Arcane Archer to Solo HotU

I know I’m 15 years late to the party, but I just finished solo adventuring through the Hordes of the Underdark Neverwinter Nights module as an Arcane Archer, and as much as for my sake as anyone else’s, I wanted to catalogue my experience. This post will contain spoilers for the HotU story, as minimal as it is.

I chose a play as an Elf, with levels of 9 Cleric/1 Wizard/X Arcane Archer, with the Zen Archery feat. Essentially, I took the Wizard level as a throwaway level, since the armor I would choose as a Cleric would interfere with the Wizard’s Arcane spellcasting. You can question my build and offer your ideas on an Arcane Archer build, but the 9 Cleric levels gave me essentially all of the Cleric’s buffing spells, namely Battletide (Level 5 spell, which the Cleric will get at character Level 9), which really helped my PC throughout the campaign. I took the Earth and Healing Domains, though in hindsight, I could have dropped Earth for perhaps Trickery, as Earth lost its usefulness in the later stages.

I played under the Hardcore Rules Difficulty with Item Level Restrictions (ItemLevelRestrictions=1), so I couldn’t just make a beeline to Rizolvir to craft an über weapon at the start of Chapter 2. I also tried to avoid using potions and one-off spells as an additional challenge.

I started with (Str/Dex/Con/Int/Wis/Cha) 14/14/10/12/15/12 and ended at Level 28 with 14/14/10/12/24/12, having taken Great Wisdom II. I actually could have levelled up to Level 29 at the end, but wanted to see if I could finish the game at Level 28. At Level 29, I might have taken one more Level of Cleric, just for additional Level 5 spell slots for the final battle.

As soon as I started, I began to wonder if I had chosen poorly, because I had a tough time immediately upon the descent into the Undermountain in the first encounter with a group of Drow. But, I eventually defeated that group with the help of the Dismissal and Invisibility Purge spells and the character began to grow in power. I didn’t really have trouble with any other encounter in Chapters 1 and 2, save for the Isle of the Maker’s Mithral Golems, which I left at level 21 and defeated upon a subsequent visit around Level 23. Though I used Assanti as soon as I obtained it, I had purchased a Longarm bow early and after upgrading it with Rizolvir, I used it especially to defeat enemies with resistance to Piercing damage (e.g. the Maker, and the Undead).

In Chapter 3, I switched to a regular Longbow, with a +9 Attack Bonus, and Mighty +8 (which I bought from Rizolvir’s Ghost, then upgraded). But, I still had great difficulty with the Grimgnaw’s posse and the big boss, Mephistopholes himself.

With the Long Death (Grimgnaw’s) group, I eventually had to use two Potions of Heal and targeted Crimson first, to avoid her Bolts of Dispelling, then Koth Uth-Kalin (the Minotaur), then Blapheron, then Maugrim, then Grimgnaw.

With Mephistopholes, though I had sufficient resistance or immunity to both Fire and Cold damage, I had to use around ten Potions of Heal because his Trident and Ranseur would wreck me. (Does he use both, or just one? I don’t quite know.) Had I been planning better, I would have bought a Greater Archer’s Belt from Argali in Chapter 1 or Rizolvir in Chapter 2, because when I cheated to give myself one, I found that I could stand toe-to-toe with Mephisto easily. Also, I could have used the Invisible Death Armor that I looted from Crimson to cast Improved Invisibility upon myself before teleporting back to Waterdeep for greater survivability.

It was a challenging and enjoyable endeavor, and my record here may help you or me in subsequent Arcane Archer playthroughs, which different things to tweak or try. If you have any questions, I will try to answer them, and if you want to tell me that I’m an idiot for neglecting some item or Feat or game mechanic, you can do that as well.

What is your strategy for handling enemies that are within melee range?

I took a Cleric so that I could wear the Heavy Armor, and also I selected the Mobility Feat. Basically, I tried to pump my Defense as high as possible and then said “Come get me.” Improved Invisibility would have helped with this; Battletide definitely helped.

A couple of times, I also tried to engage melee enemies so that they would block themselves in doorways, namely the first Sodalis fight in Drearing’s Deep with the Fire Elementals.

I only ran away when the first Guardian transformed me. I could have used fewer Potions of Heal if I wanted to run and shoot at Mephistopholes, but I wanted to try to defeat him without that tactic.

After HotU, why not play the Sands of Fate series to get all the way to level 40? I did that with a Rogue 17 / Wizard 1 / AA 22 with Epic Dodge (and Uncanny Dodge to preserve my DEX AC). Sands of Fate is an enjoyable, high-magic follow-up for HotU that I have played many times.

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Thanks for the recommendation. I don’t know if my build would last well until Level 40, since the Cleric doesn’t receive much in the way of buffing spells after Spell Level 5. Perhaps I would end with a 10 Cleric/1 Wizard/29 Arcane Archer, which may not thrive in such a high-magic environment.

You would want at least 11 levels of Cleric for the Heal spell, and maybe not solo it, and maybe use Normal skill level.

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I am currently playing SoF upto chapter 2 and find the encounters to be pretty easy with a strictly melee character.

This - and also take Healing domain for character like that. Will give you lots of fullhealing for free.

He already finished HotU, so it is a bit late for domain choices. That is otherwise a good idea.

I would probably have gone pure cleric and taken divine might, which works with ranged weapons. If I was going to take arcane archer, I would’ve taken sorcerer as that takes away the need for 11 INT, allowing more CHA for Divine Might and allowing more spells per day (I just want to cast as many True Strikes as possible, which can be cast in full plate as it has no somatic component giving +20 attack for 9 seconds.)

For the pure cleric build I would take magic domain for empowered ice storm and trickery for improved invisibility. I don’t think one will need more than Divine Power and Zen Archery to hit things in the OCs.

Pretty nice going with the item restrictions… The only time I ever got “punished” for going to that smith right away was when I had to fight a pair of keen +8 kukris in the Maker’s dungeon. Ouch.

I just finished a play through HotU with a 5 Bard/6 Fighter/17 Arcane Archer and had a much easier time than with my Cleric/Archer. I used no healing potions, even in the Long Death (Grimgnaw) battle and the final battle with Mephistopholes. In fact, I defeated Grimgnaw’s posse on the first attempt, which I’ve never done with any of my other characters, Arcane Archer or not.

Really, it was a 3B/4F/7AA/1B/3AA/1F/1B/1F/7AA build for an Elf AA starting with (Str/Dex/Con/Int/Wis/Cha) 14/18/12/10/8/14. I took Fighter for the Weapon Specialization feats and took the “later” Bard levels as late as possible to maximize the Skill Points I could put in Use Magic Device and Tumble. I would have wanted to end with 6 Bard/5 Fighter, but I didn’t want to incur the XP penalty for a couple of levels (with 6 Bard/4 Fighter at Level 20) waiting to select a Fighter level for the Epic Weapon Specialization.

I defeated Mephisto with the Greater Archer’s Belt around my waist. I also used the Robe of the Drow, which some may consider cheating, since I gave it to my henchman before betraying the Valsharess.

Playing through the Aielund Saga, I could try the old Bard/Fighter/Arcane Archer build, but the modules provide some items that grant Weapon Specialization and even Epic Weapon Specialization for bows (e.g. the “Archer’s leather” Armor, and especially the “Epic Bracers of Archery”). So, I’m thinking of trying an Elf 8 Bard/X Arcane Archer/3 Blackguard build, really 8B/10AA/3BG/*AA build.

I choose Bard over Sorcerer and Wizard for the BAB progression and Bard Song. For levels 19 and 20 I will still have to choose something other than Arcane Archer, but choosing a non-Epic class will incur an XP penalty.

I could choose Red Dragon Disciple, but I would lose a BAB point (3/4 progression), and I wouldn’t want to commit the levels to the Class to take full advantage of it.

I could choose Champion of Torm for those couple of levels, and it does provide a decent bonus to Saving Throws, but I would have to waste a feat to take a Weapon Focus for a Melee weapon, which I would never use.

With Blackguard, I would have to actually “waste” two feats on Power Attack and Cleave, but having Power Attack would allow me to choose the Divine Might Feat at Level 21, meaning the Charisma bonuses (probably +8 fully-equipped) can apply to both Saving Throws and damage. I might even select Divine Shield later as well for Defense bonuses.

Perhaps this belongs in a new topic and if my playthrough leads to great enlightenment, perhaps I will record my reflections again. If I only gain the insight that this build was a horrible idea, then I will probably post a short reply here.

Here is an AA build that I played in Aielund. I made it through, but in some areas, it was tough going. Save often, and not all in the same save slot (so not just Quick Save). It was nice to be able to talk myself out of some battles. I was even able to convince Azurefang to not only not fight me, but to be an ally in the fight against the Iron Lord.

Persuasive Archer (Rogue 17 / Wizard 1 / Arcane Archer 22)
Elf, Any Alignment
Playable 1 - 40 , PvM
for Aielund

STR: 14
DEX: 18 (32)
CON: 12
WIS: 8
INT: 14
CHA: 10

Leveling Guide:
Elf: (Hardiness vs. Enchantments, Keen Sense, Low-light Vision, Skill Affinity: Listen, Skill Affinity: Search, Skill Affinity: Spot, Sleeplessness)
01: Rogue(1): Point Blank Shot
02: Rogue(2): {Evasion}
03: Rogue(3): Weapon Focus: Longbow, {Uncanny Dodge I}
04: Rogue(4): DEX+1, (DEX=19)
05: Rogue(5)
06: Rogue(6): Weapon Finesse
07: Rogue(7)
08: Rogue(8): DEX+1, (DEX=20)
09: Wizard(1): Blind Fight, {Scribe Scroll}
10: Arcane Archer(1)
11: Arcane Archer(2)
12: Rogue(9): DEX+1, Rapid Shot, (DEX=21)
13: Arcane Archer(3)
14: Arcane Archer(4)
15: Arcane Archer(5): Improved Critical: Longbow
16: Arcane Archer(6): DEX+1, (DEX=22)
17: Rogue(10): Improved Evasion
18: Arcane Archer(7): Iron Will
19: Arcane Archer(8)
20: Arcane Archer(9): DEX+1, (DEX=23)
21: Rogue(11): Epic Weapon Focus: Longbow
22: Rogue(12)
23: Arcane Archer(10)
24: Arcane Archer(11): DEX+1, Great Dexterity I, (DEX=25)
25: Rogue(13): Defensive Roll
26: Arcane Archer(12)
27: Rogue(14): Epic Dodge
28: Arcane Archer(13): DEX+1, (DEX=26)
29: Arcane Archer(14): Great Dexterity II, (DEX=27)
30: Arcane Archer(15): Armor Skin
31: Arcane Archer(16)
32: Rogue(15): DEX+1, (DEX=28)
33: Arcane Archer(17): Epic Will
34: Arcane Archer(18): Epic Prowess
35: Rogue(16): Slippery Mind
36: Arcane Archer(19): DEX+1, Great Dexterity III, (DEX=30)
37: Rogue(17)
38: Arcane Archer(20)
39: Arcane Archer(21): Toughness
40: Arcane Archer(22): DEX+1, Great Dexterity IV, (DEX=32)

Hitpoints: 362
Skillpoints: 336
Saving Throws (Fortitude/Will/Reflex): 20/23/34
Saving Throw bonuses: Spells: +2, Mind Effects: +2, Traps: +4
BAB: 26
AB (max, naked): 38 (melee), 52 (ranged)
AC (naked/mundane armor/shield only): 31/34
Spell Casting: Wizard(1)
Alignment Changes: 0

Bluff 30(30), Craft Weapon 15(17), Disable Trap 11(13), Heal 34(33), Intimidate 30(30), Lore 4(6), Open Lock 11(22), Persuade 30(30), Search 40(44), Spellcraft 8(10), Spot 43(44), Tumble 40(51), UMD 40(40)

01: Bluff(4), Disable Trap(4), Intimidate(4), Lore(4), Open Lock(4), Persuade(4), Search(4), Spot(4), Tumble(4), UMD(4)
02: Bluff(1), Craft Weapon(1), Disable Trap(1), Intimidate(1), Open Lock(1), Persuade(1), Search(1), Spot(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1)
03: Bluff(1), Craft Weapon(1), Disable Trap(1), Intimidate(1), Open Lock(1), Persuade(1), Search(1), Spot(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1)
04: Bluff(1), Disable Trap(1), Intimidate(1), Open Lock(1), Persuade(1), Search(1), Spot(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1), Save(1)
05: Bluff(1), Disable Trap(1), Intimidate(1), Open Lock(1), Persuade(1), Search(1), Spot(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1), Save(2)
06: Bluff(1), Disable Trap(1), Intimidate(1), Open Lock(1), Persuade(1), Search(1), Spot(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1), Save(3)
07: Bluff(1), Disable Trap(1), Intimidate(1), Open Lock(1), Persuade(1), Search(1), Spot(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1), Save(4)
08: Bluff(1), Disable Trap(1), Intimidate(1), Open Lock(1), Persuade(1), Search(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1), Save(6)
09: Spellcraft(8), Save(2)
10: Save(8)
11: Save(14)
12: Bluff(4), Intimidate(4), Persuade(4), Search(4), Tumble(4), UMD(4)
13: Craft Weapon(4), Save(2)
14: Save(8)
15: Save(14)
16: Save(20)
17: Bluff(5), Intimidate(5), Persuade(5), Search(5), Tumble(5), UMD(5)
18: Craft Weapon(4), Save(2)
19: Save(8)
20: Save(14)
21: Bluff(4), Intimidate(4), Persuade(4), Spot(4), Tumble(4), UMD(4)
22: Bluff(1), Craft Weapon(5), Intimidate(1), Persuade(1), Tumble(1), UMD(1)
23: Spot(6)
24: Spot(1), Save(5)
25: Bluff(3), Intimidate(3), Persuade(3), Search(3), Tumble(3)
26: Spot(6)
27: Bluff(2), Intimidate(2), Persuade(2), Search(2), Tumble(2)
28: Spot(4), Save(2)
29: Heal(1), Spot(1), Save(6)
30: Spot(1), Save(11)
31: Spot(1), Save(16)
32: Search(10), Spot(1), Tumble(5), UMD(10)
33: Heal(5), Spot(1)
34: Heal(5), Spot(1)
35: Search(3), Spot(1), Tumble(3), UMD(3)
36: Heal(5), Spot(1)
37: Heal(3), Search(2), Spot(1), Tumble(2), UMD(2)
38: Heal(5), Spot(1)
39: Heal(5), Spot(1)
40: Heal(5), Spot(1)

Also, recommend the Epic Character Builder’s Guild for help with builds.

I like this one:
Singing Sniper
Barbarian 5/Bard 6/AA 29

It’s pretty nice in that it gets some warrior BAB progression and skill allocations, but also gives you some movement speed increases. I’ve played it a couple of times, and it treated me nice.