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Pathfinder 2e - The Rogue Handbook

Last Updated: January 6yh, 2020

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • 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.

Introduction

The Rogue is the unchallenged master of skills, but their capabilities don't end there. They are adaptable, capable, and deeply customizable while only having a single major decision point (the "Rogue Racket"). While nearly all rogues will excel in stealth, thievery, and ambush tactics, the number of options which are both viable and interesting for the Rogue mean that you can build an effective rogue in a dizzying number of combinations.

The Rogue's primary role in the party is as a Scout and Striker, excelling in both evading notice and in detecting danger, and thanks to Sneak Attack the Rogue excels at ambush tactics and at quickly eliminating single targets. Thanks to their massive number of skills, Skill Increases, and Skill Feats, the Rogue can serve their party in a number of skill-based roles, including as a Librarian and as a Face. They can dip their toe into a Defender role with the Ruffian Racket, but due to the Rogue's 8+ hit points this is likely not a good choice unless you have another Defender in the party to assist you.

Rogue Class Features

Key Ability: By default, your Key Ability is Dexterity. However, your Racket may allow you to choose a different ability. This can make rogues exceptionally diverse, but it also means that you need to plan out your characters options right from level 1 because emphasizing the wrong ability score can make a lot of options less effective. In many cases Dexterity will still be your best option, so if your Racket offers other options you may still not want to do so.

Hit Points: 8+ hit points is hard if you're in melee. The Rogue is not a front-line Defender by any means, even if you go for the Ruffian Racket to get medium armor. Be sure to pad your hit points with high Constitution and strongly consider Toughness if you plan to fight in melee.

Initial Proficiencies: .

  • Perception: The best Perception progression in the game. You should still put some Ability Boosts into Wisdom because it's so important.
  • Saving Throws: The best Reflex saves in the game and average Will saves, but the worst Fortitude saves in the game (seriously, the Rogue matches the Wizard).
  • Skills: A total of 8+int skills, plus one ore more from you Rogue's Racket.
  • Attacks: Simple weapons plus a tiny handful of martial options. Your proficiency improves at the same rate as martial classes like the Barbarian, but
  • Defenses: Only light armor, but the Rogue is totally dependent on Dexterity, so light armor is your best option anyway. The Ruffian is an exception, and they get medium armor as well.
  • Class DC: Only the Druid has a worse Class DC progression, which is disappointing because the Rogue has several interesting options that depend on the class DC, including core class features like Master Strike.

Rogue Racket: See "Subclasses - Rogue Rackets", below.

Sneak Attack: This brings the damage for a rapier or short sword up to match the damage from a greatsword, and the extra damage from Sneak Attack increases at roughly the same levels where players are expected to add Runes of Striking to their weapons.

Surprise Attack: Making enemies flat-footed can be done in a wide variety of ways, but having enemies flat-footed in round one allows you to start the fight with a flurry of Sneak Attack damage without needing to rush into position to flank enemies and without waiting for your allies to shuffle into position.

Rogue Feats: See Rogue feats, below.

Skill Feats: Rogues get one at every level.

Skill Increases: Rogues get one at every level.

General Feats: Standard.

Ability Boosts: Standard.

Ancestry Feats: Standard.

Deny Advantage: There is a huge number of ways to make a creature Flat-Footed, and Pathfinder 2e's encounter balancing rules are written so that facing a single creature of the party's level is unusual. Most of the time you'll face multiple foes below your level. In either case, Deny Advantage applies. If you're fighting something above your level, it's a significant threat and you need to be exceptionally cautious anyway.

Weapon Tricks: Better attack bonus is always great, and you can apply Critical Specialization effects whenever you score a critical hit with a weapon which meats the same requirements as Sneak Attack. The Ruffian has had that capability since 1st level, but it's great that everyone else gets it too.

Evasion: Reflex saves are the most common type of "Basic Save", and often Basic Saves are the ones where the difference between a Success and a Critical Success is the most significant. This will protect from a lot of damage from area effects like fireballs and breath weapons.

Vigilant Senses: The best Perception progression in the game.

Weapon Specialization: Since your Proficiency with weapons improves at the same rate as martial class like the Barbarian and the Champion, you'll get the best bonuses.

Debilitating Strike: The default effects aren't great, but they add a little extra something for free when you hit a Flat-Footed target. You can also enhance Debilitating Strike with class feats like Critical Debilitation, and you'll pick up Double Debilitation at 15th level to make this even more effective.

Great Fortitude: Better saving throws is always great.

Rogue Expertise: The second-worst class DC progression of any class with a Class DC.

Improved Evasion: Great for all the same reasons that Evasion is great. Taking half damage on a failure means that a Failure and a Success on a Basic Save are functionally identical.

Incredible Senses: The best Perception progression in the game.

Light armor Expertise: More AC is always great.

Master Tricks: More attack bonus is always great.

Double Debilitation: By this level you've had ample opportunity to pick up class feats to improve Debilitating Strike. If you've done that (and you should), this is fantastic. If you haven't, this is borderline worthless.

Greater Weapon Specialization: More damage!

Slippery Mind: Your Will save progression is roughly average, but any imrovement is welcome.

Light Armor Mastery: More AC is always great.

Master Strike: Your Class DC improves (very important), and you get a new Free Action which you can apply when hit a Flat-Footed target. Because of the way Free Actions work, you can't combine this with Debilitating Strike, but this is considerably better and you can use Debilitating Strike as a follow-up with additional attacks if the target succeeds on their save. This is good enough that you should start every encounter by trying this once on every enemy in the encounter. Paralysis for 4 rounds will take creatures out of most fights for their duration, and if the target gets a Critical Failure you can outright kill them (or knock them unconscious for two hours if you need them alive for some reason).

Subclasses - Rogue Rackets

Ruffian

The Ruffian allows you to effectively build a burly, strong rogue. If you couldn't decide between the Fighter and the Rogue, the Ruffian is a happy middle ground. Ruffians don't get a built-in way to make enemies Flat-footed, so expect to rely on Athletics to Trip enemies.

The Ruffian has the option to choose Strength as their key ability score. If you want to use weapons that lack the Finesse trait, you also get the ability to deal Sneak Attack damage with simple weapons that lack Agile or Finesse, including options like maces and longspears. You gain access to Critical Specialization Effects when using simple weapons (allowing you to us them 4 levels before other rogyes), adding an extra motivation to use simple weapons over a short sword or a rapier, which would otherwise still be among your best options. You're limited to weapons that use d8 or smaller damage dice, which unfortunately rules out the Heavy Crossbow, but you can use weapon familiarity eats from your Ancestry to make additional weapons Simple Weapons for you, thereby expanding your weapon options.

Ruffians also add medium armor proficiency, and the proficiency will keep pace with the Rogue's proficiency with Light Armor. This allows you get around with as little as 12 Dexterity, but your armor's Check Penalty applies to important skills like Stealth, so if you can manage high enough Dexterity you may still prefer light armor. You never get Armor Specialization Effects, so using light armor instead of medium armor is no great loss.

Finally, the Ruffian is Trained in Intimidation for free. Intimidation is a crucial Face skill, and with a little bit of Charisma and some Skill Feats you can turn it into a useful combat option too. the Ruffian is less dependent on Agile weapons than other rogues, so Multiple Attack Penalties can be a problem, which makes your third Action in a turn bad for attacking but great for Demoralize.

Scoundrel

The Scoundrel is all about being deceptive, rather than being sneaky. You'll see a scoundrel right in front of you, but that doesn't make them any less dangerous.

Curiously, the Scoundrel also makes a good multiclassed spellcaster due to their ability to make Charisma their Key Ability Score. Expect to multiclass into Bard and/or Sorcerer, and look at feats like Minor Magic and Magical Trickster. The Scoundrel is also unusually effective with Innate Spellcasting since Innate Spellcasting is Charisma-based by default.

Scoundrels get unique ability which makes Feint dramatically more effective. If you succeed on a Feint, you get the Critical Success effect. If you critically succeed, the target is Flat-Footed against all attacks until the end of your next turn. Both results offer ample opportunity for you to deal Sneak Attack. However, Feint requires that the target be in your reach, which can be hard if you want to use ranged weapons or if you want to rely on spells.

Scoundrels are Trained in both Deception and Diplomacy, making them a great option for your party's Face.

Thief

The Thief is the closest thing to a "default" rogue. They're heavily dependent on Dexterity, even using it to replace Strength on their weapon damage with Finesse weapons. The Thief is trained in Thievery, giving you one of the Rogue's most essential skills for free.

Despite its simplicity, the Thief should not be overlooked. It has the fewest and the simplest Racket-specific feats, but the options are nearly always effective and easy to rely upon.

Ability Scores

Ruffian

The Ruffian looks very similar to the Fighter in a lot of ways. You'll want some extra Dexterity since you're in medium armor, but otherwise your needs are very similar. You can absolutely built the Ruffian around Dexterity like the Thief, and make Strength your second-highest ability score, but I'll assume that if you're playing a ruffian you want to emphasize Strength.

Str: If you're playing a Ruffian, you're doing it so that you can use Strength-based melee weapons as a rogue. If you're not going to make Strength your Key Ability Score, you should consider a different racket.

Dex: You only neeed 14 to fill out Scale Mail, but you may want more to make you better at skills like Stealth.

Con: The Ruffian is typically a front-line melee character similar to the Fighter, and with only d8 hit points you need as much Constitution as you can manage to make up the difference in durability.

Int: You get a total of 9+Int Trained skills at first level, and even with Skill Increases at every level you only get enough Skill Increases to maximize 6 skills. Taking a Flaw in Intelligence only removes one of those skills, and there are plenty of appealing skills which don't rely on Intelligence.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and Will saves, but you don't need to focus on Wisdom-based skills.

Cha: Intimidation is a great option and it depends on your Charisma.

Scoundrel

The Scoundrel's abilities don't differ much from the Thief, but they need to emphasize Charisma considerably more. I still recommend making Dexterity your Key Ability Score because you can't Charisma doesn't affect your attacks or your AC, but you should make Charisma your next-highest Ability Score.

Str: Take a little bit for extra damage with your attacks unless you plan to use crossbows or spells in combat.

Dex: Defines your attacks, your AC, and many of your most important skills.

Con: Always important.

Int: You get a total of 9+Int Trained skills at first level, and even with Skill Increases at every level you only get enough Skill Increases to maximize 6 skills. Taking a Flaw in Intelligence only removes one of those skills, and there are plenty of appealing skills which don't rely on Intelligence.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and Will saves, but you don't need to focus on Wisdom-based skills.

Cha: While Charisma can be your Key Ability, it doesn't need to be and it probably shouldn't. As important as Charisma is for you, it's not what keeps you alive in combat, so putting the extra +2 into Dexterity at first level is probably the better option. However, if you plan to rely on casting spells (usually via multiclassing), you'll want to maximize Charisma.

Thief

Dexterity is your top priority, and everything else varies upon what role you're going to fill in your party.

Str: The Thief gets to add Dexterity to their melee weapon damage rather than Strength, allowing you to dump Strength without cutting into your damage output.

Dex: Defines your attacks, your AC, and many of your most important skills.

Con: Always important.

Int: You get a total of 9+Int Trained skills at first level, and even with Skill Increases at every level you only get enough Skill Increases to maximize 6 skills. Taking a Flaw in Intelligence only removes one of those skills, and there are plenty of appealing skills which don't rely on Intelligence.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and Will saves, but you don't need to focus on Wisdom-based skills so you don't need a lot of it.

Cha: You have plenty of capabity to be your party's Face, though you're less-reliant on Charisma than the Scoundrel might be..

Ancestries

Increases to your Key Ability Score are always welcome, but since the Rogue's Key Ability Score can change you have a ton of flexiblity there. Perhaps the most important things you can get from your Acenstry are Low-Light Vision and Darkvision since the Rogue tends to spend a lot of time sneaking around and trying to avoid being noticed, but remember that Darkvision is appears on all four spell lists, and you can always get Goggles of Night if you can't rely on friendly spellcasters spending a 3rd-level spell slot on you.

You might benefit from additional weapon options thanks to Ancestry Feats, especially if you're a ruffian, but remember that you'll mostly rely on Simple Weapons.

Dwarf: Darkvision, maximum hit points, and the Ability Boosts and Ability Flaws work great for most rogues (though the Scoundrel isn't a great option). You also get a Clan Dagger for free (this was added in Errata), and since it's Agile you can use it for Sneak Attack as well as using its Parry trait to boost your AC. So long as you never lose or sell your Clan Dagger, you don't ever need to take Dwarven Weapon Familiarity. However, there is very little to be gained from the Dwarf's Ancestry Feats, so consider Adopted Ancestry to open up additional options.

Elf: Dexterity and Intelligence are great, but a Constitution Flaw can be a serious problem if you plan to fight in melee so you may want to use the Optional Flaw rules to dump something else so that you can use the extra Free Ability Boost to offset the Cosntitution Flaw. You get Low-Light Vision and Darkvision is an option with the Cavern Elf Heritage, and the Elf's Ancestry Feats offer a lot of really great options. Ancestral Longevity further increases the Rogue's superiotity with skills, and Otherworldly Magic offers access to cantrips without spending Class Feats on Minor Magic or on a multiclass archetype. As you gain levels, you gain access to Ancestry Feat options which improve your ability to use Perception to search for traps, and allow you to Step more than 5 feet in a single action, both of which can be very helpful for the Rogue.

Gnome: Constitution and Charisma are great, especially for a scoundrel, and a Strength Flaw is only a problem if you wanted to play a Ruffian and make Strength your Key Ability Score. If you put the Free Ability Boost into Dexterity you'll do just fine, and since the Ruffian isn't forced to make Strength their Key Ability Score it's absolutely still an option. You get low-light vision by default, and Darkvision is an option with Umbral Gnome. For a rogue interested in spellcasting, spells are available from severale heritage options, as well as from the Fey World Magic feat chain, and with Animal Accomplice you can even get a familiar!

Goblin: Dextertity and Charisma are a great start, and your get Darkvision by default. The Wisdom Flaw will hurt your Perception and your Will Saves, but not enough that you need to worry about it. Many of the heritage options are great, including options to get damage resistances by also things like Razortooth Goblin, which gives you a bite with the Finesse trait so you can use it for Sneak Attack. Many of the Ancestry Feats are excellent, too. Goblin Weapon Familiarity makes the Dogslicer and the Horsechopper Simple Weapons for you, making the Dogslicer an interesting alternative to the Short Sword, and the Horsechopper is a great way for ruffians to get reach. The Very Sneaky feat chain is also a great addition, and you can use the Goblin Scuttle feat chain to help move around in combat without cutting into your Actins on your turn.

Halfling: Dexterity and Wisdom are a fine start, and even if you want to fight in melee the Strength flaw isn't a big enough problem that you need to worry about it. The Flexible Ability Boost should go into Constitution in most cases. The biggest problem is that you don't get Low-Light Vision (though it's available with the Twilight Halfling Heritage), and Darkvision isn't an option. However, the Halfling still has several excellent feat options. Halfling Weapon Familiarity makes the Filcher's Fork and the Halfling Sling Staff Simple Weapons, making the Dagger, the Rapier, and the Short Sword obsolete by combining all of their most important traits on a single weapon that you can also use as a cooking implement. The Distracting Shadows feat chain is great if you plan to fight at range or if you spend a lot of time in crowded cities, and Halfling Luck is literally always good. However, Adopted Ancestry makes Ancestry Feats accessible to other races, so the Halfling's biggest appeal is easily accessible to other races with the ability to see in the dark.

Human: Despite lacking Low-Light Vision or Darkvision by default, the Human is still a great option. You can get both Low-Light Vision and Darkvision using either the Half-Elf or Half-Orc Ancestries, and you can get access to great weapons like the Filcher's Fork with the Unconventional Weaponry feat. Two Flexible Ability Boosts is probably plenty, but you could easily use the Optional Flaw rules to get a third if you really want it. Unfortunately there aren't many great Ancestry Feats for the Human if you're not a Half-Elf/Half-Orc, so consider Adopted Ancestry to expand your options.

Backgrounds

Because rogues can be built in so many ways, there's lots of room to use different backgrounds. Consider which Racket you're playing and make sure that you can increase your Key Ability, but otherwise look for anything that fits your character concept.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • Barrister (Scoundrel)
  • Charlatan (Scoundrel)
  • Driminal (Thief)
  • Farmhand (Ruffian)
  • Guard (Ruffian)
  • Prisoner (Thief)

Skills and Skill Feats

As a rogue, you get Skill Increases at every level after 2nd, giving you 5 opportunities to raise skills to Expert, 8 to raise skills as high as Master, and 6 to raise skills as high as Legendary. That means that you can maximize at most six skills, and the rest of your skills might not advance beyond Trained.

You get Skill Feats at every level, giving you a total of 20 Skill Feats by 20th level. Generally you want to invest these feats in the same skills which you are choosing to maximize, though in some cases you may want to grab feats from skills which don't require that you be more than Trained, and you have plenty of skills to throw around.

  • Acrobatics (Dex): While not incredibly useful on its own, Acrobatics lets you qualify for Cloud Step and Implausible Infiltration, both of which are spectacular.
  • Arcana (Int): An essential knowledge skill in any party, and even if you don't have the Intelligence to back it up it's helpful to be Trained.
    • Arcane Sense: Detect Magic is incredibly useful, but without spellcasting you'll often find that you can do very little about whatever magic you detect beyond avoiding it or looting it.
  • Athletics (Str): Despite most rogues not emphasizing Strength, this is still a fantastic option. With Assurance, decent Proficiency, and even modest Strength you can reliably Trip foes, and making them Prone makes them Flat-Footed until they spend an Action to stand, both allowing you to deal Sneak Attack (and other things like Debilitating Strike when you get them) and robbing them of an Action at some point. If you're a ruffian, this is absolutely essential. Even if you don't plan to use Athletics in combat, you should at least be Trained.
    • Assurance: If you're going to rely on Athletics, you need the reliability which Assurance provides.
    • Titan Wrestler: Essential if you plan to rely on Trip.
    • Cloud Jump: The Cloud Step class feat addresses the same challenges more effectively.
  • Crafting (Int): You have plenty of capacity to be good at crafting, and most rogues can afford decent Intelligence to make it effective. If you're building around poison or alchemical items, this is an absolute must even if you're multiclassing into Alchemist.
  • Deception (Cha): Crucial as a Face skill, but also a crucial combat option for the Scoundrel due to their improved usage of the Feint action.
    • Assurance: If you're healily reliant on Feint, you need this. Failure can mean that your next turn or two will be much less effective, and Critical Failure could get you killed.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Intimidation (Cha): A great option for a Face, and Demoralize makes it a useful option in combat, especially with You're Next available at first level.
    • Assurance: If you're healily reliant on Demoralize, you need this.
    • Battlecry: Demoralize for free when combat starts. It might not be a good option if you're hiding, but otherwise it's a free debuff at the beginning of every fight.
    • Terrified Retreat:
    • Scare to Death: There is very little reason not to start every combat by looking around the room and murdering everything with a Will DC low enough for you to kill them with Assurance. By comparison, actually attacking things is considerably slower, less reliable, and more dangeorus.
  • Lore (Int): Versatile, but vaguely defined and hard to rely upon. If you have high Intelligence at 1st level and your party can cover essential knowledge skills like Arcana and Religion, consider picking up a few types of Lore.
  • Medicine (Wis): Wisdom isn't a crucial skill for the Rogue, so Medicine isn't a spectacular option. But you have enough Skill Increases and Skill Feats to make it work if you're interested in doing so.
  • Nature (Wis): Leave this to someone in the party with higher Wisdom if you can.
  • Occultism (Int):
    • :
  • Performance (Cha): Not particularly useful
  • Religion (Wis):Leave this to someone in the party with higher Wisdom if you can.
  • Society (Int): Useful in some social situattions, and arguably an important skill for Face characters.
  • Stealth (Dex): One of your most important skills. Hiding before combat starts allows you to use your Stealth check for initiative, allowing your incredible Stealth bonus to give you a higher Initiative than your excellent Perception.
    • Assurance: Get a consistently high result on Initiative, and never worry about being spotted because you rolled terribly.
    • Foil Senses: Special senses like Tremorsense can easily negate even the best Stealth checks if you don't know to be prepared for them. This feat removes that annoyance.
    • Quiet Allies: The phrase "using the lowest modifier" means that your allies add the +2 Circumstance Bonus, rather than using whichever Circumstance Bonus you would normally get based on your Proficiency. You also share a single roll with your party, so you're no longer effectively dragged down by whoever rolls the lowest/
    • Swift Sneak: Extremely helpful if you're sneaking in combat.
  • Survival (Wis): Only rarely useful, but you might make it Trained if you don't know what else to take.
  • Thievery (Dex): Arguably the Rogue's signature skill. Used for both opening locks and disabling traps, no adventuring party is likely to succeed without someone passable at Thievery.

Feats

Rogue Feats

1st Level
  • Nimble Dodge: Useful in literally every fight, though you may get less use out of it if you're fighting at range.
  • Trap Finder: Situational. I would never take this at first level unless your campaign features a huge amount of dungeon crawling.
  • Twin Feint: A reliable way to ensure that your target will be flat-footed against at least one of your attacks. Your second attack will still suffer the Multiple Attack Penalty, so recommend making your secon attack with an Agile weapon. Flat-footed reduces the target's AC by -2, so you're effectively only taking -2 if your second attack is with an Agile weapon. You might instead prefer to use the Feint Action and make a single attack. This uses the same number of Actions and won't have a Mutliple Attack Penalty on your attack, but it also has an extra point of failure (the Deception check) and you don't have a chance to hit twice. It's an interesting comparison, and I'm not sure which is a better go-to option.
  • You're Next: Fantastic. Good enough that any decent Intimidation build should multiclass to get this. You may even be able to use it immediately following Scare to Death.
2nd Level
  • Brutal Beating (Ruffian): Good if you're not going to pursue Intimidation, but if you're using Intimidation you can just Demoralize enemies whenever your Multiple Attack Penalty starts to add up.
  • Distracting Feint (Scoundrel): Nice if your party includes a spellcaster who likes AOE damage spells like Fireball, but at low levels before your allies have lot of spells to throw around I don't think that this is worth the feat.
  • Minor Magic: Cantrips offer a ton of options. If you have the first printing of the Core Rulebook, you'll notice that no Spellcasting Ability or proficiency is listed; the errata clarified that the Spellcasting Ability is Charisma, and that you are Trained with these spells. This proficiency never imroves, so stay away from attack options, and stick to defensive options like Shield, buff options like Guidance, and utility options like Prestidigitation.
  • Mobility: Makes Stepping obsolete. Remember that numbers are rounded down, so in most cases you're only moving 10 feet while using this. Look for ways to improve your land speed like the Fleet feat or magic items. Hitting 30 ft. speed will add 5 ft. to the amount you can move using Mobility.
  • Quick Draw: Useful if you like to throw weapons, but otherwise it won't see a ton of use. Even if you like to throw weapons, you'll eventually replace this with a Returning property rune so that you can throw a single weapon with a bunch of enhancements on it.
  • Unbalancing Blow (Thief): Fantastic when it works, but it's hard to rely on Critical Hits, and it's hard to invest in unreliable feat at low level when you have so few options. If you do take this, plan to retrain it when you get Precise Debilitations: Precise Debilitations provides the same effect and doesn't require a critical hit.
4th Level
  • Battle Assessment: Pathfinder has a dizzying number of creatures, and their strengths and weaknesses aren't always obvious. Knowing even one of a creature's weaknesses can dramaticaly change how well a fight goes for your party. Unfortunately, the characters most likely to benefit from this are spellcasters; even if an enemy is weak to bludgeoning damage you're unlikely to drop your +2 greater striking rapier in favor of a nonmagical club.
  • Dread Striker: Extremely easy to rely upon if there is even one person in the party built to use Intimidation. If a foe isn't Frightened on your turn, start your turn with Demoralize before you hit them.
  • Reactive Pursuit: Keeping an enemy in melee is great, especially since the Rogue doesn't get something like Attack of Opportunity. However, be cautious with this: If an enemy is running back to the comparable safety of wherever its allies are standing you may find yourself standing in the middle of a bunch of hostile creatures.
  • Sabotage: Too situational.
  • Magical Trickster: Your proficiency with the cantrips granted by Minor Magic never improves, so the only way to make this meaningful is if you're using Archetypes to improve your spellcasting. If you're doing that, the extra damage can be great.
  • Poison Weapon: Poison is a complicated mechanic, and this is a great way to get into it. The free damage poisons are nice, but their damage is negligible and using one in combat will generally be a waste of an Action, so your best bet is to poison a weapon immediately before ambushing an enemy. If you have the first printing of the Core Rulebook, errata has clarified the wording of the feat: you need a free hand to draw a poison and apply it to a weapon, so if you're using two weapons or a shield or something you'll need to drop it. If you want to use this, strongly consider spending class feats to multiclass into Alchemist.
  • Scout's Warning: This is great for most characters, but it's not always a great option for the Rogue. You can use Stealth for Initiative checks if you're hiding when combat starts, and since your Stealth bonus will almost certainly exceed your Perception bonus, you want to do that whenever possible. If you do that, you're actively working to invalidate the the function of this feat. I would take this feat on literally any character who isn't trying to be stealthy. It's great for many characters multiclassing into the Rogue, but rogues should probably avoid it.
6th Level
  • Gang Up: A tempting crutch if you're fighting in melee and having trouble making enemies Flat-Footed by other means, but if you can't make enemies Flat-Footed by other means you may need to reconsider how you're playing your rogue. There are tons of great options, and you need to have at least one that can rely on consistently that doesn't require you to wait for an ally to stumble into melee. That said, this mgiht still be an important option if you're using a reach weapon, and if you have numberous allies fighting in melee this could allow you to quickly change targets to spread effects like Debilitating Strike without needing to constantly move between targets.
  • Light Step: Situational, and you can frequently deal with difficult terrain by jumping over it or by moving somewhere else. You can also take Feather Step rather than spending a class feat.
  • Skirmish Strike: Effectively an extra Action on most turns. Choosing to Step out of melee after you've finish attacking means that enemies are often forced to spend their own Action to follow you or to attack one of your allies instead, such as your party's Defender who is better suited to endure those attacks. If you're fighting using a ranged weapon, this allows you to safely move out of reach without cutting into your attacks, making this a crucial option if you're forced into melee.
  • Twist the Knife: Not nearly enough damage to justify spending an Action. If you want Persistent Bleed damage, use the Critical Specialization effect with a weapon in the Knife category. It will deal more damage, it won't require you to spend an Action, and you get acces to Critical Specialization effects at 5th level which trigger against the same targets which Twist the Knife applies to. Admittedly you need to deal a Critical Hit, but I still don't think Twist the Knife is worth a feat.
8th Level
  • Blind-Fight: This is a very well-written feat. The language is both precise and clear, and it very explicitly states how it works with Pathfinder 2e's complex system of conditions. This is a great option if you don't have Low-Light Vision or Darkvision because it makes you more effective in poor light conditions, and it's a lifesaver if you're facing invisible enemies and don't have magical options to counter invisibility. It's also a good option if you have allied spellcasters who like to use spells like Fog Cloud which obscure the battlefield without relying on darkness.
  • Delay Trap: Too situational.
  • Improved Poison Weapon: An additional 1d4 damage with your free poisons is not enough to make them meaningful.
  • Nimble Roll: This does two things: First, it allows you to take a Reaction to get a +2 Circumstance bonus on Reflex saves (see Nimble Dodge). Second, after using Nimble Dodge/Nimble Roll and avoiding an attack or succeeding on a save, you can Stride 10 feet. Keep in mind that if you Stride in this way you'll still provoke Reactions, so it may not be a great option if you're in melee.
  • Opportune Backstab: You want to make as many attacks as possible, and since this attack typically takes place outside of your own turn you don't need to worry about Multiple Attack Penalties.
  • Sidestap: This requires very specific positioning that can be hard to establish, and enemies can easily avoid it by not standing adjacent to each other.
  • Sly Striker: Are you bad at being a rogue? Take this consolation prize! If you're in a situation where you can't deal Sneak Attack, you should be working to change the situation, rather than flailing about and taking whatever meager damage you can get.
10th Level
  • Precise Debilitations: Simple and straight-foward. You can make the target Flat-Footed (remember that Debilitating Strike lasts until the end of your next turn), removing the need for complicated tricks like flanking, tripping, feinting, etc.. If they're already flat-footed, you can deal an extra 2d6 damage, which isn't conceptually exciting but it's a bunch of extra damage so it's always useful even when your other Debilitating Strike options might not be.
  • Sneak Savant: Take Assurance with Stealth instead. Class feats are precious and you get twice as many Skill Feats as anyone else.
  • Tactical Debilitations: The benefits are only useful in very specific situations. The most likely use case is to prevent a target from making Reactions so that you can Stride away, but if that's something that you're worried about you'll do better with Skirmish Strike.
  • Vicious Debilitations: The ability to add Vulnerability to a damage type is fantastic if you have a large party or a party which relies heavily on weapon damage, but if you're in a small party of if your party relies on spells or fire damage or something, this won't be especially useful. Clumsy 1 is neat and reliable, but it's not very exciting.
12th Level
  • Critical Debilitation: It's important to remember that this only applies if you score a Critical Hit, but if you can manage that this is spectacular. Even if the target succeeds on their save, they still lose 1 Action.
  • Fantastic Leap: Either throw something or use a crossbow.
  • Felling Shot: You need to hit with the attack, which takes two Actions so you can only do it once per turn. If you hit, the target makes a Reflex Save against your Class DC (the Rogue has a poor Class DC progressin). If the target fails the save, they fall but they're not harmed by the fall. This is ineffective, unreliable, and unimpressive. If you need to keep an enemy from flying, consider a Tanglefoot Bag or hit the target with Dispel Magic.
  • Reactive Interference: You can use this to prevent an Attack of Opportunity, so you can freely Stride past a foe. However, you're still limited to one Reaction per round, so don't try to walk past multiple enemies.
  • Spring from the Shadows: Similar to Sudden Charge. This is a great way to start combat if you're built for melee.
14th Level
  • Defensive Roll: This will save your life repeatedly. it's only usable once every 10 minutes, but that's generally once per fight and that should be enough. Once this triggers, you should strongly consider running away or at least retreating and switching to a ranged weapon.
  • Instant Opening: You've spent 13 levels hiding, tripping, flanking, and feinting, and then along comes Instant Opening. No more checks or tricks or other nonsense. Simply shout "look over there!" and your target is Flat-Footed to your attacks until the end of your next turn. This is especially great for rogues who prefer to fight at range, and who generally have less options to make a target Flat-Footed.
  • Leave an Opening: If you have a party member with Attack of Opportunity, this can be useful. However, it requires that they be in reach of the target, that they haven't used their Reaction already, and that you score a Critical Hit to trigger this. Even then, your ally might prefer to not use their Reaction this way because it removes the deterrent against your enemy moving away from your and your ally.
  • Sense the Unseen: Hopefully by this level your party has plenty of options for handling invisible enemies, but if they don't this is a good fallback. Be sure to combine this with Blind-Fight to mostly negate the benefits of invisibility.
16th Level

This level introduces class feats which require you to be Legendary in a skill. These feats are often incredibly powerful, but if you haven't been spending Skill Increases to improve your skills, these feats will be unavailable to you.

  • Blank Slate: If invisibility is a frequent option for you, such as via an Invisiblity rune on your armor or a Cloak of Elvenkind, this keeps those options effective against enemy spellcasters who would otherwise use options like See Invisibility to reveal you. However, unless you are facing enemies with those capabilities, this won't provide any benefit.
  • Cloud Step: In some ways, this is essentially flight that ends at the end of your turn. You still fall normally, so consider the Cat Fall skill feat, and since the movement is limited by how far you can travel on your turn, look at feats like Fleet and look for magic items which increase your speed.
  • Cognitive Loophole: Very situational.
  • Dispelling Slice: There is no limitation on how frequently your can use this, making it a fantastic option for dealing with spells affecting your own allies. Tell them to lie on the ground to make them Flat-Footed, grab a nonmagical dagger (for the reduce damage), and stab them until the spell effect goes away.
  • Perfect Distraction: The perfect way to escape combat. Activate your duplicate and run away as fast as you can. You can also use it to distract enemies while you prepare to ambush them, but hopefully you can accomplish a simple distraction with something more mundane like throwing something that will make a loud noise.
18th Level
  • Implausible Infiltration: The prerequisites are steep, but the ability to pass through 10-foot thick walls means that you can easily pass through most solid structures occupied by living creatures. Castles, dungeons, homes, even many cave walls are little more than minor inconveniences for you. If you're inivisible (or at least sufficiently good at Stealth), you can walk right into a populate room, loot the room's contents, and escape without so much as opening a door. By comparison, the spell Passwall can pass through more diverse materials, and by upcasting the spell it can pass through thicker walls, but that eats spell slots and doesn't work in antimagic fields.
  • Powerful Sneak: Only useful for the Ruffian, and the effect is not nearly significant enough to be such a high-level feat. This basically only exists to handle creatures which are immune to precision damage.
  • Trickster's Ace: Very similar to the spell Contingency, but not limited to the Arcane spell list. It's unclear if you can use this to upcast spells, but that's a minor limitation. Some example uses: "When I lose the ability to move under my own power, cast Freedom of Movement." "When I am attacked in melee, cast Fire Shield." "When I fall unconscious due to injury, cast Heal." "When I speak the phrase 'to the skies!', cast Fly."
20th Level
  • Hidden Paragon: Free, reliable invisibility. Even with a 1-minute duration and a 1-hour cooldown, this is still appealing. However, you can also get invisibility from magic items or from spells, and Blank Slate can negate most magical means to detect you (though Faerie Fire and Glitterdust would still work against Blank Slate).
  • Impossible Striker: This makes it very easy to deal your Sneak Attack damage, but you could get the same effect from Instant Opening, and hitting a target that's actually Flat-Footed means that you can use Debilitating Strike and Master Strike.
  • Reactive Distraction: This can allow you to negate a potentially devastating hit, and the wording is incredibly generous. Since you need to know that the attack hit to trigger the reaction, you'll also know if it was a critical hit, allowing you to use this in response to a critical hit to avoid suffering a big pile of damage. You can also use this to avoid area effects, which is helpful for area effects that aren't covered by Improved Evasion and your spectacular Reflex saves.

General Feats

  • Incredible Initiative: Going first will often make it easier to strike enemies while they're still flat-footed.
  • Shield Block: Rogues are frail, and a shield can go a long way to keep you alive in melee.

Weapons

  • Dagger: Despite having a slightly smaller damage die than the shortsword or the Rapier, the Dagger is a fantastic weapon. It's Agile so you can make several attacks with it with reduce Multiple Attack Penalties and you can throw it. Even if you're not using daggers as your primary weapon, keeping one in your off hand can be a great way to keep a ranged attack ready when you can't or don't want to get into melee range.
  • Rapier: Perhaps the most deadly single weapon available to the rogue, the Rapier is a great weapon if you don't plan to spend every Action attacking. If you plan to use Twin Feint, the Rapier is a good first weapon.
  • Sap: A tragic victim of the transition from the Pathfinder 1e to Pathfinder 2e. Nonlethal weapons are basically useless. You can choose to take a -2 penalty with a lethal weapon to make the attack nonlethal, and so long as you make that choice when you reduce the creature to 0 hit points you're fine. You don't need to spend a ton of gold on a sap just to have the ability to knock foes unconscious without killing them.
  • Shortsword: Basically a dagger with slightly large damage dice, but you lose the ability to throw it.
  • Shortbow: The same damage as the hand crossbow, but half the range. The Shortbow does add Deadly 1d10, which is quite a bit of damage on a Critical Hit, and if you plan to fight at range primarily you may want the additional range from the Shortbow.

Ruffian Weapons

The Ruffian can fight effectively with every published simple weapon except the heavy crossbow, and in some cases you can take an Ancestry Feat to make a Martial Weapon a Simple Weapon for you, further expanding your options. Carrying several weapons to support a diverse set of weapon traits is tempting, but the cost to keep your weapon upgraded quickly becomes prohibitive so you'll generally want to stick to one favorite weapon. If you want to use multiple weapons, buy a Shifting rune.

Armor

  • Explorer's Clothing: Once you reach 10th level, your Dexterity could reach 20. At that point, Explorer's Clothing provides the same AC as Leather Armor, but without a check penalty and with less Bulk. You'll still want to put runes on it to boost your AC, bu transferring runes from your previous armor is easy.
  • Leather: Most rogues will live in Leather armor until they raise their Dexterity to 20.
  • Studded Leather: If you start with 16 Dexterity, this is your ideal armor. You'll get the same AC as Leather armor with 18 Dexterity, and since the Dex cap doesn't affect other than your AC there's no reason to change armor until you hit 20 Dexterity.
  • Chain Shirt: Noisy.
  • Hide / Scale Mail: Fine options if you want to stop at 14 Dexterity.
  • Chain Mail: Noisy.
  • Half Plate: Most rogues want more than 12 Dexterity, so there's little sense spending this much on armor.

Magic Items

Armor Property Runes

  • Invisibility: The ability to produce invisibility without an ally's help is a huge benefit.

Weapon Property Runes

  • Grievous: Not every critical speicalization effect is appealing, and many effects don't improve enough with Grievous, and some of the effects will be redundant with Debilitating Strike or with other key options like Feint.
  • Returning: A dagger is a great choice of weapon for many rogues, and the ability to throw it without giving up your weapon means that you can easily make ranged attacks with spending a bunch of Actions to switch weapons.

Talismans

  • Bloodseeker Beak: Persistant damage is always great, but by the time 20gp is easy to afford the 1d4 bleed damage isn't significant enough to justify spending a bunch of money on single-use items. Still, this is a nice option to have for difficult fights or when you're expecting an enemy to run away.

Other Magic Items

  • Goggles of Night: If you don't get Darkvision from your Ancestry/Heritage, this is essential. Otherwise, skip it. The item bonus to Perception is great, but not worth the price if you already have Darkvision.

Archetypes

  • Alchemist: Interesting if you want to explore poison, but otherwise there's little here that you want.
  • Bard: Because they're Charisma-based, the bard is is a great option for rogues looking to cast spells.
  • Fighter: Fighter Class Feats offer a ton of great options for a combat-focused rogue.
  • Monk: Stances can get you unarmed attacks which are better than most of your weapon options, and Monk's Flurry allows you to make an extra Strike every turn, meaning an extra opportunity to deal Sneak Attack.
  • Ranger: Rangers have several great feats for archery.
  • Sorcerer: Charisma-based spellcasting, and depending on your choice of bloodline you can use any spell list.