Zen Archer (3.5e Class)

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Zen Archer (Variant Monk)[edit]

Hidden deep within nature, or within the heart of civilization, tucked away behind humble edifices, monks train themselves and others in the martial art, and constantly seek self-improvement and understanding of the ways that they follow. Some of these adepts choose another path to follow, and train themselves furiously in ranged combat with the bow and arrow. The path of the Zen Archer is long and arduous all the same, and they are welcomed and honored as protectors when the cities or the regions in which they are located falls under attack.

Making a Zen Archer[edit]

The Zen archer is the epitome of ranged combat focus; their abilities are only fully realized when they are holding a trusty bow, and they use the ki that resides behind the punches and kicks of an ordinary monk in order to make their arrows fly truer, and be more effective. A Zen archer is an invaluable asset on large, open battlefields, but will find himself greatly outmatched when the local changes in favor of a claustrophobic hallway. Although a Zen Archer is able to fight unarmed and with certain melee weapons as well, they do not attain the exceptional expertise that a monk does in this department.

Abilities: Wisdom is the driving force behind a zen archer's ability. It empowers his shots, boosts his overall Armor Class and influences certain of their skills and abilities. Dexterity increases his defense, and empowers many of his skills. Charisma may be useful to those that want to learn how to nullify their opponents ability to deflect weapons.

Races: Any race that is likely to produce at least a small number of monks will also contain a number of its zen archer alternative. Zen archers are therefore most often human. Dwarves and elves have usually very little drive to become monks, although half-orcs may on occasion grow up in monasteries.

Alignment: Any lawful or Good

Starting Gold: 1d4×10 gp.

Starting Age: Complex

Table: The Zen Archer[edit]

Hit Die: d8

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special AC Bonus Unarmored Speed Bonus
Fort Ref Will
1st +1 +2 +2 +2 Bonus feat, unarmed strike, zen archery +0 +0 ft.
2nd +2 +3 +3 +3 Bonus feat, evasion +0 +0 ft.
3rd +3 +3 +3 +3 Still mind +0 +10 ft.
4th +4 +4 +4 +4 Ki Shot, slow fall 20 ft. +0 +10 ft.
5th +5 +4 +4 +4 Purity of body +1 +10 ft.
6th +6/+1 +5 +5 +5 Bonus feat, slow fall 30 ft. +1 +20 ft.
7th +7/+2 +5 +5 +5 Wholeness of body +1 +20 ft.
8th +8/+3 +6 +6 +6 Deflection Penetration, slow fall 40 ft. +1 +20 ft.
9th +9/+4 +6 +6 +6 Improved evasion +1 +30 ft.
10th +10/+5 +7 +7 +7 Bonus feat, slow fall 50 ft. +2 +30 ft.
11th +11/+6/+1 +7 +7 +7 Diamond body +2 +30 ft.
12th +12/+7/+2 +8 +8 +8 Abundant Step, slow fall 60 ft. +2 +40 ft.
13th +13/+8/+3 +8 +8 +8 Diamond soul +2 +40 ft.
14th +14/+9/+4 +9 +9 +9 The Unseen Eye, Slow fall 70 ft. +2 +40 ft.
15th +15/+10/+5 +9 +9 +9 Bonus feat +3 +50 ft.
16th +16/+11/+6/+1 +10 +10 +10 Zen mastery, slow fall 80 ft. +3 +50 ft.
17th +17/+12/+7/+2 +10 +10 +10 Timeless body, tongue of sun and moon +3 +50 ft.
18th +18/+13/+8/+3 +11 +11 +11 Power Shot, Slow fall 90 ft. +3 +60 ft.
19th +19/+14/+9/+4 +11 +11 +11 Empty Body +3 +60 ft.
20th +20/+15/+10/+5 +12 +12 +12 Bonus feat, zen penetration, slow fall any distance +4 +60 ft.

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (arcana, religion) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spot (Int), Swim (Str) and Tumble (Dex).

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the zen archer.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Zen archers are proficient with any type of bow. Further, they are proficient with crossbow (light or heavy), dagger, handaxe, javelin, kama, nunchaku, quarterstaff, sai, shuriken, siangham and sling.

Zen archers are not proficient with any armor or shields

When wearing armor, using a shield, or carrying a medium or heavy load, a Zen archer loses her AC bonus, as well as her fast movement.

AC Bonus (Ex): When unarmored and unencumbered, the zen archer adds his Wisdom bonus (if any) to his AC. In addition, a zen archer gains a +1 bonus to AC at 5th level. This bonus increases by 1 for every five zen archer levels thereafter (+2 at 10th, +3 at 15th, and +4 at 20th level).

These bonuses to AC apply even against touch attacks or when the zen archer is flat-footed. He loses these bonuses when he is immobilized or helpless, when he wears any armor, when he carries a shield, or when he carries a medium or heavy load.

If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine his AC bonus.

Unarmed Strike: At 1st level, a zen archer gains Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat. A zen archer’s attacks may be with either fist interchangeably or even from elbows, knees, and feet. This means that a zen archer may even make unarmed strikes with his hands full. There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a zen archer striking unarmed. A zen archer may thus apply his full Strength bonus on damage rolls for all his unarmed strikes.

Usually a zen archer's unarmed strikes deal lethal damage, but he can choose to deal nonlethal damage instead with no penalty on his attack roll. He has the same choice to deal lethal or nonlethal damage while grappling.

A zen archer’s unarmed strike is treated both as a manufactured weapon and a natural weapon for the purpose of spells and effects that enhance or improve either manufactured weapons or natural weapons.

Unlike a monk however, the zen archer's unarmed strike does not improve over time. The base damage for a zen archer's unarmed strike starts at 1d6 and does not increase like a monk's unarmed strike does. A zen archer also does not get the flurry of blows special ability.

Zen Archery: The zen archer strikes with intuition, and understands perfectly the workings of the bow. He furthermore channels a subtle energy in his shots, known as ki. At 1st level, he gains the benefits of the Zen Archery feat (Complete Warrior) as long as he wears light or no armor, allowing him to use his Wisdom modifier for attack rolls. Zen archery does not apply to crossbows

Bonus Feat: A zen archer gains a number of bonus feats as he improves. He gains one at 1st, 2nd, 6th, 10th, 15th and 20th. He may choose any of the following: Deflect Arrows, Far Shot, Improved Precise Shot, Manyshot, Mounted Archery, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Shot on the Run and Snatch Arrows. When choosing bonus feats, the zen archer may apply his Wisdom score to any prerequisite usually involving Dexterity. For instance, he may apply for the Manyshot feat if he has a Wisdom score of 17.

Evasion: At 2nd level or higher if a zen archer makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if a zen archer is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless zen archer does not gain the benefit of evasion.

Fast Movement: At 3rd level, a zen archer gains an enhancement bonus to his speed, as shown on Table: The Zen Archer. A zen archer in armor or carrying a medium or heavy load loses this extra speed.

If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine his speed bonus.

Still Mind: A zen archer of 3rd level or higher gains a +2 bonus on saving throws against spells and effects from the school of enchantment.

Ki Shot: At 4th level, the zen archer learns to channel the subtle energies of ki through his ranged attacks made with bows. The zen archer may now add his Wisdom bonus to damage rolls made regarding bow attacks. This added damage stacks with bonuses gained from using composite bows with a strength requirement. Zen archery and its subsequent special abilities can only be used with shortbows and longbows (not crossbows or other ranged or thrown weapons). Added damage from Zen Archery cannot drop below 0.

Slow Fall: At 4th level or higher, a zen archer within arm’s reach of a wall can use it to slow his descent. When first using this ability, he takes damage as if the fall were 20 feet shorter than it actually is. The zen archer’s ability to slow his fall (that is, to reduce the effective distance of the fall when next to a wall) improves with his zen archer level until at 20th level she can use a nearby wall to slow her descent and fall any distance without harm.

If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine his maximum slow fall distance.

Purity of Body: At 5th level, a zen archer gains immunity to all diseases except for supernatural and magical diseases.

Wholeness of Body: At 7th level or higher, a zen archer can heal his own wounds. He can heal a number of hit points of damage equal to twice his current zen archer level each day, and he can spread this healing out among several uses.

If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine the maximum number of hit points he may heal each day.

Deflection Penetration: At 8th level, a zen archer's arrows strike truer. When ordinarily an arrow would be deflected, snatched or reflected outright, the defender must make a Reflex save against a DC of 10 + ½ the zen archer's character level + the zen archers Wisdom modifier in order to deflect the projectile. Otherwise, he is hit.

Improved Evasion: At 9th level, a zen archer’s evasion ability improves. He still takes no damage on a successful Reflex saving throw against attacks, but henceforth he takes only half damage on a failed save. A helpless character does not gain the benefit of improved evasion.

Diamond Body: At 11th level, a zen archer gains immunity to poisons of all kinds.

Abundant Step: At 12th level or higher, a zen archer can slip magically between spaces, as if using the spell dimension door, once per day. His caster level for this effect is one-half his zen archer level (rounded down). Any levels in monk he might possess are factored in as well.

Diamond Soul: At 13th level, a zen archer gains spell resistance equal to his current zen archer level + 10. In order to affect the zen archer with a spell, a spellcaster must get a result on a caster level check (1d20 + caster level) that equals or exceeds the zen archer’s spell resistance.

If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine his spell resistance.

The Unseen Eye: At 14th level, the zen archer learns to aim with his mind instead of his eyes. When opposed to a miss chance due to concealment or the effect of certain spells (like entropic shield) he may reroll his miss chance percentile a second time to see if he hits. This class feature also bestows a +2 competence bonus to the DC of the deflection penetration ability.

Zen Mastery: At 16th level, a zen archer's mastery over his weapons of choice increases. The critical multiplier of any shortbow or longbow in his hands increases by one and becomes ×4.

Timeless Body: Upon attaining 17th level, a zen archer no longer takes penalties to his ability scores for aging and cannot be magically aged. Any such penalties that he has already taken, however, remain in place. Bonuses still accrue, and the zen archer still dies of old age when his time is up.

Tongue of Sun and Moon: A zen archer of 17th level or higher can speak with any living creature.

Power Shot: At 18th level, a zen archer gains the ability to, through superior manipulation of ki, empower his arrows by sacrificing accuracy. He may take a voluntary penalty to his attack roll less than or equal to his Wisdom modifier, and gains a bonus equal to that penalty to his damage rolls.

Empty Body: At 19th level, a zen archer gains the ability to assume an ethereal state for 1 round per zen archer level per day, as though using the spell etherealness. He may go ethereal on a number of different occasions during any single day, as long as the total number of rounds spent in an ethereal state does not exceed his monk level.

If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine the total number of rounds he may spend in ethereal state per day.

Zen Penetration: At 20th level, the zen archer has perfected the art of archery, and forevermore knows how and where to strike by a culmination of instinct, prowess and his excellent control of ki. The added damage done by bows due to the zen archer's Wisdom modifier is henceforth considered magical and no longer subject to any damage resistance. Zen penetration also applies to the extra ki damage due to the Power Shot class feature, if applicable.

Ex-Zen Archers[edit]

A zen archer who becomes non-lawful cannot gain new levels as a zen archer, but retains all zen archer abilities.

Like a member of any other class, a zen archer may be a multiclass character, but multiclass zen archers face a special restriction. A zen archer who gains a new class or (if already multiclass) raises another class by a level may never again raise her zen archer level, though she retains all her zen archer abilities.

A zen archer may however multiclass as a monk and vice versa, without worrying about this restriction. A zen archer that takes a level in monk may still advance his zen archer level, and the other way around.

A monk may however multiclass as a zen archer and vice versa, without worrying about this restriction. A monk that takes a level in zen archer may still advance his monk level, and the other way around.

Epic Zen Archer[edit]

Table: The Epic Zen Archer[edit]

Hit Die: d8

Level Special AC Bonus Unarmed Speed Bonus
21st +4 +70 ft.
22nd +4 +70 ft.
23rd +4 +70 ft.
24th +4 +80 ft.
25th Bonus feat +5 +80 ft.
26th +5 +80 ft.
27th +5 +90 ft.
28th +5 +90 ft.
29th +5 +90 ft.
30th Bonus feat +6 +100 ft.
4 + Int modifier skill points per level.

AC Bonus (Ex): The zen archer’s bonus to Armor Class when unarmored increases by +1 every five levels higher than 20th.

Fast Movement (Ex): The epic zen archer’s speed when wearing no armor increases by 10 feet at 21st level and every three levels thereafter (24th, 27th, 30th, and so on).

Wholeness of Body (Su): The epic zen archer can cure up to twice his class level in hit points each day, as normal. If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine the maximum number of hit points he may heal each day.

Abundant Step (Su): Use the zen archer’s class level when determining the effective caster level of this ability, as normal. If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine the caster level of this ability.

Diamond Soul (Ex): The epic monk’s spell resistance is equal to his or her class level +10, as normal. If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine his spell resistance.

Empty Body (Su): Use the zen archer’s class level when determining the duration of this effect, as normal. If a zen archer also has monk levels, he adds those levels to his effective zen archer level to determine the duration of this effect.

Bonus Feats: The epic zen archer gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic Zen Archer bonus feats) every 5 levels after 20th.

Epic Zen Archer Bonus Feat List:

Armor Skin, Blinding Speed, Combat Archery. Distant Shot, Epic Dodge, Epic Prowess, Epic Reflexes, Epic Speed, Exceptional Deflection, Extended Life Span, Improved Combat Reflexes, Improved Manyshot, Infinite Deflection, Instant Reload, Reflect Arrows, Swarm of Arrows, Uncanny Accuracy

Human Zen Archer Starting Package[edit]

Armor: None (speed 30 ft.).

Weapons: Longbow (1d8, crit ×3, 4 lb., two-handed, piercing), Quarterstaff (1d6/1d6, crit ×2, 4 lb., two-handed, bludgeoning)

Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 5 + Int modifier.

Skill Ranks Ability Armor
Listen 4 Wis
Climb 4 Str 0
Move Silently 4 Dex 0
Tumble 4 Dex 0
Jump 4 Str 0
Escape Artist 4 Dex 0
Hide 4 Dex 0
Swim 4 Str 0
Balance 4 Dex 0

Feat: If Dexterity is 13 or higher, Dodge; if Dexterity is 12 or lower, Improved Initiative instead.

Bonus Feats: If Dexterity is 13 or higher, Mobility; if Dexterity is 12 or lower, Blind-Fight instead.

Gear: Backpack with waterskin, one day's trail rations, bedroll, sack and flint and steel. Three torches. .

Gold: 2d4 gp.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Zen Archer[edit]

The key feature of the zen archer is his ability to be an effective combatant without wearing armor, and his excellent control of the bow and arrow. Thanks to rigorous training, he can strike harder with his arrows than other characters. Though a zen archer casts no spells, he channels a subtle energy called ki, which allows him to empower his shots. A zen archer also has a preternatural awareness that allows him to dodge an attack even if she is not consciously aware of it. As a zen archer gains experience and power, his mundane and ki-oriented abilities grow, giving him more and more power over himself and sometimes over others.

Religion: A zen archer's training is his spiritual path. He is innerdirected and capable of private, mystic connection to the spiritual world. Hence, he generally needs neither clerics nor gods. Certain lawful gods however may appeal to monks, who may meditate on those gods' likenesses and attempt to emulate their deeds. The three most likely candidates for a monk's devotion are Heironeous (god of valor), St. Cuthbert (god of retribution) and Hextor (god of tyranny).

Other Classes: Zen archers, like monks, sometimes seem distant because they often have neither motivation nor skills in common with members of other classes. Monks do, however, work well with the support of others and they usually prove themselves reliable companions.

Combat: The zen archer functions best as an opportunistic combatant, using his speed and ranged ability to attempt and remain out of range of the enemy and, if possible, sift into and out of the combat quickly. He also makes an excellent scout, particularly if he focuses his skill selection on stealth.

Zen Archer Lore[edit]

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

DC 5: Zen archers are archers who draw on their ki, the same inner energy used by monks.

DC 10: Zen archers are usually less skilled in melee combat than normal monks, but make up for their lack of physical power and strikes with the power behind their shots.

DC 15: A zen archer channels his ki through his arrows, and intuitively aims for great effect in battle.

DC 20: Masters of zen archery have developed their craft so far that their can overcome any damage reducing protection.

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