The Cragtop Archer prestige class grants, at 3rd level, the Arcing Shot feature:
Arcing Shot (Ex)
The Cragtop Archer of 3rd level and higher can fire a high, arcing shot to gain greater range with her projectile weapon. Any time the Cragtop Archer can fire a projectile weapon in an area with at least 40 feet of clearance between her position and the ceiling (or any other overhead obstruction, such as a forest canopy), her maximum range with the projectile weapon is fifteen range increments rather than the normal ten range increments.
Can you see yourself, peering from the top of a cliff, and firing arrows at the unsuspecting approaching caravan a mile off? They’ll never see it coming!
Well, the problem is, you’ll probably never see the caravan escort either. Or if you do, not for long.
The most mundane Longbow, Composite has a range increment of 100 ft. Therefore, its maximum shooting distance before any enhancement is 1,500 ft when using the Arcing Shot feature.
The problem is, the Spot1 penalty for distance is -1 per 10 ft. Basic mathematics thus lead us to a penalty of -150 at 1,500 ft. This is steep.
Attempting to meet this Spot check with straight bonuses seems unlikely to succeed; and scale up as this range increases. Even with a plethora of bonuses. Therefore, the only three viable options I know of are:
- the class feature Farsight (Cragtop Archer, level 1), which halves this penalty,
- the feat Hawk’s Vision (Complete Adventurer, p. 114), which halves this penalty,
- the spell Dragonsight (Spell Compendium, p. 79), which also halves this penalty.
Their pre-requisites are expensive (the former requires spending a use of Wild Shape, the latter is a 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell) for a rather lackluster result. My most lenient reading2 makes the three stack for -1 per 80 ft. For a Spot penalty of only -19 at 1,500 ft.
Just investing a bit3, combining (1) a Dragonbone Composite Greatbow (150 ft.), (2) the Enlarge spell, (3) the Strongarm Bracers, (4) the Distance enchantment (x2), (5) Flight Arrows (x1.25), and finally (6) the Farshot feat (x1.5):
- the range increment of a Huge Dragonbone Composite Greatbow is 225 ft.
- subjected to a x2.75 multiplier, it becomes 615 ft.
which means a maximum Arcing Shot range of 9,225 ft. for a nominal Spot penalty of -923 and an improved Spot penalty of -116.
Meanwhile, the penalty to AR is a measly -15, much more easily dealt with.
The problem faced here is that there seems to be far more option to extend one’s shooting range, than there are options to efficiently spot an opponent that far.
Supposing a character wishes to use the Arcing Shot feature for mile-long shots, how should such a character go about spotting their foes in the first place, even as they scramble to hide:
- Is Spot actually necessary, or can one Target4 a foe without Spotting it? Even if this foe hides, stepping behind a broomstick?
- Can one reduce one’s Spot distance penalty much more?
- Can one increase one’s Spot check sufficiently to match such a dire DC?
- Are there other ways for one wannabe long-range archer to be effective at long-range? Even gasp good homebrew ones?
Or should I conclude that the shooting and spotting range penalties are so lopsided this is a fool’s quest5.
1 Even if one is to argue that Spot is only to be used against a foe who is actively attempting to Hide, I am pretty sure that after the first shot the caravan escort is going to attempt to do so. Even the fancy Fighter with its Luminous Heavy Armor.
2 Since multipliers generally are NOT applied on top of one another for bonuses, but rather added as multiple, I would be more tempted to argue that stacking the three should lead to -1 per 40 ft.
3 I am voluntarily ignoring here Deepwood Sniper (+10 ft./lvl, 10 levels) and the Ranged Weapon Mastery feat (+20 ft.), both of which require a more significant investment in terms of precious feats and class levels.
4 In melee, it is possible to swipe at a square after pinpointing an otherwise non-visible foe. The foe “only” has Total Concealment, gaining 50% miss chance.
5 I am aware that one is unlikely to ever have a mile of clear view in a dungeon or forest, and therefore focusing solely on distance is a rather ineffective strategy; I’ll just point that the only non-gold investments to reach a ludicrous ~10,000 ft. range were 3 levels of Cragtop Archer and its 2 pre-requisite feats. And I’d really like to be able to fire on spellcasters with impunity (their spells’ range often maxing out around ~1,000 ft.).