I have a friend who considers himself an aficionado of medieval warfare and combat. We’ll call him Kevin. Kevin thinks some things in the game are dumb – greatswords and longswords, for example. Why? Reasons. And if you ask Kevin to explain it, he’ll gladly share his passion with you. Sometimes we agree – like with the silliness of combat archery.
There’s an archetype of archer exemplified by Legolas in the Lord of the Rings movies. He moves dextrously through the melee, launching an arrow (sometimes more than one) at the closest combatant. Kevin thinks this is dumb – but it’s cinematically pretty badass. There’s another archetype that more closely reflects the reality of medieval warfare. The medieval archer specializes in high volleys and is rewarded for distance and heavier draw weight. Kevin thinks this is what archery should look like – but that’s boring as white paint. The third archetype is the target shooter. He specializes in silent approach, hitting his static target from a distance. Think of the hunter or competitive archer. Kevin thinks this is real but has no combat applications – I tend to agree.
There’s a 4th archetype – the mounted archer – that has historical notoriety but sees very little support in-game. Kevin loves the Mongols so he can tell you all about mounted archers. But honestly, mounted combat is so borked that we can’t begin to address mounted archery until we’ve done a better job making mounted combat work. That’s too much for this article. So we’re skipping this archetype.
The game tries to do 1 and 3 but does them together. There’s a smattering of feats that look like attempts at archetype 2. Archery ends up with one playstyle – stand still and full attack. I’ve done it – the numbers are impressive, but the fun is nonexistent.
We can do better. So let’s have some fun with it.
Modified or Deprecated Feats
- Modified: Point Blank Shot, Far Shot, Precise Shot, Improved Precise Shot, Penetrating Shot, Sharp-Shooting, Manyshot, Improved Manyshot, Shot on the Run
- Deprecated: Greater Manyshot, Rapid Shot [more shots aggravates my hatred of iterative attacks]
- Shortbow, longbow, and their composite versions.
We have three archetypes, so we need to create three feat trees. The “Point Blank” archer – Legolas – specializes in short-range shots. It gets bonus damage for taking risks and emphasizes punching through armor.
The second is for the “Warfare” archer – think of the archer militia. This archer specializes in long-range shots. It gets bonuses to range increments, is better at arcing shots, and the arrows maim or disable.
The third tree is for our “Target” archer – this is the precision sniper. This archer lives beyond the first range increment but lacks the range of our “Warfare” archer. It gets bonus damage for steady shooting and embodies the notion of one-shot-one-kill.
Point Blank Shot [General, Fighter]
Benefit: You can fire a projectile weapon at close range with extreme power. You get a 1d6 bonus on damage rolls with projectile weapons against a target within 30 feet. The bonus damage matches the damage type of your projectile.
Improved Point Blank Shot [General, Fighter]
You can make exceptionally deadly ranged attacks by pinpointing a foe’s weak spot.
Prerequisites: base attack bonus +1, Point Blank Shot
Benefit: You can choose to take a -1 penalty to all ranged attack rolls to gain a +1 bonus on all ranged damage rolls against a target within 30 feet. When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every +4 after that, the penalty increases by -1 and the damage bonus increases by +1. You must choose to use this feat before making an attack roll, and its effects last until your next turn.
Greater Point Blank Shot [General, Fighter]
Your projectiles have such force they can pierce armor.
Prerequisites: Str 15, Point Blank Shot, Improved Point Blank Shot, base attack bonus +11
Benefit: When you make a ranged attack with a projectile weapon against a target within 30 feet, you ignore the opponent’s armor bonus to AC. This feat includes magical armor effects that provide an armor bonus (such as mage armor). Shield and natural armor bonuses still apply normally.
Close Combat Shot [General, Fighter]
Prerequisites: Weapon Focus with a ranged weapon, base attack bonus +4
Benefit: When you attack a target within 30 feet with a ranged weapon for which you have Weapon Focus, you do not provoke an attack of opportunity.
Manyshot [General, Fighter]
You can fire multiple arrows simultaneously against a nearby target.
Prerequisite: Point Blank Shot, Dex 15, base attack bonus +6
Benefit: When using the attack action with a ranged projectile weapon, you may fire two projectiles at a single opponent within 30 feet. Both projectiles use the same attack roll (with a -4 penalty) to determine success and deal damage normally (but see Special).
Special: You apply precision-based damage (such as sneak attack) only once. If you score a critical hit, only the first projectile fired deals critical damage; all others deal regular damage.
Improved Manyshot [General, Fighter]
You’ve developed more control when firing multiple arrows simultaneously.
Prerequisite: Manyshot, base attack bonus +11
Benefit: When using the Manyshot feat, you take only a -2 penalty to the attack roll. Additionally, you may apply precision-based damage for each projectile (though critical damage only applies on the first).
Penetrating Shot [General, Fighter]
You can send a powerful shot cleaving through your enemies.
Prerequisites: Improved Point Blank Shot, Str 15, base attack bonus +10
Benefit: When you use the attack action with a ranged projectile weapon that does piercing damage, you can instead choose to unleash a single, mighty attack that blasts through multiple opponents. This attack action takes the form of a 30-ft line that originates with you.
Make one attack roll. Check this attack roll against the AC of the closest object or creature in the line – if it hits, the target takes normal damage from your shot, and you may check the roll against the AC of the next closest enemy in the line. Continue to do this until the attack misses or you reach the end of your line. See the Special section for more details.
Each creature hit takes full damage from your shot, including any extra damage (such as from feats, sneak attacks, or magical effects). Only the first creature takes critical damage if your shot is a critical hit.
Special: Each target still benefits from any modifiers to AC or concealment. Each target beyond the first has cover from the previous target and receives a +4 bonus to AC. A miss due to concealment still ends this attack.
Reactive Shot [General, Fighter]
Prerequisites: Point Blank Shot, Combat Reflexes
Benefit: As a reaction, you can fire your projectile weapon at a single opponent within 30 feet when they take an action that provokes an attack of opportunity. Your opponent is not initially aware that you will be able to take this reaction.
Shot on the Run [General, Fighter]
Prerequisites: Dex 13, Dodge, Combat Reflexes
Benefit: When using the attack action with a ranged weapon, you can move both before and after the attack, provided that your total distance moved is not greater than your speed.
It’s getting late, and this article is getting long. With this series of feats, we’ve created a mobile archer that excels at point-blank shooting. It works well with fighters, rogues, or scouts to create exciting combat options.
I’ll share the Warfare archer. If we have room, the Target archer will be in there too. Let me know what you think. You can share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.