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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.)

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