Build of the Week: Snakes & Foxes
If you’ve ever had the displeasure of mentioning any mechanics on this page to me in person, I should apologize right now for likely gushing about the character I have that uses this build. It was my first Pathfinder character, a sort of dedication to my then favorite hardcover book. I’ve posted the build elsewhere online, usually recieving the same criticisms you read on most Rogue/Monk multiclass builds: That the loss of base attack bonus and the inconsistency of sneak attack make the build inferior to your standard Thug-Enforcer. And maybe you have a point, but after playing this character and seeing the limited combat options available to a Thug-Enforcer, I would argue that this build is just far more… stylish.
Ever wanted to fly between ten or eleven enemies at once, dodging every attack and punching the final boss in the face…only to watch as all his mooks fall to the ground from a flurry of attacks of opportunity? Or maybe you just enjoy the thrill of knowing if you miss your first attack, your knee deep in enemy territory, defenseless save for your bravado and wit. There are lots of glass cannon builds out there, but I find no other as satisfying or thrilling to play than my little Red Rose.
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Class Analysis: For Milani!
In lieu of linking every ability this class has, I've written a guide for this build in PDF form with all the effects written out. Click the cover above to be taken to a page that let's you download the PDF, or click here. Most of the build is in this book, so I almost consider this article a superflorus advertisement for it. Nevertheless, here we go!
Originally the builds was a Monk/Rogue. It dabbled into Swashbuckler during the playtest, then went Snakebite Striker to help reflect the more chaotic nature of the character (and shore up its Base Attack Bonus). When Pathfinder Unchained came out, it lost its potent Offensive Defense ability…but after Paths of the Righteous we were able to cover our sneak attacking butts with Rose Warden (instead of having to dip Pathfinder Field Agent or Shadow Dancer). But what abilities does this build really need that it gets from classes? Let’s look over the list:
Rogue Talent: I’d actually argue that the Talents are more important to this build than the Sneak Attack itself. Being able to get a Combat Feat, Style Feat and ways to use your Sneak Attack to do more than just damage is what makes this character tick, but we will discuss the specific talents in the next section.
Sneak Attack: Inspired by Sap Master, this build is reliant on its ability to dish out Shadowrun levels of Sneak Attack dice. At tier 5-6 you will find yourself the most powerful focused damage dealer in the party, but this will very quickly take a dive once the other martials get their second attacks reliably. You will still have more skill points, and much higher defensive capabilities assuming you can still pull of a sneak attack.
Scout’s Charge: This is one of your most important class features, letting you pull off sneak attacks more consistently than any other non-Scout build. It does mean you will find yourself smack dab in the middle of enemy territory, so you’d better hope your Offensive Defense hit…or your enemies don’t have more than one attack so you can Snake Style your way out of it.
Skirmisher: This will mostly be used when charging into a bunch of enemies to get off your first Sneak Attack, since it can be used alongside Scout’s Charge to get two free sneak attacks in one round.
Small but Fierce: A decent way to get free Sneak Attack damage against an adjacent foe. Works great given you can attack so many times as an attack of opportunity. And, you know, as a Kitsune you can turn Tiny pretty easily.
Cunning Disarm: I would have put this much lower if I had never used it. This ability means you will probably always succeed as your dsiarm attempts. Since you are an unarmed strike build, you will be able to hold onto whatever you disarmed. In Society or Module play, this will very often make weapon dependant enemies completely worthless. If it was Society legal to allow your GM to equip all your enemies with mundane sidearms, I wouldn’t complain…because this seemingly random classs feature is an absolute game changer, especially against enemies who are otherwise immune to sneak attack or nonlethal damage.
Improved Unarmed Strike: Because it counts for Sap Master, and is required for Snake Style.
Finesse Training: This is a Dex based build. You will laugh a little when your damage goes from 2d6-2 at level two to 6d6+6 at level four!
Insurrectionist: Freedom of Movement for opening Charge Lanes? Yes please.
Liberated Mind: Did you know Rogue’s have horrible Will Saves? This and the Iron Will prerequisite for Rose Warden will help!
Bravado’s Blade: The reason for the Rake. Being able to get +55 or higher on your demoralization attempt isn’t just for laughs: raising Intimidate beyond a certain amount is actually quite feat intensive without this archetype, and you will need Shatter Defenses once enemies stop falling from a single punch. It also lets you voluntarily decrease the amount of non-lethal sneak attack damage you do, letting you keep that random 1 HD guard alive for questioning.
Debilitating Injury: I actually find it kind of unfair using Disoriented against a target when you are also using Offensive Defense, so I highly recommend Bewildered for an extra +4 to your attacks, especially with how many Attacks of Opporunity you get to make.
Rogue’s Edge: The initiative part of Sense Motive is one of the most annoying mechanics you’ll face, requiring a random circumstantial roll from the GM for what usually comes out to be a +2 or +3 bonus, if you’re lucky. I kind of regret not just taking Intimidate like most Rogues…But being able to read random commoner’s minds without the use of magic is really cool.
Holy Thorns: One of the most useless abilities I’ll bother writing here, just because surrounding your fists in glowing holy thorns is really freaking cool!
Feats & Talents: Achieving Stupidly High Numbers
Sap Adept/Sap Master: Doubling your Sneak Attack dice is really good. And non-lethal damage is just as good as regular damage ninety-nine percent of the time. Just watch out for Undead and Constructs, in addition to the standard “Immune to Precision Damage” creatures.
Offensive Defense/Emboldening Strike: Yes, the Unchained Rogue cannot take this talent. But the Rose Warden can. Yes, this seems odd and it was asked the day Unchained came out and we have yet to get an answer for or against it and probably never will. Always come to the table expecting a GM to ask you to not use this, and that’s fine. The build still works. After Tier 7-8, you probably won’t encounter any GM who gets frustrated over this ability, given other people at the table will have 4th and higher level spells they can use to do far more broken things than pump up your AC so high that no one attacks you for a round…if you hit with a Sneak Attack against an enemy subject to Nonlethal Damage. Emboldening Strike does not stack with itself, but it awfully good.
Twisting Fear: Remember that joke around +55 to Intimidate? This effectively offsets dumping your sneak attack dice to demoralize someone. Use with Dazzling Display and you can even Debilitating Injury an entire mob of enemies.
Vulpine Pounce: Now Witness the Firepower of this fully Armed and Operational Battle Fox.
Fox-Form: In addition to being adorable, you lose absolutely nothing and gain so many bonuses to stealth, AC, to-hit and even damage in this form. Heck, even your speed goes up!
Snake Style/Snake Fang: Dodging with Sense Motive is super useful until the 7-8 tier when you are always against multiple enemies or a single enemy with mutliple attacks. Even then, spells with attack rolls are totally worth dodging. But the real reason to pick this line of feats up? The counter-attack. On a dexterity based character, you will find yourself with seven or more counter-attacks per round, easily. Once you hit your first enemy and boost your AC with Offensive Defense, you are good to go. Just pick up a Fortuitous Amulet of Mighty Fists and go to town running past enemies trying to provoke AoOs. Oftentimes against multiple enemies, I find myself using my Standard Action to Dazzling Display, then using my Move Action to just run between enemies provoking.
Step-Up: And if there’s no extra actions to Charge, you can always flavor your Unarmed Strikes as Jump Kicks and fall to the ground, standing as a Free Action that provokes. Remember that going Prone is a Free Action too, but a GM can tell you that you’ve done too many free actions…and of course enemies can just stop attacking you.