Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Swift Hunter's Handbook

Shameless Plug


Welcome to the swift hunter's handbook. Swift hunters get their name from a feat published in complete scoundrel, so you need at least that book to be able to play one. Swift hunters are unique in playstyle and combine several party roles, that of the support ranged/melee character with heavy damage, skill-monkey, wand user and utility. With that in mind, i won't only aim for high damage output, but optimize other aspects of the character, too.

The numerous threads about ranger/scouts that where popping out from time to time in character optimization forums was the main reason i was motivated to create this compilation. I would like to present some of my own observations and have the opportunity of sharing thoughts on the unique style of the swift hunter, the feat that has spawned all this.

I would like to give my thanks to Encard and his Scout's Handbook which i got many ideas from.



Overview

Attributes:

Strength: As swift hunters mainly use their skirmish damage for offense, this attribute isn't important for damage. This is a dump stat for two weapon fighting and ranged builds. Still a composite bow can benefit from this, but it's definitely not the first priority.
Dexterity: Important stat for most of the skills. Also it is a requirement for most feats that can be used to capitalize damage output. Also, it will probably be the attribute that determines your attack bonus. A decent score helps, but you don't need to over-do it. Another thing to remember is that rangers don't care for your dexterity score, as your get the combat style feats no matter what. There are feats that require a minimum dexterity score though, including, but not limited to: Rapid Shot, Manyshot, Improved Precise Shot, Greater Manyshot.
Constitution: Boosts your hit point total and constitution saves. This is top priority for any character.
Intelligence: A swift hunter's base classes have a very good selection of skills and many skill points per level. The extra skill points from this are nice. While this isn't a first priority, having a decent score in this helps, especially if you want to keep maxed out a lot of different skills (hide, move silently, disable device, search, spot, listen are usual choices).
Wisdom: There is a decent amount of skills keyed off wisdom. Also boosts your will saves which, judging by your base classes, should be your lowest. Also ranger spells are based on wisdom. Don't overdo it though, a score of 12-14 should be fine.
Charisma: Your class features and skills don't have anything to do with this skill. In most cases you won't need this even if you invest in cleric for travel devotion (although a non-negative modifier would probably be the best). However i find it better than strength.

Sample Point Buy Scores:

Since you are not actually a spellcaster and your attributes are quite spread to the point of MAD, i wouldn't max out any attribute. Instead, it's better to place your points in 1:1 ratio, to get the most out of them. 10/14/14/14/14/14 or 12/14/14/14/14/12 are fine stat placements for 32 pb. 10/14/14/14/14/10 or 8/14/14/14/14/12 is also great for 28 pb.

Races:

Note: If you choose a race with favored class other than ranger, scout or any, you may have experience penalty for multiclassing

Humans: One of the best races. Gives skill points and a bonus feat, which are hard to come by. Free multiclassing is nice to have since swift hunters are multiclass anyway.
Strongheart Halflings: Huge save, skill and weapon bonuses. Since you only need to move 10ft to use skirmish, slow movement isn't much of a problem. The only drawback this one has is that it's favored class is rogue. You may want to work with your DM to change that to scout (since the two classes aren't that far apart).
PHB Elves: They get a constitution hit and you will eventually have multiclassing penalties. They get nice bonuses (although their racial features do not benefit a swift hunter that much), but if you want a race with a dexterity bonus, it is better to choose halflings. Elves are *not* suitable for swift hunters.
Mongrelfolk: They get a nice bonus to their constitution, an intelligence hit which isn't that nice and a huge penalty to a dump stat. Not the best choice, but they have interesting capabilities and nice bonuses to saving throws and skill checks.
Tieflings: Dexterity and intelligence boost, penalty in charisma. Darkvision and that's all they offer. You can be a lesser tiefling for pretty much the same benefits and +0 level adjustment. If sword of arcane order and LA buyoff are allowed to you, consider taking them with level adjustment and then buying it off. At high level play, the outsider type and spells like alter self are going to make the difference.
Underfolk: Bonus skill points, darkvision, human blood, camouflage are nice bonuses for the party's scout.
Illumians: Their sigils are very nice. If you choose Uurkrau you can get bonus spells from high dexterity, while you have to keep your wisdom to 14 to be able to cast all of them. Especially if you are playing in faerun and using the shooting star substitution levels, illumians can cover some of lost caster levels with their sigil. Also they are technically human, which grants them access to the great able learner feat to equalize their skills under extreme multiclassing situations.
Whisper Gnomes: Nice bonuses to important stats. They are small, but their speed remains 30ft. They have both low light and dark visions, bonus on scouting skills, spell like abilities that add flavor and versatility and are able to take some racial feats. Very nice.
Catfolk: Not good any more. With complete champion you can take a level in barbarian and pounce all day (without having to spend a feat), along with an extra d12 hit die, skill points, rage, saving throws, etc. Still they have nice bonuses, but are only worthwhile if LA buyoff is allowed. I don't recommend taking this race for the pounce ability, but more for the bonuses to important attributes.
Kobolds: Not especially good, but deserve a mention due to dragonwrought and their kobold endurance.
Snow Elves: +dex -cha. Nice and a penalty to a dump stat. Favored class (wizard) though, so be careful of multiclassing penalties. This is a choice if you absolutely want to play an elf without penalties to important statistics.
Neraphim: This is an overlooked race from Planar Handbook. What is great about Neraphims is that they are outsiders, which can work wonders combined with sword of the arcane order feat, granting you access to the abusable alter self and polymorph spells. To back all those benefits up, they get some natural armor, favored class ranger and some unique abilities. This is a great pick for high-level play.

List of races with ranger as a favored class:

Wood Elf: +2 Str +2 Dex -2 Con -2 Int, meduim, 30 ft., ranger, humanoid (elf), monster manual pg.104
Stonehunter Gnome: -2 Str +2 Con, small, 20 ft., speak with animals 1/day (Cha 10 or better dancing lights, ghost sound, prestidigitation 1/day), ranger, humanoid (gnome, dragonblood), dragon magic pg.9
Jungle Dwarf: +2 Con -2 Cha, medium, 20 ft., ranger, humanoid (dwarf), unearthed arcana pg.14
Artic Halfling: -2 Str +2 Dex, small, 20 ft., ranger, humanoid (halfling), unearthed arcana pg.10
Tundra Halfling: -2 Str +2 Dex, Small, 20 ft., ranger, humanoid (halfling), frostburn pg.36
Shifter: +2 Dex -2 Int -2 Cha, medium, 30 ft., shifting (su), ranger, humanoid (shifter, shapechanger), races of eberrron pg.25

Those of you who still wonder what swift hunter is, i'll enlighten you. Swift Hunter is a feat from the supplement complete scoundrel (Yes, it's that good that it got its own handbook). Its requirements are a total of +1d6/+1 skirmish and one favored enemy. It stacks ranger and scout levels for the amount of skirmish you get and your favored enemies. You can also apply skirmish damage to your favored enemies, even if they are normally immune to it.

Class Features 


Ranger, but more!

As you can imagine, with just a small dip in scout you get a very nice bonus on all of your attacks. Moreover you get to continue your favoured enemy progression and apply the precision damage to them. Ranger is actually a wonderful class if you examine it closely: full BAB, two good saves, 6+int skill points, utility spells and a wide array of bonus feats.

Not what you had in mind

However swift hunters are not martial characters nor damage dealers. They have significant handicaps. They need to constantly move to get their bonus to damage. Also skirmish works in a specified range (30ft). It's better to view them as a ranged rogue than an archer. It's important to understand that in an iconic party of four (martial character/arcane spellcaster/divine spellcaster/skillful character) swift hunters occupy the role of the skillful character. If you want your character to be able to shoot arrows and deal damage, the calculations have shown that a single classed fighter volley archer is actually better than a swift hunter and works at any range. This is probably not the guide for you.

Swift hunters are all-around characters. They can disable traps, scout for the party and generally provide their wide range of skills. They also have utility spells that can prove useful and can even help in item creation (providing the spells needed at a lower level than they generally are for primary spellcasters, thus resulting to cheaper spell trigger items). They can deal significant damage in combat, especially if they can activate their skirmish ability.

This is a quick chart to determine your abilities from your combined ranger + scout level. As you can see it is not optimal to take levels in ranger + scout that their sum equals to 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, 16 or 18 levels.

Favored Enemy, Skirmish +1d6/+0
.
Skirmish +1d6/+1
.
Favored Enemy, Skirmish +2d6/+1
.
Skirmish +2d6/+2
.
Skirmish +3d6/+2
Favored Enemy
Skirmish +3d6/+3
.
Skirmish +4d6/+3
.
Favored Enemy, Skirmish +4d6/+4
.
Skirmish +5d6/+4
.
Skirmish +5d6/+5
Favored Enemy

Observation: As you can see, ranger 16 is a rather bad level, and that's why ranger 16/scout 4 is a bad choice. You gain far better benefits by going ranger 15/Scout 5, Ranger 15/Scout 3/xxx 2 or Ranger 15/Scout 4/xxx 1 (if you have no problem with favored classes, or multiclassing penalties don't apply).

What about Favored Enemies?

Check out the swift hunter feat. It offers a great boon! You get to apply your full skirmish damage to normally immune monsters if you have selected them as favored enemies. If you check the monster manual, the following types are immune to precision damage:

Note 1: This guide assumes precision damage transparency. That means that spells and items that mention that work on sneak attack also work on skirmish damage. Examples are: vine strike, golem strike, truedeath crystal, etc.

Note 2: The monster statistics are from the following books: SRD, MM I - IV, Sandstorm, Fiend Folio, Frostburn, Stormwrack, Libris Mortis.



Construct: 94 creatures of this type exist. It's a nice favored enemy. You can use golem strike on an eternal wand if you have the ability to cast arcane spells (magical training regional feat) or from a normal wand if you have the ability to use spell-trigger items (e.g. magic domain). There is also the demolition crystal from MIC, see truedeath crystal below.
Elemental: 84 creatures. This is an ok pick, because there are not any alternative ways for you to skirmish elementals.
Ooze: Only 26 creatures of this type exist. It's a bad pick, since you won't statistically encounter many on this type.
Plant: Only 36 creatures. Also a bad pick, since you also have vine strike on your ranger spell list.
Undead: There are 119 undead creatures out there and this type is quite common. I think you should select this as one of your favourite enemies. There is an alternative though: truedeath crystal from MIC. Also if you have taken the cloistered cleric dip you gain access to grave strike (and the ability to use it from wands).

So, your first favored enemy should be the alternative class feature arcane hunter. That way you will still be able to skirmish some arcane users with fortification armor or liches. Also works great on dragons. Your second pick should be a favored enemy that matches the campaign theme. For example, f you encounter undead all the time, you shouldn't spend money on wands or crystals! Just take it as a favored enemy. Next should be constructs or elementals, as both categories are quite large.

Dictum, what about swarms?

Well, here's the trick: swarm is a subtype, which means you can't actually take it as a favored enemy. Now, RAW suggests that if you have the swarm's supertype as a favored enemy, you could apply skirmish damage (e.g. you are facing an undead swarm and you have undead as a favored enemy), but this seems to me completely wrong, so it'd say that there is actually some creature types immune to a swift hunter's skirmish. Work with your DM to resolve this issue.

Do i need favored enemy (evil)?

No. You can get a nice feat called nemesis on that favored enemy, but there are lots of problems that occur. First of all both classes that offer it require at least two feats, which will slow you down. Second they will slow your swift hunter progression (skirmish and favored enemy gain). Third they both have alignment restrictions and not all campaigns deal with evil creatures: oozes and constructs are always neutral. Most elementals and plants are usually neutral, too. So you make a big investment (3+ feats, 2+ character levels) for 1d6 bonus damage (which doesn't count, as your skirmish damage is delayed) and the ability to pinpoint evil creatures and skirmish most undead? Thanks, but i'll pass. Nemesis however on your campaign's theme monster type is quite good (but remember that the extra damage applies only to evil creatures of that creature type).

How do i skirmish?

Remember that you need to move to activate your skirmish. You can do this using:

Move + hit: Are you joking? It may sound dumb and i have colored it red, but for the most of your career's beginning (before you get 2+ attacks from high bab or another effect) you will be using this simple way of attacking your enemies.
Spring Attack: I don't like it very much. It requires two useless feats (although expeditious dodge is not that bad if you use races of the wild) and gives you only one attack. Also it doesn't have much synergy with the ranger's proficiency trees. You can get later on the two upgrades from PHB II that let you do more attacks, but the BAB requirements are a little extreme for a multiclassed character. I strongly advise you to rethink if you plan to use this method to deliver your skirmish damage.
Shot on the Run: As above. Arguably works with greater manyshot, but the feats are just too much.
Flyby Attack: There are races, even LA 0 ones which offer a fly speed. Anthropomorphic bat or raven are nice options, with the first one regarded as the best, even though it doesn't boost your dexterity. Air heritage from Planar Handbook will boost your fly speed. This is generally used with greater manyshot, a much more efficient method than the spring attack/shot on the run ones, which require a greater feat expenditure.
Travel Devotion: Now we're talking! This feat is gold. The main problem is that you'll be using your swift actions each time you'll want to attack someone, but besides that, it's the easiest way of full attacking someone while activating your skirmish. Another problem is uses per day, but you can overcome that with a cloistered cleric dip and an average charisma (~12 points).
Charging: A lot of people favor two weapon fighting and a barbarian dip for pounce, but i don't like it for several reasons. First of all terrain is a big issue. You can't expect people to be chargeable all the time. You also need to position your charge attack correctly and after pouncing you need to somehow get away from your enemy to be able to re-charge him (by teleporting away probably). Anyway, most of the times i get a headache trying to figure out a correct charge, so i'd say no to this method.
Greater Manyshot: Before travel devotion, this was the best way to skirmish someone. It's still a good method, but the hit on attack rolls is too much. I can see a character who wants to use his swift actions for some reason using Law devotion and extra turning (and to my great disappointment no deity offers both Law and Undeath domains) to cover at least three uses/day, but it's still more expensive feat-wise than travel devotion.
Items: Yeah, i'm aware of all those items that let you move 10ft as a free action or half your speed as a swift action, etc. And it's a very good idea for you to purchase some of them (the cheapest ones preferably), but you can't rely on them for skirmishing.

Errata

You can find the complete adventurer errata here. The changes basically are that scouts get disable device as a class skill and that you need to move at least 10ft away from where you were at the start of your turn to activate your skirmish ability. The added skill is nice, because it was strange that a class could find traps but not disable them. However the change to skirmish class feature greatly nerfs melee builds. Unless your opponents are large+, you will have a difficult time hitting them in melee without reach weapons.

What about books?

Well, if you want to play a swift hunter, you basically need the following books: player's handbook, complete adventurer, complete scoundrel. However if your resources are limited, you can play without even buying a single book. You can find ranger online in the SRD. Also, you can check this article for information on scout. Hopefully you have already read the scout's skirmish progression earlier in the guide and you can figure out some early class features they get (trackless step, fast movement) from alternative class features (hopefully from online ones, such as cityscape web enhancement). Example: in the enhancement, the alternative class feature "go to ground" reads:

Level: 3rd.
Replaces: If you select this class feature, you do not gain trackless step.

That implies that normally at 3rd level scouts get trackless step. Also, later in the guide i have graded all of the scout's class features, so that will help you even more figuring out the class. Finally, you can find a description of the swift hunter stacking feat at the start of this post and you can read the table description from the book online, here.

Ranger:

Main Class Features:

Favored Enemy: Rangers choose types of creatures that are more effective at. They gain a bonus in some skills and on damage rolls. Swift Hunters have an extra benefit. They can apply their precision based damage from skirmish to their favored enemies, even if they are immune to it. Enemy types immune to critical hits include: construct, elemental, ooze, plant, undead.
Wild Empathy: This is an ok ability, since it also affects magical beasts. However charisma is a dump stat and the ability is keyed off your ranger level, which will also be lacking since you will multiclass anyway. If you feel you need this to communicate with animals (your animal companion for instance) keep it. If not, there are some good alternative features you can swap it for.
Combat Style: You choose a combat style and gain some feats related to your style. The core styles available are archery and two-weapon combat. It's three bonus feats, so it's good. The archery style is a little weird, because it gives you feats without having their requirement feats, but two weapon fighting is standard.
Animal Companion: Not only you have a hit to your effective druid level to determine your companion's abilities, you are also multiclass. This may have uses, but it won't help generally much. You better get rid of this class feature for an alternative one.
Woodland Stride: Indifferent ability but has flavor with the whole scout concept.
Swift Tracker: This speeds up your tracking. Again, nice to have, but not to die for.
Evasion: Now that's really important. Your dexterity is probably good and reflex saves are good for both ranger and scout. Avoiding area of effect spells is nice, but remember that you can get evasion from scout, too, so consider all those tasty alternative class features.
Camouflage: A nice ability. Note that it works only in natural terrain.
Hide in Plain Sight: This, too, is worth it. Be careful though, because as camouflage, this works only in natural terrain.
Spells: The ability to cast spells is really important. There are lots of them that will get you out of difficult situations and assist in combat. Moreover there are spells like vine strike that will help deliver your skirmish damage. A lot of people just dismiss this feature because of the low spell slots and spell level rangers get, but forget that they can activate any wand containing a spell from their list.

Alternative Class Features:

Arcane Hunter CM : You gain favored enemy (arcanists). This includes any character able to use invocations or cast arcane spells. This is more important to a Swift Hunter than to a ranger, because you can now bypass immunities to critical hits those creatures have (if any) with your skirmish ability. Replaces favored enemy at 1st level.
Spell Reflection CM : If an enemy misses you with a spell or spell-like ability aimed on you, you can use an immediate action to reflect it back on the caster. This is good, since you gain dodge benefits when you skirmish and your dexterity is probably fairly good. Many targeted spells like enervation or ray of exhaustion can disable you easily for the combat. This ability will provide you with extra punishment against enemy spellcasters. You can gain evasion through scout. Replaces evasion.
Distracting Attack PHB II : This is good, because it lets you get rid of your already useless animal companion. Great if you have a rogue in your party. Replaces animal companion.
Trap Expert DS : If you don't have the luxury of spending a feat to Able Learner (or you don't qualify for it), you can choose this and be the party's trapfinder. Remember that it benefits you only if you are going to get many ranger levels. You gain trapfinding ability and add disable device and search to your class skills. Replaces Track and swift tracker.
Phynxkin Companion DM : This can be taken if you are having problems with fear effects, as if you are within 30ft of this companion you are both immune to them, but otherwise it is will very difficult for your companion to keep track with your low effective druid level.
Champion of the Wild CC : This is useful only if you are taking a few ranger levels. Don't take it if you are going to take more than 4 levels. Spells are more important. Useful feats to take are: Precise Shot, Shot on the Run, Weapon Finesse. I wouldn't select this ability, even if my ranger levels were four.
Spiritual Connection CC : I see this as an equal trade. If i were to exchange my wild empathy though, i would choose the alternative feature from the cityscape web enhancement.
Spiritual Guide CC : Add 1/4 of your ranger level to several important skills. The bonus is "divine" so it'll stack with others. Also cast commune with nature and add it to your list. Better than animal companion, but there are other alternative features that are more important.
Celestial Slayer EoE : Well it gives you the option to swap any of three available class features and it gives you spell resistance and critical roll confirmation. Not much, but it's pretty good if you are evil.
Feign Death EoE : I don't like this feature very much, although you can use it for infiltration and spy stuff. It's also i nice panic button if you are hit by a disease or poison that damages you over time. It's kinda risky and you depend a lot on others, so be careful.

The rest alternative features are from Cityscape web enhancement.

Crowd Walker: I personally like this ability more than woodland stride, but it depends on the campaign style. Replaces woodland stride.
Hidden Stalker: People in 5ft from you are sufficient cover to hide and you can move when hiding with lesser penalties. Also hide in plain sight functions in urban environments rather than natural terrain. The hide in plain sight modification may be campaign specific but the main ability is better than camouflage. Replaces camouflage and modifies hide in plain sight.
Rival Organization: This may be nice, but you will lose the ability to apply skirmish to your critical immune enemies. Replaces favored enemies at all levels.
Skilled City-Dweller: Again if are not eligible to qualify for Able Learner, or you don't have the free slot, you can take this to adjust your class skills a little. Especially tumble for ride and gather information for handle animal.
Urban Companion: This is worth it for you. This is more small and versatile, able to assist in scouting. It opens up the option for improved familiar also.
Urban Tracker: Again this ability depends on the campaign you are in.
Voice of the City: Understanding people is more important i think to understanding animals. Also understanding others is keyed off wisdom, which is nice. Makes speak language a class skill, but you already have that from scout. Replaces wild empathy.

Scout:

Main Class Features:

Skirmish: This is the main damaging ability of the swift hunter. Here are some points to consider:
It is precision based damage:
That means that you can't apply skirmish damage to creatures who are immune to critical hits. That includes elementals, undead, constructs, plants, oozes.
You have to move to be able to apply skirmish damage to your attacks:
There will be times when you won't be able to move. Spells and effects aren't always the case. Be careful of crowdy corridors and rooms in dungeons.
You have to be within 30ft of your target:
That means that even if you are ranged, you still are in danger. Light armor and usually low hit points make you vulnerable.
You gain a small ac boost if you move:
Which helps when targeted by enemies. Note that this is competence bonus, so you can add it to your touch AC. So it defends you from rays, too.
You cannot use skirmish when wearing medium or heavy armor or carrying medium or heavy load:
You only can wear light armor. The most common suggested light armor is a mithral breastplate.
Skirmish bonuses gained from other classes stack:
Sure someone will came up with a crazy build with prestige after prestige to gain skirmish benefits earlier.
Trapfinding: You have this, so you can perform different roles in your party than just dealing damage.
Battle Fortitude: Bonus to your fortitude save and initiative. It is nice to be able to play early in a given round because even if you don't get significant bonuses from catching an opponent flat-footed, your damage output is big, so your team can easily dispatch an enemy if you concentrate on a single target.
Uncanny Dodge: This helps you. You already have moderate hit points, so any effects that reduce damage taken is a boon.
Fast Movement: You get an enhancement bonus to your speed. This is a good ability and even helps slower races (such as small sizes). But remember that you only need to move 10ft to activate skirmish. Enhancement bonuses don't stack.
Trackless Step: This is a nice ability to have when spying or scouting. It won't probably come into play much, but you'll be grateful that you have it when the time comes.
Bonus Feats: The scout class gets a few bonus feats over the levels from a nice small list. Always handy to have.
Evasion: As above (ranger).
Flawless Stride: This is a similar ability to woodland stride, but actually better. This comes into play more, so it is more handy.
Camouflage: As above (ranger).
Blindsense: This is a great and unique ability.
Hide in Plain Sight: As above (ranger).
Free Movement: Again, this is awesome. Permanent freedom of movement and also (ex) that means it works even inside an antimagic field.
Blindsight: The capstone ability of the scout class. Unfortunately, unless you get access to Swift Hunter in a cheesy way, you won't be able to use this great ability.

Alternative Class Features:

Spell Reflection CM: As above (ranger).
Dungeon Specialist PHB II: I've changed my mind on this one. It is awesome as long you keep your scout level at four or less. The mobility it provides you with is pretty awesome, keeping you away from danger while skirmishing. At later levels, when you'll want to make use of your improved skirmish, you have to use movement speed enhancements to boost your climb speed though.

The rest alternative features are from Cityscape web enhancement.

Go to Ground: As trackless step, only that you are impossible to find with urban tracking. Depends on the setting.
Hidden Stalker: As above (ranger).
Riposte: This isn't good. Swift Hunter has a requirement of and it improves skirmish. It may work nicely in other builds, but not suitable for a swift hunter.

Substitution Levels:

Spell-less Ranger CW:

6th level: +10ft unnamed bonus to your speed.
11th level: Gives +4 unnamed bonus to dexterity, constitution and wisdom. Nice duration but this is the point where spells become really good.
13th level: Just memorize the spells and cast even more.
16th level: As above.

Elf Ranger RotW :

1st level: Nice skill points and if you don't like the available favored enemy choices, you can always select Arcane Hunter.
4th level: You can get this for the extra skill points, but while elven hounds are cool, it still isn't powerful enough.
10th level: Unless you are hunting drow don't take this. It is too specific and you are better off with extra favored enemies.

Gnome Ranger RoS : Ideally these substitution levels will be used with whisper gnome.

1st level: This is a bad option with no additional bonuses.
4th level: This boosts your level for your companion's abilities. This can result in a normal companion, but remember that you must choose a mammal.
8th level: This trade is worth it. The spells also give you flavor as the scout of the party.

Half-Elf Ranger RoD :

1st level: Urban tracking, gather information and speak language as class skills. You can get this benefits with alternative class features without having to be a half elf.
4th level: You lose more spells than the ones you get. I don't think it is worth it.
13th level: Skill mastery is nice. This is worth it.

Planar Ranger PlH :

4th level: Fiendish or celestial companions may be nice, but you reduce even further your effective druid level.
8th level: This is a nice ability, but too campaign specific.
13th level: Again, this depends on your campaign.

Shadow Sword CoV :

3rd level: Gain some hide bonuses in exchange of endurance. Not worth it.
6th level: This doesn't won't last long, due to multiclassing. You probably won't be able to designate "arcanists" as the bane type.
8th level: Portal Sense that replaces swift tracker.

Shooting Star CoV : Add spellcraft and knowledge (arcana) at each substitution level.

3rd level: Replace endurance with sending 1/day. Sending is effectively a 3rd to 4th level spell.
4th level: Lose your companion to gain better spellcasting benefits at various levels.
8th level: See invisibility and word of recall in exchange of swift tracker.

Shifter Ranger RoE : Add balance at each substitution level.

1st level: Sure, why not reduce MAD?
4th level: Not too hot since you lose share spells, your ranger level is lower than usual and your animal companion sucks.
9th level: Very nice ability worth taking. You can gain evasion from scout.

Feats

Ranger offers you a choice at second level. You must choose between the ranged and the melee combat style. Swift hunters are traditionally ranged characters. That is because it's much easier to hit a target after moving to activate your skirmish, when in melee you have various problems. Remember that you must move 10ft AWAY from your current position to gain skirmish benefits as per complete adventurer errata. Against single enemies, this is very frustrating. For this reason, this section's primary focus will be on ranged feats.

Melee rangers are encouraged to focus on strength rather than dexterity. You will eventually gain all two weapon fighting feats without any prerequisites. In fact, the most useful feats for fighting with two weapons (probably lightning maces, oversized two weapon fighting and improved buckler defence) - two weapon fighting feat tree aside - don't require any dexterity, when ironically, oversized two weapon fighting has a strength requirement. Focusing on strength will save you one feat (weapon finesse) and boost mildly your damage rolls (although remember that you only gain half your strength modifier to damage rolls with two weapons). Of course, light weapons are needed. No reason to spend another feat on oversized two weapon fighting since your main source of damage is skirmish.

Ranged swift hunters make the main bulk. You need to focus on your dexterity. Bows are good for this, since you can use both the manyshot and travel devotion route this way. Crossbows are not that great, unless you find a way to reload them as a free action. Moreover, you can't use manyshot with crossbows.

My favourite style is using thrown weapons. There are two points to that: first, you can function at both melee and range. Second you can make use of the two weapon fighting ranger tree to get a high number of attacks and thus get more skirmish damage. Sure, thrown weapons have a much shorter range than other ranged weapons, like bows, but that is not an issue, because skirmish damage only applies if your target is close (30ft, just like any precision-based damage). You will need high dexterity for hitting your targets and qualifying for useful feats (precise shot, improved precise shot, etc). Note: some thrown weapons (like javelins) bestow a penalty to your attack roll if you use them in melee. Because you can't use them in an optimal way, you can't skirmish with them (precision damage, rules compendium page 42).

Two-Weapon Style:

Greater/Improved/Two Weapon Fighting PHB : These feats are required to effectively use two-weapon fighting. You will typically get them from the ranger class for free, but if your dexterity allows it and you're allowed to use feat retraining, you might be able to acquire them faster. When your ranger level is high enough to give them back to you as bonus feats, just retrain them for something better. A ranged swift hunter that uses thrown weapons can choose to use the ranged combat style instead, to get improved precise shot at a certain point, because of the huge dexterity requirement. If that's the case, just select two-weapon fighting as a normal feat and use the item gloves of the balanced hand that will give you improved two-weapon fighting for free.
Weapon Finesse PHB : Usually this is used to reduce MAD, although I'd advice you to focus on strength instead of spending feats. If you absolutely need to focus on dexterity, you can use feycrafted light weapons. Also remember that weapon finesse requires one point of base attack bonus, making you unable to select it at first level, unless you'd like to lose the 8 bonus skill points a scout will receive, compared to the ranger.
Greater/Improved/Two Weapon Defence PHB : Not worth the feat investment. Just get a animated shield.
Improved Buckler Defence CW : A lot better than the two-weapon defence feats. Still, an animated shield is a cheap and good choice.
Lightning Maces CW: This is good. You gain the attack on a threat. Not on a successful critical hit. This helps much if you somehow manage to have a nice threat range. Extra attacks will provide you with more skirmish damage. A very good option for this feat is to use the aptitude weapon enhancement from Tome of Battle in conjuction with weapons that have a good threat range.
Two-Weapon Pounce PHB II : Attack with both weapons when charging with -2 penalty. Pounce is strictly better.
Two-Weapon Rend PHB II : Optimize damage output. Unfortunately 1/round and you already have skirmish for damage.
Dual Strike CV : Useless.
Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting CV : Useful if you want to wield a normal weapon in your off hand instead of a light one. Scratch that. Barring weird swift hunter cases, those using exceptional exotic weapons for free due to house rules for example, you don't want to apply additional penalties to your attacks for a minimal increase to damage.
Twin Sword Style PGtF : +2 armor bonus that stacks with that of a shield, but for a single opponent.

Ranged Style:

Point Blank Shot PHB : A requirement for most archery related feats. The benefits of this feat are not bad at all, especially if you compare it to other requirement feats like weapon focus.
Far Shot PHB : You need to be within 30ft of your target to apply skirmish damage, which makes this feat nearly useless.
Precise Shot PHB : Being ranged means that someone in the team has to tank or take care of enemies in melee. This helps attacking enemies in melee and is the requirement of other great feats, such as improved precise shot.
Rapid Shot PHB : This is a full-round action, so you can't activate skirmish. However note, that you can use this along with travel devotion. This is a much better feat than manyshot, because the penalty is a standard -2. If using thrown weapons, this can be used with two weapon fighting, but remember that their penalties also stack.
Manyshot PHB : Fire many arrows as a standard action, but at a huge penalty. Still you can move and manyshot, so you get skirmish. Only useful if you can't use travel devotion.
Greater Manyshot XPH : Remember that with the PHB manyshot you can apply skirmish only on the first arrow. With this feat you can gain the ability to apply precision damage on all arrows you shoot.
Shot on the Run PHB : Nice feat that lets you move while still getting one attack. Not exactly optimal and unfortunately you can't combine it with manyshot.
Improved Precise Shot PHB : This is a very good ability, especially if it means that you can apply your skirmish damage to targets with less than total concealment. Remember that any degree of concealment foils precision-based damage.
Brutal Throw CV : Used to reduce MAD with thrown weapons.
Improved Rapid Shot CW : Ignore the -2 penalty on ranged attack rolls when using rapid shot. There are far better ways to overcome the rapid shot's penalty than spending a feat.
Sharp-Shooting CW : Get this until you qualify for improved precise shot and retrain it for something more useful.
Throw Anything CW : Nice if you want to have melee/ranged transparency. Has its uses.
Crossbow Sniper PHB II : Lets you add your dexterity bonus to crossbow damage rolls. Requires weapon focus though. Also you got skirmish to damage. This isn't needed.
Penetrating Shot PHB II : Attack all enemies in a line, but you must roll against each of them and if you fail the projectile stops there. It's a standard action. However you get skirmish damage only at your first target.
Flyby Attack MM : This activates skirmish and still you can take a manyshot.

Spring Attack Style:

Spring Attack PHB : This is very nice. Coupled with improved trip you can trip, attack and move away from your target. I don't know what I was thinking. It's just a single attack and it requires two useless feats (although expenditious dodge from Races of the Wild can be used in place of dodge, which is a lot better). Lack of scalability makes this less and less useful very quickly.
Whirlwind Attack PHB : This not only is acquired late because it lists many other feats as requirements, but to use it efficiently you must be surrounded by enemies, which is bad. Also you need to move to activate skirmish.
Bounding Assault PHB II : Take a second attack as a part of a spring attack.
Rapid Blitz PHB II : As above but make three attacks. Note that this is difficult to acquire, due to the high BAB requirement.

Combat:

Combat Reflexes PHB : While your dexterity is high, your attacks of opportunity won't be affected by skirmish.
Power Attack PHB : You have skirmish to optimize your damage output, don't use this, unless you are going for a pouncing two handed weapon build.
Elusive Target CW : This is one of the best defensive feats. Also you'll need its requirements for other feats, too. If you already have dodge and mobility for shot on the run or spring attack, get this!
Expeditious Dodge RotW : If you move 40ft a round gain a +2 bonus to AC. Handy.
Improved Skirmish CS : +2d6/+2AC to skirmish bonuses if you move 20ft. Great.

General:

Practiced Spellcaster CD : Gives you a +4 bonus to your already low caster level.
Track PHB : Don't neglect this feat. It is very useful when in the wilderness. Free from ranger 1.
Improved Favored Enemy CW : +3 damage to any of your favored enemies. Mediocre.
Natural Bond CV: +3 to your effective druid level for determining your companion's abilities. This is for those who definitely want a pet.  
Quick Reconnoiter CV : Bonus to initiative and spot and listen are free actions.
Tactile Trapsmith CV : A way to boost your trap disarming capabilities if your intelligence is low.
Cunning Evasion PHB II : Provide a quick way to avoid further danger.
Keen Eared Scout PHB II : More information with listen checks. Requires alertness or skill focus (listen).
Steadfast Determination PHB II : Use this if you have a bad wisdom score.
Darkstalker LoM : You hide from creatures with blindsense, scent, blindsight and tremorsense normally.
Able Learner RoD : Purchase cross-class skills at 1 skill point cost. Generally great for multiclass characters.
Sword of the Arcane Order CoV : Great feat. Lets you prepare spells from a borrowed spellbook or your own in your ranger slots.
Minor Shapeshift CM : With polymorph in one of your 4th level spell slots you can power this great feat. If you don't use your swift actions a lot, do it! Unfortunately this doesn't have much synergy with travel devotion.
Nemesis BoED: Pinpoint the location of a chosen favored enemy. This is really nice if you have a general creature type, such as undead, arcanists and evil.
Travel Devotion CC: 1/day move your speed as a swift action. This ability lasts for 1 minute, which will get you through most battles. To initiate it, each round you will have to spend your swift action. Obviously you can then use the full attack action to full skirmish your opponents. This made the cloistered cleric dip important to the swift hunter. That's because not only you can permanently sacrifice turn undead attempts for extra travel devotion uses per day, but you can gain travel devotion for free if you select the travel domain and swap it for the appropriate domain feat.
Action Surge ECS: Spend action points to take extra move or standard action. This way you can greater manyshot twice a round. Note that to activate this feat you need to spend an action point, which are replenished on rare occasions (most common is probably every time you level up or by using a spell or ability).
Murderous Intent EE: Unfortunately, this isn't going to serve well a swift hunter. It's a full round action, a single attack (although it can be done with travel devotion) and the saving throw is charisma based. The secondary effect that auto-crits a favored enemy is nice, but not to swift hunters, which probably want to take the immune to critical creature types as favored enemies to benefit most from their presicion damage.

Regional:

Fleet of Foot PGtF : +10ft to your land speed that stacks with any other.
Foe Hunter PGtF : This grants you a favorite enemy. With this feat you can qualify for swift hunter without actually taking levels in ranger, granting you a full favored enemy progression.
Magical Training PGtF : Gain a small number of 0-level arcane spells of your choice. While the bonuses are not very important, it does grant you access to eternal wands, wondrous items that let you use them if you cast arcane spells, regardless of the spell they contain.
Swift and Silent PGtF : Use hide/move silently and still move up to your speed at no penalty.
Tireless PGtF: You cannot become exhausted. Whatever makes you exhausted makes you fatigued instead. If an effect would make you fatigued, it has no effect.

Skills 

The most levels of your character will be a combination of the base classes scout and ranger. Both have a really high number of skill points and have similar spell lists. There are different roles you can fill in your party:

The Trapfinder: This requires you to keep disable device and search maxed at all times, as sometimes the DC to find a trap can be really high. The problem you must address is that disable device doesn't make it on the ranger's skill list. Most people will try to use a feat like able learner for this, when there is absolutely no reason to do so. You can get the lovely trap expert alternative class feature that will do the job without investing feats. Since you will gain two instances of trapfinding, you can talk with your DM if you can swap it for something else (examples are rogue's alternative class features, like antiquarian).
The Scout: If no one else is up to it, being the group's eyes and ears is useful. This generally involves having spot and listen at high enough levels.
The Spy: Both classes have hide and move silently as class skills and you can be quite stealthy. Personally i don't think that having these skills are hot for a swift hunter. Skirmish damage applies to your damage rolls even if your opponents are not flat-footed. However many people like to be stealthy out of combat, so if you are one of them, spend your ranks here. If you get these skills, you should pair them with the wonderful darkstalker feat.

Balance: Take at least 5 ranks in this skill. If you are balancing without it you are considered flat footed without the suggested ranks.
Climb, Swim, Jump: These three are not that hot. I'd only spend some ranks in jump for the synergy bonus and leave the rest be.
Concentration: You shouldn't have problems casting your spells. Most of your spells that can be casted in battle are swift action spells and most of the others should be utility spells.
Disable Device, Search: If you are the party's trapfinder, max out these two.
Gather Information: This is very useful for urban rangers as they need it for urban tracking. If you are one of them, max it out.
Handle Animal: This skill becomes less useful since you won't be having an animal companion probably. Also charisma is a dump stat. I would skip it.
Heal: Based on wisdom, this can be used to help allies from dying. If you want to stabilize your companions you can just heal them however. It's a nice skill, but not the first priority.
Hide, Move Silently: If you want to scout around unnoticed. As i said earlier, this doesn't have many applications in combat situations, not only because you won't be able to activate your skirmish by sneaking, but you won't be able to take on opponents all by yourself, too.
Knowledge(dungeoneering, geography or nature): You should spend some ranks at least in one knowledge. It opens up interesting interaction capabilities and also helps you identify monsters of the chosen type.
Listen, Spot: Another stalking/scouting sill pair, this can be augmented by keen-eared scout and quick reconnoiter.
Profession: Come on, you are an adventurer! Who needs to make a living this way?
Ride: A cheesy way to gain skirmish damage is to use a mount and fast mount/dismount. They are free actions and you have unlimited per round. If this qualifies for movement to activate skirmish however, it is your DM's call.
Spellcraft: Particularly useful to characters with sword of the arcane order. You may want to beef it up so you can prepare spells from a borrowed spellbook.
Survival: This is useful for track. I'd max it out if that's your area of expertise.
Tumble: Whatever else you do, try to keep this maxed. Unfortunately you'll need the cityscape web enhancement (included earlier in the class features section) to get this as a class skill on rangers by trading ride (which you don't need anyway). The most important use of this skill is that it enables you to move without provoking attacks of opportunity. Swift hunters move around a lot, so you need it to protect yourself from harm.

Skill Tricks:

Clarity of Vision: Notice invisible enemies for 1 round. Requires spot 12.
Collector of Stories: +5 on knowledge checks to identify monsters. Requires one knowledge at 5 ranks.
Listen to This: Repeat perfectly what you've heard. Very useful for scouts. Requires listen 5 ranks.
Spot the Weak Point: Spend a standard action to spot your opponent's weak spot and then manyshot your target's touch AC. Requires spot 12.
Back on your Feet: Get up from prone immediately. Requires tumble 12.

Spells

Ranger Spells

Level 1

Animal Messenger PHB : Great at any level when you are scouting far ahead and you need to inform your allies. Remember that it if you can't find a little animal, for a very low cost you can use a bag of tricks for an instant messenger!
Endure Elements PHB : 24 hours duration! Great when in extreme environments.
Entangle PHB : This spell is so awesome that it still works on a successful save. As a matter of fact, it doesn't even care about your caster level or your casting stat, it has a long range, doesn't allow SR, duration is 1 minute/CL and the area of effect is fixed.
Pass without Trace PHB : Useful if your team is being followed.
Arrow Mind SC : It's an immediate action and it comes handy at times of need. If you use ranged weapons to deliver your attacks, this is a good spell to memorize.

Level 2

Wind Wall PHB : This is basically a huge "take that" to archers. Keep in mind of the low duration.
Burrow SC : Gain 30ft burrowing speed. Nice.
Curse of Impeding Blades SC : This is actually nice, since it is only subject to spell resistance and has an ok duration.
Exacting Shot SC : As covered in the favored enemies section, it is better for you to get those creature types as favored enemies that are immune to critical hits, so you can apply your skirmish damage. Thus, this is near to useless.
Fell the Greatest Foe SC : This is really bad. Even for a small creature, it will deal only 5d6 damage against a colossal creature. And has a duration or rounds/level.
Swift Haste SC : Lasts for 1d4 rounds and is a swift action. This is important not for the extra attack, but because it dispels slow, which is a huge disable for swift hunters.
Lion's Charge SC : This is a nice spell, but since you can pounce all day with one barbarian level dip, it's pointless. Actually it's fairly useful because you get to charge and full attack, but also a fellow spellcaster (e.g. Incantatrix) can persist the spell for you, too.
Listening Lorecall SC : Very nice spell. If you have the required ranks in listen, it grants you blindsense or even blindsight! Duration is 10 minutes/level.

Level 3

Plant Growth PHB: This combined with woodland stride can be used as a quick way for escape.
Tree Shape PHB : Another way to escape from pursuers.
Arrow Storm SC : Nice spell, but doesn't let you activate skirmish, since you must cast it at the beginning of your round. You can use it if you are able to use a free action item that gives you free movement however.
Blade Storm SC : As with arrow storm.
Blade Thirst SC : It has a duration of 1 round/level.
Decoy Image SC : Messing with people minds can give you enormous advantage in a battle.
Find the Gap SC : Resolve your first attack as a touch attack for rounds/level. Manyshot uses only one attack.
Mark of the Hunter SC : Some improved-precise-shot-like abilities and greater favored enemy bonuses against that creature. Allows saving throw and spell resistance.
Safe Clearing SC : Again this is subject to saving throws and spell resistance. Not optimal.

Level 4

Commune with Nature PHB : A very solid scouting spell.
Freedom of Movement PHB : Everything that impedes your movement is bad. Again this is a very good ability.
Tree Stride PHB : This helps quickly moving through forests and tree-heavy areas. Nice for scouting, escaping and the like.
Aspect of the Earth Hunter SC : This is great. You gain many abilities and you keep your skirmish.
Deeper Darkvision SC : This is actually better than plain darkvision and has a duration of 1 hour/level.
Foebane SC : Unfortunately, even though this is powerful, it only lasts rounds/level.
Land Womb SC : Provides protection and a home for you and your party when in the wilderness.
Planar Tolerance SC : Also handy if you are plane hoping. Don't memorize it otherwise.
Wild Runner SC : This opens up many possibilities. You can be used as a mount, so an ally or cohort with maxed out ride and mounted combat (or if you are equipped with a battle bridle) can negate easily hits on you. Also the attributes of the centaur are not half bad.

Sword of Arcane Order Spells

Level 1

Obscuring Mist PHB : Pretty good spell for escaping. Doesn't care much for caster level.
Benign Transposition SC : Great utility spell. You can use it to save an ally from a threatening position (such as a low-hp caster in melee with a martial character, a grappled ally, etc), position a teammate (get a charger back to charge again the next round, or get a martial character in a position to full attack) or even do both at the same time. If you have chosen the familiar-like companion from the cityscape web enhancement, or if your companion has a flying (or climb) speed, you can use this to get on surfaces normally out of your reach.
Slide SC : This doesn't have the utility power of benign transposition, but you can get allies out or inside an area of effect.

Level 2

Alter Self PHB : No comments
Dark Way SC : Sneaky spell. Creates an unbreakable bridge of smoke.
Heroics SC: Heroics grants a single fighter feat to the subject for a good (10 minutes/level) duration. Handy if you need a specific feat really quick.

Equipment

Armor/Shields:

Armor is essential for a swift hunter. To skirmish a target, you must be close to enemies, making you vulnerable to attacks and spells. You must try to use armor that keeps your check penalty low while allowing for a big dexterity modifier. Remember that medium and heavier armors give you penalties to speed and many of your abilities including skirmish don't work while you wear them.

Usual armor worn by swift hunters include:

Leafweave Padded: +1 armor/+9 max dex/0 acp
Thistledown Padded: +1 armor/+10 max dex/0 acp
Mithral Chain Shirt: +4 armor/+6 max dex/0 acp
Mithral Breastplate: +5 armor/+5 max dex/-1 acp

If you have the max dexterity modifier provided by each armor, the best choice is thistledown padded (and cheap, too). Don't forget that you are also proficient with shields. Usually you will have your hands full, but animated can be used as a solution to this problem. The typical shield that can be used is a darkwood heavy shield, +2 shield/-/0 acp.

Enhancements:

Fortification DMG: Given your average hit points and the inability to take big hits, this can help. +1/+3/+5 bonus.
Anchoring MIC : Nice bonuses to checks that can hurt. +1 bonus.
Aporter MIC : Essentially 2/day dimension door, this helps to escape tight situations in combat but nice for scouting and moving through difficult areas, too. +20.000.
Death Ward MIC : 1/day ignore a death effect. +1 bonus.
Mindarmor MIC : +5 unnamed bonus to your worst save as an immediate action, but only for mind-affecting abilities. 3/day. +3.000.

Armor Enhancements:

Shadow DMG : This is a nice enhancement, to provide even better benefits for your scouting and spy roles. It even saves you space for a custom magic item. Also jet black armors look really badass :D .+3.750/+15.000/+33.750.
Silent Moves DMG : As shadow. +3.750/+15.000/+33.750.
Bane Blind MIC : Swift invisibility that affects only one favored enemy type, lasts for 10 rounds and is usable 3/day. Nice if you have favored enemy arcanists or favored enemy evil somehow. +15.000.
Blurring, Greater MIC : Unlimited times per day, create a blur effect for 10 minutes. +3 bonus equivalent.
Buoyant MIC : Useful for sea swift hunters, prevents you from applying acp to swim checks and give you a small bonus to them, too. Only +4.000.
Deepdweller MIC : This is also useful for sea related swift hunters, providing nice benefits underwater. +12.000.
Easy Travel MIC : Allows you to use skirmish, even if you are carrying a medium load. Also nice traveling benefits. +1.500.
Freedom MIC : Very nice, essentially gives you permanent freedom of movement. Only problem is that it costs much. +5 bonus.
Healing MIC : Keeps you from dying and grants you an extra chance to get to safety, while saving actions for your party's healer. +8.000.
Landing MIC : Nice for mountain hoping swift hunters. +4.000.
Nimbleness MIC : The armor gains +1 max dex/+2 acp. +1 bonus.
Quickness MIC : +5 enhancement bonus. Bad because it doesn't stack with scout's fast movement. +5.000.
Woodwalk MIC : This is very good. Tree stride is normally a 4th level spell for you. Although it does last for only 1 round. Usable 3/day. +9.000.

Armor Crystals:

What is unique about these crystals, is that you can carry them all and change to the crystal that fits most to the situation. After all their cost is very low for the bonuses they provide.

Crystal of Adaptation MIC : Saves you from memorizing those planar protection spells. Nice for a planar ranger. 500/1.500/3.000.
Crystal of Aquatic Action MIC : Better than deepdweller provides pretty much the same benefits for a reduced price. Handy to have if it is required for you to function underwater. It even lets you breathe underwater and gives you a swim speed.250/1.000/3.000.
Restful Crystal MIC : Sleep in your armor for no penalties. 500.

Shield Enhancements:

Animated DMG : The shield floats close to you while your hands are free to use a bow or two weapons. +2 bonus.
Arrow Deflection DMG : Your reflex save will be high already and this doesn't require an action, but is usable 1/round. Unfortunately you can't deflect spells.+2 bonus.
Shield Crystals:
Clasp of Energy Protection MIC : This isn't bad to have if you have opponents that blast you with a particular energy type. 500/1.500/3.000.
Crystal of Arrow Deflection MIC : This is better from the Arrow Deflection shield enhancement, although it is actually handy if you are using a two handed weapon. Removing a hand from a two handed weapon is a free action, so before you finish your turn you can remove one hand, holding it in the other and be ready to deflect that arrow. 500/2.500/5.000.

Shield Crystals:

Clasp of Energy Protection MIC : This isn't bad to have if you have opponents that blast you with a particular energy type. 500/1.500/3.000.
Crystal of Arrow Deflection MIC : This is better from the Arrow Deflection shield enhancement, although it is actually handy if you are using a two handed weapon. Removing a hand from a two handed weapon is a free action, so before you finish your turn you can remove one hand, holding it in the other and be ready to deflect that arrow. 500/2.500/5.000.

Weapons:

A swift hunter's main damage source is his skirmish ability. So his weapon selection actually isn't too important. There are four types of weapons used generally by skirmishers:

Light Melee Weapons: Favored by the two weapon fighting style swift hunters, these lessen penalties for fighting with two weapons. Power attack doesn't matter much since skirmish damage is pretty high already.
Two Handed Melee Weapons: These are used mainly by power attack pouncers, along with power attack multipliers to capitalize damage.
Ranged Weapons: Ranged skirmishers with bows are probably along with two weapon style warriors, the vast majority of the swift hunters.
Throwing Weapons: An interesting variation, these skirmishers take advantage of the range requirement of skirmish attacks and use throwing weapons to be efficient from both close and afar.

Enhancements:

Bane DMG : After all you are a ranger and this might come handy against your most hated enemy. +1 bonus.
Distance DMG : Sure nice ability, by why would you want to have a larger range since you can only skirmish a target within 30ft?. +1 bonus.
Returning DMG : Unfortunately this can't be used in conjunction with shot on the run. Otherwise it's fine. +1 bonus.
Collision MIC : +5 damage per hit. +2 bonus.
Dispelling, Greater MIC : 3/day greater dispel magic with a caster level of 15. +2 equivalent bonus.
Fiercebane MIC : This is a nice addition for a bane weapon. +2 equivalent bonus.
Force MIC : Overcomes damage reduction and suffers no miss chance. Only problem is that it doesn't damage those immune to force effects. +2 bonus.
Hunting MIC : Deal +4 points of damage against favored enemies.
Mage Bane MIC : The spellcaster bane. You gain a +2 enhancement bonus to your weapon and +2d6 points of damage against opponents that use invocations or cast arcane spells.
Precise MIC : If your feat selection is set for a different fighting style, this can be used to effectively use basic archery. +1 bonus.
Shattermantle MIC : If you have a blaster in your team and you are dealing with spell resistance opponents, get your hands on this to assist them. +1 bonus.
Sizing MIC : Lots of usefulness in this one. Most importantly you can reduce it to pass weapons from guards etc. +5.000.
Splitting CoR: This is the best weapon enhancement to optimize your damage output, as each arrow fired is magically split. Requires you to have precise shot though. +3 bonus.
Seeking DMG : Although you get improved precise shot, you still need to overcome concealment to deal precision damage. Note that this only negates the miss chance from concealment, but i'd say it works.

Weapon Crystals:

Crystal of Return MIC : Gives eventually the returning property for a mild cost. 300/1.000/4.000.
Demolition Crystal MIC : Deal extra damage, treat your weapon as adamantine for overcoming damage reduction and eventually allow you to sneak attack constructs assuming that works for skirmish damage. 1.000/3.000/6.000.
Truedeath Crystal MIC : Deal bonus damage, be treated as ghost touch and eventually be able to sneak attack undead. 1.000/5.000/10.000.

Rings:

Counterspells DMG : You have a lot of buffs, but you lack the caster level to keep them if you are targeted by a dispel magic or similar effect. You can keep one of these rings to protect you from debuffers. 4.000.
Evasion DMG : With this you can get both evasion and spell reflection alternative class feature. 25.000.
Freedom of Movement DMG : A very good ability and much too cheaper than the freedom similar armor ability. 40.000.
Protection DMG : Boosts your armor even more against attacks and spells. bonus^2*2000.
Sustenance DMG : This is cheap, so you can keep watch easily after 2 hours of sleep. 2.500.
Darkhidden MIC : Renders you invisible to darkvision. 2000.
Entropic Deflection MIC : If you move at least 10ft away from where you started your turn, this creates a 20% entropic shield. If you have an item that grants a bonus to your speed easily obtainable on your armor through Quickness enhancement that miss chance is 50%.
Floating MIC : Cheap and easily used to pass over any form of liquid. 2.000.

Miscellaneous:

Immovable Rod DMG : Useful when adventuring to help climb, bar doors and the like. 5.000.
Metamagic Rods, lesser DMG : And especially extend. You have a lot of nice buffing spells, and lesser rods are too cheap and affect the 75% of them. various:[/b] extend, lesser 3.000
Bag of Tricks DMG : Along with an animal messenger spell, this is well worth it to inform allies. 900 gray.
Bracers of Archery DMG : Gives you a small boost to your ranged attacks. 5.000/25.000.
Ioun Stones DMG :
Clear: Sustains you without food or water.
Dark Blue: Grants you the alertness feat.
Pale Green: +1 competence bonus to most rolls.
Orange: +1 caster level.
Dull Gray: With a continual flame casted on it, you have a free torch.
Bead of Karma DMG : Use this when you buff up and gain a nice +4 bonus to your caster level.
Amulet of Translocation MIC : If the hop allows for skirmish to activate, use this at low levels if you fight two weapon style. 1.400.
Armbands of Might MIC : +2 on strength checks and strength related skills, which include jump, climb, swim. Also a small bonus to power attack if you use it for whatever reason. 4.100.
Belt of Battle MIC : Exchange your swift action for a move, standard or full round action. Also a +2 competence bonus to initiative. Again, this is used for both activating skirmish and taking a full attack. 12.000.
Belt of Ultimate Athleticism MIC : Give away your swift action for skill mastery in balance, climb, jump, swim and tumble. This probably can be used unlimited times per day. Also once per day you can activate the belt to treat a balance, climb, jump, swim or tumble check as a natural 20. 3.600.
Blindfold of True Darkness MIC : Gain blindsight 30ft and become immune against gaze attacks or effects that rely on sight. However you can't see, so don't scout around while wearing this. 9.000.
Boots of Agile Leaping MIC : Use dexterity for jump checks and stand up from prone as a swift action if you have 5 ranks in balance. Also you don't provoke attacks of opportunity when standing up from prone. This is a very good item against trippers. Only 600.
Boots of the Battle Charger MIC : Interesting charge related abilities, usable for pounce builds. 2.000.
Boots of Sidestepping MIC : 3/day take a 5ft movement even if you moved that round as a swift action. Combined with your free 5ft per round, this is enough to activate skirmish. 6.000.
Chronocharms MIC : You can wear multiple chronocharms but only once each. 500 each.
Celestial Wanderer: Reroll a listen or spot check.
Fateweaver: Reroll a balance, climb or tumble check. 
Horizon Walker: Move as part of the swift action required to activate this chronocharm. You move half your speed and this movement doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity. 
Laughing Rogue: Reroll a disable device check even after you have determined failure or success.
Circlet of Mages MIC : Retain some spells. You can wear this if you want to buff yourself and retain your spells for later use. Also gives you some bonus on concentration checks.
Enemy Spirit Pouch MIC : A +2 bonus for a single favored enemy. Also +1 bonus to attack rolls. 2.100.
Finned Gauntlets MIC : A nice addition to any aquatic swift hunter, these grant you a swim speed, skill mastery and bonus on swim checks and you can run while swimming.
Gloves of Agile Striking MIC : 3/day +2d6 damage with ranged or light weapons. 2.200.
Gauntlets of Manual Prowess MIC : This item gives you a variable competence bonus to various skills. It saves you space from custom magic items that grant you competence bonuses. 3.000.
Gloves of Object Reading MIC : Nice if you are a hunter-tracker type. Gain information of an item's owner.
Googles of the Ebon Hunter MIC : 30ft darkvision if you already don't possess it and +1 competence bonus on attacks and damage with ranged weapons. 18.000.
Hat of Anonymity MIC : Continuous non-detection and +5 unnamed bonus to your hide skill. 12.500.
Mindvault MIC : Considering the low will saves you'll have, this can by handy in many situations. 8.000.
Moonstone Mask MIC : Bonuses to listen and spot checks and darkvision. 15.000.
Quicksilver Boots MIC : 2/day as a swift action move up to your speed and can go across liquids without falling in. 3.500.
Scout's Headband MIC : Bonus on spot checks and various uses dependent on charges/day. 3.400.
Skirmisher's Boots MIC : +2 bonus on damage rolls and 2/day use a swift action to gain an extra attack if you moved at least 10ft. 3.200.
Transposer Cloak MIC : Allows swapping places with an ally. If it allows for skirmish to activate, it is great for tactical movement, such as transporting a pouncer that just charged back to ready-to-charge position, while you deliver skirmish full attack. 6.000.
True Strike Gauntlets MIC : Manyshot requires only one attack roll, so every arrow will benefit from it. 3.500.
War Wizard Cloak MIC: Despite its name, this has great abilities that help a scout. Endure elements, feather fall. Also 1/day dimension door, mage armor, protection from arrows and sending. 16.000.

18 comments:

  1. Protip: Far Shot increases the range at which you can apply precision damage with ranged weapons to 45ft.

    At higher levels this can be exceptionally valuable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never seen nor heard of that anywhere. That is probably a houserule. A decent one, but still a houserule.

      Delete
    2. Far Shot ( PH, p.94)

      Prerequisite
      Point Blank Shot (PH) ,

      Benefit
      When you use a projectile weapon, such as a bow, its range increment increases by one-half (multiply by 1.5). When you use a thrown weapon, its range increment is doubled.

      Delete
  2. Dictum,

    Crossbow sniper also increases the range for your skirmish to 60', While many people go for the bow for sheer number of attacks the crossbow sniper builds have some nifty benefits if you fid yourself making some long range shots.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Another way to increase the range of Skirmish out to 60' is the Ranged Skirmisher feat in Dragon Magazine issue 346. The prereqs are Skirmish ability; Dex, Wis 13; Point Black Shot and Far Shot. It also says a Scout may take this feat as one of his Scout bonus feats. This can make Far Shot a little bit less bad and can help with the problem of being too "squishy" and having to be within 30'!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am new to this and was unable to figure out how to edit my post... but the prereq for Dex is 15. I typo'd there, sorry!

      Delete
  4. An interesting option: Oriental Adventures says that you can move 10 ft as a 5-ft step with a DC 40 Tumble check. This obviously isn't something you can pull off at low levels, but if you can get the ability to take 10 on the check (such as with the Belt of Ultimate Athleticism) you should be able to pull it off by level 9 or 10 with a skill-boosting item. Possibly earlier if you really work at optimizing the check.

    Doesn't let you turn on Improved Skirmish, sadly, but does at least give an alternative option for skirmishers who want a full attack but can't/don't want to go the Travel Devotion route.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, i have to say that this guide provided me with a lot of usefull information and i thank u for it. A few things that i think u should add to the guide to be more complete (things i discovered after playing a swift hunter thanks to ur guide ). Your should add the ranger variation Mystic Ranger from Dragon Magazine. You may think that it´s worthless since swift hunter is a martial character, but the improved spell progression , the amount of spells that u can cast, plus the spell compendium and the new spells that appears in every supplement of the 3.5 books (champions of ruins is one of my favourites, ARROWSPLIT FTW!!!) , lets you improve your dmg output to a whole new degree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment Ignacio. The reason that Mystic Ranger is not in the guide is because I refuse to use any information that's not in the 3.5e published books. I, too, love that variant class and especially in the first levels (until level 10) it's like having a wizard on crack if you couple the class with sword of the arcane order, but I just won't suggest it in my guides, as most DMs have a problem even with the official stuff anyway.

      Delete
  6. Since you like the throwing weapons style, allow me to suggest the following, although it certainly isn't optimal, especially not at low levels (where you can't buy the gloves) nor at high levels (where other weapons would do more for you.

    GLoves of Endless Javelins. This item produces infinite+1 Javelins made of Force (which I interpret to mean they have the Force property, bypassing miss chance and DR). However you lose your glove slot (which is where your dex item is found) and can't use weapon crystals, so it's almost a futile endeavor. But it lets you use a shield. If this item bypasses DR, it's more useful on golems and elementals than actually having skirmish damage against them. Bypassing all that DR is no joke.

    Torntor Style Feat, from Drow of the Underdark. It gives you +1 damage with Javelins, allows you to use them in melee without penalty, and allows you to throw one as a swift action after you hit someone in melee (though most scouts, with belts of battle, travel devotion, etc are very swift-action starved).

    Master Thrower prestige class has the following abilities:

    Double Toss: As a standard action, throw two weapons instead of one. This, combined with the Quick-Draw the class gets for free lets you get skirmish damage twice without using complicated magic items or feats.

    Palm Throw: You get to throw two weapons (small, so javelins are excluded, but daggers and shuriken are oK) with each attack roll, and resolve damage separately. I interpret "resolve damage separately" to mean that bonus damage applies to each, such as skirmish damage. Some people think that because they use the same attack roll, that bonus damage doesn't apply twice. I disagree becuase that isn't a rule. The Manyshot feat has similar language, but this isn't Manyshot, it's Palm Throw.

    Trip Shot: Every single throwing attack also makes the opponent suffer a Trip check, for which you have dex +4 and the opponent rolls his dex or str. THis ability can make you a very valuable party member, as the enemy will be denied full attacks while hte party will get attacks of opportunity while the enemy stands up (and +4 to hit until he does so). I'd take level 1 of this class just for this ability. It can also keep a melee enemy from catching you while you run and skirmish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know why or how the Gloves of Endless Javelins are not still in the guide - that item was the reason the thrown weapon style exists for swift hunters, as they gave me inspiration.

      The other suggestions are welcome and I will include them in the guide in an update in the near future, thanks.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What about using mounted combat to activate skirmish? You already have an animal companion.

      Delete
  8. Looking for advice in creating a Scout/Ranger who is ranged only based character. Is there a feat or class in which the character will be able to use there range weapon in combat without suffering an attack of opportunity. From the what I can gather the only way to avoid this is by taking levels of the OotBI or exotic weapon master which I would like to avoid. Have nice holiday weekend everyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All rangers can do that by casting Arrow Mind.

      Delete
  9. Strength can only be a dump stat if your DM ignores the encumbrance rules. Leather armor, bow, arrows, sword, backpack and a water skin puts 10 STR into medium load.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey man. Awesome guide! I'm actually playing with a Swift Hunter build. But you have any build of this "single classed fighter volley archer"? I couldn't find a build like this, searched a lot, and I'm curious on how it can give so much damage. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dexterity 16
      Any race with +2 to dex. Wood elf is good
      Fighter 1 Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Greatbow), Point Blank Shot

      Fighter 2 Rapid Shot

      Fighter 3 Precise Shot

      Fighter 4 Weapon Focus (Greatbow), +1 Dex (17)

      Fighter 5

      Fighter 6 Manyshot, Improved rapid Shot

      Fighter 7

      Fighter 8 Weapon Specialization (Greatbow), +1 Dex (18)

      Fighter 9 Ranged Weapon Mastery (Piercing)

      Fighter 10 Greater Weapon Focus (Greatbow)

      Fighter 11

      Fighter 12 Improved Precise Shot, Greater Specialization (Greatbow), +1 Dex (19)

      Fighter 13

      Fighter 14 ACF - Resolute

      Fighter 15 Improved Critical (Greatbow)

      Fighter 16 Improved Initiative, +1 Dex (20)

      Fighter 17

      Fighter 18 Weapon Supremacy (Greatbow), Far Shot

      Fighter 19

      Fighter 20 Open

      Delete