Polearm Master feat in DnD 5E explained

The goblins had the Paladin outnumbered, having laid in wait by the side of the road, hoping to prey upon unsuspecting travelers. As they began to encircle her, the wicked curves of their shortswords mirrored in their cruel smirks. She calmly widened her stance and waited to strike. 

With the leader advancing, chattering something in their language, she saw the opportunity to strike, letting the glaive at her side fall forwards before driving it into the small highwayman, a burst of radiant light erupting from his back. A quick flick of her wrist twisted the blade, diving her cleave into the two standing dumbfounded at the sudden strike. A firm yank on the wrapped handle sent the butt of the glaive hurtling backward and straight into the throat of the final goblin, attempting to strike her from behind. 

Surrounded by the fallen bandits, she carefully adjusted her traveling cloak before setting off down the road once more.

Are you a fan of longer weapons such as glaives and spears? Have you found them a little lackluster in normal play or simply want to take your damage to the next level? This is where Polearm Master comes in.

Let’s break down what this feat gives you:

  • When you take the Attack action and attack with only a glaive, halberd, quarterstaff, or spear, you can use a bonus action to make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon; this attack uses the same ability modifier as the primary attack. The weapon’s damage die for this attack is a d4, and the attack deals bludgeoning damage. This point is what a lot of players choose this feat for; adding a bonus action attack can significantly increase your damage output, especially if you pair it with something like Great Weapon Master or Divine Favor. You can even use this attack with a spear or staff while wearing a shield on your other arm; this gives you a good AC while not compromising much on offense. This tactic is compatible with the Dueling fighting style, allowing you to increase your damage even further.
  • While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, quarterstaff, or spear, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter the reach you have with that weapon. This is an excellent deterrent for any monsters that consider approaching you, and this can give you the opportunity to dispatch some weaker enemies before they can actually do anything. Alternatively, this point works with the Sentinel feat, allowing you to stop a monster in its tracks, potentially before they can even hit you or your squishy allies.

Polearm Master is most useful for

  • Barbarians – This class often wants to use polearms like the Glaive for the reach property, and larger damage die. This feat gives them more chances to leverage their Rage damage bonus and potentially any subclass features.
  • Fighters – With the most ASIs in the game, the Fighter has the lowest opportunity cost for taking this feat and the easiest time combining this feat with other synergistic feats such as Great Weapon Master or Sentinel.
  • Paladins – Divine Smite, Improved Divine Smite, and spells such as Divine Favor benefit from the bonus action attack and opportunity attack, giving Paladin another opportunity to leverage them. With the option of very high damage opportunity attacks, this is one of the best classes to make use of that bullet point.

Of course, this feat is not a good match for fullcasters, so we won’t be including any in this section. Instead, we will be focusing on the martials that are the worst suited for getting the most out of Polearm Master.

Polearm Master is least useful for

  • Monks – With ASIs at a premium and a bonus action attack available from level 1, there isn’t enough here to make this feat worth it for a Monk.
  • Rangers – The bonus action attack conflicts with many subclass abilities and casting/moving Hunter’s Mark. Most Rangers are also likely to be Dex-based, and no polearms have the finesse property. Those reasons, combined with being a MAD class, make this feat a no-go for the majority of Ranger builds.
  • Rogues – Sneak Attack requires either a ranged weapon or a weapon with the finesse property, which locks you out of this feat by default. 

We hope that this article was informative and kept boredom at a distance. If you’re interested in learning about other 5E feats, check out our feat spotlight section, or if you are here because you’re considering this feat for your Barbarian, check out our Barbarian guide. Until next time, may your attacks land true, and may magic polearms be plentiful.

Editor-in-Chief