How do you build and play a Stealth / Dexterity / Ranged Champion (if at all)?


Advice


The RNG Gods have decreed a goblin Champion, and I'm struggling to figure out how they can be optimized. The Definitive Guide said Stealth was the biggest reason to go down the Dex path, but I'm not how a Champion would use Hide and Sneak to do what they wanna do.

All I (maybe) know for sure is that if you use ranged weapons, Paladin is an auto-pick for Ranged Reprisal. After that, I'm clueless. Light hammer & returning shield? Composite shortbow? Making Hidden the new shield block?

I know I'll probably never be as cool as the strength chads, but I'd appreciate advice on how to get almost as good.

EDIT: If it matters, assume Blade Ally will bypass the melee-only prereqs that usually apply for those runes.


For reference, what is allowed in your game? Common versatile heritages and the like? Or anything goes? Somewhere in between?

What level are you starting at? Standard character creation equipment, or are you doing something special?


beowulf99 wrote:

For reference, what is allowed in your game? Common versatile heritages and the like? Or anything goes? Somewhere in between?

What level are you starting at? Standard character creation equipment, or are you doing something special?

The DM can be persuaded to allow most things, though I'd prefer sticking with Core, common stuff. We do get Free Archetype if that shores up anything. Starting at level 1, standard equipment rules.


Blave wrote:
First of all: Why Dex? A Goblin works perfectly fine as a strength build.

I wanted to be a little subop and lean into what makes the ancestry (and rng'd background, with also focuses on stealth) special. So if stealth is as awesome as this guide says it is, the goblins could do that pretty well with their ancestry feat lines. (I assume)

Side note, but do goblins have anything that makes str pretty great for them too? Having to use voluntary flaw to nix the ancestry bonus can feel bad.


First of all: Why Dex? A Goblin works perfectly fine as a strength build.

But even assuming you want Dex, there's nothing keeping you from starting with 18 Dex and 14 or 16 Strength. You lose a bit of damage early on but it shouldn't be too bad. In fact, using a Finesse weapon (which usually have a smaller damage die) is probably a bigger impact on your damage than the lack of a few points of strength.

Having a secondary damage source is usually a good idea on a Dex build. The most reliable one is sneak attack via Rogue or Assassin Dedication, but those might be a bit weird on a Paladin.

I would absolutely pick a weapon with the thrown trait for a Dex Champion. And Light Hammer is probably your best choice.


With a Dex build you're trading heavy armor (and the Armor Specialization later that's best in heavy armor), bigger weapons, and higher Str damage for a higher Ref save (a Champion's worst) and excellent ranged combat (which is a major gap for those low Dex Champions).

The thing is, as your Str increases w/ boosts to 16, you can swap to heavy armor and get those benefits and your weapon's comparable to a shield Champion's anyway. In a party w/ ample ranged combat & healing, you probably don't want to make that swap, but on its own it's a fine swap especially if you want to be stealthy.

--
I'm not sure what difficulties you'd have playing one though, as it'd work like other ranged builds except that Str would be more important so you can upgrade to heavy armor later (which reminds me of another Champion flaw you'd be covering: its slow speed which isn't such a factor if you have ranged attacks).

Your best option is likely the thrower, since it's easier to switch hit and you can use a shield. Also, you get Returning so early via Blade Ally, which is darn cool. As mentioned above, the light hammer's excellent for this, though I also like the javelin (which you'd want with a deity that favors it so you get a d8 w/ excellent range for a thrown weapon).

There's also the archer build, though it's not well supported by Champion. The Archer Archetype gives you enough though, so go with that, perhaps with a rapier or short sword for melee work.

Stealth wouldn't come into play much in combat (since there's not much benefit to it that you can't get from simply flanking), though you'd make a fine scout, and an extra resilient one if caught!
Skills might be an issue, as you'll want those tasty Dex ones, but with Goblin Lore and maybe a Rogue Dedication (if possible, like if an archer see if you can have a regular archetype alongside the free one since Archer would be important) would help there. Sneak Attack would give you some needed damage (your weakest quality IMO, though you should be quite consistent with it).


Use the Unexpected Sharpshooter dedication and flavor it that instead of luck it's your deity will that do the stuff.

"Saranrae bless this bullet/arrow"

Accidental Shot.


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My 35-year-old elder daughter plays a Dexterity-based tailed goblin champion in my PF2-converted Ironfang Invasion campaign. She tends to master gaming systems, so I assume her build is solid, but she prefers off-the-wall tactics. The first module, Trail of the Hunted, was about the party protecting refugees hiding in the forest, so she knew she would need a high-Dexterity character for effective Stealth. That undermined her defense, so she asked for a velociraptor animal companion as her 3rd-level Steed Ally, even though a velociraptor is not a mount.

Tikti's current stats at 14th level are Str +3, Dex +5, Con +3, Int +2, Wis +1, Cha +2. She is trained in Acrobatics, Deception, Intimidation, Medicine, and Religion, and master in Athletics and Crafting. Her heritage is Tailed Goblin and her ancestry feats are Junk Tinker, Tree Climber, Cave Cliber, and Goblin Scuttle. Her skill feats are Skill Training in Acrobatics and Intimidation, Magical Crafting, Quick Repair, Quick Climb, Cat Fall, and Swift Sneak. Her general feats are Toughness, Fleet, and Breath Control.

More importantly, she is a Chaotic Good champion of the liberator cause, serving Grandmother Spider. She persuaded me that repairing her shield counts for a Refocus activity, because she worships a crafting god. Her class feats are Diety's Domain (Trickery), Unimpeded Step, Divine Health, Loyal Warhorse, Quick Block, Imposing Destrier, Champion's Sacrifice, and Divine Reflexes.

If fighting offensively, she sends to velociraptor to attack and uses her Liberating Step to protect it. More often she fights defensively. The velociraptor remains on the fringe of battle and she stands by her allies protecting them with both her physical presence and Liberating Step and making an occasional Strike with her +2 fearsome striking shortsword. She wears light armor and uses Shield Block to prevent much of the damage to herself, keeping her sturdy steel shield upgraded as high as she can afford.

Everyone in the party is stealthy and she is merely trained in Stealth compared to the experts and masters in the party. But her Dexterity is high enough that she is not the one who gives away the party by rolling low during Encounter Mode (for Exploration Mode, another PC has Quiet Allies). The party will scout enemies from hiding and then plan an ambush. Tikti often walks out in the open as bait when the rest of the party is hiding in ambush, because she can handle the damage from the enemies' initial attacks.

Her Athletics is more valuable than her Stealth, despite her unimpressive Strength, because she is a climber. This lets her bypass many obstacles such as walls and pits.

Her ranged weapon is a bola, her god's favored weapon. But I have never seen her use it, because the party has plenty of archers and her velociraptor can quickly close the gap on enemies. Her Fleet general feat was to make chasing after her velociraptor less silly, but eventually, the velociraptor grew big enough to serve as her steed.


ThatGuyDM wrote:

The RNG Gods have decreed a goblin Champion, and I'm struggling to figure out how they can be optimized. The Definitive Guide said Stealth was the biggest reason to go down the Dex path, but I'm not how a Champion would use Hide and Sneak to do what they wanna do.

All I (maybe) know for sure is that if you use ranged weapons, Paladin is an auto-pick for Ranged Reprisal. After that, I'm clueless. Light hammer & returning shield? Composite shortbow? Making Hidden the new shield block?

I know I'll probably never be as cool as the strength chads, but I'd appreciate advice on how to get almost as good.

EDIT: If it matters, assume Blade Ally will bypass the melee-only prereqs that usually apply for those runes.

As others suggest, you don't have to utilize Dexterity fully with a Goblin Champion if you don't want to, simply because the ancestry gives a bonus to Dexterity inherently. Goblins can function just fine as a Strength-based character since they do not suffer a Strength penalty that most Small-sized Ancestries do, and can still use their Free Ability Boost from their Ancestry to increase Strength.

But if you're still really wanting to make use of your Dexterity, though, then you're limited to using only Finesse weapons, or Ranged weapons, which reduces your options significantly. But you're not completely helpless; there are Shortbows, Tridents, and Light Hammers as your primary means of attack. Bonus points if you put the Returning rune on them ASAP, especially via Blade Ally. If your GM is open to let you doing some crazy stuff, picking up an Elven Branched Spear or a Bladed Scarf could give you a Finesse Reach weapon instead (though its damage is equivalent to a Shortbow and worse than a Trident's, it lets you reliably make use of the offensive portion of your Champion's Reaction compared to those other weapons). For the latter, you could explain that the pretty colors of the Bladed Scarf act like flames, which make you want to keep using it as a Goblin.

For feats, I would look at Desperate Prayer for 2nd level (an extra Lay On Hands when you need it is always good), and for 4th level, possibly looking at expanding your Dedication choice via Free Archetype. For 6th level, if you are wanting to stick with melee weapons, Attack of Opportunity is an awesome feat if you aren't able to make use of your Champion Reaction, but could have been able to take a swipe at a guy moving adjacent to you. Otherwise, Smite Evil is too good of a feat not to take if you're using ranged weapons, as the free bonus damage is more helpful to you compared to a melee weapon, especially if it triggers Weakness. 8th level is another weak level for feats, so maybe expand your dedication(s) some more with this level of feats. With 10th level, Radiant Blade Spirit lets you add Flaming and Holy and Axiomatic to the choices of rune effects to attach to your weapon of choice, meaning you can vary up your rune choices with your weapons to account for this, and taking Holy at a level before you normally get access to it as a rune is very powerful for you. 12th level gives you Blade of Justice; despite its name, you can use this with any weapon, including ranged and projectile weapons. Against Evil foes, this adds 2 weapon dice to the attack, lets you convert weapon damage to Holy/Good damage (great for triggering weakness and bypassing resistance), and only counts as one attack for MAP. 14th level, Divine Reflexes is the best feat, bar none. Potentially Double Champion Reactions per turn is insane, or if you are running a Reach weapon, this lets you combo Attack of Opportunity and Champion Reaction in the same turn if your enemies trigger either way, but don't want to make a choice as to which weapon to use. 16th level is probably the last of the bad feat choice levels, though if you're wanting to really capitalize on Blade of Justice, the Instrument of Zeal feat lets your weapon become even more devastating on a critical, adding more damage dice and putting a Slowed 1 debuff on the enemy. Otherwise, expand your dedication(s) one last time here. 18th level, Celestial Form is the best choice, bar none. A permanent Fly Speed equal to your current speed is so good, especially if you're a ranged/reach character. 20th level, your choice of Radiant Blade Master or Sacred Defender. The former is great if you're wanting a Keen property on your weapon, and if the GM okays it with a Bow, for example, that's really powerful and unique. Greater Disrupting is useful if you're fighting Undead a lot, but is otherwise useless, and Dancing isn't so great unless you're using a back-up weapon with it, which kind of defeats the point of a free rune that stacks with all others. If you're wanting a bit more defenses against Evil creatures, then Sacred Defender is your best bet, especially if you're still using melee weapons. This gives Resistance 10 to all physical damage against Evil foes, and any creature rolling a Natural 20 against you doesn't increase the degree of success by 1 step, meaning you can't just get whittled down by a GM fishing for 20s, which is nice. This, unfortunately, probably won't protect you too much from primary attacks from credible enemies, but it does make a stray Natural 20 from a mook or a secondary/tertiary attack from enemies nowhere near as effective.

And for Free Archetype, that's really up to you, depending on which playstyle you roll with. If you want a very basic one to take that gives you solid scaling stuff without any investment, there's Acrobat dedication; free scaling of Acrobatics up to and including Legendary by 15th level. This lets you take Kip Up (great for nullifying enemies that trip and freeing up potentially lost action economy) and benefit from Legendary Cat Fall (which is fun as an armored tin can falling thousands of feet from the air and just landing as if nothing happened). Bonus points if you use Elven Branched Spear as your weapon of choice, as some of those feats work with that type of weapon. If you want added mobility as well as a specialty animal companion, there's always the Beast Master dedication, which lets you have a full-scale Animal Companion (which scales far better than Steed Ally, I might add), and might add a bit more offensive capability in combat, especially in the lower levels. You could even go full support-type frontliner and take Marshal dedication, especially if your group doesn't have a bard. The possibilities are nearly endless here.

That being said, I would advise against going Dexterity and Stealth as a Champion for a few major reasons. With Stealth, the ability to utilize it reliably does not kick in until the major levels, and requires both skill increase investments as well as skill feat investments to make work against enemies with ever-scaling Perception DCs and in a real-time combat scenario. Goblin helps accelerate the process some (with Very Very Sneaky giving you the effects of Legendary Sneak without needing to be, well, Legendary in Sneaking, and at an earlier level), but it's 2 Ancestry feats, and still going to be well over half your adventuring career before you can reasonably use Stealth as part of your regular tactics. Even if you do commit fully to Stealth, the problem that's posed is that you are supposed to be the most AC (and probably also the most health) of the group, meaning you're the one meant to take the enemy's front-line to keep your back-line protected. If you all-of-a-sudden poof from the battlefield via Stealthing, you leave your other allies open to getting beat down or surrounded by enemies, when your role as Champion is to be the one getting surrounded and beat down, because it's not meant to be as effective. Having played in a group where this happened, not having that extra member there to draw attention and take hits here and there, definitely caused some added pain to the rest of the group, forcing us to rest longer and/or burn more in-combat resources to stay up.

Another reason to avoid Dexterity is simply having lower AC. Relying on Dexterity and without wearing heavier armor is still less AC than if you simply went Full Plate (or another heavier armor in the early levels). Even if you want to say that having the best AC without armor is really only a 1 point difference (which puts you on par with Monk, actually), another big factor is Armor Specialization, which depending on what you wear determines what resistance you get from physical attacks. Wearing any Light armor (or even no armor at all, such as Explorer's Clothing,) gives you nothing for Armor Specialization, which is a nice boost in survivability. Just as well, with an 18 Strength, you're only really losing out on 5 feet of movement speed, which can even be negated entirely with Mithril Full Plate. Honestly, other than having a better than usual Reflex Save (which is crucial for a Champion), it's not particularly powerful compared to just going Strength, as there are other ways besides having a higher Dexterity to make your Reflex Saves not garbage.

But with this, I've given you an idea of what to expect between each build type and what to potentially build toward, depending on if you want to stick with full Dexterity, or just go into Strength and just keep your Dexterity minimal. From here, the choice is yours.


Castilliano wrote:

With a Dex build you're trading heavy armor (and the Armor Specialization later that's best in heavy armor), bigger weapons, and higher Str damage for a higher Ref save (a Champion's worst) and excellent ranged combat (which is a major gap for those low Dex Champions).

The thing is, as your Str increases w/ boosts to 16, you can swap to heavy armor and get those benefits and your weapon's comparable to a shield Champion's anyway. In a party w/ ample ranged combat & healing, you probably don't want to make that swap, but on its own it's a fine swap especially if you want to be stealthy.

You aren't trading away heavy armour. It is there if you want the movement rate AC compromise or if you are mounted. But ranged characters need to move less.

Mostly it is the damage and Athletics trade off, versus range and Reflex saves. Personally I like it as it means I can do without a reach weapon, and it enables some different looking Champions.


Gortle wrote:
Castilliano wrote:

With a Dex build you're trading heavy armor (and the Armor Specialization later that's best in heavy armor), bigger weapons, and higher Str damage for a higher Ref save (a Champion's worst) and excellent ranged combat (which is a major gap for those low Dex Champions).

The thing is, as your Str increases w/ boosts to 16, you can swap to heavy armor and get those benefits and your weapon's comparable to a shield Champion's anyway. In a party w/ ample ranged combat & healing, you probably don't want to make that swap, but on its own it's a fine swap especially if you want to be stealthy.

You aren't trading away heavy armour. It is there if you want the movement rate AC compromise or if you are mounted. But ranged characters need to move less.

Mostly it is the damage and Athletics trade off, versus range and Reflex saves. Personally I like it as it means I can do without a reach weapon, and it enables some different looking Champions.

I'd mentioned that he should get his Str up to 16 so he could eventually switch to heavy armor and thus wasn't really a loss, and also how ranged PCs need movement less.


ThatGuyDM wrote:

The RNG Gods have decreed a goblin Champion, and I'm struggling to figure out how they can be optimized. The Definitive Guide said Stealth was the biggest reason to go down the Dex path, but I'm not how a Champion would use Hide and Sneak to do what they wanna do.

All I (maybe) know for sure is that if you use ranged weapons, Paladin is an auto-pick for Ranged Reprisal. After that, I'm clueless. Light hammer & returning shield? Composite shortbow? Making Hidden the new shield block?

I know I'll probably never be as cool as the strength chads, but I'd appreciate advice on how to get almost as good.

EDIT: If it matters, assume Blade Ally will bypass the melee-only prereqs that usually apply for those runes.

I play a Dex-based Paladin of Vildeis in Age of Ashes. The main issue of the Dex-based Champion is that it's really MAD. So you have to choose between low Strength and low Charisma. I've chosen the latter.

In my opinion, the weapon of choice for Dex-based Champions is the Dagger. You can throw it (and as such fully benefit from Ranged Reprisal), it's agile (so you can benefit from Dual Weapon Warrior if you want to go for an offensive build) and with the proper deity you end up with a d6 of damage as it's a simple weapon.

Thanks to free archetype, you can grab a few excellent Dedications for Dex-based weapons: Rogue Dedication, Dual-Weapon Warrior (if you want to go the 2-weapon fighting route).

Also, I don't see why Stealth would be the only reason to go the Dex path. You also have excellent Reflex saves, which are clearly an issue for most Champions.
And Stealth works fine for Initiative, then you don't have to continue being stealthy. During combat, Stealth is not much of a thing actually.

Liberty's Edge

Maybe a variation of my Invisible Ultimate Buffer Cleric could work here, but I need to think more about it.

The idea is to be stealthy and invisible as you heal and buff and protect your fellow PCs. So CG Liberator.


Level 8 you can always grab second blade ally to have a tankier shield, allowing you to be a good short/mid range tank who throws his dagger around to control the field.


I wanted to play a dex champion in quest for the frozen flame, but switched to Oracle to role-fill.

Throwing weapons are a bit jank, but once you get a returning rune they become pretty good for a dex champion. Then you can use a shield with a thrown weapon and ranged reprisal.

Other one handed ranged weapons work too, but they tend to be action intensive because of reloading.

In terms of which weapons to use spears and javelins can be good with deific weapon, or tridents. If you can spec into it filcher's forks are very good. Others have mentioned dagger which is still a good option thanks to finesse and agile.

Archer champions can work fine too, as far as I can tell you can use a buckler with a bow, since bows are 1+ hands. You could combo that with a finesse natural attack (like razortooth goblin) to have an option for melee (gauntlets could work too, but are strength based).


You don't need a Returning Rune as the Returning ability is available with Blade Divine Ally.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
SuperBidi wrote:
You don't need a Returning Rune as the Returning ability is available with Blade Divine Ally.

True, although I'd say a Returning rune is still an important purchase as that lets you swap between the other rune choices daily.


LuniasM wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:
You don't need a Returning Rune as the Returning ability is available with Blade Divine Ally.
True, although I'd say a Returning rune is still an important purchase as that lets you swap between the other rune choices daily.

That's one angle, but I'd prefer a rune that's better than any of those options. It'd cost in flexibility, but the options are on the low end or niche anyway. Getting effectively a bonus better rune because Blade Ally covers Returning for you is quite a perk IMO.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
ThatGuyDM wrote:
Blave wrote:
First of all: Why Dex? A Goblin works perfectly fine as a strength build.

I wanted to be a little subop and lean into what makes the ancestry (and rng'd background, with also focuses on stealth) special. So if stealth is as awesome as this guide says it is, the goblins could do that pretty well with their ancestry feat lines. (I assume)

Side note, but do goblins have anything that makes str pretty great for them too? Having to use voluntary flaw to nix the ancestry bonus can feel bad.

You seem to be under the impression that goblins have a strength penalty like PF1 or the other PF2 small ancestries. They do not! You just put your floating bonus in strength. The nice thing about the Dex bonus is you get a less painful level 1 before you can afford full plate.

Personally I'd rather lean into the charisma on a goblin champion rather than dexterity.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I've just built a Paladin that uses heavy armor for the +1 AC, but starts with 18 dex and 16 str. She uses daggers (her deity's favored weapon) to get a 1d6 thrown weapon. With Ranged Reprisal I can get some more use out of Retributive Strike, either stepping or throwing as necessary. With Free Archetype I'm picking up Dual Weapon Warrior and Rogue dedications. Dual Weapon Warrior gets me Double Slice and double throw, and rogue gets me an extra 10 feet of dagger range, sneak attack, and more skills. I dumped Charisma and just ignore offensive focus spells. Blade Ally gets me Returning at level 3.

Even if I am attacked at night without armor I have decent AC because of the high dex, and I have good stealth, acrobatics, and thievery.

(she's also a skeletal combat maid, but w/e)

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