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:
The arcane archer's advantages come at a price. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about such a character:
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
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.
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