Sniper, Variant (3.5e Prestige Class)

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The calm before the storm... Few phrases are more fitting. I prefer silence leading up to my shot. It's how I got my name, after all.
—Thunderclap, Pixie Sniper

The glint off a knife blade or the whisper of their armor may give away the Assassin. Any number of spells may reveal an invisible Archmage. Only the sharpest of eyes combined with the luckiest of souls can detect a Sniper before they strike, normal means having a lesser range than them. A master of the longbow, (or rifle, depending on the setting,) the Sniper combines the lethality of a Assassin or Ghost-Faced Killer with a range rarely seen accomplished without magic. With all their training focused on their ranged weapon of choice, Snipers are rightly wary of melee combat, relying on stealth to line up their shot and hit and run tactics to deal deal with groups in close quarters.

Becoming a Sniper[edit]

Most Sniper have levels of Fighter, Ranger, or Rogue, especially those that prefer light armor. Ninjas and Scouts are not unheard of, but most Ninjas prefer to be closer in order to prevent their quarry from escaping, while most Scouts tend to stay on the move, making it difficult to line up shots at greater distances. Humans and Dwarves make up the majority of Snipers. Elven Snipers are not unheard of, but most prefer to take the Arcane Archer prestige class, instead. Since slings and thrown weapons do not qualify for the class, it tends to hold little interest to Halflings, while most Gnomes and Half-orcs tend to favor magical and melee approaches to combat (respectively). Snipers are almost unheard of amongst the more monstrous races, but those with natural camouflage, like Gargoyles, or inherent invisibility, like pixies, who pursue this prestige class can take it to terrifying heights.

Entry Requirements
Alignment: Any, but Lawful alignments lend themselves to the patience and dedication a Sniper has for lining up the perfect shot. Chaotic aligned aspiring Snipers should consult with their DM to prevent roleplaying conflicts.
Base Attack Bonus: +5
Feats: Far Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (Heavy Crossbow, Longbow, Composite Longbow, Greatbow, Composite Greatbow, or Firearms).
Special: One or more of the following: Improved Precise Shot, Weapon Specialization (Heavy Crossbow, Longbow, Composite Longbow, Greatbow, Composite Greatbow, or Firearms), or Sneak Attack +2d6.
Table: The Sniper

Hit Die: d4

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special
Fort Ref Will
1st +1 +0 +2 +0 Long-Rang Precision +1d8, Sniper's Nest
2nd +2 +0 +3 +0 Anatomy Lessons
3rd +3 +1 +3 +1 Long-Rang Precision +2d8, Manyshot
4th +4 +1 +4 +1 Headshot
5th +5 +1 +4 +1 Long-Rang Precision +3d8, Rapid Shot
6th +6 +2 +5 +2 Double Headshot
7th +7 +2 +5 +2 Long-Rang Precision +4d8, Penetrating Shot
8th +8 +2 +6 +2 Special Shot
9th +9 +3 +6 +3 Long-Rang Precision +5d8, Improved Rapid Shot
10th +10 +3 +7 +3 Rain of Death

Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level)
The Sniper’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance (Dex), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) (Int), Knowledge (Dungeoneering) (Int), Knowledge (Nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Search (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), and Use Rope (Dex).

Class Features[edit]

The Sniper focuses on taking down their opponents before they can close the distance. Preferably, before they even know the Sniper is there. Focusing on their Headshot ability, most Snipers will retreat if they still have foes alive after the first few rounds. All of the following are class features of the Sniper.

Long-Range Precision (Ex): As a standard action, a Sniper may make a single precisely aimed attack with a ranged weapon, dealing an extra 1d8 points of damage if the attack hits. When making a long-rang precision attack, a Sniper must be no more than one ranged increment per Sniper level from their target. For example, a 5th level Fighter/3rd level Sniper wielding a longbow may make a Long-Range Precision attack against a target up to 450ft away (300ft x 1.5 for Far Shot). This bonus damage increase by 1d8 every two levels after first.

Unlike with a rogue’s sneak attack, the Sniper’s target does not have to be flat-footed or denied its Dexterity bonus, but if it is, then the extra precision damage stacks with sneak attack damage. This ability also allows a Sniper to make sneak attacks beyond the usual 30ft limit. Like a sneak attack, Long-Range Precision cannot be used against plants, undead, or other creatures without discernible anatomies.

A Sniper can only use this ability with a ranged weapon for which he has taken the Weapon Focus feat.

Sniper's Nest (Ex): With an hour's preparation, a Sniper can prepare a 'nest', granting them a +10 bonus on Hide as well as cover and concealment. However, heavier armor is hard to stay still in for prolonged periods, especially in confined spaces, and the cover makes it hard to dodge. While using a nest, the Sniper suffers a penalty to attack equal to their armor check penalty (in addition to any non-proficiency penalties) as well as losing any Dexterity or Dodge bonus to AC. Once completed, these effects last until the Sniper moves.

Anatomy Lessons (Ex): At 2nd level, the Sniper studies where to land their shot for maximum damage. They apply their Intelligence bonus (if any) as a bonus on damage rolls (in addition to any Strength bonus they may have, for composite longbows) with any ranged weapon for which they have taken the Weapon Focus feat. Targets immune to sneak attacks or critical hits are immune to this extra damage.

Manyshot: A 3rd level Sniper gets Manyshot as a bonus feat. Unlike normal, the Sniper may use this at any range, but the penalties for Manyshot stack with any range increment penalties. Sometimes one shot can't finish a target, so why not fire two? Or three? Or four?

Headshot (Ex): Starting at 4th level, a Sniper learns to line up the 'perfect shot'. If a Sniper studies their target for 3 rounds without being damaged, they can make a Headshot as a full-round action. This delay of study is reduced to a single round if the Sniper stays still in their Sniper Nest without being attacked. If they are damaged, the Sniper must make a DC (10 + damage taken) Concentration check or restart their study. The Sniper must make a ranged attack roll against their target, which is denied its armor and shield bonuses to AC, due to the Sniper specifically aiming for a weak point. The victim must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + Sniper's level + Sniper's Int modifier) or die. Even if the save succeeds, the target still takes full damage from the attack. Despite this ability's name, creatures with more than one head are still affected by the death effect, as the sniper can just as easily aim for the heart, a lung, or another vital organ, as they can the head.

Headshot cannot be used against plants, undead, or other creatures without discernible anatomies.

A Sniper can only use this ability with a ranged weapon for which he has taken the Weapon Focus feat.

Rapid Shot: A 5th level Sniper gets Rapid Shot as a bonus feat. Why take out one target before they know you're there, when you can take out two?

Double Headshot (Ex): At 6th level, when a Sniper uses the Headshot ability, they may target two targets instead of one, but doing so gives them a -2 penalty on both attack rolls, as well as on any other attacks you make that round, such as attacks of opportunity.

Penetrating Shot (Ex): At 7th level a Sniper has learned not to let things like obstacles get get in their way, shooting through them to hit their target. Snipers may treat targets with cover or total cover as having concealment or total concealment, (respectively,) instead. Snipers with Improved Precise Shot may treat targets with total cover as having only a 25% miss chance.

In addition, any time the Sniper critically hits a target, any enemies in line of effect to the target or up to one range increment of your weapon behind the target must make a DC 20 Reflex Save. The Sniper may make a free attack against each enemy that fails their save.

A Sniper can only use this ability with a ranged weapon for which he has taken the Weapon Focus feat.

Special Shot (Su): At 8th level, a Sniper has learned the weak points on more unusual targets and how to take advantage of them, such as beheading a Vampire or the fracture point of a Stone Golem. A number of times per day equal to their Sniper level, the Sniper may apply their Long-Range Precision ability, Anatomy Lessons ability, and any sneak attack or similar bonus damage against a target normally immune to such effects. Headshot still has no effect against such enemies.

A Sniper can only use this ability with a ranged weapon for which he has taken the Weapon Focus feat.

Improved Rapid Shot: A 9th level Sniper gets Improved Rapid Shot as a bonus feat. This also removes the penalty to the Double Headshot ability. Two birds, one stone.

Rain of Death (Ex): A 10th level Sniper makes their opening barrage count to devastating effect. By observing a group of foes without being detected for 5 rounds, a Sniper may make a number of Headshots equal to the number of attacks granted by their base attack bonus, but only during the first round of combat. For example, a 6th level Fighter/10th level Sniper could make up to four Headshots on their first turn, but only up to two on later turns, regardless of how long they studied their opponents.


Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Sniper[edit]

Combat: Although an obvious choice for a ranged combatant in a group, many Snipers prefer to work solo or in pairs; one shooter and one spotter or lookout.

Advancement: Most Snipers focus on their base class(es) after level 10. Some pursue The Order of the Bow Initiate Prestige class or Exotic Weapon Master (if they use Greatbows or Firearms). Elven Snipers will often take levels in Arcane Archer. Some Snipers may take some Wizard levels to complement their defense with spells like Shield and Mage Armor. Others may take levels in Druid if they specialized in fighting in natural environments. A familiar or animal companion can also act as a trusty lookout for a Sniper otherwise operating alone, preventing others from sneaking up on them from behind.

Resources: Varies. Militaries can have entire squads of Snipers with proportional funding behind them. Conversely, a freedom fighter picking off a tyrant's scouts might have nothing more that what he can scrounge up for himself. If two unrelated Snipers meet up out of combat, they are more likely to trade information, such as training tips and where to buy the best ammunition, than they are to share physical resources.

Snipers in the World[edit]

You see dots on the horizon. I see targets.

Snipers are specialists. Whether part of a military, resistance group, or adventuring party, Snipers have a use and perform it well. Very few can equal them when defending a wall... or attacking those defending one. A single Sniper can take out a small group by themselves, but only the most foolish commander would send snipers against a force that could simply overwhelm them with numbers unless they had no other choice.

NPC Reactions: Most NPCs see Snipers the same as Fighters or Rangers. Those with military training may treat them with more respect. Particularly honorable individuals may look down on them, seeing their guerrilla tactics as 'cowardly'.

Sniper Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (History) can research Snipers to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

Knowledge (History)
DC Result
11 As ranged specialists, Snipers are at their weakest in melee... but only if you can find them. Cover is only so useful against them, as many Snipers can just shoot through it.
16 Snipers often rely on the element of surprise. Weathering their initial assault will often give a brief respite to close the distance. If their attacks stop for a moment, however, they may be lining up a deadly shot...
21 Despite their lethality, Snipers do NOT use magic (unless from another class). Thus, anti-magic is worthless against them, but they often have little protection against magic, themselves.
26 Although at risk in melee, Snipers are often ill prepared for someone meeting them shot for shot. Also, many Snipers work alone and focus on a single direction, making them vulnerable to counter-ambushes.

Snipers in the Game[edit]

While most Snipers would have military training, they are also commonly found self-taught amongst resistance forces fighting an invading army. In fact, given the close quarters adventurers often fight in, finding a Sniper traveling with such a group is much more uncommon, although they provide a unique edge when such a group is hired to defend a town or assault a castle.

Adaptation: Any archery specialist can easily become a sniper. With no magic, psionic, or similar abilities, the Sniper should easily fit into most settings, especially those with firearms or even more advance weaponry.

Sample Encounter:

EL whatever:

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