I have created this custom Sniper Crossbow, but I'm very bad at judging how it should be priced, so I'm asking for some feedback. Is this overpowered/underpriced?

Sniper's Crossbow

This +1 distance heavy crossbow has additional mechanical and magical improvements as well as a telescopic sight to allow precise aiming at long distances. Its range increment is 75 m/250 feet and a sneak attack can be performed at a distance of 24 m/80 feet. When looking through the telescopic sight a character gains darkvision out to 36 m/120 feet. If placed on a bipod (included) while behind cover or lying on the ground the wielder can take a full round to shoot with additional precision: The range increment increases to 84 m/280 feet and the maximum distance for a sneak attack increases to 33 m/110 feet.

Strong Divination, faint Transmutation CL 6th clairaudience/clairvoyance, Darkvision; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item.

Price: 25,000 gp ( +3 enchantment, 3,500 gp for material, 3,500 gp for darkvision)


2 Answers 2


A lot of this weapon's effects are easily and inexpensively duplicated or bettered by spells, and, as careful spells selection is integral to the game, I am challenging the frame here a bit.

The weapon's overpriced... if the assassin's familiar with magic

Such a weapon would be a boon to a mundane assassin with no ranks in the skill Use Magic Device. KRyan's answer already assesses the weapon under such circumstances in meticulous detail. However, many assassins—especially high-level, successful ones—are going to be casters, invest lots of skill points into the skill Use Magic Device, or both. Among such assassins, most of this weapon is significantly overpriced.

For all the extending of sneak attack distance the weapon provides, a +1 distance (DMG 224) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) heavy crossbow (PH 115, 116) (8,350 gp; 6 lbs.) with a wand chamber (Dungeonscape 30, 34) (100 gp; 0 lbs.) and a wand of sniper's shot [div] (Spell Compendium 194) (1st-level spell at caster level 1) (15 gp/charge) is far more affordable at a total price of 9,200 gp.

The spell sniper's shot—which, in addition to being a 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell, is also a 1st-level assassin spell—takes a swift action to cast then for 1 round

Your ranged attacks made before the start of your next turn can be sneak attacks regardless of the distance between you and your target. You must still fulfill the other conditions for making a sneak attack against the target.

If that's enough, skip to the Elephant in the Room, below.

If that's not enough—and were this my assassin's weapon of choice, it wouldn't be—also install a crossbow knife bayonet (Complete Scoundrel 109) (2 gp; 1 lb.) with a wand chamber and put within a wand of extended guided shot [div] (SpC 108) (1st-level spell modified to a 2nd-level spell at caster level 3) (90 gp/charge).

The spell guided shot—which isn't an assassin spell thus requiring a non-ranger, non-sorcerer/wizard assassin to make a Use Magic Device skill check (DC 20) to employ—takes a swift action to cast then for what is usually 1 round (but in the case of the wand, above, 2 rounds)

...your ranged attacks do not take a penalty due to distance. In addition, your ranged attacks ignore the AC bonus granted to targets by anything less than total cover, and also ignore the miss chance granted to targets by anything less than total concealment.

In sum, the weapon has its normal range increment of 120 ft. doubled to 240 ft. but can fire out to 2,400 ft. at no penalty via the effect of the spell guided shot, and the assassin can deal sneak attack damage at that distance via the effect of the spell sniper's shot. This is probably overkill.1

The price for the whole shebang is 15,302 gp.

For scale, the long edge of battle mat I use (which has 1½" squares to accommodate Lego minifigs) has but 31 squares, so this weapon's first increment is beyond the usual map range in my campaigns, and, I expect, beyond the map range of many others' engagements. Such a weapon is narrative device, suitable for explaining events that happen within the story, rather than an actual, practical hey-let's-go-explore-the-dungeon! kind of weapon.2

The Elephant in the Room: "That's a lot of darkvision"

Seemingly so that (mainly and, often, only) humans must bear torches, the game places an unreasonably high price on the extraordinary ability to see in the dark without visible light. Despite the majority of creatures in the Monster Manual possessing darkvision, we humans must either pay through the nose for such an ability or accept that we might be eaten by actual grues when the lights go out.3,4

Most creatures have darkvision 60 ft., and most items granting darkvision grant darkvision 60 ft. Getting darkvision 120 ft. or more using the tools the game provides is expensive... perhaps too expensive. (Seriously, by the game's standards and with no limits on its use, the original weapon's most expensive part is its magical telescopic sight.)

A wand of superior darkvision [trans] (Unapproachable East 53) (4th-level spell at caster level 7) is 21,000 gp, and for 1 hour/level 1 touched creature gains darkvision to the extent of his normal vision. It's what the super-sniper wants, and he pays excessively for it. (Although a Sor/Wiz spell, superior darkvision is also a 4th-level ranger spell, which might at least make using such a wand slightly easier.)

Alternatively, a liberal DM may permit a creature successfully making a series of Use Magic Device skill checks to benefit enough from Cannith goggles (Magic Item Compendium 84) (13,000 gp; 0.5 lbs.) to gain darkvision 120 ft. for 24 hours, but that DM's likely the exception not the rule. Also, the throat-slot item eye of the beholder (Dragon #340 69) (8,700 gp; 0 lbs.) for 1 min. 3/day on command grants, among other benefits, darkvision 120 ft. Otherwise, continuous darkvision 120 ft. appears to be the sole province of the robe of eyes (DMG 265) (120,000 gp; 1 lbs.), an absurd luxury none can afford.5

Luckily, we have an inexpensive savior in the extraordinary ability low-light vision. Low-light vision is deeply contradictory, but only in rare circumstances should an assassination need to take place in an area with absolutely no ambient light—not even the equivalent of moonlight or starlight—by which to view an unaware target.

So, while it will be useful on occasion for an assassin to be able to see in utter darkness, low-light vision should be enough for most murderers. If lacking natural low-light vision, there's the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell low-light vision [trans] (SpC 134), which lasts 1 hour/level, and, conveniently, is also a 1st-level assassin spell. The 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell ebon eyes [trans] (SpC 77), although mired in controversy, might also work; it, too, is a 1st-level assassin spell.6

If the sniper is assassinating drow nobles in Erelhei-Cinlu or whatever, then it's time for that wand of superior darkvision. Until then, low-light vision (through whatever means) and a wand of darkvision [trans] (PH 216) (2nd-level spell at caster level 3) (90 gp/charge) should be sufficient.7


  • The imprecisely duplicated version of the originally posted weapon costs 9,200 gp for the weapon and accessories plus 750 gp for a wand of low-light vision and 4,500 gp for a wand of darkvision for a total of 14,450 gp.
  • The extreme-range version of the weapon—useful for murdering svirfneblin aristocrats in the Underdark—costs 15,302 gp for the weapon and accessories plus 21,000 gp for the wand of superior darkvision for a total of 36,302 gp.

In both cases, bolts and poison not included.

An aside: The limits of death attack

The assassin's extraordinary ability death attack can usually only be used with melee weapons. The 4th-level assassin spell sniper's eye [trans] (SpC 193-4) for 1 round/level grants the caster the ability to make sneak attacks at up to 60 ft. and specifically allows death attacks while using a ranged weapon... up to a maximum distance of a miserable 60 ft. Nothing to my knowledge extends this death attack distance even more, but a very generous DM may allow the combination of sniper's eye and sniper's shot to do so.8

An extensive assassin's handbook—including information about about death attack—can be found here.

1 The 2nd-level ranger and assassin spell near horizon [div] (Complete Mage 110) for 3 rounds only eliminates all range penalties, and you've ranks in the skill Use Magic Device anyway, right?
2 Technically, the wand chambers are unnecessary, but without them the assassin must drop or rapidly stow the wand of extended guided shot on one turn, drop or rapidly stow the wand of sniper's shot the next turn, then, on that same turn, perhaps also draw but absolutely make an attack with the +1 distance crossbow. The wand chambers, while a luxury, make this normally clumsy series of events far more elegant.
3 Complete Arcane details grues (153-5).
4 Not that I'm bitter or anything.
5 High-end intelligent magic items (DMG 269) can also have up to 120 ft. darkvision, although such an ability is of little use to the wielder in combat.
6 The Dragon #322 article "Patterns of Shadow and Light" presents in its original and slightly clearer form the spell ebon eyes (72).
7 Frustratingly, the only spell on the assassin's spell list that grants darkvision is, actually, sniper's eye.
8 To just go ahead and make death attacks using a longbow instead, take all the way to level 10 the prestige class justice of weald and woe (Champions of Ruin 48).

  • \$\begingroup\$ So very much disagree that this darkvision is worth nearly this much. Consider that the darkvision is use-activated, rather than continuous: the darkvision will let you make the attack, but it’s not likely to let you see the ambush. Though I’d probably codify that in some manner. Anyway, superior darkvision, and darkvision in general, seems massively overpriced to me in the first place. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 3, 2015 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Never did I say that darkvision should cost that much, only that the game puts prices on darkvision and that the game puts a really high price on long-range darkvision. I agree completely that the game overvalues such an ability. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 3, 2015 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan (To speculate, the designers may've costed darkvision so high because, under take-no-prisoners RAW, encounter distance is serious business, and PCs possessing longer-range darkvision than the monsters means, in many dungeon-specific cases (y'know, Back to the Dungeon! and all), bypassing (hence overcoming hence gaining XP from) a lot of encounters. Even a party with 90 ft. versus foes with 60 ft. probably gives the party enough edge to at least find concealment. I've not played in a campaign where that kind of range would've made a consistent difference, but it may be a thing.) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 4, 2015 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most dungeons I have seen have been too tight to allow such things. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The idea's probably a relic. I just glanced at the maps for the AD&D adventures The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and Against the Giants (2E never really having been my thing) and both have maps with really long sight lines. Similarly, the 3E adventure Sunless Citadel on its Grove Level has some absurdly long sight lines. However, all but one of the maps in the 3.5 adventure Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave would barely accommodate the typical AD&D party much less them and their foes. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 4, 2015 at 15:45

This answer uses only ft., as these units are much more familiar to me in the context of D&D (since the version I play only ever uses 5-ft. squares for distances). Convert as necessary (using the definition of squares in your version of D&D, rather than real-world conversion, if applicable).

So this is a +1 distance heavy crossbow (8,350 gp) with a slightly larger range increment (250 ft. vs. the 240 ft. of a typical +1 distance heavy crossbow), and a fairly-large extension of the range at which Sneak Attack applies (80 ft. rather than the usual 30 ft.). It can grant darkvision, and at a fairly-solid distance. It further has another option for somewhat more range and Sneak Attack range, but must sacrifice any extra attacks the character has to do so.

The premium for these extra features is 16,650 gp.

Breaking things down:

  • Extra 10 ft. in range increment, coming out to an approximately 4% increase

    This is basically negligible; I wouldn’t even include it in the pricing.

    Verdict: +0 gp

  • Sneak Attack range from 30 ft. to 80 ft.

    Player’s Handbook II’s Crossbow Sniper feat extends the range to 60 ft., while Spell Compendium’s swift-action sniper’s shot spell grants 1 round of having no special limit on the range of Sneak Attack (aside from still having to hit the target). The value of a feat is anywhere from 3,000 gp to 10,000 gp, depending on the feat, while a continuous form a 1-round 1st-level spell would be 8,000 gp (though sniper’s shot does more than this does).

    Verdict: +6,000 gp, ish.

  • Darkvision 120 ft.

    The scout’s headband in Magic Item Compendium gives 60 ft. of darkvision for an hour, up to three times, in addition to a constant +2 to Spot. However, it can also give see invisibility for 10 minutes (costing two of those hours) or even true seeing for 1 minute (costing all three hours of darkvision). As such, it is much better than this item, despite its always-on nature and larger range. It costs 3,400 gp.

    Note that the core goggles of night grant continuous darkvision for an astounding 12,000 gp. This is massively overpriced.

    I do take from the description that the rifle is “use-activated” and that one cannot just walk around staring through the scope. This makes a huge difference, because it means the darkvision cannot protect you from an ambush. Codifying this in the rules in some fashion would improve matters (e.g. “While using the scope, you can see an area with a 20-ft. radius, up to 120 ft. away, as if you had darkvision, but you cannot see outside of this area at all.”), but probably not necessary as long as your table can agree on “sensible” usage. If this is not the case, and you get always-on darkvision, the price would go up somewhat – but googles of night and HeyICanChan’s wand of superior darkvision are still massively overpriced.

    Verdict: +2,500 gp.

  • Full-round action for even more range

    This is an extremely niche ability, only helping if your target is in a fairly-narrow band, and it costs a great deal if the user has Rapid Reload (which he or she should if they are seriously using a crossbow). It’s potential is rather minor. I’d just chalk it up to the special-ness of a specific item and call it a day.

    Verdict: +0 gp

For a premium of around 8,500 gp, quite a lot short of your 16,650. Total would be 16,350 gp, not 25,000 gp. That puts it a bit short of the cost of a +3 weapon; personally, I’d probably just call it a +3 weapon. That way the cost of these things is included in the scaling of any future enhancements added to it. Getting a larger Sneak Attack range as a +1 is decent.

However, note that this item may be of only minor use; it’s relatively rare for D&D encounters to take place over such long distances, and rather un-fun for many players. Personally, I probably wouldn’t want this weapon, favoring something more useful up close.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Aiming one full round for more range can be very usefull though if you manage to stay hidden. At 110 ft. you get a +11 hide bonus, which reduces the penalty for sniping to 'only' -9. Imagine an Assassin delivering Death attacks every 3 rounds with this thing (he wouldn't care about the extra time for aiming). \$\endgroup\$
    – 0x539
    Aug 31, 2015 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @0x539 Maybe, but the extra range for that option is very small. What are the odds that the target is more than eighty but less than 110 feet away? How often does than happen? Also, no, not every three rounds, unless he's shooting fish in a barrel: they will run away before his second shot. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 31, 2015 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ What kind of enemy would not have found cover after 3 rounds? Even in an open field you can probably hide in the grass or something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Aug 31, 2015 at 20:57

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