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Dragon magazine issue 310 introduces the Targetteer variant of the Fighter class, which has the following bonus feat option:

Sniper: When using the full attack option the targetteer can sacrifice attacks to gain deadly accuracy. For each attack from a full attack sacrificed, the threat range of the targetteer's weapon increases by 1.

What I'm wondering, though, is whether or not this actually requires the character to fire their weapon on each sacrificed attack. Suppose a character is wielding two double crossbows from the web enhancement Races of the Dragon, Part 2, which each let the wielder make an extra attack at their highest BAB, but all of their attacks that round take a -2 penalty. By RAW that character can make four attacks per round (at a significant penalty to hit), and could sacrifice three of them to improve the critical hit range of the last one.

However, does this action consume one bolt or four? Also, since they only made one attack, are they spared the longer reload time for the double crossbows?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ (An Aside: The real question is how a professional magazine let the word targeteer be misspelled and misused throughout the entire article. Sigh.) \$\endgroup\$ May 17 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan it’s a gendered thing. The targeteer shots at targets. The targetteer shooters at targettes. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    May 18 at 15:03

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We have nothing to go on beyond what you have quoted. There is no game definition of “sacrificed attacks.” But the only thing that makes sense to me is that sacrificed attacks are attacks you do not make. The bolts stay where they are, loaded in the crossbows. If you were supposed to make the attacks, but they automatically miss or something, that would have a lot of additional ramifications that would need to be spelled out and the ability doesn’t.

So I think it works, and it’s a neat trick. But it’s also still a bad trade—for attacks you could have made, anyway. With thanks to @minnmass for doing the math, you are more likely to get at least one critical hit without sniper than with it so long as you use a weapon with a 19-20 threat range or better. And that’s at least one—actually making the attacks gives you a chance to make more than one, while that isn’t possible if you’re sacrificing all of your attacks to expand your threat range as much as possible.

The key thing here, to me, is that the ability never specifies which attacks you sacrifice. Sacrificing an attack with a good chance to hit is a bad idea. Sacrificing your third iterative that has a −15 penalty? That’s a much better-sounding trade. Still, that’s at high levels, and at high levels this has to compete with Improved Critical or keen, since sniper does not stack with those. Sniper is generally going to lose that competition.

There are some advantages to one big hit, rather than many, smaller hits, per @Prevarications’s comment, but since we are more likely to see a critical hit by attacking more, at best we should sacrifice just one attack to achieve 19-20 threat range if our weapon has a usual threat range of just 20.

The more important thing that @Prevarications points out is that there is no requirement that the sacrificed attacks be ranged attacks.¹ If you have natural weapons as a ranged attacker, those are melee-only attacks that you might not be within reach to make, so those can be “freely” sacrificed. In other words, you pulled the wrong thing from that web enhancement—what you really want is the kobold and its claw/claw/bite natural weapons. Converting a 20/×4 weapon into a 17-20/×4 weapon isn’t terrible for the cost of a race that’s quite decent in other respects, and a level of fighter (or the feat you might otherwise have gotten with that level). It’s not great, either, but natural weapons are relatively easy to come by,² so you can easily expand it past 17-20; you could even do better than the 15-20 range available by just taking Improved Critical on an 18-20 weapon.

Unfortunately, there is only one ranged weapon that gets a ×4 multiplier, the exotic war sling from Races of the Wild. The war sling is an interesting weapon—if you have proficiency with both it and skiprocks, you can launch a skiprock with the war sling and ricochet it off of your first target and into the next. Doubling your attacks per turn is a great thing to do when crit-fishing, and if sniper lets you get a solid critical hit range, that’s pretty awesome. And the targeteer gets proficiency in any two ranged exotic weapons—like the war sling and skiprock!

From there, the deepwood sniper from Masters of the Wild is probably the way to go. Its keen arrows effect arguably does stack with sniper (though this is because it’s a 3.0e prestige class so your DM may well amend this—ultimately it’s fairly minor either way), and then its projectile improved critical ability increases the ×4 multiplier to ×5 at 2nd and ×6 at 7th.

Other than those, you definitely want Dead Eye from Dragon Compendium (note the errata changes the BAB +14 requirement to BAB +1!), and ranged attack mainstays like Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, and Rapid Shot. Targeteer can help with any of those. So can psychic warrior, which has the added bonus of also having access to a bunch of abilities to get more natural weapons to sacrifice for sniper. You’ll also probably want to dip warblade or swordsage (Tome of Battle) for the blood in the water Tiger Claw stance.

In all, a kobold-playing-to-their-strengths targeteer/deepwood sniper with a war sling and skiprocks is probably winds up being one of the most effective ways to play a pure damage-dealing ranged-attack character, shockingly enough.

  1. There’s no requirement that the attacks you actually make be ranged, either, for that matter.

  2. As examples, the kobold qualifies for the Dragon Tail feat from Races of the Dragon, 1000 gp can buy the mighty arms graft from Faiths of Eberron (though this might not stack with claws), Bind Vestige + Practiced Binder from Tome of Magic allows a ram attack from Amon. Illithid Grapple from Complete Psionic can be taken up to 4 times for up to 4 tentacle attacks, but it requires Illithid Heritage and another illithid feat, so that’s pricey. If you’re looking to invest that much, you’d do much better just taking 2 levels of totemist from Magic of Incarnum. With that, you can easily shape chaos roc’s span (Dragon vol. 350) and dragon tail (Dragon Magic), and bind girallon arms (Magic of Incarnum), for 7 natural weapons (2 wing buffets, tail slap, and 4 claws) and at that point you don’t even need to be a kobold (though it would add a bite).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the idea is that it's for overcoming high DR enemies, which are normally the bane of archers' existences. It's not as good as something like Pathfinder's clustered shots feat, but it's something. There's also some synergy with weapon enchantments like fiery burst and so forth, though those are all bad. And lastly, because I do agree that this uses only one arrow, it's useful for conserving special ammo. Interestingly, the sacrificed attacks don't have to be ranged attacks, so if you have secondary natural weapons, you can sack those for bonus crit range—though that's a bit cheesy. \$\endgroup\$ May 17 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Prevarications Very clever on the natural attacks angle, I do like that. And yes, it helps a bit in the case of DR, but since it’s not increasing the multiplier, it’s not helping much. Clustered Shots is a vastly superior solution, so if DR was the impetus here, I’d strongly recommend requesting to backport it—and I’d strongly suggest that all reasonable DMs should allow it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 17 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ With a threat range of 20, increasing the range increases the number of crits - 2 attacks have a 90.25% chance of no crits (anydice.com/program/910a) where 1 attack with a 19-20 range has a 90% chance of no crits; attacking 3x has an 85.74% chance of no crits, where 1 attack with an 18-20 has an 85% chance of no crits. With a normal range of 19-20, critting decreases: 2 attacks have an 81% chance of no crits, where an 18-20 has an 85% chance of no crits (anydice.com/program/d74a). \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    May 17 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass Thanks. The double crossbow mentioned in the question has 19-20, so yeah, doesn’t help for that. Really, if you care about getting crits, particularly at least one crit, then you’d be hard-pressed to justify anything but 18-20. I guess the double crossbow kinda offers a reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 17 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Am I missing where the special ability sniper that says that a targetteer (ugh—the name!) must use a ranged weapon to benefit from the ability? A DM may rule it's ranged weapons only because the example has a targetteer using a ranged weapon and the names, but it doesn't seem a technical requirement. (Just in case I am overlooking something, let me be helpful so no one chases geese: the war sling is from Races of the Wild not the Dragon and is likely supposed to—but because naming conventions doesn't—supersede the halfling warsling (n.b. spelling) from Races of Faerûn.) \$\endgroup\$ May 18 at 13:49

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