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Prestige Archetype: Arcane Trickster (PFRPG) PDF

****½ (based on 2 ratings)

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Arcane Trickster
Few can match the guile and craftiness of arcane tricksters. These prodigious thieves blend the subtlest aspects of the arcane with the natural cunning of the bandit and the scoundrel, using spells to enhance their natural thieving abilities. Arcane tricksters can pick locks, disarm traps, and lift purses from a safe distance using their magical legerdemain, and as often as not seek humiliation as a goal to triumph over their foes than more violent solutions.

Prestige Class: Arcane Trickster.
Build Classes: Rogue, Wizard.

What is a Prestige Archetype?

A prestige archetype is a prestige class turned into a normal 20-level class, similar to an archetype or alternate class.

The goal when making these prestige archetypes has been to capture the flavor of the prestige class rather than to make an exact copy of how it would normally be. Attack bonuses, hit dice, class skills, spells, and class features have been unified and spread evenly over levels. This means that most prestige archetypes have their prestige abilities spread over the entire 20 level spread. Unlike how prestige classes normally work, these archetypes have a few complete class abilities rather than many abilities limited to a low level. In some cases, you get the choice of one of several class abilities rather than stymied versions of all the abilities.

A prestige archetype generally has elements of one or more regular character classes, to represent how prestige prerequisites were met and character development after the prestige class has ended. Sometimes there is more than one class that naturally leads itself to a particular prestige class, which can lead to several different prestige archetypes for different combinations. A few are not built on a regular class, instead expanding the idea behind the prestige class to a full 20 levels.

—Carl Cramér

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Product Reviews (2)

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 2 ratings)

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This installment of the Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ~1/2 a page of editorial, leaving us with 8 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

First question - what are prestige archetypes? Well, they are essentially a breakdown of a regular PrC into a full-blown 20-level spanning class - so no, these classes don't necessarily mean that you'll have a universal archetype (wouldn't have worked in this context, I think), instead providing a retooled playing experience so you don't have to work your way up to the PrC via classes you don't want to play. So that's definitely a pro-side. On the con-side, *personally*, I treat PrCs as very much tied to organizations etc., emphasizing the "prestige"-component as opposed to archetypes, which are more traditions in my game. I'm not the target audience of these books, but I will take a stab at them anyways.

The arcane trickster in its base class guise receives d8, 4+Int skills per level (OUCH), proficiency with simple weapons + hand crossbow, rapier, sap, shortbow and short sword, but not with any armor (which interferes with casting) as well as prepared spellcasting from the wiz/sorc-list of up to 6th level.The class has 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. Spellcasting begins at first level with only 3 cantrips + 1 1st level spell and both scribe scroll and trapfinding are relegated to 2nd level. The signature ranged legerdemain is granted at 1st level, though - thankfully!

At 3rd level, evasion and sneak attack are gained, with the latter scaling up by +1d6 every 2 levels thereafter, to a maximum of +9d6. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the arcane trickster receives a rogue talent, with a list of thematically appropriate talents being provided - this list also constituting a potential way for DMs to balance the class versus the base rogue - just limit the class to the talents provided. Now what's pretty odd - arcane bond is gained at 6th level - which isn't weird balance-wise, but the additional imposed requirement to make concentration-checks to cast sans the object makes no sense in this case as opposed to regular casters gaining it at 1st level - so far the arcane trickster could cast without it, so where's the dependency coming from? See, that's one issue with re-appropriating such components and one that imho should be addressed.

Tricky Spells (free silent and still spell) is learned at 6th level 1/day, +1 every 3 levels thereafter. Impromptu Sneak Attack is gained at 10th level, 2/day at 14th level. On a nitpicky side, the ability works with ranged attacks and thus circumvents the usual range-restriction for sneak attack.

At 14th level, surprise spells are gained, with sneak attack of the spell's damage type being added - the original's potential ambiguity regarding the use of magic missile etc. unfortunately remaining. To spare you the research - it's only added to one target of AoE-spells, one magic missile, etc. - no spamming of sneak attack. And then there's the potential confusing with spells that can have a crit modifier greater than x2 - while there aren't many, they exist - so sneak attack bonus damage x2 or x3?

At 16th level, advanced talents enter the fray - now so far, I've kept quiet about talents and they do represent an interesting selection from both Paizo-core and 3pps, including the advanced talent option to temporarily render a sneaked target incapable of executing AoOs. Per se, a cool array, including less costs for trapsmithing hide in plain sight and dispelling attacks. At 18th level, the arcane trickster can become greater invisible as a free action as a spell-like ability for class level rounds/day.

The pdf comes with FCOs for the core races and a sample NPC-build at 1st, 5th, 10th and 15th level.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no truly significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Carl Cramér's arcane trickster can be considered one of those prestige archetypes that immensely benefit from being changed to 20-level-classes - let's face it, making the arcane trickster a PrC was always a sucky move, forcing the player to play two totally disparate classes before finally getting to do what s/he wanted in the first place. So yeah, I *really* want to love this prestige archetype - it's generally pretty well-crafted, but it does have some rough edges - like the lack of a capstone. The weird arcane object-design choice or the impromptu sneak attack-range glitch, the lack of streamlined wording for surprise spells...all of these conspire to drag down what generally is a great class - and usually, I'd go 3 stars. BUT, this is the arcane trickster I always wanted - pretty strong and capable, perhaps too much so in certain campaigns. I'd certainly advise DMs allowing this one to restrict its talent-selection vs. rogues in order to maintain some reason for the latter to exist. That being said, I do consider this a pretty good, if not perfect take on the arcane trickster, well worth a final rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


If You Enjoy Playing Arcane Tricksters...

*****

Breakdown: 1 page each for cover, credits & intro, and OGL statement + 5½ pages detailing the arcane trickster base class + ¼ page favored class bonuses + 2¼ pages for sample character at 1st, 5th, 10th, and 15th levels = 11 pages total.

Purple Duck's prestige archetypes are simply the familiar prestige classes converted into full 20-level base classes. The arcane trickster prestige archetype that originated in D&D 3.x and was updated in the Pathfinder core book has always appealed to many players wanting a sneakier, rogue-ish mage... but as implemented, has always lagged behind the other class options in magic power, physical combat prowess, and survivability. PDG's arcane trickster base class inherits a ¾ BAB, good Reflex and Will saves, a large number of class skills + 4 ranks/level, access to a number of rogue talents, sneak attack progression up to +9d6, and the prepared wizard spell list/spell from both its parents (rogue and wizard). It also has all the nifty trickster abilities from its prestige class sibling. Sounds good so far, right?

Well, sneak attack sounds good, but any rogue knows that you need a flat-footed or flanked opponent to get it. It's easier for an AT who can pop off invisibility and vanish spells, especially from a wand or scroll without needing a UMD check. But ATs, like rogues, normally need to be adjacent to an opponent to sneak attack, and that means the tough critter or melee-er will likely be counterattacking a still quite squishy arcane trickster. Worse, if you're attacking with weapons, you aren't casting spells, which should be your main attack option. The AT's best sneak attack option, surprise spells, doesn't kick in until 14th level, and it still requires the target to be flat-footed. Still, there are ways to make it work, but the AT player will need a cooperative party to help set up the SA opportunities (no Leeroy Jenkins need apply).

The main limitation the AT base class will feel are the spells. Spell level progression is the same as a bard or magus: you don't get 2nd level spells until your 4th character level, 3rd level spells unlock at 7th character level, etc. And unlike a magus or summoner, spells remain at same level as a wizard, so you and your party have to wait for haste and similar frequently-used/party favorite spells. But the biggie is your spell access caps at 6th level spells; that means no casting the 7th-9th heavy hitter spells. And since those spells aren't on your AT spell list, the AT PC will need to be UMDing to cast them from a scroll or staff, with all the hazards that involves.

While the arcane trickster prestige archetype has some limitations, a strategic player that avoids front-line combat can make this class shine. Purple Duck's Carl Cramér has done an admirable job stitching the best of two core classes and prestige class together into a well-balanced and fun whole. And heck, it's only $2, what more do you want?

4.5 out of 5 stars

(Full Disclosure: I previously developed a arcane tricker-inspired magus archetype, the spiderhawk, for Paizo Fans United's Wayfinder #10, a free download available from Paizo's webstore.)


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