I'm new to , and I'd like my PC to be a goliath sniper. I'd like to optimize my PC for dealing damage at long range. Spotting things far away and being able to hide I assume are kind of important for a sniper, but I'm not familiar enough with the rules yet to be sure. I'm currently gravitating toward the prestige class cragtop archer and employing a composite greatbow, but these can be changed.

The campaign uses the Dragonlance campaign setting, and I'm allowed to have a PC that uses material from the core rules, the Complete books, the Miniatures Handbook, the Player's Handbook II, and Races of Stone. I might be able to talk the DM into allowing me to use other books, but the fewer the better.

The campaign uses 32 point buy for ability scores, and has—I think—standard wealth by level. My PC will enter play at level 13. Since the party's ultimate goal is Tiamat's death, we'll probably be playing for a while, so a long-term strategy is okay.

In regards to range, according to the fellow players that I'll be joining, there was a rarity of small dungeons, and an abundance of open spaces, so I expect that I'll have lots of opportunities for long range, but having some backup just in case I do get sent to a confined space would be a good thing as well.

Advice concerning equipment would be awesome as well, thinking about it. Speaking of which, I've been informed that weapon damage enchantments on ranged weapons are to have limited uses per day.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 2:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please use the chat for further commenting. All subsequent comments have been deleted. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


You are correct that cragtop archer is a prestige class you want to take for this concept; its increases to your range are unparalleled in 3.5. That said, you only really want three levels of it: the features at 4th and 5th level are fairly poor, so putting levels into getting them is not ideal.

And goliaths, of course, have LA +1, which means you effectively have one fewer levels than anyone else has. This is a big drawback, though goliaths do better than most making up for it.

Anyway, that leaves us with 9 levels to figure out for your start, and up to 16 in the long run. We also need to take a look at gear, feats, and the like.

But first, a warning: I’m afraid you’ve stumbled on a series of ideas that 3.5 does not handle well. Archery, weirdly enough, is oddly undersupported (there are seriously more options for thrown weapons, but those are never going to have the range you’re looking for). What options there are, mostly tend to have strict range limits, often at 30 feet. And it’s heavily Dexterity-based much of the time, while goliaths have a penalty to that, and the goliath’s size does not help nearly as much (this makes it hard for the goliath to really earn its LA +1). We can make this work well enough, but it will be more work than it should be (or, equivalently, we should see better results for this much work).

So with that said, the vision here:

Neutral goliath (LA +1) 1st-level cloistered cleric/8th-level ranger/3rd-level cragtop archer

With the remaining levels taken in ranger.

Either way, this is roughly what I see the character progression looking like:

Level Class Special Feats
1st Goliath LA +1 Goliath traits
2nd Cloistered Cleric Luck domain, spells, turn undead Knowledge Devotion,B Travel Devotion,B Zen Archery
3rd Ranger Favored enemy Track
4th Point-blank Shot, Rapid ShotB
5th EnduranceB
6th Spells
7th Favored enemy Far Shot
8th MultishotB, 1
9th Woodland stride
10th Swift tracker Mountain Warrior
11th Cragtop Archer Farsight
12th Strike from above
13th Arcing shot Practiced Spellcaster
  1. Manyshot isn’t very useful to you. I recommend asking your DM if you can get Precise Shot instead of Manyshot from the ranger’s improved combat style as a houserule. If not, you might get Far Shot from horizon goggles instead of taking it normally so you can take Precise Shot, though you’ll have to make sure your DM is cool with that. If you can’t do either, you’ll have to wait until 16th to get Precise Shot (the same level you get Improved Precise Shot from ranger).

The most important items for you are going to be an energy bow and a periapt of wisdom, as large as you can get it. Don’t neglect the basics like armor or a cloak of resistance though.

For more details on these and additional or alternative options, read on. In the end, you end up with a character that can shoot four arrows in a round, and sneak attack things nearly three miles away without any range penalties (at least, a few times per day anyway).


I am going to start with feats, because the feats you’ll need tell us more about this character, really, than even his classes.

  • Mountain Warrior and Far Shot

    You need these to take cragtop archer, so have them you shall. Far Shot is decent, considering your goals, but Mountain Warrior, sadly, is pretty garbage.

  • Zen Archery

    This feat from Complete Warrior makes your ranged attacks use Wisdom instead of Dexterity. You take a penalty to Dexterity, and use Wisdom for spotting things and casting spells. Yes, spells—more on that in a bit.

  • Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Improved Precise Shot

    You are an archer, these are the archery taxes and you must pay them. Improved Precise Shot is problematic, as you’ll never have the Dexterity for it.

You will note, at this point, that this is six feats—literally more feats than you currently have. And you couldn’t qualify for Improved Precise Shot anyway, and we aren’t remotely done, either. So bonus feats are going to need to be a thing in your future.

  • Practiced Spellcaster

    Found in both Complete Divine and Complete Arcane, this improves your caster level by 4, up to your total level. You will need this. You will, in fact, want more of it, but sadly you won’t get it.

  • Knowledge Devotion

    This Complete Champion feat gives at least +1 attack, +1 damage, but can go as +5 each based on your Knowledge check. But it also allows you to make Knowledge (arcana) always a class skill. This is relevant because Knowledge (arcana) is used to increase that bonus against dragons.

  • Travel Devotion

    Complete Champion again, this allows us to move and full-attack at the same time. Not as absolutely crucial for an archer as it normally is, but nonetheless, pretty important. Would be great for Swift Hunter, but I just can’t convince myself that three levels of scout is worth it.

Ability Scores

Now that feats have been considered, we can look at our ability scores.

  • Wisdom—Your everything. Start it at 18, buy periapts of wisdom as soon as possible, put all those little bumps from levels in it.

  • Constitution—Your second-most-important score. Actually, it’s everyone’s second-most-important ability score. Goliath boosts this, so you could potentially buy only 14 in it and start with 16 if you wanted, but you can probably afford better and it’s probably the right choice. Gaining enhancement bonuses to it is recommended.

  • Intelligence—A distant third, or possibly even fourth behind Charisma, this gets you some skills. Skills are nice, and you definitely want a great deal of Concentration, Hide, Knowledge (arcana), Move Silently, Spot, and Spellcraft, but all your classes are high-skill classes. Additional skills as you see fit. You probably will never need an enhancement bonus to this.

  • Charisma—Kind of up to you. Even with 8 Charisma, you get a second use of Travel Devotion. Getting a third requires 12 Charisma, and a fourth requires 16. Those seem like more than you really want to me, but feel free to get some Charisma if you like just so long as it doesn’t cut into your Wisdom (or too much into your Constitution). Remember that in the late-game, gaining enhancement bonuses to this gets pretty cheap, so you can always grab another use or two that way (so you probably don’t want to start with 16, but starting with 10 so someday a cloak of charisma +6 gets you to 16 might be nice).

  • Dexterity—You don’t want an actual penalty here, but you aren’t relying on it. Initiative is the most important thing it does.

  • Strength—Well, you add it to your damage, so that’s something. But goliath gives you a big +4 bonus to start, so you could point-buy yourself an 8 and start with 12—probably good enough. Late in the game, you may want to get enhancement bonuses to this just because they get to be pretty cheap relative to WBL so why not.

You could literally get 18 in Constitution and Wisdom and leave everything else at 8 and be OK probably. But 18 Wisdom, 16 Constitution leaves you with a lot more points to play with, to get 10 or 12 Intelligence, 10 or 12 Dexterity, 10 or 12 Charisma, as you like.


OK, so the first goal is, obviously, bonus feats. We clearly need them.

Other goals include bonus damage and utility features like stealth, vision, responses to magical defenses and magical defenses of our own.


Cleric is massively valuable to, well, almost anyone. A single level of cleric has so much to it that there is an entire handbook dedicated to just that one level. You have a number of needs that cleric meets very, very nicely.

On the subject of faith, I am not very familiar with Dragonlance as a campaign setting. In general, clerics are allowed to worship “ideals” without any particular deity, allowing them to get any appropriate pair of domains. In Eberron, this is quite common. In Forgotten Realms, that doesn’t work at all and mortals are punished harshly if they lack a patron deity, even if they aren’t clerics. I’m not sure where Dragonlance falls on this.

It’s also not clear if your campaign is using the goliath pantheon at all, since goliaths are not originally part of Dragonlance. If you are, as a cleric of the goliath pantheon, Races of Stone says you can worship all the gods, but have special affinity for, Kavaki, the Ram-Lord, who guides you in your travels, and Manethak, the Wise Hunter, who teaches that luck is only found by those who do for themselves. If you are not, or you would prefer to use a Dragonlance deity, Shinare seems like your most likely god, being a god of luck and travel as well as industry and commerce, though you could be an evil cleric of Hiddukel. Either choice gets you the luck and travel domains, which I recommend.

However, I also consider other options for domains. Some of these are from other supplements, which neither Dragonlance Campaign Setting nor Races of Stone considered for the respective pantheons (generally, D&D supplements only reference the core books, not other supplements). As a result, we don’t know which Dragonlance and/or goliath deities offer those domains, if any. I offer some suggestions, but you will have to talk to your DM about that.

  • CloisteredThis variant gives you the knowledge domain for free, regardless of your faith, along with more skills, the lore feature which you probably won’t really use, and identify as a 1st-level divine spell (read: no expensive material component, which is nice). The smaller HD is minor, and the loss of BAB doesn’t matter to you at all since you are only taking one level.

  • Turn Undead—You probably won’t ever bother actually to turn the undead. However, your daily uses of turn undead can be used to power divine and devotion feats—like Travel Devotion. You get a minimum of 2 uses per day (with 8 Cha), which is probably what you will want to go with.

  • Domains—Domains are excellent. They allow you to pick from a huge list of potential options, and per Complete Champion, you can trade them for the excellent devotion feats in that book. You may have noticed that you want two of those.

    • Knowledge Devotion—Cloistered cleric is giving you the knowledge domain for free, regardless of deity, so go ahead and swap that for Knowledge Devotion.

    • Travel Devotion—Trade the travel domain for this feat. It is key to maintaining your damage while maneuvering. Usable once per day and then after that you can use it again by spending two turn undead uses. You have two, at a minimum, so that means you can use Travel Devotion twice a day. Not ideal, but not terrible either. Habbakuk, Hiddukel, and Shinare are Dragonlance deities offering the travel domain, while Kavaki and Kuliak of the goliath pantheon have it.

    • Luck Domain—For the daily reroll, which is just a wonderful defensive option. Branchala, Gilean, Hiddukel, Reorx, Shinare, and Sirrion are Dragonlance deities of luck, while Manethak has it for the goliath pantheon. Notably, Shinare is the only Dragonlance deity with both luck and travel.

    • Other domain options—I think luck and travel are your best bets, but there are numerous alternatives that are possible.

      • Law Devotion—Law Devotion gives a pretty nice, scaling bonus to attack rolls. Your attack rolls are pretty good... but more is always nice. In Dragonlance, Chemosh, Kiri-Jolith, Paladine, Sargonnas, Takhisis, and Zivilyn offer Law—none of whom offer either luck or travel, which is problematic. The goliath pantheon also does not offer the law domain.

      • Planning—The planning domain is just generally popular, offering Extend Spell as it does. Usually geared towards Divine Metamagic and full-level clerics, though. Anyway, planning domain is one of those domains from another supplement, so we don’t know which Dragonlance deities or members of the goliath pantheon, if any, might offer it.

      • Weather—Interesting, since it allows you to see in bad weather, but ultimately I think that probably won’t come up that often. You certainly won’t ever get the high-level magic necessary to change the weather and force those kinds of conditions on your enemies. Again, supplemental domain, unclear who would offer it, though for bad weather, Dragonlance’s Zeboim and Vanua of the goliath pantheon would be appropriate.

      • Oracle—Simple +2 to the caster level of divinations. Several of those are going to be very valuable to you. Another supplemental domain, from Complete Divine. Worse, in Dragonlance, Solinari is the deity of divination, and explicitly takes no clerics, instead supporting wizards. For goliaths, Vanua the Harbinger of Woe seems appropriate, but I would also give a thought to Manethak the Wise Hunter, as divinations are quite good for hunting and that’s what you’ll be using them for.

      • If we really stop caring about trying to justify our domain choices, the undeath domain grants Extra Turning, which we could use for Travel Devotion, and the elf domain grants Point-Blank Shot, which is an obnoxious feat we don’t want, but is required for Far Shot and Precise Shot. But you have a decent amount of Travel Devotion, and you have room to take PBS, so we’ll leave those alone. Both are supplemental domains not addressed by Dragonlance Campaign Setting or Races of Stone, though undeath clearly goes with Chemosh in Dragonlance, and doesn’t really fit in the goliath pantheon at all. In Dragonlance, Paladine and Branchala are elven deities, so they might have the elf domain; both of them also have other options we’ve considered here (Law for Paladine, Luck for Branchala). The goliath pantheon, obviously, doesn’t have anyone who represents elves.

  • Spells—Cleric spells are fantastic, but you only get 0th- and 1st-level cleric spells. You will probably just prepare identify in all your slots because it’s convenient to do so (and most days probably spontaneously swap them to cure light wounds). The key thing about this though is because you have just the one level in cleric, you are entitled to use any wand that holds a spell on the cleric spell list. A wand of lesser vigor is pretty standard adventuring gear (it’s the most efficient healing-per-gold-piece in the game, so even though it’s slow it’s the best way to top off after a fight), and you’ll be able to zap that for your party.


Ranger gets us bonus feats and spells. They also, conveniently, have good BAB and skills. Really, this is basically the class we want here.

  • Favored Enemy—Favored enemy is, unfortunately, largely garbage by default. At best, the bonuses are mediocre (+2 every 5 levels), and your best bonuses only ever apply to a single type of foe. Your secondary favored enemies are left at +2 and therefore don’t do you a whole lot of good. But in this campaign, you have a distinct enemy who favors a very specific enemy you might favor: dragons. That helps, at least.

    • Arcane Hunter—This alternate class feature from Complete Mage replaces your first favored enemy with a +1 favored enemy bonus against all arcane spellcasters. That’s a lot of people, including just about every true dragon. This is arguably better than simply taking dragons as your favored enemy, because it will cover most dragons and non-dragon spellcasters are scarier than non-spellcaster dragons. And if you take it, each time you get another favored enemy you can increase it by +2 each time; there is a 100% difference between +1 and +2, but only a 20% difference between +5 and +6. If you go this way, your second favored enemy should be dragons, just in case.

    • Solitary Hunting—You don’t have access to this alternate class feature; it’s in an issue of Dragon magazine. That said, you would do well to beg your DM to allow you to have this anyway: trade your animal companion for the ability to add your favored enemy bonuses to attack rolls, in addition to the things it usually adds to. That is a huge deal, and will go a long way towards making you actually good at what you want to do.

  • Ranged Combat Style—Rapid Shot and Improved Precise Shot, and you don’t even need the Dexterity for Improved Precise Shot. That’s a big win. Manyshot is a waste; maybe ask your DM if you can get Precise Shot instead?

  • Spells—Spellcasting is, hands down, the most powerful ability in the game. Even the ranger’s relatively poor spellcasting is still massively better than nothing, and a good reason to choose ranger over, say, fighter. With your Wisdom focus thanks to Zen Archery, you’ll actually be half-decent at them, too, maybe.

    • Guided Shot—1st-level divination, swift-action casting time, 1-round duration. No penalties due to range (but still cannot exceed maximum range), ignore most forms of cover. Complete Adventurer

    • Hawkeye—1st-level transmutation, standard-action casting time, 10-minute/level duration. Increase range increments by 50% (!), get a +5 competence bonus on Spot checks. Complete Divine

    • Sniper’s Shot—1st-level divination, swift-action casting time, 1-round duration. Eliminates the range limit on sneak attack. Yes, sneak attack—see the next bit.

      Anyway, this spell is printed in both Complete Adventurer and Spell Compendium. That means you have access to it, but you really, really want the Spell Compendium version. The only difference between them is that the Complete Adventurer version only applies to a single attack. The Spell Compendium one applies to all the attacks you make during the next round.

    • Hunter’s Eye—2nd-level divination, swift-action casting time, 1-round duration. Add +1d6 sneak attack damage for every three caster levels you have to your attacks for the round. Player’s Handbook II

    • Near Horizon—2nd-level divination, swift-action casting time, 3-round duration. No range penalties on attacks, still cannot exceed maximum weapon range. Guided shot is better in every way except duration, which may be notable.

    • Mark of the Hunter—3rd-level divination, standard-action casting time, 10-minutes/level duration, Medium range (100-300 feet). Your favored enemy bonuses against the target are increased by +4.

    Notice how many of these are divinations, and reconsider that oracle domain. A lot of them don’t really benefit from increased caster level, but hunter’s eye certainly does.

    Also notice how many of them are swift-action, 1-round duration. That’s kind of awkward; you only get one swift action in a turn, and then the duration is up before you get another one. One solution to that may be a lesser metamagic rod of extend spell. After all, all of them are 3rd-level or less.

Cragtop Archer

You already knew this one, just stating it again since this is the section on classes. Again, I recommend just taking three levels of it. The 4th-level feature is bad because you can only take one shot, and the 5th-level feature doesn’t even have anything to do with archery.


Equipment and gearing is a huge concern and would be well beyond the scope of this answer to really go into. I’m only going to mention gear specific to making your idea of a goliath archer work. For the rest, check out Ernir’s Lists of Necessary Magic Items, and if you still have some money after that, head over to Bunko’s Bargain Basement.

  • Energy Bow—Found in the D&D Animated Series Handbook and, thankfully, also on Wizards’ website here, Hank’s energy bow is the best bow in the game a colossal margin. One, it fires force arrows, which pierce damage reduction, incorporeality, and ethereality. And, ya know, eliminate the need to carry around regular arrows (in can still shoot special or magical arrows normally if you want). More importantly, you can trade attack penalties for damage bonuses, à la Power Attack. You are nearly-full BAB, you want to put everything you can into your Wisdom, and your favored enemy bonuses (we hope) apply to attacks. You should have plenty of room to trade that for damage.

    Furthermore, you can upgrade the energy bow. Consider it a +3-equivalent bow for the purposes of adding more (so adding a +1-equivalent ability makes it +4, +3 to +4 costs 14,000 gp, +4 to +5 costs 18,000 gp, etc.). Upgrades:

    • Magebane—A +1-equivalent from Complete Arcane, this is like bane except it applies to anyone who can cast a spell or spell-like ability. Which is, uh, a whole lot of things, including almost all dragons.

    • Dragonbane—That is, bane (core +1-equivalent) keyed to dragons. As with the discussion of arcane hunter vs. favored enemy (dragons), magebane is better than dragonbane, but why not have both? They’ll stack against dragon spellcasters, which is most of them.

    • Distance—A +1-equivalent right there in core, it makes you shoot farther. Which is kind of the point of this exercise.

    • Holy—A +2-equivalent, core again, that will probably apply to just about everything you face and in some cases may help with their defenses (though your force arrows already ignore damage reduction).

    • Precise—If you cannot convince your DM to allow you to get Precise Shot from ranger, maybe consider asking him for this +1-equivalent property from Magic Item Compendium. It gives you the feat.

  • Fancy Arrows—The energy bow fires force arrows for free, and they’re really good. But you can still get other arrows for particular purposes if you like. And in some cases, you should like:

    • Anything you cannot afford to put on your energy bow (yet)—Enhancing an arrow costs 2% what enhancing a weapon costs. And in the case of a weapon that already has magic on it, like the energy bow, the savings are even larger. If you cannot afford any of the above enhancements for your energy bow yet, you can get arrows with that ability for when you really need it.

    • Other bane arrows—Sure, you are mostly fighting dragons. But there will be other things. Having a handful of demonbane arrows, devilbane arrows, and so on may be useful.

    • Seeking arrows—Eliminate all miss chances ever; that’s better than even Improved Precise Shot offers. Not many things have such ludicrous levels of protection, but when they do, these are nice.

    • Arrows of exit wounds—A +2-equivalent ability from Complete Warrior, you can shoot these arrows as a standard action and hit multiple targets in a line. Not really your thing, but to be able to pull a few of these out to lay waste to some mooks who thought to ambush you might be very satisfying.

  • Lesser Metamagic Rod of Extend Spell—Allows you to use Extend Spell on a 3rd-level-or-lower spell, three times per day, without using a higher-level spell slot. This is a big deal since there are so many 1-round spells you are interested in.

  • Horizon Goggles—Grants Far Shot for 8,000 gp. Which would save us from having to take it ourselves, which means we don’t need Point-Blank Shot for it. Very nice, and completely legal but a lot of DMs don’t like it. Since your restricted options for sources limit the number of feats we want badly, it seems better to just take it normally. Complete Mage

Things to Wish For

There are a number of things you would really like, but are not available to you. Some may be worth asking your DM about.

  • Mystic Ranger (Dragon vol. 336)

    This variant ranger gets vastly-improved spellcasting, at the cost of delaying but not completely losing the ranger’s combat style and favored enemy features (each combat style comes one level later; favored enemy happens at 2nd and every 6 levels thereafter instead of 1st and every 5th level). This is a fantastic trade, and very much in your favor. The improved spellcasting makes you more versatile, more reliable, and saves a lot of trouble that you would otherwise have.

  • Dragonbone (Draconomicon)

    For 100 gp, your bow’s range increments are increased by 20 feet. If you could get a dragonbone energy bow, well, that would be very nice.

  • Swiftwing Arrows (Races of the Wild)

    When you shoot these, your range increments are twice what they would be when shooting something else. Between this, cragtop archer’s arcing shot, a distance dragonbone longbow, and Far Shot, you’re looking at a 1,560-ft. range increment. As in, your maximum range is 15,600 feet, assuming you can figure out some way to see that far. (For reference, that’s just shy of three miles.)

  • Splitting (Champions of Ruin)

    A +3-equivalent property that makes every arrow you shoot become two arrows, that is, it literally doubles your attacks. That includes Rapid Shot, haste, iteratives, the works. There is probably no better damage-per-gold-piece option in the game. Note that this requires that you have the Precise Shot feat, so if you weren’t allowed to get it from ranger or the precise property, you will have to finagle your feats to get if you want to use this. And getting this on your energy bow should be your top priority.

  • Serrenwood Arrows (Book of Exalted Deeds)

    This wood can be used to make arrowshafts, to make them effective against incorporeal enemies without magic. They aren’t expensive, so holding on to a few just in case the party ever gets dropped in a dead magic zone with some ghosts—that’s a fairly rude thing for a DM to do, in my opinion, but it can happen—can actually save you when almost nothing else in the game can.

  • Prestige Ranger, maybe

    Honestly, I am not entirely sure how well prestige ranger works for you. It certainly has some very nice things going for it, including the fact that you get to combine cleric and ranger spellcasting. But the entry is brutal (Endurance and Track are truly poor feats, and the BAB +4 makes some things harder than they ought to be). But you could potentially enter as a 1st-level cloistered cleric/4th-level fighter, which would allow you to (potentially) take Weapon Specialization. Weapon Specialization is awful, but with that you could then later take Ranged Weapon Master from Player’s Handbook II, and that is quite nice. Barbarian could also be nice, with the whirling frenzy option. But at any event, considering that I’m not sure this actually works out better, and you would have to ask your DM about it, I mostly leave it out as an option.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 20:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I find the description of Knowledge Devotion (+1 AR/+1 dmg) somewhat confusing given that the bonus can be up to +5 AR/+5 dmg (OK, it requires getting 36+ on a knowledge check... but that's not impossible). Maybe indicating that it's a range (between +1 and +5) instead of just +1 would be clearer? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. Good point, will improve the wording there. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 1:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ozuma I see you deleted your crossbow sniper question—was that because of existing questions answering your question, my particular answer (which had not been keeping up to date with the additional details and needed work to fit the requirements of the question), or something else? Is there anything else you’re looking for there? I may be interested in doing a Q&A inspired by the question, but if you aren’t done with it I would rather wait for yours. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 16:45

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