Starchitin's rogue sniper guide
Why a Sniper?
If you picture yourself as a stealthy assassin, patiently stalking your prey waiting for the perfect moment to take them out without with a single well-placed arrow, unseen by any unless you want to be seen, then a rogue sniper is the perfect build for you. This type of rogue relies on stealth, misdirection, precision, and patience to take out their foes, it is not a build for those that want fast-paced combat. It is very well suited to solo hunting while relying solely or mostly on their own skills (no wizard spell-ups needed!), but can be frustrating when trying to hunt in a group or invasions (though it is capable of contributing in both scenarios). This build also has a low cost in terms of TPs for the core skills needed, allowing one to be either a master assassin, a sniping locksmith, or just get whatever other secondary skills their heart desires.
Any race can be a sniper rogue, so if you have your heart set on a particular one for RP reasons or you just tend to like one better then the others don't let that stop you. That said, the smaller, faster races tend to perform better as a sniper rogue then the bigger, slower races.
The following races tend to perform quite well as a sniper rogue:
- Forest gnome- receive a large bonus to hiding in forests, a bonus to Divert, good AGI/DEX mods, bonus to cocking crossbows
- Burghal gnome- receive a bonus to Divert, slightly better AGI/DEX mods then forest gnomes, bonus to cocking crossbows
- Halfling- best AGI/DEX mods of all the races, moderate bonus to hiding in any environment
- Elf- better AGI mod then other elven races, partially off-set with a lower DEX mod
- Sylvankind large bonus to hiding in forests, decent AGI/DEX mods
The following races tend to under-perform with this build compared to the others:
- Giantman- negative mod to AGI/DEX, hiding penalty in all environments
- Half-Krolvin- poor AGI/DEX mods
- Dwarf- negative AGI mod, may be partially off-set by their bonus to hiding in mountains depending on where you hunt
Any race not listed don't have any significant benefits or drawbacks to choosing them.
Stats are important, but I'm not going to dictate where to put them. You'll be better off using a stat cruncher to help you decide exactly where you want them to start, depending on the race you choose and whether you value growth or having an easier time in the early levels. That doesn't mean I won't give some guidance, though.
Generally speaking, setting any stat above 90 is doing yourself a disservice. Any stat set this high will quickly get to 100 and stop growing, unless a stat is both important and grows slowly for your race try not to set it above 80. Below is some advice for some of the more important stats.
- STR- Do not set this stat so low that your STR bonus 0 and if possible start with an STR bonus of 10 or greater (not possible with halflings/gnomes unless you start with STR above 90). Gnomes and halflings will have to start with their STR significantly higher then other races just to have a bonus of 0. Every +10 your STR bonus is will reduce your FIRE RT by 1 second
- DEX- Set this one high, but give it room for growth. Your DEX bonus directly adds to your AS and aids with picking skills should you choose to get them.
- AGI- Set this one high and allow for growth here as well. Your AGI helps with Dodging, staying hidden, and maneuver defense.
- INT- Doesn't need to be as high as AGI/DEX, but it's important for defense as well as trap detection so try not to skimp on it.
- INF- I don't generally recommend tanking a stat, but if you absolutely must tank one, this is the one. Divert suffers if you do tank it, so try not to set it any lower then you must. Gnomes can get away with setting this lower then other races due to their racial bonus to Divert.
The core skills needed for this build require very few TPs compared to just about any other build for any profession in Elanthia. With just the core skills, you'll be a deadly assassin so long as your tactics are sound even if you never train in anything else... but why let all those TPs just sit there doing nothing when they could be making you even deadlier or save you from having to visit the town locksmith?
Below is the bare minimum you'll need to be successful with this build. Whatever else you train in, you don't want less then this in the following:
- 8 ranks in Armor Use- This will get you into double leather without any maneuver penalty
- 1x Combat Maneuvers- For getting the CMANs you'll need to be successful and Maneuver defense
- 1x Physical Fitness- To maximize HPs and maneuver defense
- 2x Ranged Weapons- Needed for firing your bow.
- 2x Ambush- Boosts AS and factors into aiming your shots from hiding
- 2x Dodging- Try as you might, you'll get stuck in the open occasionally, esp early on. This will help keep you from dying when you do.
- 2x Stalking and Hiding- This will be your main defense, critters cannot attack what they cannot find. Shooting from the shadows also provides a stance pushdown
- 2x Perception- Boosts AS once you have 40 ranks, 2x will maximize this bonus. Also aids in AIMing your bolts/arrows.
- Climbing- enough to get you into where you want to hunt, if you're in River's Rest you'll want 15 ranks by level 30, but can get away with 10 or so ranks until much later otherwise
- Swimming- enough to get you into where you want to hunt, if you're in River's Rest you'll want 15 ranks by level 30, but can get away with 10 or so ranks until much later otherwise
That's it for the core skills, from here there are a variety of directions you can take. Training in picking skills to become a locksmith is a popular choice, but you can also beef up these and/or other skills to make yourself an even deadlier sniper if you don't care about locksmithing.
Snipers are uniquely positioned to be locksmiths because the stats and Perception are important to both ventures. A lockpicking sniper will have fewer TPs to dedicate to hunting skills then other snipers, but they gain a skill useful to both them self and others. A fully dedicated locksmith won't be able to get much more then the core skills above after getting their picking skills, but they will still be able to hunt solo without difficulty.
If you're going to go the lockpick route, get these skills before considering the suggestions in the next section:
- 2-3x Disarming Traps- 2x will be sufficient to pick most of your own boxes through most of your carrier, if your goal is to pick every box possible as soon as possible get 3x.
- 2-3x Picking Locks- Same as Disarming, 2x for just your own, 3x for everything ASAP
- 3x Perception- You don't need to maintain this for life, but it's a good idea until you can spot every trap on the first try. Once you're comfortable with your success at detecting traps you can stop training in it until you're at 2x, but never let it fall below 2x.
- 4 ranks Minor Elemental Circle- those that 2x in picking skills will be able to get this much sooner then those that 3x, but even those that 3x in Disarm/Picking will want to have this by level 70ish
- 10 ranks Arcane Symbols- helps with disarming scarabs and allows 403/404 to be invoked off scrolls
Whether you decide not to become a locksmith or have TPs left over once you get lockpicking skills, these are some ideas for what to do with the rest of your TPs (loosely ordered in terms of benefit):
- 30 ranks or more Armor Use- 30 ranks will allow you to get into Brig without penalty, more will allow you into heavier armor (more on armor later on). It also allows one to get ranks in Armored Stealth, so it may be worth getting even if you don't intend on wearing heavier armor.
- 3x Stalking and Hiding- will take you from being good at hiding to being one with the shadows, above level 30 few like-level critters can find you and even most critters well above your level will have difficulty finding you if you also have Armored Stealth and Shadow Mastery running
- 2x Physical Fitness- most important skill for redux, helps defend against maneuvers if you get caught in the open, gives you more stamina for maneuvers
- 2x Combat Maneuvers- snipers don't have a huge number of CMANs that are helpful, but it's nice to get those that are ASAP, also helps with maneuver defense.
- 3x Dodging- The shadows are your main defense and you shouldn't need this, but it's never a bad idea to beef up your back-up if you can spare the TPs
- Arcane Symbols- Lets you invoke/cast spells off scrolls, 30 ranks should allow you to invoke most spells any ranks above that will extend durations/increase potency
- Magic Item Use- Lets you use spells imbedded in items, 30 ranks should allow you to activate most items, any ranks above that will extend durations/increase potency
- Spell Research- Spells are expensive for rogues, but they have access to both the Minor Elemental and the Minor Spiritual circles. Not many rogues get more then 4 spells before cap, but it is possible without cutting into your core skills if you aren't a locksmith
In addition to training in the skills themselves, Combat Maneuvers and Armor Use allow you to train in CMANs and Armor Specialization respectively. The following maneuvers and specialization are of particular interest to a sniper rogue:
- Armored Stealth- Even if you're sticking to robes or double leather, it's good to get enough ranks in Armor Use to pick up at least one rank in this to help with hiding. You should do just fine with that one rank unless you're moving into heavier armor anyway, though you may wish to get more ranks (necessitating more ranks in Armor Use) if you're only 2x in S&H.
- Shadow Mastery- In addition to the bonuses to hiding and the reduction to sneaking RT, 4 ranks of this skill is a prerequisite to getting your most important CMAN, Vanish. Note that it has a 5 minute cool-down that will prevent you from having it active constantly unless you pick up Shadow Dance as well.
- Vanish- This is THE most important CMAN to pick up. Two ranks in this skill allows one to hide while in 5 sec of RT or less without adding any additional RT. The first two ranks of this skill should be picked up as soon as possible once the prerequisite 4 ranks in Shadow Mastery are obtained. The third rank will allow you to hide in any amount of RT, but is not quite as important as the first 2 ranks.
- Shadow Dance- The first rank makes Shadow Mastery a passive skill rather then one that needs to be activated. This means that besides not having to worry about Shadow Mastery dropping, there are no longer stamina costs required to use it. Because of this, you will be able to use your other CMANs much more often. This should be gotten as soon as possible once the second rank in VANISH is obtained. There is no need to get the second rank as a sniper. Note that you will need all five ranks in Shadow Mastery in order to train in Shadow Dance.
- Divert- One of the few ways rogues have to control crowds. Either use it to get a critter that wandered in to leave you alone so that you can focus on your prey or use it to separate a critter from the pack and follow them to take them out without risking falling from hiding in front of multiple critters.
- Surge of Strength- How important this is to you will depend largely on your race and STR bonus. Good for a temporary boost to lower your firing RT when you run out of white crystals, though the cool-down period will prevent most from having it up constantly.
There are three societies that can be joined. Which of these you join will depend on what benefits you want, how much work you're willing to put into progressing through them, and what you want to hunt:
- Council of Light- By far the easiest to master for a sniper, esp at lower levels, it also provides some powerful boosts to AS and DS as well as a quick way to transport back to town from remote areas.
- Order of Voln- If you choose to join this society you're going to have to hunt undead, which means that you'll most likely want to be 3x in Stalking and Hiding to stay hidden around them. You'll also have to deal with the hassle of dealing with bundles of blessed arrows and it will take longer to master then the previous society. In exchange you'll be able to bless your own arrows (making them less of a hassle), get slightly less effective AS/DS boosters, be able to preserve yourself and call for help when dead, and be able to transport not just yourself but your entire group back to town.
- Guardians of Sunfist- This one will most likely be the most difficult for snipers to actually master since snipers perform poorly in the swarmy conditions of warcamps. The AS/DS boosters it provides require both stamina and mana to use, so you'll want to make sure to get enough Harness Power to actually use them and be aware that this will leave you less stamina for performing your CMANs when you need them. If you like a challenge you can go this route, but it's not the best option for a rogue sniper.
You've got your stats and skills set, now it's time to think of what gear you're going to use. There are advantages and drawbacks to both different types of armor and different ranged weapons.
As a sniper, you can choose whether to use a bow or a crossbow. Which you use is really personal preference, though bows tend to be less hassle and more popular because you don't have to worry about COCKing them like you do with a crossbow. However, if you're willing to kneel in the shadows you'll get a nice AS boost when using a crossbow (not worth it in my opinion, but there are a few that swear by it).
There is some high end gear that renders some of the advice here moot, but much of that gear is difficult to obtain so this guide will be assuming the reader does not have access to it.
If you choose to go with bows, you have the choice of short bows, composite bows, and long bows. Short bows have the lowest DF but are the fastest when fired, long bows have the highest DF but are the slowest when fired, and composite bows are between the other two on both.
A wise sniper lets their STR bonus dictate which bow they use since every +10 your STR bonus is will reduce firing RT by 1 second. DF is important, but not near as important as keeping your RT lower then that of what you're hunting. The fastest any bow can be fired from the shadows while AIMing is 5 seconds (3 second minimum RT + 1 sec for hiding + 1 sec for AIMing). Strength (509) (found in white crystals), Phoen's Strength (606), and Surge of Strength will all help reduce your RT by boosting your STR bonus.
Gnomes and halfling snipers will never be able to fire any bow with a 5 sec RT without either enhansives, Surge of Strength, or magical help. If they are able to avail themselves of any of these or a combination of them they might want to use a composite bow but will be best off starting out with a short bow.
Giantkin snipers are the only race that can fire a long bow in 5 seconds without magic/enhansives/Surge. Most other races can fire a composite bow either in 5 sec at/near their max STR bonus or with a minimum of assistance from magic/enhansives/Surge.
Once any race has 2-3 ranks in CMAN Vanish, they may wish to get a bow with a longer RT depending on their confidence in their timing and how much stamina they have to utilize the CMAN when needed.
Crossbows are the other option snipers have, though they're less popular due to having to COCK them, which forces one into offensive stance and incurs roundtime or 6-9 seconds (depending on if it's heavy or light and one's STR bonus). In exchange, they have a flat FIRE roundtime of 2 seconds, receive +30 AS when kneeling, and have slightly higher DF's then bows (light crossbows have the same DFs as composite bows and heavy crossbows have higher DFs then long bows).
Those that use crossbows will often carry two or more that they COCK and LOAD between fights. Though there will still be the occasional critter that refuses to go down easily (whether due to crit randomization or hitting the wrong body parts), necessitating dangerous reloading mid-fight. Because of this, even most gnomes (who receive large bonuses with crossbows) choose to just use a standard bow rather then the mechanical alternative. These negatives can be over-come, but be sure you enjoy using them before investing large amounts of silver in a customized one.
Which arrows/bolts (for the rest of this section, I will simply use the term "arrows" to refer to both) you choose will largely depend what you're fighting, especially once you learn fletching or get the silver to purchase arrows with various tips. One important change for any reading this that might be returning after a long absence is that all bundles of arrows are now infinite and will never run out of arrows. This makes arrow management much easier and eliminates the need to gather arrows from the ground.
The default tips on arrows are broadhead tips, which predominantly do puncture damage but also have a chance to do slashing damage (similar to daggers). These will be fine for starting out, but once you're high enough level to start aiming for the head (and later, eyes) you'll want to start looking at moving on to more specialized arrows.
Customized arrows can be made with the fletching artisan skill. Most importantly this allows for different tips to be used to create your arrows, which can increase their AvD, change what type of critical they have, or increase their DF. While I would encourage anyone serious about sniping to learn fletching, these arrows can also be bought from others or from player run shops.
Crush tipped arrows will be best for when aiming at the head or neck or when up against creatures that are immune to crits (most golems, noncorp undead, etc). Bodkin tipped arrows deal puncture damage and will be the best for when aiming for the eyes. Crescent tipped arrows will to slash damage and most likely be of much use unless you find something that isn't susceptible to either of the other two damage types but will take slash crits (I haven't found one yet, but you never know).
Master fletchers can also add 100 charges of +5 AvD to their arrows once per hour, which comes in handy when going up against critters wearing heavier armor.
There are snipers in Elanthia wearing everything from robes to hauberk, what you choose to wear will depend on how much of a risk taker you are and how many TPs you're willing to devote to Armor Use. A sniper that also fully trains in picking skills won't have the TPs to devote to heavier armor until later then one that eschews picking altogether.
As a sniper, the shadows will be your primary defense so it's important to consider how your armor will impact that. Recent player research indicates that which armor you choose has little, if any, impact on staying hidden when something's searching for you so long as you're fully trained for the armor you're wearing. That said, when firing there is a chance of falling from the shadows, which may be impacted by the Action Penalty of heavier armors. Heavier armors also receive less of a bonus from Armored Stealth.
Having said all that, until one reaches cap (when conditions specific to certain capped hunting grounds come into play) there should be little reason for a sniper to invest in armor heavier then brigandine so long as their tactics are sound (see below) and they refrain from taking unnecessary risks while hunting.
There is other gear available that, while not strictly necessary, can improve the quality of life for a sniper:
- Warrior-made sheaths/quivers to store your ammo in will reduce their weight and prevent you from becoming encumbered too quickly (smaller races take note)
- Pure potions are a good item to carry if you hunt undead and are not in Voln, juggling arrows that run out of blessings mid-hunt is annoying
- White crystals or scrolls with Strength (509) will reduce your RT if your STR bonus isn't minimizing your RT already and will also keep encumbrance down
- Disks will give you a place to store heavy boxes you find as well as let other players know you're in a room so they don't accidentally poach your targets
So you're tained up and geared up and now it's time to go hunting. As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, the tactics for this built are at least as important as your training and stats, if not more-so.
Early on, you won't be so good at hiding or aiming your shots, so you'll have to rely on stance dancing with unaimed shots much like a user of melee weapons. By around level 20, your skills should be high enough that you can hide around less perceptive critters (humanoids such as krolvin or trolls) and stay hidden around them most of the time. Above level 30, there should be little reason you're ever in the open long enough for something to swing at you even when around undead. Those that only 2x in stalking and hiding will take a bit longer to reach these marks, so you may want to 3x early even if you intend on scaling back to 2x later on.
By level 25 your Ambush skill should be high enough that you can start AIMing at easier to hit body parts such as the head or neck, but you should be able to switch to aiming almost exclusively at the eyes by level 30.
Once your S&H and Ambush skills are up to par, you will be taking advantage of the ability to guarantee a death crit with an arrow to the eye if your endroll is high enough. You will also be using the shadows to push down your target's stance (thus, their DS) and ensure that what you're hunting cannot swing/cast at you in the first place, let alone land a blow.
Selecting your targets
You're going to have to put some thought into what you hunt. Remember, your goal is to kill your prey with puncture crits to the eye. Not every creature is a good target for this build, some you'll just have to pass up completely while others will need special consideration. Any critter with the following traits is either a poor target or nearly impossible to kill:
- Immune to crits- Non-corporeal undead, elementals and golems are the most common critters that possess this trait and they often have much more HPs then other critters at their level, meaning they will require many shots to actually kill. It's generally best not to waste your time on these.
- Undead- While being undead doesn't necessarily rule out a critter on it's own, it does necessitate using blessed arrows which can be a royal pain to deal with. If you're not a member of Voln, it's a good idea to carry around a couple pure potions to rebless your arrows/bolts when the bundle starts running out of charges. Undead also tend to be the most perceptive critters, making it difficult to hide or stay hidden around most of them without 3x in Stalking and Hiding.
- Heavy armor- It's not impossible to successfully hunt critters in plate armor, but it is more difficult to inflict death crits on them. Scout out the area and make sure the area they're in doesn't have other critters or features that will make hunting them more dangerous since you'll likely have to take multiple shots to kill them.
- No eyes- While not common, there are a few critters in the lands that lack eyes. Generally they're more of a hassle then they're worth unless there's some other compelling reason to go after them then EXP/loot
Just as there are critters you'll want to avoid, there are some things that will make critters more desirable targets:
- Trolls- Their regenerative abilities actually make them pretty good targets for snipers. If you remove both their eyes without actually killing them (as will occasionally happen), you can simply wait for the eyes to regenerate before shooting them again for your death-crit. This is generally more of a benefit at higher levels when trolls can regenerate their injuries while stunned (Tomb trolls, for example))
- Lightly armored- Light or no armor means you need a lower endroll to kill them, not much more to be said.
- Magical- Critters that use lots of magic also tend to wear the least amount of armor and are generally squishier. Just beware if what you're hunting casts area effect spells they won't be able to cast them so long as you stick to the shadows, but if another player enters the room they may cast at them, causing you to be hit as well.
- Raisers- There are a few critters out there that will raise their fallen comrades, usually sanctifying the room in the process. While this doesn't necessarily make them a better target, they should be taken out before others as they generally change rooms often and can be a nuisance. Hisskra shaman and Minotaur magi are two examples of this type of critter.
Once you determine what you want to hunt, you need to know HOW to hunt them. Your stats, skills, and gear are important, but if you're just running around firing your arrows/bolts willy-nilly you aren't going to last long:
- Stick to the shadows, stick to the shadows, stick to the shadows. This cannot be emphasized enough, if you're not in the shadows you're vulnerable. If you're not searching a critter or collecting loot, your butt needs to be in the shadows. This includes when moving between rooms (auto-sneak is your friend, turn it on).
- Aim for the eyes. There are only two reasons you should not aim for the eyes: you don't have the ranks in ambush/perception to aim for them without getting the "failed to find an opening" message or you already inflicted rank 3 crits on both the eyes. If either of these are the case, aim for the head or neck instead. Using the AIM verb to automatically aim for the right or left eye when you FIRE is a good idea and you can use AIM while in RT to switch targets while in RT if needed.
- Time your shots. Because there's always the chance of falling out of the shadows when you fire your weapon you'll need to time your shots to give yourself time to get back into the shadows before they can perform an action against you. Wait for your prey to perform an action then immediately fire at them, this will give you time to either hide or use CMAN VANISH to get back to safety. If you do not have VANISH, try to avoid critters that move faster then your roundtime if possible.
- Isolate them. Ideally you'll want to get critters one on one since the more critters that are in the room, the harder it is to time your shots. If a stubborn critter isn't dying and other critters are wandering in, you may need to divert them, target the new critter while the first is stunned, or move to a room less likely to be subject to swarmy conditions.
- Create or obtain some short scripts or macros. Especially when you're using a bow, there are multiple steps to be taken to fire it (pulling out an arrow, going into stance offensive, then actually firing the bow) and short scripts or macros aren't difficult to create to do it faster, with a lot less typing, and make it easier to time your shots. Most front ends support both scripts and macros and have pretty easy to follow instructions for creating them (if you're truly stuck on how to make one, ask around in OOC whispers or on the forums for assistance). In addition to having one to fire your weapon, it's also handy to have one to search your kills and gather your arrows for you. This can easily make sniping go from being a chore to being fun.
- Create highlights. Most front ends will automatically highlight specific messages if you tell them to. In this case, you'll mostly want to highlight the message you get when you fall out of the shadows so you're more likely to see it when it happens. Make sure to set it to a color that stands out so the color it's self will tell you what's happened. Some front ends will even allow you to set them to play a sound when they produce certain messages, which you may want to consider as well.
- Retreat is always an option. Sometimes the room you're in gets too crowded, other times there's something sharing the hunting ground with your prey that isn't well suited to sniping (like golems). Either way, knowing when to move on to another room or even another part of the hunting ground entirely can save you from having to be dragged back to town.
- Always have a disk. When you're constantly sneaking around it can be easy for others to not be aware you're sharing the hunting ground with them, meaning they might accidentally wander in and kill your target before you can. Having a disk with you is a good way of letting others know you're there so they can avoid accidentally poaching your kill, even the most common hunting scripts used these days will check for disks before allowing the user of them to attack.
- Stick to the shadows. Seriously! Why can I see you? Get back into those shadows!
As stated at the beginning of this guide, this build isn't suited for everyone but if you like slower hunting styles and don't mind being selective with what you hunt this can be a fun and powerful path to take. Some will poopoo it because they cannot handle the drawbacks it comes with, but if you do it well you can easily get at least as far as plane 2 of the Rift, if not further, with little problem.