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Still Roguishly Pursuing The Neverwinter Nights

You know, my overall desire to fixate on the pros and cons of various classes in an RPG is interesting. It indicates that, deep down, I must have a great interest in being a business manager or something. Always tweaking, always trying to find the better way to do something.

Yesterday, I thought I found the solution to my latest Neverwinter Nights 2 fixation. In order to make a Rogue a valuable member of a party (instead of the medium BAB trap and door handyman they usually are) I thought I'd go for Arcane Trickster. It seemed like a pretty good deal because you essentially get 5 free Rogue and Wizard levels. However, problems arose on multiple levels.

The Arcane Trick Was On Me

Without getting into too long of a story, the main two problems were these:
  1. Neverwinter Nights 2's implementation of the Arcane Trickster make the high sneak attack bonus a complete tease.

    So what if I'd have 8d6 sneak attack at level 20? I'd also have a +10 (lvl 5 Rogue/5 Wizard/10 Trickster) BAB in a campaign balanced for +20 (lvl 20 Fighter) BAB. I'll not be hitting much of anything unless I'm rolling near 20. There's really no magical way around this - casting True Strike every round would both be tedious and costly (in terms of casting time).

    This is partly a Neverwinter Nights 2 implementation problem. Arcane Tricksters are supposed to be able to do sneak attacks with ranged touch spells, and don't.
  2. As before, I was prioritizing the functionality over the fun.

    I'm sort of sick of playing a Wizard these days. All that tedious spell book management, never knowing how many spells you need to get the job done because of spell resistance or saving throws. I think I'd prefer a Sorceror or a Bard for my arcane level requirements because spell management is much easier. However, that would require more levels prior to taking Arcane Trickster than I find acceptable.
As much as I might have liked an Arcane Trickster, there was just too much busywork involved. This is not even getting into aspects such as whether or not to wear armor due to arcane spell failure.

The Roguish New Deal

My overall goal remains to keep the Rogue's capability to disarm and open locks while boosting overall combat effectiveness. The Arcane Trickster was a bust, but I have identified at least two pretty solid directions to go.
  • Take 1 level of Rogue per 2 or 3 levels of some kind of low/medium BAB casting character. (With many races, it's possible to do this without even taking an experience penalty hit.)

    This is mainly possible because of the way skill points are handled. At the Rogue's eight base skill points, it just takes a +1 intelligence bonus to keep the important three skills (search, disarm trap, open locks) capped every three levels. A +4 intelligence bonus can extend this to every four levels. Classes with more skill points can make this even easier, especially with the Able Learner feat: A 1 Rogue/19 Bard is possible under the way NWN2 handles skill caps.

    The result is a reasonably capable caster that handles those pesky traps and locks while providing a nice batch of backup spells. It's tempting, because spells can be awesomely powerful, the Practiced Spellcaster feat can make potency inconsequential, and in epic levels you'll eventually reach level 20 in your casting class. However, it's a trickier path because you've inherited the caster's vulnerability, your low BAB prevents effective Sneak Attack use, and may have to deal with things like Arcane Spell Failure.
  • Take roughly even levels of Rogue and some kind of high BAB fighting character.
  • If you're looking to really exploit that sneak attack damage, this is a good way to go. You end up with a better chance to hit and (consequently) more attacks and chances to land those sneak attacks. There's far less dilution of capability here than you would find by crossing a Rogue with something that requires spell progression. The result is a remarkably good fusion for both involved classes. For a Fighter, the sneak attack damage significantly boosts damage against unaware foes or ones that break off to harass others. For a Rogue, the higher BAB, hitpoints, and feats greatly improve the fighting capability of the Rogue. The Ranger is an enticing crossing choice due to higher than usual skill points, free feats, and favored enemy power.
Reviewing this now, it seems I've made up my mind. I don't want to deal with the hassles of spellcasting, and I'm interested in exploiting the melee aspects of Sneak Attack. A straight-up fighter is probably the best option, but more creative choices include the Ranger, Paladin, Invisible Blade, or Duelist. (Then again, maybe I'll try that 1 Rogue/19 Bard option.)


TheWanderer said…
Shadowdancer(1), Rogue (9), Shadow Thief of Amn (5), Weaponmaster (5) - gives you a BAB of 14, lot's of skill points - I have 6 maxed out (Tumble, Spellcraft, hide, MS, open lock, disable device) and also UMD at a high level, and sleight of hand, search, and a few other points on things like bluff and intimidate (required for classes), including parry that you might not want.

I used deep gnome, human would allow you to get to WM earlier, I think, but not enough (I suspect) to get WM 7, which would give BAB 16, and 4 attacks a round).

I also get 8d6 sneak attacks, and Hide in Plain Sight, which means we can just hide, back-attack, and hide again. Super high dex (25 without magic) and weapon finesse) . With just a plain short sword I get attack of 24/19/14. AC of 26 in padded armour (no magic, no shield), and SR of 31.

The other option is invisible blade - never tried that, but I will...
A very nice build!

It gets even more juicy in Epic (post 20) levels because you wouldn't have much trouble getting the 7th Weapon Master Ki Critical.

The only reservation I have about that build is that the level of Shadowdancer ends up giving you an experience penalty for four levels or so post-20. But then, lagging behind a few levels probably doesn't bother you if you're playing the level-adjusted Deep Gnome.

The character I've been playing since last night is a human "2 Rogue/3 Fighter" mix. By lvl 20, he lands on a +18 BTH with 6 Fighter bonus feats. In epic levels, he ends up at 20 Fighter, 10 Rogue which is just enough to grab Defensive Roll.

The nice thing about this latest character is taking advantage of the brutal damage of a two-handed power attack. It takes double your strength mod, so a +4 strength gives a +8 to damage which multiplies out really nice.

I've currently got him on a Falchion for more reliable crits, but it's tempting to take a Scythe just to be really cheesy. It probably wouldn't be too hard to segway off 7 Fighter levels into Weapon Master.

Thanks for dropping the comment.
TheWanderer said…
A possibly nicer, and less cheesy (:D) variation:

Human, Rogue 5, Assassin 8, WeaponMaster 7.

Gives us BAB 16, which = 4 attacks.
Level 8 assassin gives us HIPS. we lose 1d6 sneak (rogue has 3d6, assassin 8 gives us 4d6 'death attack'). WM 7 gives us the extra BAB, AND we get the crit range modifier. Only human gives enough feats to get this built in 20 levels.

I built for 20 level, since you had it listed. I agree, over 20, it get's even nicer. Nice thing with the this build idea is that it has an unused class - could us Invisible Blade on top of WM - for example- lev 30 could be:
Rogue 6, Assassin 9, WM 10, IB 5. That has a BAB of 25 (pity it misses 26, and extra attack, but we do have 5 attacks, and 8d6 sneak, AND 6 points per attack bleeding wounds...
That variation is also a nice build, although I tend to eschew the experience penalty and that'd be a really tricky one to pull off.

My latest build is absolutely vicious. He's a Human Rogue/Fighter/Weapon Master whose advancement looks something like this:

1> Rogue (Dodge, Mobility)
2> Fighter (Weapon Focus: Scythe)
3> Fighter (Combat Expertese)
4> Rogue
5> Fighter
6> Fighter (Spring Attack, Whirlwind)
7> Rogue
8> Weapon Master
9+> Prioritize Weapon Master, but take a Rogue level every three levels while keeping the Fighter within 1 level (to avoid the penalty).

There's an experience penalty as the Weapon Master goes from 1 to 3, but it's not that severe. Also, I think I'll have 7th Weapon Master by 17.

He doesn't get as much Sneak Attack bonus as your build. However, a higher base damage is considerably nastier because it gets multiplied during a critical hit.

This is a Scythe Weapon Master, so the 4x crit modifier becomes 5x, and the 19-20 (Keen/Improved Critical) hit range becomes 17-20. I'm shooting for 20 strength. It looks something like this:

2d4 Scythe Damage * 5 = 10d4
+5 Strength * 1.5 (both hands) * 5 = 37.5
(I'm not sure if that's rounded before or after.)
+12 Improved Power Attack (both hands) * 5 = 60
Without getting into the weapon attributes, that's 10d4 + 97.5 damage. Insane!

However, what's even more insane is that the attack without a critical hit is also pretty formidable. A normal improved power attack is 2d4 + 17 damage.
TheWanderer said…
yeah - scythe master's can be VERY scary. Since you are going fighter as well, if you take monkey grip, then you'll be able to use a shield and the scythe, for those cases where you need defence as well. I'm sure you know about it, but improved crit and power crit will also make the crit'ing easier.

Pity we can't stack keen as well, like you could in NWN1 - I had a crit shadowdancer/rogue/weapon master that had 11-20 crit ranges with rapiers, and HIPS. That character RULED our server's arena, esp because NWN1 didn't have ability cooldown... :D

Well, have fun... ciao 4 now

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