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The Arcane Archer seems to be pretty underwhelming, mostly because of its limited uses of the Arcane Shot feature. Would it be imbalanced to increase its number of uses per rest to match the number of Arcane Shot options known? The feature would read something like this:

Arcane Shot
At 3rd level, you learn to unleash special magical effects with some of your shots. When you gain this feature, you learn two Arcane Shot options of your choice (see "Arcane Shot Options" below).
Once per turn when you fire an arrow from a shortbow or longbow as part of the Attack action, you can apply one of your Arcane Shot options to that arrow. You decide to use the option when the arrow hits a creature, unless the option doesn't involve an attack roll. You have two uses of this ability, and you regain all expended uses of it when you finish a short or long rest.
You gain an additional Arcane Shot option of your choice, as well as an addition use of the feature, when you reach certain levels in this class: 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level. Each option also improves when you become an 18th-level fighter.

Compared to other "pick X of Y" subclasses for the Fighter, Arcane Archer is the most limiting:

  • Battle Master gets 4 uses per rest, and has (after Tasha's) 23 options, as compared to the Archer's 2 uses per rest, and 8 options; the Battle Master can also further increase the uses by taking the Superior Technique Fighting Style or Martial Adept feat.
  • Rune Knight starts with 2 uses per rest, and has only 6 options to choose from, but that number increases to 5 runes to use, which sets a precedent for an increasing number of uses as the class grows in strength.
  • Eldritch Knight starts with 3 spells known (of 14 1st level spells in the Abjuration and Evocation schools), and 2 uses, but the number of spells known and spell slots grows frequently, nearly every second level.

I think increasing the number of uses of Arcane Shot would at least bring the Arcane Archer closer to some of the more powerful Fighter subclasses, without overpowering this subclass.

The 7th level feature seems balanced, if not strong, and I don't think needs any changing.

The 10th level feature is weak compared to other fighter 10th level abilities, so I propose adding the Close Quarters Shooting feature, from the UA Sharpshooter subclass:

Close Quarter's Shooting
At 10th level, you learn to handle yourself in close combat. Making a ranged attack roll while within 5 feet of an enemy doesn't impose disadvantage on your roll.
In addition, if you hit a creature within 5 feet of you with a ranged attack on your turn, that creature can't take reactions until the end of this turn.

This feature is relatively situational, and adds a bit of defense to the repertoire of the arcane archer without forcing them to pick one shot over another. Because of the situational nature of this feature I don't believe it would increase the strength of the class too much, but would still improve things.

The increase to number of uses of Arcane Shot does make the Ever-Ready Shot feature rather underwhelming, So is should be replaced with another feature from the UA Sharpshooter, Rapid Shot:

Rapid Shot
Starting at 15th level, you learn to trade accuracy for swift strikes. If you have advantage on a weapon attack against a target on your turn, you can forgo that advantage to immediately make an additional weapon attack against the same target as a bonus action. You may not use an Arcane Shot on this additional attack.

This matches the Samurai 15th level feature, and I don't think adding that feature to this subclass is unfair. As it uses a bonus action, it limits the feature to once per turn, and only on the characters turn. Not allowing an Arcane Shot mostly clarifies that if you split advantage on a use of Arcane Shot, it does not make both attacks have the Arcane Shot.

The 18th level feature I don't think needs changing, as the increased uses of the Arcane Shot improves the value of the 1d6 or 2d6 extra damage.

What are your thoughts? Is there any change that stacks aggressively in some way I'm missing? Would this be balanced with one feature out?

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Too many uses of Arcane shot

I think you have a number of interesting features but you went too far with the additional uses

You gain an additional Arcane Shot option of your choice, as well as an addition use of the feature, when you reach certain levels in this class: 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level.

This means at 18th level you would have 6 uses of Arcane Shot per rest which would be about once per turn. A Battlemaster, on the other hand, would also have 6 uses, possibly 7 if they benefitted from Relentless.

The reason why the Arcane Archer should fewer uses than the Battlemaster is that the Archer's abilities are relatively more powerful.

Consider Piercing Arrow. If there is just a single additional target you are looking at an extra 1d8+4d6+5 = 23.5 extra damage or 18.8 if you assume a 60% fail chance.

For comparison the Battlemaster's Sweeping Attack would deal an extra 1d12 damage with Sweeping Attack. Even assuming it automatically hits it is less than half the damage of Piercing Arrow.

Or we could consider Feinting Attack. With a 65% hit chance advantage boosts it to 88% for a 23% increase. With a Greatsword we are looking at 1d12*.65+(2d6+5)*.23 = 7 which is still less than Piercing Arrow.

Or maybe Trip Attack. If you hit on the first attack, have three attacks, with a 65% fail chance, and a greatsword we get 1d12+.23*.652(2d6+5)= 10.

Increasing the uses to 4 might be balanced but having it dramatically exceed the Battlemaster in uses isn't.

Close Quarter's Shooting
I don't think this would unbalance the class although it might detract from the flavor. Fighters have high hp so being in melee helps them absorb damage that would otherwise hit squishier members. Close Quarters Shooting would remove the issue with fighting in melee for the Arcane Archer meaning they will often want to be in melee to protect their companions. Whether this is an issue depends on what flavor you want from the class.

Rapid Shot
I don't think this is gamebreaking but it is more powerful than the Battlemaster's 15th level feature. My main concern would be the potential synergy with Shadow Arrow. With your proposed number of uses this could translate into nearly an entire extra attack. With fewer uses of Arcane Shot this would be more balanced although I would still worry about synergy with other party members.


How Arcane Archer might be improved:

I think you do have solid reasons for wanting to improve the Arcane Archer. Even if we consider the Arcane Shot options to be twice as good as Battlemaster Maneuvers the extra superiority die changes the ratio from 1:2 to 1:3. At the same time the Superiority Die change from 1d8 to 1d12 which compounds with their additional uses. Arcane Shots change from 1d6 to 2d6 but fall behind for much of the interim and don't benefit from additional uses.

As such I think you are completely correct in giving additional uses of Arcane Shot. Giving an additional use at 7th level and again at 15th level might be appropriate. One thing to consider, however, is that fewer more powerful uses makes it easier to Crit surf.

At 7th level I think the Arcane Archer gets a significantly better feature than the Battlemaster and at 15th the feature is slightly better because it is easier to use all of the uses and an additional use hold more value. Giving more uses makes it appropriate to remove Ever Ready Shot and to give a new feature.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great break down, thank you! What do you believe is a good amount of uses per rest; do you find 2 to be enough? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15 at 3:23

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