I am looking for methods, for a character with no strength to add damage to their archery. The only methods I've found were sneak attack and Knowledge Devotion.

Are there any other ways for a character with no Strength bonus to add damage to their attacks with a bow and arrows?

I've settled on crossbows for crossbow sniper but with the set up I have it won't amount to more than one more bit of damage per attack.

At this point I'm just trying to weigh my options.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Masakan, this is a good question but I'm afraid there's not enough detail. For example, one could easily answer that using a magic weapon will add damage to your attack, but I have a feeling that you're not looking for that as an answer. Please add a bit more detail to your question so we know exactly what you're looking for. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2017 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LegendaryDude Actually, this probably works. Optimization questions work out if they’re fairly broad (general approaches to damage on a Str-less archer seems to fit), or very specific (here’s a complete build, what should I tweak to eke out a bit more damage?). It’s the in-between that causes the most trouble. That said, Masakan, if you want help eking out one last bit of damage from a character, more details could certainly help. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 23, 2017 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan That's fair, and I think you're our eminent expert on 3.5 charop questions, so I'll trust your judgment here. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2017 at 19:07

2 Answers 2


Adding Dexterity to damage

The Dead Eye feat from Dragon Compendium lets you apply your Dexterity bonus to your damage with ranged attacks. Note the errata for Dragon Compendium that reduces the BAB requirement to +1 (instead of +14!).

The Crossbow Sniper feat from Player’s Handbook II adds half your Dexterity bonus to your damage with crossbow attacks. Crossbows are difficult to use, but this feat can be a decent reason to try. See this answer for more on making the most of crossbows.

The hit-and-run tactics fighter alternate class feature from Drow of the Underdark allows you to add your Dexterity to damage when attacks flat-footed foes. Making foes flat-footed is pretty tricky, but if you were using sneak attack, you were going to have to do that anyway—this is a pretty big bonus on top of sneak attack for doing it.

Increasing your Dexterity

Enhancement bonuses to Dexterity, e.g. from gloves of dexterity, are a high priority for you. You should have the largest enhancement bonus you can afford just as soon as you can afford it.

A racial bonus to Dexterity is less important. Particularly if it means not getting a bonus feat, or taking a penalty to Constitution.

Beyond that, one of the biggest chunks of Dexterity in the game is from the wildrunner’s primal scream, which works kind of like rage. Wildrunner is from Races of the Wild.

Adding something else to damage

Sneak attack, as mentioned, is traditional, though getting foes flat-footed for it is difficult. If you go that route, definitely also grab hit-and-run tactics and the Craven feat from Champions of Ruin.

Knowledge Devotion, also mentioned, is definitely worth grabbing. It’s solid bonuses to attack and damage, and it’s pretty inexpensive.

Hank’s energy bow from the obscure D&D Cartoon DVD’s booklet on the main characters is also reproduced on their website. It effectively gives you Power Attack with your arrows. That can potentially be a pretty serious amount of damage, though sadly you do not get the 2:1 returns that Power Attack does with two-handed weapons.

Adding Charisma to damage is available through a variety of methods, such as the hexbands from Magic Item Compendium, or the Divine Might feat. Notably, Charisma can also replace Dexterity on bow attack rolls via Charming the Arrow, though between the need for Dexterity for archery feats and the various options for adding Dex to damage, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Along similar lines, but almost-certainly not worth it, swordsages from Tome of Battle can add their Wisdom bonus to damage rolls made as part of strikes made from a chosen discipline. Not many of those strikes are compatible with archery, but if you choose carefully you could maybe do it. You can replace Dexterity with Wisdom on ranged weapon attack rolls with the Zen Archer feat from Complete Warrior.

Getting more attacks

The traditional route to archery damage is just by having a huge number of attacks.

Rapid Shot is the obvious example of this. Manyshot is not, however, as it only lets you apply bonus precision damage to one of the shots and it eliminates any other bonus attacks you might have (e.g. the one from Rapid Shot). Greater Manyshot fixes the precision damage limitation, though you still do not benefit from other bonus attacks.

Beyond those...

The whirling frenzy rage variant can give you another attack.

Haste gives you an extra attack, if someone would be kind enough to cast it on your party (they should, it’s one of the best spells in the game). If not, a speed weapon could suffice.

Speaking of weapon properties, splitting from Champions of Ruin turns every arrow into two. Which means it doubles your attacks, including all the extra ones. It even works with (Greater) Manyshot. It’s a +3-equivalent, but it is so very much worth that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You say several times that getting someone flat-footed is difficult. A ring of blinking is pricey, but also fairly easy to use. Is there some reason you need flat-footed instead of just denying dex bonus? \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Jan 24, 2017 at 16:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @fectin A ring of blinking causes you nearly as many problems as it does your enemies. The Pierce Magical Concealment might maybe fix that problem, but it’s debatable and that’s another two feats, one of which you can’t really use as an archer. And yes, the hit-and-run tactics requires flat-footed rather than denied Dexterity. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 24, 2017 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention that there are powers, spells, class features of fellow party members, and a few items which can help with boosting the damage in various ways. Look for synergies between party member's abilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jan 25, 2017 at 22:48
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There is one more DEX to DMG - the Targetteer variant fighter class from a Dragon mag, grants an class feature which can be taken in place of a feat called Vital Aim which gives DEX to DMG, if the target is not immune to crits - no range limit either, which is handy, but it is not compatible with Hit and Run Tactics as the Targetteer does not have proficiency with Tower shields, thus cannot take that particular ACF. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jan 29, 2017 at 4:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note: the Gauntlets of Heartfelt Blows are from Dragon Compendium (p. 139), not Magic Item Compendium. And unfortunately, their bonus damage apply only to melee attacks. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2018 at 14:41

There are lots of ways for a ranged attacker to boost their damage!

The list below includes many of my favorite options, but is almost certainly not comprehensive. If there's one thing you can depend on in 3.5, it's that there's more options for something than you can think of off the top of your head.

Ways to directly increase damage per hit:

  • Precision damage: You already mentioned Sneak Attack in the question, but other forms of precision damage, like the Ninja's Sudden Strike (Complete Adventurer, p. 5) or the Scout's Skirmish (Complete Adventurer, p. 10) also apply. These abilities all share Sneak Attack's 30-foot range limitation, though.
  • Weapon enhancements: Ranged weapons have the unique property of benefitting from enhancements to both the ranged weapon itself and the ammunition at the same time. Multiple bonuses of the same type (e.g., Enhancement bonuses to damage) won't stack, but if you put different bonuses on the weapon and the ammo, you can stack up a lot of bonus damage fairly cheaply. For instance, a +1 Vicious longbow firing +1 Flaming arrows adds 3d6+1 damage to every shot, which is a lot for the fairly modest price.
  • Various class features: There's a reasonable selection of class features that can add damage to ranged attacks (though the selection is more limited than for melee attacks). Off the top of my head, Abjurant Champion (Complete Mage, p. 50) can sacrifice spell slots to add damage to weapon attacks (kind of like the Arcane Strike feat, but worse, except that it works with ranged attacks). A Ranger also gains bonus damage against favored enemies.
  • Maneuvers: Although the maneuvers in Tome of Battle are largely designed to be used in melee, a surprisingly large number of them are compatible with ranged attacks, especially the swift-action Boost type maneuver. Somebody over on minmaxboards compiled a list of maneuvers that can be used ranged, and put together a Warblade archer build to showcase them.
  • The Mighty weapon property: The question mentions not having a Strength bonus, but that's solvable. Get a Belt of Giant Strength, Polymorph (or better, Draconic Polymorph, Draconomicon, p. 79) into an Arrow Demon, get your Wizard buddy to cast Bull's Strength...you can get creative. Combined with a Mighty weapon, these will add damage to your ranged attacks. Hank's Energy Bow and the Bow of the Wintermoon (MIC, p. 48) have a Mighty property that automatically scales to its user's strength score, which is useful if you're depending on short-term effects like Polymorph to get buff (thanks to KRyan and Hey I Can Chan for pointing these out).
  • Feats: The question mentions the Knowledge Devotion feat; this is an excellent option. Unfortunately, most of the other feat options for this fail to measure up, but Ranged Weapon Mastery (PHB2, p. 82) is alright if you have the levels of Fighter for some reason.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Overcoming damage reduction: This isn't technically added damage, but avoiding damage reduction comes out to the same thing. Since ammunition is so much cheaper than weapons, it's much easier for archers to have arrows made of special materials like Cold Iron or Alchemical Silver, to make sure that whenever they fight something with DR, they have the appropriate countermeasure and are dealing full damage.
  • Make a whole lot of attacks: This isn't precisely a way to add damage to each attack, but in terms of damage per round, it can come out equivalent. Between Rapid Shot, the aforementioned Arrow Demon, the Splitting weapon property (Champions of Ruin), and the fact that an archer is less likely to have to move in order to attack, ranged attackers are really good at making a ton of attacks in a round. By all means, do what you can to maximize your damage per attack, but if that still comes out to less than the Barbarian ubercharger, you can always make it up in volume.

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