Archers | Player Supplement for Fifth Edition (Part 3)

This article adds new rules, subclasses, prestige classes, magic items, and more for players interested in expanding archer characters in Fifth Edition.

Here is a summary of what’s included in this article:

Part 3: Optional Rules

The optional rules in this section pertain to using bows and arrows in your Fifth Edition game.

Special Shots

Sometimes, a character needs to use his or her bow and arrow to do more than just “stab a target that’s over there.” An arrow could be used to set a fire. The archer may wish to aim for a particular spot on a target such as the eye or their hand. Firing an arrow with a rope attached to it makes for a great zip line; a classic staple of great adventures.

The following rules options can be used by archers in your game.

Small and Large Targets

The Fifth Edition ruleset assumes that you will always be targeting a Medium or larger sized creature. However, if you’ve ever fired a ranged weapon of any sort you’ll know that the smaller the target is, the harder it is to hit. Inversely, large targets are a lot easier to hit.

As an optional rule, you can give an attacker disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks made against targets that are two or more size categories smaller than the attacker. And if the target is two or more size categories larger than the attacker, the attacker has advantage on ranged weapon attacks against the target.

Art by Wizards of the Coast.

Firing at Narrow Openings

Sometimes, an archer needs to fire an arrow or other projectiles into a small opening such as a narrow window, a keyhole, or between the legs of an ogre. Normally, the opening itself would provide cover if the attacker was targeting a creature or object on the other side of the opening. However, if there is no specific target, the AC depends on the actual size of the opening. Refer to the Opening Armor Class table below to determine the roll needed to get your projectile through the opening.

Opening Armor Class

Size AC
Tiny (inside a bottle, keyhole) 20
Small (arrow slit, closing chest) 15
Medium (doorway, well opening) 10

Flaming Arrow

You can fire a flaming projectile at a target that you can see within range. The arrow (or other projectiles) must have some way of being set ablaze, such as coated in pitch, or wrapped in dry paper. You or another creature must use an action to light the fire. If the flaming arrow hits a flammable object such as a barrel of gunpowder or thatch roof, the object takes the weapon’s normal damage and ignites. If the arrow hits a creature, that creature takes weapon’s normal damage and must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the creature takes 1d10 fire damage and catches fire. Until someone takes an action to douse the fire, the creature takes 1d10 fire damage at the start of each of its turns.

Zip Line

You can attach a rope to your arrow with the intent of creating a zip line from it. Due to the weight and awkwardness of the attached rope, your ranged weapon attack rolls made with the arrow are made at disadvantage. You can then can fire the arrow at an object you can see within the weapon’s normal range. If the arrow hits, the arrow sticks and the rope is anchored in place. You and other creatures can then climb along the rope.

Called Shots

With this option, if you make a ranged weapon attack roll and score a critical hit, instead of dealing double damage, you may substitute one of the following options:

  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s hand. If the creature attempts to make an attack with a weapon using that only that hand, its attacks are made at disadvantage. If the creature receives magical healing, this effect ends for it.
  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s foot. The creature’s walking speed is halved. If the creature receives magical healing, this effect ends for it.
  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s eye. The creature has disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight and on ranged attack rolls. Magic such as the regenerate spell can restore the lost eye. If the creature has no eyes left after sustaining this injury, it is blinded.
  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s artery. Until the creature receives magical healing or a creature makes a success DC 10 Medicine check to staunch the bleeding, the creature takes damage equal to the weapon’s die roll at the end of each of its turns as it continues to bleed out.
  • Your arrow permanently scars the creature. It is disfigured to the extent that the wound can’t be easily concealed. It has disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks and advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks. Magical healing of 6th level or higher, such as heal and regenerate, removes the scar.

Threatening Shot

Sometimes, a well-fired arrow can do more than damage a target. It can help you change a foe’s attitude and demonstrate who is control. When you make a ranged attack roll at a target and hit, you can choose not to deal damage. Instead, the arrow lands within inches of the target, narrowly missing them. You can then immediately make a Charisma (Intimidation) check contested by the target’s Wisdom (Insight). With a successful check, the target’s attitude becomes indifferent towards you if it is hostile or friendly if it is indifferent. If the target is immune to being frightened, it automatically succeeds the contest.

Art by Paizo Publishing.

Archery Competitions

During an archery competition, two or more archers test pit their archery skills against each other. Below are a few of the competitions that an archer may compete in.

Multiple Targets Competition

In this type of competition, small objects are placed just outside of a weapon’s normal range (for example, bottles are set atop a fence post 100 feet away from an archer wielding a short bow). The archer is allowed to make a number of shots equal to the number of targets present and must roll a 15 or higher to hit each target (or 20 if the targets are moving). Each target the archer hits is worth 5 points.

Shooting Target Competition

The archers fire at a shooting target placed 230 feet away. The archer then makes a ranged attack roll against the shooting target. There are two ways to determine the winner of a shooting target competition:

  1. Each archer compares the result of their attack rolls. The archer with the highest die roll is the winner. If an archer rolls a 20 or higher on his or her die roll, the arrow hits the bullseye. If two competitors roll the same result, the first archer to achieve the result is the winner. Any archer that rolls a 9 or less completely misses the shooting target and is disqualified.
  2. Each archer is allowed three shots at the shooting target and scores points for accuracy. Archers score points based on where their arrow lands. Refer to the Shooting Target Results table below for scoring.

Shooting Target Results

Result Points
9 or less -5
10-14 +5
15-19 +10
20+ +20

“William Tell” Competition

The third type of archery competition is a little more dangerous. A “volunteer” holds the object for the shooters to target. The target can be an apple placed atop the volunteer’s head, a balloon held in their mouth, or an item that they toss into the air. The archer makes a ranged weapon attack against the object and the object counts as having half cover provided by the creature. If the shooter misses the target but is still within the range that the creature’s half-cover provides, the shooter hits the creature instead and the creature takes damage.

Archer Feats

The archer feat options below are presented in alphabetical order.

Assault Archer

You are deadly with ranged weapons, especially at close range. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your ranged weapon attacks do not suffer disadvantage when targeting prone creatures.
  • Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
  • When you score a critical hit with a ranged weapon attack while within 30 feet of the target, you can roll one of the weapon’s damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.

Long-range Archer

Prerequisite: proficiency with longbows

You have perfected using a longbow at long range. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Your range when using a longbow is 200/800.
  • Strong wind doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

Shortbow Archer

Prerequisite: proficiency with shortbows

You are able to loose arrows at a dazzling speed. When you use the Attack action to make a ranged weapon attack with a shortbow, you can use a bonus action to make an additional attack with the same weapon.

Next: Part 4. New Magic Items

Thumbnail art by Paizo Publishing.

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