A Guide to the Trapper Ranger (Pathfinder)
As far back as Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy, skilled archers of the world could attach bombs to arrows and shoot them at things, regardless of how much sense it made. Fast-forward to the past few years, and we’ve seen the basic concept applied to the hunter class in World of Warcraft, which can fire traps (some of which explode) from ranged weapons. Pathfinder joined the fray this year with the trapper ranger archetype (Ultimate Magic).
In addition to adhering to this time-honored tradition of exploding arrows, the trapper is an archetype that gives you a “spell-less” ranger, so if you’re looking to avoid that aspect of the class, consider the trapper. Most of the traps can be extraordinary or supernatural. Supernatural traps only last for one hour per level. Extraordinary traps last one day per level, at the cost of a -2 penalty to their saving throw DCs (10 + 1/2 level + Wisdom modifier).
At 1st level, the trapper adds Disable Device to his list of class skills and also gains the trapfinding rogue ability, allowing them to handle that role in the party just as well as a rogue might (though the trapper will lack some of the nice trap-centered rogue talents). The trapper doesn’t give up any specific class features for this ability, since he’s already given up his spell list, including the ability to use spell trigger items like wands, which is a pretty big hit.
Starting at 5th level, the ranger chooses one trap from the list of ranger traps that he knows how to prepare. He gains another of these traps every two levels after 5th. (All characters can take the Learn Ranger Trap feat to gain some access to these, as well.) The ranger can set a trap a number of times per day equal to half his level plus his Wisdom modifier. Setting a trap requires a full-round action, so you often won’t want to set them during combat. Being a good scout (you’re a ranger, aren’t you?) can help you decide when and where to set traps so that you can have them ready for your enemies. Trap DCs do decrease by 1 for every hour (supernatural) or day (extraordinary) that they’re set, so if you want to get the most out of your traps, be sure to try to use them as soon as possible.
You have to wait until 10th level to do it, but once you get the launch trap ability, you can also prepare some traps ahead of time to use in combat. As a full-round action, you can set a trap to launch with an arrow, crossbow bolt, or throwing weapon. These traps last as long as they normally would, so you can prepare several arrows at the beginning of the day with extraordinary trap effects (and these will last you for days if you don’t use them, though the DCs will keep going down as normal for every day).
If you know you’re going into an area likely to have a lot of enemies, you can prepare some supernatural traps as well. Just be relatively sure that you’ll use them before they expire or their DCs become too low. Traps launched in this way do have DCs that are 5 lower than normal, so Wisdom is a much more important score for trapper rangers than it is for standard rangers, who don’t often have to contend with DCs for their spells.
The best part about launch trap is that you can fire off these traps as part of a standard full attack, action, though, if you’ve prepared the ammunition ahead of time. With a properly prepared stack of arrows, you could actually lock down several targets per round if you manage to hit with all your arrows. It’s not a spellcaster’s level of battlefield control, but it’s certainly impressive!
I won’t be going through the entire list of traps, but I felt the ones that follow were useful enough to bear mentioning, especially with regards to launch trap.
- Freezing Trap: This trap, combined with the launch trap ability, gives you an entangle effect with a range of 110 ft. (if you’re using a composite longbow). You can use this to shut down lots of brute-type enemies that are likely to have lower Reflex saves, as well as spellcasters who may be similarly hindered in that department.
- Poison Trap: When used as a supernatural trap, this one deals 1d2 Constitution damage per round on a failed save, for up to 6 rounds. That can quickly add up on targets with lower Constitution scores, and it does a lot to weaken tougher enemies, as well. You can also combine this trap with actual poison doses as an extraordinary trap. If you have an alchemist in your party, you can probably get some pretty good poisons at reasonable prices with their insane crafting abilities.
- Snare Trap: This one locks a creature in place if it fails its save, which is pretty powerful for the fact that you can get it as early as 5th level, and considering you can shoot it at a huge range at 10th level. Escape Artist or a high Strength is required to break out before the duration expires, so this can really lock down enemy spellcasters if you can catch them on the ground.
Other traps should be chosen according to your preferences and the needs of your group. Since some of them duplicate fairly standard spell effects, if your spellcasting friends have the corresponding spells (such as alarm), you probably don't need them.
If you want to get the best you can out of launch trap, you’ll want to choose the archery combat style, which is what this sample build does. The archery build is quite standard, though the increased focus on Wisdom may not be. I really recommend making Wisdom a greater priority as a trapper, instead of sticking to the standard 14 you need as a spellcasting ranger. I’d still put your ability score increases into Dexterity, but having a higher base Wisdom to start with means any magical items you get that increase it make your DCs just a bit better. I tend to favor snare trap as your first choice, but freezing trap works as well.
Human Ranger (Trapper) 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy): Str 12, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 8
Feats and Traps
1 Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
2 Rapid Shot
3 Deadly Aim
5 Weapon Focus (longbow), freezing trap
At 6th level, pick up Manyshot as you normally would. The Snapshot line of feats also works really well with the trapper, allowing you to use your increased threat range to dish out battlefield control as if you were wielding a polearm. If you do go that route, be sure to pick up Combat Reflexes. If you really want extra traps, you can always pick up Learn Ranger Trap to get another one, but I don’t think that’s necessary in general.
Overall, the trapper probably trades a fair chunk of power, giving up spellcasting, but he still has a decent set of options and should compare favorably to a standard ranger in play. If you’re less interested in preparing spells every day, the trapper’s definitely not a bad option (it’s certainly better than the skirmisher archetype from the Advanced Player’s Guide).