2008-03-15, 01:00 AM (ISO 8601)
Firbolg in the Playground
Re: Scouts (and archery in general)
Scout is a great class. It really is. Especially if you multiclass rogue and pick up the Swift Ambusher feat. Sure, the two classes share most of the same weaknesses, so you don't really cover any of those, but it does open up what I'll call "conditional awesomeness." You won't be good in all situations, in fact, you'll be quite useless in some (one word: skeletons), but when you do get a fistful of d6s, you can put almost everyone to shame.
There are ways to break scout, primarily various means to achieve a skirmishing full attack, but hey, there are ways to break everything in 3.5. [hyperbole]Sure, the CharOp boards haven't gotten around to figuring out how to shatter the rules with a multiclassed monk/CW samurai/healer, but I'm sure one of these days they'll do it.[/hyperbole]
Archery in general, though, is a sticky issue. My reaction is highly subjective... I love archery, but I love it because of the feel, the RP value. I HATE HATE HATE HATE what WotC has done with archery. Bowmen (totally badass bowmen) have been a part of legend/myth/fantasy practically since the weapon was invented, and they should get WAY more credit than they do.
It's a multi-layered issue. Basically, everything WotC could've done wrong, they did do wrong when it comes to archery.
First, while I know that by higher levels the base damage of your weapon generally stops meaning all that much, the bows really should be stronger than they are in that respect. I don't mean to start knife vs. greatsword round two here, but I'd like to see at least a 1d8 shortbow and 1d12 longbow. Also, there should be a wider variety of arrow types and they should have a greater impact on damage values and effects.
Out of the core base classes, only two of them seem to actually be intended to be able to serve as dedicated archers: fighter and ranger... and they don't do it very well. The fighter's weaknesses are well documented, the ranger's fighting styles mature far too slowly. Arguably rogues fit into this category as well, but it's much harder to get a ranged sneak attack than a melee sneak attack. There should've been a real archer class in core. Heck, I would've settled for a real archer class ANYWHERE. Scout comes close, very close, but it doesn't get longbow proficiency. That just stinks.
I might, might be able to forgive the lack of a proper archer base class if they had been able to produce a proper archer PrC. Not only did we not get success, we didn't even get a halfway-decent try. There are more prestige classes for throwing weapons than actual honest-to-goodness ranged weapons. Heck, there are at least as many prestige classes for circumventing the paladin's code as there are for honest to goodness ranged weapons. Arcane archer SHOULD have been awesome, but instead we got the mess that we got. Unless I'm overlooking something, Order of the Bow Initiate is their only other attempt... and while I personally think it's sorta halfway decent, it really should be better.
So the classes aren't built for archery... the weapons aren't built for archery... at least they got the feats right, right?
Wrong. Archery basically gets one feat tree, and not a particularly exciting one at that. While splatbooks can ease the pain a little, they spend much more time adding options to the classes that already have tons of options than they do helping along the ailing archer.
Even the magical enhancements listed for ranged weapons aren't as good as the enhancements for melee weapons.
WotC finally got around to addressing the power discrepancy between casters and melee classes with Tome of Battle, but it doesn't have a single thing that aids ranged combat between its covers. You can bet that there won't be any Tome of Battle II: Book of the Nine Arrows. They don't seem to be interested at all in helping archers, nor do I expect they ever will be interested.
I will say one, and only one thing in favor of WotC's treatment of archers: The Quiver of Ehlonna is pretty cool.
From the look of the released information, sneak attacks with the bow won't even be possible in 4.0. Just one more blow to an already crippled martial discipline.
Braga avatar by Luci!