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 it deals bludgeoning damage.
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.
Player’s Handbook, pg. 168
Polearm Master 5e
One of the best martial feats in 5e, Polearm Master is your ticket to a more memorable glaive-wielding, badass reaver character that you’ve always dreamed of. The type that foes are afraid to even approach, if you pick up Sentinel as well.
I’ll cover how the feat works, who should get it, and why it’s so good.
What Does Polearm Master Do in 5e?
Polearm Master is a feat that allows you to make a bonus action attack after taking the Attack action with a glaive, halberd, quarterstaff, or spear. This attack deals damage equal to d4 + your Strength modifier.
Additionally, when a creature moves into your range (10 feet for reach weapons), they provoke an opportunity attack from you.
How Do I Use Polearm Master in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Polearm Master in DnD 5e:
Pair it with Sentinel. Sentinel is a feat that causes a creature’s speed to become 0 when you hit it with an opportunity attack and causes creatures to provoke opportunity attacks even if they Disengage. With Polearm Master, you can effectively kite one enemy who will never be able to reach you.
When it enters your range (10 feet), it’ll trigger an OA from you; if the attack lands, its speed will fall to 0. On your turn, if you move 5+ feet away from the creature, you can repeat the process on its following turn. This simple tactic is devastatingly effective, and an enemy can’t even Disengage to avoid it.
Pair with Great Weapon Master. Glaives and Halberds are heavy weapons, and so function with Great Weapon Master as well as Polearm Master. This allows you to trade your d4 bonus attack from PM for a d10 after scoring a critical hit or killing a creature. And it allows you to take a -5 attack roll for +10 damage; a very good trade when you’re likely to hit anyway.
Play defensively and kite. Polearm Master rewards a player who moves around a lot in combat and gets in the way of enemy ranks. You’re going to be the party’s tank, whether you like it or not, once you start thwacking everyone who comes within range. With Sentinel, you can kite at least one foe at a time, and if you can force foes into a narrow column, you might even be able to stall more than one enemy.
Pick up stuff like the Defensive fighting style and wear a shield — which, yes, Polearm Master still works when you wield the weapon one-handed. You just need to use a quarterstaff or spear, not a glaive or halberd.
Is Polearm Master 5e a Good Feat?
Yes, Polearm Master is a good feat if you are a martial character — a Fighter, Paladin, or Barbarian, to be more specific. In fact, it’s often called an overpowered feat because of the extra damage output (two extra attacks per round in optimal conditions). Here’s a closer look at why this feat is good for these classes in particular:
Fighter. Fighters get more Ability Score Improvements than any class in the game, which means it’s simpler and less of a trade-off for them to pick up the devastating Sentinel/Polearm Master combination early in their careers. Plus, Fighters have more attacks and features that go along with attacks than any class in 5e, which means more opportunities to use those features with the bonus action attack that Polearm Master affords.
Battle Masters are an especially good subclass choice for Polearm Master, as you’ll have the chance to attack more without using bonus actions or reactions (which you’ll need for the feats), like Sweeping Attack.
Paladin. Paladins don’t usually have much to do with their bonus action (although smite spells do come to mind), but the extra attack you get from Polearm Master opens the door for more Divine Smites, which is the class’ main threat. And it’s just a great feat for a tank, as you’ll have plenty of chances to make opportunity attacks against enemies who come into your 10-foot range. The only downside of this feat on Paladins is the fact that you’ll need to commit ASIs to two main stats — Strength and Charisma — making the Sentinel combo an expensive choice.
Barbarian. Barbarians have Rage, which’ll eat up your bonus action on round 1, but will also grant extra damage on hit. Including the bonus action hits you make with Polearm Master and the extra opportunity attacks the feat will give you. And, like Fighters, plenty of subclass features will multiply in power the more often you hit.
Polearm Master generally isn’t good on classes that need their bonus action, like Monks or Rangers.
What Are the Rules for Polearm Master in 5e?
The rules for Polearm Master in DnD 5e are as follows:
Half and 3/4 cover don’t prevent opportunity attacks from Polearm Master. Confirmed on Sage Advice — at a 10-foot range, only total cover prevents the opportunity attack granted from the feat (same as all opportunity attacks).
Polearm Master functions regardless of whether you wield the weapon with one or two hands. So you can go ahead and wear a shield if you’re using a versatile polearm like a spear or quarterstaff.
Pikes don’t work with the feat (for now). Although they’re included in One D&D’s playtest materials (page 21). With good cause — many players have always felt that it’s silly that pikes weren’t included, and DMs often ignore the restriction currently.
The d4 weapon damage cannot be modifier. Even if you use Shillelagh on your quarterstaff, the damage die of the bonus action attack from Polearm Master is a d4, not a d8.
Polearm Master doesn’t work with War Caster. If a creature enters your 10-foot reach to trigger a Polearm Master opportunity attack, you can only make that attack with a polearm. This means you can’t cast a spell with War Caster when a creature triggers an OA from entering your reach.
You still add your proficiency bonus to the butt-end attack. It’s still a normal weapon attack, after all.
The opportunity attack doesn’t get the d4 bonus attack. That only occurs when you take the Attack action; making an opportunity attack is not taking the Attack action.
Polearm Master FAQ
Why is Polearm Master good? Polearm Master is good because it allows tanks to wear a shield while consistently making bonus action attacks. It also automatically increases your battlefield control, as you’ll be making a lot more opportunity attacks against enemies who want to approach or pass you. This naturally makes you better at defending your backline.
Paired with other feats that are strong in their own right, like Sentinel and Great Weapon Master, and Polearm Master’s power goes up dramatically. But even without these tricks, Polearm Master is a solid feat that adds reliable damage to your rotatation, gives your character more to do in combat, and contributes to a thematically and mechanically sound tank build.
Is Polearm Master too good? Polearm Master can definitely be seen as too good. The problem that most players have with the feat is that it fills the niche of two-weapon fighting better than two-weapon fighting does, which just feels wrong. The bonus action attack with a heavier-hitting, longer-reaching weapon is much better than the light weapon attack flurry that dual wielding offers.
Additionally, the feat’s interactions with Sentinel are a bit much, but at least requires two feat investments. Which, if your DM isn’t allowing for the OP feats at 1st level, means you won’t have access to the full combination until 6th- (Fighter) or 8th-level (everyone else).
for my two cents, I wouldn’t be sad to see it nerfed in One DnD. While it’s not been mechanically nerfed in the One D&D playtest materials, both Poelarm Master and Sentinel are 4th-level feats in the UA, so it’ll be impossible for a player to have both at 4th-level. And honestly, by 8th level, the power level of this combination isn’t that big a deal for DMs to counter and still create challenging combat encounters.
Why is Polearm Master and Sentinel good? Polearm Master and Sentinel are good because they allow a player to effectively kite and damage one enemy creature without ever being attacked themselves. If the 10-foot ranged opportunity attack from Polearm Master hits an approaching creature and drops its speed to 0, it won’t be able to get in melee range of the player.
If the player then moves 5+ feet away from the creature and then that process is repeated on the creature’s following turns, the player can continue hitting the creature without ever being hit themselves. This does have its limitations, as a fight rarely involves just one melee enemy.