A character who favors ranged attacks has many ways to master the bow, and these schools represent benefits of doing so. We start off with the elements that GMs and players should consider, an example of learning a style, and then go into the schools themselves.
First, you and your GM must decide if you need to spend any time training. Once you have the training, you can learn one of the secrets of that school.
Learning a Style
If your GM requires training with a master, such training takes one week per character level. The good news is that the school benefits represent the culmination of training. You can train between adventures or during other downtime. In other words, you don’t have to spend an additional week per character level between adventures, just as wizards are assumed to always be researching and developing new spells.
When you earn the prerequisites (by reaching a class level with a new ability or by gaining a feat), you learn the desired secret techniques.
It does mean that you must spend downtime at a school, and you can’t be doing other things such as research, healing, or crafting.
Benefits of school mastery represent secret techniques taught by masters of the style. Secret techniques create a niche between class abilities and feats.
You gain a secret technique instead of a class ability or a feat (your choice, but talk to your GM) if you meet the prerequisites for that technique. You can choose any secret technique of your level or below.
Each school lists the initial prerequisites for entry and a secret technique. New secret techniques appear every two levels, along with any additional prerequisites for those secret techniques.
Secret techniques are usually independent. Very few require another secret technique as a prerequisite. Where that is the case, the additional prerequisite appears in the secret technique’s description.
All schools require that their masters have Weapon Focus. When a secret technique refers to a “ranged attack,” that means a ranged attack involving a weapon with which the attacker has Weapon Focus.
Mary decides that she wants her 5th-level half-elf cleric to study the Eldritch Arrow Style. She already knows Combat Casting and Spell Focus, and she has 5 ranks in Spellcraft. To qualify for Arrow Touch Attacks, she must acquire Magical Aptitude and Weapon Focus. By the time she does, she’s 9th level and has 9 ranks in Spellcraft.
She has a tough choice to make: She could learn arrow touch attacks or gain a bonus against SR, because she meets the prerequisites for both. She cannot learn arrow counterspells because she doesn’t know Arcane Strike, and that’s an additional prerequisite for that secret technique. The bonus against SR technique works only with arrow touch attacks, so that’s probably a bad choice at this level. She needs to take her 9th-level feat to qualify for the school, so whichever secret technique she takes will replace her 9th-level class ability: channel energy 5d6.
If she decides that her class ability is more important, then at 11th-level she can learn Arcane Strike. She’ll have 11 ranks in Spellcraft by then, and she’ll qualify for any of the first four secret techniques of the school—but whichever secret technique she learns will replace her channel energy 6d6 class ability. Depending on the campaign, she might have an easy choice or a very tough one.
On the other hand, Bob is playing a dwarf ranger. At 5th-level, he has 5 ranks in Knowledge (dungeoneering) and 5 ranks in Survival. He has Dexterity 15, and he knows Alertness, Dodge, Point-blank Shot, and Weapon Focus (shortbow). If he knew Deadly Aim, he would qualify for the Eagle Eye School. If he knew Catch Off-Guard, he would qualify for Dungeon Archers. At 6th level, he takes Precise Shot as a Combat Style bonus feat. At 7th level, he takes Catch Off-Guard. He now has 7 ranks in all his skills. He chooses to learn melee arrows from the Underdark Archers rather than woodland stride, because his campaign takes place in the areas below the earth rather than the wilderness.
College of the Night’s Sting
Perhaps the most secretive of the archery schools, initiates of this style are snipers and assassins. Their allies are stealth and darkness. They strike without warning and disappear, and they often work in teams with other killers.
You can make a Knowledge (local) check to learn about the College of the Night’s Sting.
5 Most rulers fear masters of this style so much that they outlaw the school. Even asking too many questions about it can get you in trouble.
10 The College of the Night’s Sting trains assassins.
15 Masters of the Night’s Sting usually work in teams with other rogues or assassins, so watch your back.
|Character Level||Prerequisites||Secret Technique|
|5||Stealth 5 ranks; Sneak Attack +3d6; Far Shot, Point-Blank Shot, Stealthy, Weapon Focus (any bow)||Increase Sneak Attack Range|
|7||Precise Shot||Stealthy Shot|
|9||Stealth 9 ranks||Increase Sneak Attack Range|
|11||BAB +6; Vital Strike||Ranged Flanking|
|13||Sneak Attack +4d6; Stealthy Shot||Stealthy Shot II|
|15||Dex 19; BAB +11; Improved Precise Shot||Increase Sneak Attack Range|
|17||Stealth 17 ranks||Ranged Flanking II|
|19||Sneak Attack +5d6||Increase Sneak Attack Range|
Increase Sneak Attack Range (Ex): Each time you gain this ability, the distance within which you can apply your sneak attack damage to ranged attacks increases +10 feet. If you learn all four secret techniques, you can apply sneak attack damage to targets up to 70 feet away.
Ranged Flanking (Ex): While an ally within 30 feet of you flanks a target, you gain the +2 bonus from flanking when you make ranged attacks against that target.
Ranged Flanking II (Ex): If you strike an enemy with a ranged attack, your allies gain a +2 flanking bonus to attacks against that target until the start of your next turn.
Stealthy Shot (Ex): If you move at least 20 feet after making a ranged attack, you may make a Stealth check as part of that movement to gain concealment as if you were unobserved.
Stealthy Shot II (Ex): To learn this secret technique, you must already know Stealthy Shot. After you make a ranged attack, this secret technique allows you to make a Stealth check to gain concealment as if you were unobserved. You do not have to move to make the Stealth check.