A great ability of second edition dungeons and dragons has apparently been lost in the conversion to third edition. Range fighters get weaker at higher levels and are no match for a properly equipped melee fighter of even half their level. This appears to the consensus amongst DMs and Players alike. With a little work and some extra direction, range fighters can still be a force in the game.
The first thing to remember about range weapons is that thrown weapons still get the strength bonus for damage. Projectile weapons (with the exception of mighty composite weapons) never get a strength bonus for damage. All weapons (except mechanical weapons), however, suffer strength penalties to their damage rolls. [For example, a character with an 16 strength uses a longbow but doesn't get any bonus for damage. The same character uses a throwing axe and gains +3 to damage due to high strength. Also, a character with an 8 strength, uses any ranged weapon (except crossbows) and suffers a -1 to damage.]
Maximum range for a range weapon depends on its type. Thrown weapons have a maximum range of (Range increment x 5). Projectile weapons have a maximum range of (Range increment x 10). A range fighter with a Mighty Composite Longbow can shoot at opponents up to 1,100 feet away (that's 367 yards). Daggers may be thrown up to 50 feet accurately.
|I use an alternate rule for thrown weapon range increments. A character adds (or subtracts) his strength modifier to a thrown weapon's range increment. This means that a character with a 15 strength (+2 modifier) may throw a dagger up to 60 feet (10 + 2 feet x 5). This extra range represents the power a character is capable of putting into the weapon. After all, we all can't throw rocks the same distance or there would be no Olympic shot-putt games.|
For those who don't know how Range Increments work, the Player's Handbook has a good explanation on page 97. Any attack at less than this distance is not penalized for range, so an arrow from a shotbow (range increment 60 feet) can strike at enemies up to 59 feet away with no penalty. However, each full range increment causes a cumulative -2 penalty. However, each full range increment causes a cumulative -2 penalty to the attack roll. A shotbow archer firing at a target 200 feet away suffers a -6 attack penalty (because 200 feet is at least three range increments but not four increments).
Also, several feats are available that are not in the Player's Handbook. Wizards of the Coast have come up with several supplements that have new feats. Other feats, such as Far Shot, Hail of Arrows, Improved Rapid Shot, Weapon Expertise, Weapon Grand Master, and Weapon Mastery are available to add some flavor to your archers. Non-standard bow and crossbow arrows are available in my New Arrow section. These new arrows can give even the most modest archer new teeth.