The Cragtop Archer prestige class grants, at 3rd level, the Arcing Shot feature:

Arcing Shot (Ex)

The Cragtop Archer of 3rd level and higher can fire a high, arcing shot to gain greater range with her projectile weapon. Any time the Cragtop Archer can fire a projectile weapon in an area with at least 40 feet of clearance between her position and the ceiling (or any other overhead obstruction, such as a forest canopy), her maximum range with the projectile weapon is fifteen range increments rather than the normal ten range increments.

Can you see yourself, peering from the top of a cliff, and firing arrows at the unsuspecting approaching caravan a mile off? They'll never see it coming!

Well, the problem is, you'll probably never see the caravan escort either. Or if you do, not for long.

The most mundane Longbow, Composite has a range increment of 100 ft. Therefore, its maximum shooting distance before any enhancement is 1,500 ft when using the Arcing Shot feature.

The problem is, the Spot1 penalty for distance is -1 per 10 ft. Basic mathematics thus lead us to a penalty of -150 at 1,500 ft. This is steep.

Attempting to meet this Spot check with straight bonuses seems unlikely to succeed; and scale up as this range increases. Even with a plethora of bonuses. Therefore, the only three viable options I know of are:

  • the class feature Farsight (Cragtop Archer, level 1), which halves this penalty,
  • the feat Hawk's Vision (Complete Adventurer, p. 114), which halves this penalty,
  • the spell Dragonsight (Spell Compendium, p. 79), which also halves this penalty.

Their pre-requisites are expensive (the former requires spending a use of Wild Shape, the latter is a 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell) for a rather lackluster result. My most lenient reading2 makes the three stack for -1 per 80 ft. For a Spot penalty of only -19 at 1,500 ft.

Just investing a bit3, combining (1) a Dragonbone Composite Greatbow (150 ft.), (2) the Enlarge spell, (3) the Strongarm Bracers, (4) the Distance enchantment (x2), (5) Flight Arrows (x1.25), and finally (6) the Farshot feat (x1.5):

  • the range increment of a Huge Dragonbone Composite Greatbow is 225 ft.
  • subjected to a x2.75 multiplier, it becomes 615 ft.

which means a maximum Arcing Shot range of 9,225 ft. for a nominal Spot penalty of -923 and an improved Spot penalty of -116.

Meanwhile, the penalty to AR is a measly -15, much more easily dealt with.

The problem faced here is that there seems to be far more option to extend one's shooting range, than there are options to efficiently spot an opponent that far.

Supposing a character wishes to use the Arcing Shot feature for mile-long shots, how should such a character go about spotting their foes in the first place, even as they scramble to hide:

  • Is Spot actually necessary, or can one Target4 a foe without Spotting it? Even if this foe hides, stepping behind a broomstick?
  • Can one reduce one's Spot distance penalty much more?
  • Can one increase one's Spot check sufficiently to match such a dire DC?
  • Are there other ways for one wannabe long-range archer to be effective at long-range? Even gasp good homebrew ones?

Or should I conclude that the shooting and spotting range penalties are so lopsided this is a fool's quest5.

1 Even if one is to argue that Spot is only to be used against a foe who is actively attempting to Hide, I am pretty sure that after the first shot the caravan escort is going to attempt to do so. Even the fancy Fighter with its Luminous Heavy Armor.

2 Since multipliers generally are NOT applied on top of one another for bonuses, but rather added as multiple, I would be more tempted to argue that stacking the three should lead to -1 per 40 ft.

3 I am voluntarily ignoring here Deepwood Sniper (+10 ft./lvl, 10 levels) and the Ranged Weapon Mastery feat (+20 ft.), both of which require a more significant investment in terms of precious feats and class levels.

4 In melee, it is possible to swipe at a square after pinpointing an otherwise non-visible foe. The foe "only" has Total Concealment, gaining 50% miss chance.

5 I am aware that one is unlikely to ever have a mile of clear view in a dungeon or forest, and therefore focusing solely on distance is a rather ineffective strategy; I'll just point that the only non-gold investments to reach a ludicrous ~10,000 ft. range were 3 levels of Cragtop Archer and its 2 pre-requisite feats. And I'd really like to be able to fire on spellcasters with impunity (their spells' range often maxing out around ~1,000 ft.).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Those Spot DCs are only for opposing Hide checks. You do not need to use Spot at all when attempting to see things that aren’t hidden. Down this way leads to the madness of the sun being invisible because of its distance. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also of interest may be this question. (Further, this doesn't really sound like a cragtop archer question but a Spot skill question!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan (Correct me if I'm wrong, but if there's concealment present—like, y'know, typically at night—everybody within that concealment can move at his normal speed and make Hide skill checks yet suffer a −20 penalty on those Hide skill checks. Obviously, unskilled folks' results are usually really low, but doing so costs them nothing and forces lookouts to make Spot checks instead of automatically noticing approaching creatures.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Sure, but that still only covers the people and not the caravan itself, seems to me? And besides, even though it doesn’t require greater actions in game terms, it seems to me that it still does require greater effort in narrative terms, so you wouldn’t expect travelers to habitually sneak for their entire journey when not expecting anything. If someone goes and camouflages their caravan, moves only at night, and avoids lights, then that’s a quite-different situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It goes down to Spot checks to start an encounter, so hiding or not, people aren't automatically visible from 100'000 feet for example. I think it may matter in this scenario. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 19:23

3 Answers 3


How to actually boost your spot check high enough

Use the Linked Perception spell from PHBII. A nifty first level spell which gives +2 bonus to your Spot and Listen per ally within 20 feet of you. Ideally this should be combined with an allied swarm of fine creatures (10,000 per swarm), for a (at a minimum of 1 swarm) 20,000 bonus to checks.

How exactly to get such an allied swarm is largely left as an exercise to the reader, but there is swarm summoning spells, and Shredstorm (MMIII) swarm of fine constructs that could be built (or possibly purchased?).

If for some reason, the use of swarms is disallowed with this spell, you could still fill your surrounding squares with hundreds of Fine-sized minions, through animate object and similar methods, giving you sufficient spot check to max out the detection distances for the various terrain types, and beat most hide modifiers.

Alternative means of detection

But what if the maximum spot distance from terrain is not long enough you ask? At that point you need the Mindsight (LoM) feat. This feat allows you to detect any creatures with a mind (Int score) within the range of your existing telepathy and most importantly, tells you which square they are on, so that you can attack them, at 50% concealment. I recommend a Seeking bow.

Fortunately there are two creatures with extremely large telepathy ranges, the Formian Queen (MM) clocking in at 50 mile radius, and the Spellweaver (MMII) with a boggling 1,000 miles.

It should be noted that the Spellweaver's telepathy is only with other Spellweavers, but by my interpretation of the Mindsight feat, it overrides this limitation in terms of detecting minds (though not communicating with them).

Mindsight also reveals the type of the detected creatures, if you were specifically looking for giants or fey or such to kill.

There are several challenges to mindsight, not least being actually getting access to the telepathy, or to a spotter who has it. This could potentially be solved through simulacrums or cohorts who inform you of what they detect, or polymorphing and using the Assume Supernatural Ability (SS) feat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. It might be worth mentioning that even but one mile of spotting distance is likely more than the cragtop archer will need—a cragtop archer must extend his weapon's range increment to over 350 ft. for one mile to be too little! Also, the swarm thing is neat suggestion—and a spider swarm is available as an improved familiar to any neutral arcane caster of level 3 or higher (as per Dragon #329 98), for example.) Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd recently been doing research for a theoretical build that maxes out the range of a bow, (which is how I knew the answers and stumbled on this question in the first place). 130 [Greatbow Base] +20 [Dragonbone, Drac] +20 [Long Range, Dr358] +25 [Flight arrows, AEG] +20 [Ranged Weapon Mastery] x2 [Distance Enchant] x1.5 [Far Shot] x1.5 [Hawkeye] x2 [Wind Tunnel] +100 [Deepwood Stalker] x16 range increments [Arcing Shot + Archers’ Standard] = 32,560 feet or 6 miles. If you use the rules for increasing range with weapon size [SS & AEG], then you get roughly 18 miles with a colossal bow. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 6:35

[Note: This answer attempts to avoid the issues with the spot skill (specifically, when exactly is a spot check called for), instead attempting to cover the two main scenarios when a Cragtop Archer's arcing shot will be "efficient."]

Cragtop Archer's arcing shot might best be utilized as a tool for fighting larger, more mobile creatures or for fighting a large, obvious force of creatures.

While it is easy to see how arcing shot becomes impossible against opponents at any meaningful range once the Cragtop Archer's presence is made apparent ("Sniper!" shouts the paladin, as the party dives for cover), the arcing shot still retains a great deal of usability against a large force of opponents moving over open ground; indeed, the description of the Cragtop Archer alludes to exactly such a case; or against larger opponents - especially flying ones. In both cases, the ability is more efficient when used defensively than when used offensively. (This concept of great range but limited visibility tends to produce defensive postures in a wide variety of war games.)

In the first example of efficient usage, consider the Cragtop Archer aboard a vessel on the sea when encountering an enemy vessel. Despite the Archer's potential inability to spot any specific enemy, the Archer decides to rain as many arrows down on the enemy boat as he or she can before the vessel gets within boarding distance. Even under very non-specialized conditions, the Cragtop Archer will still be able to get approximately 50% more shots off on the opponent than the opponent can get off on them. The same could be said of a force storming a defensible position, such as a Cragtop Archer holed up in a round tower.

In the second case of efficiently using the Cragtop Archer's distance, consider that while it is called an "arcing" shot, nothing in its description prevents you from firing upward at a flying enemy.

Arcing Shot (Ex): A cragtop archer of 3rd level or higher can fire a high, arcing shot to gain greater range with her projectile weapon. Any time the cragtop archer can fire a projectile weapon in an area with at least 40 feet of clearance between her position and the ceiling (or any other overhead obstruction, such as a forest canopy), her maximum range with the projectile weapon is fifteen range increments rather than the normal ten range increments. (Races of Stone, pgs. 101 & 102)

Further, don't forget that to get the Cragtop Archer's arcing shot, the character presumably has the first two levels of Cragtop Archer, which reduce the spot and increment penalties by half. A Colossal+ flying creature will be noticeable without the use of a spot check, and the reduction in increment penalty does afford the Cragtop Archer the chance to strike the creature from a truly massive distance.

Finally, if sniping medium sized or smaller opponents is going to be a significant part of what the Cragtop Archer is attempting to do, don't forget to grab a spyglass (Player's Handbook, pgs. 127 & 128). While pricey, it does allow distant object to be viewed at "twice their size." Discuss with your DM what exactly this means, but it seems altogether quite reasonable to suggest that the use of a spyglass ignores at least some of the spot penalties due to distance, as something twice its size could reasonably be said to be less distant than without the spyglass. Hidden targets thus become somewhat easier to hit, and this also follows the real world use of such optics; to see a hidden enemy at a distance and to reach out and touch them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice note about the Spyglass, however a +1 effective size most often lead to -4 to Hide (and not, as it should probably, halve the Spot distance penalty). I do agree that against Flying creatures or out on plains/seas where Hiding is impossible for most, this is less an issue. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 11:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ How is the cragtop archer in your example able to see the boat at such an extreme range? Wouldn't he be unable to fire until the boats had closed much closer together, on account of not knowing there was a boat there in the first place? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NFeutz ah, by 'when spot checks are required' you mean this answer ignores the situations where a huge negative penalty to spot would seem to make seeing things difficult or impossible, instead assuming a character can see anything we would intuitively assume it could probably see, given a similar situation in real life. I had assumed you meant you were ignoring, as seems appropriate to ignore, the unclear rules for when spot checks are called for as regards starting encounter distance, on pgs 86-93 of the DMG. You may want to make that disambiguation in your answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer - No disambiguation required; the answer ignores all cases when a spot check is called for, since that tends to be somewhat subjective, instead answering “How to make efficient use of a Cragtop Archer?” \$\endgroup\$
    – NFeutz
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer - For the sake of defending my answer, I was less interested in pursuing an optimization answer. Instead, I wanted to illuminate the two ways in which superior range are able to be abused. I feel like trying to answer “how do I get a big spot bonus?”/“how do I see far away?” is both too open-ended and also deserving of its own question. While I certainly appreciate the question bringing to light an inherent weakness in a potentially poorly reviewed class, I also think the question it asks strongly deserves to be answered in a “frame” altering manner. \$\endgroup\$
    – NFeutz
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 5:30

Use Clairvoyance/Clairaudience or Arcane Eye

The 3rd level Sorc/Wizard, Bard, and Knowledge domain spell Clairvoyance/Clairaudience allows one to see from any location up to 400 feet (plus 40 ft per CL) from themselves rather than their actual location, for up to 1 minute per level. By placing such a sensor in the path you expect your targets to approach, then retreating to a high vantage point at extreme range, you can be fairly sure you will be able to make the spot checks.

The 4th level sorcerer/wizard spell Arcane Eye is similar, but can also move at a speed of 30 ft. per round, or 10 if you want a complete spherical field of vision (20 if you're a Divination specialist with the right ACF), and has a truly unlimited casting range.

Also use a bunch of wands and other stuff

A typical mid-level character has a maximum spot bonus from items and spells of approximately +92. Given an extremely conservative Wisdom modifier of +10, such a character can achieve a check result of 112 by taking ten, which (with the distance multipliers mentioned) means they can see 8,960 feet from any given magical sensor and/or via their own visual capabilities.

While some of the items and spells used make the subject more visible, none of them make the subject sufficiently more visible such that creatures so far away would be capable of spotting them. While, with a little tweaking, such a character can make DC 0 spot checks at their weapon's maximum range without recourse to remote sensors, such sensors vastly increase their effective spotting distance and the effectiveness of their spot checks: a single arcane eye spell can let you see your targets well before they enter bow range, and additionally prevent enemy hide checks from being effective even at such extreme distances.


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