Have you ever said to yourself, I want to hit that creature with this stick, but I don't want to get close? If so, you may be an archer at heart. One of the biggest things with 5e is the ability to create something that can murder a GM's big bad with huge damage in one turn. Paladins, Fighters, Rogues all fall into that category.
Today, we will create a version of the Archer that is going to drive so many sticks into a creature from far away it may as well become a porcupine.
To start this build off, we need the PHB (Players Handbook) and Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
We are going to bypass Tasha's and a few other book options for these specific build-outs. Tasha allows for origin changes and other options that make this build have more potential, but we will keep it simple.
Race: Elf, or more specifically, the Wood elf.
The Wood Elf has a +2 to Dex, 60 feet of Darkvision, and Keen Sense for proficiency on perception (Giving you that I can see everything feel). Additionally, you receive proficiency with short and longbows as well as 35 feet of movement to keep your distance from whoever you are shooting. Heck, the race even gets Mask of the Wild, which allows you to attempt hiding when you are lightly obscured by anything. Rounding you out very well as someone who shoots from the cover.
Background: Criminal / Spy
I typically take Criminal /Spy as proficiency in stealth and deception can be invaluable to a campaign. You can also opt for the Knight background to fit the Samurai motif if you wish. However, Samurai were battle-hardened warriors whose sole occupation was war. Flanking maneuvers, spying, and deception all play a part in warfare as long as they are in service to their lord. Should you desire, you can also take the criminal twist and treat yourself as a Ronan, one without a lord who did not die in combat. From this vaulting point, you can work with your game master to see how your organization fell apart and how this network of former Samurai can work within the background as a substitute to an a-typical criminal organization.
If you have never played 5e, you may be tempted to start by choosing the Ranger class. For this build, we are going to start with a fighter class instead. As we are going for single turn action economy, the Fighter's action surge and the number of attacks are going to stack well toward that idea. We will also dip into other classes as we gain levels to round out our archer.
For stat priority, we are going to want to place points into Dex. In doing so, we will want to prioritize martial weapons surrounding Dex to get the bonus. The 2nd stat is going to be more highly reliant upon what you desire for your archer.
Levels 1 - 3 - Fighter (Lvl 3 Fighter)
Many Game Masters (GM) out there will start you off at level three from the gate. This is done as the first major class benefit begins with level 3. As such, we are going to dump 3 levels straight away into the fighter subclass. (Should the GM not start at 3, I would still recommend working up to this first plateau.)
In doing so, we take the Archery fighting style (ranged attacks get a +2)), and we take the Samurai subclass. With the Samurai subclass, we get access to fighting spirit. This means you can grant yourself advantage on weapon attack rolls until the end of your current turn & can do this up to three times. At the same time, you also get a temporary hit point bonus (based on level) that is a nicety and not a necessity.
We also get Action Surge at level 2.
That means at level 3, we already can give ourselves advantage three times, and in one turn, we get an extra attack. You have just become the party's sustainable damage to chunk down singular targets.
Level 4 - Fighter (Lvl 4 Fighter)
When you hit level 4, we will take the feat Elven Accuracy to boost our hit chance even more. This grants us the ability to re-roll an advantage die one additional time, giving us triple advantage. This is why we took Samurai to grant ourselves advantage three times. We can nearly guarantee a hit every single round and not be reliant upon battle conditions.
Not only this, but we also get one additional attribute point. A point that can give you just enough of a boost in a stat to get you one increased modifier. So if you have a 15 or 17 in Dex, this is where to put that point.
Level 5 - Fighter (Lvl 5 Fighter)
Taking another level in the Fighter class grants us an additional attack per turn. You will be firing arrows so often your quiver is going to catch fire. And with the advantage stack and re-rolls, you're going to hit more often than miss.
Level 6 - Time to multi-class - Take a level in Rogue (Lvl 5 Fighter / Level 1 Rogue)
Here is where we deviate just a tad in our build. Once player characters begin to hit this level, we see more instances of mob creatures with a strong bad. If you see this happening sooner than level 6, you can also substitute 1 level of Fighter earlier for this perk. Additionally, health pools begin to creep up on the opponents, so we need to start stacking more damage.
The main reason we dip into a multi-class is for the class feature, Sneak Attack. Anytime one of your melee fighters gets into the fray, you are granted sneak attack damage. Anytime you have advantage (you get 3 free ones from Samurai), you get additional attack damage on the first hit.
Having this additional d6 nearly every turn can boost your average sustain damage from 14 (two attacks with a longbow) to a solid 17 damage a round (not including the action surge round).
Level 7 - Once more into Rogue (Lvl 5 Fighter / Level 2 Rogue)
We are after cunning action. Cunning Action allows us to use a bonus action to hide. Having this with our Wood Elf's class feature, Mask of the Wild, you now have more flexibility to hide, even in mist. Let that sink in. You can hide in any low fog or cloud your Game Master describes in a spooky area. You can hide in shadow. You can hide behind boxes. You can hide behind anything (well, nearly anything). You should be working toward hiding every round as a bonus action to get advantage on the first shot (Unseen advantage from the PHB). Should you not be hidden, or there is nowhere to hide, Samurai helps you get that sweet advantage spot.
Level 8 - Choices (Ranger vs. Fighter)
Here is where you need to make a decision based on your own specific game and taste. Most modules tend to end right around level 10. For this build, we are going to focus on a campaign that goes to level 20. If I didn't take a moment to pause and show the choice option, it would keep me up at night. I will break up their paths and provide links to them.
* This version is focused on damage and gates off the high-tier bonuses of classes. Make sure to keep that in mind as you have three classes under your belt by the end. *
Levels 8 - 10 - Ranger (Lvl 5 Fighter / Lvl 2 Rogue/ Lvl 3 Ranger)
Taking three levels in Ranger to obtain Gloom Stalker and the Defense fighting style would be the next step in the build. This would grant you a bonus to your initiative, +1 to AC, and the ability to use Hunter's Mark, increasing your damage further at level 10. You will also gain an increased dark vision range making you more deadly in the dark. For spells: Hunter's Mark, GoodBerry, and Cure wounds. Healing always is handy.
Level 11 - Rogue (Lvl 5 Fighter / Lvl 3 Rogue/ Lvl 3 Ranger)
One more level in Rogue and take the assassin build. Attacking any creature that hasn't gone gives you advantage, which pairs with your re-roll. Additionally, when you hit, you will critically hit against the target. This would mean any creature that hasn't acted yet means you can deal far more damage to them. Having this paired with Gloom Stalker means you will go first in most combat rounds.
Levels 12 - 20 (Fighter VS Ranger Vs. Rogue)
At this point, you are pretty spread out with no specialization, so now we need to consider what you want out of the build. For this section of levels, I highly recommend dumping everything into one of the classes and not spread out anymore. This way, you can unlock more class benefits as you move through the rest of the campaign. Each offers its own flair, but I prefer the Fighter in this instance as it gives the highest class unlocks.
Fighter (Lvl 14 Fighter / Lvl 3 Rogue / Lvl 3 Ranger)
Sticking with Fighter will get you to level 14 in the class. With this being the highest at 5, it will grant you the most of your specialization. Whereas you only reach 12 with the other two. Here is what you will have access to by level 20.
You will receive the choice of 4 feats or 4 ability score improvements along this path (or a mix of the two)
If you take feats, choose Alert (+5 initiative), Sharpshooter (more damage), Fighting Initiate (Suppiror Technequie: Ambush or Tripping), and I always like Tough to increase the health pool. Piercing may be another option as well. Alert is the priority in this list to pair with Assasin and Gloom Stalker.
Your third attack (making three in total)
The indomitable feature which allows you to re-roll a failed save
Tireless spirit, which will give you back one of your fighting spirits if you have none on a new fight
Ranger (Lvl 5 Fighter / Lvl 3 Rogue / Lvl 12 Ranger)
Choosing Ranger will give you 12 levels in this class. Here is what you will have access to by level 20.
7 spell slots. Most of the spells are lackluster or replace Hunter's Mark. If you desire spells, then this may work for you.
3 feats or 3 ability score improves (or mixed)
If you take feats, choose Alert (+5 initiative), Sharpshooter (more damage), and Fighting Initiate (Suppiror Technequie: Ambush or Tripping)
A 3rd attack
Proficiency in savings throws in Wisdom (or Intelligence or Charisma if Wisdom is already proficient).
The ability to cover yourself in mud, sticks, and leaves to give yourself a +10 to hide so long as you don't do anything. This is typically only useful if you are setting up an ambush which means it's an okay-ish level-up perk.
Stalker's Fury - if you miss an attack, you may attack again (once per turn). This means that you basically have a chance to strike again should all your advantage fail you.
Rogue (Lvl 5 Fighter / Lvl 12 Rogue / Lvl 3 Ranger)
Sticking with Rogue will give you 12 levels in this class. Here is what you will have access to by level 20.
You will receive the choice of 4 feats or 4 ability score improvements along this path (or a mix of the two)
If you take feats, choose Alert (+5 initiative), Sharpshooter (more damage), Fighting Initiate (Suppiror Technequie: Ambush or Tripping), and I always like Tough to increase the health pool.
Uncanny dodge that allows you to half damage
Evasion to get out of AOE effects
The ability to roleplay identity theft (Infiltration Expertise) for 25gp and in-game days. This is typically only useful if you are setting up a heist or equivalent infiltration session, which means it's an okay-ish level-up perk.
The ability to not roll below a 10 in any skill you add proficiency to.
*Taking the Fighter path and 1 more in Rogue will get you to the 17th class level once you hit level 20.*
Level 8 - Fighter (Lvl 6 Fighter / Level 2 Rogue)
At level 8, you have the choice of a feat or an ability score. Should you take a feat, select one of the below
Alert (+5 initiative)
Sharpshooter (more damage)
Fighting Initiate (Suppiror Technequie: Ambush or Tripping)
Tough to increase the health pool.
Level 9 - Fighter (Lvl 7 Fighter / Level 2 Rogue)
You receive a bonus to wisdom saves (Or Charisma or Intelligence if you are proficient in wisdom saves) and persuasion checks receive a bonus from your wisdom modifier.
Level 10 - Fighter (Lvl 8 Fighter / Level 2 Rogue)
At level 10, you have the choice of a feat or an ability score. Should you take a feat, select one of the below
Alert (+5 initiative) (FIRST if you haven't taken it to stake with assassin)<