown Weapon Fighting, Action Surge, Fire Rune, Giant's Might, the Sharpshooter feat, and Extra Attack)
  • Warlock 1 (for hex and Genie's Wrath)

Taking the build further

Going much higher with this build, our net will be less and less reliable. You will start to run into huge enemies, or combats with multiple enemies more often. Additionally, the Strength scores will be high enough to break free of the net despite the disadvantage.

Against such enemies, you should basically fall back on that baseline dart thrower and skip the net.

Here's how I would level this character past level 6:

  1. Fighter 6 for the Piercer feat getting our Dexterity to the much needed 18
  2. Warlock 2 for the extra spell slot for if we ever lose Concentration or if our combats are more than an hour apart. Take whatever Invocations you like
  3. Fighter 7 for the Storm Rune and Runic Shield which are both quite potent to help with or against key attacks and saving throws
  4. Fighter 8 for Dexterity 20
  5. Fighter 9 for Indomitable (helps with Concentration on hex)
  6. Fighter 10 for Constitution 18
  7. Fighter 11 for improved Extra Attack
  8. Ranger 1
  9. Ranger 2
  10. Ranger 3 for Dread Ambusher
  11. Ranger 4 for Constitution 20

This build is "viable" at higher levels, but not very optimized. As the net falls off, you are better off just switching to a hand crossbow and picking up the Crossbow Expert feat. If I were playing this character, I'd do this at 10th level and delay maximizing my Dexterity for those extra attacks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not all heroes wear capes; Apparently, some throw darts. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    May 1, 2023 at 13:42

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