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D&D 5E More Interesting Archers (+thread)

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The Archer is an iconic archetype with vastly more examples than half the PHB base classes have, and yet not only does it barely get any subclasses dedicated to it (Arcane Archer, and Hunter which is really an archer sub that gives nods to melee because they felt like they had to for some reason), it has vanishingly few interesting options.

Archers are so boring for anyone that isn’t really excited by being blandly effective or that isn’t into combat improv or has a DM that isn’t, that my wife multiclassed her archer ranger Druid just to have more things to do. Some non-concentration archery friendly spells would have helped too, but the ranger Spellcasting is pretty frustrating. But mostly, it was harder for her to improv with arrows than it is for her to improv with her axe and sword Paladin.

Anyway, what if we pretend Sharpshooter doesn’t exist, ignore any and all “this thing already fills that narrative role” issues for the moment, and talk about slicing up Archers in 5e?

Firstly, I’d drop the power attack mechanic from Sharpshooter and replace it with a bonus action attack limited to short range.

Second, I’d look for somewhere to add some trick shots. Here are some rough ideas for those:
  1. Deflect Attacks. Reaction, someone makes a weapon attack within your short range. You shoot the weapon, deflecting the attack. Make it different from monks deflect missiles mechanically, but make it effective.
  2. Pinning Shot. Look, not everyone plays a game of murder-dice. It’s often useful to not kill people. It’s also a classic move.
  3. Ricochet shot. Oh you got cover? Lol
  4. Hobble shot. Like pinning shot, but much less friendly. possibly an upgrade or class/feat feature.
  5. Blinding shot. Cut a forehead, eyes get covered. Non lethal, classic, very mean.
  6. Split the Tree. Two arrows at once, against two targets. Limited range, maybe less damage, but iconic and cool as hell.



Now I know I’ll be a minority here, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the fighter should be split, and Archer should be its own class. 🤷‍♂️

Barring that, a subclass. Barring that, a lot more BM manuvers that focus on archery. Also mounted combat. Mounted archers are such a big deal all over the world and it is very cool to drop over to the side of your horse, swing round below, back up, and shoot a confused combatant that thought you’d fallen off.

Special arrows, more magic bows and arrows, more archer friendly spells, and a sniper subclass for rogues, all also welcome, but what do y’all think? What archer stuff would you see added to the game, and remember, it’s a + thread, so don’t derail us with “your premise is bad” posts.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
A portion of what you seek can be done by the Kensei Monk, especially with the tweaks from Tasha's.

I'm playing one and I have been having a blast. I'm basically Legolas, but instead of daggers I fight with a battle axe made with a giant sharktooth :D
 

Raith5

Adventurer
I agree with the OP. There is so much good space here to create some tactical choices for the archer and divide the archer/hunter/mobile warrior from the fighter. I love playing archer rangers in both 5e and 4e but I do miss the disruptive strike and combined fire abilities in 4e.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I would love to see a horse archer Barbarian subclass. Give them a mechanic where they can use Strength instead of Dex for attacks with bows, or let them apply their Rage benefits to bow attacks even though they’re Dex based. Throw in some mounted combat benefits, and you’ve got a pretty good start.
 


I've always liked the idea of special arrows like the Thief pc game series.

You could have broadheads that do more damage with an accuracy penalty, armor piercing that is the opposite, water arrows to douse torches, sparking arrows that can blind foes, bola arrows that can trip or disarm from afar, etc.

I've never put any real work into it, but I think there's a lot you could do in that design space.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
This thread kinda makes me miss the 4e spell-less ranger: an unashamed archer/light fighter class. Finally the ranger 1) had a better raison d'être 2) a mechanical niche were they shined.

So my take: make the Ranger the ranged class. Take the stuff from the Arcane Archer and refluff it as trick shots Prof/Short rest.

Look at the old Mystic disciplines: Nomadic Arrows, Precognition, Nomadic Step (with AoO-less movement instead of teleport), Third Eye, etc. Those could all be great Ranger features if refluffed as non-magical.

Or hell, let it all be magical, its not like the Ranger would be OP if you gave it a huge Archer theme + a better list of spells and trick shots.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I would love to see a horse archer Barbarian subclass. Give them a mechanic where they can use Strength instead of Dex for attacks with bows, or let them apply their Rage benefits to bow attacks even though they’re Dex based. Throw in some mounted combat benefits, and you’ve got a pretty good start.
An interesting concept but.... why?

Horse archery is a very demanding pursuit - you have to thinks about so many things at once. If you go bezerk, your horse is going to freak out for one. Why would a horse archer be a barbarian? Is it because they are "barbarians" in the cultural sense? (as in the Greeks, who called barbarian anyone who wasn't Greek...)
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
An interesting concept but.... why?

Horse archery is a very demanding pursuit - you have to thinks about so many things at once. If you go bezerk, your horse is going to freak out for one. Why would a horse archer be a barbarian? Is it because they are "barbarians" in the cultural sense? (as in the Greeks, who called barbarian anyone who wasn't Greek...)

it would be way more awesome if your mount entered battle-frenzy with you, no?

Like, charging at incredible speed across the battlefield, raining arrows, you and your mighty steed ignoring pain and fear.

Anyway, I myself love that aesthetic, but YMMV.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I agree with the OP. There is so much good space here to create some tactical choices for the archer and divide the archer/hunter/mobile warrior from the fighter. I love playing archer rangers in both 5e and 4e but I do miss the disruptive strike and combined fire abilities in 4e.
Yeah I’d love to port over that class, just wouldn’t call it a ranger.
I would love to see a horse archer Barbarian subclass. Give them a mechanic where they can use Strength instead of Dex for attacks with bows, or let them apply their Rage benefits to bow attacks even though they’re Dex based. Throw in some mounted combat benefits, and you’ve got a pretty good start.
I’ve come to think this concept is better as either a fighter or ranger subclass, and not just mechanically, but the game is definitely missing support for mounted archers.
I've always liked the idea of special arrows like the Thief pc game series.

You could have broadheads that do more damage with an accuracy penalty, armor piercing that is the opposite, water arrows to douse torches, sparking arrows that can blind foes, bola arrows that can trip or disarm from afar, etc.

I've never put any real work into it, but I think there's a lot you could do in that design space.
Definitely!


This thread kinda makes me miss the 4e spell-less ranger: an unashamed archer/light fighter class. Finally the ranger 1) had a better raison d'être 2) a mechanical niche were they shined.
Ranger didn’t need a reinvention, and they still don’t. I enjoyed playing the 4e ranger, but it didn’t feel half right until essentials added some magical utility powers. Even then, it was still too mundane and I hacked Seeker powers onto it to make it feel more like a ranger.
So my take: make the Ranger the ranged class. Take the stuff from the Arcane Archer and refluff it as trick shots Prof/Short rest.

Look at the old Mystic disciplines: Nomadic Arrows, Precognition, Nomadic Step (with AoO-less movement instead of teleport), Third Eye, etc. Those could all be great Ranger features if refluffed as non-magical.

Or hell, let it all be magical, its not like the Ranger would be OP if you gave it a huge Archer theme + a better list of spells and trick shots.
I wouldn’t ever call that a Ranger, but spells and trick shots definitely make sense.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
An interesting concept but.... why?

Horse archery is a very demanding pursuit - you have to thinks about so many things at once. If you go bezerk, your horse is going to freak out for one. Why would a horse archer be a barbarian? Is it because they are "barbarians" in the cultural sense? (as in the Greeks, who called barbarian anyone who wasn't Greek...)
I just think it’d be cool. You could have a fighter or Ranger mounted Archer too. I just like the idea of one that’s strength-based, gets unarmored defense, etc.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I've been thinking about this thread more, and I have thoughts...

1: Archery is OP in 5e, in part because dex is OP. That Kensei monk I mentioned? I was in a group where our fighter was a dex-based battlemaster, so we had two excellent archers in the party (and the rogue was not slouch either). We were doing the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure, and the GM was newish and not used to "ranged parties". We also had a druid that would use control spells to pin/delay the foes from reaching us and... it was murderous. And if we were forced in melee well... the BM and Monk were preeety decent in melee as well!

I fear an archer focused class would only make things worse.

(the reason why ranged is too strong in 5e is a: too many monsters are melee only b: dex adds damage to some melee weapons c: a number of ranged penalties that are very realistic (firing into melee...) are gone in 5e, or can be avoided with the sharpshooter feat)

2: The battlemaster is an excellent archer platform, and a number of BM maneuvers are not exclusive to melee. You can trip with an arrow for example (which is devastating vs flying creatures). I just took a look and most maneuvers are not melee-specific!

3: If you separate archery from the fighter, the fighter is not a fighter anymore. They are a swordsman, an axewoman, something...
 

Stormonu

Legend
Some more things

  • Strength bows (reverse Finesse for those archers with high Strength)
  • More Battlemaster manuevers for ranged attacks
  • More love for Thrown weapons (hand axes to spears)
  • A paladin subclass that can do ranged smiting (like the demon hunter from Diablo III)
  • Zen archery for monks
  • Disarming shot, ala Lone Ranger and other old westerns
  • Staking shot, shooting through cover or multiple targets in a line
  • Bending shot, ala Wanted
  • Archer subclass for several classes
—Barbarian (Hunter) ; uses Strength bows trade rage for multi shot or power shot
—Bard (Fletcher) ; trick shot and arcane arrow tricks
—Cleric (Sun Domain) ; proficiency with bow, fire arrows and healing arrows
—Druid (?)
—Fighter (Archer) ; archery tricks, range improvement, no penalty firing into melee
—Monk (Zen archer) ; flurry/ki powers with bow
—Paladin (Insquisitor) ; ranged smite, crossbow use?
—Ranger (Deepwood Sniper) ; skirmisher and bow sniper; maybe William Tell skill with crossbow
—Rogue (Sniper) ; improved sneak attack with ranged weapons, shoot & hide options
—Warlock (Pact of the Bow/Hexbow) ; uses bow instead of Eldritch blast; carrier attacks by arrow akin to Arcane Archer (think of Hank & his energy bow)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I've been thinking about this thread more, and I have thoughts...

1: Archery is OP in 5e, in part because dex is OP. That Kensei monk I mentioned? I was in a group where our fighter was a dex-based battlemaster, so we had two excellent archers in the party (and the rogue was not slouch either). We were doing the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure, and the GM was newish and not used to "ranged parties". We also had a druid that would use control spells to pin/delay the foes from reaching us and... it was murderous. And if we were forced in melee well... the BM and Monk were preeety decent in melee as well!

I fear an archer focused class would only make things worse.

(the reason why ranged is too strong in 5e is a: too many monsters are melee only b: dex adds damage to some melee weapons c: a number of ranged penalties that are very realistic (firing into melee...) are gone in 5e, or can be avoided with the sharpshooter feat)
I think the main issue is the lack of published ranged enemies, and it's fairly easily solved by just...giving bows and the like to more enemies. The other fix I'd make is to make bows finesse.
2: The battlemaster is an excellent archer platform, and a number of BM maneuvers are not exclusive to melee. You can trip with an arrow for example (which is devastating vs flying creatures). I just took a look and most maneuvers are not melee-specific!
It's fine, but tbh the BM is very unsatisfying to me, in general. Too few maneuvers known, mostly. If there were a couple special attacks with ranged weapons in theDMG alongside stuff like trip and overrun, I'd probably be more into the BM as an archer.
3: If you separate archery from the fighter, the fighter is not a fighter anymore. They are a swordsman, an axewoman, something...
IDK, I never heard anyone make that complaint about the 4e Fighter, which was melee only, but I'd also be fine with basically spliting the fighter into a heavy and a light fighter.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Spheres of Might has some pretty interesting archery talents here: Sniper - The Spheres 5E Wiki . The Barrage sphere has some decent ranged attacks as well.
Nice! I'll check that out!

I wonder if Kobold Press' "Beyond Damage Dice" series has archery stuff...I'll have to check that as well.

I wonder if I actually could build an Archer class for 5e, honestly. What class would make the best chassis to build from? I use Monk a lot, but I do like the primary thing being to choose to either enter a sniper's focus stance, or a quick draw stance, or something, where you either increase your crit chance and short and long range, or you can attack as a bonus action, or whatever, which would work well on the same basic model as martial arts.

OTOH, Rogue might work really well, too.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Rogue is probably the best - damage spike from sneak attack, ability to disengage as a bonus action to get away from melee and expertise on sneak (and ability to hide as a bonus) make for a really good sniper. Take Assassin subclass probably don’t need any special subclass.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Rogue is probably the best - damage spike from sneak attack, ability to disengage as a bonus action to get away from melee and expertise on sneak (and ability to hide as a bonus) make for a really good sniper. Take Assassin subclass probably don’t need any special subclass.
Rogue is a great archer, but has very little room for impactful trick shots, so it definitely doesn't cover much more than the sniper archer.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I will say that rogue/fighter or rogue/ranger can make a really excellent general archer, though. A Hunter Ranger/Inquisitive Rogue makes a really good skirmisher archer, especially with Hordebreaker at level 3 Ranger.
 


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