Lastoths Guide to Archery Rangers
I’d like to immediately and sincerely thank Treantmonk for being a nearly single handed documentation center for the entire Paizo community. His guides have been the foundation to every character I’ve played. I differ from his position on some things but it makes his advice no less relevant, wise or thought provoking. He has shaped the Pathfinder experience for me many times. The entire community owes him some credit, as most any post you see will eventually link to a guide he’s presented or ideas he put forth.
This entire guide is written for archery focused rangers. Too much material has been presented in all of the recent books for me to be both concise and complete in the sense of covering all types of rangers in one guide without rerating spells feats and features repeatedly. Also I’ve not played a melee ranger, so I feel my guide would be weak in that regard.
The Basics of Archery
Archery is terrible. Treantmonk suggesting the switch hitter was far smarter than anyone really gave him credit for. This is because of the mechanics of cover and concealment. First of all if someone is engaged in melee you are at a -4 to hit that target unless you have precise shot. We can safely assume everyone has precise shot, even the slow kids. The thing people often mistake is bonuses for cover. Cover is a cruel mistress.
From the core rulebook: “To determine whether your target has cover from your ranged attack, choose a corner of your square. If any line from this corner to any corner of the target's square passes through a square or border that blocks line of effect or provides cover, or through a square occupied by a creature, the target has cover (+4 to AC).”
See that “any” I underlined? This means you’re going to be shooting at targets with +4 AC for just about your entire career as an archer unless you do something about it. This game occurs in enclosed spaces very often, see also the source system game name. Dungeons, buildings and streets all bottleneck everyone. You’re going to be shooting through cover far more often than not. It’s my job to impress upon you how terrible that is so we can take steps to overcome this. Now that you’ve read this and understand it, it’s time to go to school and see how to best build an archer to minimize the drawbacks and create strengths which are difficult for enemies to overcome.
Archery 101, building your archer
At one point I ran 20 strength and 16 dex to start including racial adjustments. I was thinking I would be a switch hitter eventually, but it turns out archery with a 20 strength and some gravity bow is roughly equivalent to power gamer heroine. It was epic. There was a lot of damage going out, but my 7 charisma and 10 constitution were constantly chided by the group. I need to try to talk you into not falling into the trap of feeling you need strength. It’s only valuable for drawing your stat points away from important abilities with saves. You’re going to do damage either way, and doing 3 less because you have a mere 14 strength isn’t that bad when you consider that you gain some hit points and other benefits. If I were to suggest a stat spread it would appear as below BEFORE racial adjustments.
For those comfortable sacrificing Charisma: Those opposed to tanking a stat:
Obviously that’s all just swag on my part. Most folks will tell you to tank wisdom more than I have and bump strength more than I did. I rather enjoy losing charisma and playing a surly bastard. Initially it was more of a power gaming move, now I’ve kind of accepted it and play a sort of man with no name type ranger. Do what you like, but you need a lot of dex to hit, and also armor class. Remember you’re trying to overcome a +4 AC on all targets until at least level 6, so you have some serious inadequacies to cover for, and you can’t own a jacked up F350 to cover for those inadequacies in this world. You will reach a point where the DM looks across the table and you know without a doubt you’ve broken an encounter with your “black out the sky” routine. From that moment forward your saves and hitpoints are really important, because you just became a priority target.
We’re up against a horrific glut of feats. I’d love to be able to tell you that you can play any race you want and it will be okay, but it’s not okay. Not having an extra feat early is like a rusty knife to the groin of this build, and no one wants that. As a non human you’re going to give up one of your feat chains for a while, and with the way I’ve charted these builds it’s quite late. Never take a small character, it’s tempting but you give up some nice options for overcoming wind wall.
You are required to take magical knack. Anyone not taking this trait is losing hours off important buffs and it’s just not acceptable. The other is usually any of the +1 will save traits. It’s not that I am afraid of dying to a failed will save, it’s that I am afraid of being controlled and unleashed on my own party, god help them. If you feel as though you would like the fly skill now is the time to take it with a trait. It’s useful if you plan on getting a flying carpet or having some other constant source of flight.
You’re working with 7 skill points per level if you took human and didn’t tank your Int. I keep Survival, Stealth, Ride, Perception, Handle Animal, Climb and Swim all at max ranks or close to it. If I want to share things around and get other skills ranked up I’ll rob some from swim and climb, maybe ride at later levels. Your ride check quickly hits very high levels.
You don’t walk out the gate awesome. You need to work at it, and tough choices were made in determining the sequence of feats you will take to be able to rain death down. When I start a character I always open up and excel spreadsheet and lay out my feats by level. I always build to level 15 or so.
This is my ranger build as it currently stands. If you selected a non human just dump weapon focus for a while and shuffle the earlier feats to make it work:
Improved Precise Shot
Point Blank Master (Longbow)
Improved snap shot
Empty Feat Slot
Favored Defense/Clustered Shot
So let’s take a look at those feats and why they are important. I will break them up into chunks that are manageable.
Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot: Obviously these are helping you overcome the initial -4 to hit targets in melee and are the foundation feats for archery.
Rapid Shot, Deadly Aim: These are early damage enhancement feats we take in the meantime before we can take the more interesting feats. They make up a tremendous amount of damage between them.
Weapon Focus Longbow: The +1 to hit is, in itself, awesome. However, you must know this is a prerequisite for later feats, hence its relatively late place. I’d move it later but we’re all out of useful feats we qualify for at this level.
Improved Precise Shot: This negates the +4 AC to any target with cover, which we established earlier was every single target worth shooting. Unless your campaign occurs in a wide open plane of air with no allies against almost no foes this is the most important feat you can take early
Manyshot: The two for one shot damage is great, but it all depends on your campaign. If you are taking a long time to level or you feel the campaign will end soon manyshot is really your best bet. You’ll be taking monsters to pound town with this feat and some haste from the party. On the other side of the coin the DM probably doesn’t like you by now and everyone has an arrow deflection mechanic at this point. You end up losing this shot in those situations, so it’s not as vital as it could be. If the campaign is going to run to high level then by all means, get Combat Reflexes in preparation for Improved Snap Shot greatness.
Combat Reflexes/Snap Shot/Improved Snap Shot: These feats let you threaten a 15’ radius with your bow and thus welcome all who enter that area to Pound Town™. You are the mayor of Pound Town and an area denial platform for the wizard to hide behind. Unless I’ve been playing the game wrong enemies provoke an attack of opportunity for leaving a square you threaten. This, coupled with AOOs you may trigger from your mounts overrun abilities (shown later in this guide) can add up to a ton of AOOs. You finally command the respect you never got in high school. This feat chain is a game changer, get up into melee and make life hard on badguys.
Point Blank Master (Longbow): Now you don’t provoke for firing in melee. Instead of scooting back 5’ and firing you can now stand up front with the fighter and reach behind the lines with your threatened area.
Other Feats: I’ve wrapped up the build with an open feat and favored defense. Favored Defense is the feat I take late, but pretty much everyone will disagree with me and tell me to take Clustered Shot. They’ve got a good point, I’d suggest you take Clustered Shot. We’re getting a little late to take Boon Companion, but it’s fine to take it now if you want it. There are a host of archery feats we skipped that you could take now, but you can choose whatever, it’s not going to make or break you.
There is a lot of theory on selection for these. I can break it down for you in a few concise bullets, which are ordered by importance.
Now, that being said I will add there are two methods of favored enemy bonus.
For my part, if the campaign will make it to level 13ish or so; I can safely assume I will have access to plenty of Instant Enemy (see level 3 ranger spells below). This allows you to treat any one creature as your best favored enemy, no save and no SR. The only caveat is that you can’t cast it on an enemy that is already favored to get a higher bonus. With this in mind I like to stack my favored enemy bonus on one enemy so it’s very high, and for my other bonuses I purposely apply them to things that I encounter often and are weak or rarely appear a big bad evil guy. Things like Goblin, Orc, Gnome or Halfling seem to work fine for this. I typically take goblin at level 1 just because they are so prevalent in many campaigns. From there on out it’s Undead or Evil outsider to +4 and beyond.
The Normal Method:
I’ve typically seen people take two monsters to a relatively even and high level. Again I see these folks take the rest in stuff that’s not BBEG quality, but still somewhat useful.
I may expand this section into a type by type breakdown, but really it’s all moot if you followed the three step selection process above and remembered not to step on your own toes by excluding powerful monster types from your Instant Enemy spell later on. Just don’t keep more than two good enemies on your list. Again I typically see Undead and Evil Outsider together.
Much the same selection method of your favored enemies, ask your GM, look at your campaign setting and if all else fails I’ve always felt that underground is a very dependable one to have. Bad guys always hide in dungeons.
There is a caveat, and that is if you are going to take Horizen Walker as a prestige class with the intent of getting the favored terrain as a favored enemy bonus against creatures with that terrain as a home. If you do this, it pays to research. At one point I downloaded the monsters database and did a raw count of monsters. Mountain terrain was overwhelmingly the most common terrain for monsters including being home to some of the toughest ones on the list. If you’re going to take a native plane terrain for the FE bonus, I feel that’s the best one.
Now GMs may differ on how they implement this. The list so heavily favored mountain terrain I’d feel dirty doing a build that includes this. With terrain stacking you could easily have a +10 or higher bonus (and with just 3 levels of Horizen Walker). Some GMs might start out saying “If it’s in the description of the monster then it counts!” which is how I would have done things. After a few encounters though that would get old and they’d have to start coming up with ways around your bonus. This class exposes something of a flaw in the game and will force your GM to dislike you, so I wouldn’t take it.
On the other extreme, the GM will eventually rule that the “home terrain” is simply one of the options presented on that list and you will rapidly find that no one is from the mountains anymore (you killed them all.)
The common perception is that Ranger companions are underpowered. Even James Jacobs has stated that in his campaigns he opens the list of creatures available to Rangers entirely. This is great, but I am not sure it matters. As far as the regular companions, everyone seems to agree how the wolf and the small cat are very close in effectiveness, even me. However, the wolf and small cat are a distant second place to the actual best companion before level 10, which is the horse. Allow me to illustrate:
That’s right, it’s a horse. Deal with it. Until now you’ve just been an archer. You’re a turret but not yet a full tank. I don’t mean a damage soaking tank, I mean an Abrams tank. Mobility is key when you can get it. At some point up there in the guide I told you the vast majority of the fights you encounter are inside or in constricted areas, and this is true. On the other hand there are those APs that occur in outdoor settings, and even in dungeon heavy themes you end up outside being jumped by some goblins who think they’re clever riding worgs.
Also, just the other night I had my horse tromping through the badguys church. I’m not sure how much more awesome it gets than stampeding through church with a bow and an angry horse.
Obviously when a wolf grows up (level 10 without Boon Companion feat) it becomes the dominant mount if only for its strength score.
Training an Abrams:
Of course you’re saying “But I don’t have any mounted combat feats!” Well good news! You don’t need any! Of course this comes with caveats:
Combat Training: Your mount must possess this. Train it up, if you don’t have it then it looks like you’re blowing a spell on it (Yeah, we have a spell to give this to our mounts).
Second Attack Trick: I say second because the first attack trick is part of combat training. This is required if your horse is going to attack anything mildly interesting, but the good news is that your bonus tricks come free on your companions, already trained. Oh yes, your little pony will be attacking more than just his feedbag. He’s the bottom half of your tank!
Masterwork saddle: It’s not a rule, it’s a mandate. What are you? Cheap? Snag this and get the free +2 ride check. In fact get the special kind that strap you in so you can ride up walls, you’ll do it once just to show off.
Rules for Abrams:
Three rules that make mounted archers without feats possible:
As you can see, a mount moving at regular speed applies no penalty to your shooting and lets you take a full attack. This can allow you to get behind full cover then hop out to fire on your turn and pop back into hiding. It also lets you move around or through the enemy lines to negate cover bonuses for your shot. Thus, adding longstrider to your mount is a good thing. Adding horseshoes of speed is obviously the goal though.
But I can’t fire a longbow from horseback!
All of the cool kids upgraded to composite longbows several levels ago. These can be fired from horseback.
But he’s too big for the dungeon!
Ever fought a large creature in a dungeon? I thought so. The truth is big creatures can squeeze, it’s a -4 to attack and no running but they can fit into a space one size smaller. Also your horse (or wolf) is large in the 1x2 sense, so he shouldn’t need to squeeze for normal hallways anyway. That rule is just for the 2x2 large creatures. Of course if you run into a rope ladder you’ll need to figure something out.
So what makes it an Abrams?
Your mounts source of awesome is its feats. At first it’s awesome just trickles out, but around level 8 or 9 a torrent of awesome spews forth in copious amounts. First of all since it is combat trained its hooves are no longer secondary attacks, they’re primary. This means that it does hoof/hoof/bite at its highest attack bonus on anyone who comes near you. When you first get the horse this is nice. As you and your horse level you give it feats. You’re looking to start things off with power attack and then move into the overrun chain. You can also use bull rush, but it depends too much on a super high CMD to really pay off and it’s focused more on sitting in melee rather than moving away from melee and firing.
So what is an overrun? It basically allows you to move through an enemy square while you are moving. This is handy for people who feel they can box you in. If successful you knock the enemy prone and continue your move, if you fail you end up just sitting right in front of the guy you failed to knock over.
Improved Overrun: No brainer, this is the gateway feat that gets you into the goods. It allows you to charge over your enemy without provoking an attack of opportunity, your target can no longer simply step aside and avoid you. The +2 bonus to the check doesn’t hurt either.
Greater Overrun: Another +2 bonus is great but now anyone you knock over provokes an attack of opportunity. Great for your horse, and later on for you too. Sadly prone creatures have an AC bonus from your bow, but it’s better than a standing opponent IMO.
Light Armor Proficiency: You want this at some point. It’s got no real drawback and can add up to 4 armor to your mount.
Bull Rush/Greater Bull Rush: On the other hand, these allow your mount to attack an enemy and move him back 5 feet for every 5 by which its CMB roll exceeded the enemies CMD. Perhaps this is possible, I have yet to find a way to make it worth my while. If I could routinely beat the enemy CMD by 15 (or heck, just 10) and push an enemy back through my entire 15’ threat range late in the game then this would be the best thing I’ve ever seen. Sadly the companions CMB just isn’t that good. If you find a way then by all means share, this clearly has the most room for growth.
In closing on the companion, it’s only to your benefit to have a good mount. Once you pass level 10 you can call a wolf mount. Tripping isn’t that great for you but nothing is stopping you from taking overrun on your wolf too. In any event I should advise you not to put your pet into harms way by trying to overrun or attack powerful creatures. Retraining the new pet is a pain, so rely on your pet only when you have to and only for things you feel confident in.
I’m not going to rate every single spell, that’s just not worth my time and frankly Treantmonks guide did it better and far funnier than I could do justice to. Instead I am going to name the spells worth mentioning (in my opinion). As rangers we just don’t get a ton of spells that are super useful. Every level has gems, though. These are the reason we aren’t fighters, after all. We’ll just use a four star rating system
Aspect of the Falcon ** – Small bonus on ranged attacks that doesn’t stack with bracers of archery or inspire courage. It does give an expanded threat range to your bow, but with a 1 minute/level duration time I just never seemed to go for this. Instead I went with Gravity Bow.
Gravity Bow*** - This has been an every day spell since I first found it. It’s probably not required but it sure beats almost everything else out in my book. Going from 4.5 to 7 average damage is a nice little bump. Casting time is a problem, so I typically only pop this before a fight has begun, if offered the chance.
Hunter's Howl*** - At first this is great, you howl in a crowd and a bunch of folks become favored. At low levels this is better than Gravity Bow due to the bonus to hit, at higher levels everything will save and the +2 is kind of lackluster, you’re better off with Gravity bow.
Keen Senses – Short duration makes this sort of moot. You should have a wizard with level 2 spells by now (almost level 3!)
Lead Blades** - Eventually you’ll be forced to melee. Having this, a potion of enlarge and a greatsword have proven invaluable.
Liberating Command*** - Not an every day memorization, but when I know we’re fighting grapplers or anything with swallow whole I keep one of these handy to save the mage.
Longstrider****- Free 10’ of movement for me or my mount? Sounds great to me.
Resist Energy***- not an every day spell, but simply devastating when you know what you’re fighting and you need this. Dragons have fled fights with parties because the initial breath runs over the group proved harmless.
Wartrain Mount****- If you lose your mount and have to call a new one mid adventure this is how you overcome lack of war training.
Ape Walk** - Situationally awesome. If you’re in an area where you can take advantage of climb speed then this goes best on your mount. Tie yourself into your saddle and reign death from the cavern roof above.
Arrow Eruption – This seems cool, but it’s so rare you run into a bunch of clumped up enemies that I’ve never had this pay off when it is memorized. Too situational. You could carry a scroll, personally I’d rather just launch another volley or Stone Call.
Barkskin*** - I just don’t run with many druids, and no one seems to have this buff laying around. It’s not for you (usually), lay it on the party melee and receive the thanks of the melee and the healer.
Bloodhound*** - I love scent, but this is so highly situational and GM dependant I can’t rate it a 4. In fact if your GM isn’t interested in making it cool it might not even be worth having on you. For my part this is a daily extended buff.
Protection from Energy*** - See my comments on resist energy.
Protective Spirit** - It’s okay on you, but it’s better on your mount for avoiding AoOs. I will say I’ve only rarely used it when I knew I was running into a populated enemy camp outdoors
Stone Call****- So I can just create a 40’ RADIUS circle of difficult terrain? Yes please. The military preaches that the key to winning is to either dominate terrain or deny it to the enemy and this spell does just that.
Wind Wall*** - The natural enemy of the ranger is the bad guys huge battery of archers the DM threw in just to teach the ranger a lesson on how it feels to be peppered with arrows. Instead of learning a lesson, teach one by throwing this up.
Burst of Speed****- One swift action to get fast movement (+20 feet) that doesn’t provoke AoOs? With shared spell you can drop this on your mount instead. Perfect. Take it.
Darkvision – NO! Bad ranger, this is what your wizard is for. He’s had this since level 3. Buy it for him, and an extend rod.
Fickle Winds- **** - Selective arrow denial, it’s terribly good, and something you need to contend with yourself.
Instant Enemy****- you treat one target as your favored enemy. This is pure gravy.
Reduce Animal*- Situationally useful, if you know you’re going into a confined space it’s best to have a scroll or two.
Darkvision, Greater – Again, your wizard should be dishing this out. If you don’t have a wizard then it’s great.
Bow Spirit ***– Swift action fires an arrow with all my feats considered? It’s probably the best this level has to offer.
Terrain Bond**** - Treat a given terrain as your best favored terrain all day? This is your daily buff from this level assuming you’re not in your terrain.
Party Spells (aka use your wizard!)
To which you say “We just went over spells!” Sadly though, those are not enough. We’re not playing alone here, people buff each other. Honestly if you’re doing it right you’re pretty much the damage machine in the party, so you should be getting a healthy amount of buffs if people don’t hate you. You don’t want to be pestering people for short duration buffs (1 minute a level or less) that can only conceivably be cast during combat. You have to consider the fact they need those slots for something too. You want out of combat buffs that will last a long time and provide a lot of bang for the buck. Class abilities like inspire courage from the bard should be obvious, so should all around awesome buffs like Haste.
Greater Magic Weapon (cleric 4, wizard/sorc3, paladin3) – This is the #1 buff, a flat bonus to hit and damage to stack on your bow and it’s an hour a level. Swap with your paladin for a barkskin or buy your wizard a pearl of power if you need to. This is vital and gets more important as you level
Darkvision – (2 Wizard/Sorc, 3 Ranger) Nothing pays off like being able to shoot in the dark, demand this. Use your money to buy the wizard both the spell and an extend rod if you have to. If you’re only going to get one spell from someone this is it. At some point you get this, blow a spell slot on it only if you have to, very often wizards dislike level 2 spells so they have a couple of extras.
Flame Arrow – (3 Magus, 3 Sorc/Wiz) Short duration but useful. If you have a wizard in your party who is willing to dish this out then flaming is the last damage enchantment you want on your bow, but then again it should be last anyway
Dispel Magic – (Everyone, except you) Yes really. This is the Most Important Thing™, Fickle Winds and many other spells will absolutely ruin our day. We rely on the other party members to bring us back up to an even playing field against casters. Some days you can completely be shut down without having a few of these handy. It’s vital that you have this. If you have a rogue in your party encourage him to work for dispelling strike and assist off of his targets once he drops the defenses. Provide scrolls of this free to the casters if no one believes you, once they have to resort to your scroll for something they’ll immediately agree it was a great idea and begin buying them with party funds.
It’s pretty straight forward, I’ll list the items I keep around in order of interest, weighted heavily by what order you could acquire them in.
Studded Gauntlet – You’re wearing this until level 10 or so, you need to threaten squares around you.
Large Arrows – Keep a quiver of these on your mount to support your enlarged state
Potion of Enlarge – Sometimes wind spells will deny regular projectiles. For this we must launch telephone poles at the enemy. Drink your potion and have your mount standing next to you to draw from (if the arrows were on you they’d be huge). If you try to launch your now large arrows from your own quiver you’ll find they reduce back to medium size once they leave your bow per the enlarge spell rules. Your large arrows should offer a 30% miss chance now instead of being completely deflected. Make sure on your DMs ruling on this. The side benefit is that your bow is now 2d6 damage and Gravity Bow should make it 3d6 if you have time to prep that as well. These are also useful for turning your Greatsword into an immediate 3d6 reach weapon, adding lead blades would push it into a stratospheric 4d6. There is debate on all that stacking, check with your DM.
Handy Haversack – This is basic adventuring equipment, you can retrieve items without taking an attack of opportunity. It’s good stuff, but don’t trust it with your most prize possessions because if it is torn everything is destroyed
Efficient Quiver – I keep a couple of these around If I can, just in case one is damaged.
Bow – The first thing you want as soon as you can afford it is a compound bow with a strength rating to match your own. Secondly, enchant it to +1 as soon as you can. Third, Seeking enchantment is the most critical enchantment you can get. You’ll ignore miss chance. This means that the enlarged ranger trick should now completely get around wind wall, assuming your DM rules large arrows are large projectiles.
The next most important enchantments are Holy and Bane. If you don’t have Instant Enemy yet and you’re not seeing your FE then you might want Holy, it’s expensive (+2) but it’s lending you a 2d6 bonus against all evil creatures and bypassing a lot of damage reduction.. If you’re level 10 you want Bane of the type that your best favored enemy is, this can be the best weapon enchantment after seeking, and if you have a FE you’re running into often it’s worth taking right away (before holy). Now every time you pop IE you can drop tremendous amounts of damage on the enemy, especially if it’s evil and you have holy as well. After that, if you want any of the energy damage types, I’d go with corrosive followed by shock then frost. Too many creatures are fire immune or resistant, and you can pick it up from a wizard buff anyway.
Belt of Dexterity – This is a relatively cheap item that will add to your hit bonus, I’d pick up the starter +2 version ASAP and upgrade it as time and money allow. This is especially true if you have a party member with the proper feats to craft it at half price.
Headband of Wisdom – Another pretty cheap item that will do one specific thing for you, give you access to instant enemy at 10th level. If you can afford to get a +4 version then you can have Terrain Bond at 13 too. The bonus to will save is also excellent. All around, I highly recommend this.
Horse Shoes of Speed – A free 30’ to the base move of my mount is obviously awesome. Mobility is king and for 3,000 (or 1,500 crafted) these are easily among the best value you can get.
Pearls of Power – These are so good, they should really be first. Use them to bribe people to buff you. You should have at least one first level for Gravity Bow and as many third level ones as you can get for Instant Enemy. The third level ones are expensive but worth it. By the time you hit 10th level and have access to those spells each one of these should represent less than 7 or 8% of your total wealth.
Bracers of Archery –They’re expensive so they’re a little way down the list. They don’t stack with Inspire Courage, so if you have a bard they’re pretty much off your list.I’ve honestly never had them made for me, I always have picked them up within the normal adventure loot.
Carpet of Flying – Expensive but obviously good. I’ve found that if you’re up in the air you’re a priority target for the enemy, and the ease with which things can destroy your 20,000 gold piece ride will amaze you. Still it’s worth listing, especially for those who dislike regular mounts. It’s controlled by voice command (free action) but depends on your fly skill (not usually a class skill but you do have an amazing dex).
We’ve discussed a few here already. Positioning this character is pretty much whatever you want to do. I love the mobility outdoors. Indoors you may still be able to ride your horse depending on the ceiling height. I’d suggest it, if only to get the occasional attack help from your mount. If the board is wide open and it would be difficult to set up any lines of battle the enemy is forced to respect then we’ll call it open combat. If the battle field is narrow due to walls or terrain then you can control the fight a bit better, that’s close fighting. Personally I don’t mind getting up into melee and being hit, between the 14 con, armor and hitpoints I feel pretty secure.
Level by level:
1-3: Here you are restricted to being on foot but are also taking the -4 penalty for cover.
4-5: You’ve got a mount and potentially haste and a slew of other buffs from the party. You’ve possibly thrown longstrider on your mount or have gravity bow or hunters howl ready. I just use gravity bow and only before combat begins (assuming I get the drop on them). I hate wasting an attack casting.
6-9: Now you can fire into cover. Once you have snap shot remember to put an arrow in anyone your mount overruns, assuming you have Greater Overrun.
10: You now may fire while threatened without provoking thanks to Point Blank Master. Position wherever you like but if the rear oblique square is still working well I would keep doing that. You’ve swapped out for a wolf mount now I hope, due to higher strength which makes for easier CMD rolls. It’s possible you have both Instant Enemy and a Bane bow now along with a third favored enemy bonus. If you went with a single powerful FE type to stack, then you will be looking at huge bonuses to hit (+6FE, additional +2 from bane +1 bow) and damage ((+6FE, additional +2 from bane +1 bow, 1d8 damage + 2d6 Bane dice). God help them if you have holy too. Sadly IE is single target, so make sure it’s against someone who really needs it.
11 and up: You’ve got Improved Snapshot now and hopefully you took combat reflexes instead of manyshot earlier. You want to be as far forward as you can be to make life a huge headache for the enemy. Getting where you want is no issue with overrun by now, you might have even beefed up your companion with magical items. If your fighter is the tripping or bullrushing kind he possibly has the greater version and will be triggering all sorts of AOOs for you. You should make quite a tandem. Whatever else you select doesn’t change the overall feel and tactics of the class like Improved Snapshot, Point Blank Master or Improved Precise Shot did. You might consider Greater Snapshot, but I felt it wasn’t up to par. I’d kind of rather have boon companion, but its effectiveness wanes at later levels. Favored Defense will give half your (substaintial) FE bonus to you as AC against your favored enemies. Combined with Instant Enemy you now have an almost paladin smite feel about you. The mounted archery feats are probably all viable too.
The Archery Ranger is fun at all levels and presents some strengths I feel a lot of parties lack. I’ve enjoyed writing this guide up over the last few days and based on the discussion I will probably need to update it a number of times. While other classes can use a bow, the Rangers combination of early feat qualification, favored enemies and supplementary spell selection make them gel into something no other class can really be. I’ve really enjoyed mine, I hope you enjoy yours too. Thank you for reading, and thanks again to Treantmonk!