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Archer

by Craig Antoun

Here is my take on the archer character class, which I put together based on the following: a variant of the fighter class introduced in one of the Hollow World supplements, from my own original version from the early 80's based of the Archer class presented in Dragon Magazine by Len Lakofka, and the awesome version created by Havard (I hope you don't mind my variation on your design).

Prime Requisite: Dexterity.
Other Requirements: Must have 9 in both STR and DEX.
Experience Bonus: DEX score of 13-15 gives +5% XP Bonus, DEX score of 16-18 gives +10% XP Bonus.
Hit Dice: 1d8 per level up to 9th level. Starting with 10th level, +2 hit points per level, and Constitution adjustments no longer apply.
Saving Throws: As a Fighter of equal level.
Maximum Level: 36th. Progresses as a Fighter of equal level.
Alignment: Any
Armor: Restricted to chain mail or worse. May use a shield.
Weapons: May use any weapon.
Special Abilities: Archery Ability, STR Bonus Damage, Aim, Archer Combat Options
Weapon Mastery: Same as a Thief.
Skills: Required to take Bowyer and Fletching.

Archery Ability: At 1st level archers gain +2 to Hit and Damage when using longbows, short bows, and crossbows. This ability is lost when wearing armor better than chain mail.

STR Bonus Damage: At 1st level archers may add their Strength bonus to damage when using the longbow.

Aim: At 6th level the archer can take careful aim at a target for an additional +2 to hit. When aiming the archer automatically loses Initiative, may not move at all, and loses any DEX bonus to his armor class for the duration of the combat round. If the archer takes any damage before he can fire his bow/crossbow in that combat round, his shot is ruined. This maneuver cannot be combined with the Mighty Shot maneuver (see below).

Archer Combat Options: At 9th level the archer gains Ranged Disarm, Ranged Pin, and Mighty Shot.

Ranged Disarm: Same as a normal disarm, but at range.
Ranged Pin: The archer may perform a ranged wrestling pin against an opponent by pinning a bit of its clothing to a nearby surface. The target must be within 5 of a wall, tree, or other surface in which a projectile can be stuck and must be wearing some sort of clothing, armor, or other accoutrement. The archer must succeed on a normal ranged attack, and then win a Wrestling Rating roll based on his/her current WR score. To break free, the victim must make an opposed Wrestling Rating roll.
Mighty Shot: The same as the Smash maneuver, but at range and can only be performed with a longbow or short bow. The archer automatically loses Initiative and takes a -5 penalty to the attack roll (he still gets his Dexterity and magic adjustments to his attack roll).

Sure Shot: This ability is earned at 10th level. Ranged targets of the archer gain no bonus from cover except when behind full cover.

Multiple Attacks: At 12th level the archer may make Multiple Attacks with longbows and short bows only. He may not apply Multiple Attacks to light or heavy crossbows, nor any form of hand-to-hand or thrown weapon.

Design Notes: The Mighty Shot ability was Havard's brilliant idea, while I created the Aim ability as form of concentration targeting. Some of the other abilities were lifted from TETSNBN, but I think they fit pretty well with the concept I was going for. As this is a variant of the fighter class, I took away all the regular fighter special abilities (Set Spear vs. Charge, Lance Attack) and modified some of the Fighter Combat Maneuvers in similar fashion to what Havard did with the Mighty Shot ability. As I recall, the fighter's Multiple Attack option was limited to hand-to-hand attacks, thrown weapons, lance attacks, and disarms. I just altered it for the archer to be usable for longbows and short bows only, but not crossbows as it seems unlikely that even a trained high level archer could fire a lt. crossbow two, three, or even four times in a single combat round as opposed to knocking and firing several arrows from a bow in the same amount of time.


The reason I asked to see the Archer class mentioned in the Hollow World supplement was because I was eager to see what the "official" version of the class was like, and compare it to my own homemade version of the class I created almost 30 years ago for the BECMI rules. Well, to be more accurate, it was a version of the Archer class that was published in the mid-80's in Dragon Magazine for AD&D 1st Edition that I modified to fit the BECMI rule set.

This is what I recall my version of the Archer class was like:

Archers were human only, and could reach 36th Level.
Prime Requisites: Their PR was both Strength and Dexterity (Strength was need to give the added pull to increase the range and damage of the longbow).
XP Advancement: They used the same XP advancement table as the Magic-User (this was because of how dangerous they could be at high levels).
Saving Throws: They had the same Saving Throws as Fighters of equal level.
To Hit: They used the To Hit Chart as Thieves of equal level (this was because they were not full fighter, just mostly ranged combatants).
Hit Dice: Archers had 1d6 per level up to 9th level.
Armor: Archers could wear all armors up to chainmail and worse, but nothing heavier like banded, plate, or suit armor. They could use a shield.
Weapons: While not restricted from using blunt weapons, Archers tended not to use them, and rather used swords, daggers, spears, javelins, axes and bows. In retrospect, this is kind of a silly rule.

The Special Abilities Archers had were Extra Range and Bonus to Hit and Damage.

Extra Range: Archers gained a bonus to range when using a long bow according to their Strength score. This became sort of a problem when the Master Rules came out and those that trained in the long bow also got extra range with the mastery of the long bow. The extra range was based on Strength. For example, and Archer with a STR of 9-12 received +30' to short range, +20' to medium range, and +10' to long range. Again, this was redundant after the Master Rules debut with Weapon Mastery.

Bonus to Hit and Damage: As Archers rose in level they gained bonuses to Hit and Damage for short, medium, and long range. These bonuses increased in level up to Level 14. For example, a 1st level Archer started with just +1 to hit at short range. At 2nd level, the Archer gained +1 to hit and +1 to damage at short range. At 3rd level the bonuses became +2 to hit and +1 at short range, as well as +1 to hit at medium range. This continued on up to 14th level which saw +7 to hit and damage at short range, +6 to hit and damage at medium range, and +5 to hit and damage at long range. This was very overpowered to start, but I was too young and inexperience to realize it at the time.

I'd like to rework the class to make something that is better balanced, but gave a reason for the Archer to continue gaining levels other than saving throws and hit rolls becoming better. I'll rework the Bonus to Hit and Damage table, while keeping Weapon Mastery in mind, and see what I can come up with.

In the meantime, what do you guys and gals think of my version so far? Should Archers attack as fighters instead of thieves? Should they have saving throws as thieves instead of fighters? What about the XP Advancement Table? Should it be the same as Magic-Users or should I make it easier, as a Fighter?


I've been tweaking the build of the Archer class a bit. I am thinking of making the following changes:

Remove
STR Bonus Damage with longbows
+2 To Damage (Archery Ability)
Mighty Shot maneuver

Adjust To
Archery Ability: At 1st level the archer gains +2 to hit with longbows, short bows, light crossbows, and heavy crossbows. In addition, when using any kind of bow or crossbow, the archer inflicts additional damage equal to their current level divided by four (rounded up). For example, a 9th level archer adds a bonus of +3 to all damage done when using bows and crossbows.
Aim: Rename ability as "Steady Aim." Move this maneuver from 6th level to the Archer Combat Maneuvers available at 9th level.
Reduce Hit Dice from 1d8 to 1d6.

While I love the STR Bonus Damage with longbows and the Mighty Shot maneuver, I'm not 100% satisfied with this build. I want something that reflects the greater mastery with bows and crossbows as the archer gains levels, and thus came up with the modified Archery Ability listed above. In addition to the overall +2 to hit with bows and crossbows, the archer can do increased damaged based on his level. The maximum increased damage he can do at levels 33 to 36 is +9 points, which is good, but not over the top. If used without Weapon Mastery, its a good bonus to damage. If used with Weapon Mastery, it makes the archer stand out against another character with equal Weapon Mastery skill level, but is not so great a damage bonus it unbalances the game (at least, that's my intent).

In going with this build, I felt it necessary to drop the STR Bonus Damage with longbows ability. I like it, but I don't think it is necessary coupled with the escalating level damage. Plus, I would rather the archer class not be tempted to always choose the longbow over short bows and crossbows due to the bonus damage with STR.

By dropping the Mighty Shot ability (which is still a great concept), I have moved the Aim maneuver (now retitled "Steady Aim") to the Archer Combat Maneuvers, where I think it fits in better with Ranged Disarm and Ranged Pin.

Finally, given that archers are a fighter class variant, they are tough, but in retrospect I don't think they should be as tough as fighters or dwarves, so I'm thinking I may reduce the Hit Dice from 1d8 to 1d6 per level up to 9th, then +2 hit points each level afterwards.

As always, any thoughts and feedback on these changes for my version of the archer class are appreciated.