Iconic Design: Luis Loza Style

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 a Kitsune Style build.

Not many people can say that they’ve had a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game named and designed for them, can they? I mean we all know that Erik Mona requested the savage barbarian archetype for Ostog the Unslain, but it isn’t often that someone who’s not part of Paizo gets that little wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

That’s why Luis Loza is an awesome person.

Luis Loza and I worked together on August’s Dirty Tactics Toolbox, and one of his sections included the titular dirty tricks section. Luis designed a butt load of awesome options and feats for that section, but one option that he wrote that people ALWAYS assume that I made is called Kitsune Style. You know, for obvious reasons.

After I told the internet that I didn’t design the feat chain (and the whole internet rolled its collective eyes in response), Luis popped into the thread and was like, “He’s telling the truth! I designed that option as a shout-out to Alex!”

And as one good shout-out deserves another, today I’m giving Luis a shoutout by using his feat to build a kitsune build that people have asked me to provide for a LONG time: a Fox Shape build. (And not that crazy “Monkey Style Monk Rules the World” one either!)

So what did I come up with? Hop in and see for yourself….

Build Concept

So, how’s this build going to pan out? Let’s take a look.

  • Kitsu– FINE! I know you all know this already. Moving on.
  • Fox Shape: This little feat from the Dragon Empires Primer allows a kitsune to use her change shape racial ability to transform into a Tiny fox at will. Nifty, but not super powerful. Unless….
  • Unchained Rogue (Vexing Dodge): So this archetype is a little bit weird. Basically, it’s a rogue archetype designed around letting you use the Climb skill to climb your foes. This isn’t the most optimized strategy for a race with a Strength penalty, but hey! I like to live on the edge…. (Plus you should totally invest at least 2 points into Strength to cancel out that –1 penalty on Climb checks.)
  • Kitsune Style: This style feat chain focuses on allowing you to do cool stuff with the Dirty Tricks maneuver. Which is helpful, because the Vexing Dodger also has a lot of synergy with the dirty tricks maneuver; among other things, it can allow you to make a dirty trick attempt as a swift action by giving up your sneak attack damage, for example.
  • Without further delay, let’s look at this Luis Loza inspired build!

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: unchained rogue (vexing dodger) 7
  • Favored Class: Rogue Talent: uncanny dodge
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (Bonus), Agile Maneuvers (1st), Improved Dirty Trick (Bonus), Dirty Fighting (3rd), Kitsune Style (Bonus), Fox Shape (5th), Kitsune Tricks (Bonus), Combat Reflexes (7th)
  • Abilities: debilitating injury, evasion, finesse training (rapier), limb-climber, rogue talents, rogue’s edge, sneak attack +4d6, underfoot agility +2, underfoot trickster
  • Rogue Talents: ninja trick: style master (4th), combat trick (6th)
  • Rogue’s Edge: Acrobatics (5th)

1st Level for this build is boring but necessary; Agile Maneuvers allows you to make use of what I can only assume is a stellar Dexterity score when making dirty trick attempts. Damage is going to suck until 3rd level when you get finesse training, but at least the vexing dodger archetype is kind enough to give us Improved Dirty Trick as a bonus feat at 2nd level. Then at 3rd level, we grab the Dirty Fighting feat from the Dirty Tactics Toolbox so we get another +4 on dirty trick attempts against an opponent we’re flanking. (Instead of the normal +2.) Then at 4th level, we can burn a rogue talent for the ninja’s style master talent, which nets us the coveted Kitsune Style! Then we get Fox Shape at 5th, Kitsune Tricks as a bonus feat at 6th from the combat trick rogue talent, and Combat Reflexes ending the early game’s feat roster.

So, what do we have and why? Well, for starters the vexing dodger can make it REALLY hard to hit her. Like REALLY stupid hard. With limb-climber, any opponent that the rogue climbs on using the Climb skill takes a penalty on attack rolls against her equal to her sneak attack damage. Then, if the rogue’s 4th level or higher and REALLY worried about coming under fire, she can sneak attack her enemy in order to use debilitating strike against it too, allowing her to impart a minimum of a –4 penalty to her target against attack rolls made against her. That’s a total of –6 at Level 4, which is nothing to sneeze at. Also at Level 4, whenever the rogue sneak attacks an enemy, she can give up the sneak attack damage dice as a swift action to instead attempt a dirty trick against her opponent. This basically transforms the rogue into a debuffing monster; she can make her opponents reel with a huge number of penalties very quickly. “But Alex!” You say, “How are you going to sneak attack with any amount of regularity? Simple my friend: dirty trick. Specifically, using dirty trick to inflict the blinded condition onto opponents. Blinded opponents are always flat-footed and attackers gain a +2 bonus on attack rolls against blinded targets, so the rogue can literally set the perfect punching back up for herself. This isn’t counting the wonderful benefits of the Kitsune Tricks feat, which allow you to inflict two different conditions onto an opponent whenever you succeed on a dirty trick maneuver. Pretty nifty, right?

Now, you might be wondering where the Fox Shape feat comes in. Simple, my friend: backup. The vexing dodger’s awesome limb-climbing abilities (both the current one at 4th level and the distracting climber ability at 8th level) have size requirements for the rogue (one or more size categories smaller for limb-climber and two or more size categories smaller for distracting climber). Fox Shape allows you to become Tiny at will, so you can ensure that all Medium and larger creatures are eligible targets for these abilities. In short, Fox Shape is a defense mechanisms in case you end up fighting a lot of humanoids.

With all that in mind, let’s move on to the mid levels!

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: unchained rogue (vexing dodger) 14
  • Favored Class: rogue talent: uncanny dodge, improved uncanny dodge
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (Bonus), Agile Maneuvers (1st), Improved Dirty Trick (Bonus), Dirty Fighting (3rd), Kitsune Style (Bonus), Fox Shape (5th), Kitsune Tricks (Bonus), Combat Reflexes (7th), Greater Dirty Trick (9th), Superior Dirty Trick: blinded (11th), Skill Focus: Climb (13th)
  • Abilities: advanced talents, debilitating injury, distracting climber, evasion, finesse training (rapier, bite), limb-climber, rogue talents, rogue’s edge, sneak attack +7d6, underfoot agility +4, underfoot trickster
  • Rogue Talents: ninja trick: style master (4th), combat trick (6th), assault leader (8th), multitalented (Bonus), double debilitation (10th), opportunist (12th), improved evasion (14th)
  • Rogue’s Edge: Acrobatics (5th) Climb (10th)

The big, awesome ability here is distracting climber. This BEAUTIFUL gem of an ability grants you a bonus to CMB to make dirty trick attempts equal to the total number of SNEAK ATTACK DICE you have as long as you’re climbing your target. Isn’t it beautiful? When you get the ability at 8th level, its worth +4 on dirty trick attempts, and it only gets better from there. Another fun factoid is that any penalties to your AC also apply to your CMD, so when you use debilitating strike at 8th level, you’re looking at a –4 to CMD if you managed to pull off debilitating strike against the target during the same turn AND a +4 on the check if you’re climbing your opponent. And to top it all off, you can do this with your BITE attack. That’s right, folks. As a kitsune (or a fox) you have a BITE attack that resolves at your full BAB. Who cares how much damage your bite does? It can sneak attack, and that means you can inflict debilitating injuries and dirty tricks with it. Isn’t that all you really need in the long run? This is why I absolutely HAD to pick ‘bite’ as the 11th level finesse training weapon; its too important to landing all of these delicious penalties.

Speaking of delicious penalties, let’s talk about double debilitating at 10th level. Now you can inflict TWO negative conditions with your sneak attack instead of just one. So yes, most of the time your opponent is now going to be taking a penalty to AC and attack rolls most rounds. And if your GM decides to make those little chunks of XP flee, you can use the hampered debilitating injury to reduce its speed instead. Fun! (For you, any way.) You also get Kitsune Vengeance and Greater Dirty Trick, plus Superior Dirty Trick. Kitsune Vengeance allows you to make dirty trick attempts whenever your opponent provokes an attack of opportunity, while Greater Dirty Trick makes the condition last longer by default AND increases the action needed to remove the condition. And just because I’m mean, I took Superior Dirty Trick with the blinded condition so now our opponents need a full-round action to remove our most important negative condition. Are you cackling yet?

Another trick that I like is the combination of assault leader and multitalented. This talent allows you to grant a free attack to an opponent if you miss, and multitalented increases the number of times per day that you can use talents like assault leader by up to three (for a total of four times per day). I don’t know how likely it is that you’ll miss that often, but at least now your opponents will fear you regardless of whether you hit or miss!

Well, I think I’m ready to move on to the end game now. Shall we?

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: unchained rogue (vexing dodger) 20
  • Favored Class: rogue talent: uncanny dodge, improved uncanny dodge
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (Bonus), Agile Maneuvers (1st), Improved Dirty Trick (Bonus), Dirty Fighting (3rd), Kitsune Style (Bonus), Fox Shape (5th), Kitsune Tricks (Bonus), Combat Reflexes (7th), Greater Dirty Trick (9th), Superior Dirty Trick: blinded (11th), Skill Focus: Climb (13th), Swift Kitsune Shapechanger (15th), Vulpine Pounce (17th), FREEBIE (19th)
  • Abilities: advanced talents, debilitating injury, distracting climber, evasion, finesse training (rapier, bite, ANY ONE), limb-climber, master strike, rogue talents, rogue’s edge, sneak attack +10d6, underfoot agility +6, underfoot trickster
  • Rogue Talents: ninja trick: style master (4th), combat trick (6th), assault leader (8th), multitalented (Bonus), double debilitation (10th), opportunist (12th), improved evasion (14th), confounding blades (16th), ANY ONE (18th), ANY ONE (20th)
  • Rogue’s Edge: Acrobatics (5th) Climb (10th), ANY ONE (15th), ANY ONE (20th)

Nothing too special here, honestly. Confounding blades is a neat debuff, and after that I recommend taking more rogue talents that allow you to inflict nasty penalties onto your enemies. I also recommend the Swift Kitsune Shapechanger and Vulpine Pounce feats because they combo nicely with Kitsune Style, but those are just preferences too. In truth, we get everything this build needs to be terrifying by 13th level, which means you’re a master of combat trickery just in time to finish Eyes of the Ten in Pathfinder Society!

As one final note, I’m sure there are minmaxers out there who want to know why I’m not telling you to take the Dirty Trick Master feat. Dirty Trick Master is powerful. REALLY powerful. Like, STUPID powerful. So powerful its illegal for PFS play. That is the only reason I didn’t take it. If your GM allows it, take it as soon as you meet its prerequisites. The things this build could do with that feat are TERRIFYING.

And now with THAT, I am finished. What do you think of this build? Is this a build you’d play? It certainly is one that I want to try; I’m between playing it in Reign of Winter and as a PFS character myself. Playing it in an AP sounds amazing (and my friends invited me to start Reign of Winter this month), but at the same time the Philly Lodge doesn’t have many rogues, and this seems like an absolutely delightful build to bring to the table. Where would you use this build if you’d use it? Where do you think I should use it? Leave your commends below, and I’ll see you back next week for a build that half a fandon has been BEGGING me to do since Occult October began! Until then, Carry On, Wayward Son!

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 also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.

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. If you like Alex's writing and are interested in supporting him while getting professional-quality material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game while doing so, check out the Everyman Gaming, LLC catalog, which is listed under Rogue Genius Games at the following locations: http://drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/6101/Rogue-Genius-Games/subcategory/19574_25289/Everyman-Gaming-Catalog

5 Comments

  1. I have a kitsune foxform fighter named Grr with a pretty similar concept. The build is Urban barbarian 2 mouser swashbuckler 1 Vexing Dodger 5 ….then I dunno. At level 5, he’s definitely absoloms most adorable bundle of fluffy death. Mouser to flank from inside someone’s square kicks off a lot of full round sneak attacks with his claw claw bite routine, shifting around the map whenever someone swings at you is a blast, and the -4 to hit the rest of the party makes for, of all things, a pathfinder tanking mechanic.

    If you spend most of your time in fox form (and why wouldn;’t you?) and don’t mind not being able to trip You can skip agile maneuvers, tiny and smaller creatures use dexterity for those maneuvers naturally.

    As much as they fit thematically, the vexing dodger seemed to me to make kitsune style almost superfluous. Charge/dirty trick doesn’t come up all that much more often than walk up to someone, dirty trick. Kitsune Tricks is very nice, but blind and then anything thats not blind isn’t that big an upgrade from blind. Kitsune vengence could be pretty nasty, if built around a finessed elven branched spear, but you can already trip with AoOs and thats worse than most of the conditions from dirty trick without the heavy feat investment

  2. love the build, reminds me of my mouser except its better in a lot of ways. still hopeing you will to a ultimate aid another build someday

  3. Question, does the alternate racial trait: Fast Shifter work with Fox shape?

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      That’s a difficult question to answer, because there’s a lot of RAW vs. RAI discussion going on about the Fox Shape feat.

      Ultimately, it depends upon whether you believe that Fox Shape is self-enclosed or whether its part of change shape. People who want to play humans that use a certain feat from the Advanced Race Guide to turn into foxes argue that Fox Shape is self-enclosed. If its self-enclosed, then that means Fox Shape is subject to Fox Shape’s duration and is not “part of change shape,” which means that the answer to your question is no. Another thing pointing it in this direction is the Swift Kitsune Shapechanger feat from the same book specifically calls out how it functions with Fox Shape, which is sort of weird if Fox Shape is intended to be part of change shape.

      People who claim that Fox Shape is a modifier of change shape use the feat’s flavor text to justify their claims. (The little sentence between the feat’s name and prerequisites.) There are other feats where this text matters (like Weapon Focus), but even this extra text implies usage with change shape rather than actually stating it. If Fox Shape is meant to be used in conjunction with change shape, then the answer to your question is yes.

      Put simply, the two kitsune form-changing feats (Fox Shape and Realistic Likeness) are two of the worse-worded feats in the game because they don’t make it clear whether or not they work in conjunction with the kitsune’s change shape ability. Your mileage will ultimately very, but in my opinion both feats were likely meant to interface with the change shape racial trait, making the section possibility the most reasonable.

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