Catfolk rogue q: natural claws or claw blades for sneak attack?


I'm making a Catfolk unchained rogue and plan on using either natural claws or claw blades as weapons for sneak attack. It's nice to use d8's (vicious claws rogue talent), and I'm not interested in taking Knife Master since I will be the trap specialist in the group.

My guess is that it'd be more advantageous to use claw blades, as they can be enchanted as I level up, is that correct? Also, "If a creature has only one type of attack, but has multiple attacks per round, that attack is treated as a primary attack, regardless of its type. You do not receive additional natural attacks for a high base attack bonus." As I interpret that I will only get one attack with each of my claws no matter how high my level is, which would not be the case if I use claw blades.

I want to know if my interpretation of the rules is correct or not, and if my guess that claw blades would be a better option. Also I'm not also not sure how two-weapon fighting interacts with natural attacks vs claw blades on each arm?


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Early on, natural claws will be the better choice. But once you hit BAB 6, the claw blades become the better option.

BAB 1-5, you can get two attacks per round at max BAB using Claws. With Clawblades you get 2 attacks at BAB-2 (TWF feat). You could also just take one set of clawblades and get one attack at max BAB and then a secondary natural claw at BAB-5. Only the first option gives you full strength to damage on both attacks, the second option requires Double Slice feat to get there, and the third will always be 1/2 Str on the second attack.

At BAB 6, however, your extra iterative attack makes it more valuable to have atleast one set of clawblades. You can either skip TWF all together and attack at +6/+1/+1 or you can go TWF+iTWF for +4/+4/-1/-1. Without TWF you will only get 3 attacks and one will always be at 1/2 strength, but with TWF you can get 4 attacks and if you take double slice all at max strength… however it is a heavy feat investment and enchanting two sets of clawblades is pricey.

Natural claws = 2 attacks, max BAB, full strength to damage
2 clawblades = 2-6 attacks, BAB-2 w/iteratives, full strength to damage, 4 feats
1 Clawblades = 2-4 attacks, max BAB w/iteratives & BAB-5, half strength on secondary natural attack

From BAB 1-5 natural claws are 100% superior, at BAB 6 clawblades are superior and it comes down to a question of if you can afford the feat investment or not.

Note: I am aware URogue uses dex to damage, and most GMs won’t let you use Double Slice with dex to damage. So keep that in mind when weighing your options. If your GM does allow it then the TWF route is your best choice in the long run, otherwise I would suggest heavily considering the single set of clawblades option and investing your feats into some other options.

Regarding your question on natural attacks with TWF… they do not interact at all. You can TWF with your manufactured weapons or unarmed strikes and then follow up with secondary natural attacks for any limbs not using manufactured weapons… which does technically mean you could perform a TWF series of kicks and then follow up with secondary natural claws… but this is often seen as very cheesy and may result in your GM throwing a book at you.

For the partly same flavor, you could consider being a Fanglord-Skinwalker, which gives you a bite attack, as long as you attack with Claws, the bite is also primary.

Yes, you gain no iterative attacks (BAB-5, BAB-10, BAB-15) with natural attacks. But it's not that bad, because iteratives suffer from reduced accuracy, haste still works and you can add further natural attacks.

As a rogue, I wouldn't worry too much about damage output when everything goes right (you can full-attack, target can be sneak attacked, you don't get mauled etc.). Because then you will do more than enough damage anyway, even without d8 or other tricks. Rather I'd make up several backup plans for the situations where something goes wrong: Have a ranged weapon, support your team with Demoralize or Feint, hide when necessary etc..

Thanks for the great information Chell, that clarifies everything for me. I do plan on enchanting at least one claw blade. I plan on taking Ghostslayer so as not to get caught with my pants down--we're going to start Mummy's Mask.

I plan on taking a level in Shadowdancer so I'll be amplifying my stealth, and at lvl 10 take the Stalker Talent Cunning Feint, and of course I'll have a ranged weapon.


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A few more things to keep in mind…

Your decision to go with two clawblades or one should ultimately come down to availability of feats.

As a rogue you get BAB 6 at 8th level, which means you’ll have to make a few decisions around that time… 1) do you want to take TWF early and not really benefit much from it until 8th so you can immediately go into Improved TWF? 2) do you want to delay Improved TWF until 9th or later? 3) are there other feats you would rather have at these levels? 4) have you already taken the Combat Trick rogue talent? (I highly recommend saving it for 8th level if you do want to go the TWF route.)

Other things to consider as well are how many attacks of yours do enemies tend to survive on average. If the answer is no more than three then you might not actually want to go with TWF or might want to atleast delay Improved TWF for the time being.

When TWF become superior is also going to depend on your chance to actually hit. Using TWF imposes a -2 penalty to hit and uses a feat. If you take weapon focus instead of TWF it increases your chance to hit instead of decreasing it. In a campaign where you are struggling to hit the increased chance to hit can actually be more beneficial. Having more attacks that miss is not really helping.

For a rouge TWF is a mid to late game tactic. Before investing heavily in TWF consider how hard the foes are to hit. Check both builds with for the DPR against different AC before making the decision. The extra secondary attacks will probably miss more often than not. A lot of it is going to depend on other factors.

Thanks again, this is all valuable information I hadn't considered. I'm leaning toward not doing TWF at this point. It's hard to imagine mobs other than a boss taking more than three rounds of sneak attacks from me, and the lack of feats is very true. In fact I will be using several feats just to get extra rogue talents.

The only actual feats I plan on taking are Black Cat, Twist Away, Ghostslayer and Hellcat Stealth--maybe even Lucky. Also a fan of the Irrepressible trait, so I can use my Dex save for as much as possible.

If I'm not going TWF, does it matter when someone takes combat trick?


JDawg75 wrote:
If I'm not going TWF, does it matter when someone takes combat trick?

Combat trick IMO has three possible uses:

1) Get a combat feat one level earlier. Example: Improved Two-Weapon Fighting (ITWF) would need level 9 otherwise.

2) Pick up a prerequisite feat you don't really want and move on to the actually interesting feat just one level later. So you don't have to wait two levels. Example: Combat Expertise as regular feat, then Improved Feint.

3) When multiple interesting feats become available at the same level, combat trick also speeds you up. For example: ITWF and Greater Feint both require BAB 6, so rogue level 8.

Okay. I won't be taking either ITWF or Greater Feint, but maybe there are other ones that require a BAB of 6 that I could look into.

Ya know what, I'll just combat trick to take Mobility at lvl 4, so I don't waste it on my level 5 feat to qualify for Shadowdancer. Wish there was a better way to get Dodge without taking it the normal way.

Yup… you’ve got it… if your not taking TWF then you can take Combat Trick whenever you want to. The main point in saving it for a specific level is to get a feat with an even level prerequisite as soon as possible, for TWF rogues that feat happens to be iTWF. For other rogue builds, it’s usually Greater Feint… if you are neither TWF nor feinting then there really isn’t anything that would necessitate taking the talent at a specific level.

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