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In my 4E game, a player is going to try an elven cleric with a longbow (and a mace, just in case). She chose mostly ranged powers. Are there any caveats to playing such a character, or any builds that I could recommend for her?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

You should point out to the player that none of the Implement powers she selected can be used with a longbow. Only Holy Symbols can be used. She can still use the powers without a Holy Symbol, but she won't get the benefit of any enhancement bonuses on the bow.

At very low levels this doesn't matter so much. Your nonmagical mace will do just as well as your nonmagical longbow. Implement powers can be used without an implement at no penalty.

But as you level up, you are going to acquire a magic longbow, and most likely feats and items that enhance your ability to use a longbow. Your melee weapon powers can only be used through your mace and are going to lag behind in their chance to hit and damage. Implement powers can be used without a Holy Symbol, but again your effectiveness is going to be reduced without one.

This is going to make you prioritize Ranged weapon powers over any other power. Unfortunately, there are only two ranged weapon cleric powers in the game - at levels 1 and 15. Your only other viable options are weapon powers with a burst or blast effect (since they don't specify melee weapon).

So at first glance, a ranged weapon cleric isn't the best idea. But there are a few ways around this.

  • Multiclass into a ranged weapon focused class

While this option opens up a few new options with a longbow, you're diminishing your "cleric-ness". The end result isn't much better.

Once you are 11th level, an Elven bow cleric really starts to shine for this one reason:

Honor the Bow (11th level)

You can use a longbow or a shortbow as an implement for your cleric or Seldarine dedicate implement powers. When you use an implement power through a longbow or a shortbow, you add the weapon’s enhancement bonus, if any, to the power’s attack rolls and damage rolls, but you don’t use the weapon’s proficiency bonus. If you score a critical hit with a magic longbow or shortbow when using it as an implement, you use the weapon’s critical hit effect.

This opens up a world of possibilities. Every implement power is awesome again. The only drawback you have at this point is that you can't use the longbow's range increment on Implement powers, since they usually specify a static range like 5 or 10. But you're not any worse off than any other cleric.

In summary:

An Elven Bow Cleric is weak before level 11, but with the Seldarine Dedicate Paragon Path you should be fine.

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Thanks! I'll have a word with her today – Adriano Varoli Piazza May 27 '11 at 16:39
Glad I could help. The archer cleric sounds like it would be a lot of fun to play. It's too bad there aren't more ranged attack powers to make it viable before level 11 and without locking you into a single PP. – dpatchery May 27 '11 at 16:40
@Adriano If you are starting at low level and her heart is set on this, I would just give her the Honor the Bow path feature at level 1. It's not game-breaking by any means, and allows her to choose the PP she wants she reaches 11th. – dpatchery May 27 '11 at 19:44
That's a very good idea. I'll see if the CB supports that – Adriano Varoli Piazza May 27 '11 at 20:13
@Adriano It doesn't, but it's absolutely trivial to house rule. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 28 '11 at 3:06

Start with the Moonbow Dedicate feat. While it requires worship of Sehanine, there are a number of fascinating builds possible here. You'll want to look at the Bow Cleric mini-handbook. All of this advice changes at level 11, of course, where I simply recommend going half-elf with moonbow and making sure you have hand of radiance.

In terms of build, Elf with Moonbow is as standard as it gets, especially as elves now get dex/wis as a possible combo. I prefer the razorclaw shifter, simply because it's not generic as [expletive]. Battle Cleric is essential for armor.

There's little domain synergy, as the two worthwhile "power of" of Sehanine are melee based. Silvery glow is excellent, but moonbow provides a feat bonus to damage. Don't forget a screaming bow which maps damage into thunder damage. It'll become critical by paragon as part of a "make blasts larger" strategy: something that clerics and invokers can use to deadly, deadly, effect.

A completely different tack is to take the Elemental Initiate theme so that you get ki-focus proficiency. At the end of the day, I'd probably hybrid warlord, as the number of ranged-weapon interrupts they get can strongly synergize with the cleric buffs, and the warlord at-wills work better with the bow.

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