Pathfinder - The Rogue Handbook
Last Updated: October 15, 2018
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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.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
An iconic and important part of any party, the Rogue is an iconic Scout and Striker, but can also serve as the party's Face. Rogues are the line from which Scouts are measured, and their Trapfinding ability and affinity for stealth are fantastic. The Rogue's biggest problem is that they frequently cease functioning when situations make it difficult or impossible to use Sneak Attack.
This guide is for the vanilla Rogue. For the Unchained Rogue, see my Unchained Rogue Handbook.
Rogue Class Features
: 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.
: 2/3 BAB is difficult because many Rogues depend on two-weapon fighting, but flanking and high Dexterity can make up the deficit. Debilitating Injury also allow you debuff and enemy's AC, which can go a long way to compensate for your relatively low BAB.
: Good Reflex saves, high Dexterity, and Evasion make the Rogue exceptionally good at Reflex saves, but they often have issues with Fortitude and Will saves.
: Limited to simple weapons, hand crossbows, and a handful of martial weapons, Rogues have very few options. Fortunately, they get all of the ones that they really need to get by.
: 8+ skill ranks and the longest class skill list in the game. Rogues can do a lot of things, but even with 8+ skill ranks it can still be difficult to cover all of the essentials. Be sure to coordinate with your party to know you're going to need to invest your skill ranks.
: A pile of d6's to drop on your foes. Sneak Attack is the Rogue's primary source of damage, but because it can be hard to bring into play, Rogues occasionally find themselves useless in combat.
: The bonus to disarming traps is good, but the ability to disarm magical traps is the key component of this feature.
(Ex): With your high reflex saves, Evasion will save you from a lot of damage.
(Ex): The bonus scales reasonably well, but the use is highly situational.
: 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.
: This will basically never come up.
: Add an extra list of considerably better Rogue Talents.
: Basically the Assassin's Death Strike ability. This ability is fine, but Ninjas and Slayers can take it as a talent at level 11.
The Rogue is very frequently MAD, especially if the party has very few other skills and no Face.
: Only useful for a bit of damage, and Rogues depend almost exclusively on Sneak Attack for damage. Dump to 8, but don't dump to 7 unless you really need the extra points.
: In light armor, Dexterity is absolutely crucial. All but the strangest Rogue builds depend on Weapon Finesse or ranged weapons, so make sure to put a lot of resources into dexterity.
: Essential for Fortitude saves and hit points, especially if you're in melee.
: Essential for skill ranks. 8+ seems like a lot, but it's nowhere near enough.
: Essential for Will saves.
: A little bit of Charisma is great if you plan to play a Face, but otherwise you can dump Charisma to 7.
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Bonuses to Dexterity are essential, and bonuses to Intelligence or skills are nice too. Darkvision is especially nice at low levels before you can get Darkvision from spells.
: Not particularly well-suited to the Rogue, but Darkvision is certainly tempting.
: Bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence are fantastic, and some of the Elf's other racial abilities are helpful. The Elf favored class bonus adds additional uses to the minor magic and major magic talents, but unless you really plan to use those talents it won't matter.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: As usual, the Human is a great option. 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.
- (Combat): Especially useful if you multiclass into Assassin or otherwise gain a Death Attack ability whichi s typically used during a surprise round.
- (Combat): Initiative bonuses are great for Rogues.
- (Combat): Bonus to a bad save.
- (Faith): Bonus to a bad save.
- (Faith): Since Rogues spend so much time using skills, you have a lot of opportunities to use this.
- (Magic): If you plan to pick up the Minor/Major Magic talents, this fits very well thematically. Pick up a utility option like Mage Hand or Prestidigitation.
- Pragmatic Activator (Magic): If you're not a Face, but you still want to use UMD, this can get a you a huge bonus by ignoring your 7 Charisma in favor of your high Intelligence.
- (Social): Bonus to a bad save.
- (Elf Racial): Bonus to a bad save.
- (Half-Elf Racial): The same effect as Reactionary, but doesn't take up your Combat trait.
- (Dex): Great to move around in combat without getting killed. The DC is the threatening creatures' CMD, and the enemies which you care about avoiding will have a high CMD so if you plan to use Acrobatics you need to have enough ranks to make it work.
- (Int): Too situational.
- (Cha): Helpful for any face, and feinting is a nice way for melee Rogues to get some self-sufficiency in combat.
- (Str): Too situational.
- (Int): Craft (Alchemy) can be useful if you like to use alchemical weapons, but you can do just fine without it.
- (Cha): Essential for any face.
- (Dex): Essential for Scouts who need to handle traps.
- (Cha): Too situational. Buy a hat of Disguise.
- (Dex): Too situational.
- (Cha): Helpful for any face.
- (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
- (Int): Useful for identifying humanoids and for plot stuff in some campaigns.
- (Int): Have someone cast tongues.
- (Wis): The most-rolled skill in the game by a huge margin.
- (Cha): You are not a Bard.
- (Wis): Helpful for any face.
- (Dex): Too situational.
- (Dex): Essential for any Scout.
- (Str): Too situational.
- (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.
- : Generally when you set your Minor and Major Magic talents, you select options which are important to your build.
- : Fear stacking can be very effective, but Rogues have very few mechanics to do it on their own.
- : Rogue talents are fantastic, and many of them offer better options than feats.
- : The Elf can get just as many extra uses with two levels worth of favored class bonus.
- : Usually it's a better idea to remove the concealment, but if your party likes to use effects like Fog Cloud, this can be a huge advantage in combat.
- : Very situational, and you need to have a bunch of Improved Feint feats for it to matter. You won't reasonably be able to use this until you pick up Improved Two-Weapon Feint.
: Not useful on its own, but it opens up a lot of other great options.
: Allows you to Feint and attack in the same round, allowing you to use Sneak Attack without flanking or hiding. However, if you're in melee you are almost certainly using two-weapon fighting, so Two-Weapon Feint is likely a better choice for you.
- : Amusing, but ridiculously situational. I would let someone do this with a Bluff check without requiring a feat.
: The Withdraw action lets you move twice your speed, affects all opponents which threaten your current square, and doesn't require a Bluff check. If you don't want to move in a straight line you can use Acrobatics to tumble.
- : Just use Acrobatics to tumble.
- : This allows you to Feint, attack, then move all in one turn. Certainly a tempting option, but situational.
: Functionally the same as Improved Feint, but a better option for two-weapon fighters.
- : This makes feinting and two-weapon fighting a viable combination. It sucks to give up one of your attacks, but your opponent loses their dex bonus to AC for an entire round, and not just for your attacks.
- : Combat maneuvers aren't typically a good choice for Rogues, but if you want to use them this will get you a hefty bonus.
: +2 damage per Sneak Attack die, but you can only deal nonlethal damage.
- : Double your Sneak Attack dice with Saps. It's nonlethal damage, but your Sneak Attack damage is (roughly) 1d6+1 per Rogue level, which is fantastic.
- : Critical feats aren't a good choice for Rogues. Leave this one for Slayers.
- : With 2/3 BAB combat maneuvers are hard for Rogues, making Grapple an unlikely choice. If you combine this with Agile maneuvers and Surprise Maneuver, you might be able to make this work.
: TWF Rogues have been a staple for a long time, and for good reason. Rogues have little use for shields, and two attacks means two piles of Sneak Attack damage.
- : Your damage from Sneak Attack will completely eclipse this.
: 4 total attacks can mean a huge amount of damage.
- : With 2/3 BAB and TWF penalties, it's very difficult for a Rogue to hit with their third iterative attacks, so it's perfectly acceptable to skip this feat.
- : Dodge is strictly better.
- : Essential for any melee rogue. You may choose to take the Finesse Rogue Talent instead of spending a feat, but if you're a melee Rogue you almost certainly want this at first level. Even if you're using two-weapon fighting at first level, the relative bonus from using Dexterity for attack rolls will almost certainly be larger than the +4 effective bonus from Two-Weapon Fighting.
- : A good choice for two-weapon fighting and for throwing. Regardless of your primary weapon, carry some for utility and as backup weapons.
- : Cool, but not very effective. You can dual-wield hand crossbows, but you will need to class dip into Alchemist or Witch to get something which allows you reload while dual-wielding.
- : A good ranged option, and it doesn't care about your Halfling Rogue's 5 Strength.
- : Critical threats aren't very important to Rogues, but the rapier is the biggest melee weapon available to the Rogue.
- : A common choice for two-weapon fighting because you can use them in both hand and only take Weapon Focus once.
- : The obvious choice for archery Rogues, but remember that Strength penalties apply to bow damage, so a crossbow may be a good choice instead.
- : Your starting point. This should last through early levels. Don't bother enhancing because you're going to get a Mithral Shirt pretty quickly.
- : If you're using a ranged weapon or doing two-weapon fighting, a masterwork buckler offers a cheap way to boost your AC if you're willing to pay the -1 penalty to attacks.
- : If you're in melee using a single weapon, a Darkwood Heavy Shield has no armor check penalty, so it's a cheap and easy way to boost your AC without cutting into your damage output.
- : Mithral Shirt will be your best bet for AC until your Dexterity bonus hits +10, which will be extremely high level.
- : Strictly better than padded armor. With no maximum dexterity bonus, you can afford to make your Dexterity absurdly high without restriction, and can still keep enhancing your armor.
- : A wand of Mage Armor gets you +4 AC for an hour at a time. For the same 9150gp for +3 Haramaki, you can buy 12 wands, netting you a total of 600 hours of mage armor. If you have a wizard in the party, buy them a pearl of power 1 for 1000gp, and they can get you hours/level of mage armor for essentially nothing.
- Dagger of Doubling (10,302 gp): If you're going for a thrown weapon build, this is your best bet. Pick up Quick Draw and duplicate the daggers after each attack. Unfortunately you won't be able to go past +1 without your DM allowing you enhance the weapon beyond its default stats, but without this your best bet is buying dozens of +1 daggers anyway, so you come out ahead either way.
- Sword of Subtlety (22,310 gp): Very pricey, but a +4 to attacks and damage makes this effectively a +5 weapon for slightly more than the price of a +3. Certainly not a go-to option, but nice if you have someone in the party to craft one for you.
- Animated Shield (+2): It may be difficult to find time to activate your animated shield because rogues lean so heavily on full attack actions. Still, it can be a very welcome AC boost for melee rogues.
- Practical Guide to Celestial Armor. (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my
- Murderer's Blackcloth (12,405 gp): Not worth the gp cost.
- : Improved Invisibility is better in combat, but a Ring of Invisibility is the gold standard of scouting, infiltration, and surprise.
- : A bit of extra AC is always welcome for melee Rogues.
- : An extra attack is another vehicle for your Sneak Attack damage.
- : Only functions a few times per day, but boosting your Sneak Attack damage for a round can turn into a ton of damage very quickly.
- : Smokesticks are for suckers. Fog Cloud is a great escape mechanism.
- : See "Armor", above.
- : Dexterity is the Rogue's bread and butter. Get one early, and enhance it often.
- : Tempting, and makes sense thematically, but your Stealth bonus is likely already very high without wasting gold and your cloak slot on this.
- : A great defensive option, but remember that it can't be used to hide in plain sight.
- : Essential on every character every time.
- : Ignore the name: you're here for the +2 insight bonus to attack rolls with sneak attacks.
- : For ranged builds these are too good to pass up. +2 competence bonus for each sneak attack die is an absolutely ridiculous amount of extra damage. Note that the greater versions only grant the competence bonus once per sneak attack while attacking at range greater than 30 feet rather than once per sneak attack die, so stick to the regular version and get within 30 feet whenever you can. Seriously, this item is so insanely good I don't think I would allow it at my table because the abuse cases are too easy.
- : Get the Resiliency talent on an item.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: If you're medium you can reduce yourself for an easy +2 to Dexterity. If you're small, only do this if you're fighting at range.
- PHB: 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.