GeneralArchers by Range
Archery is a pretty large umbrella for a form of attacks, so a bit more accurate separation will help with dealing with particular builds and the capabilities we'll be looking for in each category. Archery is easiest divided to range categories:Point Blank Range
[Up to 30']
This is the range for Point Blank Shot, Manyshot and the range limitation for most sorts of Precision Damage. The common Swift Hunter Archer is going to want to visit this range quite often and this is also the range for a normal Rogue to Sneak Attack. This is also the standard move action, so acting at this range is almost as dangerous as fighting in melee.
Extended Point Blank Range [Up to 60']
This is the range for Precision Damage Dealers with range extending feats, such as a Swift Hunter with Ranged Skirmisher. If you can move after attack, this range gives you relative safety and alpha strike capability as an average movement speed of 30' cannot charge beyond 60'. This is generally also the maximum range you'll have to deal with in dungeons.Long Range
[Up to ~300']
This is generally one-two increments away and a range where normal characters can still succeed their spot checks, so a good range to start an encounter at for a non-Precision Damage Archer in wilderness areas. At this range, you can generally pepper the opponent with a few full attacks before they close in to casting/melee range and free damage never hurt anyone. Most Cleric Archers and other non-Fighter Archers tend to operate at this range.Extreme Range
To effectively act at such a range, you tend to need uncanny means of detecting opponents, be it ridiculously high spot check or some divination magic/spotter, and very high attack bonuses or long range increments to act effectively. A Fighter Archer with Ranged Weapon Mastery, Dragonbone Bow, Far Shot/Distance-weapon and levels in Cragtop Archer can probably still act effectively given the means to detect opponents, but usually it already starts to take effort and specialization to function at such a range. High attack bonuses help too, of course.
As for a breakdown for the class specifics:
The Swift Hunter-section will obviously be for the short ranges.
Sneak Attacking Archers mostly deal with Extended Point Blank Range.
A majority of the guide will deal with Long Range (all non-Precision characters).
At least the martial section will be touching upon Archers geared for Extreme Ranges (due to terrain and spot difficulties, such ranges are usually impractical so it's not the primary focus).
The Archer as a Combatant
The largest challenge an archer tends to face is damage. Since archers generally key their damage off a different attribute than their To Hit, they can't solely focus on one or the other, and since Power Attack hasn't been printed within 3.5 rules for ranged weapons (see Hank's Energy Bow though, as well as the Deadly Aim feat and the Peerless Archer prestige class), archers tend to have a lot of difficulty dealing damage comparable to effective melee combatants.
Since archery generally doesn't lend itself very well to controlling the battlefield, most archers should focus on dealing enough damage to warrant their position in the party. Of course, depending on the class, the archer will fill secondary functions like the Divine Caster, the Skill Monkey, the Arcane Caster or such, but if you want to do archery, you should do it well enough to actually make shooting arrows worth your time. This means that dealing damage is an important hurdle to overcome. The specific means for pumping up damage will be covered separately in each section, and this is indeed the main point that requires optimization when it comes to archery.
The biggest advantage archers have, of course, is functioning at a range. Archers can easily guarantee full attacks simply because it doesn't really matter where the opponent is as long as you have line of effect; and few creatures are able to retaliate from 1000' away so there's something to be said about nuking someone in the horizon. Archers have lots of options that only work at short ranges which of course sucks far as utilizing their biggest advantage goes; as such, anything that requires being within 30' of opponent should be considered twice, and likewise ways to extend your operational range if you have such limitations should be a high priority so that you're more than just a sub-par pseudo-melee damage dealer.
Archery has a few more ways to generate extra attacks than melee making effects that can be applied on each hit comparatively more worthwhile to an archer than to a melee type. This is important especially with feats, spells & class features granting flat damage bonuses and with magic weapons. Archers benefit of those comparatively more than most other types of warriors. The magic weapon benefits are further expanded by the option of placing separate, situational enhancements on arrows/bolts at a low price and being able to whip them out when you actually face opponents vulnerable to those Bane-arrows you bought or whatever; most efficient way of using opposition-specific weapon enhancements in the game, really.Feats
Regardless of what kind of archery you're going for, it will be feat intensive. It's almost as bad as Two-Weapon Fighting in that regard, and that's saying a lot. This especially hurts otherwise solid archery-classes like Cleric that would want to pick up other feats too, but are generally spending 3+ feats on archery just to get the basic archery ability. Beyond the base 3 feats, archers can pick up a lot of useful abilities through extra feats, and thus archery lends itself pretty well to feat heavy classes – a 2-level Fighter dip is often solid for non-spellcasting builds. In this chapter, I'll break the feats down by Archery Archetype since I cannot really do that in the other sections; Archery Archetypes kind of supersede the exact build.General Archery Feats
Point Blank Shot [SRD] – No prerequisites
The feat sucks, but it's a prerequisite for practically everything archery.
Precise Shot [SRD] – Requires Point Blank Shot
Without this, you'll be peppering your allies in melee or alternatively cannot use archery as your main tactic after the combat is joined. This is also a requirement to utilize the best equipment-based buff for archery, Splitting [CoR Pg. 42], so if you've got access to Splitting, this is an absolute must.
Sharp-Shooting [CWar, Pg. 105] – Requires Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +3
This feat has very few uses; mostly it's just one of those "My Fighter had too many feats and doesn't qualify for Improved Precise Shot yet so he picked this to be retrained later"-feats, and quite frankly, optimized Fighters don't have too many feats. So what it does – it halves the AC-bonus standard cover gives opponents. That's it. It doesn't help against opponents behind a tree, with concealment and it doesn't even remove the Cover-bonus.You're still better off looking for clear shots than shooting through cover, so effectively you spent a feat to make an unfavorable situation slightly less unfavorable, but still one you don't want to be in. Congratulations. Oh yeah, and this doesn't help the standard problem of not dealing sufficient damage at all.
Improved Precise Shot [SRD] – Requires Dex 19, Precise Shot, Point Blank Shot, BAB +12
Hitting into Grapple is handy, although by the time you get this, you'll mostly have Freedom of Movement available anyways along with swift action teleportation, so this ability won't be as helpful as it could possibly be earlier. Much more important though is the ability to ignore all but total concealment and cover. This opens up some interesting uses with some spells (basically anything that grants lesser degrees of concealment) and items such as Eversmoking Bottle, causing one-sided miss chance. It's also fun to be able to shoot through that keyhole with 100% accuracy. Overall, a handy feat if not "OMG MUST HAVE"-material. Steep requirements though; not available to Zen Archers and +12 BAB means it comes very late for everyone. It's the Be All-End All feat for hitting though, ignoring just about any obstacles but solid walls and complete darkness.
Woodland Archer [RotW Pg. 154] – Requires Point Blank Shot, +6 BAB
The tactical feat is handy for snipers, but the true power is the first ability for the volley archers.
- Adjust for Range: Volley archers love this one; the more attacks, the better. The volley types with maximized number of attacks can often be hitting ACs over 100 easily towards the last ~10 shots or so, so it's solid 400-500 damage to opponents at AC 100.
- Pierce the Foliage: The second option allows ignoring all concealment including total concealment giving you a strong tool against invisibility and similar abilities, while also making up for Improved Precise Shot for those builds that can't afford picking up Improved Precise Shot, and for those looking to pick it up later
- Moving Sniper: Finally, the third option is great for snipers; being able to move while sniping makes it easier to avoid being located, and also to keep the distance you want between shots.
Far Shot [SRD] – Requires Point Blank Shot
This allows you to shoot further than everyone else. Frankly, it isn't worth a feat as such long-range combat isn't all that commonplace and you can gain this ability magically (through the Distance-enhancement on arrows) for when you need to shoot at faraway targets. This isn't worth a feat (except for qualifying purposes), but this does warrant inclusion on a bunch of arrows.Zen Archery
[CW Pg. 106] – Requires Wis 13, BAB +1
If you are making a Wisdom-based character dumping Dex, this is a must. It's the Weapon Finesse of Ranged Weapons. Clerics, Druids and generally Wisdom-based casters are the most likely subjects, although some martial Wisdom-based classes might also end up in a situation where this is optimalDeadly Aim
[PF SRD] – Requires Dex 13, BAB +1
This is basically Ranged Power Attack; PF Power Attack, but still Power Attack. Of course, the catch is it's from Pathfinder, not actual 3.X. Still, anyone building an Archer would do well to at least ask if this were available; PF material is backwards compatible and this gives archers something they sorely need. There's a ton of ways to buff ranged To Hit but 3.X offers literally no efficient ways of converting all the extra To Hit to damage, and no efficient means of buffing damage only in general. If you can, take this.
Clustered Shots [PF SRD] – Requires Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, base attack bonus +6.
Another Pathfinder feat, this one allows you to use a full-attack action to total all the damage you inflict on a target before damage reduction is applied. Handy if you don't happen to have a Force arrow handy
Ranged Disarm [CW Pg. 103] – Requires Dex 15, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +5
This allows you to make Disarm-attempts with ranged weapons at the range of 30'. Unfortunately, the limit of point blank range makes it much worse than just using a two-handed weapon such as Spiked Chain, giving you bonuses to the Disarm-attempt. Further, Disarming is a rather weak strategy in the first place due to the existence of items such as Locked Gauntlets making it just useless, and the fact that many monsters fight with natural weapons, which aren't very disarmable. Extra options are nice, but
Disarming isn't usually worth the trouble. Still, seeing that we're talking about an opposed attack roll here, I could see some implications in some campaigns. Generally you just won't have the feats to burn though. Note that this feat gains no benefit of the Improved Disarm-feat.
Ranged Sunder [CW Pg. 104] – Requires Str 13, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +5
This allows you to make Sunder-attempts with ranged weapons at the range of 30'. Again, it's annoying to only be able to use it at point blank range, and further annoying that Piercing Ranged Weapons only deal ½ damage even with this feat. Serpenttongue Arrows could help there though. I could definitely see implications for this feat, but often you don't want to Sunder opponent's weapons simply because they're loot. Still, it also works against objects, and it can be handy in arena settings so I wouldn't consider it entirely useless. Generally you can't afford the feat for this though. Note that this feat isn't helped by Improved Sunder-feat.
Ranged Pin [CW Pg. 103] – Requires Dex 15, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, BAB +5
This is my favorite of the three; this allows you to make ranged Grapple-checks. You need to beat opponent's AC, and then you get to make Grapple-checks provided that opponent is close to a surface (such as the floor when flying overhead). If you do manage to win the Grapple-check, they are considered Grappled until they succeed DC 15 Strength- or Escape Artist-check as a Standard Action. Therefore, they'll at least waste a turn, and it requires no actions whatsoever from you.
This is quite handy for archers focusing on Strength for damage (as while you don't get Improved Grapple-benefits, Strength-modifier and Size-modifier apply as normal), giving you extra tools against certain archetypes (such as an easy way to keep casters in AMF; Arcane Archer shooting an AMF with Imbue Arrow, using the arrow to Grapple the target would pretty much one-hit KO a caster at any range). This really works the better, the bigger you are as the bonuses are hard to come by. Overall though, there are many implications for this – very handy to keep Melee away.
Sense Weakness [Drac Pg. 106] – Requires Int 13, Combat Expertise, Weapon Focus (any)
When attacking with the weapon you have Weapon Focus in, you can ignore up to 5 points of Damage Reduction. While this annoyingly requires Combat Expertise that is rather wasted for you, this is one of the few mundane means of fighting Damage Reduction with a bow. And Damage Reduction is a huge hurdle for an archer whose damage tends to be based on a large number of attacks. In an environment without Force, or other magical ways to ignore DR, I'd definitely strongly consider this if I had the feats to burn (and was going for Ranged Weapon Mastery anyways; that basically gets you Weapon Focus for free).
Dead Eye [DC Pg. 95, DR304 Pg. 84] – Requires Dex 17, Point Blank Shot, Weapon Focus, BAB +14 (DR304 is Dex 13, BAB +1)
This adds Dexterity to your damage within 30' as precision damage. Dragon Magazine #304 only had Dex 13 and BAB +1 requirement, which obviously made the feat much better. As it stands, it's quite situational; while your Dex is probably massive and thus the damage bonus is massive, the limitation in the range and the fact that many enemies are probably immune and there are no easy ways to bypass these immunities, unlike with Sneak Attack or Skirmish, makes it far less amazing than it would be otherwise. It's worth considering but if you can get the damage from more reliable sources, do so.
Shot on the Run [SRD] – Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot, Dodge, Mobility, BAB +4
The effect is handy... but then you look at the prerequisites! Two useless feats. And what it gets you? You get to move before and after an attack. That means it doesn't work with Order of the Bow Initiate's Precise Shot, Manyshot, Penetrating Shot or really anything else for that matter. Basically, the base idea is good, but the feat has worthless prerequisites and is mistemplated for use with the abilities that could utilize it. Stay away, unless you can talk your DM into allowing Standard Action-effects including Ranged Attack instead of just a Ranged Attack between the movements; Manyshot would be useful with this, but one shot? Not so much.
Flyby Attack [SRD] – Requires Fly speed
This is the feat Shot on the Run, Spring Attack, and company always wanted to be! This is the be-all end-all movement feat, but it requires Fly speed so it isn't available for all PCs. In fact, mostly it's available for Dragonborn, Raptorans and characters picking feats to get Wings (along with possibly casters with magical flight). Though if you can get it with item-based qualifications, give it a good hard look. It enables you to move, Manyshot and retreat in the same round. It also works with Penetrating Shot, spellcasting and so on; basically the perfect tool for getting in range for Precision-attack and getting outside opponent's effective range for your own turn. Skirmisher's feat, though archery is notoriously reliant on its full attacks, and its primary advantage over other combat styles is getting them consistently and reliably.Volley Archery Feats
Rapid Shot [SRD] – Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot
The Dex requirement can be problematic for Wisdom-based archers, but that extra attack goes a long way towards making archery worth your time. I'd snag this if at all possible and consider pumping my Dex just to get it. The extra attack is probably going to do more damage on average than an extra point of Strength.
Improved Rapid Shot [CW Pg. 101] – Requires Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, Manyshot
Unfortunately Manyshot isn't a very good feat for volley archers (it is occasionally useful though; extra options are always good) and likewise, Manyshotters don't want Improved Rapid Shot. That fact bringing this feat down in value by having a semi-wasted prerequisite either way. Rangers do get Manyshot as a bonus though and Fighters get enough feats to pick it up, and two extra points for hitting is nothing to scoff at, especially on higher levels with a number of iteratives. Not a must have, but handy.
[CC Pg. 60] – Requires Knowledge (any): 5 ranks
One of the best feats for boosting the damage output in archery. If you have the feats to burn for Education [ECS Pg. 52, PGtF Pg. 38] along with some skillpoints and Int-modifier, you can cover all Knowledges used for identifying creatures (Arcana, Dungeoneering, Local, Nature, Religion, The Planes) adequately and be the party Knowledge Bank while at it. Even just one rank in all Knowledges gets you at least +1/+1 for all combats with the potential for +2/+2 on decent rolls. Oh yeah, the free Knowledge as a class skill regardless of your multiclassing doesn't hurt either. Pairs well with the Collector of Stories skill trick for a +5 to identifying creatures!
[RoTW Pg. 152] – Requires Dex 13, Point Blank Shot
Get extra 1d6 damage on targets 30' below you. At first glance, this feat appears awesome. Once you start thinking about it though, it appears increasingly bad. First of all, this practically means you'll need to be in the air. 30' is either a cliff overseeing the opponent's position or simply flight and of those, flight should be a more common option. Therefore, it gives you an advantage when you can fly and your opponent can't. Seems good, except if that's the case, your opponent isn't exactly the most dire of threats in the first place, except when talking about another archer. So it's decent in archery duels where you invested in flight and opponent didn't and that's pretty much it. Second, the feat is simply unusable in lots of locales. Good luck getting 30' up in a dungeon. Same goes to pretty much any building. So the feat has a powerful effect, but unfortunately it's way too situational to truly be worth a feat slot in most cases.Hiding and Sniping FeatsDarkstalker
[LoM Pg. 179] – No prerequisites
If you're planning on sniping, Hide is your primary tool. Normally this is a poor idea since a vast number of creatures completely ignore Hide with their alternate senses. Darkstalker though means that any creature needs to make Spot-checks vs. you. This is an immense advantage and if you do plan on sniping a lot, this feat is an absolute must. In fact, if you plan on Hiding a lot, this is an absolute must. The only problem is that the source is somewhat obscure.
Able Sniper [RotW Pg. 148] – Requires Dex 13, Hide: 5 ranks
You get bonuses to hitting flat-footed opponents, and more importantly +4 to Hide-checks made to hide afterward. If you're going Sniping, this is probably the feat to start with; hitting with Snipes and staying hidden go a long way to keeping you alive. There's one unfortunate drawback here, and it's the fact that you only get bonuses to hit against opponents that are at least 30' away. That makes triggering Sneak Attack difficult as you need the opponent at exactly 30' for that, or alternatively you need some way to extend Sneak Attack-range (such as Crossbow Sniper [PHBII Pg. 77] – as the name suggests though, that's only for crossbow snipers).
Concealed Ambush [DR339 Pg. 87] – Requires Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Hide: 10 ranks, Move Silently: 10 ranks
Lots of prerequisites, but you'll have those all as a sniper anyways. This one is quite good. When sniping, you only take -10 on the Hide-check to Hide again. That's effectively +10 to your Hide-checks for this purpose. It's a very limited feat, but if I was making a Sniper, I'd make sure to try hard to fit this if Dragon is allowed.
Bowslinger [Und Pg. 24] – Requires BAB +1
This gives you +2 on attacks against Flat-Footed opponents. Again handy for making sure you hit, but I don't find this worth a feat; something to pick up with an Action Point when you feel you need the extra accuracy, perhaps. If it helped in Hiding, it could be worth actually picking, but as it stands...
Penetrating Shot [PHBII Pg. 81] – Requires Str 15, Point Blank Shot, BAB +10
Gives you the ability to shoot through opponents in a 60' line as a Standard Action. This could be somewhat useful as since it's a Standard Action, you've got the Move left to Hide with. So this is a bonus to a Sniper, but lined up opponents are relatively rare. Still, it may just be worth it, especially with Woodland Archer to shift position to get the lines right.Weapon Enhancement Improving FeatsMercantile Background
[FRCS Pg. 36, PGtF Pg. 41] – 1st Level Only, Location Requirements
This feat is a doozy. You get 75% for items you sell and once per month, can purchase something for 75% listed price. Also, you start with extra money – level 1 Composite Longbow with Str Bonus FTW! So yea, this helps you afford a damn good bow. And your party will love you. You can easily be multiple enhancements beyond the normal with this.
This can of course be combined with crafting or other sources of items such as crafting to essentially go infinite as a merchant. Capitalism FTW! Ancestral Relic
[BoED Pg. 39] – Any Good alignment, Character Level 3rd
Basically, this feat allows you to spend items for their full price when enhancing your ancestral relic. In this case, you'll of course want an ancestral weapon. This is a strong alternative to Mercantile Background, but while the feat is not Exalted, it does require Good alignment which is something to keep in mind. There's also a limit on how much you can spend on the feat. Mercantile Background is stronger overall but if you want specifically a stronger weapon, this does have the higher ratio.Item Familiar
[UA Pg. 170] – Character Level 3rd
Make your Bow your Item Familiar. You'll be able gain a number of free +1-abilities, some Intelligent Item-bonuses or something similar. Further, you'll gain the ability to invest skill points and experience to it for increased returns (although it'll suck royally if it is destroyed – have your contingencies for Disjunction later on). Oh, and you can enhance your bow without actually having Item Creation feats. And you get a free Alertness when wielding the item (That is, all the time! And Spot just happens to be quite the important skill for you!). Probably my favorite of the three, although it really combines well with either.
I especially like the Mercantile Background+Item Familiar-combo, and pull strings for the enchanting, providing the XP myself. That gives me the item for 37.5% of the original price with each item sale providing 25%-units more money. And it's available to any alignment (although Mercantile Background is Faerûn-specific – very easy to convert to any world though (basically, any member of a merchant family would do) – and Item Familiar is from a source you can never assume anything from).Equipment
Magic Weapon Special AbilitiesSplitting
(+3 price) [CoR Pg. 42]
Ok, so this is the best ability in the books. By far. It requires Precise Shot (just one extra reason to get it) and is a +3 ability, but by gods does it kick ass. Every attack you do hits. Twice. In effect, this doubles your damage output; normal +3 would be about ~+10 damage, this can be around +30 damage easily. Also, getting two attack rolls is incredibly useful for having higher hit percentage and goes perfectly with Woodland Archer [RoTW Pg. 154].
There is a little ambiguity to whether this works with Precision Damage though; it does have two attack rolls which would suggest that it does, but effectively they act as a volley attack, hitting the same place and therefore wouldn't get Precision Damage added. You should check with your DM before getting this for your Precision Damage archer; it's probably still worth it if Precision Damage isn't doubled (since it increases the odds of hitting with it by tons), but that would make it much less good. Personally I wouldn't allow twice the Precision Damage for Splitting since the archer doesn't get to aim the pieces separately.
Explosive (+2 HoB, ammo only; +3 CW) [HoB Pg. 130, CW Pg. 134]
This is a useful in theory; it allows you to deal area of effect damage with your arrows. It can only be placed on Arrows, though. The downside is that this is very expensive on a ranged weapon and allows a DC 14 non-scaling Reflex-save to halve the damage. This does have a role, but not in normal adventure. The biggest use of this is against armies and craptons of mooks; as such this is better on arrows than a bow, although getting an Explosive Bow for an army fight could be a solid option. The damage is sad for +2 (1d6 = average of 3.5 damage, the average for +1 abilities and this one allows a save) though so this has a very specific application and is going to suck outside that.CW version is a +3 price enhancement dealing 2d4 damage with one point higher Save DC, making it even worse. It can be placed on Bows though
Knockback (+3 price) [CW Pg. 135]
This follows the pattern of CW-abilities; it's handy, but kinda expensive for what it does. This can be very useful against medium opponents, but earlier on it's too expensive and later on the guys who want to get close, the Fighters, tend to have enough Strength to win the check even at Medium. Still, getting 5 Bull rushes a turn means you'll win at least some so it isn't totally wasted. Of course it's better in areas where Bull rush naturally works, such as cliffs, areas with lethal terrain, trees, bridges and so on. It isn't going to be a sufficient deterrent to prevent melee warriors from getting to you alone though, so it's definitely something to only get in some Arrows. Still, there are many situations where you can do ugly stuff with this. +3 is a bit expensive though; this would be more interesting at +2.Phasing
(+2 price, ammo only) [DR330 Pg. 67]
Phasing ammunition passes through single solid obstacle at most 5' thick (how it interacts with magical barriers like Wall of Force and Prismatic Wall is not mentioned; ask your DM). I seriously don't need to tell you how useful it is to be able to shoot through walls, right? It also passes through shield if there's no cover, or armor if there's no cover or shield, but that's not really of interest here. You obviously buy stacks of these and use them when you need to shoot at someone past a wall. Of course, it's annoying that it's only ammunition but seriously, even if you shoot 50 arrows a turn, getting a bunch of these is worth it for when you're faced with any target behind an obstacle.Force
(+2 price) [MIC Pg. 35]
Archers usually have relatively low damage per arrow. That means Damage Reduction is a real bitch (save for very specific Sniper-builds). Enter Force. This +2 ability allows you to completely ignore Damage Reduction against everything except the Über Epic monster Force Dragon (CR Larger Than You'll Ever Face). Not only that, but it gives you perfect accuracy against Incorporeals and Ethereals. Oh, and since your arrow becomes Force Attack, Windwall – the perennial bane of Archers everywhere – doesn't work against it either. In other words, for a simple +2 ability, you get to ignore three of the biggest thorns Archers face. Thank you sir, may I have another? Even archers with natural abilities to overcome DR will want to consider this. The only reason not to get Force bow is if you already happen to have Energy Bow (or play in a campaign without MIC).Holy
(+2 price) [SRD]
Let's face it, most campaigns have evil guys as the prominent enemies. Holy is a +2 ability that works on all of them. And it gives you equivalent to two dice of elemental damage vs. each and every one. Oh, and it makes your weapon good for passing Damage Reduction (and archer can just have arrows/bolts of different materials around to switch as needed essentially allowing you bypass all Good and X-DRs; much easier than trying to have the right melee weapon). Not much to say, if you can afford it, it's one of the best abilities to get.Unholy
(+2 price) [SRD]
If the party is evil fighting good guys.
Exit Wounds (+2 price) [CW Pg. 134]
This is a useful ability. 1d6 damage for +2 isn't horrible, but the real use of this ability is to mimic the feat "Penetrating Shot" [PHBII Pg. 73] without actually taking it. Basically, when opponents line up properly, you could use one of these. Or 5. Two hits is always better than one and if you're a good shooter, you may just make it more than 2. I'd say it's worth keeping some arrows with this around if you can afford them and use them when the chance occurs.
(Greater) Dispelling (+1/+2 price) [MIC Pg. 33]
Very handy to have in arrows/bolts. If you fight against buffed up opponents or need to end some magic effects or overall need to dispel anything, these are the arrows for the job. The normal ability has a Per Day-restriction, but luckily that doesn't matter on arrows. Great to have in your bag of tools, and quite cheap to boot. Switch to Greater Dispelling when you feel the normal doesn't quite cover it anymore.Magebane
(+1 price) [CA Pg. 143, MIC Pg. 38]
One of the few Bane-properties worth having (on a bunch of arrows), this works against all things casting arcane spells or have Arcane Spell-Like abilities. In other words, it kicks ass. You could actually put this on your Bow if you face enough casters; +2 to hit/+2d6 damage for +1 ability is immense. Even if you don't, get those damn arrows. One-two stacks to use against Dragons, Liches, Beholders, Wizards and other problematic individuals. Very, very useful and quite possibly the most broad Bane-ability in existence.The MIC version unfortunately doesn't work on creatures with Spell-Like Abilities. The CA-version is much stronger. Still, even the MIC version is worth getting, just not in a weapon, but as arrows. It's still a very broad Bane-ability that works on, among others, Dragons and Liches, two very potent opponent types. Even the MIC version warrants Blue. CA version is more like Royal Blue.
Bane (+1 price) [SRD]
It may be worth it to keep a few Bane-arrows for more prominent types around. Unlike with normal weapons, due to the fact that a stack of 10 +2 arrows costs basically nothing (~1700gp) compared to midgame wealth, you can afford to keep a few Bane-weapons of appropriate types around. Aberrations are a good bet, as are Undead. Those types cover a wide variety of creatures and should come up often enough. Evil Outsiders, Magical Beasts and Fey are other solid options. Unfortunately Humanoids tend to be too specific, so unless your campaign is overwhelmingly based on one Humanoid-type, I'd steer clear of the Humanoid ones (and if there's such an overwhelming number of type X in campaign, maybe your bow should be Bane X instead of arrows).
Corrosive (+1 price) [MIC Pg. 31]
If you want elemental damage, Acid is probably least commonly resisted after Sonic (Screaming only deals 1d4, so I'd go with Corrosive).
(+1 price) [SRD]
This is a great ability negating all forms of concealment and few specific magical protections. No feat can replicate the reliability of Seeking and indeed, you even negate miss chance for attacking an invisible opponent as long as you get the square right. Absolute godsent at +1 cost.
Precise (+1 price) [MIC Pg. 40]
This replicates the Precise Shot-feat. Basically, if you believe your magical weapon won't get dispelled or sundered, you can use this to save a feat. Note though that it does not actually grant you the Precise Shot-feat so strict reading means it won't work with Splitting.
Distance (+1 price) [SRD]
This replicates the Far Shot-feat. Definitely something to keep in store (goes especially well with the Swiftwing Arrows [RoTW Pg. 164]); while long range combat isn't all that commonplace, as an archer you better be equipped to fight at that range should the situation require it. The primary selling point of archery over melee combat is the ability to affect opponents you cannot reach; being limited only to Extended Point Blank Range isn't exactly anything a melee warrior couldn't pull off just as well. These arrows are also cheap, so just keep some in storage.Collision
(+2 price) [SRD]
This adds +5 to the damage of a weapon. Essentially, you are trading a +2 to hit for +3 to damage, which is a favorable ratio.Specific Magic Ammunition
Arrow/Bolt of Biting (Price 506 gp. Cost to create 256 gp) [MIC Pg. 46]
+1 ammo that injects a target hit with an Injury Poison with DC 16 Fort-save for 1d6 Con. Pretty meh, since the Fort-save DC is so low. Actual poisons are generally more effective since they can be crafted for a very reasonable price if you have the skill, and there are ones with actually impressive Save DCs. These aren't completely worthless, but there are generally better ways to spend your money and since the save DC is pretty low, these aren't that useful as backups for particularly tough opponents either (since the tougher the opponent, the less likely these are to work).
Fountainhead Arrow/Bolt (Price: 307 gp. Cost to create: 156 gp) [MIC Pg. 52]
A normal ammo that can be shot at a flat surface to create a 10' radius burst Acid-spewing geyser. It acts on your turn and the acid deals 2d8 damage with a DC 14 Reflex for half. It actually isn't horrible since it's guaranteed damage against most creatures and it persists for 3 rounds; it can dig through many materials and the damage can even be useful against creatures if they for a reason or another can't move out of its area easily. And of course, if you happen to find a creature with flat surface to one direction or another, slamming a full flurry of these in its face would be exceedingly efficient; effective 3d8 extra damage (assuming saves succeed) plus the normal attack damage adds up real quick.Hellpiercer
(Price: 4007 gp. Cost to create: 2007 gp) [BoED Pg. 115]
This is a +3 shocking burst ammo that acts as Silver for overcoming DR and delivers a dose of Purified Couatl Venom ravage (DC 16 Injury Ravage for 2d4 and 4d4 Str damage). Price-wise, the arrows are actually cheaper than the ravage but the ravage is so low DC that it's probably not worth it. It works on evil creatures normally immune to poisons, but since the save DC is low, it's unlikely to. Ravages are probably not anyone's favorite thing from 3.5 in any case. Best we just forget about this.
Mundane Weapon Improvements
Serrenwood (+4000gp) [BoED Pg. 38]
Serrenwood is a material. This is a great way of saving money especially if you cannot get a Force-bow. Serrenwood has a set price so it doesn't increase the magical cost of the bow. It's also one of the very few non-Magical ways of affecting incorporeals so even if you get your weapon Dispelled or something, you can still use a Serrenwood bow to drop ghosts (or Wizards with Ghostform; in fights against arcane casters, Serrenwood Bow and overall, all ways of doing magical things in mundane fashion are pure gold).I'd get a bunch of Serrenwood Arrows even if I had a Force-bow for the situations where one needs to hit incorporeal targets without Magic; as an archer you're one of the few possible characters who can pull that off.
Dwarvencraft (+600 gp) [RoS Pg. 159]
This is a weapon that's even more masterfully built than a Masterwork weapon. It doesn't enhance the weapon's capabilities, but gives it 2 extra Hardness, 10 extra HP and +2 to its saves. For 600gp, this makes your bow much harder to Sunder, which happens to be a very good thing as losing your primary weapon sucks (although you should keep extra bows in store just in case).