Pathfinder Optimized Zen Archer Build

Nerf Alert: The Crane Style feat line has been nerfed.  Thus, I can no longer advocate the selection of those feats at Levels 1, 5 and 11 as the solely optimized choices (though take them if you want to).  I have, instead, marked these spots as Open Slots and have given one suggestion of feats that can go into these open slots. Great news is that the build would still rock even if you chose no feats to go into the open slots.

Character Name: Zenith, the Great – Friends call him Zen Gee
Race: Human
Favorite Class Option: Whatever

Stats (25 point build): Str (16), Dex (16), Con (16), Int (14), Wis (23), Chr (8), Fort (+14), Ref (+14), Will (+17), AC (30) (35 with Barkskin), HP (114.5), CMD (25), CMB unarmed (+12), Speed (50ft), Initiative (+5), Spell Resistance (23)

Note on AC:  Remember, he can use 1 Ki to increase his AC +4 for one round.

Flurry Attack with Bow: +22/+22/+17/+17/+12 (1d8 +9) (19-20 x3) – assuming within 30ft for Pt. Blank Shot and assuming gravity bow.  If using deadly aim, then +19/+19/+14/+14/+9 (1d8 +15) (19-20 x3).  Using his Ki, he can add an extra attack at his highest BAB or increase arrow damage to 2d6 for one round.

Standard Bow Attack: +20 (1d8 +9) (19-20 x3) or with deadly aim +17 (1d8 + 15) (19-20 x3)

Standard Unarmed Attack: +17 (2d6 +5)

Feats/Abilities: Traits) Finding Helen and Dangerously Curious; 1) Point Blank Shot (human), Open Slot, Dodge, Flurry of Blows (with bows), Unarmed Strike (2d6), Weapon Proficiency with all bows, Normal Monk Proficiencies, Perfect Strike (12 attempts/day) (bows), Monk AC (+8 at 13th level); 2) Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (Longbow Comp); 3) Zen Archery, Speed +70ft at 13th level, Point Blank Mastery, Deadly Aim; 4) Barkskin (1 Ki) (Replaces Slow Fall), Ki Pool (16 points at 13th level); 5) Ki Arrows, Open Slot, Feather Step (1 Ki) (Replaces High Jump); 6) Improve Precise Shot, Weapon Specialization (Longbow Comp); 7) Gaseous Form (1 Ki) (Replaces Wholeness of Body), Combat Reflexes; 9) Reflexive Shot, Clustered Shots; 10) Improved Critical (Longbow Comp); 11) Trick Shot; Open Slot; 12) Shadow Walk (3 Ki) (Replaces Abundant Step); 13) Diamond Soul, Open Slot

Green = Human Feat; Red = Zen Archer Selection; Blue = Level Feat Selections; Black = Automatic Feats and Abilities

Open Slot Suggestion: 1)  Skill Focus (Escape Artist), 5)Monkey Style, 11) Stealthy (+4 escape artist & stealth), 13) Skill Focus (Stealth);  These selections give you answers to falling prone and being grappled, gives you outstanding stealth, gives you the ability to shoot from the prone position to gain a +4 AC verse ranged opponents. You will need to maximize the escape artist skill. 

Skill Points (78): Acrobatics (13), Stealth (13), Perception (13), Sense Motive (10), Climb (1), Ride (1), Swim (1), Intimidator (13), UMD (13)  – Note, only the skill points spent are shown. The final skill bonus has to be calculated add Stat Mod and others bonuses.

Items (140K): +3 Adaptive Longbow Comp (19K), Efficient Quiver (2.5K), Handy Haversack (2.5K), +2 Ring of Protection(8K), +2 Amulet of Mighty Fist (16K), +2 Belt of Str/Dex/Con (16K), +2 Headband of Int/Wis (10K), Winged Boots (12K), Ring of Evasion (20K), +4 Bracers of Armor (16K), +3 Cloak of Resistance (9K), Wands: 2 Cure Light (50 charges), 2 Gravity Bow (50); Remaining Money: 6K to be used for other helpful wands.

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27 thoughts on “Pathfinder Optimized Zen Archer Build

  1. How does it get +8 AC at level 1
    I’m assuming Stats (25 point build): Str (14), Dex (14), Con (14), Int (12), Wis (16+2 (human)), Chr (8)
    Unless i am missing something it is +6 AC

    • The +8 refers to the Monk AC from Wisdom and AC level boost at 13th level. Yes, he begins getting a lower bonus at level one. However, by 13th level it is a +8. +5 from wisdom and +3 extra bonus as his levels increase in Monk.

  2. How are you rationalizing 2 archetypes with conflicting class feature replacements? Both Diamond Body and Still Mind are replaced by each archetype.

    rule reference: A character can take more than one archetype and garner additional alternate class features, but none of the alternate class features can replace or alter the same class feature from the base class as another alternate class feature. For example, a fighter could not be both an armor master and a brawler, since both archetypes replace the weapon training 1 class feature with something different.

    I see other people doing this with the Qinggong/Zen Archery build – I’m not understanding the trick and it’s invalidating the build in Hero Lab. (Granted Hero Lab isn’t perfect but it’s come a long way with validations)

    • You see people doing it all of the time because it is legal. Hero Lab is wrong. Here is the official ruling from paizo.

      Monk: Can a qinggong monk take a second archetype if the character doesn’t swap out abilities the second archetype requires?

      Yes. However, the other archetype takes priority over the various abilities granted at each level, and the character can’t delay taking an ability that the other archetype replaces—he must allow the second archetype to replace the standard ability at the standard class level.
      For example, the monk of the healing hand archetype (APG) replaces
      wholeness of body (7th level)
      diamond body (11th level)
      quivering palm (15th level)
      perfect self (20th level).
      A qinggong monk who also wants to take the monk of the healing hand archetype has to let the healing hand archetype replace all four of those abilities at those specific class levels. The qinggong monk is still free to replace any standard monk abilities at the other class levels listed in the qinggong monk archetype (slow fall at 4th, high jump at 5th, and so on), so long as selecting those abilities doesn’t interfere with acquiring the healing hand abilities at the correct levels.
      Note that if the second archetype replaces a standard monk ability, the character cannot select that replaced ability at a later monk level. For example, the qinggong/healing hand monk can never select wholeness of body, even at a level higher than 7th. In effect, the character has selected wholeness of body at 7th and immediately replaced it with a healing hand ability; as the qinggong archetype only lets you select an ability later if the character “selects a different ki power in place of a standard monk ability” (which didn’t occur), that option is not available for the character.

      —Pathfinder Design Team, 05/23/13

    • From what I understand, the qinggong monk has the /option/ of replacing any of those monk abilities, it never /has/ to if it doesn’t want to keep them. So as long as you’re not replacing something that your Zen Archer replaces, you’re golden.

  3. May I ask why the amulet of mighty fists? I assume it doesn’t work with a bow. Just curious if it does, can you point me in the right direction so I can show the GM?


  4. Can someone explain to me how you can use crane riposte while holding the bow? Unless I’m misreading, you need a hand free to riposte…
    “Once per round while using Crane Style, when you have at least one hand free AND are either fighting defensively or using the total defense action, you can deflect…”

    • You need two hands to fire a bow, but only one hand to hold it while fighting defensively, I think. The other hand is used for holding/firing the arrow anyway, so either way if you’ve fired off all your shots for the round, or haven’t had your turn yet, there would be a hand free.

      • This is the answer I would have given. Also, remember the Crane Riposte lowers the penalty to fire arrows while fighting defensively down to 1. This is useful whether you have one hand free or not.

    • Other than pushing your feat progression back because of the loss of the human feat, there is no real effect on the build.

      So, your first level feat would be Point Blank Shot, then all of your level feats listed in blue would be pushed back two levels. So, Crane Style would be taken at level 3, and so forth and so on.

      By 13th level, you would catch up to this build. Notice that the 13th level feat is left to be filled by the reader.

      Make sure you select a race that gets a +2 to Dexterity.

    • Yes they probably should. The good news is that even if this build got rid of the Crane Style line and replaced it with nothing it would still be an exceptionally powerful build.

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