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DnD 3.5 - The Scout Handbook

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which tend to be more consistent than 3.5 handbooks. Because so little of 3.5 is available on the SRD, I will attempt to tag items with a superscript indicating their book of origin. For help identifying sourcebook abbreviations, see my Sourcebook Abbreviations Guide.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

It's important to note that I generally omit campaign-setting specific content. I am of the opinion that those options are intended to be limited to campaigns run in those settings, and as such they don't really apply to a generic campaign. Those options also tend to be wildly unbalanced and rarely recieve errata. I also omit the use of "Flaws" since they allow a massive increase in power with essentially no cost to the character.

Introduction

The Scout is a highly mobile class which depends on movement for damage output. The Scout's abilities fall somewhere between the Rogue and Ranger, making the Scout an excellent Scout and Striker.

When considering the Scout, ask yourself: Would a rogue be better for what I'm trying to do? In many cases, the answer is yes. Skirmish is fantastic because it's easy to use. If you're playing a game where everyone is single-class and no one min-maxes (does anyone do that in 3.5 anymore?), the Scout is great because it's so much easier to play effectively than the Rogue. If you're playing a game with people who read these sorts of guides, Rogue will often be better. Scouts spend all of their time trying to move 20 feet then make a full attack, while Rogues spend all of their time trying to make things flatfooted (typically with invisibility) before making a full attack. There's a lot of overlap in those two tactics, and if you're going to go to all that work you probably want the considerably better damage output that the Rogue provides since Sneak Attack scales much faster than Skirmish.

This guide is written with the "Volley" rule in mind. See my article on The "Volley" Rule for more information.

Scout Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is standard for a Rogue-like character, but because some Scout builds are melee builds you will need to be really careful to boost your AC and hit points.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB. Annoying for meeting feat prerequisites, but not crippling.

Saves: Reflex is the Scout's only good save, so be sure to invest a bit in your other saves. Battle Fortitude helps with Fortitude saves a little bit, but certainly not enough.

Proficiencies: Simple weapons, light armor, and a handful of martial weapons. Shortbows are a great option for archer scouts, and short swords are the go-to option for melee scouts. Some builds might use crossbows or thrown weapons like javelins or hand axes.

Skills: 8+ skill ranks and a great skill list, but Scouts don't get access to social skills like Rogues do.

Skirmish (Ex): The Scout's primary source of damage, and it provides a nice Dodge bonus to AC which will help keep you alive in melee.

Trapfinding (Ex): Allows the Scout to easily replace the Rogue.

Battle Fortitude (Ex): A nice scaling boost to one of the Scout's bad saves.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Situational.

Fast Movement (Ex): Fantastic for getting into Skirmish range, and for handling difficult terrain.

Trackless Step (Ex): Very situational.

Bonus Feats (Ex): Bonus feats are always fantastic, and the list includes a lot of great options for typical Scout builds. Unfortunately, very few of the feats cater well to melee builds.

  • AcrobaticPHB: Garbage.
  • AgilePHB: Garbage.
  • AlertnessPHB: Garbage.
  • AthleticPHB: Garbage.
  • Blind-FightPHB: Great for most martial characters, but because you can't do precision damage to enemies with Conealement, it's best to avoid attacking them altogether. Improved Precise Shot will be considerably more helpful.
  • BrachiationCAd: Learn to fly.
  • Combat ExpertisePHB: Scouts have no use for Combat Expertise.
  • Danger SenseCAd: Only works once per day. Improved Initiative is a better choice.
  • DodgePHB: Essential for melee builds to open up Mobility and Spring Attack/Flyby Attack, but garbage on its own. Expeditious Dodge is considerably better, but not a bonus feat.
  • EndurancePHB: Garbage.
  • Far ShotPHB: Scouts need to be within 30 feet to use Skirmish, so this is only helpful with thrown weapons.
  • Great FortitudePHB: Bonus to one of the Scout's bad saves.
  • Hear the UnseenCAd: Very situational, and there are tons of other ways to handle invisible enemies.
  • Improved InitiativePHB: Going first isn't particularly important for Scouts.
  • Improved SwimmingCAd: Garbage.
  • Iron WillPHB: Bonus to the Scout's worst save.
  • Lightning ReflexesPHB: The Scout's Reflex saves should already be fantastic.
  • MobilityPHB: Essential for melee builds, especially if you forgo Sprint Attack in favor of Travel Devotion.
  • Point Blank ShotPHB: Essential for ranged builds, but you probably took it at first level.
  • Precise ShotPHB: Essential if you have other allies in melee.
  • Quick DrawPHB: Only helpful for thrown weapon builds.
  • Quick ReconnoiterCAd: Situational.
  • Rapid ReloadPHB: Essential for crossbow builds.
  • Shot on the RunPHB: It's very rare that you can get an additional advantage from shooting partway through your movement.
  • Skill FocusPHB: Garbage.
  • Spring AttackPHB: Essential for normal melee builds, but it won't work if you go for Travel Devotion. Many people prefer Flyby Attack because it allows you to use a Standard Action instead of an attack, but most Scouts can't fly on their own power.
  • TrackPHB: Garbage.

Evasion (Ex): Fantastic on any character at any level.

Flawless Stride (Ex): Difficult terrain is a great way to block Skirmish, and this protects you from it.

Camouflage (Ex): A lesser version of Hide in Plain Sight.

Blindsense (Ex): Allows you to pintpoint enemies, but you won't be able to use Skirmish against targets with concealement.

Hide in Plain Sight (Ex): Hiding generally isn't important for a Scout, but it's nice when things go badly.

Free Movement (Ex): No longer worry about grapples or other effects which might keep you from moving.

Blindsight (Ex): Blindsight is amazing at any range and any level.

Alternate Class Features

  • Spell ReflectionCM: Situational. Only useful in especially caster-heavy campaigns.
  • Dungeon SpecialistPHB2: Very situational, and difficult to use with Skirmish.
  • Go to GroundCS Web Enhancement: Somehow worse than Trackless Step.
  • Hidden StalkerCS Web Enhancement: Helpful in urban campaigns, but still situational.
  • RiposteCS Web Enhancement: Requires you to let people potentially kill you before you can do anything about it, and the damage isn't any better than Skirmish. Stick to Skirmish.

Unearthed Arcana

Check with your DM before consider any content from unearthed Arcana.

  • Trait: Quick: Giving up one hit point per level can be offset by Improved Toughness if you need the hit points. 10 feet of extra movement can really help a Scout, especially one with a base speed of only 20.

Abilities

Scouts are either archers or they use weapon finesse in melee, so your abilities should reflect that.

Str: A but of Strength gets you some extra damage, but don't invest heavily, and don't plan to improve it.

Dex: The scout's primary ability.

Con: Essential for hit points, especially for melee Scouts.

Int: Helpful for skill points, but not essential.

Wis: Take a bit for the Scout's bad Will saves, but don't go crazy.

Cha: Dump stat.

Races

Speed is crucial for Scouts, but Fast Movement will provide enough of a speed bonus that 20 foot base speed won't break you. Dexterity bonuses are also very important. At high levels you can permanently Reduce yourself for an extra bonus to Dexterity, but remember that melee builds need to be at least Small size to attack into adjacent squares. Halflings who reduce themselves will want to stick to Crossbows.

Dwarf: 20 foot move speed, and no useful ability bonuses.

Elf: 30 foot move speed, a Dexterity bonus, and free proficiency with Longbows and Rapiers. Altogether, Elves have quite a bit to offer for the Scout, but the Constitution penalty can be dangerous for melee builds.

Gnome: At small size, the Halfling is strictly better.

Half-Elf: Nothing useful for the Scout.

Half-Orc: The Strength bonus and Darkvision are nice, but not enough to make the Half-Orc an interesting option.

Halfling: Despite the 20 foot speed, Halflings can be a great option for scouts. The penalty to Strength makes bows somewhat difficult, but with the Crossbow Sniper feat Halflings can be a very reliable choice.

Human: Scouts aren't feat-intensive because you don't need Two-Weapon Fighting or Rapid Shot or anything of the sort to get you a bunch of attacks.

Skills

  • Balance (dex): Too situational.
  • Climb (str): Too situational.
  • Disable Device (int): With Trapfinding, the Scout is able to find and disable Traps with high DC's, making it the party's Rogue replacement.
  • Escape Artist (dex): Too situational.
  • Hide (dex): Essential for sneaking around, but not all Scouts need to be stealthy.
  • Jump (str): Too situational.
  • Knowledge (Dungeoneering) (int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
  • Knowledge (Geography) (int): Too situational.
  • Knowledge (Nature) (int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
  • Listen (wis): Essential in every party.
  • Move Silently (dex): Essential for sneaking around, but not all Scouts need to be stealthy.
  • Ride (dex): Scouts can't use skirmish while mounted.
  • Search (int): Essential in every party.
  • Sense Motive (wis): Useful to back up the party's Face, but the Scout isn't necessarily the best one to use it.
  • Speak Language (none): The Scout is not a Face.
  • Spot (wis): Essential in every party.
  • Survival (wis): Situational.
  • Swim (str): Too situational.
  • Tumble (dex): Great for moving around a crowded battlefield, but you will want something like Sprint Attack or Flyby Attack at high levels. Improve it until you hit a total +14 bonus, then stop.
  • Use Rope (dex): Too situational.

Feats

  • Brutal ThrowCAd: Thrown weapon builds can be very effective, but in light armor Dexterity is a better option.
    • Power ThrowCAd: Scouts rely on Skirmish for damage rather than flat damage bonuses like Power Attack.
  • CravenCoR: One of the most absurd and broken feats ever written. Skirmish counts as Sneak Attack for the purpose of feats and prerequisites, so you can reasonably use Craven with Skirmish. Remember that Craven adds damage per character level, so any class dips still improve your damage. Check with your DM before you take this feat.
  • Crossbow SniperCAd: Great for ranged builds with big strength penalties. Half of your Dexterity bonus will be surprisingly effective, and Skirmish from 60 feet will keep you well out of danger.
  • DodgePHB: Expeditious Dodge makes much more sense for a Scout.
    • MobilityPHB: Essential for melee builds, especially if you forgo Spring Attack in favor of Travel Devotion, but you can get it as a +1 armor enhancement.
      • Spring AttackPHB: Essential for normal melee builds, but it won't work if you go for Travel Devotion. Many people prefer Flyby Attack because it allows you to use a Standard Action instead of an attack, but most Scouts can't fly on their own power.
        • Bounding AssaultPHB2: This makes Spring Attack much more viable, but you won't be able to get it until very high level.
          • Rapid BlitzPHB2: Scouts don't get enough BAB for this to happen.
  • Expeditious DodgeRoW: +2 dodge bonus to AC, and it can be used in place of Dodge to qualify for other stuff like Mobility. Great for ranged builds, but absolutely essential for melee builds.
  • Improved Buckler DefenseCW: Great for TWF builds and Two-Handed builds which need a bit of help with AC.
  • Improved SkirmishCS: Every Scout should take this. It's easy, obvious damage.
  • Martial StudyToB: The Desert Wind style relies on mobility in much the same way that the Scout does, and many other maneuvers can be helpful for the Scout.
    • Martial StanceToB: Press The Advantage requires two White Raven maneuvers, but it allows you to move a total of 10 feet with your 5-foot step, thereby triggering Skirmish. If you're a melee Scout, this is a fantastic option, though you won't be able to use Improved Skirmish.
  • Point Blank ShotPHB: The basis for every archery build. Because Skirmish only works within 30 feet, this is a constant +1 to attacks and damage.
    • Far ShotPHB: Scouts need to be within 30 feet to use Skirmish, so this is only helpful with thrown weapons.
    • Precise ShotPHB: Essential if you have other allies in melee.
      • Improved Precise ShotPHB: Even better than Precise Shot, and it lets you ignore pesky effects like Blur. This is especially crucial because concealment prevents you from using Skirmish.
    • Rapid ShotPHB: A huge boost in damage output for archer builds, but remember that you will probably need to use Travel Devotion to trigger Skirmish.
      • Improved Rapid ShotCW: Effectively a +2 to all of your ranged attacks. Twice as good as Weapon Focus.
      • ManyshotPHB: Worthless. Because both arrows hit on the same attack roll, you only get to apply Skirmish once.
        • Greater ManyshotEPH: Because the text specifically states that you apply precision damage to each arrow, this overrides the "Volley" rule, making it an easy way to get multiple Skirmish attacks without needing to find a way to get extra movement beyond your normal actions. However, the penalty on attack rolls can be problematic, making this less effective than combining Rapid Shot with Travel Domain, though Greater Manyshot is certainly more sustainable and less costly in terms of items.
    • Shot on the RunPHB: Very situational. Standing and making a full attack is considerably more effective.
  • Power AttackPHB: Not a good choice. Scouts depend on Skirmish for damage, and Power Attack cuts into your attack bonus too much.
  • Rapid ReloadPHB: The feat that makes bows better than crossbows. If you insist on using crossbows, you will need this.
  • Swift AmbusherCS: This is a hard feat to use well, but it gets you an impressive pile of precision damage.
  • Swift HunterCAd: Combining the Scout with the Ranger allows you to Skirmish enemies which are typically immune to precision damage. Rangers also get spells, animal companions, and full BAB.
  • Travel DevotionCC: Crucial for any Scout to get around the "Volley" rule. You can only use this once per day, but it allows you to use the effect for a full minute after activating the feat, and you can take it multiple times for additional uses, or pick up Turn Undead from a Cleric dip to recharge it using your Turn attempts per day. Don't worry about having decent charisma to fuel Turn attempts; just pick up a NightstickLM. 8 Charisma and a night stick gives you 6 Turn attempts, enough to recharged Travel Devotion 3 times, enough to get you through at least 4 difficult encounters.
  • Two-Weapon FightingPHB: Two-Weapon Fighting is the go-to option for melee builds. Combined with Pounce and/or Travel Devotion you can make full attacks in melee and do a lot of damage.
    • Oversized Two-Weapon FightingCAd: This will amount to roughly 1 damage per weapon. Unless you specifically need to use a one-handed weapon for some reason, there is no reason to take this feat.
    • Improved Two-Weapon FightingPHB: More attacks means more damage, but with 2/3 BAB you may have trouble hitting.
      • Dual StrikeCAd: This hits the "Volley" rule, so you can only apply Skirmish to the first attack. Not even the first hit. If you miss the first attack, you're out of luck.
      • Greater Two-Weapon FightingPHB: With 2/3 BAB it will be very hard to hit with this attack..
    • Two-Weapon DefensePHB: Improved Buckler Defense is miles better.
      • Improved Two-Weapon DefenseCW: Improved Buckler Defense is still better.
    • Two-Weapon PouncePHB2: Take a level of Barbarian for real Pounce.
    • Two-Weapon RendPHB2: Skirmish will hugely outpade this damage.
  • Weapon FinessePHB: Essential for melee builds.
  • Woodland ArcherRoW: The bonus after missing shots is very helpful, but Improved Precise Shot is a better option for handling concealment for Scouts.

Weapons

  • Crossbow, Light: A good option for ranged builds with Strength penalties. Crossbows require more feats to make viable than bows, but Crossbow Sniper allows you to Skirmish from a nice safe 60 foot range.
  • Handaxe: Decent damage and it works with weapon finesse.
  • Javelin: Thrown weapons require a bit more work and money than archery, but they can be very effective.
  • Throwing Axe: Thrown weapons require a bit more work and money than archery, but they can be very effective.
  • Short Bow: Most ranged Scouts will use a shortbow.
  • Short Sword: Decent damage and it works with weapon finesse.

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.

  • Studded Leather: Starting gear
  • Mithral Shirt: Your armor solution until you can get a +10 or better dexterity bonus.
  • Buckler: Essential for ranged builds, and single-weapon melee builds.
  • Thistledown Padded: Once you hit +10 dex bonus thistledown padded offers a total +1 more AC than a mithral shirt. At that point enhancing it for AC becomes somewhat silly. If you have someone in the party who can cast Mage Armor, either call dibs on one of their 1st-level spell slots for a while, buy them a Pearl of Power 1, or buy a wand of Mage Armor and have them use it on you. Enhance your Thistledown for the magic effects, not for the AC bonus. If you want more than the +4 AC from Mage Armor, upgrade to an Eternal WandMIC of Greater Mage ArmorSpC, which is 10,900 GP and provides as much AC as 25,000 GP +4 padded armor for a total of 10 hours per day.

Magic Items

Weapons

  • Cold/Corrosive/Flaming/ShockingCMD (+1): Likely too expensive on top of Splitting.
  • Quick LoadingMIC (+1): Saves you the trouble of picking up Rapid Reload to use a crossbow.
  • Splitting WeaponCoR (+3): Doubles your number of arrows, potentially doubling damage. Because each arrow gets its own attack, you can Skirmish with every arrow.

Weapon Crystals

  • DestructionMIC: The Greater version allows precision damage to constructs. Very situational, and too expensive to justify.
  • Energy AssaultMIC: 3000gp for +1d6 energy damage is a fantastic trade. Good skirmishers depend on numerous attacks, so this will get a lot of use. It's also helpful against swarms, which are immune to precision damage.
  • ReturnMIC: The Greater version replicates the Returning property, which is essential for thrown-weapon builds.
  • TruedeathMIC: The Greater version allows precision damage to constructs. Very situational, and too expensive to justify.

Armor/Shields

  • AnimatedMIC (+2): Since you're not proficient with shields, the best you probably want to get is an animated darkwood shield (no ACP). A +1 animated darkwood shield costs 9257gp, and at a +3 AC bonus it's reasonably inexpensive at high levels.
  • NimblenessMIC (+1): You should never put this on anything that has an ACP after being masterwork, so this is functionally identical to a normal +1.
  • MobilityMIC (+1): Helpful for melee builds which don't want to go all the way to Spring Attack.
  • QuicknessMIC (+5000gp): A bit of extra speed helps get around in combat, and this triggers the improved effect on the Ring of Entropic Deflection.

Armor/Shield Crystals

  • Clasp of energy protection (Any)MIC: Typically not needed, but nice to have for Fire because it comes up frequently. The Lesser version is only 500gp, and will largely protect you from normal fire and the "on fire" condition.
  • Iron ward diamond, leastMIC: For 500 gp, this is essentially 10 extra hit points per day. It may not seem like much, but it's very effective for such a cheap item and it could easily save your life.

Rings

  • Entropic DeflectionMIC: Provides a miss chance against ranged attacks if you move (which you should do every turn). If you have an item which increases your speed, the miss chance goes up to 50%. Melee attacks are still an issue, but this is still great.
  • ProtectionDMG: Always a solid choice.

Wondrous Items

  • Anklet of TranslocationMIC: Teleport 10 feet as a Swift Action 2/day, triggering Skirmish. Won't work with Greater Skirmish, but a great option considering the low cost.
  • Boots of the Battle ChargerMIC: Good for melee builds with Pounce. Allows you to Pounce as a standard action. Combine with Belt of Battle for some truly ridiculous shenanigans.
  • Boots of SidesteppingMIC: Combined with your free 5 foot step, these boots can trigger Skirmish (not Improved Skirmish) three times per day.
  • Belt of BattleMIC: Fantastic. Use one charge to enable you to Skirmish, or use three to make an extra full attack after you have already moved.
  • Belt of Giant's StrengthDMG: Useful for melee builds for a bit of damage, but probably too expensive to justify.
  • Bracers of Archery (Less or Greater)DMG: Permanent Competence bonuses to attack and damage. A fantastic option for high level Scouts.
  • Broom of FlyingCMG: The cheapest means of permanent flight, and it doesn't take up an item slot.
  • Cloak of ResistanceDMG: Vest of Resistance is identical and takes up a much less useful slot.
  • Chronocharm: Horizon WalkerMIC: 500gp to move half your speed once per day as a swift action..
  • Gloves of DexterityDMG: Essential. Get them early, upgrade them often.
  • Goggles of Draconic VisionMIC: Cheaper than Goggles of the Ebon Hunter, and they give you a bonus to Spot checks, low-light vision, and 60 ft. Darkvision. That's already better than Goggles of the Ebon Hunter, in my opinion, plus you can have Blindsense for one minute per day. Blindsense won't let you deal precision damage to invisible enemies, but it reveals them enough to hit them with Torchbug Paste.
  • Goggles of the Ebon HunterMIC: Pricy, but permanent 30 ft. darkvision and a +1 competence bonus to attacks. Won't stack with Bracers of Archery.
  • Horned HelmMIC: Adds an extra attack to your melee full attacks, potentially adding another pile of Skirmish damage. Unfortunately DR will be a problem, and natural attacks are secondary (-5 to attack) if you use weapon attacks with them.
  • Quicksilver BootsMIC: Move your speed as a swift action 2/day. You get concealement against attacks of opportunity while making this movement, which makes this particularly nice for melee Scouts.
  • Quiver of EnergyMIC: Extremely expensive, but at high levels this can be cheaper than adding an energy type to your bow. On top of a +1 Splitting bow, this is 1000gp cheaper than adding a +1 enhancement.
  • Skirmisher BootsMIC: +2 Skirmish damage, and two extra skirmish attacks per day.
  • Transporter CloakMIC: Transposition 1/day as a Swift Action. Effective, but too expensive for a single use per day.
  • Vest of ResistanceMIC: Same cost as a cloak, and takes up the largely useless "torso" slot.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

  • BarbarianPHB: One level of Barbarian can get you Pounce with an ACF, making the Barbarian an essential dip for many melee Scouts.
  • RangerPHB: With Swift Hunter the Ranger is a fantastic choice. The Ranger's combat style bonus feats work great for both melee and ranged Scout builds, and Ranger spells are startlingly good.
  • SwordsageToB: One level gets you access to some stances and maneuvers that can go a long way for the Scout. Child of Shadow stance grants you a near-perpetual 20% miss chance since you're going to be moving around for skirmish anyway. Several swift action boosts can be very helpful for you, too.