I finally made it to level two!
Forgive my excitement, but even after this one session (which was actually rather short, consisting of a bit of exploration and a single, though substantial, combat encounter), I can see how my character is finally coming into his own.
This largely hinges on my having obtained my next combat feat, precise shot, though leveling up also granted me some other perks that have improved my character. These included bonuses to my base attack bonus, saves (fortitude, will, etc.), HP, and skill points. I’ve mentioned this feat several times in previous entries, but realize I haven’t elaborated on exactly what a feat is. Unlike skills, which simply provide bonuses to DCs on different attempted actions in the game, feats represent specific abilities a character otherwise could not perform. The general character progression gives a player a new feat at every other level (1,3, etc.), but as a ranger I receive bonus combat feats at several points in my character progression. Unlike the standard feats received every other level, however, there are limits to which feats I can take in these instances. More specifically, I must choose one of two possible combat tracks, either archery or two-handed combat (I clearly have taken the first route), each of which permit a subset of related combat feats (some of the more interesting ones on the horizon are rapid shot, which allows me to make two ranged attacks in a single phase of combat, and manyshot, which allows me to fire two arrows simultaneously…very Legolas, no?). Overall, the variety of feats, combat and otherwise, is quite large, but in the specific case of precise shot, it allows me to ignore the -4 attack roll penalty normally incurred for firing into melee (that is, firing on an enemy who is engaged in combat with a friendly).
This has been incredibly helpful, and finally makes me useful for providing long-range support to our party. Before leveling up, I ran into the problem that my companions prefer melee combat, so in most encounters they would be directly engaged with our enemies, meaning the probability of hitting any of them with a ranged attack was significantly reduced. Thus it ended up that I rarely was able to act effectively as an archer at all, instead attempting to engage in melee combat. It’s not that my character is useless in such situations (especially if I managed to get a flanking bonus or similar), but I definitely was not in my element. Now that I don’t face that penalty, I can hang back behind the rest of the group, allowing those who are skilled at melee combat to rush into combat while I provide support from a safe distance.
This is precisely what I did this session when we faced a feisty mutant goblin with three arms and a nasty blood/vomit/bile attack with a twenty foot range (see? I said it was nasty). Despite the risks, the barbarian in our party charged in to face the creature mano-a-mano while I kept my distance. Moving along the edge of the cave in which we were fighting to stay out of the goblin’s range, I fired arrows on him without putting myself at any risk. With my +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls against goblins (my favored class), I single-handedly dispatched him without much difficulty. I must admit it’s satisfying to find myself a valuable asset to the party for a change.