June 9, 2015

Arcane Archer

Ranger Archetype
Comments from the Finger: As far as prestige classes go, the Arcane Archer is among the oldest of them. Originally included in the 3.0 edition Dungeon Master's Guide, the Arcane Archer was one of the original 6 prestige classes released, and, since it's listed first alphabetically, might very well earn the title of First Ever Prestige Class. And it's a fitting class to hold that title! Merging bowmanship with arcane spells is something impossible to accomplish simply by multi-classing, and so solidified the need for prestige classes in 3rd edition, and later on into 3.5.
     This was a surprisingly tricky class to balance, given the rate at which spells increase in power, and the various ways casting spells through ammunition might be abused. I believe we've stamped out the obvious exploits, but if these's any we've missed, let us know and we'll fix the problem immediately.

Arcane Archer

The Arcane Archers are a spectacle to behold, as skilled with a bow and arrow as they are with magic. Called bow arcanists and mage marksmen, such warriors are renowned throughout the realms for their supernatural accuracy and the devastating effects of their arcane arrows. Masters of this technique are bowmen of legend, unleashing arrows tipped with eldritch might to lay waste to entire legions of enemies in mere seconds.

Arcane Initiate
Beginning at 3rd level you gain the ability to learn and cast a number of arcane spells. Choose two evocation spells from the Sorcerer spell list of a level for which you have a spell slot available. The chosen spells count as ranger spells for you but don’t count against the number of ranger spells you know. However, these spells may not be changed when you gain a level in this class. At 7th, 11th, and 15th levels, you learn an additional two spells from the Sorcerer spell list. Spells learned at 15th level may be from any school. Spells learned from this feature can only be cast with the Imbue Arrow feature.

Imbue Arrows
At 3rd level, you can imbue your arrows with magical energies. As a bonus action you may imbue an arrow, bolt, or other type of ammunition with a spell you know of first level or higher, expending a spell slot and spell components as though you cast the spell normally. You may only imbue spells with a duration of instantaneous. You also may imbue an arrow with pure arcane energy, expending no spell slot, but allowing this arrow to deal an additional 1d6 force damage on a hit. If you do not fire this projectile on the turn it is imbued, the ammunition remains imbued so long as you maintain concentration on it.
     When making an attack with one of these projectiles, treat it as a normal attack. If the attack successfully hits a creature, the spell is cast centered on your target or targeting only the creature hit by the arrow, as appropriate. Spells requiring spell attacks automatically hit, since the arrow has already struck the target. Line and cone spells are cast in the direction the arrow flew to strike the target.

Arcane Intuition
At 7th level, you are intuitively aware of all magic auras. After you have been in the presence of a magic aura for 1 minute, you can sense its presence, though you cannot discern its origin or the school of magic to which it belongs.

Seeking Arrows
At 11th level, your imbued arrows gain a limited ability to seek their target.  You may now apply your Wisdom modifier as a bonus to hit with your imbued arrows.

Greater Imbue Arrows
At 15th level, you may now imbue two arrows instead of one as a bonus action, expending spell slots for each separately, and concentrate on two imbued arrows at once.

Changelog: 6/10/15: Clarified text on Imbue Arrow. Force damage changed from 1d8 to 1d6. Wording on Arcane Initiate clarified. Imbue Arrow now specified how spell components are handled.
6/11/15: Greater Imbue Arrows clarified to read that you expend spell slots separately for each arrow imbued.
7/14/15: Able Hunter replaced with Arcane Intuition.
9/12/15: Imbued Arrows fired on your turn do not require concentration.


  1. This would probably depend on the DM, but would the cantrips and spell obtained from Magic Initiate work with Imbue Arrows?

  2. It's actually a major balance issue if cantrips are introduced into this class, so let me edit it to be clear on that front.

  3. Does the ammunition deal it's regular damage in addition to the imbued spell damage?

  4. It seems a bit much that you can imbue pure arcane energy (for the bonus 1d8 force damage) as many times per day as you like. Factoring in the ability to imbue spells, this would make the level 3 arcane archer better than a level 3 hunter that chose Colossus Slayer. I'd limit it to a number of times per day equal to your CHA mod (min 1) + 1 seeing as you're using sorcerous magic. You can increase the number of uses per day at levels 7, 11 and 15.

    Also, you didn't specify, but I assume spell attack rolls/saving throws need to be made in addition to the initial arrow attack? If this uses charisma (the sorcerer spellcasting ability) then you may want to extend the 'seeking arrows' WIS mod bonus to the spell attack modifier/saving throw DC as well.

    1. Long response here:

      What you pointed out about Colossus Slayer made me realize I made an interesting mistake when designing this class-- I thought Colossus Slayer wasn't limited to once per round, meaning that the Hunter would catch up in power when Extra Attack became an option. Clearly I was wrong, so I'll drop the imbued damage die to a d6.

      If I merely limited it to times per day, the entire class would play much more sparely, as it's already very limited on spell slots, and won't have something to define it on each round if it's running low, which is why I introduced the additional force damage thing.

      You're right that I don't specify that imbued spells still require saving throws, but I didn't mention that the spells were cast in some other way, so I think that should be assumed from the effect of the spell itself.

      Finally, I think you're trying to imply that Arcane Archers casting their imbued sorcerer spells need to be casting using a sorcerer's casting stat, Charisma. I don't think this is the case. Rangers use Wisdom as a spellcasting ability in the class description, and given that spells are not inherently linked to any particular class in their descriptions, the Arcane Archer should simply use Wisdom for these spells. You wouldn't, say, calculate some new Spell Save DC, because this is defined for you in the core class description as Wisdom-based.

      I intended for these imbued spells to require saving throws, but not additional spell attacks, since the arrow has already struck the target. Perhaps I should clarify this final point in the class text.

    2. Your reasoning makes sense regarding not imposing a limit on pure arcane imbued arrow.

      I assumed learning sorcerer spells would require using the Charisma stat as the spellcasting ability because that's how it works for Eldritch Knights, Arcane Tricksters and anyone taking the Magic Initiate feat (i.e. using the spellcasting ability relevant to the class to which the spell list belongs). Also, where the entry mentions that the Arcane Initiate spells don't count towards Ranger spells known, it seems reasonable that maybe a stat other than Wisdom could be used.

      In any case, yes, putting clarification into the class text would be helpful.

      I just realised something you might like to include: any somatic and material components that the spells would normally require can be ignored.

  5. This has already been done in the form of a class
    And while I do prefer archetypes rather than new classes (it's easier to add and balance into the game), I think this one just doesn't work well as an archetype.
    You end up with a ranger with ranger spells AND arcane spells, but the same amount of spell slot as a normal ranger. It just all feels jenky and mashed up together, it doesn't have the clean and streamlined look of the all the other archetypes you made (except maybe one or two that weren't as good).
    While the idea of imbuing arrows with arcane magic is definitely there -as it should- the whole thing ends up feeling complicated, messy and weird. While I do understand the mechanics after reading it, most players I showed it to were confused by it, because of the amount of restriction you needed to add for it to work mechanically.
    For this to work, I think it would need to remove the ranger spells, and replace them with arcane spell altogether, not just add arcane spell on top of everything and try to mash them together to make it work by having half the archetype being mechanical restriction. Anyway, I'm rambling.
    Basically, I think as an Archetype this is really hard to do. The archetype can't really 'remove' the ranger spells, it's not something that archetypes do, which is why I think this particular archetype doesn't work well.
    So while I would really like to use the idea of the arcane archer, the spellbow class linked earlier makes a much better job at it in my opinion, which is sad, because I much prefer adding archetypes than classes to my game.

    1. What if you made the Arcane Archer a Fighter archetype instead? I'd perhaps change the level 7 feature or even just the flavour of it so it's less Ranger-oriented. I feel it's significantly different from the Eldritch Knight archetype to justify it.

  6. Seeking Arrows is a huge red-flag for me. I'm strictly against anything that increases attack bonuses or AC. I don't even allow +X armor/weapons in my game.

    Also, you've got a typo: At 7th, 11th, and 15th levels, you learn an additional spell two spells from the Sorcerer spell list

    1. Sorry you don't like Seeking Arrows, but I figure that it balances since it requires a bonus action to imbue an arrow in the first place.

      Secondly, that's intentional; I intended the arcane archer to get two spells at each of those levels.

    2. You say "additional spell two spells"

      It looks like you originally had "spell", then changed your mind to "two spells", but you didn't remove the first instance of the word spell.

    3. *Facepalm* I get it now. Fixed.

  7. This is really cool. Playing as a ranger, I always felt that my spell slots underperformed, so the prospect of turning them into combat-imbued spells is exciting.

    With regard to the spellcasting ability for imbued spells, other classes like Bard and Favored Soul Sorcerer mention something like "Spell chosen count as [class] spells for you." This seems like a good clarification to know that they will use Wisdom for save DCs instead of Charisma

    1. I'm glad that you like it. And that's a good note for clarification. I'll look at Bard and see how they phrase it and edit it in. Thanks

  8. I can't help but notice that through this archetype, 5th level spells cannot be learned. Rangers' spell slots are already limited, and they don't gain 5th level spell slots until 17th level, but the last time an Arcane Archer can gain new spells is 15th level. If this is deliberate, I believe it is unnecessary to further limit this class' spellcasting power.

    In addition, ther is a small amount of exploitable ambiguity about Greater Imbue Arrows: it does not specify whether the ranger expends two different slots and thus could imbue two different spells into his/her arrows or expends a single slot to imbue the same spell into two separate arrows.

    1. Also, would an Arcane Archer have to expend material components to imbue an arrow?

    2. It is true that they can't cast 5th level spells, but I did think this was an important balancing factor, simply because of the high-level manipulation of the action economy. Let me explain what I mean:
      Let's assume an arcane archer knows Fireball as a 3rd level spell through Arcane Initiate. With greater Imbue Arrow, assuming he doesn't miss and has 2 spell slots to burn, he can fire two Fireballs in a single turn, expending his action and bonus action to do so. While this is an expensive move, it is a significant shift in the action economy and a devastating attack. Keeping 5th level arcane spells from the Archer was an intentional move on my part to keep this from getting out of hand, while still giving the high level Archer some teeth.

      Quick note: I'll clarify Greater Imbue Arrow to make it clear that it requires you to expend two spell slots. Also, the last change to Imbue Arrow clarifies that you expend material components when you imbue.

  9. how would multi projectile spells like magic Missile or Srorching ray work? would the arrow hitting with Scorching ray for example just do a bonus 6d8 Damage?

    1. Those spells target only the creature hit, and require no attack roll, according to the current description of Imbue Arrow. This means they can be quite powerful against a single target, provided that they hit.

  10. In the event of using a saving throw spell with the arrow, if the arrow hits, would the saving throw automatically be failed for the target of the arrow, itself? ie. Casting Burning Hands/Thunderwave, the target of the arrow (which landed) wouldn't really be able to avoid the fire already on them. Everything else behind them would roll per normal, though. If the trigger for the spell to go off is for the arrow to land, I imagine it'd be hard to avoid something that starts because it collided with your very being.

    Additionally, in the event that the arrow misses, would you still have all enemies roll saving throw, assuming they would have been in the line of fire in the first place? ie. the arrow might have missed, but it still exploded on the cell it was aimed at, and spread as per normal.

    1. Additionally, it says "the spell remains prepared as long as you maintain concentration on the arrow".. does this mean you can't prepare an arrow as a bonus action and keep Hunter's Mark up, for example? It doesn't feel as though that's how it was intended.. unless it's some kind of secondary concentration you just have to 'have', but doesn't take up your concentration. Or, if it only counts as concentration if you're holding onto the arrow for longer than what's needed to fire it at something and have it do its magic.

    2. As the class currently is, the target of the spell makes saving throws as normal and if the attack misses, the spell doesn't go off at all. Both of these are chiefly for balancing this class but can still be rationalized. For the vast majority of spells, a failed save still means damage, so the creature hit by the spell isn't avoiding damage entirely. And one can imagine the Imbued Arrows are magically set to go off when they strike a creature, not an object, in order to prevent complicated situations with going off when the arrow shuffles about in the quiver or immediately when it is loosed.

      Creating an Imbued Arrow, even just within 1 turn, takes concentration. That means if you were concentrating on a spell, like Hunter's Mark, you lose concentration on that spell for the Arrow. This is chiefly a balance issue again, and is necessary for simplicity between the case of preparing arrows hours before and preparing arrows to be used within 1 round.

    3. I don't mind your reasoning, but personally, I was somewhat looking forward to playing this class for a number of combo-reasons. I've done the math. I'll show it if I need to, but for simplicity's sake, I'll only be showing the results of it for this, specific post. Either way, I can't quite find where the balancing issue would be if the arrow didn't take concentration, at least for the round that it was imbued.

      Level 5 AA (Arcane Archer) with no-concentration arrow, firing Chromatic Orb, has Hunter's Mark, longbow, not using Sharpshooter on first shot (because that'd increase chances of wasting your spellslot):
      9 + 13.5 + 7 + 10 = 32.5

      GWM Fighter, using GWM each hit, assuming advantage (because melee) in some way, or just using precision strike to fix misses. Not including any Battle Master rolls, or Action Surge -or even GWM bonus attack-, to favor the AA as much as possible.
      14 + 20 = 34

      GWM Barb, Frenzy (because it's the DPR build). ie. everything at advantage (reckless), gets bonus action hit (Frenzy), too.
      21 + 30 = 51.

      GWM Paladin. It's gonna smite everything, because that's what you're doing with your bow. Expending spellslots for damage. Doesn't include whatever concentration spell it has up (ie. Bless) or a non-class action smite. Doesn't include bonus action usage.
      14 + 18 + 20 = 52. Even with one not being a smite (matching your spell slot usage), it still wins at 43.

      Because I fear that this post is already large enough, I'll stop the numbers here, but I can post more if need be. Keep in mind, there are multiple other situations that I have ready to show that each level of AA is still just as strong, if not weaker than other classes aiming for pure damage. The numbers show are also contesting AA at its strongest point (ie. everything going in its favor for concentration, action usage, etc), and it still was weaker. Now, imagine if it didn't get Hunter's Mark, for example. Or if the DM felt like pressuring you (ie. disadvantage, unless you get Crossbow Mastery, which is an investment where you'd rather the Dex for landing spells)

      I have numbers up to level 20, the main points being
      Level 6 - where AA can get Scorching Ray early, assuming multiclassed. No Extra Attack.
      Level 7 - pure Ranger, gets Scorching Ray from Sorc.
      Level 11 - AA doubleshot
      Level 15 - level 4 Sorc spells.
      Level 20 - Doesn't get anything.

      It loses at all these points, even with best case scenario. The only exception is saving a spell-charged arrow from before the battle, and then firing it in the first round for a double-spell nova, which involves using two spells worth of slots, and it can be stopped beforehand. Heck, when you run out of spellslots, your damage dealt plummets, and at that point, using a 1d8 (or a 1d10 if you're using a Heavy Crossbow, I guess, but that takes more investing) + 1d6 is the same, regardless of whether you're using Hunter's Mark or the Force-bonus from imbuing. The only difference is that you don't have Hunter bonuses to keep up consistent damage. Overall, you're probably about a 4-turn wonder, a few times a day, and even when you do get those nova-rounds off, you're still behind everyone else.

      Just my (albeit long, sorry for that) two-cents.

    4. You know, I thought answering whether or not this class was reasonably well-balanced would be a short response, but after about an hour of working through expected value on fighter attacks to know for sure the damage things would do in combat, I realized that this work deserves a post, not a comment response. I don't promise that soon, but I promise it.

      Suffice it to say, the main challenge in writing the arcane archer wasn't getting the damage to balance correctly, it was working out how to make the action economy of spellcasting work, and to make the whole thing brief.

      The concentration aspect is important in making the action economy of preparing an arrow make sense over long periods, while not being obtuse or getting in the way of the action economy. Why not prepare your spells in the evening and have all your spells and an imbued arrow the next morning? You lost concentration when you fell asleep. Why not save yourself the time and imbue your arrow an hour before combat? You can, but it's a risk; one can lose something they're concentrating on if things go awry. By making this more complicated to account for concentration in situations like imbuing your arrows a couple of seconds before they're fired, makes things less brief and more complex, both of which I wanted to avoid while writing this subclass. It might make things more balanced if you didn't have to concentrate on an imbued arrow the round you fire it (we'll know for sure when I do a really in-depth look at the math - we're talking taking attack rolls, crit chance, and spells into consideration) but until then, I'm not convinced it's worth the complexity it'll add to someone reading the class.

    5. Well, if it's for the sake of simplicity, I can respect that. When you do, eventually, get around to the post, I'll look forward to comparing it to my own workings. Perhaps I've missed something, somewhere.

      Personally, I think it'd be less convoluted if you couldn't pre-prepare arrows, as a concentrated Fireball or Scorching Ray just seems to weird to me, but, the post will probably explain the reasoning behind it, too, whether it's flavor or because you were intending for some Assassin-level first turn Nova.

      Regardless, it's nice to know that you're still thinking about this class, even though you're releasing an assortment of others. Good work, as always!

  11. I feel like Imbue Arrow is too expansive to use.
    You need to use both the Action to fire the arrow, the Bonus action to imbue it and maintain concentration. All this for the downgraded spell.
    consider this if you imbue a fire ball into an arrow and fire at a target, first you need to hit the target AC and then it gets to make a save. a straight wizard will just need to contend with the save. in addition the main target doesn't have any disadvantage on save even thew the arrow already hit it.
    This design ties too many of the action resources of the ranger for a sub par casting.
    i would separate Imbue arrow to two abilities:
    Arcane overcharge: as a bonus action you may charge your normal arrows with additional arcane energy adding 1d6 damage to the arrow without expending a spell slot. (This will allow normal arrows to be get a damage rider without expanding slots and contending with additional damage done by other classes at high level)
    the Second will be Imbue arrow - As an action you may imbue an instantaneous spell into an arrow and fire it immediately. the arrow needs to hit the target to have any spell effect. targets in spell range that is centered on the arrow needs to save normally. the target struck by the arrow make the save at a disadvantage.
    An imbued arrow cannot be over charged.
    Seeking arrow my effect both imbued arrows as well and overcharged ones.

    1. You're also basically casting the Quickened Spell metamagic with the only limit being your spellslots, and allowing non-save spells to automatically hit with an archer's naturally higher to-hit chance.
      You may still have to save the fireball, but you can effectively make fireball's range 600 ft with the Sharpshooter feat and a longbow.
      It could easily be homebrewed that the fireball triggered because the arrow hit the target, and that the spell can't be saved against, or they have disadvantage, if it's really that big of a deal. But it's not.

      Making a normal action do both is basically a free-action spellcast. On top of that, the way you've worded it implies you can't use extra attack, thus limiting Ranger even further.
      I'd rather take Hunter's Mark + two attacks, with one (or two at level 11) featuring Scorching Rays, which can't be done with the current concentration wordings, than only taking a single attack and having my bonus action available for a class that rarely uses its bonus action, anyway.

      Additionally, your suggestion is basically what is already written there, just making the Ranger more limited, and adding the saving clause.

  12. I am currently using this archetype and it is awesome. It has revitalised the class IMO. I now actually feel usefulness when fighting, where as sure i can hit 90% of the time but do shit dmg. One thing i am finding a hard time accepting is that a saving throw can be made for what is basically a spell exploding from inside the target i hit, yes i believe anyone caught up in an AOE effect (such as thunder wave) should have a chance to make a save.but again i refer to the fact my target has the imbued arrow stuck in them.

  13. Quick question, how does an arrow imbued with Dimension Door work, does it teleport the target you shot to a point of your choosing?

    1. Weird example. The spell is cast targeting the creature, which allows you to target and teleport another creature with it

    2. Sorry, it still seems unclear to me, are you teleporting a friendly character to the target you hit with the arrow, or
      are you teleporting the target you hit with the arrow +1 other creature, to a point of your choosing?

    3. Basically the second one, but like I said, this is a really strange example of how it works RAW. You can't access dimension door until level 15 anyway, since the class is locked down to evocation spells off the sorcerer list.

  14. Hi, I really like the look of this class and I think a lot of work has been put into it. I was wondering how it fares balance wise, has anyone tried it in play?

    At level 3, an average attack with imbue Chromatic orb would be doing 21 damage without hunters mark. I'm not vastly experienced with 5e, just starting out, but that seems a lot of damage?

    1. This is an old and not very well balanced class. There are a lot of issues but the two highest level abilities in particular are extremely over powered.

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