Pathfinder - Character Optimization - Vigilante Talents
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.
- 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.
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.
Vigilante talents are outright fantastic. Taken individually and compared to other talents from other classes, Vigilante talents are frequently head and shoulders above other talents. It's easy to look at them and reflexively think "wow, Vigilantes are kind of unfair", but keep in mind that talents are almost the only thing that Vigilantes get. Avenger Vigilantes could take Combat Skill for every talent and be very close to a Fighter, but wouldn't get things like Armor/Weapon Training.
It's also important to note that many Vigilante Talents improve at 8th-level. Some of these won't be worthwhile until they improve, but the jump in power is important to consider when choosing talents.
* - Talents marked with an asterisk add effects to a Stalker Vigilante's Hidden Strike. Only one of these talents can be applied to an individual attack and the decision must be made before the attack roll is made.
Another Day (Ex, Su): You really shouldn't plan to need this.
Armor Skin (Ex): If you're built for Dexterity (and most Vigilantes will be), you'll be wearing light armor. If you're wearing light armor, you're looking at a -2 ACP at the absolute worst (chain shirt), and that penalty will go away almost immediately as you upgrade to masterwork or mithral, or drop to lighter armor as your dexterity bonus increases. If you want to go for heavy armor, pick up Heavy Training first, and your ridiculous Full Plate armor suddenly doesn't have an ACP.
Blind Spot (Ex): +20 is hard to overcome, but certainly not impossible in Pathfinder, and considering the Vigilante has no built-in magical options this is a potentially crucial option.
Chase Master (Ex): Very situational.
Close the Gap (Ex): Situational, and Acrobatics can solve this problem much better. Pick up Sure-Footed instead.
Combat Skill (Ex): Combat Feats cover a broad range of feats useful for a variety of builds. In theory, you could only take Combat Skill and you would get a feat at every level. I would never suggest doing that, but it's an option. If you wanted to play a Fighter, but needed to play a Vigilante for whatever reason, this can help.
Cunning Feint (Ex): The effects of both Improved Feint and Greater Feint. Since you don't need Combat Expertise, this allows you to bypass one feat and get the effect of two other feats for the cost of a feat-equivalent. If you're a Stalker Vigilante and want to go for TWF this is absolutely mandatory. Everyone else can skip it.
Environment Weapon (Ex): If you want to use improvised weapons consistently, you're making a poor life choice. If you want to use them occasionally, pick up the Surprise Weapon trait.
Evasive (Ex): Evasion is great. Improved Evasion is less important, but still pretty nice since you get both for the cost of a feat.
Expose Weakness (Ex): You still need to spend several feats to make Dirty Trick worthwile before this will be helpful. And once you've done that you still need to spend a talent.
Favored Maneuver (Ex): Several other vigilante talents depend on combat maneuvers like Drag, Grapple, and Dirty Trick.
Fist of the Avenger (Ex): This is a surprisingly solid option. You won't have the action economy of a Monk or Brawler, but the damage bonus is good enough to very quickly close the gap between your hands and a real weapon. The ability to easily switch between lethal and nonlethal damage is occasionally useful, but if you pick up Enforcer is suddenly becomes a vehicle for fear-stacking. Coupled with the Renown Social Talent and Startling Appearance, the Vigilante has lots of great options to terrify his foes. Be sure to get your hands magically enhanced (see my Monk Handbook's section on permanent spells).
Foe Collision* (Ex): Situational since it requires that two foes remain adjacent to each other to make it work.
Heavy Training (Ex): Most vigilantes will go for light armor and Dexterity-based build because it's less costly, but heavy armor is a very solid option for Avenger Vigilantes. If you still want to be stealthy, be sure to pick up Armor Skin.
Hide in Plain Sight (Ex): This is one of few Vigilante Talents which has a pre-requisite, but it really needs one because it's so good. The ability to hide while being observed allows for ridiculous things like sniping while standing in the middle of a room.
Inspired Vigilante (Ex): At an average roll of 3.5, a d6 is roughly on par with Skill Focus (before it scales at 10th-level), so this is like Skill Focus in Linguistics, Spellcraft, and all Knowledge skills.
Leave an Opening* (Ex): Stalkers want as many attacks as they can get, and since they're typically not Defenders they rarely have a good way to get attacks of opportunity. Combine this with Up Close and Personal and you can get three attacks in a round at your full BAB. The biggest problem is forcing foes to remain inside your reach.
Lethal Grace (Ex): This removes the need for a Swashbuckler dip to pick up Slashing Grace. The fact that it applies with TWF makes TWF a much more viable option than it would otherwise, especially for Stalker Vigilantes. Two-handed builds will generally skip this since there's not a lot of two-handed weapons which work with weapon finesse.
Living Shield (Ex): This is hard to pull off, and requires that you invest heavily in grappling. This might be fine, but Vigilantes have no other abilities related to grappling (except perhaps Favored Maneuver).
Mad Rush (Ex): Pounce is ridiculously effective, even with the -4 AC penalty. Combine this with Lethal Grace and TWF, and you can drop a massive pile of damage on your target in a single charge.
Mighty Ambush* (Ex): Not quite as good as similar talents available to classes like Ninja (Assassinate), but dropping a target unconcious is still absolutely fantastic.
Nothing Can Stop Me (Ex): Too situational.
Perfect Fall (Ex): Falling damage is infrequent, and access to Feather Fall is easy to find.
Perfect Vulnerability (Ex): Tempting for sniper builds, but even a well-optimized Vigilante likely can't drop most foes in a single shot, so this won't be helpful for long. However, combining it with Mighty Ambush is a potent tactic.
Pull into the Shadows (Ex): Situational. You could build your character around this mechanic, but I can't gurantee that it will be particularly useful.
Returning Weapon (Ex): This is absurdly good for any throwing-based build. You get a free +1 enhancement, and essentially get free enhancements on each of your additional attacks at no cost. Enhance your primary weapon as much as you can afford and carry a bunch of non-magical duplicates. This is so good that I would think long and hard before allowing it in my games. The cost to enhance all of your weapons is what prevents TWF-throwing builds from completely eclipsing archery builds.
Rogue Talent (Ex): Rogues have a much longer list of talents, many of which will work great for a Stalker. See my Rogue Talents Breakdown for help selecting Rogue talents.
Rooftop Infiltrator (Ex): Buy a potion of Spider Climb.
Shadow's Sight (Ex): For a stealth-based character, Darkvision is a must-have. Granted you can get it from a permanent spell or an item, but a non-magical option is pretty great.
Shadow's Speed (Ex): Most characters never need more than their natural speed, and if you do you can pick up Boots of Striding and Springing.
Shield of Blades (Ex): Two-handed builds should absolutely take this. The biggest thing you give up when using a two-handed melee weapon is the ability to boost your AC with a shield, and this goes a long way to make up that gap. The automatic scaling also allows your bonus to roughly keep pace with a magically enhanced shield without spending the gold. I generally recommend an animated shield for two-handed builds, but that's a lot of gold considering this costs nothing and scales for free.
Shield of Fury (Ex): Board-and-board is a fantastic TWF option thanks to Shield Mastery. Combined with Lethal Grace you can be an absolutely brutal source of damage. The only issue with this talent is that the TWF effect doesn't kick in until 6th-level, so you have to spend levels 1-5 doing something else then suddenly shift tactics or suffer the TWF penalties.
Signature Weapon (Ex): Two feats for the cost of a feat-equivalent talent is a decent trade. Weapon Focus/Specialization aren't great unless you're spamming attacks, so I would still only pick this up if you're going for TWF or if you're an archer.
Silent Dispatch (Ex): Situational, and the effect is too small to justify.
Sniper (Ex): Distance adds a hefty penalty to Perception checks, which makes the -20 penalty for sniping considerably less daunting. Archer Stalkers should absolutely take this.
Stalker Sense (Ex): Decent, but I certainly wouldn't pick this up before 6th level.
Strike the Unseen (Ex): With no magical options to handle invisible creatures, Blind-Fight is a solid choice. Stalker Vigilantes will find the ability to apply Hidden Strike especially useful. The scaling effects allow you to do things like fight in magical darkness or effects like Fog Cloud without a significant penalty, which is a huge advantage over your functionally blind foes.
Sucker-Punch (Ex): The damage is too poor to justify. If Hidden Strike worked to qualify in place of Sneak Attack (and it really should, much like Sudden Strike/Skirmish worked in 3.5), you could combine this with Sap Adept/Sap Mastery and Enforcer for a really effective build, but RAW you can't.
Sure-Footed (Ex): There's a -20 penalty for moving at full speed using either Stealth or Acrobatics. Usually when you're relying on Stealth you've got time to move slowly, but Stalkers (especially those relying on Up Close and Personal) will need to rely heavily on Acrobatics in combat. The ability to move at your full speed while doing so is a considerable advantage. The ability to ignore difficult terrain at level 8 is a nice added bonus.
Surprise Strike (Ex): The bonus isn't good enough to take this at low levels, but high-level Stalkers who depend heavily on sniping might find the bonus helpful.
Throat Jab* (Ex): Not always important, but absolutely crucial for taking down spellcasters.
Twisting Fear (Ex): Fear stacking is a brutal and highly effective tactic, and this just piles on top of it. Startling Presence benefits from this with no additional effort, but if you can combine this with effects like the Enforcer feat you can easily and consistently apply this additional damage and quickly drop foes unconcious. Unfortunately, this won't work with Fist of the Avenger since it requires you to be an Avenger, and Twisting Feat requires you to be a Stalker.
Unexpected Strike (Ex): Situational, but this can be very effective for Stalkers, and becomes exceptionally useful when you pick up Vigilante Strike at 20th-level.
Unkillable (Ex): I'm always a bit wary of Die Hard because you essentially extend your hit point pool for the ability to go straight from concious to dead without the possibility of being knocked out and potentially surviving. The ability to remain alive for one round can do a lot to get you back into survivable hit points, but it's still very dangerous. I would never rely on this without potion of Cure Critical Wounds in my pocket.
Up Close and Personal (Ex): This provides a reliable way to get the xd8 damage boost to your attacks. For a stalker, this is absolutely critical. However, it means that you are limited to 2 attacks per round, so TWF is off the table. Of course, TWF is a very expensive feat chain, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. Consider picking up Disorienting Maneuver for the +2 to to hit with both of your attacks, and consider Vital Strike for some extra damage on the attack you make with your Standard Action.
Vital Punishment (Ex): HOLY SHIT this is good. Like, I wouldn't allow this at my table because it's so good. Area Control Defenders are already a very solid build choice for melee characters, and combining those advantages with absurd damage output of Vital Strike is absolutely unfair. Take a look at my Practical Guide to Vital Strike. The entire feat chain plus Combat Reflexes is only 4 feats (three since this gets you Vital Strike for free). Grab a Glaive and wreck some faces. Be sure to invest in wands/potions of Enlarge Person or a permanent spell for extra reach.