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Author Topic: The Archery Handbook  (Read 272140 times)
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Eldariel
Bi-Curious George
****
Posts: 459


« on: June 09, 2008, 11:06:47 PM »

The Archery Handbook



Index

Generic:
General

Archery Styles:
Traditional Archery
Crossbow Archery
Mounted Archery

Class Specifics:
Martial Archers [Fighters, Rangers et co.]
Skirmish Archers [Scouts, Swift Hunters et co.]
Precision Archers [Rogues, Ninjas, et co.]
Sublime Way Archers [Tome of Battle]
Incarnum Archers [Magic of Incarnum]
Factotum Archers [Manyshot Builds]
Divine Archers [Cleric, Archivist et co.]
Arcane Archers [Gish, Arcane Archer et co.]
Psionic Archers [Ardents, Psychic Warriors et co.]
Shapechanging Archers [Druids et co.]

Other Areas of Interest:
Core Archery
Gestalt Archery
Epic Archery
Useful Links

Welcome to The Archery Handbook. The purpose of this thread is to be a one-stop source for all your Archery needs in the spirit of Carnivore's Ultimate Archer Handbook. I'll try to cover everything in as comprehensive a fashion as possible, but since I'm not just copying the handbook the process will probably take a while.

The thread will be mostly practical optimization so all the advice presented will be aimed with campaigns and playability in mind; records are one thing, but practically being able to shoot 40000' away isn't going to come up very often in campaigns. I will cover the tricks to pump one's range, but I won't be making builds with the sole intention of shooting damn far.


Ratings
Red options are rated as bad, and should by and large be avoided.
Black options are average and probably have specific niches or are good options in the absence of others, but are nothing special.
Blue options are good options and if they happen to synch with what your character is doing, you should probably pick them up.
Purple options are godlike; these are the cream of the crop and if you can, you should be picking them up.

Source Legend (not all of the sources are used in the present guide; the listed abbreviation is what I'll be using should I happen to add material)
Code:
AE = Arms and Equipment Guide (3.0)
BoED = Book of Exalted Deeds
BoVD = Book of Vile Darkness (3.0)
CA = Complete Arcana
CAdv = Complete Adventurer
CC = Complete Champion
CD = Complete Divine
CM = Complete Mage
CP = Complete Psionic
CS = Complete Scoundrel
CW = Complete Warrior
CoR = Champions of Ruin
CoV = Champions of Valor
City = Cityscape
DC = Dragon Compendium
DM = Dragon Magic
DMG = Dungeon Master's Guide
DMGII = Dungeon Master's Guide 2
DotU = Drow of the Underdark
DR### = Dragon Magazine Issue ###
Drac = Draconomicon
DS = Dungeonscape
ECS = Eberron Campaign Settings
FN = Five Nations
Frost = Frostburn
FRCS = Forgotten Realms Campaign Settings (3.0)
LoM = Lords of Madness
MinH = Miniatures Handbook
MIC = Magic Item Compendium
MM = Monster Manual
MMII = Monster Manual II (3.0)
MMIII = Monster Manual III
MMIV = Monster Manual IV
MMV = Monster Manual V
MoF = Magic of Faerûn (3.0)
MoI = Magic of Incarnum
MotW = Masters of the Wild (3.0)
PF SRD = Pathfinder System Reference Document (http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/) [All game rules for Paizo's Pathfinder revision of 3.5]
PGtF = Player's Guide to Faerûn
PGtE = Player's Guide to Eberron
PHB = Player's Handbook
PHBII = Player's Handbook 2
PlHB = Planar Handbook
PoF = Powers of Faerûn
RoD = Races of Destiny
RotD = Races of the Dragon
RoE = Races of Eberron
RoF = Races of Faerûn (3.0)
RoS = Races of Stone
RotW = Races of the Wild
Sand = Sandstorm
SoS = Secrets of Sarlona
SoX = Secrets of Xen'drik
SC = Spell Compendium
S&F = Sword and Fist (3.0)
SM = Silver Marshes (3.0)
SS = Savage Species (3.0)
SRD = System Reference Document (http://www.d20srd.com) [All game rules from 3.5 PHB, DMG, MM, XPH and some parts of UA]
ToB = Tome of Battle
ToM = Tome of Magic
UA = Unearthed Arcana
Und = Underdark (3.0)
XPH = Expanded Psionics Handbook
« Last Edit: June 08, 2011, 12:25:39 AM by Eldariel » Logged
Eldariel
Bi-Curious George
****
Posts: 459


« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2008, 11:07:04 PM »

General


Archers by range

Archery is a pretty large umbrella for a form of attacks, so a bit more accurate separation will help with dealing with particular builds and the capabilities we'll be looking for in each category. Archery is easiest divided to range categories (colored by the spectre):

Point Blank Range [Up to 30']
This is the range for Point Blank Shot, Manyshot and the range limitation for most sorts of Precision Damage. The common Swift Hunter Archer is going to want to visit this range quite often and this is also the range for a normal Rogue to Sneak Attack. This is also the standard move action, so acting at this range is almost as dangerous as fighting in melee.

Extended Point Blank Range [Up to 60']
This is the range for Precision Damage Dealers with range extending feats, such as a Swift Hunter with Ranged Skirmisher. If you can move after attack, this range gives you relative safety and alpha strike capability as an average movement speed of 30' cannot charge beyond 60'. This is generally also the maximum range you'll have to deal with in dungeons.

Long Range [Up to ~300']
This is generally one-two increments away and a range where normal characters can still succeed their spot checks, so a good range to start an encounter at for a non-Precision Damage Archer in wilderness areas. At this range, you can generally pepper the opponent with a few full attacks before they close in to casting/melee range and free damage never hurt anyone. Most Cleric Archers and other non-Fighter Archers tend to operate at this range.

Extreme Range [~300' upwards]
To effectively act at such a range, you tend to need uncanny means of detecting opponents, be it ridiculously high spot check or some divination magic/spotter, and very high attack bonuses or long range increments to act effectively. A Fighter Archer with Ranged Weapon Mastery, Dragonbone Bow, Far Shot/Distance-weapon and levels in Cragtop Archer can probably still act effectively given the means to detect opponents, but usually it already starts to take effort and specialization to function at such a range. High attack bonuses of course help too.


As a breakdown for the Class Specifics:
-Swift Hunter-section obviously will be for the short ranges
-If I end up writing something on Sneak Attacking Archers, that'll likewise mostly deal with Extended Point Blank Range
-A majority of the guide will deal with Long Range (all non-Precision characters)
-At least the martial section will be touching upon Archers geared for Extreme Ranges (due to terrain and spot difficulties, such ranges are usually impractical so it's not the primary focus)


Archer as a Combatant

The largest challenge an archer tends to face is damage. Since archers generally key their damage off a different attribute than their To Hit, they can't solely focus on one or the other, and since Power Attack hasn't been printed within 3.5 rules for ranged weapons (see Energy Bow though, as well as Deadly Aim feat and Peerless Archer prestige class), archers tend to have a lot of difficulty dealing damage comparable to effective melee combatants.

Since archery generally doesn't lend itself very well to controlling the battlefield, most archers should focus on dealing enough damage to warrant their position in the party (of course, depending on the class, the archer will fill secondary functions like the Divine Caster, the Skill Monkey, the Arcane Caster or such, but generally if you want to do archery, you should do it well enough to actually make shooting arrows worth your time), making the difficulty in dealing damage an important hurdle to overcome. The specific means for pumping up damage will be covered separately in each section, and this is indeed the main point that requires optimization when it comes to archery.

The biggest advantage archers have, of course, is functioning at a range. Archers can easily guarantee full attacks simply because it doesn't really matter where the opponent is as long as you have line of effect; and few creatures are able to retaliate from 1000' away so there's something to be said about nuking someone in the horizon. Archers have lots of options that only work at short ranges which of course sucks far as utilizing their biggest advantage goes; as such, anything that requires being within 30' of opponent should be considered twice, and likewise ways to extend your operational range if you have such limitations should be a high priority so that you're more than just a subpar pseudo-melee damage dealer.

Archery has a few more ways to generate extra attacks than melee making effects that can be applied on each hit comparatively more worthwhile to an archer than to a melee type. This is important especially with feats, spells & class features granting flat damage bonuses and with magic weapons. Archers benefit of those comparatively more than most other types of warriors. The magic weapon benefits are further expanded by the option of placing separate, situational enhancements on arrows/bolts at a low price and being able to whip them out when you actually face opponents vulnerable to those Bane-arrows you bought or whatever; most efficient way of using opposition-specific weapon enhancements in the game, really.


Feats

Regardless of what kind of archery you're going for, fact is that it's feat intensive. It's almost as bad as Two-Weapon Fighting in that regard, and that's saying a lot. This especially hurts otherwise solid archery-classes like Cleric that would want to pick up other feats too, but are generally spending 3+ feats on archery just to get the basic archery ability. Beyond the base 3 feats, archers can pick up a lot of useful abilities through extra feats, and thus archery lends itself pretty well to feat heavy classes - 2-level Fighter dip is often solid (although casters obviously want to avoid losing excess caster levels just for feats and should find other ways). In this chapter, I'll break the feats down by Archery Archetype since I cannot really do that in the other sections; Archery Archetypes kind of superceed the exact build.


General Archery Feats:
Point Blank Shot [SRD] - No prerequisites
The feat sucks, but it's a prerequisite for practically everything archery.

Precise Shot [SRD] - Requires Point Blank Shot
Without this, you'll be peppering your allies in melee or alternatively cannot use archery as your main tactic after the combat is joined. This is also a requirement to utilize the best equipment-based buff for archery, Splitting [CoR Pg. 42], so if you've got access to Splitting, this is an absolute must.

Sharp-Shooting [CW Pg. 105] - Requires Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +3
This feat has very few uses; mostly it's just one of those "My Fighter had too many feats and doesn't qualify for Improved Precise Shot yet so he picked this to be retrained later."-feats, and quite frankly, optimized Fighters don't have too many feats. So what it does - it halves the AC-bonus standard cover gives opponents. That's it. It doesn't help against opponents behind a tree, with concealment and it doesn't even remove the Cover-bonus.

You're still better off looking for clear shots than shooting through cover, so effectively you spent a feat to make an unfavourable situation slightly less unfavourable, but still one you don't want to be in. Congratulations. Oh yeah, and this doesn't help the standard problem of not dealing sufficient damage at all.

Improved Precise Shot [SRD] - Requires Dex 19, Precise Shot, Point Blank Shot, BAB +12
Hitting into Grapple is handy, although by the time you get this, you'll mostly have Freedom of Movement available anyways along with swift action teleportation, so this ability won't be as helpful as it could possibly be earlier. Much more important though is the ability to ignore all but total concealment and cover. This opens up some interesting uses with some spells (basically anything that grants lesser degrees of concealment) and items such as Eversmoking Bottle, causing one-sided miss chance. It's also fun to be able to shoot through that keyhole with 100% accuracy. Overall, a handy feat if not "OMG MUST HAVE"-material. Steep requirements though; not available to Zen Archers and +12 BAB means it comes very late for everyone. It's the Be All-End All feat for hitting though, ignoring just about any obstacles but solid walls and complete darkness.

Woodland Archer [RotW Pg. 154] - Requires Point Blank Shot, +6 BAB
The tactical feat offers three options. Volley archers love the first one; the more attacks, the better. The volley types with maximized number of attacks can often be hitting ACs over 100 easily towards the last ~10 shots or so, so it's solid 400-500 damage to opponents at AC 100.

The second option allows ignoring all concealment including total concealment giving you a strong tool against invisibility and similar abilities, while also making up for Improved Precise Shot for those builds that can't afford picking up Improved Precise Shot, and for those looking to pick it up later.

Finally, the third option is great for snipers; being able to move while sniping makes it easier to avoid being located, and also to keep the distance you want between shots.

Handy for snipers, but really the true power is the first ability for the volley archers.

Far Shot [SRD] - Requires Point Blank Shot
This allows you to shoot further than everyone else. Frankly, it isn't worth a feat as such long-range combat isn't all that commonplace and you can gain this ability magically (through the Distance-enhancement on arrows) for when you need to shoot at faraway targets. This isn't worth a feat (except for qualifying purposes), but this does warrant inclusion on a bunch of arrows.

Zen Archery [CW Pg. 106] - Requires Wis 13, BAB +1
If you are making a Wisdom-based character dumping Dex, this is a must. It's the Weapon Finesse of Ranged Weapons. Clerics, Druids and generally Wisdom-based casters are the most likely subjects, although some martial Wisdom-based classes might also end up in a sitiuation where this is optimal.

Deadly Aim [PF SRD] - Requires Dex 13, BAB +1
This is basically Ranged Power Attack; PF Power Attack, but still Power Attack. Of course, the catch is it's from Pathfinder, not actual 3.X. Still, anyone building an Archer would do well to at least ask if this were available; PF material is backwards compatible and this gives archers something they sorely need. There's a ton of ways to buff ranged To Hit but 3.X offers literally no efficient ways of converting all the extra To Hit to damage, and no efficient means of buffing damage only in general. If you can, take this.

Ranged Disarm [CW Pg. 103] - Requires Dex 15, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +5
This allows you to make Disarm-attempts with ranged weapons at the range of 30'. Unfortunately, the limit of point blank range makes it much worse than just using a two-handed weapon such as Spiked Chain, giving you bonuses to the Disarm-attempt. Further, Disarming is a rather weak strategy in the first place due to the existence of abilities such as Locked Gauntlets making it just useless, and the fact that many monsters fight with natural weapons, which aren't very disarmable. Extra options are nice though, but unfortunately Disarming isn't usually worth the trouble. Still, seeing that we're talking about an opposed attack roll here, I could see some implications in some campaigns. Generally you just won't have the feats to burn though. Note that this feat gains no benefit of the Improved Disarm-feat.

Ranged Sunder [CW Pg. 104] - Requires Str 13, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +5
This allows you to make Sunder-attempts with ranged weapons at the range of 30'. Again, it's annoying to only be able to use it at point blank range, and further annoying that Piercing Ranged Weapons only deal ½ damage even with this feat. Serpenttongue Arrows could help there though. I could definitely see implications for this feat, but often you don't want to Sunder opponent's weapons simply because they're loot. Still, it also works against objects, and it can be handy in arena settings so I wouldn't consider it entirely useless. Generally you can't afford the feat for this though. Note that this feat isn't helped by Improved Sunder-feat.

Ranged Pin [CW Pg. 103] - Requires Dex 15, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +5
This is my favourite of the three; this allows you to make ranged Grapple-checks. You need to beat opponent's AC, and then you get to make Grapple-checks provided that opponent is close to a surface (such as the floor when flying overhead). If you do manage to win the Grapple-check, they are considered Grappled until they succeed DC 15 Strength- or Escape Artist-check as a Standard Action. Therefore, they'll at least waste a turn, and it requires no actions whatsoever from you.

This is quite handy for archers focusing on Strength for damage (as while you don't get Improved Grapple-benefits, Strength-modifier and Size-modifier apply as normal), giving you extra tools against certain archetypes (such as an easy way to keep casters in AMF; Arcane Archer shooting an AMF with Imbue Arrow, using the arrow to Grapple the target would pretty much one-hit KO a caster at any range). This really works the better, the bigger you are as the bonuses are hard to come by. Overall though, there're lots of implications for this - very handy to keep Melee away.

Sense Weakness [Drac Pg. 106] - Requires Int 13, Combat Expertise, Weapon Focus (any)
When attacking with the weapon you have Weapon Focus in, you can ignore up to 5 points of Damage Reduction. While this annoyingly requires Combat Expertise that is rather wasted for you, this is one of the few mundane means of fighting Damage Reduction with a bow. And Damage Reduction is a huge hurdle for an archer whose damage tends to be based on a large number of attacks. In an environment without Force, or other magical ways to ignore DR, I'd definitely strongly consider this if I had the feats to burn (and was going for Ranged Weapon Mastery anyways; that basically gets you Weapon Focus for free).

Dead Eye [DC Pg. 95, DR304 Pg. 84] - Requires Dex 17, Point Blank Shot, Weapon Focus, BAB +14 (DR304 is Dex 13, BAB +1)
This adds Dexterity to your damage within 30' as precision damage. Dragon Magazine #304 only had Dex 13 and BAB +1 requirement, which obviously made the feat much better. As it stands, it's quite situational; while your Dex is probably massive and thus the damage bonus is massive, the limitation in the range and the fact that many enemies are probably immune and there are no easy ways to bypass these immunities, unlike with Sneak Attack or Skirmish, makes it far less amazing than it would be otherwise. It's worth considering but if you can get the damage from more reliable sources, do so.

Shot on the Run [SRD] - Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot, Dodge, Mobility, BAB +4
The effect is handy...but then you look at the prerequisites! Two useless feats. And what it gets you? You get to move before and after an attack. That means it doesn't work with Order of the Bow Initiate's Precise Shot, Manyshot, Penetrating Shot or really anything else for that matter. Basically, the base idea is good, but the feat has worthless prerequisites and is mistemplated for use with the abilities that could utilize it. Stay away, unless you can talk your DM into allowing Standard Action-effects including Ranged Attack instead of just a Ranged Attack between the movements; Manyshot would be useful with this, but one shot? Not so much.

Flyby Attack [SRD] - Requires Fly speed.
This is the feat Shot on the Run, Spring Attack and company always wanted to be! This is the be-all end-all movement feat, but it requires Fly speed so it isn't available for all PCs. In fact, mostly it's available for Dragonborn, Raptorans and characters picking feats to get Wings (along with possibly casters with magical flight). Though if you can get it with item-based qualifications, give it a good hard look. It enables you to move, Manyshot and retreat in the same round. It also works with Penetrating Shot, spellcasting and so on; basically the perfect tool for getting in range for Precision-attack and getting outside opponent's effective range for your own turn. Skirmisher's feat, though archery is notoriously reliant on its full attacks, and its primary advantage over other combat styles is getting them consistently and reliably.


Volley Archery Feats:
Rapid Shot [SRD] - Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot
The Dex requirement can be problematic for Wisdom-based archers, but that extra attack goes a long way towards making archery worth your time. I'd snag this if at all possible and consider pumping my Dex just to get it. The extra attack is probably going to do more damage on average than an extra point of Strength.

Improved Rapid Shot [CW Pg. 101] - Requires Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, Manyshot
Unfortunately Manyshot isn't a very good feat for volley archers (it is occasionally useful though; extra options are always good) and likewise, Manyshotters don't want Improved Rapid Shot. That fact bringing this feat down in value by having a semi-wasted prerequisite either way. Rangers do get Manyshot as a bonus though and Fighters get enough feats to pick it up, and two extra points for hitting is nothing to scoff at, especially on later levels with a number of iteratives. Not a must have, but handy.

Knowledge Devotion [CC Pg. 60] - Requires Knowledge (any): 5 ranks
One of the best feats for boosting the damage output in archery. If you have the feats to burn for Education [ECS Pg. 52, PGtF Pg. 38] along with some skillpoints and Int-modifier, you can cover all Knowledges used for identifying creatures (Arcana, Dungeoneering, Local, Nature, Religion, The Planes) adequately and be the party Knowledge Bank while at it. Even just one rank in all Knowledges gets you at least +1/+1 for all combats with the potential for +2/+2 on decent rolls. Oh yeah, the free Knowledge as a class skill regardless of your multiclassing doesn't hurt either.

Plunging Shot [RoTW Pg. 152] - Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot
Get extra 1d6 damage on targets 30' below you. At first glance, this feat appears awesome. Once you start thinking about it though, it appears incresingly bad. First of all, this practically means you'll need to be in the air. 30' is either a cliff overseeing the opponent's position or simply flight and of those, flight should be a more common option. Therefore, it gives you an advantage when you can fly and your opponent can't. Seems good, except if that's the case, your opponent isn't exactly the most dire of threats in the first place, except when talking about another archer. So it's decent in archery duels where you invested in flight and opponent didn't and that's pretty much it.

Second, the feat is simply unusable in lots of locales. Good luck getting 30' up in a dungeon. Same goes to pretty much any building. So the feat has a powerful effect, but unfortunately it's way too sitiuational to truly be worth a feat slot.


Hide and Shoot Feats:
Darkstalker [LoM Pg. 179] - No prerequisites
If you're planning on sniping, Hide is your primary tool. Normally this is a poor idea since a vast number of creatures completely ignore Hide with their alternate senses. Darkstalker though means that any creature needs to make Spot-checks vs. you. This is an immense advantage and if you do plan on sniping a lot, this feat is an absolute must. In fact, if you plan on Hiding a lot, this is an absolute must. The only problem is that the source is somewhat archaic, but I could see it allowed in games without Lords of Madness due to the simplicity of the feat and how it makes a weak strategy viable.

Able Sniper [RotW Pg. 148] - Requires Dex 13, Hide: 5 ranks
You get bonuses to hitting flat-footed opponents, and more importantly +4 to Hide-checks made to hide afterwards. If you're going Sniping, this is probably the feat to start with; hitting with Snipes and staying hidden go a long way to keeping you alive. There's one unfortunate drawback here, and it's the fact that you only get bonuses to hit against opponents that are at least 30' away. That makes triggering Sneak Attack difficult as you need the opponent at exactly 30' for that, or alternatively you need some way to extend Sneak Attack-range (such as Crossbow Sniper [PHBII Pg. 77] - as the name suggests though, that's only for crossbow snipers).

Concealed Ambush [DR339 Pg. 87] - Requires Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Hide: 10 ranks, Move Silently: 10 ranks
Lots of prerequisites, but you'll have those all as a sniper anyways. This one is a doozy. When sniping, you only take -10 on the Hide-check to Hide again. That's effectively +10 to your Hide-checks for this purpose. It's a very limited feat, but if I was making a Sniper, I'd make sure to pick this one given that Dragon Magazine were an allowed source.

Bowslinger [Und Pg. 24] - Requires BAB +1
This gives you +2 on attacks against Flat-Footed opponents. Again handy for making sure you hit, but I don't find this worth a feat; something to pick up with an Action Point when you feel you need the extra accuracy. If it helped in Hiding, it could be worth actually picking, but as it stands...

Penetrating Shot [PHBII Pg. 81] - Requires Str 15, Point Blank Shot, BAB +10
Gives you the ability to shoot through opponents in a 60' line as a Standard Action. This could be somewhat useful as since it's a Standard Action, you've got the Move left to Hide with. So this is a bonus to a Sniper, but lined up opponents are relatively rare. Still, it may just be worth it, especially with Woodland Archer to shift position to get the lines right.


Weapon Enhancement Improving Feats:
Mercantile Background [FRCS Pg. 36, PGtF Pg. 41] - 1st Level Only, Location Requirements
This feat is a doozy. You get 75% for items you sell and once per month, can purchase something for 75% listed price. Also, you start with extra money - level 1 Composite Longbow with Str Bonus FTW! So yea, this helps you afford a damn good bow. And your party will love you. You can easily be multiple enhancements beyond the normal with this.

Ancestral Relic [BoED Pg. 39] - Any Good alignment, Character Level 3rd
Basically, this feat allows you to spend items for their full price when enhancing your ancestral relic. In this case, you'll of course want an ancestral weapon. A strong alternative to Mercantile Background, but while the feat is not Exalted, it does require Good alignment which is something to keep in mind. Oh yeah, and there's a limitation as to how much you can spend on the feat.

Item Familiar [UA Pg. 170] - Character Level 3rd
Make your Bow your Item Familiar. You'll be able gain a number of free +1-abilities, some Intelligent Item-bonuses or similars. Further, you'll gain the ability to invest skill points and experience to it for increased returns (although it'll suck royally if it is destroyed - have your contingencies for Disjunction later on). Oh, and you can enhance your bow without actually having Item Creation feats. And you get a free Alertness when wielding the item (That is, all the time! And Spot just happens to be your most important skill!). Easily my favourite of the three, although it really combines well with either. I especially like the Mercantile Background+Item Familiar-combo, and pull strings for the enchanting, providing the XP myself. That gives me the item for 37.5% of the original price with each item sale providing 25%-units more money. And it's available to any alignment (although Mercantile Background is Faerûn-specific - very easy to convert to any world though (basically, any member of a merchant family would do) - and Item Familiar is from a source you can never assume anything from).


Equipment

Magic Weapon Special Abilities:
Splitting (+3 price) [CoR Pg. 42]
Ok, so this is the best ability in the books. By far. It requires Precise Shot (just one extra reason to get it) and is a +3 ability, but by gods does it kick ass. Every attack you do hits. Twice. In effect, this doubles your damage output; normal +3 would be about ~+10 damage, this can be around +30 damage easily. Also, getting two attack rolls is incredibly useful for having higher hit percentage and goes perfectly with Woodland Archer [RoTW Pg. 154].

There is a little ambiguity to whether this works with Precision Damage though; it does have two attack rolls which would suggest that it does, but effectively they act as a volley attack, hitting the same place and therefore wouldn't get Precision Damage added. You should check with your DM before getting this for your Precision Damage archer; it's probably still worth it if Precision Damage isn't doubled (since it increases the odds of hitting with it by tons), but that would make it much less good. Personally I wouldn't allow twice the Precision Damage for Splitting since the archer doesn't get to aim the pieces separately.

Explosive (+2 HoB, ammo only; +3 CW) [HoB Pg. 130, CW Pg. 134]
This is a useful in theory; it allows you to deal area of effect damage with your arrows. It can only be placed on Arrows, though. The downside is that this is very expensive on a ranged weapon and allows a DC 14 non-scaling Reflex-save to halve the damage. This does have a role, but not in normal adventure. The biggest use of this is against armies and craptons of mooks; as such this is better on arrows than a bow, although getting an Explosive Bow for an army fight could be a solid option. The damage is sad for +2 (1d6 = average of 3.5 damage, the average for +1 abilities and this one allows a save) though so this has a very specific application and is going to suck outside that.

CW version is a +3 price enhancement dealing 2d4 damage with one point higher Save DC, making it even worse. It can be placed on Bows though.

Knockback (+3 price) [CW Pg. 135]
This follows the pattern of CW-abilities; it's handy, but kinda expensive for what it does. This can be very useful against medium opponents, but earlier on it's too expensive and later on the guys who want to get close, the Fighters, tend to have enough Strength to win the check even at Medium. Still, getting 5 Bull rushes a turn means you'll win at least some so it isn't totally wasted. Of course it's better in areas where Bull rush naturally works, such as cliffs, areas with lethal terrain, trees, bridges and so on. It isn't going to be a sufficient deterrent to prevent melee warriors from getting to you alone though, so it's definitely something to only get in some Arrows. Still, there're many situations where you can do ugly stuff with this. +3 is a bit expensive though; this would be more interesting at +2.

Phasing (+2 price, ammo only) [DR330 Pg. 67]
Phasing ammunition passes through single solid obstacle at most 5' thick (how it interacts with magical barriers like Wall of Force and Prismatic Wall is not mentioned; ask your DM). I seriously don't need to tell you how useful it is to be able to shoot through walls, right? It also passes through shield if there's no cover, or armor if there's no cover or shield, but that's not really of interest here. You obviously buy stacks of these and use them when you need to shoot at someone past a wall. Of course, it's annoying that it's only ammunition but seriously, even if you shoot 50 arrows a turn, getting a bunch of these is worth it for when you're faced with any target behind an obstacle.

Force (+2 price) [MIC Pg. 35]
Archers usually have relatively low damage per arrow. That means Damage Reduction is a real bitch (save for very specific Sniper-builds). Enter Force. This +2 ability allows you to completely ignore Damage Reduction against everything except the Über Epic monster Force Dragon (CR Larger Than You'll Ever Face). Not only that, but it gives you perfect accuracy against Incorporeals and Ethereals. Oh, and since your arrow becomes Force Attack, Windwall - the perennial bane of Archers everywhere - doesn't work against it either.

In other words, for a simple +2 ability, you get to ignore three of the biggest thorns Archers face. Thank you sir, may I have another? Even archers with natural abilities to overcome DR will want to consider this. The only reason not to get Force bow is if you already happen to have Energy Bow (or play in a campaign without MIC).

Holy (+2 price) [SRD]
Let's face it, most campaigns have evil guys as the prominent enemies. Holy is a +2 ability that works on all of them. And it gives you equivalent to two dice of elemental damage vs. each and every one. Oh, and it makes your weapon good for passing Damage Reduction (and archer can just have arrows/bolts of different materials around to switch as needed essentially allowing you bypass all Good and X-DRs; much easier than trying to have the right melee weapon). Not much to say, if you can afford it, it's one of the best abilities to get.

Unholy (+2 price) [SRD]
If the party is evil fighting good guys.

Exit Wounds (+2 price) [CW Pg. 134]
This is a useful ability. 1d6 damage for +2 isn't horrible, but the real use of this ability is to mimic the feat "Penetrating Shot" [PHBII Pg. 73] without actually taking it. Basically, when opponents line up properly, you could use one of these. Or 5. Two hits is always better than one and if you're a good shooter, you may just make it more than 2. I'd say it's worth keeping some arrows with this around if you can afford them and use them when the chance occurs.

(Greater) Dispelling (+1/+2 price) [MIC Pg. 33]
Very handy to have in arrows/bolts. If you fight against buffed up opponents or need to end some magic effects or overall need to dispel anything, these are the arrows for the job. The normal ability has a Per Day-restriction, but luckily that doesn't matter on arrows. Great to have in your bag of tools, and quite cheap to boot. Switch to Greater Dispelling when you feel the normal doesn't quite cover it anymore.

Magebane (+1 price) [CA Pg. 143, MIC Pg. 38]
One of the few Bane-properties worth having (on a bunch of arrows), this works against all things casting arcane spells or have Arcane Spell-Like abilities. In other words, it kicks ass. You could actually put this on your Bow if you face enough casters; +2 to hit/+2d6 damage for +1 ability is immense. Even if you don't, get those damn arrows. One-two stacks to use against Dragons, Liches, Beholders, Wizards and other problematic individuals. Very, very useful and quite possibly the most broad Bane-ability in existence.

The MIC version unfortunately doesn't work on creatures with Spell-Like Abilities. The CA-version is much stronger. Still, even the MIC version is worth getting, just not in a weapon, but as arrows. It's still a very broad Bane-ability that works on, among others, Dragons and Liches, two very potent opponent types. Even the MIC version warrants Blue. CA version is more like Royal Blue.

Bane (+1 price) [SRD]
It may be worth it to keep a few Bane-arrows for more prominent types around. Unlike with normal weapons, due to the fact that a stack of 10 +2 arrows costs basically nothing (~1700gp) compared to midgame wealth, you can afford to keep a few Bane-weapons of appropriate types around. Aberrations are a good bet, as are Undead. Those types cover a wide variety of creatures and should come up often enough. Evil Outsiders, Magical Beasts and Fey are other solid options. Unfortunately Humanoids tend to be too specific, so unless your campaign is overwhelmingly based on one Humanoid-type, I'd steer clear of the Humanoid pumps (and if there's such an overwhelming number of type X in campaign, maybe your bow should be Bane X instead of arrows).

Corrosive (+1 price) [MIC Pg. 31]
If you want elemental damage, Acid is probably least commonly resisted after Sonic (Screaming only deals 1d4, so I'd go with Corrosive).

Seeking (+1 price) [SRD]
This is a great ability negating all forms of concealment and few specific magical protections. No feat can replicate the reliability of Seeking and indeed, you even negate miss chance for attacking an invisible opponent as long as you get the square right. Absolute godsent at +1 cost.

Precise (+1 price) [MIC Pg. 40]
This replicates the Precise Shot-feat. Basically, if you believe your magical weapon won't get dispelled or sundered, you can use this to save a feat. Note though that it does not actually grant you the Precise Shot-feat so strict reading means it won't work with Splitting.

Distance (+1 price) [SRD]
This replicates the Far Shot-feat. Definitely something to keep in store (goes especially well with the Swiftwing Arrows [RoTW Pg. 164]); while long range combat isn't all that commonplace, as an archer you better be equipped to fight at that range should the sitiuation require it. The primary selling point of archery over melee combat is the ability to affect opponents you cannot reach; being limited only to Extended Point Blank Range isn't exactly anything a melee warrior couldn't pull off just as well. These arrows are also cheap, so just keep some in storage.


Specific Magic Ammunition:
Arrow/Bolt of Biting (á 506 gp) [MIC Pg. 46]
+1 ammo that injects a target hit with an Injury Poison with DC 16 Fort-save for 1d6 Con. Pretty meh, since the Fort-save DC is so low. Actual poisons are generally more effective since they can be crafted for a very reasonable price if you have the skill, and there are ones with actually impressive Save DCs. These aren't completely worthless, but there are generally better ways to spend your money and since the save DC is pretty low, these aren't that useful as backups for particularly tough opponents either (since the tougher the opponent, the less likely these are to work).

Fountainhead Arrow/Bolt (á 306 gp) [MIC Pg. 52]
A normal ammo that can be shot at a flat surface to create a 10' radius burst Acid-spewing geyser. It acts on your turn and the acid deals 2d8 damage with a DC 14 Reflex for half. It actually isn't horrible since it's guaranteed damage against most creatures and it persists for 3 rounds; it can dig through many materials and the damage can even be useful against creatures if they for a reason or another can't move out of its area easily. And of course, if you happen to find a creature with flat surface to one direction or another, slamming a full flurry of these in its face would be exceedingly efficient; effective 3d8 extra damage (assuming saves succeed) plus the normal attack damage adds up real quick.

Hellpiercer (á 2007 gp) [BoED Pg. 115]
This is a +3 shocking burst ammo that acts as Silver for overcoming DR and delivers a dose of Purified Couatl Venom ravage (DC 16 Injury Ravage for 2d4 and 4d4 Str damage). Price-wise, the arrows are actually cheaper than the ravage but the ravage is so low DC that it's probably not worth it. It works on evil creatures normally immune to poisons, but since the save DC is low, it's unlikely to. Ravages are probably not anyone's favorite thing from 3.5 in any case. Best we just forget about this.


Mundane Weapon Improvements:
Serrenwood (+4000 gp) [BoED Pg. 38]
Serrenwood is a material. This is a great way of saving money especially if you cannot get a Force-bow. Serrenwood has a set price so it doesn't increase the magical cost of the bow. It's also one of the very few non-Magical ways of affecting incorporeals so even if you get your weapon Dispelled or something, you can still use a Serrenwood bow to drop ghosts (or Wizards with Ghostform; in fights against arcane casters, Serrenwood Bow and overall, all ways of doing magical things in mundane fashion are pure gold).

I'd get a bunch of Serrenwood Arrows even if I had a Force-bow for the sitiuations where one needs to hit incorporeals without Magic; as an archer you're one of the few possible characters who can pull that off.

Dwarvencraft (+600 gp) [RoS Pg. 159]
This is a weapon that's even more masterfully built than a Masterwork weapon. It doesn't enhance the weapon's capabilities, but gives it 2 extra Hardness, 10 extra HP and +2 to its saves. For 600gp, this makes your bow much harder to Sunder, which happens to be a very good thing as losing your primary weapon sucks (although you should keep extra bows in store just in case).
« Last Edit: June 08, 2011, 12:46:56 AM by Eldariel » Logged
Eldariel
Bi-Curious George
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Posts: 459


« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2008, 11:07:22 PM »

Traditional Archery


Overview

Traditional Archery is the concept I'll be using for the traditional bows: Shortbow, Longbow and Greatbow. This chapter will deal with things applying to all archers using the traditional bows - their equipment, feats, potential downfalls and advantages. These will especially be compared to the other archery styles.

Generally this is what's commonly understood to be Archery. If someone says 'archer', people are going to assume a traditional archer as opposed to a crossbow archer, a mounted archer or anything else. This is also the simpliest type of Archery to optimize and as a consequence, the vast majority of Archer builds around fall under this category.


Why choose traditional archery?

The most important question when making an archer is naturally "Why?" Specifically, why archery instead of another kind of combat style and why make the kind of archer you're making. Traditional Archery has a number of things going on for it, but of course also suffers of some drawbacks. Quick look through the most prominent benefits and drawbacks of conventional archery:

Advantages
-Can add Str to damage (thanks to Composite Bows)
-No entry feats beyond the core Archery feats needed
-Longest range increments in the game (aside from Heavy Crossbow)
-No action needed to load the bow - lend themselves well to volley attacks
-Best support from the official sources (most good Magical Bows are traditional and same goes for special ammo)
-Can easily use the Manyshot-line of feats for strafing attacks
-Can be made Elvencraft to be usable in melee as well as in range

Disadvantages
-Use Dex for hitting and Str for damage, inducing MAD
-Tends to rely on volleys, which means poor mobility
-Relatively low base damage
-Large size and thus not fit for concealing


Feats

Efficient Pull [DR350 Pg. 90] - Requires Point Blank Shot
So yea, this allows you to treat your strength +2 higher for the purposes of a bow being Mighty. Why does it suck? Well, normal bows don't autoadjust to new Strength. Even if you do manage to get a bow that does, you still only get grande +1 damage for your efforts and a friggin' feat!

If the damage was +2, this could be remotedly considerable, but as it stands, it gives you +2 Strength, not +2 Str-modifier for the purposes of Mighty bows, so you're better off picking useful feats instead. Oh yeah, and this is Dragon Magazine-material, so this usually isn't even available (maybe that's lucky, so new players avoid picking it?).


Equipment

Base Weapons:
Longbow (75 gp) [SRD]
Core NPC weapon, PCs will only use this on the first level if they can't afford a Composite Longbow. A Composite Longbow is better in every respect even if you have absolutely no Strength to add to the damage.

Longbow, Composite (100 gp + 100 gp/Strength) [SRD]
The core weapon in Traditional Archery, it's a Martial Weapon so the proficiencies are aplenty, it has a great range, decent damage and falls the in the sweet spot in most ways. You'll always use Composite Longbow over the normal Longbow once you are past level 1 and can afford it, just for the Strength to damage, but also for the extra range.
Composite Longbow shares Weapon Focus-tree with Longbow.

Longbow, Aquatic (400 gp) [Storm Pg. 107]
This number is the only projectile weapon that can be used underwater without extreme penalties. The range increment underwater is only 10' (on water 60'), but that's quickly fixed by Ranged Weapon Mastery, Far Shot and Dragonbone (and Aquatic Shot [Storm Pg. 93]), giving you a nice 75' range increment underwater; that makes the weapon actually workable there, allowing you to shoot at targets with mere 1-2 increments before you're in melee. Extra benefit of the fact that underwater, cover is very rare so it's relatively easy to gain a real benefit of you range as long as you have means to spot the opponents far away. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a Composite Aquatic Longbow so you're stuck without your Str modifier. Still, it's better than nothing.
Aquatic Longbow shares Weapon Focus-tree with Longbow.

Shortbow (30 gp) [SRD]
Shortbow is the worst of the traditional bows available in the game. It has the shortest range, the lowest damage and no redeeming qualities. The only reason to get one is that it costs effectively nothing, being the cheapest traditional bow available by far, costing whopping 45 gp less than the standard Longbow.

Shortbow, Composite (75 gp + 75 gp/Strength) [SRD]
The only reasons to use a Shortbow over a Longbow are that either your class grants you only one of the proficiencies. Classes with only Shortbow proficiency include Bards, Rogues and few other skill-based classes.
Composite Shortbow shares Weapon Focus-tree with Shortbow.

Greatbow (150 gp) [CW Pg. 154]
If you get Greatbow proficiency for free and can't afford a Composite Greatbow yet, might as well get one of these. It's strictly worse than Composite Greatbow, but seeing that the Composite Greatbow is actually quite expensive, costing upwards to 1000 gp without magic, you may use this for a level or two.
Greatbow shares Weapon Focus-tree with Longbow.

Greatbow, Composite (200 gp + 200 gp/Strength) [CW Pg. 154]
A few Fighter-variants get free Exotic Weapon Proficiency, so you might as well pick up Greatbow proficiency for free. Likewise, if you spend a feat on a bow proficiency, you might as well pick Greatbow for the extra range and damage. Otherwise, Greatbow usually isn't worth it except when looking to maximize range or when building a Fighter Archer with a limited number of books and running out of damage increasing feats to take; Greatbow deals an average one point more than Longbow, and the difference increases with size increases (Large difference is 2, Huge is 3, I recall).
Composite Greatbow shares Weapon Focus-tree with Longbow.

Bone Bow (250 gp) [Frost Pg. 76]
It has a shorter range than a Greatbow and is likewise Exotic, but it has automatic Strength adjustment (without extra costs, making it much more affordable early on) and may be more appropriate for some settings. It's really up to the game and level, which is better out of this and Greatbow (usually you should just pick Longbow to save the feat though).
Bone bow shares Weapon Focus-tree with Longbow as well.

Double Bow, Elven (1000 gp) [AE Pg. 7]
This is a strange one. You can spend a Move Action to load up a second arrow and then your next attack is a Volley Attack at -2. You can, if you somehow get extra Move Actions, combine this with a full attack for effectively an extra arrow and it doesn't even punish your entire volley, only the next attack. Of course, the kicker is that there's no Composite version of this listed which means no Strength-bonus to damage. If you get DM to allow Composite versions of these, this might very well be worth the feat. Without Strength-modifier, the extra shot being a Volley Attack and thus applying precision damage only once, it is by and large impractical to use one of these even with something like Belt of Battle [MiC Pg. 73] or Quicksilver Motion [ToB Pg. 65] to gain those Move Actions. Anyone with Longbow proficiency can use one of these as a Longbow, but you need Exotic Weapon Proficiency to use the special features.

Footbow (150 gp + 100 gp/Strength) [RoTW Pg. 164]
Now, this one is a doozy. It's an Exotic Composite Longbow that is designed for use while flying; it takes a -4 penalty when used in ground and can only be used prone. It has the same stats as a Composite Longbow, and is a martial weapon for Raptorans. Why would anyone else use it though? One thing: 1½ Str to damage. That is, a Footbow is kept under feet when flying and you can either fire it with one hand as per normal, having your other free for god knows what, or you can fire it Two-Handed and add 1½ Str to damage. This one is very much worth the effort, if a bit weird weapon to use.

If I were a flying archer without much regard for stylistic factors, I'd definitely get me one of these, even at the expense of a feat; rarely do you get the chance to double the effect of a stat for just one feat. This also makes Raptoran Archers a very solid prospect.

Bow, Yuan-Ti Serpent (150 gp) [SoX Pg. 137]
An exotic weapon that's basically a Longbow and a Short Sword in one. The basic idea is good; you always threaten the area around you and can do ranged attacks without wasting actions switching between the modes. The problem, of course, is that the Elvencraft property can be added to any bow and while with it you are stuck with 20/x2 crits in melee, you also saved a feat on Exotic Weapon Proficiency. Worst of all, there are no Composite Yuan-Ti Serpent Bows to add your Strength to damage; without those it's practically never worth it using one. Elvencraft is just plain better.


Mundane Ammunition:
Razorfeather Ammunition (á 150 gp) [MMV Pg. 169]
These aren't actually listed being sold anywhere, but by the Craft-rules in PHB, raw materials cost a third of the final result, and Razorfeathers cost 50 gp a piece. The ammunition is considered to be Masterwork, but the book isn't clear as to whether you have to build the Masterwork component separately or if you just work the Feathers and they're automatically considered Masterwork. May be that the actual cost is 156 gp a piece; that's counting the Masterwork cost for each.

Anyways, these arrows are awesome. Just completely incredible. First of all, they're mundane weapons that are considered Keen. That's a +1 property almost for free. Second, they're considered Masterwork and Adamantine. That means they're just about the best mundane arrows you can have. It takes a DC 30 Craft (weaponsmithing)-check to make 50 of them. You should ask your DM if these are sold in your campaign, and if they aren't, it may be an interesting prospect to go on a Steelwing hunt on Acheron or the Material Plane, and train a bit in the arts of Weaponsmithing (or get help from your friendly neighbourhood Wizard with his immense Int-mod).

Arrow, Alchemist's (1500 gp for 20x) [AE Pg. 5, DR349 Pg. 28]
These are basically normal arrows with x2 crit range, except they deal 1d4 fire damage the turn after unless the victim spends a full-round action and makes a DC 15 Reflex-save to extinguish the flames. Very convenient, though somewhat pricy. Extra damage is never a bad thing.

The Dragon version is almost worthless, having two categories lower base damage than normal and only 3/4th range increment.

Arrow, Alchemist's Frost (1500 gp for 20x) [DR349 Pg. 28]
These arrow have two categories lower base damage (1d4 for Longbow) and 3/4th range increment to go with x2 critical rating. On hit, they deal 1d4 extra cold damage immediately, and the arrow shatters. Expensive, though it can be useful against creatures particularly vulnerable to cold.

Arrow, Blunt (1 gp for 20x) [RoTW Pg. 165]
These arrows deal Bludgeoning and subdual damage. In other words, these are the perfect tools for taking prisoners, especially when opponent is escaping. As a downside though, many creatures with DR/Bludgeoning also have immunity to subdual damage, so it isn't useful for solving that; you'll still need to default to magical abilities against them. It's worth noting that these aren't metallic to any degree, making them completely able to bypass the pain-of-a-spell Ironguard, which archers otherwise have trouble with. These are cheap, so I'd always keep at least one stack of these with me. Do note that they have a reduced critical multiplier though. These also have halved range increment of the core bow, with any adjustments for Composite Bow added on top of the half (so fired from Longbow, the increment is half of 100' = 50', but from Composite Longbow half of 100' + 10' = 60').

Arrow, Dragonsbreath (50 gp for 20x) [RoTW Pg. 165]
These arrows have reduced core damage, but deal 1 point of Fire-damage on impact and require a DC 15 Reflex-save or light the opponent ablaze. Certainly handy against Ice monsters, especially Giants and the like. Also good for lighting oil or the like ablaze. These are very useful when used properly, but since they deal reduced damage and have no benefits vs. creatures with fire immunity, I'd still use normal arrows as my normal weapon with these as a special treat for vulnerable opponents. Also note that this is completely unmagical.

And enough arrows can make anyone roll that 1 for Reflex. Fire is only 1d6 per turn with a new Reflex-save each turn (who the hell thought of that - have people never seen human catch fire and how impossible it is to put out alone?), so it's not that major later on. On earlier levels and against poor Ref-save opponents, it can be handy though.

Arrow, Flight (160 gp for 20x) [AE Pg. 5, DR349 Pg. 29]
These are normal arrows except with x2 criticals, and they add 25' to the attacks' range increment. Somewhat similar to Swiftwing Arrows in function, but these actually increase your range increments and your maximum range while Swiftwings make it easier to land shots at a longer range, and lose out on base damage instead of critical multiplier. Probably a tool you'll want in your repertoire, though these are fairly expensive like many of these special arrows.

Arrow, Hardwood (10 gp for 20x) [DR330 Pg. 92]
These break 25% of the time instead of 50% of the time when missing the target. Yeah, I don't care either. I suppose if you have magical arrows, making them of Hardwood increases the chance of your missed arrows being retrievable. I guess it might save you small amounts of money.

Arrow, Pungent (5 gp for 20x) [DR330 Pg. 92]
These arrows deal no damage, but they "paint" the target with a scent helping tracking. There's a +1 on Survival-checks to track hit target, or +4 if the tracker has Scent.

Arrow, Serpentstongue (3 gp for 20x) [RoTW Pg. 165]
These arrows are used for sundering. Amusingly enough, they deal both, Piercing and Slashing damage. They also deal full damage to objects with hardness less than 5. Again, something to keep around. They also don't have any drawbacks compared to normal arrows besides also dealing Slashing damage so you could actually consider replacing your normal arrows with these.

Arrow, Signal (10 gp for 20x) [AE Pg. 5, DR349 Pg. 29]
These arrows deal normal weapon damage at x2 multiplier. They also have -2 circumstance penalty on attack rolls making them inconvenient for that purpose. What they are good for though is signalling; they let out a sound resembling the cry of some bird (DC 20 Survival-check allows a listener to determine if the sound came from a bird or another source; DR349 calls for DC 20 Knowledge (Nature) check instead). Elves use these to coordinate their military efforts; your party can do the same. Very simple method of long range communication, and cheap at that.

Arrow, Smoking (600 gp for 20x) [DR349 Pg. 29]
These arrows need to be lit to fire them. They leave a trail of thick black smoke behind them and when they land, they act like a Smokestick, leaving a 10' cube of smoke in the target square. Good for creating smoke screen especially if you have a Seeking bow. Kind of expensive and the smoke lasts for only a short time, though.

Arrow, Star (10 gp for 20x)
These arrows are normal, except they also provide illumination. A Star Arrow provides bright illumination 5' away and shadowy illumination 15' away. Very convenient for hunting in the dark.

Arrow, Swiftwing (20 gp for 20x) [RoTW Pg. 165]
These are excellent for firing far away; they only suffer half the normal increment penalties. Ask your DM how this interacts with Cragtop Archer's ability doing the same. Anyways, they have one category reduced damage, but they actually make those long shots possible without tons of feats, so I'd definitely have a bunch of these in my Quiver. Especially good for sniping things like Dragons from far away a turn or two before they reach you (once that's taken flight, that is). If you have ~200ft increment, you'd be able to shoot to 1000ft with mere -5 to the roll.

Arrow, Thundering (40 gp for 20x) [AE Pg. 5]
These arrows deal no damage instead exploding as a Thunderstone on impact. Basically, they force a DC 15 Fortitude save against being deafened for an hour. These have some niche uses but as they don't deal damage, I don't expect one to use them all that often. Pack a couple with you and when the situation comes up, profit.

Arrow, Zigzag (3 gp for 20x) [DR330 Pg. 92]
These arrows take -4 on attacks but deal double damage to objects with Hardness 0. The damage is unfortunately restricted to objects so no hope of double damaging creatures but they're rather convenient in some specific scenarios, like for severing ropes. Given how cheap they are, might as well. These deal Slashing or Piercing damage.


Magic Weapons:
Energy Bow (22600 gp) [Here, WoTC Site]
This is one of the best bows in existence. It can shoot Force Arrows for 2d6 damage, it adjusts to user's strength and most importantly, it can be used for Power Shots. Power Shot is an ability that simply doesn't exist in official 3.5 beyond this (3.0 class Peerless Archer has it, and it hasn't been updated so it's legal in 3.5 with all sources though). Power Shot is also one of the easiest ways to overcome the difficulty of dealing damage with bows.

Basically, this is a cheap specific bow with two unique abilities. If you can get this and further enchant it (with Splitting), it's easily the best bow in the game.

Bow of the Wintermoon (3400gp) [MIC Pg. 48]
Don't be mislead by the fact that this is a Relic of Corellon Larethian. Don't worry about the alignment restriction either. What this item is, is a magical base bow with adjusting strength. Regardless of your alignment and the relic status, it's a bow that automatically adjusts to the wielder's strength, and at a very reasonable price. You can add any actual enhancements you want on this hull and you don't need to give a rat's ass about the Relic-powers. For what it's worth, they're pretty awful; you get a +1 enhancement out of being Chaotic Good, Neutral Good or Chaotic Neutral and Frost + Drowbane out of the True Believer or a 5th level spellslot. Given the specificness of both enhancements, it's not really worth your while outside some really heavily Drow-focused campaigns.

Bowstaff (4600gp) [MIC Pg. 48]
Basically Elvencraft Bow that requires a swift action to activate as a magic item. Yeah, no.

Bow of Songs (12330gp) [MIC Pg. 48]
If you have Bardic Music, the ability to add your Cha to hit and damage for one Bardic Music use is actually kinda good. The only issue with this bow is, it's a swift action to activate and only applies on one attack meaning it's not very useful on full attacks Bards would normally prefer due to Inspire Courage applying to all their attacks. It can be worthwhile on low levels and in some niché cases like some Sniper-build with high Cha, guaranteed crit and high crit modifier on a single attack, but in general, it's at most an extra option for some special circumstances.

The MIC version is great. A +1 arrow that's Bane vs. all your targets. That gives you +2 extra enhancement that stacks with anything from your bow, and extra 2d6 damage. These arrows are also usable forever, so just getting as many as you can shoot in one turn means you'll never need new ammo again (unless these get Sundered or Disjunctioned). The MIC version requires sacrificing a 4th level Divine slot so a Ranger of Ehlonna can use them too. You should definitely consider worshipping Ehlonna just for these in all games without Champions of Ruin. The only reason for not using these is if you've got Splitting Bows in your game - Splitting might break these arrows (consult your DM) making them rather worthless, and Splitting is the stronger ability of the two, so if you have to choose, take Splitting bow over Raptor Arrows.

Oathbow (25600 gp) [SRD]
I'm just listing this here to tell you not to get it even if you only have access to DMG items. The ability that makes it almost worthwhile is Once per day against one opponent and it sucks against everything else at that point. It's almost decent against BBEG, except +1 Holy bow with Greater Magic Weapon cast on it tends to be just as good against all opponents without any activations, and much easier on the wallet to boot. The only thing good about this bow is that it speaks phrases of Elven.


Magical Ammunition:
Burrowing Arrow (á 167 gp) [CW Pg. 135]
This is basically an anti-healing arrow; if target is healed, this deals 1d8 damage and it stops natural healing. This isn't very interesting, overall. The +1d8 damage just isn't that much and natural healing rarely makes a difference in fights. I suppose it might prevent Polymorph healing since that's only a function of the natural healing rate of the polymorphed creature, but ehh... Again, these cost practically nothing in small quantities so I guess you might want to pick one up and in case you come up with a use for it, shoot it.

Raptor Arrows (MIC á 6006 gp, CD á 14500 gp) [MIC Pg. 56, CD Pg. 93]
This is a Relic of Ehlonna. CD version is almost strictly worse with the difference that it deals 1d8 damage when it lodges itself out of the target. Other than that, CD version only is Bane vs. your Favored Enemies, requires 6th level spell slot and costs over twice as much as the MIC version. MIC is also newer so it takes precedence. Basically, these are Returning Arrows that can't break on shooting and give you +2 to hit and +2+2d6 damage over and beyond any abilities on your Bow against every target.

Slaying Arrow (2282 gp (Greater: 4075 gp)) [SRD]
Slaying Arrows are the usual fare far as save-offering magic items go. The save DC is relatively low for the price (20 for normal, 23 for Greater) and thus they're largely impractical. The exception here is, however, that it can affect creatures normally immune to Fortitude-saves, notably Constructs and Undead. Those creatures by and large have horrible Fort-saves so acquiring a Slaying Arrow or two (or Greater varieties) keyed off to Constructs and Undead can be very much worth your while to keep one-two around of when you face an Undead or a Construct particularly problematic to kill in the classic fashion.

Sleep Arrow (132 gp) [SRD]
Par de course arrow that does pretty much what you'd expect: Tries to put people to sleep. Given how many different ways there are to resist this, and the fact that the Will save DC is 11, I wouldn't expect these to work. Not the kind of item I'd be thrilled to buy though they're relatively cheap so it's not a huge deal either way. Low cost, low impact. Oh, and they deal non-lethal damage, though there are cheaper ways of accomplishing that (Blunt Arrows, for one).


Mundane Weapon Improvements:
Dragonbone (+100 gp) [Drac Pg. 117]
Dragonbone Bow is the tool for Extreme Range-archers. With mere 100gp extra cost, the bow gets 20ft longer Range Increments. Generally, if you don't get a Serrenwood Bow, you might as well get a Dragonbone Bow. It's very cheap and has a tangible benefit (although the use of extra reach depends on the campaign).

Elvencraft (+300 gp) [RoTW Pg. 166]
This quality is one of the best things you could ever add to a bow and only costs 300gp. Basically, it makes your Bow double as either a Club (Shortbow) or Quarterstaff (Longbow). Greatbow isn't touched upon in RoTW, but it would probably also be either a Quarterstaff or a Longstaff. This is a great way to fight both, in range and in melee without Quick Draw and to avoid having to cause AoOs by firing bow when threatened. This is also one of the best ways to build a Sublime Way Archer as Elvencraft Bow allows using the martial strikes in melee when need be while still giving you the freedom to fire at will.


Magic Items
Bracers of Archery, Lesser (5000 gp) [SRD]
These Bracers give you proficiency with whatever Bow you're wielding. Can be handy for Cleric-types, Rogues et al. to wield Shortbows, Longbows and Greatbows without trouble. If you're already proficient with the bow in question, you get +1 Competence on attack rolls. If you don't have a Cleric or a Bard giving you those Competence-bonuses, it may be worth 5000 gp on midlevels. Mostly these are useful for the proficiency-part though.

Bracers of Archery, Greater (25000 gp) [SRD]
These Bracers likewise give you proficiency with whatever Bow you're wielding. However, the reason they're so much more expensive than Lesser versions is because they grant you +2 Competence to attacks and +1 Competence to damage. If you don't have a buffer giving you these types of bonuses, the Bracers are great since those bonuses stack with everything. Otherwise they're worthless.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2011, 01:03:44 AM by Eldariel » Logged
Eldariel
Bi-Curious George
****
Posts: 459


« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2008, 11:07:34 PM »

Crossbow Archery


Overview

Longtime redheaded bastard child of straight bows, Crossbows have two places in the game. First, they're simple ranged weapons for non-martial classes on the first levels when they'd rather stay out of combat and do something when they don't want to expend spells. That's where Crossbows come in handy, as everyone has proficiency, they're cheap and do mean damage on level 1 without any stat dependancy. Of course, since reloading them takes a while, they are usually only used few times and before iteratives kick in.

At that point, dedicated Crossbow Archers begin to find ways to take advantage of their iteratives, while others move to weapons that don't require quite the commitment. Crossbows are much like straight bows, except they cost you many more feats to use effectively, but offer the option of dual wielding with sufficient magical assistance and feat expediture. Crossbow Sniper-feat [PHBII Pg. 77] also gives them solid Single Attribute Dependancy with Dex to both, to hit and damage (unfortunately only half to damage though). This allows a Crossbow Archer to operate on a much worse point buy than a traditional Archer. One final advantage Crossbows enjoy is that they can be fired prone, which is very advantageous in ranged combat, although rarely useful in normal adventures.


Why choose crossbow archery?

So why would I make a Crossbow Archer? Quick comparison:

Advantages
-Crossbows are cheap (thus good for lowlevel play and mooks)
-Can add Dex to damage (thanks to Crossbow Sniper [PHBII Pg. 77])
-Can be dual wielded (but not reloaded that way without assistance)
-Heavier Crossbows have great base damage
-Normal Crossbows are simple weapons
-Can be fired prone
-Hand Crossbow is easily concealed
-Can use one-handed, holding a shield, a melee weapon or something else in the other hand (at penalties though)
-Aquatic Crossbows are probably the best ranged weapons underwater

Disadvantages
-Feat intensive (I can't emphasize this enough - normal archery feats + crossbow feats + possible Exotic Weapon Proficiencies, TWF, etc. = pain)
-Heavier Crossbows are very slow to load
-Cannot be used for iteratives without trickery
-Do not naturally add any stat to damage
-Basically require at least one feat to be used with iterative attacks
-Even less mobile than straight bows (due to move actions being spent on reloading earlier on)


Feats

Crossbow Sniper [PHBII Pg. 77] - Requires Crossbow Proficiency, Weapon Focus (crossbow), +1 BAB
You get ½ Dex to damage with the Crossbow you have Weapon Focus in. You also gain the ability to Skirmish and Sneak Attack at the range of 60'. Every serious Crossbow Archer should have this, period. This feat singlehandedly makes Crossbows worth using. Without this feat, I probably wouldn't bother with this section at all.

Rapid Reload [SRD] - Requires Crossbow Proficiency
This allows you to actually shoot iteratives with Light and Hand Crossbows. This removes the need for Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Repeating Crossbow as it becomes a free action to load their simple counterparts.

Quick Draw [SRD] - Requires +1 BAB
Quick Draw isn't normally very useful for a Crossbow Archer, but there's one specific benefit; like a Thrower, you can get multiple iteratives with Crossbows by dropping the one you fired and drawing a new one. This allows you to TWF with Crossbows taking full iteratives without actually using any magic or other kinds of cheats. This is a fair-and-honest way of being able to machine gun Crossbows. It's kind of expensive to enhance that many Crossbows though so it gets impractical later on.

Also note that Quick Draw is a prerequisite for the Skill Tricks Hidden Blade (used on your own turn) [CS Pg. 87] and Sudden Draw (used AoO, takes a bit of work to get ranged AoOs) [CS Pg. 89], which allow you to attack opponent with a concealed weapon treating him as flat-footed, so that's an additional use of the feat for Sleight of Hand-using Crossbow Archers.

Hand Crossbow Focus [DoTU Pg. 50] - Requires Hand Crossbow Proficiency, +1 BAB
This feat is Rapid Reload and Weapon Focus: Hand Crossbow in one feat. If you're going for Hand Crossbow focus, this is strictly better than Rapid Reload. Also, the Weapon Focus can lead into Ranged Weapon Mastery [PHBII Pg. 82] for massive damage quite easily.

Rapid Shot [SRD] - Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot
If you can get by the Reload-difficulties Crossbows suffer of, Rapid Shot is just as good for Crossbow Archers as it is for Traditional Archers. Unfortunately, TWFing Crossbow Archers may suffer of piling penalties with Rapid Shot and need to be cautious as to how many extra attacks to take for those penalties.


Equipment

Base Weapons:
Light Crossbow (35 gp) [SRD]
Like Composite Longbow with bows, this hits the sweet spot of Crossbows. You can get Free Action reload, you have decent base damage, only -2 penalty for wielding these one-handed, simple weapon proficiency-wise, the core Crossbow. This is what you should default to in normal sitiuations. Also, since the normal loading is only a Move Action, it's often usable on the first levels since you can effectively spend a Full-Round Action to attack once with this.

You can also Two-Weapon Fight with these in a multitude of ways. You can use Gloves of Storing in both hands (or one hand if DM allows switching hands as a free action, which should be possible with Quick Draw) to Free Action-vanish one bow to load the other (likewise a free action), then free action call the vanished weapon, shoot the other, make the one which shot vanish, load the other, etc. allowing you to take full iteratives provided that your DM doesn't put a stop to your Free Action-madness. Ghostly Reload-spell [RoTD Pg. 113] gets you 10 shots of free reloads with both hands too. There's also the weapon ability Quick Loading [MiC Pg. 41], which gives the weapon its own extradimensional space that holds 100 bolts and loads them as a free action for Light Crossbows and Hand Crossbows, likewise allowing you to dual wield Light Crossbows. Bottomline, you can find a way to get two of these go off with iteratives. If nothing else, have a ton of them with Quick Draw and drop the shot ones, drawing a new one for each separate attack.

Crossbow, Aquatic (250 gp) [Storm Pg. 107]
If you have even the slightest hint of the possibility of going underwater, pick one of these along. It doesn't hurt to have one at all, and this is quite possibly the best underwater weapon in the game. The range increment is 40' (it uses the same 40' increment on land too; quite bad there, but awesome in water). By comparison, Aquatic Longbow shoots at a 10' range underwater, and that's long. Also, since Crossbows don't require Composite construction for any extra damage, you get your ½ Dex to damage as per normal as long as you've got Crossbow Sniper [PHBII Pg. 77].

Really, if I was playing in a mostly underwater campaign with a terran race, I'd probably play a Warforged Crossbow Sniper and pick up one of these babies. With Ranged Weapon Mastery and Far Shot, you'll be able to crank the Increment up to 80', and with Gnome Crossbow Sight, you can shoot at 240' without penalties (although DM fiat may make Gnome Crossbow Sight not work underwater). Also, you suffer no damage loss underwater; you're just as effective underneath as you're on the surface.

Heavy Crossbow (50 gp) [SRD]
Heavy Crossbow obviously hits harder than Light Crossbow. Early on though, it's very hard to use beyond the initial shot due to the fact that it takes a full-round action to load. The average damage drops way under Light Crossbow after turn 1 (Light Crossbow has dealt 9 points while Heavy Crossbow mere 5.5). You do have a Move Action to spare every turn you shoot one of these though. Shooting a Heavy Crossbow in one hand is a -4 penalty.

The real reason to use these is the Ghostly Reload-spell, which gives you Free Action-reloading on Heavy Crossbow allowing you to do iteratives with the extra damage. You could also dual wield these, but without very heavy investure of feats and class levels, you'd be taking -6 or worse penalty on all attacks. At this point you'd be better off using Great Crossbow, since it's apparent that Feats Are No Object, and at medium Great Crossbow does whopping 3.5 points more damage than Heavy Crossbow for Exotic Weapon Proficiency-feat.

Hand Crossbow (100 gp) [SRD]
These are a whole different ballpark. They serve the same as Light Crossbow in the respect of being able to machine gun either in one hand, or with trickery in two hands. However, what really sets these apart is that a Hand Crossbow is very easy to conceal with Sleight of Hand, giving you tricks you can pull off with the Hidden Blade [CS Pg. 87] and Sudden Draw [CS Pg. 89] skill tricks, as well as to simply take to places where you aren't allowed weapons.

It doesn't hurt that even though these are Exotic Weapons, Rogues come with free proficiency in them. There's also the Hand Crossbow-specific feat "Hand Crossbow Focus" [DoTU Pg. 50], which is Rapid Reload and Weapon Focus (Hand Crossbow) in one feat. On their own, these are pretty much Light Crossbows with shorter range and worse damage (no penalties for shooting them in one hand though), but thanks to the support they get from outside sources, Hand Crossbows are respectable weapons on their own right.

Great Crossbow (150 gp) [RoS Pg. 155]
This is an exotic Heavy Crossbow. However, the stats are totally out of whack; the average damage is two categories higher (a total of 3.5 point difference), it has a better threat range, increments are the same. So basically, it's got completely insane damage output compared to Heavy Crossbow and is otherwise the same. If I was making a build focusing on Heavy Crossbows, I'd make it a point to find room for Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Great Crossbow - that is one of those very rare opportunities where a single feat adds over 4 points of damage to every attack you make.

Same stuff applies to Great Crossbow as to Heavy Crossbow; generally it's profittable with Ghostly Reload enabling iteratives, although some true Sniper-build could also be made with this damage...the weapon is really a portable Ballista.

Light Crossbow, Repeating (250 gp) [SRD]
This weapon is a true turkey. For Exotic Weapon Proficiency, you get Light Crossbow that you can do iteratives with...with clips of 5 bolts! Then you need to use a full-round action to load the damn thing! At the point where you need the iteratives, you'll be spending one turn shooting, other loading. This particular exotic weapon manages to be strictly worse than a simple weapon + a feat. Simple Rapid Reload + Light Crossbow gets you iteratives without limit!

Last hope dies when you realize that this pile of crap cannot even be loaded without the other hand. So if you dualwield these, they'll be exactly as efficient as simple weapons. Just...don't touch these. Ever. It's quite possibly the worst Exotic Weapon in print. Oh yeah, and it costs like 7 times the price of the simple counterpart and even the bolts manage to be more expensive. It does share proficiency with the usable Repeating Heavy Crossbow though, so it's kind of a free, useless gift.

Heavy Crossbow, Repeating (400 gp) [SRD]
Unlike its Light counterpart, Repeating Heavy Crossbow actually doesn't suck at everything. This is really the only way outside magic to get iteratives with a Heavy Crossbow. Don't bother loading, just use Quick Draw to draw a second Heavy Crossbow once the first one is empty. You only need one per turn of combat even on later levels, so this should be more affordable than the mass Hand Crossbow/Light Crossbow enhancement.

You could also dual wield these with the Gloves of Storing-trick, albeit at immense -6 penalties even with Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting [CAdv Pg. 111]. Make no mistake, this one probably isn't worth your time nor the Exotic Weapon Proficiency you spent on it, but it at least has a reason to exist unlike the Light counterpart.

Light Double Crossbow (70 gp) [RoTD Web Enhancement]
These Exotic Weapons are interesting cases with tons of controversial rules about them (mostly just poorly written). You get two attacks at your full attack bonus as a full-round attack if you have the Double Crossbow-proficiency. You can use the two bolts as iteratives if you lack proficiency in Double Crossbow. This raises the question if free action-loading Double Crossbows are effectively Two-Weapon Fighting without the feat (able to take iteratives) and if you can dual wield Double Crossbows, shooting both separately with iteratives.

Basically, these require DM fiat to make them interesting; by RAW they can only use the extra bow on the special attack action. If you could combine it with full attack as per Rapid Shot (something the article references, raising a question about the intent here), these might be worth considering.

It's worth noting that all Double Crossbows have -2 worse penalties for using in one hand compared to normal Crossbows, so Light Double Crossbow's penalty for TWFing is -4.

Heavy Double Crossbow (100 gp) [RoTD Web Enhancement]
Do note that Double Crossbow-proficiency is just one feat; these all share proficiency, just like the Repeating Crossbows. Early on in the game, you could use Heavy Double Crossbow to take double shots at opponent for maximum damage and once you start getting iteratives, switch to Light Double Crossbow to maximize the number of attacks.

These can't be reloaded quickly (save possibly with Ghostly Reload) and have immense penalties for using in one hand, so you probably won't be dual wielding them no matter what (-8 with multiple feats).

Hand Double Crossbow (200 gp) [RoTD Web Enhancement]
These probably lend themselves best to the machine gun-idea presented above. Wielding one of these in one hand only costs you -2 to hit and having free reload from Quick Loading or whatever would mean that you would get to take the extra attack with each plus full iteratives, along with Rapid Shots and what have you at reasonable penalties. This seems like a solid plan with Crossbow Sniper [PHBII Pg. 77] to maximize the damage output.

Icechucker (150 gp) [Frost Pg. 77]
This is really on the edge of not counting as a Crossbow. Anyways, it throws large shards of Ice as the name suggests, or alternatively Javelins when Ice isn't available. Unfortunately, bigger isn't always better it seems and the damage doesn't really increase at all and the range is poor. This is only good in very specific circumstances where Bolts are unavailable. Other than that, it's far worse than Great Crossbow and a total waste of Exotic Weapon Proficiency. I'm just mentioning it for completeness's sake.


Magic Weapons:
Armbow, Warforged (20000 gp) [ECS Pg. 268]
This is a Warforged component and thus not available to anyone else. Anyways, we're talking about a +2 Repeating Light Crossbow here. However, unlike standard Repeating Crossbows, this one automatically reloads itself. Now, it can only make 20 bolts a day by itself after which you need to make extras at the rate of 1 HP/Bolt, but few heal-effects allow you to ignore such nonsense. You can also create Aligned Bolts with 3 HP a piece, a bargain to ignore annoying Damage Reductions - just make sure you have the means to restore your HP. The important part is that since the reloading happens automatically, I'd wager you can do flurries at will with these, even Two-Handed.

It isn't spelled out in the book (in fact, the only thing it states about the weapon is that "shooting and loading it is a standard action", but seeing that we're talking about a Repeating Light Crossbow, it would seem logical to assume it can be used to fire iteratives at will. Also, no penalty is listed for using it one-handed, so technically you should be able to get two of these and use them without penalties other than the normal TWF-penalties. The only turnoff here is the fact that you do need Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Repeating Crossbow for these, but since the Heavy version isn't so bad for the early levels, it may not be that bad. The worse part is that you're a Warforged and thus don't get the Human Bonus Feat level 1, so you'll be really featstarved as you need:
-Archery feats
-Crossbow feats
-Two-Weapon Fighting feats
-Exotic Weapon Proficiency

Still, pulling it off just may be worth it.


Magic Weapon Special Abilities:
Quick Loading (+1 price) [MiC Pg. 41]
This ability is very worthy for crossbow archers of certain archetypes. It's by far the simpliest way of enabling iterative attacks when dual wielding Crossbows. 100 bolts should be enough even for the longest of encounters after which you can spend a minute or two refilling the storages. Furthermore, the ability allows you to choose which Bolt is loaded each time so you actually get free golfbag effect so typical for straight bows with this.

If it's available, I'd grab a pair of Light Crossbows with this. Unfortunately, loading Heavy Crossbow even with Quick-Loading is still a Move Action thus not helping there. Potentially, Quick-Loading Heavy Crossbow with Ghostly Reload cast on it could be used 10 times like normal Light Crossbows with the spell. This isn't spelled out anywhere though and would be purely a houserule, but an extremely logical one.


Mundane Weapon Improvements:
Crossbow Sight, Gnome (+150 gp) [AE Pg. 36]
This is again a 3.0 ability, but unfortunately they simply haven't printed much of use for Crossbows in 3.5; it's a fair game to go 3.0 in search of goodies. Anyways, this is effectively a Sniper Scope. With this, you can truly act as a Crossbow Sniper. Basically, this allows you to ignore up to two range increment. Yes, that's right, with a Crossbow Sight, you can use a standard Heavy Crossbow at the range of 360' without any penalties whatsoever! And with Far Shot et al. this gets much better. Very handy, especially in wilderness and areas with long vision, it costs you practically nothing and gives you a huge, if sitiuational benefit so come midlevels, I'd get one immediately (it also allows using Hand Crossbow on medium ranges without penalties).
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 03:15:00 AM by Eldariel » Logged
Eldariel
Bi-Curious George
****
Posts: 459


« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2008, 11:07:45 PM »

Mounted Archery


Overview

Mounted combat isn't really the most common topic in D&D forums, but the game does support the combat style quite well. In fact, mounted combatants are at an immense advantage compared to normal characters since you get double moves and full-round actions at the same time. Historically, Mounted Archery was the advantage that allowed Genghis Khan to conquer the known world so there has to be something to this combat style in the game too, right?

Mounted Archers are really efficient in the open simply due to the fact that they can keep firing while their Mount keeps them out of combat, and even more so with the more exotic mount options available, such as flying and teleporting monsters, and monsters that are fearsome combatants on their own rights all the way up to the almighty Dragons. The important part is getting a mount that isn't going to die midfight, and preferably one that can contribute itself. Early on, you can just shop for a mount, but later on you'll probably want a Mount as a class feature lest it gets toasted in the first AoE attack you face. Also, a Mounted Archer really wants to be small to be able to fit into most dungeons with the Mount; it sucks to have to give up the advantages a Mount offers just because you're in for a dungeon crawl. Even though mobility is limited in a dungeon, a Riding Dog moving each down with you shooting goes a long way to keeping you out of trouble. Just keep as much space available as possible.


Why choose mounted archery?

What does fighting mounted actually do for an archer compared to his normal capabilities?

Advantages
-Mobility (the most important reason to pick a mount by far - you can full attack while moving)
-Extra offense (the mount is often an able combatant on its own right)
-Extra protection (Ride-checks can be used to dodge attacks)
-Support character (some mounts, such as Unicorns, have very useful boost skills that can be used for you)
-Extra actions (mount can generally take actions separately of you on your initiative, effectively giving you extra actions)
-Use for class features such as Animal Companion and Familiar

Disadvantages
-Longbow cannot be used while mounted (curiously enough, Composite Longbows, on the other hand, can).
-Ties a skill and a half (Ride and potentially Handle Animal)
-Ties some more feats, making the otherwise more Mount-friendly Crossbow archery more difficult to pull off effectively (Mounted Combat and Mounted Archery are nearly musts)
-You need to acquire a Mount somehow, be it purchasing a Heavy Warhorse (400 gp) or having Mount- or Animal Companion-class features


Mounts
Mounted combat is all fine and good, but you kind of need to get the Mount-part right first. There're various means to acquire a mount in D&D, but it mostly comes down to five options:
-Buy one, possibly already trained
-Tame/grow one yourself, by buying/finding eggs or simply using Handle Animal/Wild Empathy to get one to come along
-Use classes with class features that can be used for Mounts (mostly Animal Companion and Mount)
-Get the Leadership-feat and acquire a cohort that works as a Mount
-Ride an ally such as party's wildshaped Druid.

Feats and cohorts I'll cover later and riding an ally doesn't need to be covered, so this section will be about purchasable and tameable mounts.


Mounts to come


Feats

Mounted Combat Feats
Mounted Combat [SRD] - Requires Ride: 1 rank
This is the core feat for Mounted Combat. Not only do many classes specializing in Mounted Combat require this, but this also allows you to keep your Mount quite safe; you can use your Ride-check instead of the Mount's AC once per round and pimping out checks is very easy.

Mounted Archery [SRD] - Requires Mounted Combat, Ride: 1 rank
Halves the penalties for firing atop a moving mount. Since being able to move while shooting is the only real reason for Mounted Archery in the first place, this feat is very much worth your trouble. Makes penalties 2 points lower when the mount is double moving and 4 points lower when the mount is running. Really handy overall.

Improved Mounted Archery [CW Pg. 101] - Requires Mounted Combat, Mounted Archery, Ride: 1 rank
Removes penalties for shooting atop a moving mount, reduces the penalties for shooting atop a running mount to -2, allows you to shoot at any point during the mount's movement (normally you must take the shots halfway through). If you've come this far, you may as well take this; being able to shoot at whatever point in the movement really makes a difference in restricted terrains such as dungeons and the lack of penalties is very much worth it if you already took Mounted Archery; may as well remove the penalties entirely.

Mounted Fighting [DR346 Pg. 86] - Requires Mounted Combat, BAB +8, Ride: 11 ranks
This feat gives you +1 to hit and to damage on attacks made atop of a mount. A decent option if you've got feats to spare (seems highly unlikely though), but the bonuses are quite minor so it's not a high priority feat. Luckily it has effectively no prerequisites to speak of so you're fine in that regard; this feat wouldn't be worth going through loops for, but as it stands, I could see some builds picking it up eventually.

Tunnel Riding [RoS Pg. 145] - Requires Mounted Combat, Tunnel Fighting [RoS Pg. 145]
Tunnel Fighting requires +1 BAB, so effectively you can't gain this before that either. Anyways, this feat can be very useful if you expect Dungeons and still want to use a Mount; with this and Tunnel Fighting, you and your mount can fight with no penalties when squeezing through narrow spaces. Normally you take -4 to attacks and AC, but with this you and your Large mount have no problems travelling corridors planned for Medium creatures. In the same vein, the Halfling and his mount have no trouble riding in corridors built for Small creatures. Yes, squeezing still costs 2 squares of movement, but your Mount has movement to spare and since you can fight without trouble when squeezing, feel free to bide your time. The only problem with this feat is the prerequisite; finding two spare feats for a Mounted Archer is a challenge of epic proportions. Otherwise this would be in blue.

Trample [SRD] - Requires Mounted Combat, Ride: 1 rank
Now, the wording on Overrun is a bit unclear, but it seems like your Mount can charge without you spending actions on it allowing you to keep shooting (it would probably count as running though), and that would allow your mount to make Overruns on the opponents. In that case, Trample can very much be worth it for hooving the Overran opponents in the face. It helps that your Mount tends to be strong and large.


Mount Feats
Leadership [SRD] - Requires Character Level 6th
I'll get it out of the way - this is the most powerful feat in D&D. In fact, it's so powerful that when allowed in its full extent, Charisma suddenly becomes a pivotal stat for every class. However, the use suggested here isn't anything broken; I actually suggest you ask if you can skip the follower nonsense entirely when using it to acquire a Mount (that way the feat will be a bit more fair and you don't have a bunch of rabble getting in your way), possibly renaming it to "Acquire Mount" or something to that effect. Followers are generally used for Circle Magic, Aid Another and similar effects that get broken real fast when any sorts of numbers are present. If you can't get rid of them, have them build a castle or something. You've only got interest in the Cohort (although the highest level followers can be useful enough to keep along, especially if you're playing a Charisma-focused character). You can have your Cohort be either a Druid or some kind of an intelligent ridable creature, such as a Dragon, a Centaur, a Pegasus or similar. Note that Leadership is derived off your Charisma-score, so if using this to acquire a mount, make sure you've got high enough Charisma to acquire a strong one.

This along with Wild Cohort is the only way to get a mount growing in power without devoting most of your class levels towards the goal. As such, if you're an aspiring Mounted Archer of a class that does not have a natural Animal Companion/Mount progression, this is probably the best route to take provided that you can spare the Charisma (16 Cha will get you max. level Cohort up to level 14; after that you need either other factors or items to improve Cha to keep it maxed; on level 19 you need Cha 20 for maxed Cohort, so if your core Cha is 14, you'll be able to max it out without depending on Reputation or needing to read Books). This is also the only Core-only feat for Mount acquisition.

As a bonus, Leadership also qualifies you to a whole direction of character construction and a ton of other feats (among others, Improved Cohort [HoB Pg. 98], which allows you to cap your Cohort one level below you as opposed to two levels). Heroes of Battle is a good source for Leadership-based abilities, but it's all beyond the scope of this Handbook. Also note that when going to Epic, Epic Leadership [SRD] allows you to continue Cohort-progression beyond level 20.

Wild Cohort [WoTC Site] - No prerequisites
If you're playing a character that doesn't naturally get an animal companion, this gets you one. On early levels, it's a perfectly able combatant and as it does advance decently by levels, it'll remain useful at least as a mount throughout your career. This also just so happens to kick Ranger's animal companions ass - just an additional reason to trade it away. So yes, right here you've got a feat that allows you to acquire a perfectly usable Mount as any class.

This is cleaner than Leadership, less broken, and doesn't require any Charisma out of you so much of the time picking Wild Cohort will be less hassle. You might want to pick Natural Bond later to improve your companion a bit though.

Devoted Tracker [CAdv Pg. 108] - Requires Track, smite evil, wild empathy
This feat combines Ranger and Paladin-progressions, and allows you to designate your Special Mount as your Animal Companion, stacking the benefits. Thanks to the fact that Ranger isn't the only class with Animal Companion, it does much more than just stacks Ranger and Paladin. This feat allows you to take levels in Halfling Outrider PrC [CW Pg. 38] to effectively get two levels of advancement for your Mount per one level of Halfling Outrider!

This is what the so-called "Supermount"-builds are based on and is the source of tremendously powerful Mounts, ones that can put the rider to shame, especially combined with other feats in this chapter. When going for a strong Mount, this is the first thing to go for. Remember that it ties a lot of class levels to truly work out though.

Celestial Mount [BoED Pg. 42] - Requires Paladin Level 4th, Exalted
This gives your Mount Celestial-template. This includes minor Spell Resistance (5+HD; Devoted Tracker means he'll have lots of HD though so it'll be fine until it caps at 25), minor Damage Reduction (X/Magic, rather trivial, but gives the Mount's natural weapons the ability to bypass DR/Magic too), 60' Darkvision and some Energy Resistances. It isn't an incredible template by any stretch of imagination, but it allows you to make unintelligent companions intelligent (raises Int to 3 if it's lower than that) and if you have feats to spare, might as well. It isn't horrible. It's Exalted though so beware if you aren't Very Good.

Holy Mount [DR325 Pg. 62] - Requires Special Mount class feature, any other Divine caster class
This allows you to stack your Paladin-levels with the Divine casting class in question to determine the abilities of your Mount. Great for attaining a strong mount without taking excess levels in a rather weak class such as Paladin; goes even better with Prestige Paladin [SRD], of which you only need to take two levels to qualify for the Mount, and which advances the spellcasting of any Divine caster class you take. After that you can go straight Cleric or similar. In Supermount-builds, this is usually used to stack e.g. Ranger-levels with Paladin-levels to get two levels worth of Mount every time you get one level in Outrider. This is solid even when not going for those 50HD Mounts.

Theurgic Mount [DR325 Pg. 62] - Requires Special Mount class feature, any Arcane caster class
This allows you to stack your Paladin-levels with the Arcane casting class in question to determine the abilities of your Mount. This is usually used to stack Paladin with Fey Bard to take levels in Animal Companion and Mount at the same time. With this, you basically turn Halfling Outrider into: Every level, your Mount advances 3 levels and your Animal Companion two - you just need a level in Druidish class (Beastmaster [CAdv Pg. 26]), Rangerish class (Prestige Ranger [SRD]), Paladinish class (Prestige Paladin [SRD]) and you may as well top it off with another Druidish class (Fey Bard [SRD]) that stacks with Beastmaster and thus stacks with Paladin for Mount through Halfling Outrider thanks to Theurgic Mount. Note that not all DMs are going to allow them to stack as written, limiting it by your HD. Even then this feat allows you to have a fully powered up Mount off a class that normally has no Mount advancement; well worth the investment.

Dragon Cohort [Drac Pg. 104] - Requires Character Level 9th, Speak Language: Draconic
This is an alternative to Leadership. Dragon Cohort has none of the associated Followers-nonsense that comes with Leadership and the list of Cohorts is limited, as the name suggests, to Dragons only. Basically, this feat allows you to cut 3 levels of adjustment away from the effective Cohort-level of the Dragon Ally you want; this allows you to have a Cohort of adjusted level up to 20 (for example, Young Gold Dragon) by the end of the progression. Otherwise it's identical to Leadership in that you again need some Charisma to attract a Cohort of certain level, and that the Cohort doesn't take a part of your Experience, etc. This is very good, easily the best lone investment for attaining a Mount of sufficient powerlevel (although Leadership is of course the more powerful feat; that's another reason this is better, this is actually likely to be allowed). Note that Dragons have the Alternate Form-ability, which allows them to assume a medium Human or Animal-form to accompany you to places where they normally wouldn't fit. You can have them take a Medium Animal-form to ride in a dungeon, for example (you can also get Shrink Person on you if need be).

Dragon Steed [Drac Pg. 105] - Requires Cha 13, Ride: 8 ranks, Speak Language: Draconic
This feat allows you to get a loyal Dragonnel [Drac Pg. 151] mount, much like you'd get a Cohort. This isn't very impressive; Dragonnels aren't earthshattering to any degree. However, the true use of this feat is that a Paladin picking this feat can trade his Special Mount for a Draconic Mount! Initially it's just Dragonnel, but with a couple of levels (level 12th gets you a Wyrmling Gold, although if you're Medium you'll need to wait until effective level 16 to get Very Young Gold) under your belt, you can get a True Dragon as your Mount! Now, this requires you to enable it to build a lair and to give it 1000gp per HD worth of treasure, but who cares! You're riding a Dragon! Also, you can make your Cohort your Mount to stack stuff. Stacking stuff tends to lead to very powerful builds.

Natural Bond [CAdv Pg. 111] - Requires Animal companion
Archers multiclass a lot. Builds that fool around pimping out their Mount tend to multiclass even more. This here feat allows you to make up for the multiclassing and pick up extra effective level to pump up your companion with. Thanks to Devoted Tracker, you can make your companion your Mount and thus pretty much directly apply the +3 adjustment to your Mount/Companion, since the levels you used to gain the Mount are probably levels that did not advance your Companion, thus giving you the HD to apply Natural Bond-adjustment.

Theurgic Bond [DR325 Pg. 62] - Requires Ability to gain an animal companion, Ability to gain a familiar
This feat allows you to either add your Familiar-levels to advancing your Animal Companion or your Animal Companion-levels to advancing your Familiar. Can be handy if you have Arcane casting levels, but due to the fact that there're precious few dual advancement classes for Familiar and Animal companion, not quite as potent as the other combination feats available. Still, it's very handy for multiclassing into Arcane classes while maintaining your Animal companion's potency. Mounted combatants will probably not be applying this to their Familiars though.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2011, 01:50:37 AM by Eldariel » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2008, 11:07:58 PM »

Martial Archers
Of Fighters and Rangers and oh my...


Overview

Rangers and Fighters are the most obvious Archer-classes in the Player's Handbook. As such, it's really annoying that both, Fighter 20 and Ranger 20 make for rather poor archers in the long run. A straight Fighter has somewhat better overall damage, while a Ranger has the necessary skills down and performs quite well against their Favored Enemies, but they're overall quite poor archers right out of the box. Make no mistake, a martial Archer is going to want to multiclass. Otherwise it's just nowhere near the potency of magically enhanced archers or martial melee. This is further compounded by the fact that 3.5 doesn't really have that much in terms of good Archer Prestige Classes so that's not a doable escape either.

Therefore, this section is not going to go into great deal of depth as to how to build an effective straight-classed Fighter or Ranger Archers simply because that's not going to happen. I'll spare a few words for the awesome Targetteer Fighter, but even then, you're better off multiclassing, and I'm going to refer to 3.0 Prestige Classes practically constantly. Basically, Weapon Supremacy just isn't all that good for archers (as archery in D&D relies on volleys for damage on higher levels).


Building a martial archer

Some of us just want to play a guy who's really good with a bow. He wins because he's just better with the weapon than anyone else on any plane of existence. This section examines just how you should go about creating an efficient martial archer. First, remember that the primary issue when building any archer is dealing decent damage on higher levels. When opponents only have 4 HP a piece, dealing an average of 4.5 damage per hit is just fine, but unlike in melee, a ranged character does not have Power Attack to pump their damage output later on and when dealing with opponents having 200+ HP, dealing 15 damage per hit with 5 shots per turn is going to take long while to kill anything, especially if they have DR. Further, they either need a different stat for damage and to hit (straight bows), or can only add half their to hit-stat to damage (crossbows), which causes even more issues as far as raising the damage goes.

With that said, let's get down to business:
-Most Martial Archers want some means to gain Weapon Specialization to qualify for Ranged Weapon Mastery. The two feats give you a very real damage increase, and really improve your overall performance as an archer.

-Generally, you'll want to at least dip a class that gains Spot as a class skill (Ranger is great), since a straight Martial Archer has no range-related bonuses beyond Point Blank Shot and therefore, you want to be able to engage the opponent from as far away as possible.

-Try to find some means to gain the ability to make Power Shots (to use Power Attack with a ranged weapon). The easiest means to gain it is to buy an Energy Bow (covered in Traditional Archery -> Equipment), but you could also ask if the Peerless Archer Prestige Class is available, or if you could homebrew the feat (since that'd be quite logical).

-Do try to maximize the enhancements of your bow. Having a +1 bow with +9 worth of special abilities with Greater Magic Weapon cast on it, a weapon crystal and using enhanced arrows is going to go a long way towards dealing the damage on higher levels. Feats (covered in Archery General) are generally the most efficient means to do this, although Kensai-levels can accomplish this as well. Of course, you'll wish to have a party crafter around if possible.


Feats

Ranged Weapon Mastery [PHBII Pg. 82] - Requires Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, BAB +8
A feat that makes Weapon Focus-tree almost worth taking. +2 to hit AND damage (with one damage type) is very good for just one feat and you get a range increase on top of that! It also requires Weapon Specialization, but not any actual Fighter-levels, so if you can get Weapon Specialization through means other than Fighter-levels (for example Pious Templar [CD Pg. 50] gets it as a bonus feat), you also qualify for Ranged Weapon Mastery. A very handy damage-, range- and To Hit-increase.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2011, 01:50:54 AM by Eldariel » Logged
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« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2008, 11:10:27 PM »

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« Last Edit: February 13, 2009, 01:21:22 AM by Eldariel » Logged
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« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2008, 11:10:40 PM »

Useful Links:
KSB Snow Owl's Archer Build Thread
The Swift Hunter's Handbook
Bunko's Bargain Basement
X Stat to Y Bonus
« Last Edit: February 13, 2009, 01:21:29 AM by Eldariel » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2008, 07:28:50 AM »

Back at 339 under archerpwr I had the "CO Project: Fighter Archer."  Top notch Long to Extreme range non spell non precision volleys.  Do steal the build.
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