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In some snake cults, there are those who admire serpents for their beauty, some for their wisdom, and some for their abilities as predators. Within this last group are a subset that see a serpent's abilities as weapons to be used and exploited rather than worshiped or emulated. These are the serpent archers, combining the deadly powers of snakes with their own natural aptitude with bows. The serpent archers respect their scaly brethren and practice a strange way of melding their skills with the abilities of the ophidians.
Druids and rangers are the most naturally suited to be serpent archers, although barbarians, fighters, and paladins can easily the necessary skills to handle snakes (and there is rumored to be an order of paladin/serpent archers that venerate couatl as agents of the benign powers). Among the other classes there are not any that are particularly likely or unlikely to become serpent archers, for the lesser martial classes can enjoy the benefits of this class, and even clerics and sorcerers (particularly among some wild elf tribes) have been known to become serpent archers to augment their other abilities (some have been known to use summon monster spells to acquire fiendish or celestial vipers for use with this class' abilities).
Serpent archers can be part of a small clique but are just as likely to be unique individuals within a particular group. When working together, they often share their pets and resources to strengthen the group as a whole. Serpent archers exist on the fringe of snake-loving society, for many ophidiophiles object to how the serpent archers place snakes in danger.
Hit Die: d8.
To qualify to become an serpent archer, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.
Skills: Animal Empathy or Handle Animal 8 ranks.
Feats: Great Fortitude, Weapon Focus (any bow or crossbow).
Special: Venomblood: The character must have been exposed to venom from at least three different kinds of snakes or serpentine creatures (nagas, couatl, and so on). The character need not have survived the exposure, but he must not have been protected from the effects with magic or some other ability (such as delay poison, neutralize poison, or another ability that renders the character immune or incredibly resistant to poison). Each venom must have dealt at least 1 point of ability damage to the character. Only those that have suffered the bite of the snake can truly understand its potency.
The serpent archer's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Animal Empathy (Cha), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spot (Wis), and Wilderness Lore (Wis).
Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.
Table 1: The Serpent Archer
|Class Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1st||+1||+0||+2||+0||Snake charmer, serpent arrow|
|3rd||+3||+1||+3||+1||Craft Snake Salve|
|5th||+5||+1||+4||+1||Rapid serpent arrow|
|7th||+7||+2||+5||+2||Craft Greater Snake Salve|
All of the following are class features of the serpent archer prestige class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Serpent archers gain no proficiency with any weapons, armor, or shields.
Snake Charmer: A serpent archer can use the Handle Animal skill to affect normal snakes (animals) as if they were domesticated animals instead of wild. He may also use the Animal Empathy skill as if it were the Handle Animal skill for this purpose. A typical serpent archer keeps a bag or cage of Tiny snakes that he has tamed (these snakes must be cared for and fed like any other animal).
Serpent Arrow: As a move-equivalent action, a serpent archer may remove a Tiny snake from a container (similar to drawing an arrow or bolt from a quiver) and pull its body straight and stiff, suitable for firing from a bow (longbow, short bow, composite longbow, or composite shortbow) or crossbow (light or heavy). When fired from a bow in this manner, the snake deals normal damage for the bow. If the snake is a poisonous snake, it also injects the target with poison as if she had been bitten by the snake. After being fired in this manner, the snake is stunned for 1 round (normally falling to the ground at the feet of the target). Once the snake recovers, it continues to attack the target if the snake is of a size that would normally attack a creature of the target's size, otherwise it tries to leave the target's threatened area.
A hand crossbow can fire a Diminutive snake. Bows made for Large creatures may fire larger snakes, one size category of snake per size category increase of the weapon. For example, a Large short bow (normally a Medium-size weapon) could fire Small snakes (one step larger than a Tiny snake). Larger than normal hand crossbows scale the snake size upward from Diminutive, so a Small hand crossbow could fire a Tiny snake.
If not fired, a drawn snake relaxes from its stiffened state after one round.
A Tiny viper can be purchased in any settlement near the natural habitat of such creatures for 1 gp.
Snake Poison: Serpent archers are familiar with handling snakes and dealing with snake venom. Beginning at 2nd level, they never risk accidentally poisoning themselves when handling snakes they have tamed.
Craft Snake Salve: Starting at 3rd level, a serpent archer learns how to concoct snake salve. The serpent archer can make this magic item as if he met all of the prerequisites, and his caster level for creating this item is equal to his class level. When under the influence of snake salve (or a magic fang spell), a serpent archer's snake arrow is treated as a weapon with the enhancement bonus the spell provides (so a snake-arrow with a +1 enhancement bonus to its bite from snake salve is treated as a +1 arrow).
Bow Feat: At 4th and 6th level the serpent archer gains a feat from the following list: Far Shot, Improved Critical (any bow), Mounted Archery, Weapon Focus (any bow), Precise Shot, Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, Shot on the Run. The serpent archer must still meet all prerequisites for the feat.
Rapid Serpent Arrow: Beginning at 5th level, a serpent archer can draw and straighten snakes as a free action up to once per round per class level.
Craft Greater Snake Salve: Upon reaching 7th level, the serpent archer can create greater snake salve. This ability is otherwise identical to the Craft Snake Salve ability.