Natural Twenties #3: Rogue Support Caster

Link to the original article on Natural Twenties #3

The Rogue Support Caster/Crafter

In my last article where I discussed making a Rogue into an effective archer, my suggestion was to include a little bit of multiclassing. In the installment after this one, I’m going to try to make an effective damage-dealing caster rogue WITHOUT multiclassing. The key to that build is going to be getting a diverse list of spells/spell-like abilities and finding good ways of applying sneak damage to them. This will invariably require a lot of magic items, meaning that build will only work if you have a character in the party who can craft magic items for him, alleviating the costs associated with them. Therefore, in this installment of Natural Twenties, I’m going to describe a good Rogue build for crafting magic items and using support magic to aid her allies in battle.

The crux of this build is skills. Crafting, Spellcraft and Use Magic Device (UMD) will be essential to having a Rogue-based character who can reliably buff and heal her allies, debuff her enemies, and spend time crafting amazingly powerful magic items outside of battle. In my last two columns, I didn’t mention skills very often since those characters’ focus was combat abilities. This time, I’ll be focusing almost exclusively on skills and spell choices. I’ve added a second table to reflect that.

Let’s start by looking at ability scores. For skill points, Crafting and Spellcraft, Intelligence is the most important ability. Next is Charisma for UMD. This will also make this new character the party negotiator, since no other character we’ve made so far has been charismatic. Heal is a Wisdom-based skill, so we’ll make that third. Based again on a 20-point buy system, I came up with Str 8, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 17, Wis 12, Cha 15.

As for the race, Human or Half-elf should be chosen to maximize versatility. I’m going to choose Human to get the extra feat at first level. Our crafter, Marishka, will be taking Rogue as her favored class and, instead of taking a bonus skill point or hit point per level, will choose the human rogue favored class option which gives her 1/6 of an extra rogue talent per level, giving her an extra talent at levels 6, 12, and 18. Also, Marishka will be using the variant racial option called Heart of the Fields found in the Advanced Players Guide (APG). This will give her a bonus of half her character level on a single type of craft check instead of the normal bonus skill point per level for being human. She will also be taking advantage of the Cutpurse alternate rogue abilities listed in the APG. This allows her to “lift” some cash from unsuspecting non-player caracters (NPCs) which can go towards the magic items that the party will need to buy/make. As for weapons, Marishka is only going to carry a dagger and a hand crossbow (both for emergency use only). She'll wear leather armor to assure that she has no armor check penalty. A character like this should stay out of battle as much as she can.

At first level, Marishka will choose to put her extra +2 into Int to start off with 19! Her first-level feats will be Skill Focus(Craft(weapons)), giving her a +3 (+6 at tenth level) to her craft checks, and Extra Rogue Talent (Minor Magic(Detect Magic)), allowing her to cast Detect Magic three times per day. Marishka’s craft (weapons) checks start at 1st level at an average of 21 (1d20 + 1 rank + 3 trained + 3 skill focus + 4 Int). Her average Spellcraft checks at a 15 (1d20 + 1 rank + 4 Int) and her average UMD checks at 16 (1d20 + 1 rank + 3 trained + 2 Cha). Not bad at all for first level. Other skills you will want to put a point in at every level are Heal, Disable Device, Bluff, Diplomacy, Sleight of Hand, and possibly Intimidate. You can also relegate a few points to Linguistics to learn some useful languages to put that high Charisma score to good use and make friends with some powerful NPCs. With 12 (8 + 4 Int) skill points per level, you’ll have plenty to throw around.

Marishka’s second level Rogue Talent will be Major Magic (Magic Weapon) to start her on the path of spellcasting. Her third level feat will be Extra Rogue Talent (Major Magic (Mage Armor)). Each of these Major Magic spells can only be cast twice per day, so they must be used wisely until the party gets some powerful magic items. As you can see from the choices of these spell-like abilities, they're really only meant for defense and support. She'll also get the Stab and Grab ability from being a Cutpurse, which allows her to attempt to steal money or small items anytime she surprises a foe or deals sneak attack damage. 

Speaking of the Cutpurse ability, let's talk about money a little bit here. By third level, the "average character wealth" shown in the Pathfinder rulebook is 3,000 gold pieces (gp). This average is, in theory, already including any equipment that the character has on them. This means, for the party of five that I'm designing, there will be about 15,000 gp spread out between the characters. This is where you should start thinking about buying a few items that will be crucial to your build.

Wands of Sorceror/Wizard/Cleric 1st level spells cost 750gp, and there are two that you should definitely be buying right now: a Wand of Cure Light Wounds for your support caster, and a Wand of Gravity Bow (a spell from the APG) that your archer can use on him/herself before each battle. The second wand makes each arrow the archer fires deal damage as if it was one size category larger. In this party, where our archer does Medium damage (1d8), her arrows will now do Large damage (2d6). I would even suggest that the Cure Light wand be bought at level 2 if possible, since that's the only healing any of your characters will be getting until a Cure Moderatewand is affordable. 

To use the wands, Marishka is going to have to make use of her Use Magic Device skill. To activate and cast a spell from one of the wands, she will have to roll at least a 20 on her UMD check, and her average score at third level will be a 18 (1d20 + 3 ranks + 3 trained + 2 Cha), so she won't always use the wands successfully. I suggested in my last column that the archer be equipped a wand of Cure Light also. This is where that comes in handy, since she can use it with no UMD check needed,  thanks to Cure Light Wounds being on her Oracle spell list. 

Let's do a quick recap of Marishka's abilities at third level. During battle, she can do very little. But if she needs to do some fighting, her AC is 12 (10 + 2 armor + 0 Dex) and her attack rolls on average will be 11 (1d20 + 2 BAB - 1 Str) in melee or 12 (1d20 + 2 BAB + 0 Dex) ranged. She'll do almost no damage unless she gets her sneak attack. However, this build isn't meant for fighting. Instead of attacking enemies, she will focus on buffing her allies with Magic WeaponMage Armor and her wand ofGravity Bow, and healing them with her wand of Cure Light Wounds. 

Outside of battle, she will be the most skillful character in the party. She will be able to exchange witty repartee with royals to get the party better pay or other boons, or steal a bit of coin to fill the party's coffers since she has an average Sleight of Hand check of 16 (1d20 + 3 ranks + 3 trained + 0 Dex). She will not be detected by wealthy commoners in a crowd very often, and her Measure the Mark ability lets her decide not to try to steal something if that person makes a good Perception check. Any down time the party has, Marishka can be working on crafting some masterwork weapons for the party, which will cost her 1/3 the price it would cost to buy them. Martial melee weapons only require a DC15 craft check, and her average will be 24 (1d20 + 3 ranks + 1 heart of the fields + 3 trained + 3 skill focus + 4 Int).

At level four, Marishka will add +1 to her Int, giving her a +5 bonus! She'll also choose Major Magic(Vanish), a 1st level spell from the Advanced Players Guide, as her Rogue Talent. This allows her to escape from a dangerous situation. This is the point where having level two spells will be very important, and the party should have enough money to buy a few more wands. I suggest wands of Cat's Grace and Bull's Strength, which will give huge boosts to the other party members. You'll also want a Wand of Cure Moderate Wounds. These three wands will definitely dig into your party savings at a combined price of 13,500gp, but they're well worth it. Also a wand ofVanish will increase the number of times Marishka can sneak in invisibly to heal up her party members without getting killed. Luckily, a healing spell on an ally does not cause invisibility to end.

At level five, Marishka will choose the Master Craftsman feat, which will give her access to magic item creation despite her lack of a casting class. It also gives her an additional +2 bonus to her craft (weapons) checks, bringing her average check to 30 (1d20 + 5 ranks + 2 heart of the fields + 3 trained + 3 skill focus + 5 Int + 2 master craftsman). Very impressive! Try to save money for this level and the next. At level seven, Marishka's craft skill will become much more useful.

Level six brings two Rogue Talent choices, thanks to the human rogue favored class option we chose. This time Marishka will choose Crafter's Fortune from the APG which will give her an extra +5 on any craft check, essentially raising her average craft check to 37 (1d20 + 6 ranks + 3 heart of the fields + 3 trained + 3 skill focus + 5 int + 2 master craftsman + 5 crafter's fortune). She can also grab another Major Magic that might be useful, such as Grease or Shield. At this level, you should probably buy at least a Wand of Cure Serious Wounds, but try to save up for one more level if you can.

The level seven feat is definitely a no-brainer now that Marishka has Master Craftsman, Craft Wondrous Item. This feat will allow her to craft extremely expensive items for 1/2 the normal price, and will be especially important for this party since a lot of the money has to be spent on items that she will not be able to create, like wands. The first items you'll want to create are a +2 Belt of Giant Strength for your tank and a +2 Belt of Incredible Dexterity for your archer. Some Amulets of Natural Armor +1 or Bracers of Armor +2 wouldn't hurt either. You could consider making a pair of Lesser Bracers of Archery for your archer as well. All of these items will take about two to three weeks to make if the party is adventuring. But if you can take a short break and hang out in a town for a few days, most of the items can be completed in two days. Let's take a few seconds to understand the magic item crafting process.

Marishka decides to take a break from adventuring for two days to make a +2 Belt of Giant Strength, which has a base price of 4,000gp. So making it will cost her 2,000gp in materials. She can spend up to 8 hours per day crafting the item, and it requires 8 hours of crafting per 1,000gp or fraction thereof of the crafting cost. So the item can be completed in two days. At the end of the second day, Marishka must make a craft check using the craft skill that she chose for her Master Craftsman feat, Craft (weapons). The DC for this check is based on the item's caster level and any crafting prerequisites it might have. In the case of the Belt of Giant Strength, its requirements are caster level 8 and the ability to cast Bull's strength. The DC for creating the item will go up by +5 for each requirement that Marishka cannot fulfill, and one of those is the caster level of 8 (her caster level is determined by the ranks she has in craft (weapons), which is currently 7). Luckily, Marishka happens to have a wand of Bull's strength, so she can fulfill the second requirement by using one charge from the wand. The DC for the item's creation, is 5 + 8 caster level + 5 for not meeting the caster level requirement = 18. Her average crafting check at 7th level is 38 (1d20 + 7 ranks + 3 heart of the fields + 3 trained + 3 skill focus + 5 Int + 2 master craftsman + 5 crafter's fortune) so she can easily make the check at the end of the two days. If she was to roll a 1 and fail, the materials and time would be completely wasted.

Now let's get back to leveling. Marishka's level 8 Major Magic will be Touch of the Sea from the APG, because being able to breathe water can come in handy during adventures. Feel free to choose any other spell that interests you or you feel would work well in the campaign that you character is in.  In my opinion, first level spells aren’t really that important at this stage. 

Level 9’s feat choice should definitely be Craft Magic Arms and Armor. It will allow you to make some even more useful magic items for your team. The first thing you will want to concentrate on is a new bow for your archer. I would suggest a +2 composite longbow with a strength rating appropriate for your archer. If she already happens to have a composite longbow of the appropriate strength rating, just enchant it! Next, make a +2 chain shirt for your tank. He'll thank you for it. Along with the ability to create magic arms and armor comes the real possibility that you'll come up against enemies who also have nifty gadgets. To combat this, I would suggest buying a Wand of Dispel Magic with the highest caster level that you can afford (for a wand with caster level 6, this would cost 13,500gp). There are tons of other useful items you could make at this level, so look into possibilities, but be mindful of your party's gold. And try to be fair with the distribution of items.

Finally, at Level 10, Marishka will take Skill Mastery as her advanced rogue talent. This will give her the ability to take 10 on any of her chosen skills (she can choose 8 ) even when she normally would not have the ability to because of a distraction. She'll also benefit from increasing her Skill Focus in craft (weapons). She now has a +6 due to the 10 ranks in that skill.

Here's our final breakdown of Marishka's abilities: In battle, she's still pretty useless. You could create some magic items to give her a chance at taking down a few enemies (or use her Vanish spell-like ability to get some sneak damage in at a critical moment). But for the most part she's meant to heal the party in battle, buff them before battle, and do awesome skill-based stuff outside of battle. With the wands that I suggested, Marishka can heal up to 4d8 + 8 (Cure Critical Wounds) hit points on one of her allies each round, invisibly. She can also beef up her allies before or during a battle. Or she can use her wand of Dispel Magic to remove magical effects on her enemies. Her dispel check would be 1d20 + the wand's caster level, versus a check DC of 11 + the caster level of the effect she is trying to dispel. She can identify most any spell being cast thanks to her high Spellcraft check. She can steal items right out from under NPCs noses with Sleight of Hand. Her real worth, however, comes in crafting. She can now take 10 to craft almost anything, since her crafting roll when taking a 10 is 46 (10 + 10 ranks + 5 heart of the fields + 3 trained + 6 skill focus + 5 Int + 2 master craftsman + 5 crafter's fortune).

My only regret is that Marishka cannot craft wands, which is what she uses almost exclusively during battle. But so is the life of a rogue with no wizard levels. Would a straight wizard have been a better crafter? Yes. Would a straight cleric have been a better support caster? Absolutely. But the point here is that a Rogue CAN fulfill that party role, if you know what you're doing.

One more little thing. Obviously you're looking at the Sneak Attack dice and thinking "man, I wish I could use those more often". Well, there is one situation in which our support caster might just be the best possible one to do some extra damage using those sneak dice. Picture this: The party enters a crypt, knowing full well that zombies will be jumping out to try to eat their brains at any second. Lo and behold, out pops a zombie! No one in the party has Turn Undead, obviously, but our support mage quickly uses Vanish in the first round. The second round, she sneaks up next to the zombie and casts Cure Critical Wounds from her wand. This attack, on an undead creature, will deal an average of 39 damage (4d8 + 8 + 5d6 sneak) since it wasn't aware of you! Next round is a full retreat, then you can do it all over again!

Next time, I'll be discussing the Rogue as a damage-dealing caster. While the oracle trick I used for the archer is tempting, I’m going to try something different. And I will still be finding ways to use our caster's sneak damage as much as possible.