Weekly Optimization Showcase: Uncanny Trapsmith (Tempest_Stormwind)


First Post
Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

It's Friday again! (And I'm trying a new presentation style that might be easier to read.)

So, my gaming group has been building characters for several months right now, in the spirit of the old CO boards. There isn't much activity here, but in an effort to spur some extra discussion, I'll be sharing some of my work here on a weekly basis, aiming for a Friday posting. I welcome discussion of all sorts, so feel free to rip this to shreds, suggest improvements, or just *yoink* it wholesale for your games. (If you do, I'd love to hear about it.)
My group consists of two familiar names from the old CO board (Radical Taoist and DisposableHero_) along with three others (Andarious, Sionnis, and Seishi); whenever I showcase a build, I’ll identify its lead author in the immediate preamble (just before the build’s title). By no means should you assume I did all of these on my own – in fact, on some, my only contribution was to write up this post!

All of these builds, unless noted otherwise, assume 28 point buy and fractional base attack / saves (Unearthed Arcana; this dramatically simplifies the math and usually doesn't impact things much otherwise. If a build relies on fractional to work, I'll list a non-fractional variant as well); any expansion books and variant rules involved will be clearly identified, along with variants we've considered. I tend to do snapshots at significant levels, showing the rationale being specific choices and highlighting capabilities at key levels, rather than just presenting a giant table and summary and leaving it to you to figure out how to play them.

With that out of the way, let's get started. This week, we showcase one of Radical Taoist’s projects, and the first skillful archetype in the showcase.

Get in, make it look like an accident, get out.

Required Books: Eberron Campaign Setting, Complete Adventurer, Complete Scoundrel, Races of Eberron, Player’s Handbook 2, Races of Destiny, Lords of Madness.
Unearthed Arcana used: None! (Well, I use fractional for calculations, but it doesn’t change the prereqs or timing at all, just the final results. Without fractional, its base attack falls to +13 instead of +15, for instance.)

Background: Some time ago, RT put together the Optimization Circus!(x), a project where optimal met funny under the big top. One of his suggestions was the Stage Crew Gnome(x), a roadie who could slip unnoticed in the middle of a pitched battle and set up booby-traps under the target’s feet. This build is the next generation of that concept, with a stronger counter-intelligence focus to find more use in a social/intrigue game. Along the way it combines its spy-themed disguise, misdirection, and infiltration abilities with a strong improvised gadget-using focus (from your self-assembled traps to your imbued-on-the-spot magic equipment) - you can almost think of this build as James Bond meets MacGyver.

The Basics

  • Race: Changeling.
  • Ability Scores: 10/10/10/18/10/12. You’re going to want to boost Int at every level. This goes beyond skillmonkey and into skillgorilla territory.

Skill Notes: ….What does he do? What doesn’t he do? He finishes off with 286 skill points and (midway through the build) literally gets every skill as a class skill. Apart from hitting skill prerequisites (which you can do with Craft: Trapmaking 8, Disable Device 8, Search 4, Bluff 8, Disguise 4, Forgery 4, Diplomacy 4, Gather Information 4, and Sense Motive 4 – not that hard, they’re all Rogue class skills and you've got Able Learner), you’ll need to be able to hit DC 28 Craft (Trapmaking) under pressure reliably (or DC 23 if you want to carry a heavy trap-maker’s kit), and have 5 ranks in Craft (Alchemy) to unlock all the traps. You also need four skill tricks; I’ve listed which ones we suggest below. Even with all that, you have remarkable freedom with where to put your skills, and can do it without ever cross-classing a single point. Check the snapshot below for an example skill distribution that attempts to meet all the needs of a party trapfinder, scout, and social infiltrator. (It doesn’t do the acrobatic rogue stunts, due to low Dexterity and the particular tactics involved, though you’re free to shift points there if you want.)

Basic Equipment: You don’t have any specific demands here besides decent light armor; note that while you don’t have a high Dexterity bonus you really, really don’t want an armor check penalty. Early on you’ll probably carry a crossbow (pistol crossbow, preferably) and easily-concealable daggers; later on you won’t need much besides your trapping tools (and eventually not even them!). Finally, invest in masterwork tools as early as you can for as many skills as you can; cheap +2s to skills you want to use can cement you as THE go-to guy out of combat. (It’s not uncommon to invest in these between levels 1 and 2, which is also when the synergy bonuses come online, giving you a massive +5 bump (or more!) between levels!)

Speaking of weapons, before you get your traps, you might want to emulate the Diablo 2 trapper assassins and rely on thrown alchemical weapons (alchemist's fire, acid flasks, and similar) as a weapon. If your Craft:Alchemy ranks come in early, you shouldn't have any trouble building these yourself pre-adventure. It’s a bit cheesy, since they’re touch attacks and they deliver any applicable sneak attack damage (against their target, not through the entire blast radius!) as well as their usual effects. I only mention it here because it perfectly fits with the “I build tools and use them to wipe the floor with you” theme; normally this is a cheeseball trick, but here, the theme matches nicely.

Magical Gear Goals: Boost your stealth something fierce. You want +Int, +Con (may as well), and +Dex (can’t hurt). You want magic items that produce invisibility (Shadow Hands: Cloak of Deception are available pretty early and re-usable), concealment, darkness and other stealth-friendly abilities. Outside of stealth (and survivability), you’re a support character. Really, you’re largely a function of your traps in combat, and your social skills out of combat, so you would also be a good candidate for the bag-of-tricks toy items that always look good but aren’t always worth the investment. A Shax Haversack and/or Utility Belt come to mind – you should always be the sort of person who’s got the right tool for the job. (There’s a lot of overlap between the two, but each serves their purpose. The Shax thread includes a good list of alchemical options as well!) The rest of your team is going to be able to "beat face with big stick" or "casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down", so don’t try to outperform them: it’s your job to handle the unexpected circumstances and operate when a bit more finesse is called for.

There's also (quite!) a few specific magic items to look for.
[sblock]Outside of combat, an artificer's monocle is a good investment (as it is for any artificer); I'd also look into wands of generic skill-booster effects like Greater Heroism for that extra edge. (You can create scrolls or potions of the basic Heroism effect on your own.) Eternal Wands are always useful too, but in your case (since you don't fight that much) you don't need the Heroics wand I keep suggesting on showcased builds; Invisibility, Knock, Shatter, Shrink Item and Rope Trick are good candidates instead, as are just about any of the low-level figments. (Any of these you don't expect to use all that often can be covered with Spell Storing Item instead.) You're an infiltrator, act like one!

One particularly interesting choice of item is a Desert Wind cloak keyed to a hilariously under-used maneuver: Distracting Ember. This maneuver creates a flanking partner for one round, and is obviously intended to allow swordsages to support rogues (or themselves, if they're Shadow Hand focused), but it does so by actually summoning a physical creature for one round. For you, this does two things: It creates a second target for you to divert enemy attention towards (although due to action costs, it'll only work against attacks of opportunity with Fade into Violence; if the elemental lasted until the start of your next turn its options would be much more interesting), and, more importantly, it allows you to remotely trigger your traps from a distance if it looks like your target isn't getting close enough. (Several traps have an area of effect; if your target is in an adjacent square but isn't likely to step on the trigger, Distracting Ember can create a fire elemental right where you want it, and BOOM, off the trap goes.)

A related item, the assorted Bags of Tricks, can do pretty much the same thing, and - if the critter in question has a threatened area - can provide you with the distraction you need to work your misdirection feats. There are, however, some thematic concerns involved when a wild deer or angry rhinocerous suddenly appears at a dinner party.

One other aspect to look into is equipment that lets you read the minds of your targets, especially if you can extract memories from them. You've got Use Magic Device - if your DM allows this to function as Use Psionic Device (it already doubles as Use Clerical Device and Use Arcane Device, and psi is supposed to be transparent...) you shoud look at the telepath list for this. If you can get this, your feat and feature setup can let you essentially perfectly assume the identity of existing NPCs in your campaign. I'll let you figure out how much fun this could be - just use your abilities to trap and kidnap someone, mindscan them, and then... showtime.

Another oddball choice is the Immovable Rod. Normally this is expensive and superfluous but old-school players will remember just how much havoc one can wreak with this if you're creative. The classical uses - holding a door very shut, providing a handhold or foothold in midair, or as part of a larger assembly (such as a fulcrum or holding a platform) are all appropriate to your do-it-yourself nature. An almost trivial direct-combat example is to wait until one of your Equalizer traps knocks a target prone (which, since it does so on your opponent's turn, leaves your actions open), then run on up, set the rod on his back (ideally horizontally across the shoulder blades), and press the button. Good luck standing or rolling away from that!

Since everyone expects this build to be some kind of mechanical genius, I'd be amiss if I didn't mention the obscure, but very very useful, Universal Key. Just be careful if you choose to employ this one in combat - your low Charisma (and likely opponents in a social intrigue game!) mean it's quite easy to turn against you, and while you can finish the battle after your pants have been disassembled, it's just tacky.

The MIC's Ring of Arming also deserves special mention. Minor Change Shape doesn't alter your equipment, just your own appearance. This item acts like a superior version of a Glove of Storing (another good item choice, particularly with Sleight of Hand, but let's focus on the ring for now) in that it can store entire equipment loadouts and switch them all, including full suits of armor, with just a standard action. In a few seconds with this ring, you can go from impersonating a guard in heavy armor to impersonating a noble at the masquerade, or you can switch from a perfectly mundane disguise into full combat gear as soon as you hear "roll for initiative".

Finally, thanks to a submission from ObsidianConspiracy, a Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis (Tome of Magic) is a great complement here, as the Dark template gives you quite a lot of things that you will appreciate, most dramatically Hide in Plain Sight. I'm not sure if Minor Change Shape is enough to cover for the Dark template's physical shifts, so you might want to stick to the normal collar and only activate it when you're going into "battle mode", though. In any case, it's most useful at the later levels, since your uses of the Hide skill aren't actually dependent upon hiding (and, in fact, Shadow Striker depends upon being observed!) and at the late levels you get Darkstalker. You'll still need something to hide behind at first, but you've got a stinkbomb trap for that (which emulates Stinking Cloud, which obscures vision). Deoxhydroxinate also points out that you can easily use a tower shield for this purpose if you can somehow get it deployed quickly enough.[/sblock]

The Build.

Build Stub: Changeling Rogue 2 / Rogue 1 / Artificer 2 / Combat Trapsmith 5 / Uncanny Trickster 3 / Spymaster 7

1 – Changeling Rogue – (Social Intuition, Sneak Attack +1d6) (Able Learner)
[sblock]Able Learner requires Human or Doppelganger. It was never explicitly stated that changelings – the children of humans and doppelgangers – qualify for it, but it’s a reasonable assumption that simplifies things easily. (Well, Races of Eberron does flat-out say that changelings like to take the Chameleon class (see page 43!), which requires Able Learner, so it’s pretty strongly implied.)
Social Intuition gives you a lot of good intrigue abilities (mostly doing critical social stunts faster), but importantly it gives Skill Mastery in a lot of skills, including Bluff. We’ll be using that one soon. The rest can be used to wreak some havoc with changeling shapeshifting - +10 to Disguise at level 1 and the ability to take 10 on most of the “keep your cover” skills is great, particularly when that take 10 result is high enough to hit DC 15 (in other words, you casually complete “tough” tasks at level 1).

And, as a side note, the Changeling Rogue substitution levels have a positively amazing 10 skill points per level, which give you 56 skill points to play with at level 1.
2 – Rogue – (Evasion) (Second Impression trick)*
[sblock] “I don’t always botch Disguise checks, but when I do, I prefer Second Impression.”[/sblock]
3 – Changeling Rogue – (Minor Lore, Sneak Attack +2d6) (Persona Immersion) (Assume Quirk trick)*
[sblock]Trap Sense is generally meh, so there’s no reason to not swap it here, especially given the TEN skill points available to changeling rogues. Minor Lore can sometimes help with cover stories as well. Remember that even if you don’t put any points into Knowledge, this bonus applies to Aid Another attempts as well; eventually your Int mod will be high enough to automatically succeed on those attempts to, so even with 0 Knowledge, you’re a great assistant.
Oh, and why Persona Immersion? Because the most reliable way to see through a disguise in D&D involves mind reading (Read Thoughts, Detect Thoughts, etc. are online as of level 3!) and very few of those effects are over 3rd level. (Those that are, such as Mind Probe, tend to be used after your cover is blown.) Persona Immersion is the easiest way to make sure those backfire. The Assume Quirk trick works very nicely with this as well, if you’ve researched your subject enough.
4 –Artificer – (Artificer Knowledge, Artisan Bonus, Item Creation, Trapfinding) (Scribe Scroll)*
[sblock]We needed trapfinding from some source, and artificer gets that while providing Intelligence synergy, granting access to good support magic, and counting as a spellcaster (unlocking Craft: Alchemy’s better uses). The much-needed Will save boost is gravy.
Spend some time looking through the low-level spell lists. You’ll be able to scribe spells that require up to CL 4 off of any list, although they only take effect at CL 2. Many of the good infiltration ones aren’t terribly CL-dependent – Ventriloquism and Silence come to mind.
5 – Artificer – (Brew Potion)*
[sblock]At this point, Spell Storing Item becomes your favorite infusion, if you can get a high enough UMD check to pull it off reliably. While item creation is limited by caster level, this infusion is only limited by spell level, so obscure but amazing prestige lists like the Trapsmith’s (Dungeonscape) become available. Furthermore, you can assemble these tools on the spot once you’ve infiltrated your area, although it normally takes a minute to do so. (Remember that you can spend an action point to speed this up!).[/sblock]
6 – Combat Trapsmith – (Combat Trapping, Trap Sense +1) (Fade into Violence) (Social Recovery trick) (2 traps)*
[sblock] The choice of traps is entirely up to you, since their importance varies based on your game. These ARE your kill moves, though, so as the opportunity arises, upgrade to the deadliest, most crippling ones you can make. Nothing stops you from building multiple traps and placing them in the same square either. Some of them also work rather unusually – for instance, the Equalizer doesn’t use an ability check to knock its victims prone, so Stability won’t help.
Fade into Violence lets you work with an ally to threaten a target, and then – using the Bluff skill you can take 10 on – force the enemy to ignore you in favor of your ally. It's an immediate action as well, so you can use it as a sort of pseudo-counter if someone tries to hit you. This can be used to get free sneak attacks here or to slip away unnoticed, but later on it’ll be a critical part of your offensive strategy. Note that since deploying a trap doesn’t target an enemy (i.e. it wouldn’t break Invisibility), you can still use it while using Fade into Violence. You can sneak up to a guy and trap his shoes. Or, even if he notices you, Fade into Violence can divert his attention elsewhere.
7 – Combat Trapsmith – (Skill Focus: Craft (Trapmaking)) (Conceal Spellcasting trick) (3 traps, 1 swap)*
[sblock]Conceal Spellcasting doesn’t care how long it takes to cast your spell, which means you can now rig up your Spell Storing Items in the middle of a dinner party.[/sblock]
8 – Combat Trapsmith – (Trap Sense +2) (4 traps, 1 swap)

9 – Combat Trapsmith – (Improvised Materials) (Shadow Striker) (5 traps, 1 swap)*
[sblock]Bring it on! Shadow Striker’s most important option is the Evade Notice, which operates like a better (less-limited) version of Fade into Violence, keyed off of Hide instead. It's only usable if you take no direct hostile action – which setting a trap is not. With an ally to support you, you can easily slip between targets completely unnoticed while rigging up high-DC traps right underfoot.

The other two options aren't useful at all to you, but there are circumstances when you'd want to toy around with them too. Fade Away is probably the only one you'll realistically be using, as you depend strongly on stealth for your defenses.[/sblock]
10 – Combat Trapsmith – (Expert Trapsetter, Trap Sense +3) (6 traps, 1 swap)

11 – Uncanny Trickster – (Bonus Trick: Listen to This, Favored Trick: Second Impression OR Listen to This)*
[sblock] Second Impression is optional, but it’s one of those very nice skill tricks without a secondary limit (unlike, say, Social Recovery) that also happens to work on large numbers of targets at once. Listen to This is the alternative because it lets you record two close-by conversations.
The real winner is that starting this level, every skill is a class skill. You were already buying them at class-skill rates, but now you have class skill max ranks in all of them.
12 – Uncanny Trickster – (Bonus Trick: Timely Misdirection, Favored Trick: Timely Misdirection) (Skill Focus: Bluff) (6 traps, 1 trade)*
[sblock]You’re advancing Combat Trapsmith, natch. Note that this increases its class level for formula purposes, which includes the DC on your traps. You also MIGHT get a trade on the traps (depending on how +1 Class Features is interpreted; we don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t), although you’re still limited to six traps.
Timely Misdirection gives you a way to bypass AoO tanks using Bluff instead of Tumble, except it’ll actually work against those annoying Thicket of Blades users. Think of it as a Bluff-based Douse the Flames or Covering Strike.

Oh, the feat? It’s just a prerequisite. But you're getting quite a bit of Bluff mileage anyway, and Bluff is awesome regardless.
13 – Uncanny Trickster – (Bonus Trick: Group Fake-Out, Favored Trick: Group Fake-Out, Uncanny Luck) (6 traps, 1 swap)*
[sblock]By combining Timely Misdirection and Group Fake-Out, you can escape from dogpiles or the Danger Zone where two AoO tanks overlap without too much difficulty.[/sblock]
14 – Spymaster – (Cover Identity, Undetectable Alignment)*
[sblock]A natural choice for you – spymaster isn’t necessarily the most optimal in a combat game, but it provides a lot of good support for an intrigue game, and lets you get into places you wouldn’t normally be able to get into. Plus, Cover Identity + Persona Immersion + Assume Quirk can lead to some pretty fun impersonation effects if your cover identity is a real NPC. You’d have to abduct him first, but you have enough ways of incapacitating targets already.[/sblock]
15 – Spymaster – (Quick Change, Scrying Defense) (Ability Focus: Combat Trapping)*
[sblock]Combat Trapping is a single special ability, thus this feat adds its bonus to all your traps. Which now have the same base DC as 9th level spells… except they’re usable at will.[/sblock]
16 – Spymaster – (Magic Aura, Sneak Attack +3d6)

17 – Spymaster – (Cover Identity, Slippery Mind)

18 – Spymaster – (Dispel Scrying) (Master Manipulator)*
[sblock] Boom! Wonderful feat, and one I really wish we could have had much earlier. To qualify, you’ll either need a +1 tome or an ability boost into Charisma, but that’s not hard to do by this point.
The first ability gives you the ability to create social diversions for your team to sneak in – not as useful as it sounds, but it complements your abilities well. The SECOND ability is where it shines: Trap of Words will reveal any deliberate deception on the opponent’s part, without relying on any magic, and without the opponent being aware he’s done it. (He might notice he’s let it slip at first, but you’ve got enough Bluff to cover for that possibility.)
19 – Spymaster – (Sneak Attack +4d6)

20 – Spymaster – (Cover Identity, Deep Cover) (Retrain Persona Immersion to Darkstalker)*
[sblock] Hey, since Deep Cover makes Persona Immersion basically obsolete (after having served its purpose well for many levels), we may as well go for Darkstalker here instead. It’s a great feat, and you’ve got an open slot, so why not throw it in there? Just as your epic disguise checks can foil even True Seeing, now your epic Hide checks can as well (along with a host of other abilities). It’s a shame you can’t get Hide in Plain Sight here, but with Fade Into Violence and Shadow Striker you may not need to. I only wish it could have come online sooner.[/sblock]
Suggested Traps: At the end of the build, you’ll have six traps with six opportunities to swap them, so feel free to try out others, but I suggest ending the build with Great Scorcher (AoE fire damage), Sleeper (sleep on a fail, fatigue on a pass), Glitterburst (as Glitterdust; you have the Spot check to know where to aim this), Flashbang (blind and deaf on a fail, dazzle on a pass), Equalizer (prone), Spiderweb (as Web; you can use this as a cheap AoE fire effect if you want before Great Scorcher comes online), and Stinkburst (as a localized Stinking Cloud, combines very well with Equalizer and Spiderweb). This gives you a good assortment of debuffs (with amazing save DCs, see below) and a kill move (set up enough Great Scorchers in an area and ready the marshmallows).

Snapshot: Put the usual three +6 items on Int, Dex, and Con, an extra +6 item (due to the dramatically reduced need for weapons) on Charisma, and a +5 tome for Int (your key ability by far); you also need a +1 tome on Charisma before level 18. You’re now looking at 132 expected HP, base attack +15 (melee +20, ranged +23 assuming Greater Magic Weapon, but most weapons are honestly backup), saves of +10/+20 (Evasion)/+7 (Slippery Mind), sneak attack +4d6, and a positively insane skill distribution capable of covering nearly every social and trapping role you can expect from a rogue.
Here’s one potential skill loadout.
[sblock]There’s a few skills here listed with 0 ranks because of significant synergy bonuses and related spycraft. These final modifiers assume masterwork tools, but no magical equipment beyond the ability boosters already mentioned.
Autohypnosis 5 (+10)
Bluff 23 (+34, Social Intuition, Master Manipulator, Fade into Violence)
Concentration 5 (+10)
Craft (alchemy) 5 (+19)
Craft (trapmaking) 10 (+27)
Diplomacy 16 (+26, Social Intuition, Master Manipulator)
Disable Device 19 (+33)
Disguise 10 (+28, Minor Change Shape)
Escape Artist 0 (+7)
Forgery 5 (+19)
Gather Information 10 (+16, Social Intuition)
Hide 23 (+28, Shadow Striker)
Intimidate 0 (+10, Social Intuition)
Knowledge (Any Three) 1 (+21, Minor Lore)
Knowlege (The Other Eight) 0 (+20, Minor Lore)
Listen 23 (+25)
Move Silently 20 (+25, Shadow Striker)
Open Lock 5 (+10)
Search 19 (+33)
Sense Motive 20 (+24, Social Intuition, Master Manipulator)
Sleight of Hand 5 (+12)
Spellcraft 1 (+17)
Spot 23 (+25)
Use Rope 5 (+10)
Use Magic Device 23 (+31, Artisan Bonus)

Skill Tricks: 8pts spent, 3 bonus tricks, 3 favored tricks
Artificer Knowledge: +14 vs DC 15 to discern magic auras

A few quick skill notes:

  • Autohypnosis has a Memorize feature which works on written or visual material very similarly to how Listen to This works on audio (and Autohypnosis may, in fact, allow you to use Listen to This to recite the "perfect clarity" description, then memorize that for longer-term retention of unusual language recordings). It also has a “Forget” function described in Dragonmarked (page 75; it's essentially Memorize but in reverse) which actually lets you manipulate your memory in the case of a Mind Probe or similar effect. A +4 bonus on this from any source will let you do this without a roll.
  • Don’t forget that your insane Bluff also lets you transmit secret information via its Innuendo ability. It isn't telepathy, but it may as well be in circumstances where you're expected to be talking.
  • Craft (Trapmaking) doesn’t need as many ranks as you’d think after your Intelligence starts getting up there – you only need to hit DC 28 if you’re trying to build a Great Scorcher trap without any materials, and that’s possible here on a natural 1 assuming no other penalties. While you're levelling up, but after you've met the prereqs, you can get around the lower ranks by employing the trapmaker's kit (a bit costly and bulky but helps keep the DCs down) and masterwork tools.
  • This approach lets you pick three appropriate knowledge skills (probably Nobility, Local, and either Arcana or History) to count as trained, but even on the other skills, a +20 modifier with 0 ranks means he knows every single piece of common knowledge out there. If you want to turn this guy into a better knowledge base, pull ranks from somewhere else. (You probably don't need Move Silently quite that high, for instance.)
  • Open Lock isn’t high enough to handle the toughest locks, but it handles most of them. The higher-level ones, such as the hair-ripping-out DC 40 Amazing lock, are tackled via Spell Storing Item creating a charge of knock.
  • Don’t forget that Spot has a Read Lips ability and the ability to decode secret information with Bluff. This ability combines hilariously well with Listen to This and your memory stunts on Autohypnosis – essentially, only telepathic communication is protected from you.
  • Use Rope is on there because it lets you hog-tie your incapacitated targets if you want to capture them. It’s also useful for grappling hook entrances, rappelling/abseiling escapes, and related non-social infiltration moves – it's one of those skills you appreciate when you have it but no one ever takes ranks. Plus, you get to make awful “James Bondage” jokes.
  • Use Magic Device is, as usual, freaking amazing and very, very important to this build. Get a skill booster on here as soon as you can, especially after the artificer levels come online. You need to hit DCs in the low 20s reliably as soon as possible and Charisma isn’t your primary stat. You won't need it in the end-game, but it can make or break your tactics early on.

Remember that this is just one potential skill point loadout, and because of Able Learner and the eventual Uncanny Trickster level, your skill choices are essentially completely unrestricted beyond the prerequisites listed at the start of the build.
Your traps have a save DC of 31 to evade their effect, and a skill DC of either 39 or 41 (depending on whether or not Ability Focus applies to this second DC or not) to find or disable. Unlike normal traps, non-trapfinders can Spot them, but good luck hitting that DC –it’s comparable to the Amazing Lock, which is already so high it basically says “Can someone cast Knock here?”. (To put that in even bigger perspective, a DC 43 check in the DMG is exmplified as "Track a goblin that passed over hard rocks a week ago, and it snowed yesterday". Your traps are nearly that hard to spot!) These traps are also nonmagical, so without skill checks that high, they will remain unnoticed until they strike. (Detect Magic normally causes magical traps to light up like Chinese lanterns, but it’ll miss these; similarly, they’re more sophisticated than a trapdoor, so even the more obscure Detect Snares And Pits spell will miss them.)

While the traps aren’t terribly good at damage (the most powerful one is only 5d6, Reflex Half – although good luck hitting that DC without Improved Evasion, and you can double-up on them), they work very, very well for applying conditions (some combination of prone, poisoned, fatigued, entangled, blinded+deafened, caltropped, glitterdusted, asleep, webbed, and nauseated, for seven rounds due to Uncanny Trickster), and since they’re applied to an adjacent square (that you don’t enter), nothing stops you from tossing out all six traps you know in the same spot. (Or loading up on scorcher traps if you really want damage instead of conditions – a minute of prep time gives you 50d6 damage.). Applying a trap for you is a standard action, which you can generally keep up in the middle of combat due to your ability to redirect attention away from yourself.

Naturally, like many rogue builds, this works best in combat if partnered with someone, ideally with the ability to call attention to themselves or support the trapsmith in other ways (or push enemies around - note that a trap will trigger if an enemy is forcefully moved into the trap’s square, so a swordsage or one of the Pinball Brothers can act as your trigger mechanism.). As I noted in magical gear above, you can simulate this alone using a Desert Wind cloak, but really, that's no substitute for a good ally. That said, due to the social intrigue aspect of the build, the Uncanny Trapsmith can also operate alone, using social cover to get to places he isn’t supposed to be, and set traps to act as an assassin of sorts. Just try to get the PCs to track down a good Changeling Rogue / spymaster in a royal court without ripping their hair out.

Overall Strengths: Your skill list is the stuff of legends, so if there’s something outside of combat, you’re the go-to fellow. You have ways to direct attention away from yourself long enough to set up absolutely crippling condition traps right under your enemy’s feet, and social camouflage good enough to get into royal courts to do the same. You still have a passable level of sneak attack, so if you happen to render a target more or less helpless through your traps (and look at that list of conditions!), it shouldn’t be hard to basically hog-tie such a target and coup-de-grace them. In-combat, you're a ghost, an anti-Crusader who diverts attention away from himself and towards your somewhat sturdier allies, able to use that misdirection to set traps with impossibly high DCs right underneath your opponents' feet, triggering debuff conditions that your allies will always appreciate essentially at will.

Outside of your traps, you have access to just about every low-level spell in the entire game given a minute of prep time or an action point; while these aren't likely to be game-enders in battle, any experienced player knows the value of the right low-level spell in the right situation, and you always have the right low-level spell with you after assembling your spell storing items. (You have access to even more spells when preparing for a mission through artificer item creation, but all of them are also low-level.) You also pack enough mundane deception abilities to foil most magic-heavy games until the really, really high levels, between Cover Identity, Persona Immersion, Minor Change Shape, and your collection of support gear (and eventually the amazing Deep Cover). Finally, this build is actually pretty cheap to equip - unlike most rogues it doesn't rely on two powerful weapons, or indeed any weapon at all beyond real basics, so by all means use the excess cash to cover the interesting things that sound useful but no one can ever justify after buying the basics.

Overall Weaknesses: The usual weaknesses for a rogue are all present – doubled up due to low Dexterity, but slightly mitigated due to Slippery Mind at later levels (boost your Will save early, though). You depend almost entirely on stealth in battle, so be sure to pump your stealth skills and Bluff up as high as possible, and either rely on ranged combat until you get into position, or rely on your misdirection and an ally if you’re in melee. Budget your gear accordingly and remember that you don’t rely on twin weapons the way most rogues do (and indeed can go without any weapon at all if you think your traps are offensive enough; I still suggest alchemical bombs though). Oh, and finally, even if you're doing your job right, just like any adventurer, sooner or later you'll be relying on your hit points to save you, and those are ridiculously low for one of these builds, even with a +6 Con item; using some of your weapon cash on a +4 tome of Constitution certainly would not go amiss.

Variants: If you find one of the feats here not to your liking, great candidates for replacement include Action Surge, which lets you set two traps simultaneously (in addition to all of its usual goodies) and Heroic Spirit, which gives extra action points (which, in addition to their usual goodies, let you speed up your spell-storing infusions to the point where you can use them in battle). Likewise, if one flaw is available, you can redo the opening feats to get Master Manipulator much earlier without delaying anything. With two flaws, you can work in the other unique changeling infiltration feat, Racial Emulation, which may also foil race-based divination effects like Object Reading.

The spymaster levels themselves aren’t super-essential either; you can pretty easily swap them for other PRCs if you want (Chameleon comes to mind as a fun choice, and you certainly qualify). Finally, if you don’t like the artificer for whatever reason, you can replace it. You need both spellcasting (for purposes of alchemy) and trapfinding, ideally with a lot of skill points and Intelligence synergy, and there are quite a few possibilities there – factotum, psychic rogue, spellthief, and beguiler all come to mind. For instance, if you employ the factotum (the route of the original Stage Crew Gnome), you can have as many as 12 non-uncanny-trickster, non-combat-trapsmith levels to play with; that's enough to get Factotum 8 / Chameleon 4 if you want (swapping SF:Bluff for Font of Inspiration, of course; you want the inspiration for Cunning Surge!), which is about as resourceful as they come. The only hazy part about the factotum approach is that it's unclear if they count as spellcasters, so the alchemical traps might be unavailable.

Omen of Peace points out that Factotum 1 provides better benefits than Changeling Rogue 3 - you trade a few skill points, one die of Sneak Attack (in a build that quickly loses its need for attack rolls) and Minor Lore for the ability to add your sky-high Intelligence modifier to up to two attack rolls (useful early on, useless later) or saving throws (very useful throughout) per encounter, along with +Int to one check per skill per day outside of combat. I'm continuing to list this under "variants" rather than working it in to the core writeup because doing this adds yet another book to the requirements (although honestly, you're probably referencing Dungeonscape already for the Trapsmith's class list via Spell Storing Item).

There you have it. How’s that for a skillmonkey
skillgorrilla skillKONG addition to the menagerie, and one you aren’t likely to see until it’s too late? It’s a refreshing twist on the rogue in that it doesn’t rely on agility but is no less a master of guile, and hopefully it should remain fun at any level along its progression.

Next up: The two left over from last week, with two fresh choices: pick between Andarious’ Wizsassin, Andarious’ Nuker, my Storm Knight, or my Phantom Rush. Which sounds most interesting?

Originally posted by ObsidianConspiracy:

Hehe this looks like great fun as a character, and rather easy to make a concept around. Nicely done.

I'm up for either the Storm Knight or Phantom Rush... not sure which

Originally posted by Unahim:

The early life of this character sounds a lot like my current Eberron character, only she went Beguiler with illusions, rather than trapsmith ^^

Also, Phantom Rush sounds interesting to me!

Originally posted by New-Shadow:

So many to choose! I really want to see Wizsassin (since you've made a great deal of references to it in a couple of threads), followed by Storm Knight, Nuker, and Phantom Rush. May we please see Wizsassin next?

Originally posted by draco1119:

Yeah, I'll second Wizsassin. Especially since you've been pointing out to somebody (New-Shadow, maybe?) that what they want to do is similar to that build. And you've been doing that for two weeks.

Originally posted by New-Shadow:

It's The_Fred you're refering to, specifically the CO Experement thread that's fairly recent.

Originally posted by The_Fred:

Yes, TS mentioned the "Wizsassin" when I was looking for ideas on upping an Assassin's spellcasting. The impression I got was that it's a variant on the Wizard/Assassin/Ultimate Magus theme. It sounds cool, though I would be interested to see what "Phantom Rush" entails too.

Originally posted by warghoul:

Enjoy your stuff TS.
I would like to see the 'wizsassin' also.

Originally posted by draco1119:

Phantom Rush would be my second choice, but only if it uses the Phantom Knight.

Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

Why do you think I named it "Phantom Rush"? ;)

No comments on the trapsmith itself? We have plenty of warriors and mages, but precious few experts, and this one approaches the role in a way not many have.tried in the past.

Originally posted by ObsidianConspiracy:

It looks like fun, I was reading the last part about not being able to get hide in plain sight. Could you use the Dark Template and buy off the level adjustment? That also gets you more abilities. Just a thought.

Originally posted by deoxhydroxinate:

The Factotum does count as a spell casting class for the purposes of meeting pre-reqs (like being able to cast a certain spell, or checking for caster level). The only problem is that there's no spell casting advancement, since the advancement is through Arcane Dilettante.

I like the Artificer entry, though I know too many people that don't allow them. I think an easier fit would be to use Factotum, and perhaps nab a Font of Inspiration or two.

Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

Dark is a great template here, but I doubt Minor Change Shape will cover its appearance shift. Getting a Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis could get the best of all worlds though, especially since Darkstalker comes online rather late.

The first pass at this used Beguiler, but switched for better MacGyver. I'm not sure you can count as a spellcaster using factotum before level 3, which is why it is in the variants section. The Stage Crew Gnome was almost pure Factotum though.

(Also, there are DMs that disallow the artificer but allow the factotum? I suppose they could be doing this on a tier system basis, but a two-level dip isn't tipping the tiers here. This build is comparable to a low tier three or a very high tier four depending on the game.)

Originally posted by ObsidianConspiracy:

Well either way it could gain you hide in plain sight, which would be even more useful

Actually the collar is a really good idea, since it's just another 'tool' for the trapsmith, something for another situation, seems to fit.

Originally posted by deoxhydroxinate:

To them, just the word Artificer scares them. I can't blame them, though. The first time reading the class I was completely blown away by the possibilities. Factotum (again to these) grants huge versatility, but doesn't do it in a potentially game breaking manner (well, until 8th level and you get Cunning Surge then all hell can break loose. And let's not speak of gestalting Wizard / Factotum)

What about Beguiler worked and what didn't? Would be interesting to see the choice there.

I would also second the collar. It's too useful not to use, especially for this master of disaster.

Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

Beguiler got four extra skill points and (afb) one or two more beguiler spells per day than the artificer got infusions. We weren't relying on ambushes or stealth in the same way as a typical beguiler would, so its class features are of limited use. The artificer got Spell Storing Item (access to every beguiler spell you could have cast anyway) and a small host of good infusions (particularly the armor augmentations) along with Scribe Scroll and Brew Potion for between-mission prep, and while those are slower and.cost XP, the cost is trivial (remember that artificers can speed up infusions with AP, and that Conceal Spellcasting lets you do it at it's normal speed without people noticing if you aren't under time pressure.)

Hmm. Something just hit me. HiPS doesn't negate the need for concealment to hide, so it might not be a good call (unless operating.in darkness; that's probably why the shadowdancer doesn't grant camouflage). However, you can hide 'behind' the cloud from a stinkbomb trap, since it emulates Stinking Cloud, which operates like any mist spell....

Originally posted by deoxhydroxinate:

Tower Shield, drop a cloud, hide?

When they go to look all they see is the shield left behind.

Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

Hardly proficient with the shield but a fun idea; was the barricade buckler from Lutes & Loots (Song and Silence) ever updated? It becomes a portable wall.

Originally posted by deoxhydroxinate:

I'm actually pretty certain you don't actually need proficiency with the tower shield in order to carry it and then drop it for cover, or in your case, smoke bomb.

Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

Edits made to main post, incorporating your gear suggestions. Thanks for the feedback!

As for this week's showcase:
Storm Knight: I
Phantom Rush: I
Wizsassin: IIII

So it looks like this week's going to be the Wizsassin. (Phantom Rush got four "second choice" votes, though, so it'll probably be the following week.) I may rotate the Storm Knight out for a while since it's been voted down twice.

...Or, you know, I could do two. I have both of those writeups ready to go. Phantom Rush relies on an Unearthed Arcana variant to work (though not an extreme one), while the Wizsassin doesn't (it does use a really obscure sidebar feat though), so I figure it'll be something for everyone. And it'll help clear out the queue a bit. What say you?

Originally posted by ObsidianConspiracy:

I'd say if you've got the time and both builds completed then put both up. Storm Knight does interest me, but it doesn't give much away lol.

Also, might it be worth your while making a compendium for these builds? So they don't get lost?

Originally posted by New-Shadow:

I agree, if you have the time, put both builds up and put Storm Knight up next week. All in all, all of these builds are very interesting, and I can't wait for Friday to come so I can see the next one!

I also second the Compendium list idea. Far to many builds have been lost to the net, it would be a shame to lose these.

Out of curiousity, as a side note/question, does Storm Knight use the Stormcaster PrC from Stormwrack?

Originally posted by Unahim:

Would google docs work for the compendium, or is it too clumsy without spoiler tags?

Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

I agree, if you have the time, put both builds up and put Storm Knight up next week. All in all, all of these builds are very interesting, and I can't wait for Friday to come so I can see the next one!

Thank you!

I also second the Compendium list idea. Far to many builds have been lost to the net, it would be a shame to lose these.

Would google docs work for the compendium, or is it too clumsy without spoiler tags?

Actually, since my group plays exclusively online (I'm literally half a continent away from most of the rest of the group, and the remainder are split between two time zones), we did all this on Google Docs in the first place using a build presentation system I whipped up (build table + character sheet generator). I've just been writing them up in forum-code for ease of presenting and sharing in other locations.

I also wanted to post 'em on MinMaxBoards, with the old CO board regulars, but Josh is on record hating me (for reasons I'm not entirely clear on), so I haven't even registered there.

Out of curiousity, as a side note/question, does Storm Knight use the Stormcaster PrC from Stormwrack?
Nope. But the tagline (the italic bit after each build title, and the one in the signature) is "Another Kind Of Gish". Don't worry, there's plenty of storm to go around. (It's actually a style-over-substance build, but remains fairly substantial.)

Originally posted by ObsidianConspiracy:

If that's the case then keeping record would be awesome. Even if people don't use the exact builds they utilize interesting ideas rather than your typical 'This feat only' sort of thing.

Storm Knight, my guess, for style over substance is Cleric/Prestige Paladin/Stormlord... or something like that :p

Actually it's kinda fun trying to guess builds from names

Originally posted by Andarious-Rosethorn:

No where near it. The Storm Knight uses SLA's, not actual spells. Hope that wasn't too much of a spoiler Tempest, but I couldn't help myself.

Originally posted by draco1119:

No where near it. The Storm Knight uses SLA's, not actual spells. Hope that wasn't too much of a spoiler Tempest, but I couldn't help myself.
Ok... NOW I'm interested!

Originally posted by Omen_of_Peace:

I liked RT's original build, and this is a nice elaboration on the same idea.

I was going to mention Factotum but I saw it in the variant section. I do think replacing the 3rd Rogue level with Factotum is pretty advantageous: you get +Int to saves (or attack, but that is soon obsolete) twice per fight, and outside combat you can use your inspiration to add Int to skills (not more than once per day for any given skill). That's better than what Rogue offers IMO, even if you lose a few skill points and Minor Lore.

Originally posted by Tempest_Stormwind:

I liked RT's original build, and this is a nice elaboration on the same idea.

I was going to mention Factotum but I saw it in the variant section. I do think replacing the 3rd Rogue level with Factotum is pretty advantageous: you get +Int to saves (or attack, but that is soon obsolete) twice per fight, and outside combat you can use your inspiration to add Int to skills (not more than once per day for any given skill). That's better than what Rogue offers IMO, even if you lose a few skill points and Minor Lore.

Good point, and the main thread has been edited to acknowledge this.

I like the simplicity of the build as it stands, so it's listed as a variant, but it is a very good variant nonetheless.

Originally posted by 123456789blaaa:

The martial rogue variant seems good for this build. You don't really care about sneak attack after all. Off the top of my head, martial study is always nice. There may be other good fighter feats as well.

log in or register to remove this ad

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases