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DnD 3.5 - Scouts and Circumventing the "Volley" rule

Scouts depend on Skirmish, which deals precision damage after moving. Moving typically reduces you to a single standard action to attack with, meaning you get a single shot per round to apply skirmish damage. Like the rogue's sneak attack, you can apply skirmish with anything that requires an attack roll and deals damage. As such, the logical step is to find ways to add additional attack rolls to your standard action.

The "Volley" rule specifies that you can't get more than one instance of precision damage with anything but a full round action. Since specific trumps general, Greater Manyshot negates this rule, allowing Scouts to easily bypass what would have quickly stomped the effectiveness of Scouts and Swift Hunters.

Here is an example of an obvious mechanism to add additional attacks:

  • Greater Manyshot: When you use the Manyshot feat, you can fire each arrow at a different target instead of firing all of them at the same target. You make a separate attack roll for each arrow, regardless of whether you fire them at separate targets or the same target. Your precision-based damage applies to each arrow fired (overriding the "Volley" rule ), and, if you score a critical hit with more than one of the arrows, each critical hit deals critical damage. Unfortunately, the stacking penalty for additional arrows makes this somewhat difficult to use, so most users won't risk more than three arrows.
  • Splitting magic weapon property: Any arrow or bolt fired from a splitting weapon magically splits into two missiles in mid-flight. Both missiles are identical, sharing the nonsplitting properties of the original missile; for example, a +1 splitting arrow splits into two +1 arrows in mid-flight. Both missiles strike the same target. Make a separate attack roll for each missile using the same attack bonus.
  • Arrowsplit ranger spell: This spell is cast upon a masterwork arrow or bolt, causing it to split in mid-flight into 1d4+1 identical masterwork arrows or bolts. All the missiles strike the same target, and you must make a separate attack roll for each missile. The arrow or bolt must be fired during the same round the spell is cast, or the magic dissipates and is lost. The projectile is destroyed even if it misses its target.

There are several other mechanisms including spells, a Belt of Battle, etc., but these illustrate my point. By combining these three mechanics (fairly easy due to the Swift Hunter feat), a level 14 scout/ranger will have +13 BAB, and as a standard action can make an absurd number of attacks, depending on how you interpret the math:

If Arrowsplit and Splitting stack additively:

  • 3 arrows for Greater Manyshot.
  • 3 duplicate arrows from splitting
  • 1 arrow (the first fired) splits into 1d4+1 arrows
  • Total of 6+1d4 arrows (7-10 arrows)

If Arrowsplit and Splitting stack multiplicatively

  • 3 arrows for Greater Manyshot
  • 1 arrow (the first fired) splits into 1d4+1 arrows
  • 3 + 1d4 arrows double from splitting
  • Total of 6 +1d4*2 arrows (7-14 arrows)

That same level 14 character, assuming they had the Swift Hunter and Improved Skirmish feats (and why wouldn't they?), his skirmish damage would be +6d6. At minimum, that means a staggering 42d6 of damage, not counting your assumed +1 mighty composite longbow. Assuming you can bypass DR by some means (special material arrows are dirt cheap), and assuming you can deal precision damage to your target, your worst case scenario (7 arrows), you can reasonably look at 7d8+42d6 damage before applying bonuses from strength, enhancement bonus, magical arrow enhancements (+1 shocking arrows are cheap at this level), point blank shot, and other assorted bonuses. That's an average of 178.5 damage. With just the +7 total damage from point blank shot, 185.5 is enough damage to kill the average CR 16 monster in one round. (Based on the d20 SRD: see analysis).

A reasonable player would have 14 strength (adding +14 damage) and a wizard to cast greater magic weapon (+3 enhancement at CL 14, 21 more damage), and a clever player would fire +1 shocking or +1 corrosive arrows (an additional 7d6 energy damage). The bonuses total 66.5 additional damage, bringing your average damage to 245, enough to kill the average CR 18 monster.

Scout Handbooks:

Ranger Handbook: