Is the Net a Fatally Flawed Tool in 5E DnD?

In 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons nets are specialty Dexterity-based ranged weapons that will impose the restrained condition on a target until it is able to become free, or is able to pass a DC10 strength check. While it doesn’t do any actual damage, the disadvantages that the restrained condition imposes can be powerful and really cut back on some enemies’ combat effectiveness.

Creatures without form such as ooze or a vampire in a gaseous form, these types of entities will be unaffected by net attacks, just as larger creatures like a Hill Giant who are simply too big to constrain, not matter how well made your battle net is.

lego gladiator trapped by net
What better way to display net fighting than with Lego gladiators? The original of the amazing picture is found here.

Unlike all most all other weapons in D&D, nets were never designed to deal a great deal of damage to an enemy but were meant (and borrowed from 3.5 traditions) as being a powerful potential tool to restrain, limit, and force battlefield control. Depending on the situation, nets could be used in a variety of ways such as:

  • To tie your enemies up for a couple of turns in order to be able to finish up with other “scrubs” on the battlefield
  • Make one strong martial enemy waste turns removing the net instead of attacking multiple times
  • Pinning down agile enemies for better battlefield control
  • Restraining enemies or as a way to render them defenseless for a moment

When used correctly with an ally, nets have the ability to be a devastating weapon in combat, but there’s no question that nest in 5E got some serious nerfing…maybe to the point of making them unusable at some tables.

So are nets worth it or not in 5E? The first thing we need to do is find out the best way to get an enemy stuck in a net.

Great video from Treantmonk’s Temple YouTube channel all about the net in 5th Edition.

5E Stats for Net

The entry for the Net is found on pages 148-149 of The Player’s Handbook. It states:

Net – Ranged Weapon (Martial, Special, Net)

  • Properties: Range, Thrown
  • Range: 5/15
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Cost: 1 gp

A Large or smaller creature hit by a net is Restrained until it is freed. A net has no effect on creatures that are formless, or Huge or larger. A creature can use its Action to make a DC 10 Strength check, and frees itself or another creature when it make a success. Dealing 5 slashing damage to the net (AC 10) also frees the creature without harming it, ending that restrained effect and destroying the net.

When you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to attack with a net, you can make only one attack regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

Range and the Big Issues with Nets

One of the main problems with nets is the fact that they have one of the smallest ranges of any thrown weapon. In fact, it is a mere 5 feet in short range and 15 feet for the longer range that must be done at disadvantage if the player doesn’t have an appropriate feat to counter it.

Of course this is going to create a problem as there is no range available in which a net can be used in combat and not roll with a disadvantage. If the enemy moves into the 5 foot range, that means any ranged weapon is at disadvantage.

If they are further than 5 feet out, that’s out of the short range which means…disadvantage.

So yeah, that’s a problem.

Do Net Attacks Always Attack at Disadvantage?

Net attacks RAW will always have a disadvantage for the player unless the player takes the crossbow expert feat or the sharpshooter feat.

Nets act as a normal ranged attack meaning that you can toss them at the longer range of 10 to 15 feet and be at a serious disadvantage. Or you my be tossing them short range in close combat with another disadvantage.

The general thought is the designers were worried that it would be an overpowered weapon and that a disadvantage would be needed while using the net attack unless of course the PC is gaining an advantage from somewhere.

In fact, it would seem as though the net is actually underpowered without looking at the disadvantages. It would seem as though they were more concerned for a situation that featured a net dog pile in which a player nets an enemy and everyone places an attack on the enemy before they have had an opportunity to escape. In this scenario it can be broken against the singular powerful enemies.

trident and net gladiator
That net, when used properly, can cause plenty of problems from an experienced Retiarius.

It is possible to cancel this disadvantage with one of two measures:

Under general conditions, considering that the net is a ranged weapon with a 5 foot distance, you are at a disadvantage while attacking with it. There are multiple ways to negate the disadvantages by simply doubling down or to use the net when you possess the advantage.

However, there are two specific feats that can be used to help make nets much more helpful and not deal with the typical disadvantages of using them.

One of the first is rather unusual and that is the Crossbow Expert. However, this feat is perfectly designed for a net wielder as it is going to negate the disadvantage of using a close range attack, additionally it is possible to score an additional attack while attacking, which is something you miss while using a net as it is not possible to use extra attacks when using it.

The other possibility is to use the Sharpshooter. This is actually one of the best ranged net casters possible. This is going to allow you to attack from a much longer range without any form of disadvantage. It is also going to ignore cover. The damage feature of the feat is generally lost on the net user, however it does not negate the disadvantage that is used with a net.

With typical circumstances, attacks with a net are always going to be at a disadvantage, it is something you can escape from, you are just going to have to spend some resources on it. Whether or not that is worth it, is still a matter of debate, as the net alone is still rather weak.


A creature that is restrained will not be able to move with its movement speed officially at 0 as long as it restrained, and will not be able to benefit from any bonuses it would otherwise have to its speed.

The attack roll against the creature will have an advantage, while the attack roll from the creature will have a disadvantage. The creature has a disadvantage on dexterity saving throws, which are good benefits for your party of PCs.

Even if the creature is able to escape from the net, they have lost their action while getting free. Additionally, your allies may have the opportunity to get in a couple of hard hits as well.

If you have been searching for a way to increase your chances of doing some serious damage to an enemy, the net is one of the best solutions to take them down.

Enemies will waste a considerable amount of time trying to break free from nets.

Nets are an excellent way for a lower level adventuring party to have a little extra control over the battlefield, this is especially true when your characters are rather thin on spells.

By equipping a net enables you yo have a single-target instance of Hold-Person which can be used a number of times.

Additionally, the net is going to provide the DC for a means of escape, a net is equally effective for the wizard as it is for the fighter.

Considering you have been able to use on of the get-arounds of the feats in order to avoid a fight at the disadvantage.

heavy fishing nets
So many heavy nets…so much restraint.

What Would a Good Net-Build Look Like?

With Rules As Written…there isn’t one. There are ways to try to make it work but the problem is the combination of restraints, including the in-description nerf of being that even if your attack action would give you three or four attacks, using a net takes all of them. Meaning no followup on the restrained enemy.

Add in the in-built disadvantage of the weapon, which you have to use feats to use at all, and there just isn’t a consistently effective build that works for this combo.

At some point will this question bug me enough to try to create one and come back and share it? Yes. But that day isn’t today 🙂

When it is you can come back and find the 5E net fighter build right here.

net gladiator
Illustration of a classic net fighter against a more traditional gladiator, illustration from Pinterest.

How One Can Use A Net In An Effective Manner: Don’t Use One

If you have the desire to wrap up all of your enemies, this is one of the best ways to go about it.

The net is the perfect backup weapon, this is especially true if you are playing a class that can give itself an advantage such as a Samurai fighter, it can be used as an ambush tool to end the fight well before it has begun.

However, if you desire to make the net a viable team member, you are going to need a net guy.

In fact, you can have more than one! You simply want someone who is going to be able to throw the net.

By simply having a number of individuals with nets it will not matter what their skill set is with weapons as it now becomes a numbers game.

Once you have something netted, you will have another series of nets prepared to go and you are on your way to a very easy victory!

While there is no need for you to use nets, nothing says that your hirelings shouldn’t. While the playing of nets is not going to be for everyone, it is a very viable way to in the game in an easy manner. One must be strategic in the way in which the nets are used in the game as well as who is using them.

Can the Net Be Salvaged?

Truth be told, it’s hard to see how the net can consistently be effective in a 5E campaign. Even with helpers carrying nets to give your group advantage, it’s only a matter of time until you’re facing ranged attacks, not to mention good old fashioned fireball from enemy spellcasters.

I also wouldn’t blame a DM who points out that after multiple outings ending up with dead helpers, no one else is willing to take their place at any pay level.

I understand why WOTC did what they did with the net, because it has the potential to be incredibly powerful. But was it ever potentially so overpowered to need this type of massive nerfing? I’m heavily doubtful.

As for the future of the net, it’s just one of those things that I feel is going to be a very situational and come out time to time with homebrew custom rules usually from a straight roll because RAW, there’s just not a lot of place for the net in 5th edition D&D.

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