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Arcane Trickster or Sandman Bard


Advice


I've been wondering which of these would be better for building an enchantment focused magical thief.

Using wizard for spellcasting, a trickster gets a ton of utility spells thanks to being a prepared caster, which they can cast silently. However, the trickster has an emphasis on damage spells as apposed to enchantment. It feels like wasting class features not to focus on damage instead of control.

The sandman gets a boost to its DCs while casting at someone denied their Dex, which is very thematic. Charisma is also synergized between casting and skills.

So if you wanted to play an enchantment focused arcane thief. How would you build it? I'd be curious to hear your response even if it isn't one of these two.


An archaeologist bard could do this pretty well too, or a rakshasa-bloodline sorcerer (although I would miss the skill points). I agree the arcane trickster has more of a blasting focus.


Shadowcaster with the shadow themed feats would do this very well, with a high int you can be good with any skills regardless of stat bonuses. That and I personally feel that arcane spells would trump Bard spells for utility of doing said thievery type actions, without the SLA errata I don't like the wasted caster levels of the trickster.

YMMV


The current standard arcane trickster only needs to lose one caster level Caimbuel, you're behind the times. The Accomplished Sneak Attacker feat takes the place of one of the non-wizard levels. You could even enter as an eldritch scoundrel rogue without losing any, or get the caster level back with the favored prestige class/prestigious spellcaster feats.

Any bard has one big problem with being an enchantment focused arcane thief: they can't cast quietly. This would be a deal-breaker for me. I'd go with the rogue 1 / wizard 3 / arcane trickster X build, take a trait or two to make some cha-based skills int-based, and the feats necessary to cast without alerting everyone nearby.


Note for the Prestigious spellcaster trick to work you HAVE to be getting the sneak attack from the 1st level of a PRC like assassin. Accomplished sneak attacker is definately worth using. Note there are a few other classes that grant lv1 sneak attack. My favorite is snakestrike brawler.

Arcane trickster is definitely best. Foresight school is simply amazing for any trickster character. Also you will have access to better enchantment spells, at lower levels, with higher save dcs as you are a full caster. You aren't losing many skill points due to being int based instead of cha.

I would build it as a save or suck caster. Arcanist lv4 + Snakebite/Rouge lv1 + Arcane trickster. Elf/human race. Spell focus/greater, focused spell, accomplished sneak attacker, persistent spell, quicken spell, spell perfection being the primary feats. Add in some metamagic rods to get around the different types of immunity.


It is even possible to make an Arcane Trickster with no lost spellcasting progression levels if you want to, although it's a bit slow. Go Wizard (or Sorcerer) VMC Rogue. VMC Rogue starts giving you Sneak Attack +1d6 at 7th level(*), and then at every 4 levels thereafter. At 9th level you qualify for Accomplished Sneak Attacker, and thereby at 10th you qualify for Arcane Trickster. Since at 11th level VMC Rogue gives you its 2nd Sneak Attack +1d6, at 11th level you could retrain Accomplished Sneak Attacker if you really needed the feat for somethingn else. At 19th level you would finish Arcane Trickster and have either +9d6 or +10d6 Sneak Attack (depending upon whether you kept Accomplished Sneak Attacker).

(*)And note that at 3rd level, 11th level, 15th level, and 19th level, it gives you Trapfinding, Evasion, Uncanny Dodge, and Improved Uncanny Dodge, respectively, so it's not bad, although the last 3 things come on rather late.

If you don't want to wait until 10th level to qualify for Arcane Trickster, you can start off temporarily with a level of Sneak Attack class (can't be Rogue or Ninja together with VMC Rogue, so has to be Vivisectionist Alchemist or Snakebite Striker Brawler), and get Accomplished Sneak Attacker at 5th level and thereby qualify for Arcane Trickster at 6th level, and then optionally retrain the Sneak Attack class level(*) into another Wizard level once you hit 7th level and get the +1d6 Sneak Attack from VMC Rogue (and optionally retrain Accomplished Sneak Attacker to some other feat when you hit 11th level).

(*)The Vivisectionist Alchemist level is arguably worth keeping -- the Alchemist abilities other than +1d6 Sneak Attack are useful in their own right, including giving you some minor ability to patch yourself up.

If you don't want to consume 5 feats on VMC Rogue, or you want to go VMC something else, use 1 level of Sneak Attack class and the Accomplished Sneak Attacker feat, and keep them both, and you'll still be able to enter Arcane Trickster at 6th level, or even 5th level if you got Accomplished Sneak Attacker at 3rd level (Arcane Trickster has only 4 ranks of skill requirements for entry).


Thanks for the thoughts, everyone!

For those suggesting arcane trickster, how do you suggest I get use out of my sneak attacks with a focus on enchantment? It feels like ignoring a main part of the class.

I will say that the sandman gets dramatic subtext, which while not giving silent spell, does let the sandman cast in public unnoticed.

I think I'm leaning toward trickster. Only losing 1 spell casting level is nice. And the extra utility is more what I'm going for.

I'm hoping to play this guy soon and welcome any advice! The party looks to be a hunter, slayer, and me. We all want to focus on stealth, so I'm trying to fill the arcane slot on the party.


If you take the rake archetype of rogue then in combat then when you land a sneak attack you can make an intimidate check with +5/1d6 from sneak attack. If you have a cruel weapon you can make shaken foes sickened. Together that's a -4 to saves.

Dramatic subtext looks really awkward to use and it's 9th level before you can try. As a human arcane trickster you might take these feats

1: Deceitful, cunning caster, scribe scroll (maybe take a snake familiar for +3 bluff)
3: Accomplished sneak attacker
5: Silent spell

& be at least able try to hide spellcasting from 1st level, and be good at it at 5th. No 2-round delay either, and if you're sneaking around somewhere that there shouldn't be noise silent spell is useful, dramatic subtext isn't.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Use enchantment spells to make enemies allies. Then use them as flanking tools :) Also it is probable that if you make the target forget you are there(memory lapse etc) then you can get another sneak attack off

The Exchange

I would go Puppetmaster or Eldritch Scoundrel.


Jedi Maester wrote:

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone!

For those suggesting arcane trickster, how do you suggest I get use out of my sneak attacks with a focus on enchantment? It feels like ignoring a main part of the class.
{. . .}

If you are willing to be a Gnome and mix some Illusion focus in with your Enchantment focus, you can pick up the Threatening Illusion Metamagic feat (requires Spell Focus (Illusion)) and cast Figments that flank for you.

If you use things like Color Spray (Illusion) and Glitterdust (Conjuration) to blind your enemies (at low levels, Color Spray can even do more), you can potentially set up a Sneak Attack on them.

* * * * * * * *

Benefits of various Sneak Attack dip classes (other than VMC Rogue -- see previous post) -- 1 level except as noted:

Ninja (2 or 3 levels): Advantages: Get a Ki Pool that depends upon Charisma, useful for Sorcerers and some Arcanist builds; potentially get a Ninja Trick that uses this Ki Pool -- Vanishing Trick has been popular for helping you to get Sneak Attacks, although at this level, the duration is awfully short; some decent weapon proficiencies (especially Katana). Also gets more skill ranks per level. Disadvantages: Not compatible with going VMC Rogue (see above post) since Ninja is an alternate class to Rogue, and the 2 - 3 lost spellcasting levels hurt more on a Sorcerer (or Arcanist), as well as pretty much requiring you to get the trait Magical Knack to offset the caster level loss.

Unchained Rogue: Advantages: Get free Weapon Finesse; if you actually get 3 levels of this, you also get free Dexterity-to-Damage with 1 weapon (as well as a Rogue Talent and the possibility to get more with Extra Rogue Talent), although taking 3 levels of a Sneak Attack class to get +2d6 Sneak Attack has fallen into disfavor ever since the feat Accomplished Sneak Attacker came out. Also has Trapfinding if you don't take an archetype that trades it out. Also gets more skill ranks per level. Disadvantages: Not compatible with going VMC Rogue (see above post).

Snakebite Striker Brawler: More hit points and good Fortitude and Reflex Saves to complement the good Will Save you will get from your spellcasting class; some decent weapon proficiencies and Improved Unarmed Strike (which is better than the feat of the same name, although you won't get the benefit of the Brawler's later scaling of Unarmed Strike damage). Disdvantages: In order to get Sneak Attack, this archetype shoots itself in the foot by trading out Martial Flexibility; apart from the good Saves and starting you off with Sneak Attack +1d6, the other Brawler abilities don't synergize very well with your spellcasting class or Arcane Trickster.

Vivisectionist Alchemist: Good Fortitude and Reflex Saves to complement the good Will Save you will get from your spellcasting class; even though this archetype trades out Bombs to get Sneak Attack, it retains Alchemy, Mutagen, and Throw Anything. Alchemy gives you some extra utility and some ability to patch yourself up, and is Intelligence-dependent, which synergizes with your spellcasting if you are a Wizard or Arcanist (or Witch, although Witch doesn't work so well for Arcane Trickster and has to jump through hoops to get Mage Hand to qualify). Mutagen could be useful to pump your Dexterity. Alchemist's Throw Anything is better than the feat of the same name, and you may find it useful in conjunction with Alchemical Weapons. If you actually take a 2nd level of Vivisectionist Alchemist, you can get an Alchemical Discovery, such as Vestigial Arm (even 2 of them if you spend a feat), as well as Poison Resistance and Poison Use, although taking 2 levels of Alchemist will make the Magical Knack trait a must-have to offset the extra caster level loss. Disadvantages: Worst weapon proficiencies of the Sneak Attack classes.


UnArcaneElection wrote:
Jedi Maester wrote:

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone!

For those suggesting arcane trickster, how do you suggest I get use out of my sneak attacks with a focus on enchantment? It feels like ignoring a main part of the class.
{. . .}

If you are willing to be a Gnome and mix some Illusion focus in with your Enchantment focus, you can pick up the Threatening Illusion Metamagic feat (requires Spell Focus (Illusion)) and cast Figments that flank for you.

If you use things like Color Spray (Illusion) and Glitterdust (Conjuration) to blind your enemies (at low levels, Color Spray can even do more), you can potentially set up a Sneak Attack on them...

That makes sense, but I'm not sure how to survive long enough in a flanking position. I'll be pretty squishy and have terrible bab. I guess I'll need to keep mirror image and a touch spell if I need to get in close. I don't think I'll be able to hit anything with a rapier after a few levels.

The puppetmaster is an interesting choice, Bearserk. I've never played a magus, much less an archetype that completely changed its nature. I'd have no idea how to build it.


I haven't had a chance to play it yet but i've been kicking around the idea of a warlock vigilante into an arcane trickster.

5 levels of warlock gets you multiple ranged/melee touch attacks which you can take weapon feats like TWF and rapid shot on to get a decent number of attacks in the air a round. you don't do much base damage but you start tacking on several D6s of SA damage and it adds up fast. You'll almost never miss and if you run in to something that is immune/resistant to your energy you can keep a couple blast spells memorized as back ups.

Your spell casting is a bit weaker than a wizard focused trickster BUT you actually get more utility out of it. Instead of having to prepare and use multiple blasts you've got your mystic bolts so you can prepare more utility/control spells. A wizard trickster has to worry if he should prepare a acid arrow or an invisibility spell. you prepare an invisibility and web and have your acid bolts in reserve. Personally I love the feel of the cunning use of lower level spells for a trickster rather than a more boring standard blaster wizard with sneak attack dice.

The lower max spell level also means that you can afford to spread out your stats more. you only need a max INT of 16 so you get some room to bump up CON or bump your DEX to higher levels.

Also the way SA and spells interact is...well crap. lets take a look at an 11th level wizard trickster vs a warlock trickster.

The wizard fires off a scorching ray for 3 bolts at 4d6 each and only one bolt gets SA damage added of 5d6 so we have a total of 17d6 damage or roughly 60 average. The Warlock took TWF and rapid shot and gets 4 bolts (rapid, TWF, +2 from base BAB) at 1d6+2 each and EACH bolt can get SA damage so 4d6+8+ (4 bolts 5d6 each) 20D6 from SA 24d6+8 or 92 average. Its not a perfect comparison as it depends on being in position where you get the SA on multiple attacks and it doesn't take in to account what you may do with the feats you used on TWF/rapid shot. But it's an interesting idea for a more roguish trickster and it's more constant damage if you don't tend towards the 15 minute adventuring day.


^Normally going from a 6/9 spellcasting class into a spellcasting prestige class designed for 9/9 spellcasters would be bad, but the idea of getting Sneak Attack on your Warlock Mystic Bolts is interesting, although I would need to do more research to figure out how well it would work.

I meant to mention something last time, that should probably be obvious, but just in case anyone didn't notice: Hold Person and Hold Monster are Enchantment, and you can use them to deny targets their Dexterity Bonus so that you can Sneak Attack them without needing a flank.

Another archetype you might want to look into: Questioner Investigator -- replaces the normal Investigator's Alchemy with arcane spellcasting of Bard spells. Also adds ability to use Inspiration on Stealth, Knowledge, and Linguistics (assuming you are trained) without needing to spend Inspiration points, which is very useful for what you want, and at 2nd level gets an ability called Know-It-All which is actually really good.

If you want a Sneak-Attacking Divine Trickster, use Sanctified Slayer Inquisitor, which has what you need (except for being divine instead of arcane) out of the box, with no need for a prestige class.


UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Normally going from a 6/9 spellcasting class into a spellcasting prestige class designed for 9/9 spellcasters would be bad, but the idea of getting Sneak Attack on your Warlock Mystic Bolts is interesting, although I would need to do more research to figure out how well it would work.

I disagree with the idea that the trickster was designed to be a full 9/9 caster. I see it as a rogue replacement, not a wizard one. When the class came out there was not a way to enter it without at least 3 levels of rogue. It was designed to take a hefty hit to spell levels, DC and spells per day. A current 6/9 caster's not as far behind as you might think.

It's a much smoother power curve too.wizards suck at early levels. Wiz 3/rogue 1 sucks still. The wizard trickster doesn't really have any advantage over the full wizard until tricky spells and that's limited. At higher levels the extra wizard metamagic feats outweigh the sneak attack dice of a trickster. So it's a power curve where you suck at low levels, get decent midlevel and start to fade in comparison to your base class at higher levels.

6/9 tricksters do much better at low levels. They can wear armor, the have better hit points, generally better skills and better bab so they can contribute when they run out of spells. Midlevel they are comparable to the wizard trickster if not slightly better as I detailed above. Once you get to higher levels you fall behind a little bit but you've got additional tricks that can be used by clever players to do interesting and fun things. I'm personally okay giving up a small amount of raw powers the end game to have a character that's more versatile and unique.

Long story short I think if you're starting at 1 and don't plan on making it past 15 (like an ap) the 6/9 trickster gives you a more consistent power curve with a ton of fun exploits. If you start and play at higher levels the wizard trickster pulls ahead powerwise.


The reason I say that Prestige Classes were designed for 9/9 spellcasters is that this one and several others like it were designed back when most spellcasters were 9/9 or 4/9 (Arcane Tricskter has been around since D&D 3.5 Core Rulebook and maybe even since D&D 3.0 Core Rulebook, and Pathfinder RPG initially had mainly 9/9 or 4/9 casting), and going into it from a 4/9 caster is obviously bad enough to make most people avoid it. The problem is that all prestige classes so far that advance spellcasting do it at the same rate from their point of view regardless of what class you entered with, but since the base classes progress at different rates, this means that the prestige class gives no compensation for entering from a base class that progresses more slowly, while giving you (with very rare exceptions) the same prestige class features, thereby putting you behind.

Rogue 3/Universalist Wizard 3/Arcane Trickster x

Level: Spells 1 - x (not including Cantrips, and not including bonus spells for high primary spellcasting ability score)
01 - 03: -
04: 1
05: 2 (behind a single-class Wizard by 3 caster levels, 2.5 spell levels, and 1 bonus feat, but ahead by 1 Rogue Talent and Sneak Attack +2d6 that partially substitutes for damage-amplifying Metamagic feats)
06: 2, 1
07: 3, 2
08: 3, 2, 1
09: 3, 3, 2
10: 4, 3, 2, 1 (behind a single-class Wizard by 3 caster levels, 2.5 spell levels, and 2 bonus feats, but ahead by 1 Rogue Talent and Sneak Attack +4d6 that partially substitutes for damage-amplifying Metamagic feats)
11: 4, 3, 3, 2
12: 4, 4, 3, 2, 1
13: 4, 4, 3, 3, 2
14: 4, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1
15: 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2 (behind a single-class Wizard by 3 caster levels, 2.5 spell levels, and 3 bonus feats, but ahead by 1 Rogue Talent and Sneak Attack +6d6 that partially substitutes for damage-amplifying Metamagic feats)
16: 4, 4, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1
17: 4, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2

For a specialist Wizard, add 1 spell of the appropriate Arcane School of each usable level. For a Sorcerer, delay progression of each spell level after 1 by 1 character level (and delay entry into Arcane Trickster by 1 level), but then add 2 spells of each usable level, except that Sorcerers ramp up to their maximum spells per day of each level more quickly.

Rogue 3/Bard 4/Arcane Trickster x

Level: Spells 1 - x (not including Cantrips, and not including bonus spells for high primary spellcasting ability score)
01 - 03: -
04: 1
05: 2
06: 3
07: 3, 1 (behind a Wizard by 1 level in getting 2nd level spells; ahead in BAB by 1)
08: 4, 2
09: 4, 3
10: 4, 3, 1 (behind a Wizard by 2 levels or behind a Sorcerer by 1 level in getting 3rd level spells; ahead in BAB by 2)
11: 4, 4, 2
12: 5, 4, 3
13: 5, 4, 3, 1 (behind a Wizard by 3 levels or behind a Sorcerer by 2 levels in getting 4th level spells; ahead in BAB by 2)
14: 5, 4, 4, 2
15: 5, 5, 4, 3
16: 5, 5, 4, 3, 1 (behind a Wizard by 4 levels or behind a Sorcerer by 3 levels in getting 5th level spells; ahead in BAB by 2)
17: 5, 5, 4, 4, 2

In both cases, Magical Knack compensates for all but 1 lost caster level, but doesn't alter spellcasting progression. In both cases, more modern tricks such as dipping in 1 level of Sneak Attack class (more choices now available) and then taking Accomplished Sneak Attacker apply evenly to both builds, reducing the loss of spellcasting progression and caster level progression to just 1 each (meaning that you are behind by only 0.5 spell levels), so that it might not even be worth taking Magical Knack, depending upon your other trait requirements.

In both cases, the 3 Rogue levels (or more recently 1 level of various Sneak Attack class choices) and the x Arcane Trickster levels give you exactly the same class features (or choice thereof where you can pick one like a Rogue Talent), except that your spellcasting is worse if you entered with 6/9 spellcasting, and keeps getting worse, whereas the BAB advantage, extra class features, and extra skill ranks(*) of the 6/9 spellcasting class only get better for a very short period (4 levels) in the beginning, and then stay constant, thus being easily and fairly quickly overtaken by the widening gap in spellcasting ability.

(*)If your 6/9 spellcasting class is Intelligence-based, chances are it may not have all that many more skill ranks than Wizard; those that have more are usually Charisma-based, which means that you can't spend as much on Intelligence in the point buy, thus negating part or even all of the skill rank advantage; Bard's Versatile Performance helps, but only has 3 levels in which to do so.

So for the particular case of the Warlock Vigilante, the question becomes whether Arcane Trickster's scaling Sneak Attack as applied to not only spells but also Mystic Bolts can make up for the disadvantage of progressing 6/9 spellcasting instead of 9/9 spellcasting. (Note that you would want 5 levels of Warlock Vigilante before going into Arcane Trickster, to get the ability to resolve all Mystic Bolt attacks as Touch Attacks.) Now that I have had a little bit more chance to look at it, I think the answer is . . . sort of. The problem is that if you go into Arcane Trickster from Warlock Vigilante, you are stuck with just 1 energy type on your Mystic Bolts, and are thus at the mercy of what Energy Resistance/Immunities your enemies have. It could work in some campaigns, but seems risky. It would be safer, although not as intense, to go Warlock Vigilante VMC Rogue -- this would give a smaller amount of Sneak Attack, and award it later, but would give you the opportunity to choose more than 1 Mystic Bolt energy type so as to have less chance of being impaired against a substantial subset of enemies. A reasonable compromise would be to go all the way to 7th level Warlock Vigilante to pick up 1 additional energy type opposed to your 1st energy type (you probably want Acid and Electricity unless you are up against a lot of things that are immune to both of these), and then go into Arcane Trickster, possibly also going VMC Rogue the whole time to get more Sneak Attack dice.


I never considered the warlock. That is an interesting consideration. However, would a 6th level caster be a good enchanter? With DCs tied to spell level, I worry about my effectiveness. If it could work, that opens a ton of 6th level options like Eldritch Scoundrel. And that brings us back to Sandman. FULL CIRCLE!

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