The Archery Handbook [Completed]

Welcome to the Archery Handbook

The purpose of this handbook 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.

I am editing and completing this handbook as of November 2017.

Table of Contents

Source Legend
Overview of 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.]
  • Inspiring Archers [Bards]
  • Psionic Archers [Ardents, Psychic Warriors et co.]
  • Shapechanging Archers [Druids et co.]


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 sync 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.

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 MageCP = 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 [All game rules for Pathfinder]
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 [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


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:

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 help too, of course.

As for a breakdown for the class specifics:
  • The Swift Hunter-section will obviously be for the short ranges.
  • Sneak Attacking Archers 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).

The 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 Hank's Energy Bow though, as well as the Deadly Aim feat and the 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 if you want to do archery, you should do it well enough to actually make shooting arrows worth your time. This means that dealing damage is 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 sub-par 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.


Regardless of what kind of archery you're going for, it will be 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 – a 2-level Fighter dip is often solid for non-spellcasting builds. 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 supersede 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 [CWar, 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 unfavorable situation slightly less unfavorable, 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 is handy for snipers, but the true power is the first ability for the volley archers.
  • Adjust for Range: Volley archers love this 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.
  • Pierce the Foliage: 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
  • Moving Sniper: 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.

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 situation 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.

Clustered Shots [PF SRD] – Requires Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, base attack bonus +6.

Another Pathfinder feat, this one allows you to use a full-attack action to total all the damage you inflict on a target before damage reduction is applied. Handy if you don't happen to have a Force arrow handy

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 items 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, but

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 favorite 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 are many 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 higher 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. Pairs well with the Collector of Stories skill trick for a +5 to identifying creatures!

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 increasingly 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 situational to truly be worth a feat slot in most cases.

Hiding and Sniping 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 obscure.

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 afterward. 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 quite good. 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 try hard to fit this if Dragon is allowed.

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, perhaps. 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.

This can of course be combined with crafting or other sources of items such as crafting to essentially go infinite as a merchant. Capitalism FTW!

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. This is 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. There's also a limit on how much you can spend on the feat. Mercantile Background is stronger overall but if you want specifically a stronger weapon, this does have the higher ratio.

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 something similar. 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 quite the important skill for you!). Probably my favorite 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).


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 are 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 ones (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 situation 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.

Collision (+2 price) [SRD]

This adds +5 to the damage of a weapon. Essentially, you are trading a +2 to hit for +3 to damage, which is a favorable ratio.

Specific Magic Ammunition

Arrow/Bolt of Biting (Price 506 gp. Cost to create 256 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 (Price: 307 gp. Cost to create: 156 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 (Price: 4007 gp. Cost to create: 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 (+4000gp) [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 situations where one needs to hit incorporeal targets 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).

Traditional Archery

If you want to train a longbowman, start with his grandfather.
–King Edward II


 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 simplest 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.

A quick look through the most prominent benefits and drawbacks of conventional archery:

  • Can add Strength 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
  • Great for 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
  • Use Dexterity for hitting and Strength for damage, inducing MAD
  • Tends to rely on volleys, which means poor mobility
  • Relatively low base damage
  • Large weapons not fit for concealing


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 grand +1 damage for your efforts and a friggin' feat!

If the damage was +2, this could be remotely 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 for the best so new players avoid picking it?


Base Weapons

Longbow (75 gp) [SRD]

A 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.

The Composite Longbow shares a Weapon Focus-tree with the 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.

The Aquatic Longbow shares a Weapon Focus-tree with the Longbow.

Shortbow (30 gp) [SRD]

The 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 reason to use a Shortbow over a Longbow is that your class only grants you one of the proficiencies. Classes with only Shortbow proficiency include Bards, Rogues and few other skill-based class.

The Composite Shortbow shares a Weapon Focus-tree with the 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 the 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.

The Greatbow shares a Weapon Focus-tree with the 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 the Greatbow for the extra range and damage. Otherwise, the 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; a 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.)

The Composite Greatbow shares a Weapon Focus-tree with the Longbow.

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. 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 (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 neighborhood 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 nonmagical, and that 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)

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) [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 specificity of both enhancements, it's not really worth your while outside some really heavily Drow-focused campaigns.

Bowstaff (4600gp) [MIC Pg. 48]

Basically an 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.

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 (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 6006 gp, CD 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. 

Crossbow Archery

The classics say that the crossbow is fury due to the noise that it makes, and by using the volley fire method, there is no end to the sound and fury, which renders the enemy is unable to approach."
–Li Quan, Tang Dynasty military official, 759 CE


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 dependency. 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 expenditure. Crossbow Sniper-feat [PHBII, Pg. 77] also gives them solid Single Attribute Dependency 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?
  • 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
  • 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 attacksEven less mobile than straight bows (due to move actions being spent on reloading earlier on)


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.


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 profitable 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 magazines. 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 situational benefit so come midlevels, I'd get one immediately (it also allows using Hand Crossbow on medium ranges without penalties).

 Mounted Archery

Not even a mighty warrior can break a frail arrow when it is multiplied and supported by its fellows.
-Genghis Khan


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?

  • 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
  • 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


Mounted combat is all fine and good, but you kind of need to get the Mount-part right first. There are 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 tamable mounts.

Riding Dog (150 gp) [SRD]

Good mount for small characters. War trained riding dogs can make trip attacks like wolves do.

War Pony (100 gp) [SRD]

There's not much of a  point in choosing this over a Riding Dog.
Donkey or Mule (8 gp) [SRD]

Stolid in the face of danger, donkeys and mules can be used as mounts in combat. They have a relatively slow movement speed of 30 feet, though.
War Horse, Light (150 gp) [SRD]

Now we're talking! The light war horse has double the speed of donkeys and mules, for only 19 times more! This will enable you to strafe and kit enemies outdoors. 

War Horse, Heavy (400 gp) [SRD]

The heavy war horse trades 10 feet of speed for a few more hitpoints, and costs over twice as much as the light war horse. It's better for mounted combat than mounted archery.

Centaur [SRD]


Giant Owl  (2500 gp for egg,  4000 for chick, 1000 gp to train) [SRD]

The Giant Owl is chiefly notable for being stealthy and having great low light vision.

Giant Eagle (2500 gp for egg,  4000 for chick, 1000 gp to train) [SRD]

You can ride a giant eagle and feel epic while doing so. But it's more expensive and slower than a pegasus, the real flying mount of epics.
Pegasus (2000 gp for egg, 3000 gp for foal, 1000 gp to train) [SRD]

If it was good enough for Perseus, it's good enough for you! The mighty pegasus allows Good aligned riders access to flight (with a speed of 120 feet at average maneuverability) and can reliably detect good and evil, which can be handy.

It's odd that the Monster Manual lists them as having eggs, though, as they are mammals who would logically give live birth. At least that's what My Little Pony taught me.

Hippogriff (2000 gp for egg, 3000 gp for foal, 1000 gp to train) [SRD]

If you can't have a pegasus, you can use the slightly slower Hippogriff.

Griffon (3500 gp for egg, 7000 gp for young, 1500 gp to train) [SRD]

The griffon has more HP than the pegasus, but has a fly speed of 80 feet. It has significantly improved combat abilities, but you hopefully won't need them.

Spider Eater (2000 gp for egg, 3000 gp for young, 3000 gp to train) [SRD]

The Spider Eater costs quite a lot to train. In return, you get a mount with a 60 ft fly speed at good manevuerability, and a constant Freedom of Movement effect on itself, which is pretty handy to have.


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 the 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 for those who wish to become dragonriders! 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 power level (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 are 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.

Martial Archers

With Bow let us win cattle, with Bow the battle, with Bow be victors in our hot encounters.
The Bow brings grief and sorrow to the foeman: armed with the Bow may we subdue all regions.
-The Rig-Veda, Mandala 6, Hymn 75


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).

Now, when it comes to Barbarians, things get interesting.

The default Barbarian isn't suited for archery, but he does have access to Whirling Frenzy.  
A barbarian with this variant form of rage doesn't gain the normal bonuses when he enters a rage. Instead, when a barbarian with whirling frenzy enters a rage, he temporarily gains a +4 bonus to Strength and a +2 dodge bonus to Armor Class and on Reflex saves. While in a whirling frenzy, the barbarian may make one extra attack in a round at his highest base attack bonus, but this attack takes a -2 penalty, as does each other attack made that round. This penalty applies for 1 round, so it also affects attacks of opportunity the barbarian might make before his next action.

Whirling Frenzy is otherwise identical to the standard barbarian rage in all other ways. At 11th level (when a standard barbarian gains greater rage), the Strength bonus increases to +6, and the dodge bonus to Armor Class and on Reflex saves increases to +3. At 20th level (when a standard barbarian gains mighty rage), the Strength bonus increases to +8, and the dodge bonus to Armor Class and on Reflex saves increases to +4.

A barbarian using this variant doesn't gain indomitable will at 14th level. Instead, he gains evasion, but only while in a whirling frenzy.

A character can't use whirling frenzy at the same time that he uses any other form of rage (or similar ability).
Screw you, Rapid Shot! Whirling Frenzy is where it's at!

The main downsides are the limited number of times you can rage and the duration of the rage, but that can be easily addressed with the proper race selection, ability score allocation, feat choices, and multiclassing.

The bonus to Strength is also handy, and helps alleviate some of the MAD faced by archers. You'll want one of the bows that automatically adjusts to your Strength modifier to make the best use of this.

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.
  • Martial Archers are feat starved. And martial classes are often not great in terms of long term feat rewards. Try to get as many bonus feats as possible.
  • Prestige classes to aim for are Deepwood Sniper, Peerless Archer, or the Sword and Fist version of Order of the Bow Initiate. Perhaps Exotic Weapon Master if you've picked up an exotic bow.
You can maximize the number of useful feats and skill points with martial classes is to take 2 levels of Ranger for Combat Style: Rapid Shot and a generous amount of skill points, then dip two levels of fighter for bonus feats. This allows you to maximize the number of attacks you can make in a round.

Be sure your GM doesn't enforce multiclassing penalties if you want to dip Barbarian. If he does, you'll need to take extra Barbarian levels. Barbarian 2 isn't too bad, since you get Uncanny Dodge. Barbarian 3 grants Trapsense +1, which can thankfully be traded out for the Spell Sense ACF [CM Pg. 35], which grants your Trapsense bonus to your AC as a dodge bonus against spells and SLAs. It's not huge, but it's better than nothing.

Ranger can be useful for up to two more levels. Another level of Ranger gets you a good number of skill points and Endurance, which qualifies you for Horizon Walker. Immunity to Fatigue from Whirling Frenzy's not a bad, Darkvision helps, and Dimension Door is very useful. 6 levels of Horizon Walker is not a bad diversion while you work on qualifying for archery prestige classes. ("I will teleport around shooting you in the face in the dark without ever feeling tired " worked pretty well in Diablo 2) It's certainly better than some archery prestige classes that could be named.

At level 4, Ranger enables you to swap out your animal companion for the Distracting Attack ACF [PHBII Pg. 55], which allows you and your allies to treat whenever you hit an enemy with a weapon attack (whether melee or ranged), as flanked on the next attack he is subjected to. It's not the most powerful ability, but it could be handy in the right kind of party.

A great Ranger ACF to take is the Arcane Hunter ACF [CM Pg .32] for the Ranger. In exchange for one rank in Knowledge: Arcana, you get Favored Enemy: Arcanists. Anything that casts arcane spells or SLAs is now your prey. Pretty handy.

There's nothing to be said for Fighter level 3 (it is dumb level, Thog not take), but Fighter 4 nets you another feat and qualifies you for Weapon Specialization, a prerequisite for Ranged Weapon Mastery. Ranged Weapon Mastery is not the most amazing feat, but it's quite a nice option.

There is a Fighter ACF that works great for archers, the Hit-and-Run Drow Fighter ACF [DotU Pg. 58] grants a +2 untyped initiative bonus and Dex to damage against flat-footed enemies within 30 feet in exchange for heavy armor and tower shield proficiency. Sounds like a win-win.

The Martial Rogue and Cloistered Cleric from Unearthed Arcana are good options for extra feats, although neither are, strictly speaking, martial classes.There is a mini-guide to selecting Cloistered Cleric domains for fun and profit in the Divine section of the guide if this interests you.

I must admit, I am partial to an Arcane Hunter Ranger 2/Hit-and-Run Fighter 4 with the feats Education (1), Knowledge Devotion (3), Weapon Focus (6), Rapid Shot (Ranger 2), Point Blank Shot (Fighter 1), Precise Shot (Fighter 2), Weapon Specialization (Fighter 4). Next comes 2 levels of Barbarian for Whirling Frenzy and Uncanny Dodge. Grab an extra level Ranger and use the Endurance to qualify for Horizon Walker. Take Ranged Weapon Mastery. Throw Quicken SLA on Dimension Door. Have fun. "I will teleport around shooting you with arrows in the face and never getting tired of it" worked in Diablo 2 and it will work here!

It may seem odd that I don't really recommend an archery prestige class for an archer, but most of the options aren't worthwhile. Let's take a look.

Deepwood Sniper [MotW]

Base Attack Bonus: +5
Skills: Hide 4 ranks, Move Silently 4 ranks, Spot 4 ranks.
Feats: Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Weapon Focus (any bow or crossbow).

At first level, the critical threat range of arrows increases by 1, and the range increment of a bow or crossbow increases by 10ft/level.

At second level, you reduce your miss chance against an opponent by 10% (and by an additional 10% per four Deepwood Sniper levels). Once per day, the Deepwood Sniper's bow can be affected as if by a Magic Weapon spell. The Damage critical multiplier of arrows or bolts fired increases by 1.

At third level, you get safe poison use. LAME!

At fourth level, you get a small bonus to attack as long as you spend a full round aiming, and the victim stands still. Any ability that can be foiled by the enemy walking at a brisk pace is LOW ENERGY!

At fifth level, you get the ability to reroll an attack roll once per day. SAD!

No new abilities until 10th level, where you get to produce a True Strike effect once per day. DISAPPOINTING!

Judgement: This prestige class runs out of steam after two levels. It offers a few useful minor benefits in exchange for a mediocre feat. It's not a bad investment for two levels, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get it.

Peerless Archer [SM]

Base Attack Bonus: +7
Skills: Craft (bowmaking) 10 ranks
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Far Shot, Precise Shot, Quick Draw
Proficiency: Longbow, shortbow, composite longbow, or composite shortbow

At first level, you gain what is essentially Skill Focus: Craft Bow. You also gain +1d6 ranged sneak attack, which is probably the more useful ability. The sneak attack increases by +1d6 every 3 levels hereafter, to a maximum of +4d6 at level 10. Not bad.

At second level, you reduce the level of concealment enemies have by one step, and can craft magic arrows as if you had the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat. You start off making +1 arrows, which increases by +1 every 2 levels thereafter, to a maximum of +5 at 10th level. You don't get the ability to add weapon enchantments (eg Splitting, Force), so this isn't that useful, especially if you have a someone in the party willing to cast Greater Magic Weapon.

At third level, you gain the Power Shot ability. Finally, ranged Power Attack! This is very useful.

No new abilities until 8th level, where you get the Threaten ability which allows you to treat your bow as if it were a 10ft reach weapon.

Judgement: Just take Deadly Aim and wield a bowstaff.

Order of the Bow Initiate [S&F]

Base Attack Bonus: +5
Skills: Knowledge (religion) 2 ranks
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow or shortbow), Weapon Specialization (longbow or shortbow)
Proficiency: Longbow or shortbow or composite longbow or composite shortbow.
At first level, you get +1d6 range sneak attack, which increases as you take more levels. Why do all these ranged prestige classes give you an ability that only works at close range? It's not bad, it's just not that useful given the limitations. You want to shoot people in the face from far away, not within charging distance

At second level, your attacks with a ranged weapon in a threatened area and not provoke an attack of opportunity. This is pretty awesome, although it'd be best if you weren't in melee to begin with.
At level four, you get Superior Weapon Focus: an additional +1 to attack rolls with a bow, This one must have taken a lot of creativity and effort.

At level six, you get a free attack at any enemy who is subject to an AoO from an ally, and the Zen Archery feat. It's a bit late to get Zen Archery as a bonus feat, as anyone who needs it would have taken it by now, but this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that anyone who did take it now benefits from adding his Dexterity modifier and his Wisdom modifier for ranged attacks.

At seventh level, you gain Superior Weapon Specialization, an additional +2 to damage rolls with a bow. Truly one of the most attractive features of this class!

At ninth level, you gain the Banked Shot ability. This allows you to fire an arrow at a target within 20 feet of a wall (but not adjacent to the wall) and treat the target as if flat-footed for purposes of AC and damage inflicted as a full-round action. This is both practically and impractically useless.
Judgement: Either leave at level 2 or level 6, It's fortunate that the prerequisites are likely things you'll have taken anyways, so it's easy to get into when you have nothing better to do.

Order of the Bow Initiate [CW]

Base Attack Bonus: +5
Skills: Craft (bowmaking) 5 ranks , Knowledge (religion) 2 ranks
Feats: Point Blank Shot , Precise Shot , Rapid Shot , Weapon Focus (longbow, shortbow, or composite version of either)
At first level, you get Ranged Precision. This is much like the 3.0 ability Ranged Sneak Attack, except that you must use a standard action to deliver a single attack to an enemy within 30 feet that deals +1d8 precision damage, which increases by +1d8 every 2 levels to a maximum of +5d8 at 9th level. At least the target does not need to be denied its Dexterity bonus or be flat-footed in order to take this damage.

At second level, you gain Close Combat Shot. This is much the same as the 3.0 version, so not much needs to be said.

At fourth level, you gain Greater Weapon Focus. A rose by any other name.

At level 6, you gain the Sharp Shooting feat. It's bad.

At 10th level, you double the distance at which you can use Ranged Precision.
Judgement: This version is only good for two levels, and only if you really want to shoot people up close.

Exotic Weapon Master

Base Attack Bonus: +6
Skills: Craft (Weaponsmithing) 3 ranks
Feats: Exotic Weapon Proficiency (any exotic weapon) , Weapon Focus (any exotic weapon)
Special: Races that have familiarity with an exotic weapon (such as the dwarf's familiarity with the dwarven waraxe and the dwarven urgrosh) are considered to have the Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat for the purpose of meeting the requirements for this class.

Each of the three levels of Exotic Weapon Master allows you to choose a stunt. The most useful ones are:
  • Close-Quarters Ranged Combat – You don't provoke an attack of opportunity when using an exotic ranged weapon.
  • Ranged Disarm – You can make a disarm attempt on a ranged attack.
  • Twin Exotic Weapon Fighting: lessens TWF penalties when using exotic weapons, such as hand crossbows. (But good luck getting the feats to pull off crossbows.)
Judgement: Short, easy to qualify for, and grants a Close Combat Shot.equivalent faster than OotBI.


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.

Skirmish Archers

Move as swiftly as the Wind, be as supple as the Forest.
Attack as fiercely as Fire, be as firm as the Mountain.
Be as mysterious as a Shadow, strike as fast as Lightning.
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Skirmishing was always a tactic in Dungeons and Dragons, but the Complete Adventurer's Scout class was the first to be built around the concept. Its skirmish ability adds bonus damage dice to attacks made after moving. However, there were few ways to gain iterative attacks after moving, and Skirmish explicitly does not work with mounted archery. 

All that changed in 2007, with the release of two books. But more on those later

Building a Skirmish Archer

There are a few things to keep in mind when building a skirmisher.
  • You are no longer Strength dependent to deal damage. Unfortunately, this also means that you must now contend with creatures who are immune to precision damage – and unlike the Rogue, you do not have any means of overcoming this on your own.
  • You have a good amount of skills, which means that maneuvering and spotting enemies will be easy.
  • Generating multiple attacks is key to a high damage output. You want Rapid Shot. You want Manyshot. You want Splitting.
  • You must be able to move around and take full attacks. Ideally, you will have multiple ways.
  • This is pointed out in the Precision Archer section later, but don't forget the Hunter's Eye spell from the Player's Handbook II! It is a swift action 2nd level Ranger spell which grants +1d6 Sneak Attack for ever 3 caster levels.


Swift Hunter [CS,  Pg. 81] – Requires Skirmish +1d6/+1 AC, Favored Enemy

This is the most important feat to take when building a Skirmisher. It allows you to stack Scout and Ranger levels for determining the extra damage and bonus to Armor Class granted when skirmishing, and allowed the use of Skirmish on Favored Enemies even if they were immune to precision damage.

Swift Ambusher [CS, Pg. 81] – Requires Skirmish +1d6, Sneak Attack +1d6
This allows your Rogue and Scout levels to stack for the purpose of determining the extra damage and bonus to Armor Class granted when skirmishing. A Swift Ambusher is a perfectly viable build, but needs another way to overcome immunities to precision damage. See the next section for details!

Travel Devotion [CC, Pg. 62] – No prerequisites
The Travel Devotion feat allows movement up to the user's movement speed as a swift action once per day, with additional uses costing 2 Turn Undead attempts each. What makes this truly outstanding is the fact Complete Champion also allows Clerics to trade in their domains for the corresponding devotion feat. Thus, a single level dip in Cloistered Cleric [SRD] will net a Skirmisher the Travel domain, which can be traded in for Travel Devotion, the Knowledge Domain, which may be turned in for Knowledge Devotion, one bonus domain, which could be the Elf Domain for Point Blank Shot or the War Domain for a Weapon Proficiency feat and a Weapon Focus feat, Turn Undead attempts to fuel Devotion feats, and spellcasting.


Anklets of Translocation (1400 gp) [MiC, Pg. 71]

These little trinkets let you use a swift action to teleport up to 10ft away twice per day. They're exactly what the doctor ordered!

Bracers of Murder (8000 gp) [DotU, Pg. 98]

These bracers grant you a +2 profane bonus on attack and damage rolls if the target is flat-footed. Furthermore, you may reroll any ones on your Sneak Attack or Sudden Strike. If you have Death Attack, your DC increases by 2 points.

Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker (500 gp) [MiC Pg. 86]

This allows you to use a swift action to move up to half your speed (rounded down) without provoking attacks of opportunity. A good compliment to the Anklets of Translocation

Quicksilver Boots (3500 gp) [MiC Pg. 119]

The boots allow you to use a swift action to move up to your movement speed, even over water or terrain you normally wouldn't be able to walk over, but you will provoke attacks of opportunity – at least you get concealment while moving under its effects. This ability functions twice per day.

Prestige Classes

Unseen Seer [CM, Pg. 81]

Skills: Hide 8 ranks, Search 8 ranks, Sense Motive 4 ranks, Spellcraft 4 ranks, Spot 8 ranks
Spellcasting: Ability to cast 1st-level arcane spells, including at least two divination spells.

This class has 3/4th BAB, 10/10 spellcasting progression, advances damage for Sneak Attack, Sudden Strike, or Skirmish, grants additional Divination spells known (including ones from Divine spell lists, like Hunter's Eye), increases the caster level of Divination spells, grants the Silent Spell feat, and continual nondetection. See the Divine Archer and Arcane Archer sections for spells recommendations.

This class can work for the Skirmish Archer, either through levels of Assassin, by having the Ranger take the Sword of the Arcane Order feat so he can cast Wizard spells, or by taking levels in Mystic Ranger [DR#336, Pg. 105]

Additional Links

For more detailed information, see the Swift Hunter Handbook.

Precision Archers

Stand and deliver!


Precision archery is an appealing choice: Precision damage can add up quickly, and the classes themselves are often stealth and skill focused, so they can be quite versatile overall. In addition, this type of archery works well within the dungeon, where mobility may be hindered, and hiding spaces plentiful.

Building a Precision Archer

Classes that grant Precision damage are often sneaky, so catching an enemy flat-footed is not the issue.Reliably denying them their Dexterity bonus to Armor Class afterward is. In addition, archers must find a way around enemies immune to precision damage. Once these are dealt with, the Sneak Attack archer becomes a potent damage dealer.

A few major points, then.
  • You must emphasize stealth so that you can maximize your chances of sneak attacking enemies. Strongly consider the Darkstalker feat.
  • A high Initiative score is vital for going first after a surprise attack, since the enemy is flat-footed until their turn starts. [Relevant OoTS]
  • Wands are your friend. The Gravestrike, Vinestrike, and Golemstrike spells from the Spell Compendium are swift action first level spells allow the caster to bypass the immunity to precision damage for undead, plants, and constructs, respectively.
  • The Sniper's Shot spell is another swift action first level spell from the Spell Compendium that removes the distance cap on precision damage for one round.
  • The Hunter's Eye spell from the Player's Handbook II is a swift action 2nd level Ranger spell which grants +1d6 Sneak Attack for ever 3 caster levels.
  • The Grease spell forces an enemy without 5 ranks in the Balance skill to balance, rendering them flat-footed. Or it might cause them to fall prone, which is also good.
  • The Hit-and-Run Fighter ACF [DotU, Pg. 58] replaces the Fighter's 1st level proficiency with heavy armor and shields (even affecting those gained by previous classes) for a +2 bonus to initiative and the ability to add the Fighter's Dexterity modifier as a competence bonus to damage rolls on enemies within 30 feet.


Craven [CoR Pg. 17] – Cannot be immune to fear, must have Sneak Attack

You are cowardly enough to warrant a -2 penalty on saves against fear, but you are also willing to fight dirty and deal an extra point of sneak attack damage for each character level you have. As this is a static bonus, it can be multiplied on a critical hit.

Deadly Precision [SRD] – Dexterity 15, BAB +5

This feat allows you to reroll any result of 1 on your sneak attack’s extra damage dice, but you must keep the result of the reroll, even if it is another 1. You likely don't have an open feat for this, and Craven is better anyways.

Prestige Classes

Arcane Trickster [SRD]

Alignment: Any nonlawful.
Skills: Decipher Script 7 ranks, Disable Device 7 ranks, Escape Artist 7 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 4 ranks.
Spells: Ability to cast mage hand and at least one arcane spell of 3rd level or higher.
Special: Sneak attack +2d6.

The Arcane Trickster requires Rogue entry and advances Sneak Attack as well as spellcasting, but offers only 1/2 BAB progression. You get to declare Impromptu Sneak Attacks, which might be handy.

Assassin [SRD]

Alignment: Any Evil
Skills: Disguise 4 ranks, Hide 8 ranks, Move Silently 8 ranks

Not archery focused, but it does give you some useful abilities, such as Poison Use, Hide in Plain Sight, Sneak Attack advancement, and spells from a decent list. For bonus points, they do get Sniper's Shot and Arrowsplit. (See the Ranger spell section under the Shapeshift Archer for details.)

Avenger [WotC April Fools Joke]

Alignment: Any Good
Skills: Disguise 4 ranks, Hide 8 ranks, Move Silently 8 ranks

This is an alignment flipped Assassin used to show DMs how to refluff and adapt prestige classes for different campaigns.

Dread Commando [HoB, Pg. 103]

Base Attack Bonus: +5
Skills: Hide 6 ranks , Move Silently 6 ranks
Feats: Dodge,  Mobility

The Dread Commando gains Sudden Strike, which is like Sneak Attack restricted to targets denied their Dexterity bonus to AC, but that's not a problem since you aren't flanking anyone. You also grant yourself and nearby allies a competence bonus to initiative equal to your class level and reduce penalties for sneaking around and sneaking in armor.

The only problem is that it requires two feats that you may not have room for. The Mobility armor property can help with one of those, but you're out of luck for the other. If you do decide to take this class, you may want to take Expeditious Dodge [RotW, Pg. 150], which grants a flat +2 Dodge bonus to AC for one turn when you move 40 feet or more.

Skullclan Hunter [MinH, Pg. 20]

Alignment: Any Good
Skills: Knowledge (religion) 8 ranks
Special: Ability to turn undead, sneak attack +2d6

This becomes blue in an undead heavy campaign, as it lets you deal full damage to undead with your Sneak Attack starting at level 2. It also advances sneak attack, grants various immunities, constant Protection from Evil, and allows you to overcome the Damage Reduction of undead, as well as attack incoporeal undead. It's probably not worth going for all those abilities, though; 3-4 levels should get you all that you need.

Unseen Seer [CM, Pg. 81]

Skills: Hide 8 ranks, Search 8 ranks, Sense Motive 4 ranks, Spellcraft 4 ranks, Spot 8 ranks
Spellcasting: Ability to cast 1st-level arcane spells, including at least two divination spells.

This class has 3/4th BAB, 10/10 spellcasting progression, advances damage for Sneak Attack, Sudden Strike, or Skirmish, grants additional Divination spells known (including ones from Divine spell lists, like Hunter's Eye), increases the caster level of Divination spells, grants the Silent Spell feat, and continual nondetection. This is a really solid class for the Precision archer. See the Divine Archer and Arcane Archer sections for spells recommendations.

Interesting note: You can qualify for this through Assassin.


Bracers of Murder (8000 gp) [DotU, Pg. 98]

These bracers grant you a +2 profane bonus on attack and damage rolls if the target is flat-footed. Furthermore, you may reroll any ones on your Sneak Attack or Sudden Strike. If you have Death Attack, your DC increases by 2 points.

Marbles (2 sp) [AE, Pg. 24]

These force a DC 15 Balance check in a 5 foot square when thrown, rendering them a cheap and worthwhile alternative to the Grease spell. It'll be sure to make the enemy lose their marbles!
Ring of Blinking (27000 gp) [SRD]

Not only is this good for the many benefits of the Blink spell, but it also allows you to strike as an invisible creature, denying your enemies their Dexterity bonus to Armor Class and making them susceptible to Sneak Attack! Attacks made while Blinking have a 20% miss chance for you, but I'd argue that an archer is exempt because once you let go of an object (like an arrow), it is no longer affected by Blink and returns to the Material Plane.

If your DM rules that this is not the case, a Ring of Blinking is still rather useful, and can now be used to dispose of evidence.
Wand Chamber (100 gp) [DS Pg. 34] 

This weapon modification allows a weapon to hold one wand inside of it.

Greater Weapon Crystals of Demolition, Truedeath (10000 gp) [MiC]

These allow you to sneak attack constructs and undead, respectively. Worth it if you have no other way. Wands are cheaper, though.

Sublime Way Archers

In archery we have something of the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns around and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.


As a whole, Tome of Battle emulates wuxia stories, but has little interest in archery, which is a shame, as archery features in Chinese folklore and history. Although Tome of Battle is geared towards melee combat, an archer may make use of some of its material.

Building a Sublime Archer

Class wise, you have the choice of either going Warblade and building a Martial Archer, or using the Swordsage to build a Precision Archer. When it comes to maneuvers, the main thing to look out for maneuvers and stances which do not require you to hit someone with a melee weapon. Let's take a look at our options!

Desert Wind
  • Blistering Flourish (1st level Strike) – Doesn't require a melee attack, but also an inconsequential debuff.
  • Distracting Ember (1st level Boost) – Summoning a small fire elemental isn't specifically helpful to archery. You can use him to block enemies set off traps, and make tea, though.
  • Flame's Blessing (1st level Stance) – Fire resistance isn't bad, but isn't that useful either.
  • Wind Stride (1st level Boost) – A bonus to movement speed could be handy depending on your playstyle.
  • Fan the Flames (3rd level Strike) – You launch a Hadoken at an enemy within 30 feet, dealing 6d6 fire damage with a ranged touch attack. It can be used for Sneak Attacks, but isn't that great overall.
  • Holocaust Cloak (3rd level Stance) – The stance might be worth considering for emergencies if it did more damage to your attackers or wasn't negated by a reach weapon.
  • Zephyr Dance (3rd level Counter) – A +4 Dodge bonus to AC against a single attack as an immediate action isn't too bad.
  • Firesnake (4th level Strike) – It can certainly make it harder for enemies to get close to you.
  • Leaping Flame (5th level Counter) – You probably don't want to teleport next to an enemy as an archer. You can teleport next to an ally if they attack you, but that's too convoluted for my taste.
  • Rising Phoenix (8th level Stance) – You get to hover a bit. Not impressive in the late game.
Devoted Spirit
  • Aura of Perfect Order (6th level Stance)– It may be useful to treat a D20 as having rolled an 11, but I can't find two other Devoted Spirit maneuvers to take for the prerequisites.
  • Immortal Fortitude (8th level Stance) – Not dying from hitpoint damage is great, but there's so many other ways to die at this level. And there's no way to fill the prerequisites with anything useful.
 Diamond Mind
  • Moment of Perfect Mind (1st level Counter) – This could be a lifesafer against illusions, blinding, mind control, etc.
  • Stance of Clarity (1st level Stance) – Situational. Only useful when you have more to worry from enemy archers than melee.
  • Action Before Thought (2nd level Counter) – You should have high Dexterity, but you can take this if you're still worried about Reflex saves.
  • Mind Over Body (3rd level Counter) – It be used to shore up a Fortitude save, if you skimped out on Constitution.
  • Pearl of Black Doubt (3rd level Stance) – You really shouldn't be in a situation where this applies, but it would be nice to have if you were.
  • Hearing the Air (5th level Stance) – Blindsense out to 30 feet and a +5 bonus to Listen checks can help detect ambushes and pinpoint invisible creatures.
  • Moment of Alacrity (6th level Boost) – Moving up in the initiative order never hurt anyone!
  • Quicksilver Motion (7th level Boost) – Using a swift action to get a free move action is great for an archer. 
  • Diamond Defense (8th level Counter) – The bonus to any save will be smaller than that of the lower level save boosting counters if you've leveled Concentration, but this could be taken as a backup.
  • Stance of Alacrity (8th level Stance) – It certainly helps your action economy with counters.
  • Time Stands Still (9th level Strike) – Yes, two full round attacks in one round is golden! And maybe combine it with Moment of Alacrity if anyone is left alive.
Iron Heart
  • Wall of Blades (2nd level Counter) – This lets you make a melee attack roll to substitute for your AC against an enemy attack. It may look cool to bat an arrow out of the air with your gauntlet or block a sword with your elvencraft bow, but it's still not a great idea. That being said, it fulfills the prerequisites for other Iron Heart maneuvers.
  • Iron Heart Surge (3rd level Counter) – Alright, now we're talking! This maneuver grants a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls until the start of your next turns. It also ends many negative status as a byproduct.
  • Absolute Steel Stance (3rd level Stance) – This gives you a +2 Dodge bonus to AC if you move 10 or more feet in a round. There may be some synergy with skirmishing here.
  • Iron Heart Focus (5th level Counter) – Worth taking if you don't have access to Diamond Mind, or are paranoid about saving throws.
  • Iron Heart Endurance (6th level Boost) – Self-healing can save your bacon in a pinch, but isn't a primary concern for an archer.
Setting Sun
  • Counter Charge (1st level Counter) – I suppose you could use this if being charged by the enemy is a concern.
  • Mighty Throw (1st level Strike) – It can certainly be used to get an opponent off of you, but your team would have had to fail pretty badly for this to be an issue. This can go for all of the other throwing maneuvers. The higher you get, the less useful they are to an archer.
  • Step of the Wind (1st level Stance) – Ignoring movement penalties can be handy. In addition, you get a +2 on attack rolls and a +4 bonus bull rush and trip attempts against enemies you attack who are standing on difficult terrain and suffer movement penalties.
  • Baffling Defense (2nd level Counter) – You can take this if you have a good Sense Motive check. Changes are you won't.
  • Ghostly Defense (8th level Stance) – You can cause enemy friendly fire this way, but it'd be best not to be surrounded by enemies in the first place.
Shadow Hand
  • Child of Shadow (1st level Stance) – Concealment if you move 10 feet? Sounds good to me!
  • Cloak of Deception (2nd level Boost) – Invisibility is also good.
  • Shadow Jaunt (2nd level Maneuver) – Short ranged teleport is great for escaping dangerous situations or maneuvering into position for an ambush.
  • Assassin's Stance (3rd level Stance) – A stance that grants +2d6 Sneak Attack? This keeps getting better and better.
  • Dance of the Spider (3rd level Stance) – Being able to walk on walls keeps you away from the enemy.
  • Shadow Garrote (3rd level Strike) – You can trigger Sneak Attack with this ranged touch attack, but it's not particularly useful.
  • Shadow Stride (5th level Maneuver) – Shadow Jaunt as a move action.
  • Step of the Dancing Moth (5th level Stance) – It allows you to hover and ignore difficult terrain and some traps, but more important is the ability to ignore the Hide and Move Silently penalties for moving quickly, which can help out with scouting.
  • Shadow Noose (6th level Strike) – Much like Shadow Garrote.
  • Shadow Blink (7th level Maneuver) – Teleportation as a swift action is a fantastic way to scoot and shoot.
  • Balance on the Sky (8th level Stance) – You must have one hand free to use this Stance. Most archers need that hand.
  • One with Shadow (8th level Counter) – You gain the incoporeal subtype, which is both a defensive and mobility option. The template description states that objects which leave an incoporeal creature's possession become coporeal, so you can shoot arrows without issue.
Stone Dragon
  • This school offers nothing of value.
 Tiger Claw
  • Blood in the Water (1st level Stance) – You likely won't be generating enough criticals to make use of this, but if you can somehow make it work, feel free to use this stance.
  • Hunter's Sense (1st level Stance) – Scent can be a useful ability for scouting and detecting invisible enemies.
  • Sudden Leap (1st level Boost) – It's a mobility option and costs a swift action, which means that with a high enough Jump check,  you could move and still shoot. You'll still incur an Attack of Opportunity, though.
  • Leaping Dragon Stance (3rd level Stance) – It grants a +10 enhancement bonus to jump checks, and lets you make standing jumps as if you had a 20ft running start. This will let you jump around shooting people when combined with Sudden Leap.
  • Dancing Mongoose (Level 5 Boost) – While the language used in this maneuver clearly intends for it to be used in two weapon combat, nowhere does it specify it must be done with melee weapons. Thus, an archer can use it to gain an additional attack at his highest BAB for each weapon he wields against an enemy he made an attack roll against in the round he initiated the boost. 
  • Raging Mongoose (8th level Boost) – This functions exactly like Dancing Mongoose, except it gives you two attacks for each weapon you are wielding.
 White Raven
  • Bolstering Voice (1st level Stance) – A bonus to will saves may be useful on occasion.
  • Leading the Charge (1st level Stance) – Definitely not.
  • Lion's Roar (3rd level Boost) – Gain a +5 damage bonus for one round after reducing an enemy to 0 HP or fewer. Damage boosts are always good for archers.
  • White Raven Tactics (3rd level Boost) – This is a great teamwork maneuver, but not for archery. Still, it could offer a tactical advantage in general.
  • Press the Advantage (5th level Stance) – Taking an extra 5ft step offers a decent amount of maneuverability. In fact, it's just enough to trigger Skirmish. You can also step out from behind cover, take a full attack, and step back behind cover.
  • Order Forged from Chaos (6th level Maneuver) – Not relevant to archery, but may offer tactical benefits such as forming defensive lines against enemy attackers.
Overall Tome of Battle offers melee potent options in terms of maneuverability, defenses, and action economy. Some of this is useful to the archer, especially multiclassed archers.


Shadow Trickster [ToB, Pg. 32] – Requires caster level 1, one Shadow Hand strike

When you are in a Shadow Hand stance, this feat boosts your save DCs for illusions by +2 and grants a +2 bonus on the damage rolls for Sneak Attack and Sudden Strike. The only downside is that you have to take a level in a spellcasting class. I'm sorry, did I say downside?

Song of the White Raven [ToB, Pg. 32] – Requires Bardic Music (Inspire Courage, one White Raven maneuver

When you are in a White Raven stance, you may activate Inspire Courage as a swift action and stack Bard and Crusader and Warblade levels for determining the bonus granted by Inspire Courage. See the Inspiring Archer section for more information on Inspire Courage.

Incarnum Archers

 It is not the arrow that is the weapon, but the archer.


Incarnum is one of the underused subsystems that came out late in 3.5E's lifetime, which is a pity because it's rather fun. By allowing classes to essentially create their own magic items, it offered a variety of flexible and interesting options for non-spellcasters. And fortunately, some of those options apply to archery!

Building an Incarnum Archer

 Your meldshapng defines your capabilities, so we must take a close look at the soulmelds. There are two paths to take: using soulmelds to support bow based archery, or using soulmelds that grant ranged attacks. This guide will focus on the former.

Soulmelds for Archery

Bluesteel Bracers – These grant a +2 bonus to initiative. In addition, they grant +1 to damage on weapon rolls per essentia invested. If bound to the arms, the bonuses are shared with allies within 30 feet.

Lucky Dice – Swift action to use, requires a 2d6 dice roll to activate. If the roll totals 7, you gain  +1 to attack/damagerolls, saves, and ability/skill checks for 1 round, +1 round per essentia invested. Any other roll and you have to choose one of the three. If bound to your hands, you will share the bonuses with allies within 30 feet.

Sighting Gloves – These grant a +1 insight bonus on ranged damage per point of essentia invested. If bound to the hands, they grant the benefits of the Precise Shot feat, though not the feat itself. If you will be taking Precise Shot to qualify for feats, you might as well bind the Lucky Dice to your hands.

Fellmist Robe Concealment vs ranged attacks 10% base, with an additional 5% per essentia invested. Binding it to the soul will apply the concealment to adjacent attackers as well.


Bonus Essentia [MoI, Pg. 35] – Requires Con 3, level 6

More essentia is essential for Incarnum charatcters.

Expanded Soulmeld Capacity [MoI, Pg. 38]

Invest more, but invest wisely!

Cobalt Precision [MoI, Pg. 37]  – Requires Point Blank Shot, Con 13

The only Incarnum feat specifically for ranged characters is rather underwhelming since it only provides a bonus to rolls to confirm ranged criticals and the damage dealt.
Midnight Augmentation [MoI, Pg. 38] – Requires Con 13, 2nd level powers

Good for reducing power cost in a psionic build.

Midnight Metamagic [MoI, Pg. 39] – Requires Con 13, ability to cast 1st level spells, any metamagic feat

A good choice if you plan on multiclassing into a spellcasting class. Persisting a spell could be quite valuable!

Shape Soulmeld [MoI, Pg. 40] – Requires Con 13

See a soulmeld you like on some other class's list? Now it's yours!

Split Chakra [MoI, Pg. 41] – No prerequisites

Need to have both magic items and a soulmeld? Not a problem

Factotum Archers

Our arrows will blot out the sun.


It should come as no surprise that the jack of all trades class can do archery as well. Although Factotums are not a martial class, they've got a few tricks up their sleeves to keep themselves competitive.

Building a Factotum Archer

The key to the Factotum uses for his combat effectiveness are his cunning plans. 
  • Cunning Insight allows him to add his Intelligence modifier as a competence bonus on attack rolls, damage rolls, or saving throws.
  • Cunning Knowledge provides a bonus to Knowledge checks, which plays well with Knowledge Devotion.
  • Cunning Strike gives +1d6 Sneak Attack damage.
  • Cunning Surge grants an extra standard action which can be used for Manyshot.
  • Cunning Brilliance lets him to emulate 3 class abilities available to a standard character at level 15 or lower.
And let us not forget about their formidable linguistic capabilities! The Factotum is as cunning as a fox who has been appointed professor of Cunning at Oxford University!

The Factotum runs all these abilities off of Inspiration Points, so he must manage them wisely if he wishes to be an effective archer. These abilities are complimented by his extensive skill list and ability to cast a small selection of spells. (See the Arcane Archer, Divine Archer, Divine Archer, and Shapeshift Archer sections for some good spells to choose.)


Font of Inspiration [WotC Web Enhancement] – Int 15, must have Inspiration as a class feature
This is the fuel for your Factotum's fire. You gain 1 inspiration point for taking this feat the first time, and you gain 1 extra inspiration point on top of that each time you take it again. Taking it twice, for instance, yields 2 inspiration points the second time on top of the 1 you got the first time.

Prestige Classes

Chameleon [RoD, Pg. 111]

Race: Human or Doppelganger (or Changeling if in Eberron)
Skills: Bluff 8 ranks , Disguise 8 ranks , Sense Motive 4 ranks Spellcraft 4 ranks
Feats: Able Learner (if human)

The versatile prestige class for the versatile archer! The main attraction of the Chamelon is the fact that it grants stat bonuses, arcane and divine spellcasting, the ability to emulate class features including Smite and Sneak Attack, and a floating bonus feat

Divine Archers

 Deus Vult


Ah, the Divine Archer. While it does suffer from a touch of Multiple Attribute Dependency, it is quite viable with enough support. Between domains with archery-related benefits, buffing spells, metamagic, and divine feats, a priest can smite people as hard as Zeus himself!

Building a Divine Archer

The Quickstart Cleric Archer Handbook covers the basics very well. You're going to have to be careful of your race selection, as it affects your stats, feats, and what deities you can worship.It is noted that there are very few deities which both grant the War domain and have a longbow as their favored weapon. Fortunately, if your DM is open to using the Greek Pantheon, you can worship Athena, as she was historically the goddess of wisdom and military victory, known for her skill with the Bow and Arrow. This is reflected in her Deities and Demigods domains, which are Artifice, Community, Good, Knowledge, Law, and War. 
A regular Cleric can get the War domain and the Law domain to trade in for Law Devotion, while a Cloistered Cleric can trade in his additional Knowledge domain for Knowledge Devotion.

Archivists [HoH] make an interesting choice for Divine Archers as well. Thir Dark Knowledge class feature compliments Knowldge Devotion, and the can cherrypick spells from all Divine spell lists, such as Hunter's Eye.

Paladins can be built as archers, perhaps even as mounted archers to take advantage of the Paladin mount, but they do not have an easy way to obtain the feats necessary for ranged combat, nor do the rest of their class features or spells support it. That being said, on page 204 of the DMG,  the last bullet point under the "Unusual Mounts" section states that a Paladin can get a gold dragon as a mount. This is awesome and makes more sense than wielding a lance while riding a dragon.

The Spirit Shaman and Favored Soul can both be built as Archers, but neither have access to the bonus feats, turning feats, or metamagic tricks found in this section. The Favored Soul can use the Cleric's spells, while the Spirit Shaman should consult the Shapeshift Archer section for spell suggestions.

Cleric Spells

Level 1
  • Divine Favor [SRD] – Luck bonus of + to attack and damage per 3 caster levels, max +3.
  • Blessed Aim [SpC] –Grants you and allies a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls.
  • Guiding Light [SpC] – +1 circumstance bonus to attack rolls for enemies illuminated by the light.
  • Ice Slick [SpC] – Divine version of the Grease spell, which creates a 20 foot radius ice slick which enemies must balance on.
  • Snow Shoes [SpC] – Provides a +10 foot enhancement bonus to movement speed, eliminates the need to make a Balance check or Reflex save to walk on ice and snow without slipping and falling, to avoid cracking ice, or to avoid falling through cracked ice, and eliminates trails on ice. Slip these on and kick some ice!
Level 2
  • Owl's Wisdom [SRD] – More Wisdom is good, especially with Zen Archery
  • Spiritual Weapon [SRD] – A spiritual weapon that moves around and attacks people is handy for increasing your total damage output and keeping enemies away.
  • Align Weapon [SRD] – Bypassing Damage Reduction is a great thing to have in your back pocket.
  • Cloud of Knives [SpC] – You get one free attack per round at targets within 30 feet of you. This normally lasts for 1 round per caster level, but can be persisted.
  • Divine Insight [SpC] – This spell is discharged to grant a 5 + caster level (max +15) insight bonus to a single skill check. Duration of 1 hour per caster level. Good when paired with Knowledge Devotion.
  • Guidance of the Avatar [WotC Web Enhancement] – This grants a +20 bonus to a single skill check, but it must be used within one minute.
Level 3
  • Dispel Magic [SRD] – Handy if someone puts up a Wind Wall. 
  • Ghost Touch Weapon [SpC] – Don't be afraid of no ghost.
  • Girallon's Blessing [SpC] – This grants an extra pair of arms and claw attacks to go with them.
Level 4
  • Divine Power [SRD] – You need the power: Divine Power! It increases your BAB to your character level, granting extra attacks, gives a +6 enhancement bonus to Strength, and provides 1 hit point per caster level. You got the power!
  • Greater Magic Weapon [SRD] – Makes room on your weapon for more special abilities!
  • Freedom of Movement [SRD] – This ensures that you are free of crowd control.
  • Recitation [SpC] – Allies gain a +2 luck bonus to AC, attack rolls, and saving throws, +3 if they worship the same deity as the caster. 
Level 5
  • Righteous Might [SRD] – Increases your size and strength, with corresponding improvements to your damage.
  • Divine Agility [SpC] – If you're not using Zen Archery, you should use this to gain a +10 enhancement bonus to agility! The short duration means you'll have to Persist it to get any use out of it.
  • Draconic Polymorph [SpC] – Allows you to assume a form with HD equal to your caster level, capped at 20 HD. This lets you become an arrow demon.
  • Surge of Fortune [CC] – Grants a a +2 luck bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, ability checks, and spell penetration checks, as well as to Armor Class. Can be discharged to grant a 20 on your next attack roll, saving throw, skill check, ability check, or spell penetration check.
  • True Seeing [SRD] – Expensive, but it negates illusions. 
  • Wall of Stone [SRD] – Not only is it a barrier, you can use it to construct fortifications!
 Level 6
  • Dispel Magic, Greater [SRD] – For when regular Dispel Magic becomes obsolete.
  • Hero's Feast [SRD] – Breakfast of champions, grants useful bonuses.
  • Visage of the Deity [SpC] – Grants a smite attempt, in addition to a few other bonuses.
Level 7
  • Holy Transformation [SpC] – Turns you into a hound archon, granting numerous bonuses.
 Level 8
Level 9
  • Greater Visage of the Deity [SpC] – Grants a multitude of useful bonuses and abilities.


Divine Metamagic [CD, Pg. 80] – Requires the ability to Turn or Rebuke Undead
This lets you use turning attempts to pay for the level adjustment of a metamagic feat. Choose Persist Spell and enjoy your favorite buffs all day long!

Extend Spell (+1 level) [SRD]

Doubles the duration of spells you cast for a +1 level adjustment. Good for buffing.

Persistent Spell (+6 level) [CA, Pg. 81] – Requires Extend Spell
Increase the duration of a spell with a fixed or personal range to 24 hours. Good, but requires metamatic reduction. This is a three feat investment at minimum, but the benefits are immense.

Battle Blessing [CC, Pg. 55] – Requires paladin spellcasting

This improves the casting time of paladin spells by one category.

Divine Might [CW, Pg. 106] – Requires Power Attack, Turn or Rebuke Undead.

Spend a turn undead attempt to add your Charisma modifer to your weapon damage for one round. Could be useful if you had high Charisma.

Holy Warrior [CC, Pg. 60] – Requries the ability to cast 4th level spells, access to the War domain

This is a reserve feat that allows you to gain a bonus to weapon damage equal to the level of the highest War domain spell you have not cast. War domain spells are often underwhelming, so no loss there!

It also grants +1 caster level to Force spells, which may be helpful on occasion.

Law Devotion [CC, Pg. 61] – No requirements

You are the law! This feat grants you a +3 bonus to attack rolls or armor class for one minute, which you can reallocate at the beginning of your turn. The bonus increases to +5 at 10th level, and +7 at 5th level. Extra uses of this feat cost 3 turn attempts each.


Nightstick (7500 gp) [LM]

This grants you 4 extra Turn Undead attempts. Buy a few.

Arcane Archers

A good archer is not known by his arrows, but by his aim.


Combining magic talent with martial skill has been an archetype as old as D&D itself. A ranged attack strategy works well with the arcanist's ranged spells and lack of hit points; moreover, you get to take direct advantage of buffing spells. Most spells are a standard action to cast and can't be used in conjunction with archery, but swift action spells can be used to compliment your archery.

Building an Arcane Archer

They key thing to decide on is whether you want to be a spellcaster who plinks at the enemies or an archer who uses magic to enhance his archery. Given how feat intensive archery is, the latter route is preferable.

Class choice is critical. For example, Sorcerers get more spells per day, but require Charisma to cast spells, which is yet another stat to sink points into. The Wizard, on the other hand, casts off Intelligence which synergizes with Knowledge Devotion. And a Focused Specialist can get almost as many spells as a sorcerer!

The Duskblade is geared towards melee combat, but it can work for ranged combat as well, especially since it is Intelligence based like the wizard. There's a nice, simple option for arcane archers, though you may have to poach the occasional spell from the Sorcerer/Wizard spell list.

Sorcerer/Wizard Spells

Level 1
  • Arrow Mind [SpC] – Immediate action. This spell lets you threaten squares within their normal melee reach and avoid provoking Attacks of Opportunity when shooting.Blade of Blood
    Blade of Blood [SpC] – Swift action. Deal 1d6 extra damage, or take 5 points of damage to deal +2d6 extra damage. Adds up really fast with volleys!
  • Blockade [CS] – Swift action. Forms a 5 ft. wooden cube in front of you. It also floats!
  • Deflect, Lesser [SpC] – Swift action. Gain a deflection bonus of +1/3 caster levels against one attack.
  • Expeditious Retreat [SRD] – Faster movement does help with strafing enemies.
  • Grease [SRD] – It renders enemies prone and flat-footed if they balance on it without 5 ranks in Balance
  • Guided Shot [SpC] – Swift action. This spell lets you ignore range penalties due to distance and the AC bonus of any cover shot of total cover, and the miss chance granted by concealment less than total concealment. 
  • Mount [SRD] – Serves as a steed, and can also be a portable meatshield.
  • Reduce Person [SRD] – Grants a bonus to Dexterity and to attack rolls! The Strength penalty might be an issue for your bow, though.
  • Targeting Ray [SpC] – Ranged touch attack gives you and your allies a +1 insight bonus to attack rolls/3 caster levels for the duration of the spell. 
  • True Strike [SRD] – A great way to hit difficult targets and enemies in concealment! But it is a standard action to cast and only applies to one attack.
Level 2
  • Alter Self [SRD] – Grants you access to new forms, which is generally useful. You can become a troglodyte if you wnat more natural armor and a hide bonus, a Bugbear for a bonus to move silently, etc. The real power for an archer, however, is in winged humanoid forms such as the Avariel or the Raptoran.
  • Cat's Grace [SRD] – Extra Dexterity helps you hit enemies.
  • Deflect [SpC] – Swift. Grants a shield bonus of +1/2 caster levels against one attack.
  • Energy Surge, Lesser [PHBII] – Swift action. Adds +1d6 acid, cold, fire, electricity, or sonic energy damage to a weapon.
  • Fly, Swift [SPC] – Swift Action. Lets you fly for 1 round. Probably better for mobility than Levitate.
  • Glitterdust [SRD] – Blinds creatures, outlines invisible creatures.
  • Heroics [SpC] – Grants an extra feat from the Figher bonus list.
  • Invisiblity [SRD] – Allows you to position yourself and attack enemies while they are unawares.
  • Invisibility, Swift [SpC] – Swift action. A dedicated archer may get more use out of this, since you don't care about the duration and want to focus on your action economy.
  • Levitate [SRD] – Keeps you away from the enemy, but lacks mobility.
  • See Invisibility [SRD] – You have to see the enemy if you want to hit them.
  • Sonic Weapon [SpC] – Weapon deals 1d6 Sonic damage.
  • Spider Climb [SRD] – This lets you move around over all sorts of terrain.
  • Sure Strike [SpC] –Grants an insight bonus of +1/3 caster levels to your next attack roll.
Level 3
  • Crown of Protection [SpC] – Gain a +1 deflection bonus to AC and a +1 resistance bonus to saves. Discharge as an immediate action to gain a +4 bonus to AC or saves for 1 round.
  • Blink [SRD] – Grants numerous defensive and mobility options, and allows you to attack enemies as if you were invisible!
  • Dispel Magic [SRD] – Handy if someone puts up a Wind Wall. Note: Level 4 for Duskblades.
  • Displacement [SRD] – Grants total concealment, but has a short duration.
  • Energy Surge [PHBII] – Swift action. +2d6 of your chosen energy type in damage this time.
  • Explosive Runes [SRD] – If this is triggered by the arrow breaking, or if the DM rules that enemies will read runes on the arrow shaft, you should definitely apply these to your arrows.
  • Fire Arrow [SRD] – A pittance of fire damage is not worth it.
  • Haste [SRD] – Bonus to attack rolls, movement speed, and an extra attack at your highest BAB on a full attack? Yes!
  • Heroism [SRD] – A +2 morale bonus on attack rolls, saves, and skill checks.
  • Magic Weapon, Greater [SRD] – Both increases attack and damage and saves room for special enchantments!
  • Phantom Steed [SRD] – A great upgrade from the Mount spell, and it can even fly at higher levels!
  • Shrink Item [SRD] – The (ab)uses for this spell are endless, but it depends on your DM's interpretation of conservation of momentum.
  • Tiny Hut [SRD] – This is not intended to be a combat spell, but it can be used as a portable pillbox since the hut is opaque when viewed from the outside (granting occupants total concealment), but transparent from within. 
  • Wings of Cover [RotC] – This is a sorcerer only spell worth mentioning because it grants total cover against one attack as an immediate action.
Level 4
  • Dimension Door [SRD] – Great tactical teleportation spell for ranged characters.
    Invisibility, Greater
    [SRD] – Now you no longer lose invisibility for attacking!
  • Ruin Delver's Fortune [SpC] – Immediate action. Mentioned because it grants a luck bonus equal to your Charisma modifier to fortitude, reflex, or will saves (your choice.). If you need temporary hit points, it grants 4d8+Charisma modifier temporary hit points.
  • Sturdy Cottage [SRD] – You can use this as an impromptu fortification.
  • Shadow Conjuration [SRD] – Shadow Conjuration offers you access to many versatile spells. In addition, since you know it's an illusion, you can see through a Shadow Fog Cloud while the enemy would have to succeed on their will save to realize it is an illusion, if they get to interact with it at all.
  • Polymorph [SRD] – You can turn into many useful forms with this, but there aren't many that are helpful to archers per-se. Thri-Keen are good for the stat bonuses, extra arms, and the Deflect Arrows racial bonus feat. If you have the Outsider subtype, in which case you want to be an Arrow Demon [MMIII].
Level 5
  • Dimension Jumper [CM] – Swift action. Teleport up to 30 feet per round as a move action for the spell duration
  • Greater Blink [SpC] – Controlled blinking back and forth! You can now cast spells while blinking and they will land on target!
  • Sonic Shield [SpC] – This grants a +4 deflection bonus to AC and both damages and pushes away people who attack you in melee.
Level 6
  • Dispel Magic, Greater [SRD] – For when regular Dispel Magic becomes obsolete.
  • Symbol of Fear [SRD] – You can put it n your arrows. It's a pity that many enemies are immune to fear.
  • Tenser's Transformation [SRD] – IT'S A TRAP!
  • True Seeing [SRD] – Expensive, but it negates illusions.
Level 7
  • Ethereal Jaunt [SRD] – It lets you attack ethereal creatures if you don't have a Ghost Touch weapon. You should, so this is only useful for defense and mobility.
Level 8
  • Moment of Prescience [SRD] – Gain an insight bonus equal to your caster level (max +25) on one attack roll, opposed ability or skill check, or save.
  • Superior Invisibility [SpC] – Not only are you invisible, you are pretty much immune to detection spells aside from True Seeing!
Level 9
  • Shapechange [SRD] – Turn into differnt forms for fun and profit! The Arrow Demon is good, but the Chronotyryn [FF] is better. Two rounds worth of actions is nothing to sneeze at! If that's not an option, you can always go for the Choker [SRD], who gets an extra move or standard action each round.
  • Time Stop [SRD] – Not that useful for an archer, but you can use the time to prepare for combat.


Arcane Strike [CW, Pg. 96] – BAB +4, ability to cast 3rd level Arcane spells.

You sacrifice a spellslot to gain a bonus on all your attack rolls for 1 round equal to the level of the spell sacrificed, as well as extra damage equal to 1d4 points x the level of the spell sacrificed. The bonus you add to your attack rolls is limted by your BAB, but the damage is not capped.

Practiced Spellcaster [CD, Pg. 82] – Requires 4 ranks in Spellcraft.

This helps make up for caster levels lost to multiclassing or prestige classes.

Smiting Spell (+1 level) [PHBII] – Requires BAB +1, caster level 1st

You can transfer a touch spell into melee weapon or ammuniton. It discharges when it strikes the enemy, but must be used within 1 minute of being cast or else it dissipates.

Prestige Classes

Arcane Archer [SRD]

Base Attack Bonus: +6
Race: Elf (or) or Half-Elf
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow or shortbow)
Spells: Ability to cast 1st level arcane spells.

This is the one everyone thinks of. The Arcane Archer. How does it do? Not that great. Its is geared towards martial characters who are light on the spellcasting; it grants full BAB, but does not offer spellcasting progression. Furthermore, you have to be an elf or half-elf. Elves generally get a penalty to Constitution, and the races that don't get penalties to Strength or Intelligence, all of which you may need.

The abilities are:
  • Enhance Arrow – Grants a +1 enhancement bonus to the Arcane Archer's arrows, with an additional +1 for ever 2 levels above 1st.
  • Imbue Arrow – This is what most people are interested in when they take this class. The second level ability lets you put an Area of Effect spells in the arrow that is then centered where the arrow lands, even if the spell would normally be centered on yourself, such as Antimagic Field.
  • Seeker Arrow – At 4th level, you may launch an arrow that seeks out a known target within its range as long as there is no unavoidable obstacle. It is limited by the fact that you may only do this once per day.
  • Phase Arrow – At 6th level, you can shoot an arrow that goes through nonmagical barriers. Once per day, again.
  • Hail of Arrows – At 8th level, you can give up your regular attacks to launch one arrow at each enemy within range, capped by your Arcane Archer level. This is worse than using your full attack. Once per day, thank God.
  • Arrow of Death – At 10th level, you can launch an Arrow of Death at an enemy which forces a DC 20 Fortitude save against ddeath. This arrow takes one day to craft, lasts for one year, and you cannot have more than on eat a time. This is extra useless.
Judgement: This is only really worth taking up to level 2.

Eldritch Knight [SRD]

Proficiency with all martial weapons
Must be able to cast 3rd level Arcane spells

This class grants Full BAB and 9/10th spellcasting progression. The first level does not grant casting, but does give a Fighter bonus feat. It's fine as a filler, but rather boring.

Knight Phantom [FN]

Skills: Ride 4 ranks
Feats: Still Spell
Proficiency in all martial weapons.
Ability to cast phantom steed.
Special: Citizen of Aundair, member of the Order of the Knights Arcane.

The Knight Phantom is a full BAB, 9/10th casting class much like the Eldritch Knight. Instead of a bonus feat, it grants:
  • Phantom Steed – A 1st level Knight Phantom can summon a Phantom Steed a number of times per day equal to his Knight Phantom level. His levels of Knight Phantom stack with those of his highest arcane spellcasting class for determining the caster level.
  • Somatic Prowess – A 1st level Knight Phantom learns to cast spells in light armor. Handy.
  • Aspect of the Phantom – At 4th level, a Knight Phantom gets to hover above the ground and walk on water a number of rounds equal to his Knight Phantom levels.
  • Countenance of the Phantom – At 7th level, a Knight Phantom gains concealment with a 20% miss chance for a number of rounds equal  to his Knight Phantom level. He can also cause each creature within 10 feet of him to become shaken unless they pass a will save, but the DC is 10 + his class level + his Charisma modifier, and enemies will likely be immune to fear effects at that level anyways.
  • Blade of the Phantom – At 10th level, a Knight Phantom can give a melee weapon the Brilliant Energy property for a number of rounds per day equal to his Knight Phantom level.
Judgement: Good at first level. There's nothing wrong with continuing on to progress BAB and spellcasting if you have nothing better to do, but it's not great either.

Inspiring Archers

At one hundred yards, volley fire present! Aim! FIRE!
-Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, Zulu (1964)


The primary focus of this guide is on building an archer character, but many of the spells used by Divine and Arcane Archers apply to the rest of the party. What if we build an archer whose emphasis was on supporting the rest of the party while they fight?

Building an Inspiring Archer

As far as support classes go, the one most suited for an Inspiring Archer is the Bard due to Inspire Courage, which can provide substantial bonuses to attack and damge rolls. The Bard only gets shortbow proficiency, so he will have to either multiclass or spend a feat to access a better weapon.
Fortunately, the Marshal [MinH] is a martial support class that is proficient with all martial weapons, grants the useful Skill Focus: Diplomacy feat, and a minor aura which applies a circumstance bonus equal to the Marshal's Charisma bonus to various checks and rollls. A popular choice is the Motivate Dexterity Aura for a bonus to Dexterity checks, Dexterity based skill checks, and initiative checks. Not only does the Marshal's supurb leadership and impeccable orders result in his team going first in combat, but he can even make his teammates more stealthy by yelling at them! 
This pairs well with the Bard's Mimicking Song ACF [DS] which replaces the Inspire Competence bonus with a +2 bonus to Move Silently checks for all allies within 30 feet. Your team can literally sing and dance their way into an enemy stronghold to conduct ambushes. But more on that elsewhere.

 The next level gets you a Major Aura, one of which grants a +1 bonus to ranged attack rolls, and a third level grants you another Minor Aura. You could select Motivate Intelligence to gain a bonus to Knowledge Devotion checks, or Motivate Charisma for social fun, but you've lost out on two levels of Bard spellcasting, Bardic Music, and skill points.  This is probably as far as you want to go as a Marshal, and that's only if you really, really want that second aura.

Bard Spells

Level 1
  • Grease [SRD] – It renders enemies prone and flat-footed if they balance on it without 5 ranks in balance.
  • Focusing Chant [SpC] – Grants a +1 circumstance bonus to attack rolls, skill checks, and ability checks for 1 minute.
  • Improvisation [SpC] – You gain a floating pool of luck points which can be used to improve attack rolls, skill checks, and ability checks. Works well with Knowledge Devotion.
  • Inspirational Boost [SpC] – Swift action. Increases the bonus of your Inspire Courage by 1.
  • Targeting Ray [SpC] – Ranged touch attack gives you and your allies a +1 insight bonus to attack rolls/3 caster levels for the duration of the spell.
Level 2
  • Alter Self [SRD] – Like the Arcane Archer, you can get a great deal of mileage out of this. Perhaps more, since you will have social skills.
  • Glitterdust [SRD] – You need to have a way to detect invisible opponents since your don't get See Invisibility until later. The debuff is also nice.
  • Invisibility [SRD] – You have the skills for sneaking, making this a great choice.
  • Pyrotechnics [SRD] – Notable because it is a long range spell. You can blind a small army with this and then pepper them from a distance while they are helpless to return fire.
  • Fly, Swift [SpC] – Lets you fly for 1 round. Probably better for mobility than Levitate.
  • Sonic Weapon [SpC] – Weapon deals 1d6 Sonic damage.
Level 3
  • Blink [SRD] – Grants numerous defensive and mobility options, and allows you to attack enemies as if you were invisible!
  • Dispel Magic [SRD] – Handy if someone puts up a Wind Wall.
  • Displacement [SRD] – Grants total concealment, but has a short duration.
  • G'Elsewhere Chant [SpC] – Useful for getting out of a spot in a hurry, but you wind up in a random safe location 100 feet away.
  • Haste [SRD] – Bonus to attack rolls, movement speed, and an extra attack at your highest BAB on a full attack. 
  • See Invisibility [SRD] – You have to see the enemy if you want to hit them.
  • Tiny Hut [SRD] – You can't afford to spend one of your few spells known on this.
Level 4
  • Dimension Door [SRD] – This is still good, but you are tight on spell slots so be careful.
  • Freedom of Movement [SRD] – It makes sure you're free to move around and shoot people.
  • Ruin Delver's Fortune [SpC] – Immediate action. Mentioned because it grants a luck bonus equal to your Charisma modifier to fortitude, reflex, or will saves (your choice.). If you need temporary hit points, it grants 4d8+Charisma modifier temporary hit points.
  • Shadow Conjuration [SRD] – The versatility of this spell will make up for your limited spell list.
  • Siren's Grace [SpC] – You gain a +4 enhancement bonus to Charisma, add your Charisma modifier as a deflection bonus to armor class, and gain a +8 bonus to perform checks, in addition to a swim speed, the ability to breathe underwater, and make attacks normally under water. Useful in general and incredible in an aquatic environment.
Level 5
  • Dimension Jumper [CM] – Swift action. Teleport up to 30 feet per round as a move action for the spell duration.
Level 6
  • Dispel Magic, Greater [SRD] – Dispelling is always nice.
  • Hero's Feast [SRD] – It's not bad, but you grant bigger bonuses to attack and saves against fear with your Bardic Music.


Dragonfire Inspiration [DM,Pg. 17] – Requires Cha 11, Bardic Music, dragonblood subtype

In addition to Inspire Courage, you can imbue your alliees with Dragonfire. They gain 1d6 points of fire damage for every point of your Inspire Courage bonus. If you are dragonblooded, the energy type of your draconic heritage will determine the energy damage. This stacks with Inspire Courage.

Leadership [SRD] – Requires character level 6th

This is good for all classes, but you have the Charisma to make it truly shine! Get yourself a sidekick, grab a bunch of minions, buff them to the gills, and have them volley your enemies to death.

Martial Study [ToB, Pg. 31] – No prerequisites

You gain a maneuver which you can use once per encounter. This is a great candiate for the Heroics spell.

Martial Stance [ToB, Pg. 31] – Requires one maneuver

You could use this to snag Lion's Roar or Assassin's stance. Another candidate for Heroics.

Melodic Casting [CM, Pg. 44] – Requires Perform 4 ranks, Spellcraft 4 ranks, Bardic Music class feature

This lets you substitute a Perform check for a Concentration check when casting spells. It also allows you to maintain your bard song while casting spells and activating command word and spell completion items.

Song of the Heart [ECS, Pg. 60] – Perform 6 ranks, Bardic Music class feature, inspire competence ability

This increases the bonus granted by your Bardic Music by +1.

Words of Creation [BoED, Pg. 48] – Requires Int 15, Cha 15, base Will save bonus +5

This allows you to use the Words of Creation, which offer many bonuses. For Bardic Music specifically, it doubles the bonuses granted by your songs. Ask your DM what the order of operation is if you have Words of Creation and other  means of boosting bardic music.


Badge of Valor (1400 gp) [MiC, Pg. 207]

Activating the Badge of Valor is an immediate action. It grants you and your allies a +2 bonus on the next save vs charm or fear effects. If Inspire Courage is active, it boosts the bonus by +1. This item functions 3 times per day.

Lute-Bow (250 gp) [City]

Your lute now serves as a shortbow. Stylish and functional!

Psionic Archers

 The arrow is an extension of the self.


Psionic archers, much like Divine and Arcane Archers, use psionics to augment their archery, reduce the cost of their powers, and manipulate the action economy.

Building a Psionic Archer

There are three classes suitable as a base for Psionic Archers.

The first is the Psychic Warrior. Not only does it gain bonus feats, The Mind's Eye Web Enhancement granted it two alternative class features:
  • Mantled Warrior: Loses the Psychic Warrior's 2nd level bonus feat in exchange for learning one of the Ardent's mantles and gaining the mantle ability. The mantles most suitable for archery are: 
    • Freedom for the +10 ft bonus to movement speed when psionically focused and access toof mobility powers
    • Knowledge for the ability to discharge your psionic focus for a +5 to Knowledge checks.
    • Might for the bonus power points.
    • Time for the +2 bonus to initiative and access to Anticipatory Strike, which allows you to take a turn as an immediate action.
  • Soulbound Weapon: Trades the 2nd level bonus feat for the the ability to call a Soulbound Weapon and the Weapon Focus feat for that weapon.Your first level power must be Call Weaponry. 
    • From now on, you may use the Call Weaponry power to summon your Soulbound Weapon, which gains a +1 enhancement bonus for every 4 manifester levels you possess. 
    • In addition, you may augment Call Weaponry: for each additional 5 power points you spend, you may add a weapon enhancement of +1 value to the weapon. This offers a great amount of flexibility in your choice of weapon enhancements.
The second is the Ardent. It is a very flexible class with a rotating selection of mantles, and The Mind's Eye gave it two great alternative class features as well.
  • Dominant Ideal causes you to lose the mantle you get at 10th level. In return, you pick a mantle whose powers you can apply metapsionic feats to without expending your focus, and it reduces the cost of applying metapsionic feats by 2.
    • The Time mantle would be great for this. Your other mantle should be the Freedom mantle for mobility. Conflict is probably not worth it.
  • Substitute Power allows you to customize an existing mantle by substituting its powers with alternative powers which must share a similar theme. This requires DM approval, so results may vary.
The third is the Soulknife. The Mind's Eye gives it two excellent alternative class features:
  • Hidden Talent straight up replaces Wild Talent, and is better since it grants a 1st level power and power points.
  • Bonus Feats is completely uninspired as far as naming goes, but replaces Psychic Strike with bonus feats, which must be either feats designed for soulknifes or ones that the Mind Blade could benefit from.
These make the Soulknife better, but it remains a melee focused class until the Soulbow prestige class is used – but more on that later.

Psychic Warrior Powers

Level 1
  • Call Weaponry [SRD] – Good spell for summoning weapons. Essential for the Soulbound Warrior.
  • Metaphysical Weapon [SRD] – Grants enhancement bonuses to weapons.
  • Precognition, Offensive [SRD] – A +1 bonus to attack rolls. Short duration. Does not augment well.
  • Prescience, Offensive [SRD] – A +2 bonus to damage rolls. Short duration. Does not augment well.
Level 2
  • Concealing Amorpha [SRD] – Grants you 20% concealment.
  • Detect Hostile Intent [SRD] – This prevents you from being surprised or caught flat-footed, allows you to detect hostile creatures within 30 feet of you, and lets you make Sense Motive checks as a free actin against those close to you.
  • Dissolving Weapon [SRD] – Instant duration until weapon is used to attack someone.
  • Hustle [SRD] – Swift action. Gain a move action. Scoot and shoot!
  • Perfect Archery [CP] – Swift action. You can fire a bow without provoking Attacks of Opportunity.
  • Strength of My Enemy [SRD] – Buff yourself, debuff the enemy. But you need a bow that automatically adjusts for strength to gain the full benefits of this power.
  • Wall Walker [SRD] – Could be useful for maneuvering.
Level 3
  • Concealing Amorpha, Greater [SRD] – Total concealment greatly improves your survivability.
  • Dimension Slide [SRD] – Teleport a short distance.
  • Mental Barrier [SRD]  – I have trouble imagining why you would take this if Rings of Deflection exist.
  • Vampiric Blade [SRD] – Hurt others and heal yourself!
Level 4
  • Dimension Door, Psionic [SRD] – The psionic versin of Dimension Door can be augmented to cast as a move action, which combines well with Hustle. The Complete Psionic version offers additional augmentation options.
  • Freedom of Movement, Psionic [SRD] – Freedom of Movement lets you Hustle until you run out of powerpoints.
  • Steadfast Perception [SRD] – Not only do you see through figments and illusions, you also get a +6 enhancement bonus to Spot and Search checks.
  • Truevenom Weapon [SRD] – Swift action. Coats your weapon in poison.
  • Weapon of Energy [SRD] – This is very disappointing.
Level 5
  • Change Fate [WotC Web Enhancement] – Could save you in an emergency, but costs 500 XP.
  • Empower Weapon [CP] – Store a power in a weapon? Sure, why not.
Level 6
  • Mind Blank, Personal [SRD] – Now you will be immune to illusions and enchantments!


Expanded Knowledge [SRD] – Requires manifester level 3rd

You gain a single power one level lower than the highest level you can manifest, even one from another class or discipline. Good candidates are:
  • Anticipatory Strike [CP] – Actin economy shenanigans are always good.
  • Dimension Hop [CP]
  • Fly, Psionic [SRD]
  • Metamorphosis [SRD] – Psionic Polymorph, good for the same reasons as regular Polymorph. Try the Thri-Keen for the stat bonuses, extra arms, and the Deflect Arrows racial bonus feat.
  • Psychic Reformation [SRD] – This lets you redo skill point allocations, feat choices, and powers known, which grants you a substantial amount of flexibility. It costs 50 XP for each character level you choose to reform, so use it sparingly.
  • Schism [SRD] – You get to take an additional standard action every round for mental actions, such as manifesting. Manifesting Psychic Reformation after Schism enables you to tailor your build on the fly. In additon, you may also feel like a Psionic Catholic Church.
Psicrystal Affinity [SRD] – Requires manifester level 1st

This enables you to gain a Psicrystal, which is like a familiar in many ways.

Psicrystal Containment [SRD] – Requires manifester level 3rd

You may psionically focus your psicrystal as a full round action, which means you double your number of focuses.

Psionic Shot [SRD] – Requires Point Blank Shot

Expend your Psionic Focus to deal +2d6 damage on your ranged attack.

Greater Psionic Shot [SRD] – Requires Point Blank Shot, Psinic Shot, BAB +5

You ranged attack now deals +4d6 damage when you expend your Psionic Focus.

Fell Shot [SRD] – Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot, Psionic Shot, BAB +5.

You can expend your Psionic Focus to resolve a ranged attack as a touch attack.

Return Shot [SRD] – Requires Point Blank Shot, Psionic Shot, Fell Shot, BAB +3

You must expend your Psionic Focus to negate one ranged attack and send it back at the attacker with the same attack bonuses. This only works if you are aware of the attack and not flat-footed.

Prestige Classes

Slayer [SRD]

BAB +4
Skills: Knowledge (Dungeoneering) 4 ranks
Feats: Track

This turns you into an Ranger, with extra bonuses against a type of Psionic creature of your choice.. Not terribly useful outside of that.

Soulbow [CP]

Skills: Autohypnosis 8 ranks.
Feats: Point Blank Shot.
Special: Throw mind blade class feature.
This prestige class redeems the Soulknife completely by giving it combat abilities that are both viable and awesome:
  • Bonus feats You get one at odd levels, which must come from a list of archery related feats. The prestige class explicitly notes that DMs should expand the list based on the material available in the game.
  • Mind Arrows – These are basically a new shape for your Mind Blade, except that they behave as if they were shot out of a composite longbow. The damage is based on your Wisdom modifier. With Zen Archery, both attack and damage key off of Wisdom!
  • Mind Arrow Enhancements – Not only do you get enhancement bonuses, you can also get weapon properties, including the Lucky property which is not normally found on ranged weapons! Enyour your free reroll with every attack! Do ya' feel lucky, punk? Well do ya'?
  • Close Combat Shot – You can shoot people without incurring attacks of opportunity.
  • Phase Arrow – This one's pretty bad, but it has no cap on uses, so it's still better than the Arcane Archer's version.
As a bonus, you can also wield a shield for extra protection. This prestige class offers everything an archer could want. Since there's no need to go all in with Soulknife levels, I recommend dipping two levels into Ranger for Rapid Shot.

Shapechaning Archers

Take your strinking paws off of me!


The ability to shapeshift into various forms offers characters a grat deal of versatility, but this applies more to melee combat than to archery. Most bows to not automatically adjust for changing strength, and most forms do not offer special bonuses for archery – if, indeed, they have the opposible thumbs needed for wielding bows and arrows in the first place.

Building a Shapeshift Archer

The Wild Shape Ranger [SRD] trades in his Combat Style for Wild Shape for small and medium animals. The Baboon is the most likely to be able to use a bow without the DM objecting, but this doesn't offer much improvement over a regular archer outside of its climb speed. The Master of Many Forms prestige class opens up more options for Wild Shape forms such as giants, monstrous humanoids, fety, etc, though none of them seem particularly suited for archery.

The Druid is in the same boat as the Wild Shape Ranger, except he has less BAB and more spellcasting. While the Druid does have many battlefield control spells, making a battlefield control druid is beyond the scope of this guide. Offhand, I can recommend the Obscuring Snow. [Frost] and Snowsight [Frost] spells.

Both classes get Animal Companions, which opens up the possibility of Mounted Combat. But at that point, you're probably not shapeshifting.


There aren't many good spells for the archer Druid in core.
  • Faerie Fire (1st) outlines enemies and negates concealment. 
  • Longstrider (1st) lets you move faster. 
  • Shapechange (1st) lets you exploit the same forms as the Arcane Archer.

Druids get some more archery support outside of core, though.
  • Hawkeye [SpC] – 1st level spell. increases the range increment for ranged weapons you wield by 50%, and grants  +5 competence bonus on Spot checks.
  • Snowshoes [SpC] – Handy for the movement bonus and ability to avoid ice hazards. Strictly superior to Longstrider.
  • Master Air [SpC] – 2ndl evel spell. Allows you to fly at decent speed with good maneuverability, but it doesn't last long.
  • Fly, Swift [SpC] – 3rd level. Druids get this too.
  • Owl's Insight [SpC] – 5th level. Subject gains enhancement bonus to Wisdom equal to half your caster level. Works well with Zen Archery.
  • Siren's Grace [SpC] – 5th level. Druids don't benefit from the Charisma boost or Charisma to AC, but it still lets them swim, breathe in water, and use ranged weapons underwater.
  • Wind Tunnel [SpC] – 5th level. Grants you and your allies a +5 competence bonus to hit and doubles the range incriment of ranged weapons. You could make a pretty good Druid sniper with this and Hawkeye!

The Ranger gets a few spells out of core.
  • Arrow Mind [SpC] – Immediate action. A 1st level spell that let the caster threaten squares within their normal melee reach and avoid provoking Attacks of Opportunity when shooting.
  • Guided Shot [SpC] – Swift action. A 1st level spell that lets you ignore range penalties due to distance and the AC bonus of any cover shot of total cover, and the miss chance granted by concealment less than total concealment. 
  • Hawkeye [SpC] – 1st level spell. increases the range increment for ranged weapons you wield by 50%, and grants  +5 competence bonus on Spot checks.
  • Hunter's Mercy [SpC] – Your next attack with a bow (not including crossbows) is an automatic critical hit. Must be used before the end of your next turn. As this is a standard action to cast, that makes it difficult to use.
  • Sniper's Shot [SpC] – Swift action. 1st level spell that removes the distance limit on ranged Sneak Attacks for one round.
  • Snowshoes [SpC] – Handy for the movement bonus and ability to avoid ice hazards. Strictly superior to Longstrider.
  • Exacting Shot [SpC] – Swift action. 2nd level spell automatically confirms critical hits against favored enemies and ignores concealment less than total concealment..
  • Haste, Swift [SpC] – Swift action. 2nd level spell which grants a personal Haste for 1d4 rounds. Not bad.
  • Hunter's Eye [PHBII] – Swift action. A 2nd level spell which is a swift action to cast and grants +1d6 Sneak Attack damage/3 caster levels.
  • Arrowsplit [CoR] – Swift action. A 3rd level spell which causes one masterwork arrow or bolt to split into 1d4+1 identical copies. All missiles strike the same target, and each has its own attack roll.


Assume Supernatural Ability [SS, Pg. 30] – Requires Wis 13 and the ability to assume a new form magically

Supernatural abilities can be quite interesting, but this comes at a cost: you take a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks, and in stressful situations (like cobmat), you must succeed on a DC 19 Will save in order to use the ability.

Improved Assume Supernatural Ability [SS, Pg. 35] – Requires Assume Supernatural Ability, Wis 17, and the ability to assume a new form magically

This gets rid of the -2 penalty, but does not remove the need for a will save.

[CAdv, Pg. 114] – Requires Wild Shape, Listen 4 ranks

Expend one use of Wild Shape to gain Blindsense for 1 minute per HD.

Cheetah's Speed [CD, Pg. 79] – Requires Wild Shape

You expend one use of Wild Shape to boost your base land speed to 50 feet per round for one hour and sprint like a cheetah once during that time. Could be useful for an archer.

Climb Like an Ape [CAdv, Pg. 114] – Requires Wild Shape

You can expend one use of Wild Shape to gain a climb speed equal to your base land speed for 10 minutes per HD. The feat also grants a +8 racial bonus to climb checks and the ability to take 10 on Climb checks. Not the most useful feat.

Eagle's Wings [CD, Pg. 80] – Requires Wild Shape

You expend one use of Wild Shape in order to fly like an eagle out to the sea. You gain a flight speed of 60 feet with average maneuverability for one hour.

Natural Spell [SRD] – Requires Wis 13, wild shape ability.

Spellcasting while shapeshifted is a no brainer.

Prestige Classes

Master of Many Forms [CAdv, Pg. 58]

Feats: Alertness, Endurance
Special:Wildshape class feature

This class improves your Wild Shape and allows you to assume the forms of
  • A giant at 2nd level
  • A monstrous humanoid at 3rd level
  • A fey at 4th level
  • A vermin at 5th level
  • An aberration at 6th level
  • A plant at 7th level
  • An ooze at 8th level
  • An elemental at 9th level
  • A dragon at 10th level
You also get to Wold Shape as a move action at 3rd level, gain the extraordinary special qualities of forms at 7th level, and become a shapechanger immune to aging penalties at 10th level.

Warshaper [CW, Pg. 89]

BAB +4
Special: Must be able to change shape in one of the following five ways:
  • Change shape supernatural ability (aranea, hound archon, barghest, doppelganger, rakshasa, slaad).
  • Shapechanger subtype (lycanthropes, phasm).
  • Polymorph as a spell-like ability (astral deva, planetar, solar, couatl, marilith, bronze dragon, gold dragon, silver dragon, efreeti, leonal guardinal, night hag, ogre mage, pixie).
  • Able to cast the Polymorph spell.
  • Wild shape or similar class feature (bear warrior, druid).
  • The alternate form ability (possesed by quasits, vampires, and others) is insufficient to become a warshaper.
Warshaper makes you immune to stunning and critical hits, augments natural weapons, grants a +4 bonus to Strength and Constitution, grants fast healing, and, for characters who use a spell or class feature to change shape, the ability to shapechange multiple times during the duration of the ability. It is more geared to melee than archery, but the abilities are handy, and you can always turn into a bear and bite people if arrows are ineffective.


Arms of the Naga (56000) [SS, Pg. 55]
A harness with two medium sized arms that allows the wearer to use items designed for creatures with humanoid hands and arms. If the wearer already has arms, arms of the naga allow the use of a two-handed weapon plus another piece of equipment. In a stressful or demanding situation (such as combat) the wearer must make a DC 19 Will save or take a –2 penalty on all attack rolls, saves, skill checks, and ability checks until the situation passes.


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