Pathfinder - Rogue Talents Breakdown
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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.
- 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.
Rogue talents define a Rogue in much the same way that feats define a fighter. Talents give you a lot of room to customize your rogue, and provide several excellent reasons to remain a single-class rogue.
* - Talents marked with an asterisk add effects to a rogue's sneak attack. Only one of these talents can be applied to an individual attack and the decision must be made before the attack roll is made.
Assault Leader (Ex): The limited use is tragic, but the benefit is fantastic. If you're a flanking-based rogue, this could mean giving your fighter a free attack. If you miss, the extra damage from your ally is a nice consolation prize.
Black Market Connections (Ex): If you are high enough level for this ability to matter, you likely have access to teleportation spells available to your party. Teleport to a bigger city and go shopping.
Bleeding Attack* (Ex): Bleed effects are always tempting, but rarely worthwhile. This could be useful for hit-and-run attacks, but you would be better served outright killing someone instead of waiting for them to bleed to death. At higher levels the bleed damage can become very scary, but fast healing and regeneration become more common.
Befuddling Strike* (Ex): The effect isn't as good as Offensive Defense, but they work together, and Befuddling Strike lasts multiple rounds. If you have open talents and you need defense on top of Offensive Defense, this could be a good option.
Camouflage (Ex): Highly situational. With your insane Rogue Dexterity and maxed ranks in Stealth, you shouldn't need this.
Canny Observer (Ex): Hugely situational. How often do you eavesdrop? The benefit to finding secret doors can be easily replace by Eyes of the Eagle, which cost 2500gp, give a +5 bonus, and cover all perception checks, instead of one specific usage.
Charmer (Ex): If you are the party's Face, this is good. Rerolls of any kind are excellent, and Diplomacy is one of the best skills in the game.
Coax Information (Ex): This functionally saves you an entire skill worth of skill ranks. If you're the party's Face and don't have enough skill ranks to throw around, this can be very helpful.
Combat Swipe: Stealing isn't something you typically do in combat. Sneak in and use Sleight of Hand like a real Rogue.
Combat Trick: While many rogue tricks are better than feats, it's hard to argue with the versatility of an additional combat feat. Two-Weapon Fighting or an archery feat are excellent options, and this helps with feat-heavy builds.
Convincing Lie (Ex): I didn't even know that there were rules for people repeating your lies. This is hugely situational.
Cunning Trigger (Ex): Unless you took Quick Trapsmith, this is totally useless. Even then, if you're using traps a lot you should be placing your traps in such a way that you don't need to trigger them yourself.
Deft Palm (Ex): I would let a player hide a weapon in plain sight without this talent. I would apply a fairly high penalty, but I would allow it. Even if your DM isn't as liberal as I am, this is hugely situational.
Distracting Attack* (Ex): This is really only important if you have a second rogue in the party. Very few enemies depend on Dexterity or Dodge bonuses to their AC, so unless your ally is sneak attacking there is little you will get from this.
Esoteric Scholar (Ex): You will fail. Knowledge checks tend to have fairly high DCs, and unless you have wizard-like intelligence, you will have very little chance of success.
Expert Leaper (Ex): There are very few situations where this will come up, and those situations can usually be solved by flying.
Fast Fingers (Ex): Rerolls are fantastic, but Sleight of Hand doesn't see a lot of use in most campaigns.
Fast Getaway (Ex): This is good for Scout Rogues, or for archery rogues who get stuck in melee. Slow Reactions is generally better unless multiple foes are threatening you. If multiple foes are threatening you, you should probably just Withdraw.
Fast Picks (Ex): Highly situational.
Fast Stealth (Ex): This can be helpful for infiltrating and scouting, but if you're sneaky enough you shouldn't have a problem moving at half speed.
Finesse Rogue: Weapon Finesse is basically a given for melee rogues, and it doesn't hurt to have on an archer rogue in case you become stuck in melee.
Firearm Training (Ex): Firearms can be very powerful in the hands of a rogue. A flat-footed touch attack is nearly impossible to miss, and is a great way to deal sneak attack damage. If your campaign allows better than early firearms, this shoots right up to blue. Dual-wield revolvers and unload on people from stealth.
Follow Clues (Ex): Highly situational.
Getaway Artist (Ex): Highly situational.
Grit (Ex): Effectively two feats for a Rogue talent. If you use firearms at all, this is a must.
Guileful Polyglot (Ex): Cast tongues.
Hard to Fool (Ex): Rerolls are great, but this is very situational.
Hold Breath (Ex): Cast Water Breathing.
Honeyed Words (Ex): This isn't as good as Charmer because Bluff doesn't get used as often, but rerolls are still fantastic. If you feint a lot, this can be a really useful option.
Iron Guts (Ex): Highly situational.
Ki Pool (Ex): Wisdom is not an important stat for Rogues. Ki Pool can let you make use of a lot of cool ninja tricks, but you will have very limited uses due to your limited pool.
Lasting Poison (Ex): The biggest problem with poison is the cost. This doubles your mileage with poisons, but exacerbates the issue of low DCs. If you're planning to use poison, definitely consider this.
Ledge Walker (Ex): Highly situational.
Major Magic (Sp): Vanish seems like an excellent choice. Even so, being forced to take Minor Magic first really hurts this option. It can be salvaged somewhat by taking the Elf favored class bonus to get additional uses per day and the Quicken Spell-Like Ability feat. Imagine using Shocking Grasp as a swift action a few times per day alongside your other attacks. It's a hefty investment, but it's a nice pile of damage.
Minor Magic (Sp): Acid Splash is good for ranged sneak attacking, and Detect Magic can help with traps. Whatever your choice, this will be very situational.
Nimble Climber (Ex): Cast Spider Climb.
Ninja Trick (Ex): Most ninja tricks are the same as rogue tricks, and the ones that aren't require a ki pool. If you have high enough wisdom to make good use of the Rogue Ki Pool talent, you should have played a ninja. The best use of this trick is to use Ninja Trick to get Rogue Trick and pick something better.
Offensive Defense* (Ex): Great for melee rogues. Your AC won't be as good as the fighters, and you don't have a ton of hit points, so protection is very important.
Peerless Maneuver (Ex): Good for tumbling to avoid attacks of opportunity.
Positioning Attack (Ex): Fantastic for Scout rogues or for Two-Weapon Fighting rogues who need to get into position early in the combat.
Powerful Sneak* (Ex): This is really tempting, but you need to use it as a full attack, which makes it useless for Scout Rogues, and it applies a -2 penalty. Rogues already have problems hitting due to their low BAB, so attack penalties aren't something you want to take lightly. Even without these issues, it only increases your damage from 3.5 to 3.6. That is a rounding error, not an ability.
Quick Disable (Ex): Highly situational.
Quick Disguise (Ex): Highly situational.
Quick Trapsmith (Ex): Traps can be useful, but very few fights take place on the players' home turf.
Resiliency (Ex): This is almost toughness. With some discipline, toughness is better because you always have the hit points. If you tend to get yourself into bad situations, this is a nice fail-safe. You can pick up a Vest of the Cockroach to get the talent for free or to double the effect if you already have it.
Rogue Crawl (Ex): If you are prone, you are in serious trouble. The best use of this is to 5-foot step/crawl away, then stand as a move action.
Rope Master (Ex): Highly situational.
Slow Reactions* (Ex): Fantastic for escaping or for Scout rogues.
Snap Shot (Ex): This combines very well with Underhanded, but a good rogue usually has very high dexterity and Improved Initiatiative, which should let you go first most of the time anyway.
Sniper's Eye (Ex): Get Improved Precise Shot instead. If you are focused on ranged combat, you're going to want it.
Stand Up (Ex): Highly situational. You should not be tripped enough to justify taking this.
Strong Impression: It's not likely that you have enough strength to justify this unless you're playing a brute Rogue. Even then, you can probably find better options.
Strong Stroke (Ex): Highly situational.
Surprise Attack (Ex): If your initiative isn't great, this makes it much easier to sneak attack during the surprise round.
Survivalist: Heal and Survival are decent skills, but a rogue doesn't have a lot of uses for them.
Swift Poison (Ex): Poison is a hard mechanic, and you typically want to pre-plan your poisons, so applying them in combat shouldn't happen enough to justify this talent unless you plan on pouring gold on enemies until they die.
Terrain Mastery (Ex): Favored Terrain is one of the Ranger's worst abilities.
Trap Spotter (Ex): This saves you the trouble of constantly looking around for traps.
Underhanded* (Ex): You need 12 charisma to use this at all, which is unfortunate, but guranteed maximum sneak attack damage is pretty fantastic.
Wall Scramble (Ex): Highly situational.
Weapon Training: Since you have medium BAB, attack bonuses are nice.
Another Day (Ex): Strictly better than Defensive Roll, even if you can only use it once per day. If you almost die more than once in a day, you need to take the day off.
Crippling Strike* (Ex): This shuts down anything that can take ability damage. Casters will be incapacitated quickly, and big strong enemies will be crippled by their sudden lack of strength.
Deadly Cocktail (Ex): Has the opposite effect of Lasting Poison.
Deadly Sneak* (Ex): This feels nice, but is statistically useless. Average roll on a d6 is 3.5, and if you make 1s and 2s into 3s, your average roll changes from 3.5 to 4.
Defensive Roll (Ex): This could save your life, but at this point damage rolls will be fairly huge, and your reflex saves will certainly not keep up with damage bonuses.
Dispelling Attack* (Su): If you need to dispel things, your spellcasters should be doing it.
Entanglement of Blades* (Ex): A 5-foot step is a very important tactical option, but rogues typically aren't area-control fighters. With the possible exception of spellcasters, anyone that is stepping away from you isn't going to gain much of an advantage. Even then, the Step Up feat is likely a better option.
Fast Tumble (Ex): Using Acrobatics to move through combat is crucial at any level. Moving at full speed makes tumbling a considerably better option, and removing that +10 to the DC is a pretty big bonus. For Scout Rogues and other mobile builds, this is a must.
Feat: Strictly better than Fighter bonus feats. At this level you have access to some truly amazing feats.
Frugal Trapsmith (Ex): If you really like traps, which are expensive, this is a good way to save some cash.
Hunter's Surprise (Ex): Once per day, until the end of your turn, you get to murder people without actually working for it.
Knock-Out Blow (Ex): This works very similarly to the Assassin's Death Attack ability. Knocking a target unconscious essentially makes them bait for a coup de grace.
Improved Evasion (Ex): Iconic and fantastic.
Opportunist (Ex): Extra attacks are essential for melee rogues. Combine this with Assault Leader, and you can miss, your friend gets an attack, then you get to try your attack again.
Skill Mastery: Acrobatics, Perception, and Use Magic Device are fantastic choices. The DCs are easily attainable with a 10 at this leve, but failure can get you killed.
Slippery Mind (Ex): Reroll saves against enchantment spells one round later. I'm not sure how this works with Enchantment spells which kill you, but Enchantment is one of the scarier schools of magic.
Master of Disguise (Ex): Buy a hat of disguise. By this level the cost is negligible.
Redirect Attack (Ex): If you have two things adjacent to you, you are adjacent to an ally, or you are in the wrong place. So either you redirect the attack to an ally, which is rude, or you're in a bad situation and shouldn't need this power.
Stealthy Sniper (Ex): For archer and sniper rogues, this is essential. The -20 penalty for sniping is brutal, and this can make sniping a much more reliable option. Keep in mind that using Perception in combat is a move action, so at the very least people need to spend a move action looking for you.
Thoughtful Reexamining (Ex): Sense Motive and Perception are both class skills for you, but using a reroll later in the day is fairly situational. Your knowledge skills aren't fantastic, so you're not going to get a lot of mileage out of re-rolling them.
Confounding Blades* (Ex): Slow Reactions is fantastic, and this is miles better. Now you can use Confounding Blades, then switch to other sneak attack modifying talents for a few rounds. Maybe use Bleeding Attack and run away while your targets all bleed to death.
Familiar (Ex): Minor Magic and Major Magic are not very good, but a familiar for a rogue is fantastic. Familiars use your skill modifiers, which means they get your fantastic stealth and perception modifiers. If you get a viper as your familiar, you can collect poison from it.
Getaway Master (Ex): Highly situational.
Hard Minded (Ex): Most things which allow will saves are mind-affecting. This means you get free rerolls every turn against most will saves. Your will save probably won't be fantastic, so these rerolls can really help to cover your defenses.
Hide in Plain Sight (Ex): If your campaign takes place largely in one region, such as a town or a megadungeon, this is really fantastic. If you tend to travel a lot, it will be hard to use.
Rumormonger (Ex): UI don't know why this needs to be a talent. People spread rumors all of the time without being 11th-level rogues. As a DM, I would allow players to do this without a talent. Even if your DM won't, this is still a highly situational ability.
Unwitting Ally (Ex): Great for Two-Weapon Fighting rogues in situations with multiple enemies. Unfortunately you can only use this on the same target once per day.
Weapon Snatcher (Ex): Your Sleight of Hand skill will be considerably better than your CMB, but watch out for the attack of opportunity from attempting to disarm.