Introduction

The Arcane Trickster is a very popular concept: a trickster who meshes the stealth and skill of a Rogue with the power and versatility of an arcane spellcaster. There is little that an Arcane Trickster can’t do, and with a decent build an Arcane Trickster can fill any role in the party except Defender and Healer. Depending on build, the Arcane Trickster can supply a huge quantity of damage output, and can exceed the Rogue in stealth, versatility, and scouting ability.

However, the Arcane Trickster has trouble keeping pace with the rest of the party at mid levels before it has a few levels of Arcane Trickster. During this middle period, you will need to be clever and careful to stay useful and alive.

NOTE:: This class handbook currently depends heavily on the assumption that Scorching Ray can apply Sneak Attack one each ray, and regrettably the Pathfinder FAQ indicates that this is not allowed. At some point I will try to update this guide with more useful advice, for the time being most of the advice in this guide may be invalid.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

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.

RPGBOT uses 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. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Requirements

Alignment: Shouldn’t be a problem.

Skills: 4 ranks in three skills is trivial, and you will want to have both Disable Device and Knowledge (Arcana) on most builds.

Spells: Almost any arcane spellcasting class gets access to Mage Hand, but access to 2nd level spells is a crucial component in deciding your base class. See “Base Classes”, below.

Special: 2d6 Sneak Attack is easily achieved by a variety of classes, and you should expect to have 2 Sneak Attack dice by level 6. You could take one level in two classes which offer Sneak attack to get into Arcane Trickster early, but you will give up a lot of useful low level class abilities, and a much-needed +1 BAB. See “Base Classes”, below.

Arcane Trickster Class Features

Hit Points: The lowest hit points available. Arcane Tricksters need to be careful not to draw fire.

Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB.

Saves: Good Reflex and Fortitude saves. Be sure to invest in Constitution to boost the Arcane Trickster’s lousy Fortitude saves.

Proficiencies: None. You should get everything you need from your base classes.

Skills: The Arcane Trickster only gets 4+ skill ranks, and has a very long list of very important skills.

Spells per Day: The Arcane Trickster advances spellcasting at every level, meaning that you only give up spellcasting levels for your Sneak Attack class. Note that, like every other prestige class with spell advancement, classes which have a specific “Spells Known” table will learn new spells, but classes like the Witch and Wizard which can learn spells on their own do not gain new spells known. This is inconvenient, but you can always buy new spells.

Ranged Legerdemain (Su): Situational, but very flashy.

Sneak Attack: Increases at the same rate as the Rogue. Note that if you took the Knife Master Rogue Archetype, only your Rogue Sneak Attack dice are d8’s; your Arcane Trickster dice are still d6’s.

Impromptu Sneak Attack (Ex): The Arcane Trickster gets a lot of great tricks which allow them to use Sneak Attack, like casting Invisibility. Sometimes you need a little extra help, which is where Impromptu Sneak Attack comes in. You only get it once a day (twice at 7th level), but it’s good to have this in a pinch.

Tricky Spells (Su): Situational, but fantastic in a grapple or if you need to do something clever like casting an illusion while someone is staring at you.

Invisible Thief (Su): Wizards can cast Greater Invisibility by 7th level, and other full arcane casters can cast it by 8th level. With 3 levels given up to get into Arcane Trickster, an Arcane Trickster can expect to cast Greater Invisibility at 10th or 11th character level. You get Invisible Thief at 15th or 17th character level. The rounds per day are .

Surprise Spells: This is where the Arcane Trickster overtakes nearly every other Blaster in the game. Drop a Cone of Cold on a group of enemies and you will exceed other spellcasters by 6 or 7d6 damage. Scorching Ray will still be your bread and butter, but a big AOE is a fantastic opener.

Base Classes

The Arcane Trickster requires two base classes: One to provide arcane spells,
and one to provide Sneak Attack.

Spellcasting Class

Bloodrager

Literally the worst option you can find. It takes a full 8 levels to meet the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting requirements, and the Bloodrager’s paltry number of spell slots isn’t nearly enough to fuel your need to constantly cast Scorching Ray. If you wanted to build a weird melee trickster it may look tempting, but giving up 8 levels of Sneak Attack progression largely invalidates the purpose of the class.

Arcanist

The Arcanist receives spells at the same levels as the sorcerer, but gets as many spell slots as a wizard, combining the drawbacks of both classes. The arcanist’s big draw is the ability to change their spell selection on a daily basis, then cast from that pool as though they were a spontaneous caster. Arcane tricksters typically cast from a small set of favored spells which never changes, so the appeal of the Arcanist is largely wasted on the arcane trickster.

Bard

Bards get second level spells at the same level as the Sorcerer, and have much better skills. Unfortunately, the Bard doesn’t have access to offensive spells which can be used to Sneak Attack. If you plan to be more of a melee trickster, the Bard offers some interesting archetypes.

Archetypes

Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Trickster levels are included.

Arcane Duelist: A more melee-focused Bard, the Arcane Duelist gives up much of the Bard’s skill abilities to focus on dealing damage. Bardic Music won’t be very helpful, but the Arcane Duelist gets both Arcane Strike and a bonus feat by level 3.

Archaeologist: The Archaeologist’s Luck ability is a much better option for the Arcane Trickster than Bardic Performance. Clever Explorer helps with scouting, and Uncanny Dodge can be helpful on a lightly armored character.

Archivist: Still stuck with a variant of Bardic Performance, but Lore Master lets you take 20 on one Knowledge check in a day, and Magic Lore can largely replace Trapfinding.

Magus

The Magus gets second level spells at the same level as the Sorcerer, and offers some very interesting options for a melee trickster. 4 levels brings Arcane Pool, Spell Combat, Spellstrike, one Magus Arcana, and Spell Recall. With a bit of focus, this combination of abilities can make for a fantastic pile of damage by combining Spellstrike with Sneak Attack. In addition, the Magus allows you to cast spells in light armor, which helps with the Arcane Trickster’s AC problems.

Archetypes

Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Trickster levels are included.

Bladebound: The blade’s abilities won’t scale while you take Arcane Trickster levels, so it will quickly become useless.

Eldritch Scion: The Eldritch Scion is Charisma-based, which can be a good option if you plan to use the Ninja because it will help with your Ki Pool.

Hexcrafter: If you don’t plan to use Spell Recall, gaining a free Witch Hex can be very helpful.

Kensai: You are already giving up a lot of spellcasting to be an Arcane Trickster. Don’t give up more.

Myrmidarch: You are already giving up a lot of spellcasting to be an Arcane Trickster. Don’t give up more.

Skirnir: A shield helps with the Arcane Trickster’s AC problem, but the diminished spellcasting is crippling.

Soul Forger: You are already giving up a lot of spellcasting to be an Arcane Trickster. Don’t give up more.

Spellblade: Two-Weapon Fighting is very hard for the Arcane Trickster because their BAB is terrible.

Staff Magus: This doesn’t really improve the Magus in this case.

Sorcerer

The Sorcerer gets 2nd-level spells one level behind the Wizard, so it tends to be used less than the Wizard. However, the sorcerer’s larger pool of spell slots can be appealing for arcane tricksters because they typically rely on such a small pool of favored spells.

Archetypes

Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Trickster levels are included.

Crossblooded: Giving up spells known is very hard when you’re already giving up 3 levels of spellcasting to become an Arcane Trickster.

Eldritch Scrapper: You won’t gain enough levels to make use of Martial Flexibility.

Mongrel Mage: Because you will only take 4 levels of Sorcerer, you will get very few bloodline powers, and the special abilities will quickly stop mattering.

Witch

Witches get spells at the same rate that wizards do, and give you a familiar (familiars are great for skill-heavy characters). Three levels of Witch gets you two Hexes, which gives you a lot great utility options. Fortune is great for your skills, Prehensile Hair will let you dual-weild crossbows if that’s something you want, and Nails can give you a decent backup melee option. See my Witch Hex Breakdown for more help picking hexes.

Archetypes

Most witch archetypes are bad, and none of them help the Arcane Trickster in any way. Gravewalker looks tempting, but Possess Undead is the only thing that works well for tricksters, and it doesn’t come online until 8th level.

Patrons

Wizard

Wizards get 2nd-level spells earlier than any other Arcane spellcaster, making them the obvious choice for the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting class. The ability to buy spells known dramatically improves the trickster’s versatility. The only issue with the Wizard is the relatively limited number of spells per day.

Archetypes

Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Trickster levels are included.

Arcane Bomber: Literally never.

Exploiter Wizard: Arcane Bond and Arcane School offer a lot of great options, but the ability to boost your spell DC and caster level can help you keep up with dedicated spellcasters. An Arcanist Exploit offers some interesting options.

Scrollmaster: Save this for straight casters.

Siege Mage: An Arcane Trickster is not using siege weapons.

Spell Sage: Focused Spells will get you a free ray with Scorching Ray, which is nice, but Spell Study uses spell slots too quickly for the Arcane Trickster.

Spellslinger: Not as awful for the Arcane Trickster as it is for a normal Wizard, the Spellslinger’s access to firearms is an interesting option. This greatly improves the number of spells with which you can Sneak Arrack because you can turn cone and line spells into attacks. However, this limits you to a single shot per round when you can use Scorching Ray to make several.

Spirit Whisperer: If you planned to take a familiar, you can trade your arcane school for a small buff to your familiar.

Schools

Abjuration: The Arcane Trickster isn’t much of a support character, and defensive buffs don’t help much.

Conjuration: Summoning isn’t typically in the Arcane Trickster’s wheelhouse, but the Teleportation subschool can be fantastically helpful for the Arcane Trickster.

Divination: Forewarned ensures that, even if you’re surprised, you can probably Sneak Attack in the surprise round. The Foresight subschool offers a fantastic reroll mechanic.

Enchantment: Save or suck effects don’t really work for the Arcane Trickster because their spell DC’s won’t keep up with full casters.

Evocation: Intense Spells offers a tiny damage boost to your spells, and the Admixture subschool makes it easier to use Scorching Ray when you encounter enemies which are resistant to fire. This doesn’t seem like much, but Scorching Ray is important to the Arcane Trickster’s most common tactic, and it can be completely shut down by resistance or immunity to fire.

Illusion: Extended Illusions won’t really help because you only get 3 levels of it. Blinding ray is helpful in a pinch, but it means that you’re only Sneak Attacking every other round. While you use it.

Necromancy: Arcane Tricksters can’t do much with undead pets.

Transmutation: Physical Enhancement will only give you a +1 to one ability. Battleshaping out of the Shapechange subschool can be nice to get an extra natural attack to Sneak Attack with if you’re in melee.

Universalist: Hand of the Apprentice is mediocre. Arcane Tricksters are just as good at throwing a weapon normally.

Air: Garbage.

Earth: Garbage.

Fire: Garbage.

Water: Garbage.

Metal: Garbage.

Wood: On par with Transmutation, and you get some Druid spells which don’t really help the Arcane Trickster.

Sneak Attack Class

Alchemist

Only usable with the Vivisectionist archetype (see below).

Archetypes

Vivisectionist: A very interesting option, the Vivisectionist gets +2d6 Sneak Attack at level 3, Brew Potion, Mutagen, Throw Anything, a Discovery, Poison Resistance, Poison Use, Swift Alchemy, Torturer’s Eye, Cruel Anatomist, and 3 1st-level extracts per day. However, the Alchemist only gets 4+ skill ranks, and skill ranks will be a problem for many Arcane Trickster builds attempting to fill in for a conventional rogue. If you combine alchemist with Wizard you can double-dip on Intelligence, which will help compensate for the lack of skill ranks from your class.

Ninja

On par with the Rogue, the Ninja gets +2d6 Sneak Attack at level 3, and brings Poison Use, the Ninja’s Ki Pool, a Ninja Trick, and No Trace. The size of the Ki Pool won’t be very large because it’s level-dependent, but it offers some useful options like Vanishing Trick (turn Invisible as a swift action). The reliance on Charisma works well if you plan to use Sorcerer as your spellcasting class, but you’ll lag behind other Arcane Trickster builds in skills, so this option may work best in parties with another high-skill character to fill the gaps.

Rogue

The gold standard since Arcane Trickster was written, the Rogue gets +2d6 Sneak Attack at level 3 and brings Evasion, Trapfinding, Trap Sense, and a Rogue Talent. The vanilla and unchained rogues will both work fine, but the the unchained version is outright better in nearly every way, with the possible exception of the removal of some of my favorite Rogue Talents, like Offensive Defense. The biggest difference you’ll see in the three levels we care about is whether or not you get Finesse Training, which only matters if you want to use melee weapons.

Archetypes

Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Trickster levels are included.

Counterfeit Mage: Magical Expertise is the only ability which the Arcane Trickster will see from this archetype until very high level, and because the Arcane Trickster can already cast spells UMD is much less important.

Knife Master: The Arcane Trickster will frequently Sneak Attack with spells, and we don’t want to give up that damage.

Poisoner: The Arcane Trickster already has plenty of tricks without Poison, but if you really want to use Poison the Poisoner archetype is a must.

Rake: Intimidating a target makes them Shaken, and therefore more vulnerable to your other spells, so Bravado’s Blade can be very effective for the Arcane Trickster.

Sniper: You trade your only Rogue Talent for 10 feet more Sneak Attack range. Slightly useful, but getting a Rogue Talen allows you to take the Extra Talent feat to get more.

Slayer

Takes far too long to get enough Sneak Attack.

Abilities

The Arcane Trickster’s abilities depend heavily on your choice of base class, especially Intelligence and Charisma.

Str: Dump to 7 on nearly any Arcane Trickster.

Dex: Important for AC, saves, and attacks.

Con: Crucial for the Arcane Trickster’s bad Fortitude saves and lousy hit points.

Int: If you use the Arcanist, Magus, or Wizard, this is blue.. If not, it’s orange because you need it for skills.

Wis: Only needed for Will saves, and the combination of multiclassing with spellcasting classes should give you a decent base Will save.

Cha: If you use the Bard or Sorcerer, this is blue, otherwise it’s orange because it’s helpful for social skills.

Races

Bonuses to Dexterity and/or your spellcasting ability are great, but technically not essential because the Arcane Trickster doesn’t depend on spell DC’s.

Dwarf: Nothing helpful to the Arcane Trickster.

Elf: With bonuses to both Dexterity and Intelligence, the Elf is a fantastic option for the Arcane Trickster. The Elf’s other racial abilities all contribute to the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting abilities.

Gnome: The Gnome is fine, but the Halfling is strictly better for the Arcane Trickster.

Half-Elf: Everyone immediately thinks Half-Elf when considering multiclass characters, and for good reason. However, dual-minded will get you at most 3 levels of favored class bonuses, so it’s really not worth it. The Half-Elf’s other racial bonuses are still good, especially if your Arcane Trickster is a Face. If you want Darkvision (and you do), consider the Drow-Blooded alternate class feature.

Half-Orc: The flexible ability bonus is nice, and Darkvision is essential for any stealth character.

Halfling: The best option for a small Arcane Trickster, the Halfling’s bonuses to Dexterity and Charisma are fantastic. The Halflings other racial abilities contribute to the Arcane Trickster’s stealth capacity.

Human: Always fantastic, Humans make for an excellent Arcane Trickster.

Traits

  • Deft Dodger (Combat): Bonus to your best save.
  • Hidden Hand (Combat): The attack bonus can be nice, but generally Arcane Tricksters will be better with spells.
  • Reactionary (Combat): Going first is important for spellcasters and Sneak Attack characters. Arcane Tricksters are both.
  • Resilient (Combat): Bonus to a what is likely your worst save.
  • Indomitable Faith (Faith): Depending on your build, a bonus to Will saves may be helpful.
  • Inspired (Faith): Nice for any character with a lot of skills.
  • Arcane Temper (Magic): Nice, but won’t stack with Reacitonary.
  • Focused Mind (Magic): Bonuses to Concentration are nice if you plan to be in melee.
  • Gifted Adept (Magic): Tempting, but because you give up caster levels to get Sneak Attack, Magical Knack will be twice as effective and works for all spells
  • Magical Knack (Magic): Absolutely required. Two caster levels gets you a ton of additional damage and duration from your spells.
  • Magical Lineage (Magic): You need Magical Knack much more.
  • Life of Toil (Social): Bonus to a what is likely your worst save.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Good for getting out of a tight spot.
  • Appraise (Int): Too situational.
  • Bluff (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Climb (Str): Too situational.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Disable Device (Int): Essential for handling traps and locks.
  • Disguise (Cha): Situational, and you can replicate it with spells like Disguise Self and Alter Self.
  • Escape Artist (Dex):
  • Knowledge (All) (Int): If you can spare the skill ranks, an Arcane Trickster can make for a great Librarian.
  • Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game.
  • Sense Motive (Wis): Essential for any Face.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Situational.
  • Spellcraft (Int): Great for identifying spells, but not essential most of the time. If your game makes it to high enough level that you might be able to get Spell Perfection, you’ll need 15 ranks
  • Stealth (Dex): Essential for stealth.
  • Swim (Str): Too situational.

Feats

  • Improved Initiative: Going first is important for Sneak Attack characters and for primary spellcasters. Arcane Tricksters are both.
  • Point-Blank Shot: To use Sneak Attack, you need to be within 30 feet, and a +1 to attack and damage is nice, though not terribly significant.

    • Precise Shot: Your allies will absolutely be in melee with your targets. You will depend almost exclusively on ranged touch attacks, so you shouldn’t have too many problems, but a removing that -4 penalty will nearly guarantee success.

      • Improved Precise Shot: You can’t Sneak Attack enemies with concealment. Remove it.
  • Spell Penetration: The Arcane Trickster give up 1 caster level, and spell resistance will be a serious problem. Spell Penetration will do a lot to mitigate this issue.

    • Greater Spell Penetration: Even better.
  • Spell Perfection: Despite the high prerequisite cost, this feat is absolutely essential. Scorching Ray, the Arcane Trickster’s favorite spell, is only 2nd-level, leaving 7 levels worth of metamagic that you can apply to it for free. How about Quickened and Empowered? How about Maximized and Empowered? You don’t get to maximize/empower your Sneak Attack damage, but you get a pile of rays, each of which apply Sneak Attack damage, and the damage is enhanced by your metamagic feats. All that from two 2nd-level spell slots.
  • Weapon Finesse: If you plan to go into melee, you need Weapon Finesse. However, you will likely find that you damage output is much better if you use spells. You can also go for three levels

Metamagic Feats

  • Elemental Spell: If you didn’t go for Admixture Wizard, energy resitance to fire will cripple you. Elemental Spell can easily solve that problem.
  • Empower Spell: In my opinion Empower is a better payoff than Maximize. Combining the two can be horrifyingly effective, but neither boost your additional damage from Sneak Attack.
  • Intensified Spell: Intensified Spell specifically increase the cap on damage dice, which tragically means that you can’t use it to get extra rays out of Scorching Ray. It’s tempting once you get Surprise Spells, but at that point you can easily afford a metamagic rod (lesser or standard will suffice) for the two or three times per day that you’ll get lucky enough to find a room that looks to be in need of a Sneak Attack-laden Fireball.
  • Maximize Spell: Not always useful, but tempting with Spell Perfection.
  • Quicken Spell: Essential at high level. Twice as many Scorching Rays means twice as much damage output.
  • Silent Spell: When you find enemies, you are hopefully sneaking around and making a concerted effort to remain unnoticed Casting a spell with verbal components is a great way to ruin that effort. But on a typical day you may not havy any need for Silent Spell, so consider a metamagic rod.
  • Still Spell: Too infrequently useful. If you’re worried about being grappled, you have Tricky Spells available, or you can look for spells without somatic components like Dimension Door. Quicken Spells also removes somatic components.

Weapons

  • Dagger: Carry a few even if you don’t plan to use them.
  • Hand Crossbow: Pick up the Witch Hex Prehensile Hair or the Alchemist Discovery Extra Hand, and you can use two-weapon fighting with hand crossbows. Arcane Trickster is a terrible way to pursue this option, but it’s technically an option.
  • Rapier: The go-to melee option if you plan to take Weapon Finesse.
  • Shortbow: Nice if you run out of better options, but personally I would turn to cantrips before restorting to something as simple as a bow.

Armor

  • Leather: Wear it until you can cast spells or upgrade to a mithral shirt.
  • Mage Armor: +4 AC, hours per level duration. If you can’t wear armor, this is a lifesaver.
  • Mithral Shirt: If you picked a spellcasting class which allows you to wear armor, the Mithral Shirt is your best bet.
  • Mithral Buckler: Most Arcane Tricksters can’t wear real armor, so AC bonuses are crucial. With no check penalty or spell failure, a mithral buckler is one of the cheapest and easiest AC investments that you can make. Every Arcane Trickster should have one.

Spells

This section won’t address every spell on your spell list, but it will point out some especially notable options. For a complete list of spells, see the SRD Spell Index.

Magic Items

Rings

  • Invisibility: Normally a must for mundane rogues, you have several powerful options for making yourself invisible, so this is much less useful. It’s still tempting to be invisible all the time, but consider how many 2nd-level Pearls of Power you could buy for the ring’s 20,000gp cost. Are you going to cast invisibility more than 5 times in a day on a consistent basis? Probably not, but that’s a judgement call that you’ll need to make based on the game you’re playing in.

Rods

  • Metamagic (See above): Metamagic rods in pathfinder are spectacular and inexpensive. Grab a few favorites like Extend Spell, Intensify Spell, and Silent Spell. Conveniently you can rely on Lesser metamagic rods for Scorching Ray, so you can afford a sizeable collection of rods.

Staffs

I normally likes staffs a lot, but the Arcane Trickster has few meaningful options. Only two staffs include Scorching Ray, and both are expensive.

  • Staff of Dark Flame: False Life is a fanftasic option, but perhaps the best part of the staff is that Ray of Enfeeblement and Scorching Ray both cost 1 charge, so you can cast a 1st-level spell into the staff to get an extra use a 2nd-level spell. That’s very efficient, but for the same price you buy almost 12 2nd-level Pearls of Power, which will get you more uses of Scorching Ray and won’t eat your 1st-level spell slots.
  • Staff of Many Rays: All rays means that every single spell in the staff is a candidate for Sneak Attack. The arrangement of the charge costs means that you can expend three 1st-level spell slots to get a 6th-level spell (Disintegrate, specifically), which is a pretty great exchange. Unfortunately, by the time you can reasonably afford one of these you can probably do more damage with Scorching Ray.

Example Build – Just your ordinary Rogue/Wizard/Arcane Trickster

Anything but ordinary.

The Arcane Trickster can do nearly anything. While there is certainly room for deviation from this build, this is a good example of how to make a viable Arcane Trickster that will work in almost any party.

Abilities

25 Point Buy
  • Str:7
  • Dex:16->18
  • Con:16->14
  • Int:16->18
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:9

Race

Elf. The bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence are nice, and the Elf’s other racial abilities contribute nicely to the Arcane Trickster.

Classes

We will use the Rogue and Wizard as prerequisite classes. They are the most obvious entry points for the Arcane Trickster, and they work very well. Because of the skill requirements for the class, we will start with Wizard, then move into Rogue. Our favored class will be Wizard because it will be the majority of our non-prestige classes by the time we hit level 20.

We will use Evocation (Admixture) as our Arcane School, and we will take a ring as our Arcane Bond option. The Monkey is a tempting option as a familiar because familiars share skills with their masters, but this is intended to be a simple example build. If you want a Monkey to scout and pick locks for you, it is a hilarious and excellent decision. The Admixture subschool ability allows us to switch Scorching Ray to do other types of energy damage, which removes the issue of energy resistance.

Skills

Allocating skills is difficult, and depends heavily on the makeup of your party. You may want to start picking up Rogue skills immediately, or you may want to focus on Knowledge skills until you absolutely need to start working on Rogue skills. Depending on your party, you may need to serve as the Rogue, the Wizard, or both.

Traits

Reactionary and Magical Knack.

Levels

LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1 – Wizard 1
  • Arcane Bond (Ring)
  • Arcane School: Evocation (Admixture)
  • Versatile Evocation
  • Cantrips
  • Scribe Scroll
  • Spells (2+4)
    • Color Spray
    • Mage Armor
    • Magic Missile
    • Sleep
    • Shocking Grasp
    • Reduce Person
  • Skills (2+4)
  • Feat: ANY

At level 1, the Arcane Trickster is largely the same as a 1st-level Wizard. Your best bet is to depend on save or suck spells like Color Spray and Sleep.

 

You may want to start picking up Rogue skills immediately. Depending on your party, you may need to serve as the Rogue, the Wizard, or both.

2 – Wizard 2
  • Spells (2)
    • Expeditious Retreat
    • Feather Fall
  • Skills (2+4)

2nd level is very dry. You get a bit more damage and some more spells, but your tactics remain largely the same.

3 – Wizard 3
  • Spells (2)
    • Invisibility
    • Scorching Ray
  • Skills (2+4)
  • Feat: ANY

Level 3 introduces Scorching Ray, which will be the Arcane Trickster’s go-to offensive option for the remainder of their career. From here on, I will track our “best case scenario” damage, which indicates the most damage we can do to a single target in one round.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6 (14) damage.

4 – Rogue 1
  • Sneak Attack +1d6
  • Trapfinding
  • Skills (8+4)
  • Ability Increase: Intelligence

4th level is the precipice before we start falling behind straight casters. Magical Knack lets our caster level keep pace, but we don’t get new spells known unless we buy them. If you’re careful and lucky, you can do a tiny bit more damage than a straight Wizard due to Sneak Attack, but your damage still isn’t impressive so save or suck spells will probably be your best bet.

 

The huge jump in skill ranks will help you catch up to a straight Rogue, especially with 18 intelligence behind it. Be sure to maximize essentials like Disable Device and Stealth.

 

We want to increase our Intelligence over Dexterity because extra Intelligence will help us overcome our skill rank deficit. We don’t need Dexterity as much as a conventional Rogue because our attacks are already so easy.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+1d6 (17.5) damage.

5 – Rogue 2
  • Evasion
  • Rogue Talent: ANY
  • Skills (8+4)
  • Feat: Any

At 5th level straight Wizards gets Fireball, and can obliterate groups of enemies. While our caster level keeps pace, we don’t get new spell levels while we’re playing Rogue. This is the hardest part of the Arcane Trickster’s life. Your damage and utility are worse than a single-class Wizard or a single-class Rogue, and you can’t do anything better than either one.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+1d6 (17.5) damage.

6 – Rogue 3
  • Sneak Attack +2d6
  • Trap Sense +1
  • Skills (8+4)

Despite a bump in Sneak Attack damage, 6th level is likely the worst level of the Arcane Trickster’s life. Our damage output still lags, and our spells are as far behind as they will ever be. This is the first level where our caster level doesn’t increase, so we don’t even get additional damage from what few spells we have.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+2d6 (21) damage.

7 – Arc. Trickster 1
  • Ranged legerdemain
  • Feat: Any

7th level is hardly better than 6th. We get back on track with our caster level, but that’s really all. At least now you can call yourself an Arcane Trickster.

 

At this level we finally start to get our favored class bonus. I recommend using it to get additional skill ranks. Despite our 18 intelligence, we only get 8 skill ranks per level, and our deficit from 3 Wizard levels sets us very far behind single-class Rogues.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+2d6 (21) damage.

8 – Arc. Trickster 2
  • Sneak attack +3d6
  • Ability Increase: Intelligence

At 8th level, things finally get better. We get access to 3rd-level spells, though we need to buy them to learn them. We get some more Sneak Attack damage, and our increased caster level finally earns a second ray from Scorching Ray, more than doubling our best case scenario damage, and far exceeding a single-class Wizard for single target damage.

 

8th level also brings our base Intelligence to 20, getting us an extra skill rank per level and some more bonus spells.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+3d6 (24.5) damage each, totaling 8d6+6d6 (49) damage.

9 – Arc. Trickster 3
  • Impromptu sneak attack 1/day
  • Feat: ANY

Though not terribly exciting, 9th level brings Impromptu Sneak Attack, which offers an easy option to get Sneak Attack when you don’t have an easier way to do so.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+3d6 (24.5) damage each, totaling 8d6+6d6 (49) damage.

10 – Arc. Trickster 4
  • Sneak Attack +4d6

10th level brings 4th-level spells, finally opening up Greater Invisibility. While it may be disappointing to spend all of your 4th-level spells per day on Greater Invisibility, you can’t deny how effective it is. Every fight should begin with Greater Invisibility, and end with a room full of smoldering corpses.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+4d6 (28) damage each, totaling 8d6+8d6 (56) damage.

11 – Arc. Trickster 5
  • Tricky spells 3/day
  • Feat: ANY

Tricky spells is a fun ability. You can use it to get out of a grapple, to get out of ropes, to cast subtle spells while observed, or any number of other creative tactics. It likely won’t win you any fights, but it offers a lot of cool utility options.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+4d6 (28) damage each, totaling 8d6+8d6 (56) damage.

12 – Arc. Trickster 6
  • Sneak Attack +5d6
  • Ability Increase: Intelligence

12th level brings another huge damage spike. Our third scorching ray and an extra Sneak Attack die add up to a huge pile of damage. With a total of 27d6 worth of damage, we can very reasonably kill almost any enemy we meet with one or two spells, and those are just 2nd-level spells. We can further increase this damage with metamagic feats like Empower Spell, but remember that these feats don’t affect Sneak Attack damage.

 

12th level also gets us 5th-level spells, opening up options like Extend Spell on Greater Invisibility.

 

Best case Scenario damage: 3 rays for 4d6+5d6 (31.5) damage each, totaling 12d6+15d6 (94.5) damage.