Iconic Design: Shine Bright Like a Starshine!

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be looking at an Iconic Design for Haley Starshine.

Of all the characters in the Order of the Stick, today’s build is the one that I’ve been dreading the most. Not because I don’t like the character, oh no. Quite the opposite, really; I ADORE this character. That makes it really hard to say this:

Ranged rogues SUCK to try to build effectively.

Background

From Wikipedia:

Haley Starshine is a “Chaotic Good-ish” Human Rogue. The Order’s second-in-command, she is skilled in stealth and deception, often serving as a scout for the party. In many early strips, she is portrayed as being highly materialistic. Haley, a former member of a Thieves’ Guild, learned that her father was being held for ransom by a dictator in a foreign land, and she originally joined the Order to raise the money necessary to rescue him. She develops a romantic crush on fellow member Elan and, later, begins a relationship with him. Haley fights using a longbow. She became the leader of the Order for a few months while Roy was dead, dragging his decomposing corpse along with her so he could be resurrected.

Build Concept

So yeah, for today’s Order of the Stick build, I’m stuck with Haley Starshine, who is a rogue with the most un-rogue fighting style EVER: rogue archery. It is REALLY flipping difficult to make a ranged sneak attacker, and in the almost six years of Pathfinder’s existence, no one’s done anything to make it much easier, if at all. So be warned, folks, this is not a build I recommend using: this is simply a build that I’m going to be putting together to most faithfully put together Haley’s build.

  • Human: Duh.
  • Rogue: Also duh. Like my other Order of the Stick builds, I am going to refrain from using archetypes or multiclassing unless the character does so in the comic. Haley does not, so single-class rogue is what we’re working with. Ugh….
  • Reactionary: It isn’t often that I tell you what character traits to take, but I’m telling you for this one. TAKE REACTIONARY. You need as big of an initiative bonus as possible for this build, and that +2 REALLY helps.

With that out of the way, let’s look at Haley’s build.

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: rogue 7
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Human), Precise Shot (1st), Martial Weapon Training (Bonus), Improved Initiative (3rd), Weapon Focus: longbow (Bonus), Ambush Sense (5th), Rapid Shot (7th)
  • Abilities: evasion, rogue talents (combat trick, snap shot, weapon training), sneak attack +4d6, trap sense +2, trapfinding, uncanny dodge

All right, so how are we going to make this build work? Kicking and screaming, of course!

Feat-wise, Haley’s got a few tricks up her sleeve. Rogues are a feat-starved class, so having a human bonus feat’s very helpful for her. She spends combat trick on picking up Martial Weapon Training. (I know just about every optimizer out there clutched her heart in pain, but I’m sticking with the Order of the Stick’s single-class theme here.) At 3rd level, we give Haley one of her most important tools: Improved Initiative. Basically, rogues are normally only allowed to sneak attack if their target is flanked against their attack, are denied their Dexterity bonus to their AC, or are flat-footed. Ranged attacks can’t gain a flanking bonus and ranged attacks can’t benefit from feint, so we’re left with flat-footed. With that said, between a 100 foot range increment and being a Dexterity-based character, the easiest way for Haley to make her foes flat-footed is simply by attacking before them. Hence the Improved Initiative feat. We’ll also be picking up the snap shot rogue talent later on, which allows Haley to always treat her initiative die roll result as a natural 20 when determining when she acts during a surprise round. Between having a high initiative and an added bonus during a surprise round, we’re hoping that Haley’ll get to sneak attack every now and then.

The other feat I’m choosing is Ambush Sense. This neat feat from the Advanced Class Origin book allows Haley to use her trap sense modifier as a bonus on Perception checks made to determine if she gets to act during the surprise round and as a dodge bonus during said surprise rounds. This’ll help Haley get the drop on enemies, so we’re picking it up pronto.

Other then those options, this is a fairly standard archer build. Except, you know, limited by the rogue’s attack bonus. Let’s move on and see if I can come up with anything cool in the later levels.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: rogue 14
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Human), Precise Shot (1st), Martial Weapon Training (Bonus), Improved Initiative (3rd), Weapon Focus: longbow (Bonus), Ambush Sense (5th), Rapid Shot (7th), Dazzling Display (9th), Shatter Defenses (11th), Manyshot (13th)
  • Abilities: evasion, rogue talents (combat trick, hunter’s surprise, improved evasion, surprise attack, snap shot, trap spotter, weapon training), sneak attack +7d6, trap sense +4, trapfinding, uncanny dodge

I’m willing to bet that many of you were willing to bet that I’d go Shatter Defenses with this build. The Intimidate route is just too perfect for a fast-talking pun-tastic person like Haley, and it’s the only other major way that we can (relatively) easily render foes flat-footed against Haley’s volley of arrows. We put off Manyshot until 13th level because quite frankly, Haley’s not going to have the attack bonus to reliably hit anything while using Manyshot for a while and having a way to reliably render foes flat-footed is too important to her success as a character.

Talent-wise, trap spotter is golden for a trap-hunting character like Haley, and hunter’s surprise is simply awesome for when Haley needs to sneak attack the heck out of something that can’t otherwise be sneak attacked. (She can pick that talent as early as 10th level, so she might even have it before she gets Shatter Defenses. Surprise attack is equally useful for this build because it allows Haley to treat all enemies in a surprise round, even ones that have already acted, as though they were flat-footed against her attacks. It’s sort of like insurance against the rare GM monster that’ll be able to out-initiative Haley.

With all of this out of the way, let’s turn to the end game and see how Haley wraps things up.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: rogue 20
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Human), Precise Shot (1st), Martial Weapon Training (Bonus), Improved Initiative (3rd), Weapon Focus: longbow (Bonus), Ambush Sense (5th), Rapid Shot (7th), Dazzling Display (9th), Shatter Defenses (11th), Manyshot (13th), Improved Critical: longbow (15th), Critical Focus: longbow (17th), Skill Focus: Intimidate (19th), Blinding Critical (Bonus)
  • Abilities: evasion, master strike, rogue talents (combat trick, defensive roll, feat, hunter’s surprise, improved evasion, slippery mind, snap shot, surprise attack, trap spotter, weapon training), sneak attack +10d6, trap sense +6, trapfinding, uncanny dodge

Ending with a Critical Feat is far from optimal for an archer and Blinding Critical isn’t even a powerhouse option for a rogue, but the blinded condition is basically the last way that we can give Haley the power to render her foes flat-footed, and a good Blinding Critical from 100 feet away is an excellent way to shut down many types of mages. Critical Focus serves a rogue exceptionally well because it is a rather monstrous attack roll bonus, too. Plus there’s not much else that we can give Haley to improve her initiative or her ability to demoralize foes.

In terms of rogue talents, the ones I picked are mostly the standard ones. Defensive roll, feat, and slippery mind are all no-brainer choices, meaning that this stage of the game doesn’t really have many surprises for Haley. That said, Haley’s build is 100% designed to try to make you susceptible to her sneak attacks in a myriad of creative ways. It may not be the most optimal build that I’ve ever done on Iconic Design, but it fits Haley to a tee and with luck, will allow her to ravage enemies with her sneak-attacking arrows.

And that’s my Iconic Design for Haley Starshine. I’m expecting lots of comments about how terrible this build is, so I implore you to leave them ALL in the comments section below and come on back next Monday for another exciting installment in Iconic Design. Take care!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex’s favorite color is blue and his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is human rogue. Wait, no! I changed my mind! I CHANGED MY MI—.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC.

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1 Comment

  1. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    Yeah, the lack of ranged sneak attack support is really disappointing, especially since more options to sneak attack at ranged was specifically mentioned in the ACG Know Direction podcast by Jason Bulmahn (I took notes and posted it to the forums).

    This build isn’t all together terribad or anything, it’s weakest aspect is, unfortunately, the Rogue itself. If Bards and Inquisitors have taught us anything it’s that 3/4 BAB classes *can* be great archers, they just need the archery backing them up to do so. Unfortunately, the best way to play a Haley inspired character that is still somewhat combat effective, is probably the Slayer. Slayer has the base attack bonus, bonus feats and attack and damage bonus to pull it off, while also getting a good number of skills and sneak attack dice.

    I truly can’t say anything overly bad about this build as you did do your best within the rules you use for the OotS characters. Within the context of the rules, this is probably the best build for a ranged sneak attacking rogue anyone can really come up with.

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