This Handbook is to assist in Optimizing Archery, for all types. To get the most from Ranged Attacks with the Classes, Feats, and Prestige Classes Available
Before we start, I would like to set some things Straight first. Ranged Attacks are what we are considering here, but What Ranges.... to make things Easier for everyone lets do this...... everything should be broken down into one of 4 Range Categories:
Point Blank Range: ..... from 1-30', this is the range for Sneak Attacks, and other Ranged precision attacks, also the Feats: Weapon Focus, and Point Blank Shot work in this range. In addition, most Dungeon Encounters will occur in this range.
Tactical Range: .... from 31-130', this is generally the Maximum Range for Dungeon Encounters. Also it is the Range where Charge attacks start(most average Creatures have a Base Speed between 30-60'/round, and Charge @ 60-120'
Long Range .... from 131-500' , this is a good Spotting range in the Wilderness environments(subject to local conditions), also this is one of the best ranges for general Volley fire, and Full attacks with bows.
Extreme Range 500+(assume Composite longbow with Far Shot : 1650' +) you can get even farther, but Range Penalties also occur for Spot checks to See your Target, that are hard to avoid.
Now you want to be an Archer .... so to begine with, an Archer requires some thought as to "What Kind of Archer you would like to be"?. What type of Attacks are you thinking of Focusing on? The Basic types are:
1) Precision Damage Dealer
2) Tactical Damage Dealer
3) Long Range Damage
Then you need to determine how you will boost Damage?
1) Ranged Spell Enhanced Damage(Gish Types)
2) Psionic Buffing
3) Martial Ability only
for most archers....the first place to start......KSB Snow Owl's archer builds
solbergb;11718027 wrote:My advice for archers.
1.Attributes: Your strength is as important as your dex, possibly moreso if you hit pretty accurately. Don't neglect it and don't consider a build that dumps strength. You can usually swipe some points from constitution in a pinch since archers really don't want to be tanks due to the fragile nature of the bow (easy to disarm, easy to sunder, and if you are grappled or tripped, most of your offense goes away) but don't go too far down that road.
2.Range: Stay the hell away from feats/PRC's that encourage you to be in melee range or within 30' of the target unless they come for free (such as ranger's multishot). See the last part of #1. It's ok to have something like arrow mind to use in a pinch but it's usually better to just open the range up rather than try to tank and shoot. It is too easy to disable the projectile weapon.
3.Attacks: Stay the hell away from feats/PRC's that focus on a single attack, unless they come for free, such as ranger's multishot. You will ALWAYS do more damage with a full attack volley, and that full attack volley can be done from a long way away, where the single shot precision stuff is always relatively close range. Because the full attack is so much better, consider working quickdraw into your build, or expect to face the social consequences of always having your bow ready to fire.
4. Skills: The spot skill is probably the most vital non-archery thing an archer needs. Not only does it help you aim your volleys, but it means encounters start from further away, because you see the bad guys before they ambush you. A correlary is many archers are good scouts, because it is in their interest to be better at the combo of spot/hide than most of their opponents...any fight where they spot and aren't spotted they can start at a range that suits them, not their opponents.
5. Saves: Most archers will suck at will saves. Rather than going crazy about it and weakening your build trying to shore that up...note that most will save spells are both targeted and short range. Distance alone makes you immune to dominate, fear, tasha's laughter, etc...takes a bit more for hold person. If you can't be seen you can't be affected. 5' step behind full cover after shooting and you're immune to those nasty mind effects for another round. If you just can't stand to be without a good will save, some of the better options are pious templar, holy liberator or occult slayer. A couple levels of monk costs you a BAB but makes you more durable to spellfire - evasion, boosts to all 3 saves and deflect arrows (you always have a free hand, and usually can see any other enemies) rather than combat reflexes are helpful, as is improved grapple, both as a defense and as something to do in environments where the bow won't work well (high winds, underwater, helping a grappled friend before you have improved precise shot)
6.Damage: Your role is to do lots of damage, every single round. That is the only thing you bring to the table in combat. If you aren't doing damage comparable to a BDF in melee full attack or a fully optomized ray-blaster arcanist, you're not doing your job. Invest feats, get a better bow, do something to fix the situation.
7. Feats: If you don't have point blank, precise and rapid shot by 3rd level, you probably aren't really an archer. If you don't take improved precise by level 12, you also will be underperforming. With introduction of ranged weapon mastery (PHB2), fitting in weapon spec is much more attractive than it used to be.
8.Quantity: you do your damage with many, smaller shots. You MUST be able to penetrate DR. That means silver and cold iron at level 1, adamantine by mid-levels, holy around level 10-12 for most adventurers and maybe elemental bane backup bow or just arrows, because you can't actually bypass their DR. If you have access to races of wild, being able to do slashing with serpenttongue helps with plants, zombies and ranged sundering. Some things that need blunt can't be affected by nonlethal (lich, for example). Have a plan for that situation that doesn't involve full attacking it and doing 1-2 points of damage per shot.
Other useful Links:
The 3.5 Ranger Handbook
Swift Hunter Guidebook:
My Optimized Hail-Of-Arrows Build by kadeity
The Fighter's Handbook -- 2007