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The concept of a sniper has been around a long time, even with bows.

Is this even possible in D&D4e, where the range increments are so short?

Criteria:

  • Long range bow or crossbow attacks.
  • Ability to remain hidden (or quickly re-hide) after attacks.
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4 Answers 4

up vote 32 down vote accepted

UPDATED: For the Heroes of Adjective Noun and Executioner Releases

To restate the assumptions. A sniper is someone who can do large damage (hopefully at-will), and remain hidden (invisibility helps here, but is not crucial).

There are four classes that have a dex focus with weapons and stealth: Hunter (Essentials), Executioner (Essentials, DDI), Thief (Essentials), and Rogue (So very not essentials.)

Curiously, the avenger can also be competitive, but with only a very specific build.

In light of the comment below, and the traditions of the DPR forums, rough build sketches will be offered at 1,6,12,16,24,and 30.

Requirement 2: Ways of remaining hidden.

  • All classes: Persistent Tail.
    • Skill Power, Stealth. move action to set up an IR when someone else moves. Due to rules ambiguity, if you end the move with concealment or cover you can become hidden. Expect your DM to throw dice at you.
  • Hunter: access to ranger feats provides Shadow of the Wild.
  • Thief: Sneak's Trick is designed for this.
  • Executioner: Surprisingly difficult. Setting them up for an alpha-strike is quite trivial, but hiding in the middle of combat is not well supported (mainly because that's the thief's job). Go with MC ranger for shadow of the wild or MC warlock for shadow walk through cursed shadow. On the other hand, there are a bunch of utilities that offer concealment or invisibility. Combine that with the "become hidden on invisible" (Assassin's Cloak) feat and it's a decent approximation. Make sure you're OK spending a lot of resources on this, then go envy the Thief for a while.
  • Avenger: On the theme of wait, what? Hit yourself with your own daily: temple of shadow.

    Effect: The attack creates a zone of swirling shadows in a burst 1 centered on the target. The zone lasts until the end of the encounter. When the target moves, the zone moves with it, remaining centered on it. While you are within the zone, you gain concealment and can make Stealth checks to become hidden. When you leave the zone, you have concealment until the end of your turn.

    • On a more practical note, MC to a stealthy class and pick up their concealment/invisibility tricks. There's some rather surprising Assassin/Avenger synergy.
  • Rogue: Points at cunning sneak, yawns, fades away. It's the class feature of choice for this theme.

Level 1 Builds:

  • Human Rogue:
    • Cunning Sneak, Gloaming Cut, Silent Shot Student, Hidden Sniper
    • High dex, 16+ int (or 14+ and the improved cunning sneak feat). If you have concealment or cover, The power allows you to shoot and hide by moving enough to trigger the cunning sneak option. Hidden Sniper gives you CA on concealment, so actually successfully hiding is less critical.
  • Thief:
    • Sneak's Trick, Hidden Sniper
    • Shoot, then sneak's trick. Requires cover or concealment at the end of move. Snipers have to choose their blinds well
  • Ranger:
    • Shadow of the wild. Careful attack + silent shot student
    • Avoid twin-strike (you have to succeed on a stealth check every attack)
  • Hunter:
    • Shadow of the wild. generic RBA
    • Quite cleanly compatible with most of your RBA modifying attacks. Stay in pouncing Lynx out of combat, Dancing Serpent (if you have a lovely superior cover nearby, reduces need for shadow of the wild) or Cunning Spider (if you're relying on shadow of the wild.

Level 6 builds:

  • Rogue and thief are unchanged.
    • utility 6: Chameleon is quite effective in maintaining stealth.
    • Feats of interest: Hidden sniper, Crossbow/Bow Mastery
  • Ranger/Hunter
    • will probably want to MC rogue via twilight adept, Camouflage is also a functionally required feat. Leaf wall is a not horrible way of setting up a blind. Stealthy escape for an expensive "I really don't want to lose stealth" -- probably non-optimal
  • Executioner
    • Shadow of the wild is really the only option here for reliable sniping (one might almost think wizards doesn't want people sniping...)
    • The flavour of the executioner is for the "one great shot". So repeated sniping is almost antithetical to the build. MCing Rogue, you can bloody a standard creature in one hit. The strategy I'd adopt with an executioner is a hit and fade strategy, aiming to nova one creature in your first turn and then leave the encounter. This works best with a party OK with these tactics, and is proactive rather than reactive (the way the 4e encounters are normally run) but with the right party and DM can be brutally effective. For this strategy, MC Rogue, Slaying Action, Shadow of the Wild, and Expertise would be my feats, with Hidden Sniper or ambush tactics if I'm human. Opening the action would be a surprise round (Attack Finesse, but not Sneak attack) using carrion crawler brain juice (pre-applied, 3 hits expected makes it better than the one attack poison). Action point on the first round against the slowed enemy, with combat advantage, will provide an excellent shot at completely taking out the target. Then just fade into the bush for a short rest. Repeat.

Level 12

Paragon Paths: Darkstalker for Ranger, Hunter, or MCed Ranger. Verdant Stalker (Brutal 2 is awesome, unless you're a halfling and have it already), Champion of the vigil is a "just say yes! to expanded crit ranges", Cloaked Sniper (Rogue) isn't bad for the lovely minor-action attack, and decent level 12 utility.

Feats: Steady Shooter (Crossbow), Unerring Ambush (Rogue) (go take damage upping feats, basically), Primal Eye (Hunter, thief, Executioner, MC Seeker), Grazing Shot (Hunter, Thief, Executioner), Secret Stride

The Joye of the Half-Elf: At paragon, versatile master comes into play, giving the half-elf's Dilettante free range.

Here, avengers with Distant Vengeance can join the "I'm going to kill you from hiding" club. Grappling Spirits is the best RBA power that uses a weapon. Thieves, Executioners, Hunters, and Avengers all jointly go "squee" at the power increase. Combine this with World Serpent's Grasp and Grounding Shot for a cute control and damage increase. Avengers can go darkstalker if they MC ranger, or Circle of Smoke and Mirrors otherwise (rerolls + multiple attack dice go together like poison and arrowheads).

Utilities: Everyone's going to take Persistent Tail at 10, except for Thieves, who will smirk.

Level 16

Champion of the Vigil becomes ever better as a PP. Darkstriker is very bloody solid. Verdant Stalker will help quite neatly getting through forests (if you're a forest hunter).

Utilities: Hide in plain sight. The rogue's "I win now." feature. Take it, don't look back. If you haven't multiclassed rogue for some reason (Because you went seeker for primal eye), The Assassin's Gloaming call is very solid. Deepening Gloom is not bad as a "I don't have anything else to take" power. A note, while being invisible is nice, your first attack does cause you to become unhidden (but still invisible). How to take proper advantage of HIPS is for another question.

Level 22

EDs: Thief of Legend is great for the dex primaries. Deadly trickster isn't bad. Soul of the World is cute if you start at epic. Deva into half-elf, Reincarnate Champion for some nova-turns with cherrypicked encounter powers or all kinds of awesome gnomeishness feats: Bow mastery, Deft aim. Soul in Shadow (Assassin), Untraceable

Utilities: Fade from Sight (Ranger) (makes them feel like a thief, 1/encounter), Hide from the light is the sine qua non of epic Rogue. "Effect: You must be hidden to use this power. You are invisible until the end of the encounter or until you end the effect by moving more than 2 squares in a turn or by making any attack other than a basic attack or an at-will attack." In happy news, Thieves and Assassins backstab and assassin's strike do not count as attacks. Fortress of Shadow (assassin) is absolutely fantastic, due to the assassin's cloak feat.

Level 30

ED: Heir of Siberys (if you have mark of shadow, which doesn't suck.), Darklord, Raven Knight

Summary: The best consistent sniper in the game is Thief, MC Seeker, PP Champion of the Vigil, ED Thief of Legend, but it's possible to do with many other classes.

-- Older Builds ---

The best bet is with a rogue who takes cunning sneak as a class feature and specializes in Gloaming Cut which allows you to rehide after an attack. With a superior crossbow and the "silent shot student" feat, the idea of a sniper can be approximated. The idea of targeting the leadership and dropping them in one shot, however, doesn't fit the style of the game.

The other possibility is that of the executioner assassin which offers far more sniper style "effects" in terms of attacks and damage (though the at-wills aren't perfect support for long-range, the poisons and class abilities fit perfectly), but the feat Shadow of the Wild is the perfect complement:

Shadow of the Wild

Heroic Tier

Prerequisite: Trained in Nature and Stealth

Benefit: If you are hidden outdoors and you make an attack, you can make a Stealth check with a -5 penalty to remain hidden.

The gnome race also has significant feat support for attacking while hidden.

With regards to long range, the greatbow has 25/50 range, and the superior crossbow has 20/40, The "distance weapon" magic item enhances range by 5/10. The Kamesti Crossbow eliminates range penalties, as does the Archer Captain feat. The Far Shot feat also increases range by 5/10 (effectively).

A phasing weapon ignores cover and superior cover penalties, and a Homing Weapon ignores concealment. Goggles of the hawk will allow you to spot your target without distance concerns for your spot check. And you can use the tricks from The Cosmonaut to achieve LoS and LoE.


After doing more research, these threads are a complete sniper's guide.


Here is a sample build: Leon

He uses a crossbow. I judged that accuracy and a feat was worth more than +10 range. In order to use a bow, he'd need to swap out superior crossbow for greatbow and take treetop sniper (and be an Elf). The Rogue cunning sneak build has many "sniping" options across all levels and is very suitable for a build like this, so long as the critical feat Shadow of the Wild is taken.

The best PP for this is "Cloaked Sniper" which does what it says on the tin. Crossbow expertise is the essentials weapon expertise upgrade which allows crossbow attacks to ignore up to superior cover.

With a Human Rogue 2, all the critical feats are achieved by level 2, leaving the rest of the build open to specialize in stealth, archery, or what have you.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Leon, level 2
Human, Rogue
Rogue Tactics: Cunning Sneak
Rogue: Sharpshooter Talent
Sharpshooter Talent: Sharpshooter Talent (Crossbow)
Background: Forest Warden (Forest Warden Benefit)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 11, Con 10, Dex 18, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 11, Con 10, Dex 18, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8.


AC: 18 Fort: 12 Reflex: 18 Will: 12
HP: 27 Surges: 6 Surge Value: 6

TRAINED SKILLS
Stealth +10, Thievery +10, Streetwise +5, Athletics +6, Nature +7, Perception +7

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +5, Arcana +3, Bluff, Diplomacy, Dungeoneering +1, Endurance +1, Heal +1, History +3, Insight +1, Intimidate, Religion +3

FEATS
Human: Crossbow Expertise
Level 1: Weapon Proficiency (Superior crossbow)
Level 2: Shadow of the Wild

POWERS
Rogue at-will 1: Deft Strike
Rogue at-will 1: Gloaming Cut
Rogue encounter 1: Unbalancing Shot
Rogue daily 1: Easy Target
Rogue utility 2: Fleeting Ghost

ITEMS
Swiftshot Superior crossbow +1, Veteran's Leather Armor +1
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======
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On request, I'll create a few other level snapshots. What levels would you folks like to see? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 20 '10 at 12:28
    
I always like 10, 20, and 30 snapshots. –  Stephen Furlani Jan 21 '11 at 19:32

It is also worth noting that the Eladrin can start with Dex/Int allowing for a 16 Int meaning Gloaming Cut would allow you to stealth, assuming any type of cover/concealment was within three squares of you.

Also Shadow of the Wild is situational as it is outdoors only and given a normal outdoor environment there should be cover within 3 squares of you, such as trees, bushes, or rocks.

Preparatory shot is needed to give sneak attack damage in situations where stealth is not possible like open fields, wide featureless rooms, blind sight, and all the other sensing abilities monsters have.

Far Shot is a bonus feat for sharpshooter so the hand crossbow and sling would have 15/25 range Superior Crossbow would be 25/45 range.

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If you're multiclass or hybrid, and are willing to take that as your paragon option, you can gain shadow walk from the warlock class at level 11, which automatically grants concealment after moving 3 spaces. Combined with cunning sneak rogue trait, you can become hidden every turn in a wide open, brightly lit area (no cover or darkness required). Plus, if you choose gloom pact binder, dexterity is a secondary ability, so hybrid is actually a feasible option.

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An elven fighter also makes for a great sniper.

Feats:

  • First level: weapon focus, proficiency (longbow), point blank shot
  • Second level: precise shot

With an 18 dex, elves get +2. At first level, you have +7 to attack with a longbow.

Use the feats to your advantage, then when ready, prestige Kensi and embue masterwork longbow with an additional +1 to attack.

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I've tried to edit your answer to be clearer, but could you clarify that sentence about what elves get +2 to? "with an 18 dex elves get +2 first level +7 to attack with longbow" does not make much sense to me unfortunately. –  Jonathan Hobbs Apr 3 at 2:45
2  
Also, can you elaborate on how this meets the requirement of being able to hide and remain (or re-enter) hidden after attacks? –  Jonathan Hobbs Apr 3 at 2:46

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