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Many of the feats I've seen involving archery require you to be within 30 feet of the target. But based on my experience most archer characters don't want to be that close to combat.

Why would someone want to run the risk of getting rundown by some random charger? Is there any way for a less then durable character to protect themselves from that should they want to be that close to the fight?

For more clarity, imagine your party is fighting with a Barbarian boss and his minions. You know just from looking at the boss that he can turn you into a bloody mess on the floor. You output most of your damage at 30 feet and while you can go farther than that, your damage would be insignificant at best. Further, your party isn't exactly the most reliable when it comes to keeping you safe, and said boss wants to hurt you. What tactics could be used to avoid such a bloody fate?

The Character in Question is a Rogue/Bard, their damage will mostly come from the Craven feat. And can primarily get it off with things like grease, invisibility, glitterdust and Blink.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Posting this as a comment instead of answer because I might've misunderstood something gravely, but doesn't that question sort of answer itself? If there are feats that reward being at short range, those feats are your reason to be at close range. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jan 13 '17 at 9:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I only ask this because i'm not entirely sure if the pros would outweigh the cons. I mean lets say for example you have a level 10 character and they have around 40 hp, would you really feel ok with them being anywhere near frontline combat? Or would this be a case of high risk, high reward? \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 9:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Um. Is the title the question or is the question How can an archer keep foes at a distance? or is the question What tactics can I use so that my low-hp archer won't get slaughtered by nearby enemies? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 13 '17 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you considering an 1vX scenario or is your party with you? Just standing behind your warrior/paladin/cleric/whatever is generally enough... \$\endgroup\$ – BgrWorker Jan 13 '17 at 9:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ You think so? Maybe I'm just overthinking this but it never hurts to have a failsafe. But no this would generally be within a party. \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 9:54
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Stay further away.

Apart from Point Blank Shot which gives a fairly minor benefit, most of your feats likely won't require you to be that close. It is a shame that you can't bypass this feat, but it is a requirement for Precise Shot which is practically mandatory. Improved Precise Shot becomes available at level 11 normally, but isn't compulsory.

A Composite Longbow (You do have at least Strength 10, right?) has a whopping 110ft range increment which puts you well out of charge range of most enemies before you even start taking to-hit penalties.

Precise Shot and Rapid Shot, which are likely to be your bread-and-butter feats, have no requirement to be close to an enemy and you can even pick up Far Shot if you want to stay even further away.

You may also wish to consider any magic items that increase your speed or grant 'free' move actions so that you can keep moving whilst firing. Alternatively, some way of gaining Greater Invisibility or Blur effects can make you harder to hit/detect.

Sneak Attacks

This is trickier.

I would recommend buying a wand of Sniper's Shot which allows you to make Ranged Sneak Attacks at unlimited range. It will only last 1 round at a time, but you can cast it as a Swift Action (Rules Compendium, page 9, note 2) so should always be able to have it available as needed.

If you put a Wand Chamber (see Dungeonscape) into your bow then you can activate the Wand whilst still wielding your weapon too.

This should allow you to keep your distance.

Multiple Wands

If you wanted to have access to multiple wands, such a as Wand of Golem/Vine Strike, then it may be beneficial to have a Wand Bracelet (Magic Item Compendium) which allows you to store several wands and draw them as a swift Action. This lets you swap over the wand in your Wand Chamber as needed at the cost of an action.

This does give you an issue where you can't Sneak Attack from over 30ft versus Plants/Golems etc. If this is a deal-breaker for you then....

Switch to Crossbows

The Crossbow Sniper feat allows you to Sneak Attack at 60ft range, as well as getting bonus damage,. at the cost of needing the Weapon Focus feat first. A Light Crossbow with Rapid Reload will also allow you to make full iterative attacks.

Or...

Get a Continuous Magic Item

This will need to be cleared with a GM first, but you could create a COntinuous Magic Item of Sniper's Shot for a meagre 8,000gp (CL 1 * Spell Level 1 * Duration in Rounds 4 * 2000).

Expect the rest of your party to start asking for Continuous True Strike though!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ See thats honestly part of the problem. If it was just a matter of staying further away, this wouldn't even be an issue...but most of the damage of the character in question would come from sneak attack \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 10:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Masakan It is probably best to specify that in the question and also note what your character build is - in this case it sounds like a Rogue. It may also be worth noting how you plan on triggering Sneak Attacks after the first round. \$\endgroup\$ – Phlyk Jan 13 '17 at 10:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you say a wand of sniper shot is more important then say a wand of golem strike or vine strike and the like? \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 11:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Masakan I've updated my answer to reflect a need for multiple wands. At some point you are likely to have to sacrifice something though, be it feat-slots, lots of GP or your choice of weapon. \$\endgroup\$ – Phlyk Jan 13 '17 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah thats what i was afraid of..Oh well thanks for the advice though \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 12:11
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But based on my experience most archer characters don't want to be that close to combat.

In reality, being close to your target was an advantage. Because not only was it easier to hit (modeled by AC), it was also easier to penetrate the armor at closer distances (also modeled by AC). So generally speaking, being close up was always good for archers. However, being in danger of getting attacked in hand-to-hand always was a danger of being close. So the real art is to be close but always an arms-length away.

Good answers have been written about D&D feats and items. I would like to bring in some real world tactics that are not based on D&D, but work anyway because they are universal. They might not be as good as in reality, because in D&D you have four-armed-flying-pigs-with-magic-halberds or something, but still, using them is way better than not using them:

The arrow needs a direct path to it's target. That does not mean the target needs to have a direct path to you. In fact, it's preferable that this is a one-way street. Your arrow can fly, your opponent most likely not. So you need to put yourself in a spot, where there is a direct line of flight and sight, but no direct line of movement between you and the target.

This perfect battlefield condition can be reached in mundane ways, for example:

  • standing on palisades
  • climbing into a tree (1)
  • standing behind a wall, that's low enough to shoot over, but too high to be easily scaled
  • shooting through a window or door
  • shooting from a rooftop
  • standing behind a barricade, maybe even behind barbed wire or spikes
  • standing on the other side of a river, canal, ravine, trench, ditch or moat
  • standing behind your own infantry

Those are all things I would consider "hard cover" for archers. The enemy cannot reach you. There is enough "soft cover", where the enemy could reach you, but does not know how:

  • standing in pitch darkness while the target is illuminated
  • standing behind the target while it's distracted (maybe by your allies)
  • standing to both sides of the target so it cannot organize a solid, single attack (goes for larger formations)

This is not an exclusive answer. By all means, when you employ those tactics, use any feat or item you can get to further help you.


(1) a treetop is considered a pretty bad sniper position, because there is no way to retreat. Only pick this if sufficiently sure you win, or with sufficient suicidal tendencies.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So basically the general idea is to find high ground and abuse it. Ok im feeling that. \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 15:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would not call it "abuse". Shooting somebody else to kill them is not a sport where there's rules and fairness. Using terrain has always been a part of warfare and it would be stupid to ignore it. So yes, use the terrain and if there is no terrain to use, make some yourself. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Jan 13 '17 at 15:04
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First, you should not be so low HP. Constitution is this character’s second-most-important ability score. In fact, Constitution is almost everyone’s second-most-important ability score. A Constitution of 14 should be thought of as your minimum here. So on average your HP should be around 7/level.

As a rogue/bard, you might be thinking that you need both Dexterity and Charisma high. Not so. Multiclassing already kind of kills your spellcasting, so I would not expect to get much out of it—and it is the only thing a bard really needs Charisma for.

Alternatively, the feat Charming the Arrow allows you to use Charisma for your archery, which could let you slide on Dexterity. If you go that route, I would strongly consider dipping a couple levels of paladin for divine grace if you can. That will help your HP, and massively help your saves. The harmonious knight variant can also get you more inspire courage.

On the subject of dips that improve your HP, barbarian could get you the excellent whirling frenzy for yet another attack.

Second, improve your mobility. Anklets of translocation are cheap and allow you to reposition yourself 10 feet as a swift action. 1/day, but you could buy a bunch and swap between fights. You could even dip cleric for Travel Devotion—that might be overkill, but it’s much cheaper than Greater Manyshot, and you could get Point-blank Shot from your other domain. Anyway, keep party members or battlefield control effects between you and enemies.

Third, use unseen seer. This prestige class from Complete Mage advances precision damage, spellcasting, has medium BAB, 6+Int skills per level, and grants you some bonus divinations from any list. Which could be sniper’s shot and hunter’s eye. Could even go over the top and use Talfirian Song along with either Metamagic Song or Lyric Spell to try to Persist these spells. Or if you’re dipping cleric already, Divine Metamagic could be a thing. Clearly, this approach is much better with the Charming the Arrow version.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Frail Flaw. Dm's love it when you have flaws that link to a characters backstory \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Masakan Well, that was, by the numbers, a terrible choice. Frail is far, far more onerous than almost any other flaw. But that just makes my points about Constitution that much more important. Or you could burn the bonus feat on Improved Toughness to cancel it out, but considering how badly you need feats, I’m not sure I recommend that. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 13 '17 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah you're right. the more i think about it the more i feel its more trouble then its worth...but i cant think of any other flaw that wouldn't completely screw me besides noncombatant. But the whole idea was to make it clear that this character is NOT an inherent fighter, and tends to prefer to get the jump on people or catch them with their guard down. Besides she's more of a utility caster anyway until i hit level 11 and get into sublime chord. \$\endgroup\$ – Masakan Jan 13 '17 at 13:27

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