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I've just started out playing DnD. I want to pick a class that plays well with long-range, and was wondering whether other classes besides ranger can fill in that role effectively.

Are there are any core classes that can "substitute" for the ranger as a long range combatant?

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4 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Be a cleric with Zen Archery

This allows you to use Wisdom for your ranged attacks. Wisdom is also very important for your casting. By being a Zen Archery Cleric, you get the best of both worlds - ranged attacks and full spell-casting, both using the same ability.

And if you take the Elf Domain, you even get the feat Point Blank Shot for free.

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+1, Gets you into the tier level of the majority of the players. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 11 '12 at 19:42
    
I like the idea of this, but as a full caster you will use your normal attacks less and less as you level up. Still well worth the feat as a cleric though :) –  Macona Jun 12 '12 at 9:52
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Well, you can use higher-level slots to persist buffs and be a better archer than any ranger/fighter, and at the same time still have lots of spell slots for utility and healing. D&D 3.5 suffers from the problem that higher-level melee-only chars lack options in comparison to full-casters - with zen archery clerics you can kill enemies with arrows, and still be able to contribute meaningfully at high levels (10+). –  Mala Jun 12 '12 at 12:37
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A rogue with a high dex and a shortbow (great for those sneak attacks). Take feats such as point blank shot, many shot, shot on the run and precise shot.

Not to mention a rogue played properly brings many skills to the table such as removing those pesky traps and locks. Talking your way out of a tight spot.

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Archery Rogues aren't very efficient in practice. You're only likely to get sneak attacks on the first round of combat, and after that you won't be doing enough damage to penetrate the high DR that a lot of high-level creatures have. –  Macona Jun 12 '12 at 9:37
    
Not true on the sneak attacks. As long as the opponent is flanked and you pick up Precise Shot you're golden. –  CatLord Jun 12 '12 at 11:41
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You cannot flank with a ranged weapon (outside some sketchy feats from Dragon Magazine), and would incur an AoO. The easiest way to reliably get ranged sneak attacks is a friendly wizard casting grease. –  Mala Jun 12 '12 at 12:45
    
I was more referring to any two of the other characters flanking with Melee, with rogue and wizard providing ranged support. Hence the precise shot. –  CatLord Jun 14 '12 at 1:33
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You still won't get your sneak attacks that way. –  Macona Jun 14 '12 at 7:53
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Archery can be a little lacking on the damage side, so I would advise a straight fighter for weapon specialisation bonus feats. With a higher base-attack you’re also more likely to hit with your lower attacks. You’ll also want a very high strength to make the most out of damage from a composite longbow.

The only problem with this build is that it’s a little one-dimensional and might be a bit boring compared to the rogue or cleric builds mentioned in other answers.

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I've done a longbow fighter and it worked very well, and in a game like D&D it's hard to NOT be 1D with a character. –  CatLord Jun 12 '12 at 11:40
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If you have same ability scores on both classes, what matters are your feats (if you select a warrior based class).

Selecting a caster is not logical since increasing levels will cause you a lower attack bonus, and your lower skills on Str will not offer you enough damage bonus. All this will end up with more casting and very low usage of ranged attacks.

There is enough explanation for avoiding range-based Rogues in the comments on OrionDarkwood's answer.

For choosing between Fighter and Ranger, Rangers have some Rogue skills and some spellcasting ability, but that will not help you much in combat. With the bonus feats of a fighter, you can take all the bonus feats of the Ranger, and get more with your remaining feats. Since Fighters do not have a high Wis requirement like Rangers, you can get a higher Str or Dex score.

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...unless the cleric has a 24h divine power buff that boosts his BAB. –  Zachiel Oct 10 '12 at 20:34
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