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core rulebook rogue help


i've played 3.5 extensively, but am relatively new to pathfinder. our GM is now starting a pathfinder game and after looking through the book i've decided to play a rogue since i have always thought of them as one of the weaker classes in d&d, and wanted to see how one would fare in pathfinder.

the standpoint i'm coming from is that i want my rogue concept based on intelligence and stealth. also i like the concept of going pure rogue, but at this point i'm torn because i don't clearly understand the mechanics for creating diversion to hide with bluff... and so far it seems i may have to take shadowdancer if i really want to rely on stealth. this is frustrating because i'd also really like to just focus on bolstering my skills, etc (and i don't like the idea of taking combat reflexes at all)

so... keeping in mind core book only...

1. how effective can my stealth really be without shadowdancer?

2. how much better is shadowdancer in practice (on paper it looks like an extreme boost in the number of scenarios in which stealth will be possible)

3. is the potential loss of the lvl 20 pure rogue special really that important? (to me it sounds cool conceptually but looks like it might be completely worthless in practice)

and finally, if i do take shadowdancer, should i a talent to pick up one of the feats to expidite it? or wait for level 11 to take shadowdancer?

Rogue was middle tier in 3E, weaker than the casters but better than the full BAB classes and monk. In PF, they are solidly one of the worst classes, above only the poor monk. If you found them weak in 3E, I would avoid them in PF.

1. Stealth is largely pointless. Spells like invisibility make it pretty moot and the class skill changes make it so any character w/ little armor check penalty can stealth about as well as a rogue can. And without 3E's Darkstalker feat, Blindsense, Blind Sight, Tremorsense, Scent, and othr common monster abilities will render it moot. Worse yet, spot/listen/search were all merged into one "super skill" - Perception. Because of this EVERYONE has ranks in it maxed. Everyone.

2. Shadowdancer is just as it was in 3E. A nice little dip to pick up some class features if you swapped them out as a rogue and to get hide in plain sight, beyond that it's just as much a trap now as it was in 3E. 1-2 levels is fine if you can afford the pre-req feats.

3. Chances are you'll never see level 20, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I'd use talents to get feats as much as possible, they're pretty weaksauce, trading them in for feats is probably the strongest option at any given level anyway. If you're entering Shadowdancer, I'd try to expedite it as much as possible.

So, if you're limited to core, does your DM plan to do anything about all the overlapping class features Shadowdancer would give you, or would he just let them be worthless wastes?

Based on your desires for the kind of character you want, I suggest Bard dipping into Shadowdancer, Ranger, or Wizard with a rogue dip (maybe arcane trickster, but needing 2 rogue levels is painful), rather than playing a rogue.

ask your dm if you can use the ninja from ultimate combat. It is an alternate form of the rogue that actually, you know, works.

Grand Lodge

I find rogues in Pathfinder are most effective when multiclassed, fighter/rogues can be brutally effective at higher levels and bard/rogues are always fun. The rogue is not unplayable by any means, but it does benefit from some additional abilities.

The Scout Archetype (APG) combined with the Knife Master Archetype (UC) is a decent combo but it costs you uncanny dodge and trapfinding respectively.

The feat Gang Up (APG) allows you to flank a target even when not flanking provided 2 allies are threatening the target. This will allow sneak attacks consistently.

To summarize:

Scout Archetype: always sneak attacking when charging or moving more than 10feet.

Knife Master: Changes dagger sneak attacks to d8 instead of d6 (effectively +1damage per die).

Gang Up: grants sneak attacks as long as two allies threaten the target.

- Gauss


Kolokotroni wrote:
ask your dm if you can use the ninja from ultimate combat. It is an alternate form of the rogue that actually, you know, works.

I'll second this. Without House Ruling a Rogue is jst flat-out inferior to a Ninja (and most other classes).

as i said, my dm is limiting our campaign strictly to the core rulebook... i have already asked him about using other books, and it's not happening. i kind of was hoping to see some of the changes put rogue into a better place in pathfinder.... but looks like it's pretty much relegated to 2nd rate. thought the fact that precision based dmg from sneaks had a more broad scope of use than in 3.x would be a significant boost. but at least where core rulebook is concerned i don't see most of the rogue talents being that compelling :(

Ahhh sorry, I didnt catch the restriction. Yeah, your screwed. Hehehhe. A shame he is keeping it to strictly Core since the devs seemed to intentionally shelve material when writing core to put in APG etc.

- Gauss

Not to derail this, but what makes the ninja superior to a rogue? On the surface, they look relatively similar. Is it the weapon selection, ki pool, trick selection or just all of it?

Gauss wrote:
Gang Up: grants sneak attacks as long as two allies threaten the target.

Which only requires one additional character, since the rogue counts as his own ally per the FAQ of the CRB, so it is better than many people think.

The expanded list of things you can sneak attack came at the expense of severely nerfed tumble DCs, removal of all the good ranged SA options (blinking; grease; use of splash weapons), and "class skill" being releated to a meager +3 bonus that anyone can have with a mere dip.

Rogue sucks in PF and has no real purpose anymore. Again, are you willing to consider Bard (perhaps w/ some shadowdancer), Ranger, or Wizard with a rogue dip? Those would work much better for you.

Ope wrote:
Not to derail this, but what makes the ninja superior to a rogue? On the surface, they look relatively similar. Is it the weapon selection, ki pool, trick selection or just all of it?

The tricks, and by extension the ki pol that many of them require to use. Unlke talents, a lot of the tricks are genuinely cool and useful abilities. People here grossly exxagerate how much better ninja is than rogue and how strong a class it is in general (it's better than rogue, but still weaker than nearly every other class in the game), but that's basically what the ninja is. A "rogue that actually gets good rogue talents." That's the only major difference, and the huge response it got shows how much people had been craving it.


Ope wrote:
Not to derail this, but what makes the ninja superior to a rogue? On the surface, they look relatively similar. Is it the weapon selection, ki pool, trick selection or just all of it?

Ki pool and trick selection. Plus the fact that at 10th level plus they get Evasion and Advanced Rogue Talents (so, everything a Rogue has except Trapfinding) while the Rogue does not get Advanced Ninja Tricks or a Ki Pool.

for the most part i'm not that inspired by the prestige classes in the core book either.

so anyhow, thanks for the replies guys. unsure how i will progress at this point. we've already had one game, but i may just ask if i can reroll something else, or it looks like i'll be doing a lot of multiclassing.

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Unlike 3.5, prestige classes are not a must have. You are more likely to have stronger PCs if they stick to their base class.

gniht, why is your GM restricting it to only Core rulebook? - Gauss

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Perhaps ranger is what you should consider. What is your concept?

There seems to be a lot of opposition to the opinion that a Rogue can be a viable character in play, but I happen to be of the opinion that they absolutely can. I play Rogues almost exclusively, though I do tend to prestige at one point or another in my progressions. It's a bit more restrictive with only the Core available to you but the entire party shares that restriction so it's a level playing field.

I am going to throw out some options and ideas that will hopefully give you a more optomistic view of playing a Rogue character. I don't have time tonight but will do my best to get back to you tomorrow.

I have a couple questions for you also:
1. Will your party and DM allow you to play like a Rogue? (I have been in parties that let me play the Rogue to all it's advantage, and I have been in parties that won't.)
2. Are Evil alignments available to you, and would play Evil?
3. How does your DM play Stealth and Hide in Plain Sight?
4. Are you strictly opposed to PrCs, or can I include those options in what I come up with?

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I still would like know the concept. Once you have that, then you can choose the right class, and build.

The Rogue in our Kingmaker party does high damage in nearly all encounters.
He is more or less on par with the twohanded weapon ranger and the magus.
Perhaps a little behind but not much.

So I don't see the rogue being weak.

Rogues need a lot of help. If you can count on seeing several of heroism, haste, greater invisibility, inspire courage, good hope, prayer, blessing of fervor, etc., they appear pretty okay. Solve the accuracy problem and they're okay -- when they get sneak attack. There are ways to get sneak attack reliably like two weapon feint and the aforementioned gang up teamwork feat. They aren't in Core.

If you can't count on lots of buffs you might want to play something else or maybe dip one level to get disable device as a class skill and be able to disable magical traps and make people who think rogues are necessary stop complaining and put the rest of your levels in a decent class. Fighter or Barbarian probably lose the least from multiclassing and barbarian has the skill points to handle traps.

Or just be a druid. Perception can easily be extremely high since it's based on your casting stat and a class skill. Summon Nature's Ally I spontaneously. Get a Mite. Learn to speak Undercommon. Now you have a trap triggerer and disposable scout that can communicate intelligently. Rogues are for Tomb of Horrors style trap-fests.

Based on what you have said I have a few suggestions about building your CRB Rogue. Firstly for stats: Dex, Con, Int, Cha, Str, and Wis in order of importance. And I would go with Human for race. For your favored class bonus, put it in HP (Being a Human, Rogue with some Int will take care of skill points). Items marked "*" are less critical or optional IMO, of course that depends largely on your DM and Campaign.

Main skills you will want to look at will be Acrobatics, Bluff, Climb*, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Disguise, Knowledge Local*, Perception, Sense Motive*, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and certainly Use Magic Device.

Talents and Advanced Talents: Combat Trick (Dodge), Fast Stealth, Finesse Rogue, Resiliency, Weapon Training, Crippling Strike, Improved Evasion, Opportunist, Feat, and either Bleeding Attack or Defensive Roll (Depending on if you need more defense or attack power). These are not listed in order. Also you will be using some of your advanced talent slots for lower tier rogue talents.

Feats: Armor Proficiency Medium (one of the best suits of armor a Rogue can wear is Mithral Breast Plate), Combat Expertise, Die Hard, Endurance, Improved Feint, Mobility, and Toughness. At this point you have five more feats available through lvl 20 and you have some options. I think any four of these would work nicely: Improved Trip*, Spring Attack, Skill Focus (Stealth), Stealthy, Vital Strike, Improved Vital Strike, Iron Will, Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative, Quick Draw*, and Leadership (If your DM allows Leadership it's potentially one of the most powerful feats in the game). Don't take Spring Attack with the Vital Strike series, they don't stack. Again these aren't listed in the order you should take them, just a good list to choose from.

Some additional items to consider:
1. Many Rogue players are tempted by the potential double of damage output offered by the Two Weapon Fighting tree; TWF is not worth it IMO. Yes it raises your potential damage output, but it also decreases your Attack Bonus by 2 and that is pretty devistating to a medium BAB class. I have never played a TWF Rogue that I was happy with in combat. On the other hand I have been very happy with the combat performance of all the single weapon Rogues I have built. Plus you have one less weapon to worry about pouring money into.

2. Another tempting tactic is to put Flame Burst and/or other damage die increasers on your weapon. Don't do it; you are a medium BAB class. Besides, Sneak Attack and the Vital Strike feats, if you choose them, will generally take care of all your damage die needs. Instead add Enhancement Bonuses to your weapon, it will increase your damage but more importantly it will increase your Attack Bonus. If you can't resist adding damage dice go with basic Flame, Ice, etc... or better yet Bane if you know what you will be up against. If you have the chance for a Sword of Subtlety go for it.

3. Stealth is great in RP and niche scenarios, but in combat it is near useless unless you have Hide in Plain Sight or Invis magics. Know your place, know your tactical advantages, know your weaknesses, and accept them. Unless you have HiPS or invisibility you won't be Stealthing around the battlefield much. But you can, and I have, snuck into an enemy encampment in broad daylight (enemy were day sleepers) and Coup De Graced an entire NPC mercenary party as well as an Orc Chieftain. My party let me do my Rogue thing and it saved them the trouble of what would have been a very nasty fight. Also keep in mind that in a lot of situations Bluff/Disguise are more appropriate than Stealth. If you just have to Stealth around in Combat the Shadowdancer and Assassin classes are not bad options, but require specific styles of play and again, knowing your tactical advantages and your weaknesses. For instance: as an Assassin, Death Attack isn't great until later levels, but Poisons are quite nasty right from the start.

4. Point 3 leads right into 4: Flank and Feint, Spring attack if you have it. Don't try to be a Fighter and go toe to toe on your own with someone bigger and stronger than you. Ask your party to help you out with Flanking, but be willing and able to do your part (Acrobatics and Mobility are key abilities here, as is Spring Attack if you took it). If you are able to take Leadership or if you go three levels in Shadowdancer and get the Shadow companion it will alleviate your reliance on the other party members a bit, but still work together; the party was designed to rely on eachother.

5. Get Darkvision as soon as you can. Shadowdancer is great for this, if you decide to take it. Remember you can't Sneak Attack anything that has concealment against you.

6. Smoke sticks and other mundane items are your friends. When you don't have cover or concealment to hide in, create it with smoke sticks. Sure the enemy will know you are there, but they can't pinpoint you and that could save your life, or give you the time you need to slip away. Tangle foot bags are excelent in a jam. I have seen caltrop bags used to devistating effect as well, even in mid level games. And when your UMD skill is high enough you can start in with scrolls and wands to back you up.

7. You asked about the Bluff distraction to use Stealth. Distracting is pretty much the same as your basic Feint. It takes up a Standard Action (This is my understanding, I don't think it is explicitely spelled out for you in RAW). You are going to want to think of this series of actions as basically a full round action. You will use a Standard Action to Bluff your opponent into looking away, while he is doing that you use a Move Action to run for some kind of cover or concealment then roll for Stealth. The opponent will then roll Perception and if your Stealth wins he doesn't know where you ran off to.

8. Go First: Improved Initiative and/or a high Dex are great for Rogues. If you can catch an opponent in a surprise round and go first in the first round of combat you are looking at a lot of potential damage, and possibly a couple dead enemies right at the start of combat. Stealth is great for initiating that surprise round. With this in mind Surprise Attack would not be a bad choice of Rogue Talent.

9. Don't go straight after the heavy armor enemies, let the Fighter do that. You will get the most effect, success, and gratification from sneaking up on the enemy caster in the surprise round or first round of combat if you can stay out of sight and murduring him before he can even cast anything. Go after the heavy armor enemies when their back is turned and they are engaged with your Fighter friend. Get that flanking bonus and SA damage.

10. Feint is a last resort and niche tactic if you find yourself all alone. Don't walk up to the heavy armor enemies and think you don't need support because you can feint and get Sneak Attack every round on your own.

11. Magic Items: Handy Haversack and Bag of Holding are great, your Str is probably quite low. Boots of Speed are amazing when you can get them. Hat of Disguise is one of my favorite items. Don't neglect UMD skill; with it you have any scroll, wand, staff, etc... you need at your disposal. Scrolls of Shield, Protection from Evil, Charm, Alarm, Hold Portal, Obscuring Mist, True Strike, Dancing Lights and other lovely things will be available to you and quite helpfull.

That's all for now. If I think of any other good tips I'll let you know. If you have any questions you are more than welcome to ask.

I suggest just being a race with darkvision. You suggest being human and then waiting to get it from Shadowdancer, which will eat 3 feats to enter. One that's decent but definitely not on a rogue's priority list normally (Dodge), one that's only good with a reach weapon (in core there is no finesseable reach weapon) and dedication towards it and worthless otherwise (Combat Reflexes), and one that's just plain worthless (Mobility).

Using smoke sticks is a horrible idea. You can't SA in any sort of concealment at all and iirc the feat tax to fix that was printed in APG, not core.

TWF is worth it if you're going to melee, but if you try to melee you will probably die. You could try ranged combat, but you won't be able to sneak attack past round 1 ever, so... perhaps the entire thread of people suggesting you play a different class with similar thematics has clued you (the OP) into how hard up the rogue is?

I would not bother with stealth for anything other than sticking close to the party and using it to wrangle some surprise rounds for yourself, and when not that, at least avoid being targeted till you act. Trying to actually scout ahead any significant distance from the party in a game filled with detect magic and tremorsense and blindsense and blindsight and scent and so many other ways to make your stealth check completely irrelevant is basically just asking the DM to kill you. Max your ranks, but devote no other resources to it.

@ gniht: If you decide to play a Rogue after all and if you do use any or all of my suggestions I would love to hear back from you about what changes you made, how you played the character, and how much success or difficulty you came across. If you have any questions about why I chose the things I did or how I intended for them to be used with the build feel free to ask.

@ StreamOfTheSky: I've extensively played, NPC’d, and DM’d for Rogue builds of many varieties. I made my choices and suggestions based on the CRB only restriction and things I have done and seen in play, not just in theory, that were successful for Rogue characters. Also, if you read really carefully, you will notice I never said anything about using smoke sticks to gain SA.

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