So you have a bow and you want to load it with magic? Well, then the Eldritch Archer is exactly what you want. With this Archetype you can add a little touch of magic to your ranged attacks. More specifically weapons in the bow group, which includes crossbows. This might sound fitting for a spellcaster, but in reality it is quite the opposite. The issue is all about weapon proficiency; spellcasters lag behind so much that it’s impractical to become an Eldritch Archer. This path is really meant to add magic to a martial class.
What kind of magic you add is up to you; all four traditions are available. With Eldritch Shot you’ll almost always be using the cantrip granted by the dedication, so that should be the main factor you use to determine your tradition. Beyond the cantrip, as most cantrips are in two or more traditions, you might choose based on potential utility spells that are available to the spellcasting feats. If you don’t want to manage a small list of spells, you’re free to avoid the Eldritch Archer Spellcasting feats entirely and focus on the rest of the great non-spell options.
Table of Contents
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
Weapon of Choice
What really matters is that, because Eldritch Shot is a three-action activity, if you want to use it every round you need a Reload 0 weapon. If your weapon is Reload 1, then you can at best fire every other round in a pattern of Eldritch Shot->Reload, Strike, Reload->Repeat. This isn’t necessarily bad and some of the latter feats do give other options for shooting. If you want to be a magical crossbow-slinger I suggest taking feats from the Archer Archetype because Eldritch Archer isn’t available until 6th level anyway, especially if you’re using Free Archetype.
- Eldritch Archer Dedication 6: This is a very strong Dedication feat, granting the Cast a Spell activity in the Tradition of your choice. You learn one cantrip from your Tradition, which must have a spell attack roll. Look through the cantrips and pick whatever you think feels good (Gouging Claw does the most damage if that’s all you care about), but I will advise against the Divine list. The only Divine option is Divine Lance and alignment damage can be hard to use in many campaigns. If you have no intention of taking the spellcasting feats later in this archetype, then your cantrip is the only feature that cares about this choice.
- Basic Eldritch Archer Spellcasting 8: Normally, Basic Spellcasting Benefits are a fourth level feat that grants benefits at sixth and eighth level. Here in Eldritch Archer, because we take the feat at eighth level, we get all of the benefits right away. Assuming you’re a martial, you’ll benefit most from choosing buff spells.
- Enchanting Arrow 8: Eldritch Shot is a three action activity, so having this as an option for when you can’t spare all three actions for your big attack is nice. There’s no use limitations either, so we’ll always have this ready to go. Just be mindful that mental damage doesn’t work on mindless creatures.
- Magic Arrow 8: Don’t be fooled by the free action cost, almost all types of magical ammunition require an action to activate the magic. I suggest utility and debuff options like the Climbing Bolt or the Antler Arrow, but anything that strikes your fancy will work. Or you could shoot Viper Arrows to summon a viper every round. You could combine this with Enchanting Arrow to create magical arrows, activate them, and fire with bonus mental damage.
- Precious Arrow 8: Unless you’re fighting a lot of creatures with weaknesses to Cold Iron and Silver, wait to pick this up later when you can use it to make your arrows Adamantine.
- Expert Eldritch Archer Spellcasting 12: Continuing the trend from the previous version, we’ll want to pick up buffs and other utility spells to complement our party. Consider spells like Blink, Enlarge, Fly, or even 6th-level Heroism. Or, if you’re just looking for excessive amounts of damage, you can pick Disintegrate if your list is Arcane.
- Seeker Arrow 14: Concealment and Cover are likely to come up often enough that having a strike that can ignore both is great. This pairs well with Magic Arrow and Beacon Shot to negate the Concealment for the rest of your party as well.
- Phase Arrow 16: It’s a great effect, but it’s only once per day. If you’re using Free Archetype, then you might as well pick this up because it’s here, but otherwise it’s fine to not take this.
- Arrow of Death 18: Arrow of Death is a pile of extra damage once per day, +10d10 for three actions. Your cantrip will be heightened to 9th-level at 18 so it will be doing 9dX, usually d6 but there are a few spells that get d8s. If you haven’t been taking the spellcasting feats this is your level 18 feat and it’s ok. But really, just take the last spellcasting feat. If you’re Arcane then this is red because you can just take a 7th-level Disintegrate with Master Spellcasting to do 14d10 on an Eldritch Shot instead.
- Master Eldritch Archer Spellcasting 18: Master Spellcasting Benefits include a 7th and 8th-level spell. As mentioned above, Arcane list users can just pick Disintegrate if they want a couple of very strong Eldritch Shots that make Arrow of Death redundant. Otherwise, you’ve still got your pick of some of the strongest spells in the game.
- Impossible Volley 20: It’s nice to have an AoE finally. 10 feet isn’t too big, but it’s still better than shooting one target each round when you’re dealing with too many foes.
Who Should Use This?
From a practical standpoint, Eldritch Archer is best suited for adding a small amount of magical utility to a martially inclined character. While it might sound interesting to have your Wizard pick up a crossbow and start launching spells like some magical gun, a caster’s weapon proficiency ranks will lag far behind their Spellcasting Tradition DCs.
- Alchemist: Some Alchemists use crossbows and ranged weapons to deliver poisons. Perhaps an enterprising Alchemist might mix some magic along with the payload, though the action cost to do so can be prohibitive, and the Alchemist’s weapon proficiency progression is poor.
- Barbarian: You can’t cast spells with the Concentrate trait while Raging, so you can’t really mix these two options.
- Champion: Champions can be ranged if they want, but they still need to stand close enough to trigger their Champion Cause Reactions. Shooting in melee is somewhat hazardous.
- Fighter: Fighters have a lot of feat support for ranged combat already which makes them ideal candidates for the splash of magic granted by Eldritch Archer.
- Gunslinger: A crossbow-focused Gunslinger could get into a very nice cadence of Eldritch Shot → Reload. Strike. Reload → Repeat. If you’re taking this route, Running Reload is very strong.
- Inventor: Inventors have to do some specific actions in combat, like Overdrive, making it very difficult to perform the three action activity of Eldritch Shot.
- Investigator: Devise a Stratagem takes up an action on almost every turn for the Investigator so there’s never going to be any time to Eldritch Shot.
- Magus: It’s just redundant. They can already do all of these things.
- Monk: With the Monastic Archer Stance, a Monk will gain the proficiency requirements for this Archetype. A healthy balance of Flurry of Blows for repositioning turns and Eldritch Shot rounds may serve you well.
- Ranger: A Precision Ranger looks to deal one large Strike every round, so being able to put magic behind that strike is a great way to boost it up. Taking the Gravity Weapon feat as well to really pile everything into Eldritch Shot is just mean. Needless to say, don’t use this with Flurry Rangers.
- Rogue: If your party can reliably set you up for the Sneak Attack damage at range, firing away with Eldritch Shot works well.
- Swashbuckler: Unfortunately, Panache does not work with ranged strikes.
- Thaumaturge: It’s very difficult to find the right action economy between Exploit Vulnerability and reloading a one-handed ranged weapon in order to weave Eldritch Shot. The one saving grace is that your key ability score, Charisma, is the key ability of Eldritch Archer spells.