Pathfinder: A Guide to the Divine Hunter Paladin
Paladins are naturally strong archers in Pathfinder, so it may come as a surprise that Paizo created the divine hunter archetype (Ultimate Combat) to make them even better at it. Surprising or not, the divine hunter is a solid choice if you’re considering a paladin archer for your next character. It also plays well with throwing weapons and firearms (if you’re trying to make a holy gun). Beyond all that, the divine hunter makes a wonderful pack leader in a group heavy on ranged attacks, as several of its abilities make your allies better at ranged combat, as well.
At 1st level, the divine hunter gives up his heavy armor proficiency to gain Precise Shot as a bonus feat. For most paladins, this would be an uneven trade, perhaps, as heavy armor is crucial to their survivability, but that’s not so for the divine hunter. Given his higher Dexterity, the divine hunter’s not likely to be wearing heavy armor in the first place, so gaining Precise Shot (which he needs to truly function) is a wonderful trade.
At 3rd level, the divine hunter gains shared precision, which grants allies within 10 feet the Precise Shot feat against any target he hits with a ranged attack. He gives up aura of courage (and the all important fear immunity that comes with it) for this, however, so as a divine hunter, you’re going to want to encourage your party members to make use of ranged attacks more often than they otherwise might, so you don’t feel like you’ve gotten the shaft on this trade.
5th level divine hunters form a bond with their ranged weapon (which works like the normal paladin’s divine bond, for the most part). In addition to the normal weapon abilities allowed for a weapon bond, the divine hunter can add distance, returning, and seeking to his weapon, though he loses access to defending and disruption, which aren’t really that useful for ranged weapons to begin with.
Divine mercy, granted at 6th (and replacing the mercy ability normally gained then), lets the divine hunter spend two uses of lay on hands to heal an ally within 5 feet per level. This ability’s much more useful than it might otherwise appear. Melee paladins tend to spend most of their lay on hands on themselves, since they can do so as a standard action and they’re getting beat on. Divine hunters likely won’t be in such danger so often, and divine mercy allows them to act as healers to the rest of the party while remaining relatively safe from danger.
At 8th level, the divine hunter trades aura of resolve for aura of care, which prevents him and nearby allies from providing cover against each other’s ranged attacks. This is probably a poor trade, overall (and really the only truly poor trade for the divine hunter). Since you’re likely to be far away from your enemies as a divine hunter (and so will any allies using ranged attacks), this ability isn’t likely to provide much benefit over the long run.
At 11th level, the divine hunter gains hunter’s blessing in place of aura of justice. Instead of spreading around his smite evil ability, the divine hunter grants allies within range the Deadly Aim, Precise Shot, and Improved Precise Shot feats for one round. Though aura of justice is probably better overall, this ability has its purpose. As more enemies begin to fly and dedicated melee find themselves twiddling their thumbs, you can use hunter’s blessing to give your friends a basic competency with ranged weapons that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
The divine hunter’s last ability, righteous hunter, is gained at 14th and replaces aura of righteousness. With the ability, the divine hunter’s ranged attacks are treated as good-aligned for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction (and allies gain the same benefit as long as they’re within 10 feet). Smite evil attacks normally bypass damage reduction, but in fights with multiple enemies (most especially demons and devils), this ability can be quite useful and really increase your average damage.
The divine hunter’s fairly simple to choose feats for, like most ranged characters. This particular build is an elf to gain access to some racial feats (most notably, Elven Accuracy) that are focused on archery (and because, in a flavor sense, elves probably have far more divine hunters than they do standard paladins).
Elven Paladin (Divine Hunter) 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy): Str 13, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 9, Wis 11, Cha 14
Feats and Mercies
1 Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot (bonus)
3 Rapid Shot, mercy (fatigue)
5 Deadly Aim
Elven Accuracy is a feat you’ll definitely want to look into, as the ability to reroll concealment misses on ranged attacks is unique to elves in Pathfinder. Stabbing Shot can also be useful for getting enemies away from you in melee without giving up your full attacks, but a five-foot step can often accomplish the same thing (at least until your enemies commonly have reach). Because of hunter’s blessing, you won’t have to take Improved Precise Shot down the line, so the other feats you take are largely open once you’ve got the primary archery feats.
Though it’s one of Paizo’s more straight-forward archetypes, the divine hunter is a solid differently-flavored archetype that doesn’t end up making you weaker at your chosen specialization. If you’re looking to create a ranged paladin, it’s definitely worth it!