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Pathfinder - Rogue Archetypes Breakdown

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Archetypes

The rogue can serve as a face, a scout, and a striker. Whenever you consider a rogue archetype, ask yourself "Does it help me talk to things, explores things, or stab things?" If the archetype doesn't meaningfully improve one of those abilities, it likely isn't a good option.

Many rogue archetypes can be combined easily. Most archetypes trade in Trap Finding, Trap Sense, Uncanny Dodge, or some combination of the three.

Acrobat

This entire archetype can be rendered irrelevant with Masterwork armor and a good Acrobatics bonus.

Expert Acrobat (Ex): The absolute worst armor check penalty from light armor is -2 on non-masterwork chain shirt. Masterwork reduces this by 1, and mithral completely removes it. After level 1, this ability is almost complete useless. The +2 bonus to acrobatics and fly certainly does not outweight the benefits of wearing armor.

Second Chance (Ex): Rerolling acrobatics might save you an attack of opportunity, which is nice once in a while. Climb will almost never be important, especially when flying becomes a thing. Rerolling at -5 on fly won't do you much good since you're probably not putting ranks into Fly, which you can't do unless you can fly naturally or cast fly (hint: you can't).

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Bandit

If surprise rounds are important for your build, Bandit can be a big help. Extra actions before other people act can define the outcome of the fight. However, Fearsome Strike is terrible and you will probably never use it.

Ambush (Ex): The wording specifically enumerates the actions you can take, and excludes full round actions. Still, being able to both move and attack gives you a lot of options.

Fearsome Strike (Ex): Rogues and critical hits do not mix. To use this reliably, you have to focus on critical hits. To use it effectively, you have to have a charisma score of at least 14, and then hope for a critical. Even if I had this, I would probably never use it.

Replaced Features: Uncanny Dodge, Improved Uncanny Dodge

Compatible Archetypes: Acrobat, Chameleon, Charlatan, Counterfeit Mage, Cutpurse, Driver, Investigator, Knife Master, Pirate, Poisoner, Rake, Roof Runner, Sniper, Spy, Survivalist, Swashbuckler, Thug, Underground Chemist

Burglar

If you really need to handle traps, Trapsmith is better. Otherwise, you must really want Distraction. Distraction is cute, but not worth being forced to take Careful Disarm.

Careful Disarm (Ex): Unless your DM likes to use a fantastically huge number of traps, this will very rarely matter. Plus, if you trade in Trap Sense with another archetype, you lose half of this feature.

Distraction (Ex): This is a pretty funny ability. Using bluff to distract someone while your Stealthing is a good trick. However, it's probably not going to come into play very often.

Replaced Features: Uncanny Dodge, Improved Uncanny Dodge

Compatible Archetypes: Acrobat, Chameleon, Charlatan, Counterfeit Mage, Cutpurse, Driver, Investigator, Knife Master, Pirate, Poisoner, Rake, Roof Runner, Sniper, Spy, Survivalist, Swashbuckler, Thug, Underground Chemist

Chameleon

This archetype makes you slightly better at Stealth, but that's about it.

Misdirection (Ex): You get a pool of bonus points on stealth rolls equal to your bluff ranks.

Effortless Sneak (Ex): Extra good at sneaking in your favored terrains.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Charlatan

Be better at repeatedly bluffing the same target, and spread rumors. Very exciting if you're in high school. Not so much if you're an adventurer.

Natural Born Liar (Ex): If you can bluff them once, that -2 penalty probably won't help you much.

Grand Hoax (Ex): You get the Rumormonger advanced talent.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Counterfeit Mage

UMD is widely considered one of the most powerful skills in the game due to its fantastic versatility. If you really like to use UMD to use wands and scrolls, this archetype is the way to do it.

Magical Expertise (Ex): You get to keep the important part of Trapfinding (the ability to find and disable magical traps), and you trade the less important part for the ability to add half of your Rogue level to UMD checks to use scrolls and wands, which should cover most of your uses of UMD. You need a +19 to UMD to guarantee that you can always use a wand, and this will help you hit that point much earlier than most characters could.

Signature Wand (Ex): The ability to draw your wand as a free action is nice, but not always necessary. If you plan to use wands you need to have high enough UMD that making checks shouldn't be a problem, so the ability to use your signature wand without a check will stop mattering by around level 10. For the time being, this allows you to reliably use UMD before most Rogues can do so.

Wand Adept (Ex): Nearly every Rogue will have higher Dexterity than Charisma, so this should be a significant boost to your UMD checks.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Rogue Talent (4th)

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Cutpurse

Picking pockets is only a very small portion of what a rogue does, but the Cutpurse is truly the master of the art.

Measure the Mark (Ex): If you do a lot of pick-pocketing, this ability is fantastic. If you don't, trapfinding is better.

Stab and Grab (Ex): This is considerably better than the Steal combat maneuver. Of course, why rob someone in combat when you can just kill them and take their stuff later?

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Driver

Unless your campaign spends a huge amount of time using the vehicle rules, this archetype is totally useless.

Hard Drive (Ex): You can drive slightly faster.

Driver's Fortitude (Ex): If you are falling below 0 hit points while driving, maybe you shouldn't be driving.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Investigator

Follow Up (Ex): Why not just have two people gathering information?

Replaced Features: Trapfinding

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scroll Scoundrel, Scout, Trapsmith

Knife Master

Hidden Blade: Hiding weapons on your body is very rarely important, unless your campaign involves a lot of espionage. However, there are ways to capitalize on hidden weapons, and this reduces your need to invest ranks in Sleight of Hand.

Sneak Stab (Ex): The keystone of the archetype, this bumps your sneak attack dice to d8's with your primary weapon. You can sneak attack with several weapons which are considered "knives", but the dagger is the best option.

Blade Sense (Ex): Extremely situational. Unless you challenge someone to a knife fight, you may never get to use this ability. It's about as situational as Trap Sense, so no big loss here.

Knife Master Rogue Handbook

Replaced Features: Sneak Attack, Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Pirate

Unless you're playing a piracy campaign, just skip this archetype. Even then, it's pretty dull. And you have to give up a rogue talent for the archetype's lousy abilities.

Sea Legs (Ex): Bonus to acrobatics, climb, and swim. 2/3 basically worthless.

Swinging Reposition (Ex): Charge using ropes and rigging. Cute if you're in a sea-faring campaign.

Unflinching (Ex): Bonus to fear and mind-affecting effects covers most will saves, but still not very impressive.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Rogue Talent (2nd), Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Poisoner

If you want to use poison on a rogue, this is a great way to do it. If you're looking to use poisons with other classes, this archetype is a great option for a rogue dip.

Poison Use (Ex): A requirement for anyone who likes to use poison.

Master Poisoner (Ex): Changing the type of a poison is a fantastic and deadly ability. Many ingested poisons are incredibly deadly, and changing them to wound or contact makes them considerably more versatile. The bonuses to Craft (Alchemy) are nice since you're going to need to craft your own poisons.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Rake

Rake is a great option if your rogue is party's face, or if you want Intimidate to be part of your combat strategy. If you want to use intimidate, this is a good way to justify dipping into rogue for a level.

Bravado's Blade (Ex): Dropping 1d6 of sneak attack damage is basically nothing after very low levels. An average of 3.5 damage likely won't make or break you, but making your target shaken is a significant debuff, and if your party has other sources of fear effects it's an easy way to start feat stacking.

Rake's Smile (Ex): Morale bonuses to skills are few and far between, so this bonus will stack with a ton of things.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Roof Runner

Unless your campaign involves a lot of roof running (maybe it does if you really like Sigil or something), this archetype won't do much for you.

Roof Running (Ex): I didn't even know that there were penalties specifically for moving on a roof. If there are, they probably aren't worth a class feature to offset.

Tumbling Descent (Ex): This is a really exciting trick, but I would just let someone do this as a normal function of Acrobatics. No one should ever need a class feature to do something that they might do once or twice in their life.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Sanctified Rogue

Olidamarra be praised!

Divine Purpose (Su): Sacred bonuses are incredibly rare, and boosting your bad saves is pretty nice.

Divine Epiphany (Su): This could keep you out of trouble.

Replaced Features: Uncanny Dodge, Improved Uncanny Dodge

Compatible Archetypes: Acrobat, Chameleon, Charlatan, Counterfeit Mage, Cutpurse, Driver, Investigator, Knife Master, Pirate, Poisoner, Rake, Roof Runner, Sniper, Spy, Survivalist, Swashbuckler, Thug, Underground Chemist

Scout

Moving is rarely the rogue's best option for doing damage. Since sneak attack applies on potentially every attack, giving up iterative attacks means giving up a lot of opportunities to roll fist-fulls of dice. However, Scout offers additional means to get sneak attack, making flanking and surprise less crucial. It also gives archer rogues a reliable way to deal sneak attack damage without sniping.

Scout's Charge (Ex): Sneak attack on a charge is pretty good. However, that's generally once once or twice during a combat. Giving up AC to charge is also hard for squishy characters like rogues.

Skirmisher (Ex): You will need to be tumbling if you're in melee, or you will be using a ranged weapon. You have to give up using a full attack to use Skirmisher, but this is a reliable way to get sneak attack without relying on your party of feinting.

Replaced Features: Uncanny Dodge, Improved Uncanny Dodge

Compatible Archetypes: Acrobat, Chameleon, Charlatan, Counterfeit Mage, Cutpurse, Driver, Investigator, Knife Master, Pirate, Poisoner, Rake, Roof Runner, Sniper, Spy, Survivalist, Swashbuckler, Thug, Underground Chemist

Sniper

Long-range sniping is not a good option for rogues. Sneak attack only applies within 30 feet, but with this archetype that range increases to 90 feet. If you are playing an archer and like to fight at exceptionally long range, you might consider dipping into this archetype for one level.

Accuracy (Ex): Fighting at exceptionally long range is not a good option for a rogue. Your damage without sneak attack is pitiful.

Deadly Range (Ex): This is the only thing that makes this archetype even slightly interesting. Sniping at greater range makes it easier to hide using the Sniping rules, which can make this viable. However, your range will still never be particularly long.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Spy

A situational bonus to bluff, and worse poisoning abilities the the Poisoner rogue. This archetype doesn't really fill a role or address an interesting concept.

Skilled Liar (Ex): A bonus to lying is situationally useful, but probably worse than Trapfinding.

Poison Use (Ex): Poison Use is nice, but if you want to use poison you should just be a poisoner instead.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Survivalist

This archetype is insultingly bad. I'm angry just writing this bit.

Hardy (Ex): When have you ever been starving on an adventure? Even if you were, it was probably for cool plot reasons.

Endure Elements (Sp): Wow. A first level spell. I could never possibly spend 50 gold to buy a potion for the same effect. That would be madness.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Swashbuckler

The only real reason to take Swashbuckler is for proficiency with a martial weapon, and there are a ton of ways to get proficiency with martial weapons, and you're already proficient with rapiers, which are probably your best option as a rogue. If you need other martial weapons, just dip a level into Fighter.

Martial Training (Ex): Worth a really shitty feat, or a class dip into one of a number of fantastic classes.

Daring (Ex): Your acrobatics skill will already be great if you plan to use Acrobatics, and Fear saves aren't terribly common or hard to overcome by other means.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Thug

The thug gets a buff to intimidating people, but doesn't get a mechanism to actually intimidate. Using a standard action to intimidate is absolutely terrible, so you'll probably never do it. Brutal Beating sickens people, which is nice if you can find another good way to intimidate people. Combined with the Enforcer feat, this archetype could be playable. Otherwise, Rake is strictly better.

Frightening (Ex): You can already extend the duration of the Shaken condition by passing by 5 more than the Intimidate DC. If you need to keep people intimidated longer, just be more intimidating.

Brutal Beating (Ex): Sickened is a nice status condition, but not nearly as effective as Shaken since Sickened/Nauseated doesn't follow a track like Shaken/Frightened/Panicked, and nauseated doesn't apply as many penalties to the victim.

Replaced Features: Trapfinding, Trap Sense

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith

Trapsmith

Even if your game involves a lot of traps, this is a lackluster option. If you're good at disarming traps (and rogues are by default), this archetype doesn't offer you anything interesting that you couldn't do already.

Careful Disarm (Ex): A trapsmith should never fail by a significant margin. The insurance is nice, but hardly necessary.

Trap Master (Ex): Highly situational. You might get to use this once in an entire campaign if you're extremely lucky and your DM likes traps.

Replaced Features: Uncanny Dodge, Improved Uncanny Dodge

Compatible Archetypes: Acrobat, Chameleon, Charlatan, Counterfeit Mage, Cutpurse, Driver, Investigator, Knife Master, Pirate, Poisoner, Rake, Roof Runner, Sniper, Spy, Survivalist, Swashbuckler, Thug, Underground Chemist

Underground Chemist

The Underground Chemist really like splash weapons like Acid and Alchemist's fire. Alchemical weapons can get fairly expensive, but they're undeniably effective, and crafting them yourself can significantly cut down on their cost. Combined with the Scout, the Underground Chemist can be a very reliable source of damage. At high levels the Underground Chemist gets access to some Alchemist Discoveries which make the Underground Chemist very good with poisons. The Underground Chemist also makes Intelligence arguably more important to the Rogue than Dexterity.

Chemical Weapons (Ex): Losing Evasion hurts, but this can dramatically improve the effectiveness of splash weapons like Acid and Alchemist's Fire. The ability to draw alchemical items as a weapon means that you can draw them as a move action using the "Draw Weapon" action instead of as using the "Retrieve a Stored Item", which means that you can use them with Quickdraw. I think you can use alchemical weapons with Quickdraw without this ability, but this allows you to quickdraw things like Antitoxin.

Precise Splash Weapons (Ex): This hugely reduces the difficulty of dealing Sneak Attack damage, especially against enemies with high AC. Pick up a flash of Acid, and go surprise someone. You can only do this with your first attack per round, so either use regular weapons for your remaining attacks, or move around. If you combine this archetype with Scout, you can move and attack every round and get guranteed Sneak Attack.

Discovery (Su): Several fantastic options for a Rogue. The poison options are particularly tempting, but they're hard to use in combination with Precise Splash Weapons.

Replaced Features: Evasion, Talent (4th), Advanced Talents

Compatible Archetypes: Bandit, Burglar, Sanctified Rogue, Scout, Trapsmith