arcane archer viability


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Am I the only one who seems to find the arcane archer(since its beginning) to be a prestige class that doesn't seem to be worth taking? So I guess my question is

As a player do you find the arcane archer to be a worthwhile option?


it's not bad if you want to be a caster archer. It, like most(all?) PrC aren't really upgrades but side-grades or downgrades.


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IMO, the arcane archer is best used as a 2-3 level dip to pick up Imbue Arrow (which is a very worthwhile class feature, allowing all sorts of options) and possibly Enhance Arrows (Elemental) for an extra 1d6 cold, electricity, or fire damage on all your non-magical ammunition (not earth-shattering, but often useful). Most of the rest of the arcane archer class features are OK, at best (again, IMO). My favorite progression is [fighter or ranger]* 1/wizard 6/eldritch knight 2/arcane archer 3/eldritch knight +8, ending up with +17 BAB and spells as a 17th level wizard at 20th.

Another option is eldritch archer magus 8/arcane archer 3/magus +X to deliver either touch/ranged touch or area effect spells through arrows. The Enhance Arrows (Elemental) affects the arrows and the arcane pool feature of the magus affects the bow, so they overlap nicely, too.

One more possibility is for a high-level arcane trickster to leverage both Impromptu Sneak Attack and Surprise Spells into the same action; gaining +7d6 on both the arrow and the area effect damaging spell (like an Intensified Maximized detonate that does 120+7d6 points of damage within 15 ft and 60+3.5d6 points of damage to the target struck with the arrow and those between 15 and 30 ft). Snakebite striker brawler (likely half-elf with Ancestral Arms or elf for bow proficiency) 1**/wizard (Evocation/Admixture school) 4***/arcane trickster 6/arcane archer 2/arcane trickster +4 can pull this off at 17th character level (with spells as a 15th level wizard).

*- depending on whether I want the bonus feat or the ability to use wands of ranger spells without UMD checks

**- for 1d6 Sneak Attack and +1 BAB

***- to pick up Accomplished Sneak Attacker


Imbue Arrow is great. The rest, not so much. Too many X/day abilities that really aren't worth it. And even Imbue Arrow is mostly about abusing abilities that aren't meant to be used at range. Detonate, Antimagic Field, Blasphemy, Silence, things like that. Enhance Arrows saves a little money but really doesn't matter unless the GM doesn't want to give you magic items (in which case, they probably won't let you use it).

And hey, it got better. Didn't it used to be Elf only?

Liberty's Edge

Rebel Rebel wrote:

Am I the only one who seems to find the arcane archer(since its beginning) to be a prestige class that doesn't seem to be worth taking? So I guess my question is

As a player do you find the arcane archer to be a worthwhile option?

Agree that the prestige class is not bad, but it certainly isn't great.

If your group is OK with Third Party material, check out the Mystic Archer base class

It's one of the 12 new classes in the new, expanded edition of the New Paths Compendium


In my opinion the eldritch archer magus has largely replaced the arcane archer.

AA is good enough in a mid to high level game where you're married to the idea of using a particular class' spell list, or really want something cool from that class like a school power or hexes. Also it's much easier to build an AA as a primary caster with some ability to shoot arrows as a secondary feature.

Eldritch archer gets you a more rounded character from level 1. The downsides are that you're stuck as a 6th level caster, that you can't choose your spell list and that the spell list you get has more melee goodies (like bladed dash) than ranged ones. But there are still plenty of awesome evocations, plus ranged spell strike and ranged spell combat. You're also proficient with light armor and are generally better at the martial side of things.

To be honest, even if I wanted to make a 3.5 nostalgia character I'd go eldritch archer. The flavor is basically identical to AA with much more streamlined crunch


Bob Bob Bob wrote:

Imbue Arrow is great. The rest, not so much. Too many X/day abilities that really aren't worth it. And even Imbue Arrow is mostly about abusing abilities that aren't meant to be used at range. Detonate, Antimagic Field, Blasphemy, Silence, things like that. Enhance Arrows saves a little money but really doesn't matter unless the GM doesn't want to give you magic items (in which case, they probably won't let you use it).

And hey, it got better. Didn't it used to be Elf only?

Yes, they removed the racial requirement. The Favored Prestige Class and Prestigious Spellcaster feat line makes taking extensive levels in Arcane Archer much more viable.


The best way to build an "arcane archer" IMO is to take only 2 levels of arcane archer, and then going into Eldritch Knight, using fighter and wizard levels to qualify for eldritch knight first and then taking arcane archer once you qualify. This will be an archer who still primarily focuses on spell casting, and mostly uses their bow to deliver spells in a different way.

For a build that loses some overall spell casting ability but is a much more capable archer in general I would simply play the Eldritch Archer Magus.

Edit: Just realized I basically said the same thing as everyone else, oh well.


Urban bloodrager and arcane archer is a nice combo as well.


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Bob Bob Bob wrote:
Imbue Arrow is great. The rest, not so much. Too many X/day abilities that really aren't worth it. And even Imbue Arrow is mostly about abusing abilities that aren't meant to be used at range. Detonate, Antimagic Field, Blasphemy, Silence, things like that.

It's also great for extending the distance at which of a bunch of spells can be used: all of the Close (25 ft + 5 ft/2 levels) and Medium (100 ft + 10 ft/level) range spells used with Imbue Arrow can now affect targets at the bow's range (110 ft range increment for a composite longbow, 220 ft with distance; maximum range of 1,100 ft, or 2,200 ft with distance)*.

*- using true strike to more than counter any range penalties for the really long-distance shots; -18 at the tenth range increment, +20 from true strike


By level 8 when you get imbue arrow close spells are 45 feet which is enough for most encounters. Medium spells are 180 feet which is more than enough for almost all encounters.

I played an archer for 16 levels and I can count the number of encounters where I took range increment penalties on one hand. Maybe others have had different experiences, I just don't think it comes up enough to be worth it.

A reach rod is a much better way to prepare for range issues (monkey belt if needed).


Arcane Archer has some fun uses still. For example, as an Immediate Action you can shoot an arrow at someone and lock them down with an Emergency Force Sphere around them. Or you can stick a Color Spray, Burning Hands, or other such "start from caster" Cone spells on a target from a safe distance (or even through an arrow slit.) Heck, stick a Fireball on an arrow and just go for the Explosive Arrows flavor.

That said though... honestly what everyone else said, for the most part Eldritch Archer is the new AA.


I saw a mostly Ranger based AA in play around levels 13-20 in a Mythic game with tiers equal to around level/4. Unfortunately she spent a lot of her actions casting energy damage spells most of our amped up foes were resistant or immune to, but her mix of almost full BAB and a decent number of spell slots was good for the party, especially since by higher levels she could cover some serious buffing and utility. I suppose a regular game wouldn't have Mythic Heroism, but surely even the regular version could come in handy.

To be clear, this was more like a Ranger who could cast some spells than a Wizard who could shoot some arrows. The player in question was not a skilled optimizer, so I'm pretty sure a lot more could be squeezed out of the build (especially on the archery side since she didn't have all the typical archery feats). Perhaps Fighter would be a better base to squeeze in an extra feat or two.

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