Bullseye: The Archer's Handbook
by Stuart Broz
Bullseye is an interesting take to expand the player options for different class archetypes.
In this section, we get new subclasses for the Artificer, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Fighter (Revised Arcane Archer), Monk, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer (Variant), and Wizard. The Druid, Paladin, and Warlock have either instruction on how to play as an archer in that class or a few additional features that can be used to emulate that play without creating an entire new subclass or variant.
I’ve got to say in general I like all of the subclasses and changes. There are a few places here and there I would make tweaks, but that’s the game designer in me, not something that’s actually wrong with any of the subclasses. Any of the subclasses and changes could be dropped in a game and be well balanced. Let’s take a deeper look at the Barbarian and Fighter subclasses.
BARBARIAN: PATH OF THE SKIRMISHER
As a lightly armored and highly mobile warrior who is proficient with all weapons, the barbarian would seem likely to make an excellent choice for an archer character. Unfortunately, many of their abilities are tied specifically to melee weapon attacks and strength—neither of which directly benefits an archer. The Skirmisher is a primal path designed for barbarians who are as adept with ranged weapons as they are in melee.
Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you learn to channel your rage into your ranged attacks. At the beginning of your turn while you are raging, you can designate a creature you can see as your target. You add your rage damage bonus to attacks you make against that creature with ranged weapons.
Also at 3rd level, if you move at least 10 feet on your turn, you can take the Hide action as a bonus action.
IN YOUR FACE
At 6th level, while you rage you move swiftly and can wield your bow with deadly effectiveness even in close quarters. While raging, you can take the Disengage action as a bonus action. While disengaging, you do not have disadvantage due to making ranged attacks in melee combat.
Beginning at 10th level, your Brutal Critical feature applies to ranged weapon attacks, and when you score a critical hit with a ranged weapon attack, your next ranged weapon attack against the same target before the end of your next turn is made with advantage.
At 14th level, you can channel your rage through your ranged weapon attacks. Once per turn when you hit a creature with a ranged weapon attack, you can choose one of the following effects in addition to dealing your normal damage:
Force. The creature must succeed on a Strength saving throw (DC 8 + your Strength bonus + your proficiency bonus) or be pushed back 10 feet. If it fails the save by 5 or more, it also takes force damage equal to your Barbarian level.
Fear. The creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC 8 + your Strength bonus + your proficiency bonus) or be frightened of you until the end of its next turn. If it fails the save by 5 or more, it must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you, though it will not move into obviously dangerous ground, such as a fire or a pit.
Freeze. The creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw (DC 8 + your Strength bonus + your proficiency bonus) or its speed is reduced to 0 until the end of your next turn. If it fails the save by 5 or more, it is also restrained for that period of time. Once you use an effect on a creature, you cannot use the same effect on that creature until after the end of your next turn.
I’m excited for the subclass in general because I have a vision in my head of Barbarians being power weapon masters regardless of Melee or Range but that wasn’t really supported in base 5e. Also, the 14th level ability with the three different effects is something I can’t wait to add my NPCs and let my players test out.
FIGHTER: ARCANE ARCHER (REVISED)
This version of the arcane archer is separated from the elven cultural roots in the original version, making it an appropriate choice for characters from other cultural traditions. The original version of the Arcane Archer felt mundane to many once they had used their two uses of Arcane Shot. This version enables archers to feel more consistently magical, both by scaling Arcane Shot usage with your proficiency bonus and by introducing the less powerful but more available Elemental Arrows ability.
When you choose this martial archetype at 3rd level, you learn to unleash special magical effects with some of your shots. When you gain this feature, you learn two Arcane Shot options of your choice (see "Arcane Shot Options" below).
Once per turn when you fire an arrow from a shortbow or longbow as part of the Attack action, you can apply one of your Arcane Shot options to that arrow. You decide to use the option when the arrow hits, unless the option doesnʼt involve an attack roll. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses of it when you finish a short or long rest.
You gain an additional Arcane Shot option of your choice when you reach certain levels in this class: 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level. When you learn a new Arcane Shot option you can also replace one of your known Arcane Shot options with an option you do not know.
At 7th level, you learn how to imbue your arrows with elemental energy. When you complete a short or long rest, you can choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder. Until you next complete a short or long rest, you can use a bonus action to channel this elemental energy. Until the end of your turn, half of the damage you deal with a shortbow or longbow as part of the Attack action will be of that energy type.
At 10th level, you can spend a use of your Arcane Shot feature to choose a new Elemental Arrows damage type to imbue your arrows with.
Also at 10th level, when you use one of your arcane shots, residual magic bleeds into your other arrows. For 1 minute after you use your Arcane Shot feature, every nonmagical arrow you fire from a shortbow or longbow becomes magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. The magic fades from the arrow immediately after it hits or misses its target.
Starting at 15th level, you can reach deep within yourself to power your magical abilities. As a bonus action, you can spend one or more of your hit dice. For each hit die you spend in this way, you gain an additional use of your Arcane Shot ability.
IMPROVED ELEMENTAL ARROWS
Beginning at 18th level, when you use your Elemental Arrows feature your arrows are imbued with elemental energy until the end of your next turn. Instead of their damage being half energy damage, they deal their normal damage and an additional 1d6 damage of the chosen energy type. In addition, while your Elemental Arrows feature is in effect you have resistance to the chosen damage type.
In the older versions of the subclass, you got abilities at 3rd level (2 abilities), 7th level (2 abilities), and one at 15th level.
In the new version, you get abilities at 3rd, 7th, 10th (2 abilities), 15th, and 18th. So
there's one more ability than previously.
The original Arcane Shot only gave you two uses per short or long rest while the new one gives you a number equal to your proficiency bonus. So they’re the same at first level but the new one grows with you.
Elemental Arrows lets you choose one elemental damage type from acid, cold fire, lightning or thunder and until your next short or long rest half the damage you deal with a bow is that damage type. The Magic arrow ability allowed you to make it magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks.
As far as the original ability, Magic Arrow, compared to the new it has its pros and cons. The old ability makes all the weapon damage overcome resistance and immunity but the new ability could allow you to make arrows to the elemental energy a target is vulnerable to if you know ahead of time.
The 10th level ability Residual Arcana resembles the 7th level Magical Ability by making all nonmagical arrows in your quiver overcome resistance and immunity when it comes to nonmagical weapons for 1 minute AFTER you've used an arcane shot.
Since the arcane shot is based on prof bonus instead of 2 times per day and at 10th level you're prof bonus is +4 I think this more than makes up for it no longer being a 7th level ability.
Arcane Reserves and Ever-Ready Shot fill the same niche. They both offer a way to regain use of your Arcane Shot, however where Ever-Ready Shot gives you one use of it if you have none Arcane Reserves allows you to use a bonus action to expend a Hit Die to gain another. The Arcane Reserves has way more versatility.
There are also 6 new spells and 4 new feats, but you’ll need to buy Bullseye to check that out!
Additional Archery Rules
This section has a lot going on with it. We’re given a new action called aiming, which grants advantage to a shot under specific conditions. Mounted Archery, Unconventional Targets, Missed Targets, and more are discussed but I wanted to highlight something I think adds a tactical approach to combat, which I like.
Having the higher ground can be a significant tactical boon for archers and others who fight with ranged weapons. The primary benefit it provides is in terms of visibility and cover. An archer atop a high wall can look down on their enemies from above, and—unless their enemies have very tall sources of cover or roofs over their heads—they are likely to make good targets. Trying to hide in a ditch isnʼt going to be an effective defense against an archer who can see down into it to target you. Conversely, if that archer on top of the wall is able to take a few steps back, they can disappear from view and have full cover against ranged attacks from below. Even an archer standing at the edge of a wall is going to receive some cover against ranged weapon attacks made from its base. Calculating Cover. The DM should use their judgment in determining how much height contributes to cover, but—given a height advantage and a distance between combatants on the ground—a set of simple guidelines follow:
• If the distance on the ground between ranged combatants is at least one-half the height difference between them, the combatant with the high ground gains no cover from height alone.
• If the distance on the ground is ¼ or more, but less than ½, of the height difference, the ranged combatant with the high ground gets one-quarter cover. • If the distance on the ground is between ¼ and 1/8 of the height difference, the ranged combatant with the high ground gets half cover.
• If the distance on the ground is 1/8 the height difference or less, the ranged combatant with the high ground gets three-quarters cover. Cover gained from height does not add to other sources of cover. A creature with cover due to both height and a standard source of cover must choose which to use.
Range Benefits of Higher Ground. Having the high ground also provides minor benefits when it comes to weapon ranges. For the purposes of calculating short and long-range for ranged weapon attacks, distances are treated differently for creatures with a height differential. When a ranged combatant has a height advantage over a target, they ignore their height when calculating range. For example, an archer on top of a wall 30 feet high attacking a creature 40 feet from the base of the wall will use a range of 40 feet, even though the distance between them is actually 50 feet. A creature can only ignore up to one-half of the short-range of their weapon in height in this way. When a ranged combatant is at a height disadvantage, however, they add the ground distance and the height together to calculate their range. In the previous example, if the creature on the ground had a ranged weapon, they would calculate their range at 70 feet. See the figure to the right for a visual guide. This method of range calculation allows you to take height advantage into account while keeping any calculations extremely simple.
This isn’t going to be useful for everyone and even though I hate math and struggle with it, this added dimension is going to be something I’m excited to put in my games.
We also have 14 (16) new arrow types. Target, Blunt, Message, Flaming (Torch and Coal), Acid, Caltrop, Explosive (improved), Flare, Grease, Poison, Silkstrand, Smoke, Tangleweb, and Thunder. These new arrow types also have different damages dice based on the type of bow being used.
It’s all pretty straightforward information. I know a lot of people don’t want additional bookkeeping but I think this is a nice balance of new mechanics.
There are 40 new magic items, only 15 of which need attunement. DnD typically doesn’t have a lot of magical ammo outside of what classes can make but this gives us a number of brand new ammo that can be used by anyone with a bow proficiency. There are a number of magic items that I like but I’m just going to share my favorite!
THE INFALLIBLE BOW
Weapon (longbow), legendary (requires attunement)
You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon, and your attacks made with it ignore all sources of disadvantage and penalties, including those due to cover and blindness. This weapon has 3 charges. If you would miss on an attack with this bow, the attack instead hits and one charge is expended. If you miss on an attack with this bow when it has no charges, it judges you unworthy and teleports away to elsewhere in the multiverse. The bow regains 1d3 expended charges daily at dawn
I honestly think the bow teleporting away after judging you unworthy is my favorite thing about it. Obviously, I would be upfront to a player about the option of this happening, but I don’t think there are enough somewhat sentient magic items that decide to leave their owners when they prove they should no longer wield them. I think it’s thematically an interesting item.
Archery Based Encounters
This section outlines using range combat and different ranged NPCs and monsters to be used. There’s some excellent advice at the start of the section about different ways to use distance in encounters to really utilize rangers.
Sometimes, when a humanoid hunter dies while chasing their quarry with a singleminded drive, their need to hunt can be so strong that it will eventually pull their body out of death to become a skeletal hunter.
Relentless pursuit. Once a creature has succumbed to its Aura of Fear, the skeletal hunter considers it prey and, there is little that can dissuade it from the chase. While these undead will generally only travel by night, they are tireless and have been known to pursue people for months. It is suspected that once they have tasted fear from their prey they gain a supernatural sense of their direction over long distances.
Release the Hounds. Skeletal hunters are most dangerous when they believe their prey is close by. When they sense a hunt is nearing its end, they will begin to indiscriminately kill bystanders, twisting their souls into spectral hounds that will help them run down their prey
At a CR 5 the Skeletal Hunter has some pretty decent abilities. There's a standard fear aura that coupled with the Feed on Fear ability can make this a pretty dangerous fight. The ability allows the Hunter to regain 10 hit points for each creature affected by its aura as a bonus action.
The thing I particularly like about it is the Create Hound feature. The Hunter can touch the corpse of a humanoid or beast that was killed within the last minute turning it into a spectral hound under its control for the next hour. Abilities that allow monsters to add creatures to their side are very powerful and combat the action economy always being in the players' favor.
At only 35 pages this product has A LOT of changes in it. If everything in this product was absolutely terrible I would recommend buying it for the rework of the Arcane Archer alone. However, that is happily not the case. With new character options, archery rules, magic items, and NPCs this is worth the $6.96 and more!