Pathfinder - Character Optimization - The Vigilante Handbook
I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.
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.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
The Vigilante is similar to a Rogue in many ways. They have a broad skill list, and can excel as Faces, Scouts, and Strikers. However, the class's design and concept make it an exceptionally unique class with some important implications for your build, your play style, and your campaign in general.
Unlike most classes, Vigilantes have a very small set of fixed abilities, and instead have two types of talents, which makes them extremely customizable. The nature of the class mandates that these talents will very rarely interact. Your Social Talents will take the fore while you are in your "Social" identity, but your Vigilante Talents will take over when you switch to your "Vigilante" identity.
When consider the Vigilante class, it's crucial to consider what style of campaign you are playing. The Vigilante is absolutely not a conventional adventurer. If your party delves dungeons, hunts monsters, and faces foes like Callifax the Mad Mage, who enjoys summoning demons, raising the dead, and weilding evil artifacts then the Vigilante will be a largely useless appendage. If your party faces foes like Lord Cicily of Crestfall, who enjoys political corruption, widespread injustice, and the occasional dinner party, then the Vigilante is a good choice. The Vigilante excels in highly social and RP-heavy games, and in games which don't change locales frequently.
In all things related to the Vigilante, consider Batman your gold standard.
Vigilante Class Features
Hit Points: d8 hit points is common for Rogue-like Strikers. You won't stand up to damage like a Fighter, but you shouldn't need to.
Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB is typical for a high-skill class. If you want full BAB, you cantake the Avenger specialization.
Saves: Good Reflex and Will saves.
Proficiencies: Considerably better proficiencies than the Rogue. Medium armor and shields, plus martial weapons. That's a good range of options, but in medium armor you'll probably still opt for a Dexterity-based build over Strength.
Skills: The Vigilante's skill list is very long, which provides lots of options, but they only get 6+ skill ranks so they face the same issue as Rogues: far too many options to grab everything you want.
Dual Identity (Ex): The defining feature of the class. Your ability to switch between identities defines which skillsets are available to you. Generally your "Social" identity will command the bulk of your character's in-world time, but when weapons come out your "Vigilante" identity should too.
Seamless Guise (Ex): Situational, but it completely eliminates the need for the Disguise skill.
Vigilante Specialization (Ex): Your choice of specialization determines how you fight more than any other decision within the class. Avengers are more of a straight-forward Fighter-like option, while Stalkers fight more like Rogues.
- Avenger: Fighter BAB is great if you want to go for a straight-up fighter approach. When you pick up Vigilante Strike at 20th level, you get to aumatically confirm critical threats on your Vigilante Strike.
- Stalker: Mechanically this is very similar to Sneak Attack, but it's a bit harder to apply because you can't apply it to a target by feinting or by restraining them. The damage while surprising targets is better, but the damage while flanking is worse, which is unfortunate since flanking and TWF is such a reliable tactic for Sneak Attack users. The phrase "unaware of his presence" is open to interpretation. It's not clear if this means the characters specific location, or simply that the Vigilante is in the general area. If it's the latter, invisibility and sniping are less useful. When you pick up Vigilante Strike at 20th level, you get to apply two rider effects to Hidden Strike with Vigilante Strike.
Vigilante Talent: Vigilante Talents determine how you fight. In a game like Pathfinder, you do a lot of that. See my Vigilante Talents Breakdown for help selecting talents.
Unshakable (Ex): Very situational.
Startling Appearance (Ex): This would be great if Stalker's Hidden Strike applied to flat-footed targets, but because of the way it's worded Hidden Strike doesn't care if the target is flat-footed.
Frightening Appearance (Ex): The AOE is small, but Shaken is a fantastic status condition and with a decent entrance you can start encounters with a considerable advantage. The wording is somewhat ambiguous, but I take "the target of his attack and any enemies within 10 feet who can see the attack" to mean 10 feet of the target, not 10 feet of the Vigilante. Otherwise ranged builds would be absolutely non-viable. Frightening the target of your attack potentially prevents them from attacking you, which is especially useful when attacking single targets.
Stunning Appearance (Ex): Stunning a target causes them to drop whatever their holding (namely weapons), and robs them of their turn.
Vengeance Strike (Ex): Versatile and exceptionally powerful. You get to stack up to 5 effects, which can be absolutely devastating.
- +4 Circumstance Bonus to Attack Roll: +4 is a solid bonus, but the ability to increase your effective d20 roll is considerably better.
- +3d6 Precision Damage: Sometimes damage is enough, and this is the obvious option for Stalker Vigilantes. Stack up to 15d6 precision damage, plus 10d8 damage from Hidden Strike. That's 97.5 (52.5+45) damage on average before you even consider you weapon.
- Increase d20 roll by 2: You can stack this up to a 10 point increase in your roll, giving you a 55% of rolling a natural 20. That makes a solid case for using an x4 crit weapon like a heavy pick or a scythe. Back that up with Power Attack, high Strength, and a decent enhancement bonus and you're looking a massive pile of damage and a guranteed hit with a likely critical (guaranteed for Avengers!).
Vigilantes can be very MAD if you let them. Be sure to emphasize what you need to get by, and don't be afraid to go into the game with several 16's instead of one 18.
Str: Take a bit for damage. 12 is fine. 14 might be too much just because going from 13 to 14 costs more point-buy points than from 11 to 12. Only two-handed builds really need strength, and most Vigilantes won't go that route.
Dex: Most Vigilantes will be in medium armor at most, so you need at least a little bit of Dexterity. Lethal Grace makes this especially true because the level bonus to damage will scale much fast than your Strength bonus could.
Con: Everyone needs hit points, and Fortitude is the Vigilante's bad save.
Int: Vigilantes are too MAD to put a lot into Intelligence, which is a shame since they have so many good skills.
Wis: The closest thing you've got to a dump stat. Fortunately Vigilantes get good Will saves.
Cha: The Vigilante is a Face by nature, and many of the Vigilante's abilities rely on Charisma.
|25 Point Buy||20 Point Buy||15 Point Buy||Elite Array|
- Acrobatics (Dex): Great to move around in combat without getting killed, but you only need to be able to reliably hit a DC of 15, so you don't need to invest a ton of skill ranks.
- Appraise (Int): Too situational.
- Bluff (Cha): Helpful for any face, and feinting is a nice way for melee Rogues to get some self-sufficiency in combat.
- Climb (Str): Too situational.
- Diplomacy (Cha): Essential for any face.
- Disable Device (Dex): Essential for Scouts who need to handle traps.
- Disguise (Cha): A big part of the Vigilante's flavor, but with Seamless Guise you really don't need it. Maybe take one rank for the class skill bonus, but anything beyond that is wasteful.
- Escape Artist (Dex): Too situational.
- Intimidate (Cha): Helpful for any face.
- Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
- Knowledge (engineering) (Int): Too situational. If you pick up the "Case the Joint" Social Talent you will want to max this.
- Knowledge (local) (Int): Useful for identifying humanoids and for plot stuff in some campaigns.
- Perception (Wis): The most-rolled skill in the game by a huge margin.
- Perform (Cha): You are not a Bard.
- Ride (Dex):
- Sense Motive (Wis): Helpful for any face.
- Sleight of Hand (Dex): Too situational.
- Stealth (Dex): Essential for any Scout.
- Survival (Wis): Too situational.
- Swim (Str): Too situational.
- Use Magic Device (Cha): This can open up a lot of great options if you like to use wands and scrolls for tricks that you can't do without magic.
- Dagger: Easily concealed, ubiquitous, and omni-present. Forgot/lost your weapons? Grab a dinner knife off a table at the party or raid the kitchen. They do almost as much damage as a short sword, and you can throw them. The go-to option for TWF builds and as a backup weapon.
- Glaive: If you're going for a Vital Punishment build, a Glaive is your weapon of choice.
- Greatsword: Two-handed builds are possible, but the Vigilante doesn't get a lot that supports it. It's also hard to sneak around with a giant sword without drawing attention to yourself.
- Longbow: Archers' weapon of choice.
- Rapier: Commonly accepted as a decorative accessory in noble circles of many cultures in many settings, it's often easy to bring into many perfectly civil social situations. It's the biggest damage and threat range that you can get with weapon finesse, and it's a great option if you're going for a single-weapon finesse build. Pick up talents like Up Close and Personal, and use a shield once you can eliminate the Armor Check Penalty.
- Shortsword: A bit more damage than a dagger, but you sacrifice the versatility, subtlety, and the ability to throw them.
Choose the armor which most closely matches your max dex bonus. If you're in medium or heavy armor, pick up the Armor Skin Vigilante Talent to eliminate the ACP to Stealth and speed penalties. If you have an empty hand (looking at you Rapier users) pick up a shield once you can eliminate the ACP.
- Protection: A +1 ring doesn't cost much and it's a solid AC boost for a class which frequently has issues with AC.
- Fog Cloud: Confuse and obscure your foes while you attack or escape.
- Vanish: One round of invisibility is often enough to get you out of a bad situation.
- Belt of Physical Perfection: Get one early, and upgrade it often. You won't strictly need all three abilities, so you might consider just enhancing one or two depending on your bould and how much gold you have lying around.
- Hate of Disguise: A cheap way to get a very potent effect.
- Cloak of Resistance: Too crucial to forego.
- DarkvisionPHB: Darkvision is essential when so much of your skillset requires sneaking around in the dark, but at hours per level duration you may be able to convince a party member to spare you a spell slot every day.
- See invisibilityPHB: With no built-in way to handle invisible creatures, the ability to always see them is a fantastic benefit. You can't Sneak Attack targets with concealment, so See Invisibility is a much better option than effects like Glitterdust which only allow you to locate invisible creatures, but don't remove their concealment.
Multiclassing and Prestige Classes
- Fighter: Avenger Vigilantes might consider a level or two in Fighter, but you can pick up the Combat Skill Vigilante Talent to get extra Combat Feats, which is the primary appeal of a Fighter dip.
- Swashbuckler: Lethal Grace makes a Swashbuckler dip for Slashing Grace a poor choice.