I have seen posts similar to this one before, often talking about how such and such a class (usually the rogue, but sometimes the Ninja) aren't worth it or the like, but I wanted to make a thread that kind of redirects the question.
How do players who enjoy playing the Sneak types get that stealth experience?
I have been debating for a long while how to obtain the 'stealth experience' in a game of Pathfinder (or RPGs in general, really). When I first started playing PFS, I rolled up a rogue and tried to go to town. Sneaking everywhere, spotting traps, skill monkeying. Etc. And while it went... ok, I wasn't experiencing what I wanted. It felt fairly underwhelming and while I know I was partially useful, I never felt like I was contributing as much. I ended up abandoning the character in favor of my current PFS character, a smashy smashy Paladin. And while I do enjoy the character (there is something kind of fun about being a holy avenger type), it just isn't me.
One could probably spend an entire thread trying to figure out what 'Stealth Experience' really means. There was a fantastic article a while back that tried to do the same thing, taking a few shots at what makes people like myself enjoy this type of character. Ultimately, the writer makes mention of two games that are the perfect stealth games; the Batman Arkham series and Mark of the Ninja (I could not find it and if anyone happens to know it and could link it, I would be grateful). And for the sake of our argument, lets use that as the final goal.
Yes, just like when I was 10, I want to be Batman.
Actually, because this is Pathfinder, be Batman in the Justice League. There are a ton of characters who are better than Batman. Just like in JL, there are characters who are stronger, faster, smarter or just straight up have cooler powers. The Barbarian will probably deal more damage, the Bard will probably have better skill rolls and the Wizard will probably cast more useful spells.
So what are we to do? That is generally the purpose of the entire thread, but I would like to start by tossing out my first idea.
The Utility Belt
What do you think? What do you think the largest hurdles are for sneaking characters and what would you suggest on how to overcome them?
At higher levels enemies have really good perception checks. I rolled a 50 tonight with an NPC. True seeing, blindsight, blindsense, and so on are also a factor. One of my NPC's was made to be really good at perception, and while the others got lucky rolls they still could have hit a 40 on average.
Other problems are escaping if you get caught. If you can not escape can you fight your way out to create an opening so you can run later.
At lower levels you still have to be able to deal with possibly getting caught.
A stealthy character should also have a good perception to avoid getting ambushed first.
Bards, inquisitor, rangers, etc can be just as stealthy if not more so than a rogue. My ninja is actually the "ranger" class, but all of them have to deal with the same problems that come with trying to be stealthy.
That thunderstone is only a +15 fort save IIRC. If a player builds his character to have a good save it is generally a wasted action to use it. The tanglefoot bag can be an issue depending on the group, but generally speaking it would be something I would do to make a combat last longer instead of expect for it to be a significant factor.
I do like handy haversacks, and eyes of the eagle as cheap magic items. Being able to bring a lot of things to table with knowledge checks, social skills, and other ways to be versatile are good. That gives you multiple ways to solve a problem.
Oh wow... Have to say, I don't think I have ever had an NPC roll a 50 on anything... But doesn't stuff get harder no matter what class you play? I mean, big damage types have to deal with higher and higher DRs, casters have to overcome SR, and skill DCs keep going up. Although, I guess while trying to be sneaky, it is a bit more binary. Either you are 'stealthed' or you are not.
But along those lines, there have been several times in PFS where a module has deliberately countered any attempt to be stealthy because either the NPC has some kind of trick (last nights mission had a three tier alarm that required PCs to disable device and counter two seperate spells. They got two of the three) or because the module just straight up says "He knows when you come in so he can give a bit of monologue." (summarized, of course)
Back on the utility belt, I have been staring at the rules for caltrops for a long time and I have been seriously debating trying to make use of them. It is basically a touch attack that reduces land movement by half, although it would probably be difficult to actually get an enemy to run over them.
Stealth can just be difficult because with Hide in Plain Sight (or something similar) it can be difficult to find things to hide behind or in or whatever. Not to mention one bad roll on your part can really blow it. And couple it with the fact that the stealthy types usually get elected to "scout", it ends up a bad idea when you're surrounded 4 to 1.
Stelath sounds nice in theory, but in practice it rarely works out the way I want it to. The most successful I've been at using Stealth is actually playing an Archer Ranger (which gets a form of HiPS at 12th level) combined with his Favored Terrain bonus to Stealth, Improved Shaodow Armor Enchant, high dex (for archery), and maxed skill ranks.
Stealth worked pretty well for him, and he had good damage to fall back on when needed (as well as an animal companion he could call on for backup (Hostelling armor). But it was always important to have a backup plan. At approximately the same level you can prepare Tree Stride which gives you the ability to teleport out of some place, as long as there are trees. In case you get in too deep.
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When you are traveling with a Wizard or Sorcerer, check if they have the Message cantrip. It allows the table to get involved with your scouting since now information can be relayed back and forth. It is DC 25 for hostiles to detect the scout's whispered message, and you add range penalties to that.
Read up on the cantrip. You really need a spell caster to utilize this, since the spell casters can cast this all day long without worry.
To give credit where due, I got clued into this cantrip reading A Highly Regarded Expert's Guide to the Arcane Trickster. Have people check their spell lists for it.
If you are going to carry all this stuff, you are going to want a Handy Haversack or something like it.
As for caltrops, use them as land mines behind you or on the flanks. If you make them obvious, you might even be able to use them to channel monsters into a tighter than normal area for the spell casters to take care of.
I would suggest getting a copy of the Pathfinder Society Field Guide for the following:
Air Crystals: Chewable air for 1 minute. If you try to talk, it ends the effect. Oh, might want to find a halfling alchemist and see if they can find a way to improve the taste.
Powder (1 cp, .5 lbs): Your basic ground chalk. Gives rules for using it to discover which square an invisible creature is in. It also has ways to use it in dirty tricks.
Equipment Tricks (requiring a feat) with Rope and Sunrod.
Going to Advanced Player's Guide, you've got:
Earplugs (deal with Harpies)
Marbles (different version of Caltrops)
Powder (see above)
Almost all the special substances including Flash Powder.
Be sure to check out Traveler's Anytool from Ultimate Equipment.
If you are really going for the Batman feeling, you'll want a Sap. Assuming you go rogue, it allows you to do non-lethal sneak attack damage.
If you go Halfling race, check out the Well Prepared feat from Advanced Player's Guide.
If you make this work well for you, write it up and share your experiences. I've been trying to find the right way to do this sort of stuff myself.
The guy I played with at PFS played an interesting character that gave me a very anime style ninja character vine. I never got around to learning his build, but he used some spells and feats to pull off some really amazing tricks, including flash stepping (multiple rapid teleports) behind the big bad and almost one shotting him.
IMHO, if you want that "stealth experience" you'd be better off playing a game that has less rules/numbers. The MAJOR problem with PF is that it rewards "crunching the numbers" and can actually penalize "roleplaying". No matter how you describe how and with what your rogue is going to approach something, it will *always* boil down you your d20 roll vs. their d20 roll. If they have better numbers, they win; doesn't matter if your plan was virtually flawless, meticulously planned out, and executed with uncanny precision...if the DM doesn't give appropriately ridiculous bonuses, the dice decide; not you. Unfortunately most DM's of PF I've talked to don't really know how to actually "DM"...they know how to run a game (this is a whole other thread, so I'll leave it at that). They will look for a bajillion different modifiers through dozens of PF books they bought at the cheese-shop...but they won't just "make something up". If they can only find a total of +4 to your roll, that's all you'll get. They won't say "That plan is AMAZING!...that's +12 to your roll". So...you roll, he rolls. Who really cares how much thought/planning you put into it.
So...with regards to PF...I think you're looking for a game that isn't there. PF, like 3.5e, is ALL about the numbers and how many Feats you can bring to bare. Yes, groups can 'ignore' the numbers game and play more loosy-goosy ...but all it takes is ONE small incident in the campaign and BAM! The numbers race is on.
I suggest going with a different, more open-ended RPG (just about any retro-cloned D&D version will work, really; Labyrinth Lord, Dark Dungeons, Swords & Wizardry, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, etc.). What your character can do is what you describe your character doing, and your DM giving you a chance to do it. Rules are definitely guidelines because theres usually not much 'number crunching' needed. (re: "Test of Dexterity" covers pretty much anything nimble/sneaky like; DM gives +/- based on you, the player, describing what and how you are doing something).
Sorry for the long post there. The numbers-focus thing about PF is one of my sore spots for this game system...
Paul L. Ming
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@pming: I don't really agree with that. If you want to play the stealth game, you have to know the stealth rules through and through, and know what modifiers you can gain and what you need to do for it. And what things will give the opposition bonuses.
It's still a d20 vs. d20 roll, but the point is to stack the odds in your extreme favor. Since a 20/1 doesn't auto-hit/fail on skill checks, you can just plain be better.
Of course, sometimes you won't be. But then, sometimes a fighter just isn't as strong as a dragon. So you also need to be able to realize when you're in over your head and retreat fast enough, possibly dropping some things to make it harder to follow you.
I do think this kind of scouting requires a notch higher rule skill from the player than a standard combat character.