Iconic Design — Feinting Tricks II: The Trickening

I get a lot of my ideas (both for new builds and for new content to design) from my Pathfinder Society experiences. I love seeing new builds and new ideas, but watching other people build characters also gives me an idea of places where the game has holes that can be patched.

Today, I’m going with the former. My friend Robyn ended up playing this really baller arcane trickster build that I absolutely loved, and I wanted to sit down and try to iterate a bit upon it. So, that’s the theme for today—make the arcane trickster even more baller!

Build Concept

Any information important to understanding the build or its roots goes here.

  • Classes: Brawler (Snakebite Striker) 1 / Rogue 1 / Sorcerer 4 / Arcane Trickster
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (Bonus), Point-Blank Shot (1st), Improved Unarmed Strike (Bonus), Precise Shot (3rd), Ranged Feint (5th), Combat Expertise (7th), Improved Feint (9th), Greater Feint (11th)
  • Traits: Magical Knack (sorcerer).
  • Note on Bloodline—I recommend something damage-oriented, like elemental or draconic. However, you’re only going to stick with your bloodline for 4 levels, so it doesn’t matter all that much. Choose what you want.

Description of Play

So this is a heavily specialized build, to the point where this might not be something you want to try in a game that 100% isn’t going to high tier. Basically, the build is built around the Ranged Feint, from Ultimate Intrigue, and using that feat in order to assure that you get sneak attack damage dice.

There are a LOT of guides on the arcane trickster, and a LOT of those guides tell you that your role in the party is to be, “A catch-all bag of usefulness.” Like, “You have the skills to do stuff that most other spellcasters can,” sort of thing. “Why go invisible when you have a Stealth bonus of +20,” or “Why cast knock when you have a Disable Device of +17.” That sort of thing.

So, that type of idea for the arcane trickster works, but it REALLY ignores what the arcane trickster is best at—absolutely destroying people with touch attack sneak attacks with spells. That being said, you generally don’t want to be up in melee touching people, because that first time you sneak-attack-shocking-grasp a guy for over 70 damage, they’re bound to look at you and say, “Wow, a glass canon. Let’s break it.” So naturally, sneak attacking at range is likely going to be the thing that you want to do. But greater invisibility isn’t a spell that you get for a LONG time. (As a 4th level spell, we’re talking 8th level, or 10th level for this build.) That being said, Ranged Feint is a great way to accomplish this without using up your spells and without needing to hunker down and focus on pumping initiative. You feint your foes, they get flat-footed, and you pummel them into the ground!

So, what types of spells do you want to use for this build? Fiery shuriken is a REALLY good spell for this, because the shuriken float around your head and strike at your foes for you. That means you can cast the spell, have them active, and do other things. (The spell actually doesn’t need you to focus on it to keep it active.) A particularly fun thing you can do at higher levels is have fiery shuriken active from a previous round, cast a spell (like scorching ray) and then launch a shuriken at your foe. Since both attacks are handled separately, they don’t fall into the “simultaneous spell” ruling that spell sneak attacks have to deal with, which means you can Greater Feint as a move action, then hit someone with two spells and deal sneak attack damage with each!

You’re not going to thrash anyone with this build, but we’re taking about +5d6 sneak attack damage on top of a 1d8 fiery shuriken and perhaps a 4d6 damage scorching ray. Pretty fun to be rolling that many dice at people!

So, what do you think? How would you build an arcane trickster, and what sort of builds do you want to see from Iconic Design in the future? One of the advantages of being on a bi-weekly format for this column is that I get to consider my options more, so a LOT of more complicated builds that I’ve passed on might actually be considered now! (Or they might be lost under the massive pile of Graduate Work that I have despite only being one week deep into the course! Yikes!)

At any rate, that’s it for this week’s Iconic Design. Tune back in two weeks for more ideas for your next PC or NPC!

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 Alexs Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander "Alex" Augunas is an author and behavioral health worker living outside of Philadelphia in the United States. He has contributed to gaming products published by Paizo, Inc, Kobold Press, Legendary Games, Raging Swan Press, Rogue Genius Games, and Steve Jackson Games, as well as the owner and publisher of Everybody Games (formerly Everyman Gaming). At the Know Direction Network, he is the author of Guidance and a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond. You can see Alex's exploits at http://www.everybodygames.net, or support him personally on Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/eversagarpg.


  1. Rising Fire

    Hey Alex, have you ever considered a build idea with Path of War? It’s a fascinating system that my group loves, and I think you could make something really interesting with it!

    • Alex Augunas

      Honestly, I don’t much care for Path of War. I was a big Tome of Battle fan back in 3.5, but I largely see initiation as A) redundant in Pathfinder, a game where martials (especially Str-based ones) have access to plenty of interesting options that they can do all day and B) not within my own personal standards of balance.