Channeling Your Inner Legolas
Ranged Combat has always been a part of warfare ever since the bow was originally created in the stone age and the sling before even that.
Ever since ancient history, the bow has dominated the battlefield even more than the Sword and the Spear, with cultures throughout time fielding vast regiments of Archers, Javelin Throwers, and even Sling users.
In my experience, Ranged Combat has always been stuffed in the background behind Knights in Shining Armor and Wizards with their big pointed hats. In reality, it would be readily the most powerful and useful combat style for most fighters. For proof of this, just look at the Battle of Agincourt with Henry the Vth.
So let’s break it down and take a look at how to make the best ranged weapon wielder in Pathfinder!
And remember, there is more to ranged combat than just Bows. We have Throwing Weapons and Crossbows on the table as well.
Criteria for Greatness
When we look at what is best for feats in Pathfinder, the big things we look for are utility and applicability. Feat slots are a limited resource, so it, therefore, makes sense that the more often a Feat comes to bear and is useful for a given situation, the more of a “valid” purchase it is.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flavor of a feat that offers very little mechanically, but it is important to be as efficient with our limited resources as we can.
Another thing to look at is how much of a “foundation” a feat offers (i.e. how many feats it is a prerequisite for). In Pathfinder 1e, many feats slowly build on each other like an upgrade tree, so it makes sense to take them early and slowly build on their benefits.
10 Best Ranged Feats For Pathfinder First Edition
Below (in no particular order) are some of the most powerful and efficient feats for any ranged character build in Pathfinder First Edition. All are considered Combat Feats, so are available for the Fighter Class to take as bonus feats, but are also great for any ranged weapon user.
Note: most of these feats will assume you are using a bow, but are agnostic enough to be used with any form of ranged combat.
The Great Granddaddy of Ranged Feats in both Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons. This is a must-have for all ranged weapon builds. In addition to the +1 bonus to attack and damage for close-range targets, a powerful boon for low-level characters, it is the prerequisite for 23 separate feats using ranged weapons.
Precise Shot and its improved version are another superb choice for ranged characters. Precise Shot allows ranged combatants to attack another target in melee without taking the -4 penalty normally associated with firing into melee.
This is necessary for parties with front-line fighters who would rather not have arrows sticking in their backs. The Improved Version allows the ranged combatant to ignore AC bonuses from cover and concealment, which is the first step most DMs take to balance out Ranged Weapon Users.
In addition to all the above, like Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot has many feats that build on it as well. A total of 18 Feats are unlocked by Precise Shot.
A given set of feats, especially if the ranged user is a Fighter. Weapon Focus adds a +1 to all attack rolls, and Weapon Specialization adds a +2 to all damage rolls. This can shore up any penalties that might be incurred because of other abilities like Manyshot or Rapid Shot.
In addition to that, Weapon Focus can be another Foundational Feat, opening up trees of other feats for a character to take to make their archery better.
Rapid Shot is the ranged fighter’s equivalent of the Monk’s Flurry of Blows, adding an extra ranged attack when the character takes a full attack action in exchange for a -2 to the attack rolls.
It’s relatively easy to gain at early levels, making it a powerful option for raining fire down at the enemy. With bonuses gained from Feats like Weapon Focus and Point-Blank Shot, the negatives can completely disappear.
These feats are great for an archer when you want to become almost literally an area-denial weapon. Snap Shot allows you to take Attacks of Opportunity with your ranged weapon without provoking them yourself, while the improved version extends your range for how many squares you can threaten.
Finally Greater Snap Shot gives you even greater bonuses to attack and damage rolls for making Attacks of Opportunity against the enemy.
The companion to the Snap Shot tree above, Combat Reflexes allows you to take more than one Attack of Opportunity in a round. This can make the Ranged Character into a potential roadblock for enemies attempting to flank or overrun the party.
Deadly Aim is the Ranged Version of the iconic Power Attack feat for Melee. This feat allows the character to trade potential hit bonuses in exchange for extra damage.
As a character levels, the benefits get more powerful in exchange for more bonuses being sacrificed. If a character knows they can easily hit the target, this can easily drop crowds of enemies at a time.
This feat allows a character to adjust to the powers of later level threats. As Pathfinder 1e (and Dungeons and Dragons) monsters and threats increase in lethality, they will also become more resistant to damage types.
Unfortunately, this means sometimes that ranged attacks can just be ignored in favor of single hits that can overpower Damage Reduction, but this feat allows all of the damage dealt with one attack action be counted together for the purposes of overcoming DR, allowing Ranged focused users to remain valid in late game play.
For those Ranged Users to like to stay mobile, this allows a character to take an attack while in the middle of a move. This is useful if you are moving cover to cover or need to get out of a bad Area of Effect quickly.
The ultimate in getting the last word. Parting shot lets you get a good attack off as you back out of a bad situation. Maybe that will make the bad guy think twice before getting up in your face?
Quick Draw For Thrown Weapons
In the case of Bows and Crossbows, most of the time those weapons will be out and ready to use by the time combat starts. Thrown weapons need to take the time to be drawn, which means it takes a move action to get them ready. Extraneous move actions? IN THIS ECONOMY?!
Manyshot For Bows
This one is given alongside things like Rapid Shot, Deadly Aim, and Clustered Shots, allowing a character to turn themselves into what amounts to a machine gun nest.
Rapid Reload For Crossbows
One of the major downsides of the power of Crossbows is their long time reloading. Much like Thrown Weapons, actions have to be sacrificed to spend time reloading them. Rapid Reload can help to mitigate that by a great deal.
Ranged Feats for Pathfinder Second Edition
Feats in Pathfinder 2e work somewhat differently than Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder 1e.
The Majority of feats are locked into specific classes. Instead of looking at feats over all, we are going to take a look at the two most Iconic Ranged Classes (Fighter and Ranger) and see what they bring to the table at each level when it comes to feats.
1st Level: Point-Blank Shot
4th Level: Double Shot
6th Level: Triple Shot
8th Level: Mobile Shot Stance
10th Level: Debilitating Shot
12th Level: Incredible Ricochet
14th Level: Determination
16th Level: Multishot Stance
18th Level: Impossible Volley
20th Level: Ultimate Flexibility
These choices are not the most efficient build possible, but is specifically a good choice for a Fighter deciding to focus on using a Longbow or Composite Longbow.
Though there is nothing stopping them from adapting this build for Throwing Weapons or a Crossbow (other than crossbows being not as great in this edition).
1st Level: Hunted Shot
2nd Level: Quick Draw
4th Level: Running Reload
6th Level: Skirmish Strike
8th Level: Deadly Aim
10th Level: Hunter’s Vision
12th Level: Distracting Shot
14th Level: Targeting Shot
16th Level: Greater Distracting Shot
18th Level: Impossible Volley
20th Level: Ultimate Skirmisher
Another build that hops all over the place for the most part. This one focuses on best in level choices for ranged combat, building into a specific One Shot, One Kill alternative to the Fighters Volley Fire.
Like the Fighter, this one is focused on the Longbow, but there is no reason it can’t also be adapted for other Ranged Weapons like Slings or Javelins.