Awesome Sneak Attack/Skirmish Greater Manyshot Archer (3.5e Optimized Character Build)

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Introduction[edit]

Move and stack Sneak Attack and Skirmish damage to every arrow fired from Greater Manyshot volleys each round! Can get 8 shots per round with the right equipment!


When I made this build, I wanted to make a Rogue/Scout archer that got its abilities as soon as possible while using only PHB, Psionics books, and the Complete <x> books, since that's what our campaign was using. After a bit of polishing, I made a build that got the Greater Manyshot feat at 9th level and everything else I wanted at 12th.

At 13th level, this build is Rogue 5/Scout 4/Ranger 4, and would definitely be considered to be the build's sweet spot. After that, every level of Rogue or Ranger stacks with Scout to determine your total Skirmish bonus, so it continues to develop at a good pace if you stick to those classes (Rogue is recommended).

Greater Manyshot is a required feat for this build to work properly. It allows you to get Sneak Attack and Skirmish damage on every arrow fired from a Manyshot volley as a standard action (albeit at a significant penalty to hit). This means you can take your 10' (or more) move and fire up to 4 arrows and have each one get full Sneak Attack and Skirmish damage.

My DM enforces the racial favored class rule, so I had to pick a race and schedule the level progression with that in mind. He does, however, allow ranged flanking, which allows this build to tear things up at lower levels - before Blink or Greater Invisibility are possible. It will also be nice to have it to fall back on for enemies that can dispel or see invisible/ethereal.

This build gets nearly as many skill points as a full Rogue or Scout, so you're practically swimming in skill points. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any good skill tricks to burn them on that would help this build much, but it's still nice to be a skill monster.

References[edit]

Optional books will be specifically sited inline below.

Game Rule Components[edit]

Items[edit]

With the exception of 1 item, this build does not rely greatly on items, but there are a few nice things to have:

  • required: A Ring of Blinking or Ring of Greater Invisibility is required unless your DM allows ranged flanking. Even if they do, They're very nice items to have.
  • A Composite Bow is nice, but not required. The bulk of your damage is from Skirmish and Sneak Attack, but using a composite bow gives you a little extra damage per shot.
  • Anything that gives you a bonus to hit - either directly or by raising your Dex. With Greater Manyshot, you'll need it!
  • Anything that gives bonus to movement is nice to help with maneuvering, especially if you use Tumble to move without provoking Attacks of Opportunity, or you need to position yourself for flanking.
  • Bracers of Archery, Greater are good, but can't be worn with Bracers of Armor. However...
  • Robe of the Archmagi gives you armor that still allows you to use Bracers of Archery and doesn't limit your Dex bonus! You can either take a Wizard level, or use the Use Magic Device skill. It also gives you some other nice bonuses. Arcane spellcaster types may fight you for it, though.
  • Bows with the 'Splitting' property (Champions of Ruin) are *VERY* overpowered, especially for this build, since you'd get twice as many arrows, each of which would get Sneak Attack and Skirmish damage!

Progression[edit]

Starting Ability Scores (Before Racial Adjustments):

Str 14 - Higher allows you to use better mighty composite bows
Dex 18 - Max this! Affects your attack bonus and AC
Con 14 - Always good for HP
Int 14 - Great for more skill points
Wis 8 - Dump stat. Could consider higher for Wis based skills or saves.
Cha 10 - Dump stat. Could consider higher for Cha based skills.

Race (Templates): Any

Starting Racial Traits:

Pretty much any race will work, especially with +Dex, but here are a few with Rogue or "Any" Favored Class, if your DM enforces it:

  • Human: bonus feat at 1st level, bonus skill points
  • Halfling: +2 Dex, -2 Str, +1 saves, +2 fear saves, +2 Listen, Small (less damage is not a huge problem with bulk of damage from Skirmish/Sneak Attack), 20' land speed (possibly a problem for Skirmish and positioning for <=30'range)
  • Planetouched, Tiefling (Planar Handbook or SRD): +2 Dex, +2 Int, -2 Cha, Darkness ability, +2 Bluff/Hide, Darkvision, Elemental resists, outsider, ECL +1
  • Lesser Planetouched, Tiefling (as Planetouched, Tiefling above, plus Player's Guide to Faerûn): +2 Dex, +2 Int, -2 Cha, Darkness ability, +2 Bluff/Hide, Darkvision, Elemental resists, humanoid instead of outsider, no ECL adjustment (this is what I took. Good alternative to Planetouched, Tiefling if you don't want the ECL+1)
  • Jermlaine: -6 Str, +6 Dex, -2 Con, -2 Int, +6 Wis, -6 Cha, tiny, move 40 ft., fey, speak with rats. Ugly as sin, and since you're using tiny weapons and probably not getting any mighty composite bow damage bonus, if you don't get skirmish or sneak attack damage for your attacks, you're doing practically no damage. However, it has some absolutely fantastic benefits! Get yourself a Dire Rat Animal Companion, and you can use it as a mount and speak with it at will!

However, if you don't mind +4 ECL and don't have to worry about Favored Class:

  • Pixie: -4 Str, +8 Dex, +6 Int, +4 Wis, +6 Cha, Small, Fly 60', +2 Listen/Search/Spot, +1 natural AC, spell-like abilities, Dodge feat, Damage Reduction 10/cold iron, greater invisibility, spell resistance, access to special arrows. The increased stats almost make up for the reduced skill cap caused by the ECL difference, and you get to fly, have DR, spell resistance, net +1 bonus to hit, and be invisible whenever without an item. The real downside is the loss of 2d6 Sneak Attack and 1d6/+1 Skirmish compared to an equivalent character without ECL+4.


ECL Class/HD/LA Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Feats Class
Features
Special
Fort Ref Will
1st Rogue 1 +0 +0 +2 +0 Point Blank Shot Sneak Attack
Trapfinding
SA:1d6
2nd Scout 1 +0 +0 +4 +0 Skirmish
Trapfinding
SA:1d6
Sk:1d6
3rd Ranger 1 +1 +2 +6 +0 Precise Shot
Bonus: Track
Favored Enemy
Wild Empathy
SA:1d6
Sk:1d6
4th Ranger 2 +2 +3 +7 +0 Bonus: Rapid Shot Combat Style SA:1d6
Sk:1d6
5th Scout 2 +3 +3 +8 +0 Uncanny Dodge
Battle Fortitude (+1 to Fort saves)
SA:1d6
Sk:1d6
6th Scout 3 +4 +4 +8 +1 Swift Hunter Fast Movement (+10ft.)
Trackless Step
<2nd Favored Enemy due to Swift Hunter>
SA:1d6
Sk:2d6/+1
7th Rogue 2 +5 +4 +9 +1 Evasion SA:1d6
Sk:2d6/+1
8th Ranger 3 +6 +4 +9 +2 Bonus: Endurance SA:1d6
Sk:2d6/+1
9th Ranger 4 +7 +5 +10 +2 Greater Manyshot
Bonus: Manyshot**
Animal Companion SA:1d6
Sk:2d6/+2
10th Rogue 3 +8 +6 +10 +3 Trap Sense +1 SA:2d6
Sk:2d6/+2
11th Rogue 4 +9 +6 +11 +3 Uncanny Dodge->Improved Uncanny Dodge SA:2d6
Sk:2d6/+2
12th Scout 4 +10 +6 +12 +3 Swift Ambusher
Bonus: Improved Skirmish
SA:2d6
Sk:3d6/+3
Imp. Sk:5d6/+5
13th Rogue 5 +10 +6 +12 +3 SA:3d6
Sk:4d6/+3
Imp. Sk:6d6/+5

** by selecting 'Champion of the Wild' Ranger Alternative Class Feature
SA = total Sneak Attack damage
Sk = total Skirmish damage/AC (after moving 10' or more)
Imp. Sk = total Improved Skirmish damage/AC (used instead of normal Skirmish after moving 20' or more)

Other Components[edit]

Use the 'Champion of the Wild' Ranger Alternative Class Feature to get a bonus feat at Ranger 4 instead of spellcasting. If you used Wis as a dump stat like I did, you won't be able to cast spells anyways, so it's no loss.

Highlights[edit]

This build works by stacking all levels for Skirmish bonuses, has many levels as Rogue for Sneak Attack damage, and uses the Greater Manyshot feat, which allows you to move and fire multiple arrows, each of which then gets your Skirmish bonus damage! If you wear a Blink ring or Greater Invisibility ring (or get those effects some other way, such as a friendly spellcaster), every single attack then also gets Sneak Attack damage! If you have a DM that allows ranged flanking, you can also get Sneak Attacks by positioning yourself, but the rings are even easier, and they give really nice bonuses.

At 13th level, if you run 20', your attacks will do <base damage> + <6d6 Skirmish damage> + <3d6 Sneak Attack damage> and you get +5 to your AC! If you keep taking Rogue levels afterwards, at 20th level, if you run 20', this goes up to <base damage> + <7d6 Skirmish damage> + <6d6 Sneak Attack damage> and +7 to your AC!

Munchkin-Size Me[edit]

There are a couple of additional race options that deserved to be in this section instead, due to needing some rules fudging to work:

  • Petal (Monster Manual III): -8 Str, +10 Dex, +4 Con, +4 Int, +8 Cha, 60' fly, tiny, low-light vision, DR 5/cold iron, Improved Initiative and Weapon Finesse feats, sleep songs, +2 ECL. However, they are listed as 'cohort', which means they're not normally intended as PCs. Get a pass from your DM, and you have an *awesome* race that you can even buy off all the ECL levels!
  • Petal with Half-Golem (iron) and Incarnate Construct templates (as Petal above, plus Monster Manual II and Savage Species): +6 Str, +8 Dex, -2 Int, +2 Cha, 60' fly, tiny, +3 Natural Armor, +2 Fortitude Saves(?), other?, *ECL +0!*. Take a Petal, turn them into a golem, then turn them back. You end up with a *ton* of bonus stats, flying, and natural armor - all for free (no ECL adjustment)! The only grey areas here in the rules are whether or not Savage Species is accepted as valid for 3.5e, and the fact that Half-Golem technically can't be applied to the 'fey' type. Also, your DM may choke at the stats you can get! If the creature type is ignored, then for extra awesome munchkin-ness, take yet another template that you can buy off for even more stat bonuses (e.g. Half-Fire Elemental, Radiant Creature, etc.)! If you do have to worry about type, you can take another template to get around that limitation above by taking a template that gets you to a type that half-golem CAN work on (e.g. Shadow Creature, Half-Skrag, Half-Troll) or becoming a contruct a different method than Half-Golem (e.g. Dustform, Aleax). You may be better off just taking straight Petal if that's the case, though.

Definitely take enemies immune to Skirmish damage (e.g. undead, constructs, oozes) as your Ranger Favored Enemies. With the Swift Hunter feat, you get to apply your Skirmish damage to them!

Get a bow with the 'Splitting' property, as mentioned in the "Items" section, above. Imagine 8 arrows per round, all with Sneak Attack and Improved Skirmish damage (albeit at -8 to hit for each)!!

The Craven feat (Champions of Ruin) adds your character level (regardless of classes) to sneak attack damage.

Poison your arrows. I've never done this, but if you want to try it, a potentially good resource is here: [1].

Get the Knowledge Devotion feat (Complete Champion) and use your large number of skill points to take as many knowledges as possible. You'll have to take some of them as cross class skills unless you take another feat to make them class skills (e.g. Education (Eberron Campaign Setting)). Knowledge Devotion will give you up to +5 to attack rolls and damage, depending on how well you make your knowledge check for that type of creature.

Find some other Alternative/Variant Class Features to squeeze a few more bonuses out of abilities that would otherwise be useless or redundant. For example:

  • Spell Sense (Complete Mage) to replace Trap Sense with AC bonus to spells and spell-like abilities.
  • Death's Ruin (Complete Champion) to replace Trap Sense with ability to do half your Sneak Attack damage to undead.
  • Penetrating Strike (Dungeonscape) to replace Trap Sense with ability to allow half sneak attack damage to normally immune enemies if you flank them. Does not work with other methods of Sneak Attacks (e.g. denied Dex, flat footed), so this will *ONLY* work for this build if you can flank with ranged attacks.
  • Urban Companion from WOTC's Cityscape web enhancement page [2]. This will give you a pet that will scale with you regardless of Ranger level. Its HP is 3/4 your total, regardless of classes. It also uses your BAB, saves and skill ranks if they're higher (modified by its attributes instead of yours, though). You also get the affects of the Alertness feat if your pet is near you. For extra munchkin-ness, talk your DM into letting you get a companion that doesn't have a 0' attack reach (e.g. wolf, riding dog, dire rat) so they can be used for flanking, too! You can 'magnanimously' give up a couple of the benefits you would otherwise get to seem more fair if you go that route and have no shame.
  • Talk your DM into modifying the Animal Companion into something more scale-able, using the Familiar and/or the previously mentioned Urban Companion rules as justification. Heck, just allowing the HP to scale with the player will keep you from having to find a new pet after every encounter.
  • Spiritual Guide (Complete Champion) to replace your companion with a spirit guide that will give you a +1 to some skills and give you Commune with Nature 1/day. If you can't have a scale-able pet, this is at least better than the weak sauce default pet.

Another possible sneaky thing to do is to get a free move so you can make a full attack instead of a Greater Manyshot volley. Full attacks tend to be slightly better because you will get more arrows at a better chances to hit (especially if hasted or otherwise get more attacks) and you get to take the shots sequentially and adjust targets as required. There a few ways to do this, but it can be difficult to do, especially without limited uses. A good thread to look through for this is here:[3]. IMO, a couple of the better ways to do this are:

  • Take 1 level of Wizard and take the 'Immediate Magic' Alternative Class Feature (Player's Handbook II) to get Abrupt Jaunt (10' Teleport as an immediate action). This ability is limited to your Int bonus in uses/day, though.
  • Use the Sparring Dummy of the Master magic item (Arms and Equipment Guide). It's for Monks, but a high enough Use Magic Device skill will allow you to use it. After a month of training with it, you get a permanent 10' free move instead of the usual 5'.
  • Making a Tumble skill check at DC 40 allows you to take a free 10' step instead of 5' (Oriental Adventures). Get high enough ranks/Dex/skill mods and use the Rogue Skill Mastery Special Ability to take 10 on Tumble checks.

(Remember that you have to move 20' to use the Improved Skirmish feat, though.)

From PHb II page 55. DISTRACTING ATTACK Level: 4th. Replaces: If you select this class feature, you do not gain an animal companion. Benefit: Beginning at 4th level, whenever you hit an enemy with a weapon attack (whether melee or ranged), that enemy is considered flanked by you for the purpose of adjudicating your allies’ attacks. For example, if your rogue ally attacked that enemy, not only would she gain a +2 bonus on her melee attack roll but she could also add her sneak attack damage to a successful melee attack. This flanked condition lasts until either the enemy is attacked by one of your allies or until the start of your next turn, whichever comes first. This is an extraordinary ability. This ability has no effect on creatures that can’t be flanked.

Side Notes[edit]

Limitations[edit]

  • Your attacks require arrows. Don't run out or you'll be completely useless.
  • Greater Manyshot feat has a somewhat large penalty to hit (especially for a full volley) and Scouts and Rogues get less BAB than fighter types.
  • Even though you get separate rolls to hit, Greater Manyshot is still a volley attack. This means that you have to declare the targets of your arrows in advance, and the effects are considered simultaneous. This means you can't just fire arrows at a particular target until he's dead and then move on to the next one like you can with a normal full attack. It also means that if your attacks have any special effects tied to them, they will not take place in time to allow your other arrows in that volley to take advantage of it (e.g. you currently don't qualify for a sneak attack, but shoot an arrow that stuns your target as part of your volley. Your other arrows do not get sneak attack damage because they hit at the same time as the stunning arrow.).
  • You must move every round to qualify for Skirmish damage.
  • You must be able to Sneak Attack with your ranged attack in order to do Sneak Attack damage (e.g. be invisible, hidden, blinking, or flanking (if allowed)).
  • You must be within 30' of your target in order to do Sneak Attack or Skirmish damage.
  • You get pretty poor Will saves, especially at lower levels.
  • You must wear light or no armor. Since you want to max Dex as much as possible, that means no armor at some point. Your source of your armor based AC bonus is extremely limited. See "Items" above for a good option, if you can pull it off.
  • Other than skills, this build is a 2 trick pony. What it does, it does *amazingly* well, but it does lack some flexibility (as do most non-spellcasting/psionic characters).
  • Your Ranger pet will suck, period. It will be horribly outclassed by the time you get it and it will never improve unless you take more Ranger levels. Even if you did, it would improve *WAY* too slowly to be worth it. Your best bet is to just to get a really nice horse with it. (see Munchkin-Size Me for some possible solutions if you can get away with them).

DM Counters[edit]

There are a number of weaknesses with this build that DMs can exploit:

  • Take advantage of the build's relatively low will save (e.g. Hold Person, Charm Person, Fear).
  • Use enemies that see through or remove invisibility or blinking to remove Sneak Attack damage.
  • Don't allow ranged flanking (will only make a difference if they don't have blink or invisibility)
  • Use tight passages to force the player to fire through friends (which provide cover and thus disallow Sneak Attacks, and doesn't allow for movement for Skirmishing).
  • Use terrain that limits/reduces movement and thus remove the build's ability to Skirmish.
  • Use enemies the player has not selected as Ranger Favored Enemies that are immune to critical hits.
  • Don't allow the player within 30' of target (Skirmish and Sneak Attack are limited to that range) - difficult to do to the character selectively, so make sure other players have ranged attacks or some other way to avoid being sitting ducks).
  • Use enemies with very high AC so that Greater Manyshot must be limited or not used at all in order to be hit.
  • Cause ammo problems. Lots of cannon fodder and/or prolonged adventuring without access to shops or crafting supplies can work.
  • You can always throw a Beholder into the mix. They can't be flanked, can dispel magic means of getting Sneak Attacks, can use a variety of Will save based abilities that are bad for this build (Slow, Fear, Sleep, Charm), and are just all-around nasty suckers. Be careful not to kill the whole party, though!

Miscellaneous[edit]

A fantastic skill for this build is Tumble to help you get where you want to go without taking Attacks of Opportunity. Other good choices include Rogue specific class skills (Open Lock, Disable Device, Use Magic Device etc.), Balance, Bluff, Craft (Bowmaking), Survival, Spot, Search, and Listen. Don't forget to look for synergy bonuses (e.g. Jump 5 to get +2 to Tumble)!

Without Invisibility, Blink, or flanking, another way to get Sneak Attack damage is to move out of sight of the enemy and Hide. Remember that your own allies count as cover, which mean you can Hide behind them (but you can't get Sneak Attacks firing through cover). You can also use Bluff to create a diversion to Hide. Doing these should allow you to Hide every other turn and move and attack the alternate turns, assuming you can make your skill rolls.

If your DM won't allow class variants, you can take Scout 4 at ECL 9, but that will mean waiting until 12 to get Greater Manyshot (since Scouts don't get Manyshot or Greater Manyshot as bonus feat choices), unless you can talk the DM into letting you get Manyshot as a bonus Scout feat. However, if this is the case, you may be better off stopping at Ranger 2 and Scout 3 and taking another class that gives you bonus feats to 2 instead (e.g. Fighter). You may not be able to avoid Favored Class Penalties for at least 1 level if you do this, though.

Another variant of this build relies on getting a 10' free move every turn instead of the normal 5' (see Munchkin-Size Me for details). If you do this, drop the Manyshot, Greater Manyshot and Improved Skirmish feats. Take the Swift Ambusher feat when you would have taken Greater Manyshot. You can also stop at Scout 3 and Ranger 2 and either take more Rogue or some other class to 2 or 3. You'll lose 2d6/+2 Skirmish damage from the Improved Skirmish feat, but you'll get more Sneak Attack damage if you take more Rogue levels, and you'll have *much* better attack rolls.


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