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Pathfinder - Knife Master Rogue Handbook

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.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Introduction

The dagger is the Rogue's most iconic weapon, and the Knife Master is all about daggers. You trade effectiveness with sneak attacks using other weapons, but with a bit of effort you really won't need any other weapons. Because thrown weapons work off of Two-Weapon Fighting instead of Rapid Shot, the Knife Master can easily switch between flanking or throwing daggers.

Like any Rogue, the Knife Master is a Striker in combat. Because the archetype doesn't change the Rogue's fantastic skill list, it is also wise to invest in skills to help the party with traps and other common adventuring hazards. You give up Trapfinding in exchange for additional damage abilities, so you may wish to avoid this archetype in games which involve a lot of traps. However, because you're not very good at dealing with traps, this is a good opportunity to play a Face.

Rogue Class Features

Hit Points: At d8 hit points, the Rogue is fairly squishy. Because many rogues work best in melee, hit points are a serious concern and Rogues need to be sure to keep their AC high.

Base Attack Bonus: Rogues get medium BAB progression, which causes them some problems. With lower BAB than a fighter, they will often have trouble hitting their targets, and must look for additional bonuses elsewhere. In addition, lower BAB means that Rogues get iterative attacks later than Fighters, which can hurt the Rogue's damage output

Saves: Your only good save is Reflex, and coupled with typically high Dexterity and Evasion, your reflexes are excellent. However, you will need to invest in your other saves to protect against other hazards.

Proficiencies: The Rogue doesn't get a lot of big exciting weapons, but they get everything that they need to get the job done.

Skills: Rogues get the most skills and have the best skill list. However, because the Rogue gets so many skill options, it can be very difficult to invest in every rogue skill unless your intelligence is exceptionally high.

Sneak Attack: A pile of d6's to drop on your foes.

Evasion (Ex): With your high reflex saves, Evasion will save you from a lot of damage.

Rogue Talents: Basically Rogue-only feats, Rogue Talents offer a huge number of excellent ways to customize and improve your Rogue.

Uncanny Dodge: The ability to never be caught flat-footed is nice, but somewhat situational. If you are expecting to be attacked, you can do silly things like using Full Defense every round until you get attacked.

Improved Uncanny Dodge: This will basically never come up.

Advanced Talents: Add an extra list of considerably better Rogue Talents.

Master Strike: Basically the Assassin's Death Strike ability.

Archetype Features

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.

Compatible Archetypes

Abilities

Like many rogues, the Knife Master suffers badly from Multiple Ability Dependency (MAD). You can sacrifice portions of your characters functionality by sacrificing ability scores, but I find that a balanced approach will allow you to cover all of the roles generally expected from a rogue.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy Elite Arrray
  • Str:12
  • Dex:18
  • Con:12
  • Int:12
  • Wis:10
  • Cha:12
  • Str:10
  • Dex:18
  • Con:12
  • Int:12
  • Wis:8
  • Cha:11
  • Str:10
  • Dex:15
  • Con:14
  • Int:13
  • Wis:8
  • Cha:12

Races

Dexterity bonuses are key, but other bonuses can also provide options.

Dwarf: Darkvision is really fantastic on any rogue, but the penalty to Charisma limits our options, and the Dwarf brings very little to the Knife Master offensively.

Elf: Bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence are fantastic on any Rogue, but that's all that the Elf really gets us. Alternate racial traits can get you a few more options, but they won't help the Knife Master significantly more than the basic Elf.

Gnome: The penalty to strength hurts our damage a little bit, but small size doesn't hurt rogues much, and provides nice bonuses to Stealth, attacks, and AC. The bonus Charisma helps a bit, though not as much as a bonus to dexterity. The slow speed also hurts a bit, but can be overcome with items, and careful positioning.

Half-Elf: The flexible ability score bonus goes into Dexterity, but many of the other racial traits can be swapped out for more useful options. The Half-Elf favored class bonus is garbage, so take the Elf or Human favored class bonuses instead.

Half-Orc: The flexible ability score bonus goes into Dexterity, the bonus to Intimidate is a nice perk, and you get Darkvision. The favored class bonus is garbage.

Halfling: Bonuses to Dexterity and Charisma make the Halfling a natural Rogue. The Fleet of Foot alternate racial trait allows you to overcome the slow speed, and the bonus to Perception is welcome on any character. The bonus to saves also helps improve the Rogue's weak defenses. Unfortunately, the favored class bonus is terrible so take the Human favored class bonuses instead.

Human: As usual, the Human is a great option for the Knife Master. A bonus feat and an extra skill rank per level open up a ton of great options, and the flexible ability score bonus can go right into Dexterity. The favored class bonus grants additional Rogue Talents, which adds a lot of great options.

Traits

Skills

Feats

Weapons

Armor

Your choice of armor will change as your dexterity improves. At first level you can reasonably expect to have 20 dexterity, so start with Studded Leather. When you get a Belt of Incresible Dexterity, upgrade to a Mithral Shirt (equal to +2 Leather, but 3000 gp cheaper). When your dexterity hits 24 (either at 8th level or when you get a +4 belt), switch to Haramaki. Your AC will drop without enhancing the armor, but at this level 4000gp for +2 Haramaki shouldn't be a problem. Haramaki is cheaper than Padded armor, and is strictly better in every sense.

Cross-Classing and Prestige Classes

Example Build - The Halfling Quickrazor

I could talk to him, but I think I'll just stab him repeatedly.

This build is a somewhat generic, Two-Weapon Fighting Face Rogue. While not particularly unique or exciting, this build is unquestionably effective.

Abilities

We will assume the 25-point buy abilities suggested above, but the other suggested abilities can also use this build without any problems.

Race

We will use Halfling for our race. Small size gets Rogues a lot, despite the Halfling's slow speed. The racial ability score bonuses are great, and the racial bonus to saving throws helps to compensate for our low Constitution and Wisdom scores.

Other Archetypes

We will combine the Knife Master archetype with the Bandit archetype, primarily for the Bandit's Ambush ability.

Skills

With 9 skill points, we have a lot of options. Some of our skills will be maxed because we will need them frequently, but we will reserve some ranks to dip into other skills as we grow in level. We will also use our favored class bonus to get additional skill ranks at every level.

Maximized Skills
Dip Skills

Alternate ranks between Disable Device and Sleight of hand, but only put one rank in the other skills. Once you have ranks in every dip skill, put the additional ranks into Disable Device and Sleight of Hand.

Traits

Hidden Hand and Adopted (Elf) to get Warrior of Old. This will help us in suprise rounds, and give us a very impressive initiative bonus.

Levels
Level Feat(s) Notes and Tactics
1 - Rogue
  • Two-Weapon Fighting

First level as a rogue is hard. Even in your best case scenario, your damage won't hold up to a mediocre fighter with a greatsword. Still, you get a +6 bonus to hit with a thrown dagger, which is respectable. At this point, stick to throwing daggers. Without Quick Draw, it is still a move action for your to draw a weapon, so start fights with two in hand, throw them both for sneak attacks, then fall back and work on drawing weapons until you can get a sneak attack in.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Skill Rank

2 - Rogue
  • Talent: Finesse Rogue

With Finesse Rogue, now you can get into melee. Your +1 BAB lets you draw a weapon as a free action as part of a normal movement, so you can throw a dagger in the surprise round, then replace it as you move into melee so that you can flank.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Skill Rank

3 - Rogue
  • Quick Draw

Quick Draw isn't very exciting, but it makes throwing weapons much easier. With 2d8 Sneak Attack damage, we're starting to do some real damage with two possible Sneak Attacks per turn.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Skill Rank

4 - Rogue
  • Talent: Underhanded

Underhanded is a fantastic use of the Bandit archetype's Ambush ability. Quick draw a hidden dagger during the surprise round, and throw it at some unlucky sot for maximum sneak attack damage. As you grow in level, this will never stop being a good idea.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Skill Rank

Ability Score increase: Dexterity

5 - Rogue
  • Improved Initiative

Going first is crucial for you, so improved initative is a great option. At this point, you should have a Belt of Incredible Dexterity, which should bring your dexterity to 23. Couple with Warrior of Old and Improved Initiative, your Initiative modifier should be +12, which means you will go first very frequently.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Skill Rank