Naturally, as soon as I put up my review of the UA for Fighters, a helpful soul pointed out that Arcane Archer had already been revisited in a separate Unearthed Arcana.
Let’s take a quick scan. Recall that some of my observations (yeah, complaints, maybe) were that some of the options were devastating, almost “I win” buttons. Others were that the “curtains didn’t match the drapes” where some of the fluff and mechanics were concerned.
Arcane Archer Redux
So, the fluff text about the ancient elven method is still there. You know, not everything archery and magical has to come from elves. I don’t know why this is bugging me more and more recently. Guess it’s a bit of Peter Jackson’s “Just Damned Better than You” syndrome.
So, first thing, they’ve put in a table of abilities, listing the 3, 3, 7, 10, 15, 18 progression a bit. There’s still no explicit 10th level boost, other than yet one more choice for Arcane shot. Pity. That was a notable gap, and some of the arcane shots are powerful enough that a two-tiered structure of shots or shot capabilities would have been conceivable.
You still get all three abilities that were there in the old version at 3rd level: magic arrow, arcane shot (pick two options), and archer’s lore.
Ah! Clearly folks agreed with me, and the ability to make nonmagical arrows magical – in fact, all of your arrows count as magical, and +1 arrows at that. This is frankly more than I’d have allowed, and in Dragon Heresy, which uses a concept of magical potency, I’d probably give it a magical potency equal to half proficiency minus one: magical at level 1-8, +1 at levels 9-16, and +2 at 17+. Note that this potency doesn’t give a boost to hit or directly to damage, but is good in other ways. Still: the ability to make your attacks magical is a big help, and I’m glad they did it.
Still have special magical effects. More on that later. One user per turn, two uses total before a short/long rest. Extra options can be learned every time you get a Martial Archetype boost. So this scales better, is somewhat limited. All of the options improve when you hit 18th level, which frankly is not soon enough. That’s a long time to wait, and I’m a firm believer in powers that improve and scale with level.
Improved arcane shot at 18th level is nice, but only because it doesn’t scale as-is. Perhaps the existing options are good enough?
Arcane Archer’s Lore
You’re down to pick one of two skills: Nature or Arcana. I’d still allow the “find stuff to make arrows anywhere, and make a skill roll to craft ’em fast” ability here.
“Bend the bullet!” makes an appearance. Get a second chance if you miss the first target. That’s a valid 7th level type of boost that is interesting enough to see use, but not overpowering. So kudos here.
You always have one use of an arcane shot available to you if you’re at zero and have to roll initiative. This is a significant improvement over the last one, and uncaps the number of times you can use it to a potentially very large number. It’s the 15th level ability, so that’s not awful; simply doubling from two to four would be a way to tone it down if it gets out of hand, so would “uses equal to proficiency,” which again is the kind of thing I like to do, but since 15th level is already +5 Proficiency, there’s not much scaling to be had here.
Arcane Shot Options
They’ve directly associated the shot options with a school of magic this time. OK. Interesting. Let’s see.
- Banishing Arrow: Removes a target for a turn from the battlefield if they fall a CHA save. Again, I’m not wild about one-turn effects, but that’s me.
- Brute Bane Arrow: Necromantic damage actually does something. Still half damage for a turn, which was cool, if brief.
- Bursting Arrow: Since the basic force arrow is gone, this is no longer the “just damn better than you” option.
- Grasping Arrow: Still amazing. 2d6 poison, and an additional 2d6 slashing every time it tires to move, for a minute. A must have.
- Mind-scrambling Arrow: the old beguiling arrow. Psychic damage add. Single turn “don’t attack Bob” effect.
- Piercing Arrow: Still only 30′, allows DEX save. Ah, but no longer is a melee attack, is only a DEX save. So the 30′ distance makes more sense, though “all in a line” is a significant limit. Half damage on a failed save; this is a piercing version of a very toned-down lightning bolt. So at least it’s thematically interesting.
- Seeking Arrow: Thematically improved, plus a bit of force damage. OK.
- Shadow Arrow: They pulled the distance you can see in to 5′, which addresses my primary criticism. And psychic damage.
Improved over the last version of the Arcane Archer, but still some things I’d tweak out.
The list of powers is better, but still some of the level-ups (like 10th) are essentially non-starters. What I might do is cluster these guys.
- Available right away: Banishing, Brute Bane, Mind-Scrambling, Shadow arrow. All one-turn effects of limited impact.
- Available at 10th level: All, adding Bursting, Grasping, Piercing, and Seeking.
Now you’ve got something at 10th level that’s worth having. I’d still tone down the Grasping Arrow quite a bit, as any target that wants to move is susceptible to 10 rounds of 2d6 slashing damage, which is crazy time, still.