Arcane archers (DMG 176) are peerless archers able to interweave their magic and ranged attacks into a deadly barrage of arrows to strike down their enemies. They ward the borders of their forest homes as commanders of deadly elven warbands.
Arcane archers have many useful abilities. Here are a few things to consider when building an arcane archer:
- Good Base Attack Bonus: An arcane archer's base attack bonus progresses as that of a fighter.
- Good Hit Dice: Arcane archers use eight-sided hit dice, making them tougher than many other characters.
- Good Fortitude Saves: Arcane archers have good Fortitude saving throws (PH 22). Fighters and rangers also have good Fortitude saving throws, making this a particular strength of the class.
- Good Reflex Saves: Arcane archers have good Reflex saving throws (PH 22). None of the classes normally associated with this prestige class -- fighter, ranger, sorcerer, or wizard -- havegood Reflex saving throws, which means that levels of arcane archer help to improve this vital defense.
- Skill Points: Arcane archers receive 4 (+ Int bonus) skill points at every class level and have a number of very useful skills including: Hide, Listen, Move Silently, and Spot.
- Special Abilities: At each new level, an arcane archer gains a useful ability that augments his ranged attacks. At 1st level, he gains the enhance arrow ability, which transforms his nonmagical arrows into magical weapons. For every two additional levels he gains, his arrows gain an additional enhancement bonus (for example, +1 at 1st level, +2 at 3rd level, and so on). At every even-numbered level, he gains additional powers. Imbue arrow enables an arcane archer to place an area spell on an arrow centered on where the arrow lands. At 4th level he can fire a seeker arrow once per day that strikes a known target in range even if it must fly around corners! Phase arrow (6th level) allows the arcane archer to fire one arrow a day that strikes a known target, bypassing any intervening nonmagical barrier such as a wall. At 8th level, he can unleash a hail of arrows instead of his normal attack, firing a single shot at every target in range (up to a number equal to his class level). Finally, at 10th level, an arcane archer can create an arrow of death that forces the target struck to make a DC 20 Fortitude saving throw or die.
The arcane archer's advantages come at a price. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about such a character:
- Hard Qualification: Only a select few individuals qualify to become arcane archers. A prospective arcane archer must be either an elf or half-elf and have a base attack bonus of +6. Additionally, he must have Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow or shortbow), and be able to cast 1st-level arcane spells.
- Poor Will Saves: Arcane archers have poor Will saving throws (PH 22). However, many of the classes that are required to qualify for arcane archer -- for example, sorcerer and wizard -- have good Will saves, offsetting this weakness to some degree.
- Spellcasting: Arcane archers do not gain any additional spellcasting abilities.
Playing an Arcane Archer
Most characters (particularly elves) that become arcane archers are fighter/wizards. Half-elves have slightly more flexibility when qualifying for this prestige class because they designate their highest-level class as favored, whereas an elf's favored class is wizard. All arcane archers must be able to cast 1st-level arcane spells and thus must have at least one level of sorcerer or wizard (from the Player's Handbook), warmage or wu jen (both from Complete Arcane), or beguiler or duskblade (both from PH II). Alternatively, characters taking a less traditional route to qualify for this prestige class could have two levels in bard or four levels in hexblade (Complete Warrior) or spellthief (Complete Adventurer).
Arcane archers must also have a base attack bonus of +6 and three archery-related feats, meaning that most archers have at least four levels of fighter.
Several other prestige classes mesh well with arcane archer, notably darkwood sniper and order of the bow initiate (Complete Warrior 24 and 68 respectively). Alternatively, if an arcane archer is proficient with the greatbow or composite greatbow (Complete Warrior 154 and 156), then llll exotic weapon master (Complete Warrior 30) is an interesting choice. For an example of this build, check out Exotic Weapon Masters Three.
Skills and Feats
Arcane archers need to plan their feat acquisition carefully to get the most out of their ranged attacks. Beyond Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, and Weapon Focus, several other options exist.
Skirmishing Arcane Archer: Dodge, Mobility, and Shot on the Run.
High Damage Output Arcane Archer: Rapid Shot, Manyshot, and Improved Precise Shot.
Several feats from Complete Warrior provide further interesting tactical options: Improved Rapid Shot, Ranged Disarm, Ranged Pin, Ranged Sunder, and Sharpshooting (unless the character has Improved Precise Shot). Finally, Races of the Wild also features three feats useful to an archer: Able Sniper, Plunging Shot, and Woodland Archer.
Arcane archers with four levels of fighter should take Weapon Specialization. Improved Initiative is also a good choice; acting before enemy spellcasters and readying an action to shoot them when they start spellcasting can pay rich dividends.
Arcane archers should also look to their defenses. Depending on their class mix, they may find it worthwhile to invest in Iron Will or Lightning Reflexes to boost these potentially low saving throws.
Listen and Spot are useful for arcane archers, as are Hide and Move Silently. Additionally, Climb and Jump enable an arcane archer to move into a good shooting position, while Spellcraft lets the character identify what spell enemy spellcasters are preparing.
Arcane archers, obviously, are excellent ranged combatants. As such, they should not allow themselves to get drawn into melee. Instead, they should use their mobility and stealth to skirt the edges of a fight while firing at exposed opponents. Enemy spellcasters make excellent and easy targets for arcane archers, as they are often slightly removed from the battle.
Members of this prestige class should use a composite bow to benefit from the extra damage potential, enchanting it as quickly as possible. Adding special abilities to the bow such as flaming or frost further adds to an arcane archer's damage potential. An arcane archer should be sure to carry arrows of different types -- adamantine, cold iron, and silver -- to overcome foes' damage reduction. A quiver of Ehlonna is the perfect item to carry dozens of arrows (and a spare bow, just in case).
Armor can be a tricky subject for arcane archers, because it can interfere with spellcasting. Some classes, such as the beguiler, duskblade and warmage, have a limited ability to ignore this effect, but more traditional arcane spellcasting classes run into problems when casting spells while wearing armor. Refer to the Arcane Spell Failure section of the recent bladesinger article for strategies to reduce or eliminate this risk.
Sample Arcane Archer: Kayen Telva
Tall and slender with long braided black hair and green eyes, this elf warrior is clad in a shimmering suit of elven chain and carries an ornately painted longbow.
Kayen Telva, CR 9
Male elf fighter 4/warmage* 4/arcane archer 1
* Complete Arcane 10
CG Medium humanoid (elf)
Init +4; Senses low-light vision; Listen +3, Spot +3
Languages Common, Elven
AC 22, touch 15, flat-footed 18
(+4 Dex, +6 armor, +1 shield, +1deflection)
hp 45 (9 HD)
Fort +8, Ref +9, Will +7; +2 against enchantments
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee mwk longsword +10/+5 (1d8+2)
Ranged +1 longbow +13/+8 (1d8+4/x3) or
+1 longbow +9 (2d8+8/x3) with Manyshot or
+1 longbow +11/+11/+6 (1d8+4/x3) with Rapid Shot
Base Atk +7; Grp +9
Atk Options Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, enhance arrow +1
Special Actions warmage edge
Combat Gear potion of cure moderate wounds
Warmage Spells Known (CL 4th; ranged touch +11):
2nd (4/day) -- blades of fire, continual flame, fire trap (DC 14), fireburst (DC 14), flaming sphere (DC 14), ice knife, Melf's acid arrow, pyrotechnics, scorching ray, shatter, whirling blade
1st (7/day) -- accuracy, burning hands (DC 13), chill touch, fist of stone, hail of stone, magic missile, lesser orb of acid, lesser orb of cold, lesser orb of electricity, lesser orb of fire, lesser orb of sound, shocking grasp, Tenser's floating disk, true strike
0 (6/day) -- acid splash, disrupt undead, light, ray of frost
Abilities Str 14, Dex 18, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 14
SQ advanced learning, armored mage (light), elf traits
Feats Iron Will, Manyshot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow), Weapon Specialization (longbow)
Skills Climb +4, Concentration +4, Jump +4, Handle Animal +6, Listen +3, Ride +6, Search +2, Spellcraft +4, Spot +3
Possessions combat gear plus +1 elven chain, darkwood buckler, +1 composite longbow (+2 Str bonus), masterwork longsword, quiver of Ehlonna with 20 arrows, 20 cold iron arrows, 20 silver arrows, and 5 adamantine arrows, cloak of resistance +1, ring of protection +1, spell component pouch, 50 gp
Enhance Arrow (Su) Nonmagical arrows fired by Kayen Telva gain a +1 enhancement bonus.
Kayen Telva had the following ability scores before racial adjustments, Hit Die ability score increases, and stat boosting items: Str 14, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 13.
Had a chance to try out the demonwrecker prestige class? Let us know your thoughts on how it played or what changes you would make to it.
About the Author
Creighton Broadhurst is a member of Living Greyhawk's Circle of Six and a mad-keen World of Greyhawk fan. He has two young sons (whom he nicknames "Ghengis" and "Khan"). His house is an oasis of tranquility, tidiness, and order. In his spare time, he tries to survive the Savage Tide.