Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
So I don’t think it’s a big shock to anyone that some people just like to complain. I get to see that human tendency every day when I scan the Paizo forums for interesting article topics. Today’s topic comes from some complaining I happened onto in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Facebook group: a player asked if the horizon walker prestige class was playable, and the overwhelming response was either ‘no’ or ‘in the right situation, maybe.’
That is absolute bologna because the horizon walker is one of the best of the core rulebook prestige classes! Don’t believe me? Read on and see …..
So today we’re going to take two ingredients that players are likely going to moan about, rogue and horizon walker, and use them to make a death-dealing machine of doom.
- Rogue (Scout): You can take just about any rogue archetype in addition to scout, since it only trades uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge. I left the trapfinding stuff for the situational usefulness. Note that in its Playtest form, you can also replace your levels of rogue with levels of slayer: the slayer gains the essential rogue talent that we need in order to make this build work. Slayer has more static bonuses and a better base attack bonus, but its sneak attack dice are going to be much, much lower. If you go slayer, you’ll probably want to drop the Vital Strike feats that I recommend for something else: maybe Two-Weapon Fighting or something to get tons more attacks in. You’ll have the attack bonuses to make all those attacks hit, after all.
- Horizon Walker: The lynchpin. Its very easy to get into this Prestige Class; all you need is Endurance and 6 ranks in Knowledge (geography). And its totally worth it. You’ll see, yes. You’ll see.
Early Levels (1–7)
- Classes: Rogue (Scout) 6 / Horizon Walker 1
- Feats: Martial Weapon Proficiency (1st), Power Attack (3rd), Endurance (5th)
- Abilities: Favored Terrain (any one), Rogue Talent (Terrain Mastery: any three), Scout’s Charge, Sneak Attack +3d6, Trap Sense +2, Trapfinding.
Okay, so I promised to prove that rogues CAN have nice things. Here it is: terrain mastery. Terrain mastery is a rogue talent that essentially gives the rogue a free favored terrain, as a ranger. Doesn’t sound very awesome, does it? Well let me explain to you what sets terrain mastery apart from favored terrain. Each time you take terrain mastery, it improves ALL of your favored terrains by +2. Normally rangers have to pick one favored terrain, but rogues get to boost all of them at once. This means that by your 6th level of rogue, you have a +6 to your first favored terrain, a +4 to your second, and a +2 to your third. Now, you should know that the bonus you get DOES matter, but not until 9th level. This is all I’ll say for now: ask your GM what types of enemies will be common in your campaign and pick a terrain where those enemies commonly live. When in doubt, pick urban: virtually all humanoids count urban terrain as their favored terrain.
Except for the favored terrain stuff, this is a fairly standard rogue build. You have +3d6 sneak attack, the ability to auto-deal sneak attack damage when you charge, and tons of hit points. Your first feat goes into unlocking more weapons to play with and your second goes into Power Attack for more damage. Your third feat allows you to get into your Prestige Class: Horizon Walker. And your first level of Horizon Walker … sucks. You get another favored terrain, but you follow ranger rules: +2 to one of your existing favored terrains. Personally, I’d boost either the +4 or the +2 to make them more even, but its entirely your call. You don’t need to start stacking until later anyway.
Mid Levels (8 –14)
- Classes: Rogue (Scout) 6 / Horizon Walker 8
- Feats: Martial Weapon Proficiency (1st), Power Attack (3rd), Endurance (5th), Vital Strike (7th), Devastating Strike (9th), Dimensional Agility (13th)
- Abilities: Favored Terrain (any five), Rogue Talent (Terrain Mastery: any three), Scout’s Charge, Sneak Attack +3d6, Terrain Dominance (any one plus Astral), Terrain Mastery (any three plus Astral), Trap Sense +2, Trapfinding.
All right, now here’s where things start to get interesting! First, remember how I said you’d need to check with your GM to see what sort of enemies you’ll be fighting? Well, that all comes into play at 9th level because this is when you gain terrain dominance. In effect, terrain dominance allows you to apply your favored terrain bonus as a favored enemy bonus against all creatures native to your selected domain. Choose Favored Terrain: Abyss? You add that shiny +6 on attack rolls and damage rolls against all demons (and anything else that lurks in the Abyss) in addition to all of the usual tracking and spotting bonuses. It’s REALLY nasty! Looking at Horizon Walker, you only get three terrain dominances so you need to choose them carefully.
In addition to gaining the awesome favored enemy bonus, you also receive a special power based upon which terrain you receive. My build assumes that you’ll be taking the Astral Plane as one of your Terrain Dominances because you’ll receive dimension door as a spell-like ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom. This is the easiest way to gain dimension door as a spell-like ability in the game and more importantly, the number of uses you receive easily scales with your level: its perfect for our purposes! That said, here are some other winners for terrain dominance:
- Astral: The mastery (+30 to fly speed on planes with no or subjective gravity) is so situational that it might as well be worthless. Its dominance, however, is the cornerstone of the build I’m providing you with: dimension door as a spell-like ability 3 + Wis per day. Very, very good. Makes the monk jealous.
- Cold: Both the mastery (cold resist 10) and the dominance (cold resist increases to 20 and +1 competence on attack and damage rolls vs. creatures with the cold subtype) is a poor choice. Only select it if your game takes place entirely within a tundra or a similar location.
- Desert: Desert can be really, really good. It gives immunity to exhaustion as its mastery and immunity to fatigue as its dominance. You also get fire resistance 10, but it’s the immunities you’d want. I wouldn’t call it a must-have for this build, but its not bad.
- Ethereal Plane: The mastery ignores the miss chance from concealment and reduces total concealment to concealment, but only for fog and mist. Situational, but it could be fun to combo with obscuring mist as a major magic rogue talent. The dominance is ethereal jaunt as a spell-like ability 3 + Wis per day, but you need to be 7th level to take it. Not bad, but ethereal creatures are commonly fought. If you take this, you take it for the spell-like ability and the anti-fog tactics.
- Forest: The mastery is a +4 competence bonus on Stealth checks. Nice. The dominance is hallucinatory terrain as a spell-like ability 3 + Wis per day, but it only can create illusory forests. Neat. Forest critters are somewhat common, so this isn’t a bad choice.
- Jungle: The mastery is a +4 competence bonus on Escape Artist checks and to CMD against grapple maneuvers. Both are decent, but if you go jungle you want it for the dominance, which is charm monster (3 + Wis per day) against animals, magical beasts, and any creature found in the jungle. That could be very useful.
- Mountain: The mastery is a +4 competence bonus on Climb checks and the ability to ignore Dex loss from climbing. Not great. The dominance is DR 2/adamantine. Also not great.
- Plains: The mastery causes medium armor and medium loads to no longer restrict your movement. Awesome. The dominance increases your speed by +10 (untyped). Awesome. The downside? Few creatures to apply the favored enemy effect against.
- Plane of Air: The mastery is a +4 competence bonus on Fly checks and a +1 competence bonus against flying creatures and the ability to breathe air. Not really all that great. The dominance grants the fly spell as a spell-like ability 3 + Wis per day, but at minutes per level you’d need a pretty high Wis to be flying constantly. I don’t like this one, but some might.
- Plane of Earth: The mastery is DR 1/adamantine, which is pretty unremarkable. The dominance is tremorsense out 30 feet, which could be useful. Sometimes. I don’t like this plane either, personally.
- Plane of Fire: GUESS WHAT IT IS?! CAN YOU GUESS IT?! IT’S FIRE RESISTANCE 10! Are you surprised?! No? Me either. Fire is a common energy type, but this isn’t a great terrain mastery. The dominance isn’t any better: it’s the cold terrain dominance, but for fire creatures. Pass.
- Plane of Water: The terrain mastery is the plane of air mastery, but for water and swimming instead. Not all that great, to be honest. The dominance doesn’t even give you a swim speed: it gives a constant freedom of movement effect underwater. Its good, but tacking on a swim speed too would have been appreciated.
- Plane, Aligned: Regardless of which plane we’re talking of, the mastery allows you to detect as the plane’s associated alignment (fooling all divination effects) for as long as you want. This is good for espionage (and for fooling the Lords of Ravenloft, I guess) but is otherwise situational. The dominance, however, is great: you pick either a special material or an alignment that opposes the denizens of your selected plane and you always overcome DR of that type: good for good, cold iron for cold iron, and so on. In Wrath of the Righteous, having all of your weapons strike as good is awesome. You can even pick this dominance multiple times to overcome more types of DR.
- Swamp: The mastery is a +4 competence bonus on Perception checks. Stupendous. The dominance is tremorsense, like the plane of earth bonus; not great, but it could sometimes be useful.
- Underground: This terrain is amazing. First, the mastery gives you Blind-Fight as a bonus feat. I love bonus feats. Second, the dominance gives you a 60-ft. darkvision or improves your existing darkvision. Finally, a HUGE number of creatures fall into this category compared to the other terrains because dungeons are considered underground territories. Most constructs, oozes, and even some undead fall into this category. This is one of the best choices, in my opinion.
- Urban: This is the best choice. You start off with a +4 competence bonus on Diplomacy checks. You end with charm person as a spell-like ability 3 + Wis times per day. Both okay, but why is this the best? Because urban terrain is constructed by humanoids and urban terrain is defined as buildings, streets, and sewers. This means that virtually EVERY humanoid in the game is going to be on the receiving end of your favored terrain bonus if you choose urban. This one is really, really nice.
- Water: This mastery is identical to the plane of water bonus, and the dominance is that swim speed I was looking for in plane of water. Situationally good, but not amazing.
So, what would I pick? Well, in order:
- Mastery (Urban, Swamp, Astral, Underground)
- Dominance (Urban, Astral, Underground)
In the end, you get a +4 competence bonus on Diplomacy and Perception skill checks, Blind-Fight as a bonus feat, a +30 to your fly speed if you ever find yourself in a zero-gravity situation, charm-person and dimension door as spell-like abilities 3 + Wisdom times per day each, darkvision out 60-ft., and a massive favored enemy bonus against all creatures native to urban or underground areas or the Astral Plane. Pretty nice.
So, why all the fuss for the Astral Plane dominance? It’s for Dimensional Agility and its subsequent feats. At 13th level, you don’t suffer the teleportation fatigue for using your dimension door spell-like ability, but the real fun starts in the end game.
- Classes: Rogue (Scout) 10 / Horizon Walker 10
- Feats: Martial Weapon Proficiency (1st), Power Attack (3rd), Endurance (5th), Vital Strike (7th), Devastating Strike (9th), Dimensional Agility (13th), Dimensional Assault (15th), Improved Vital Strike (Combat Trick), Dimensional Dervish (17th), Greater Vital Strike (19th)
- Abilities: Favored Terrain (any seven), Master of All Lands, Rogue Talent (Combat Trick, Terrain Mastery: any four plus Astral), Scout’s Charge, Skirmisher, Sneak Attack +5d6, Terrain Dominance (any two plus Astral), Terrain Mastery (any three plus Astral), Trap Sense +3, Trapfinding.
So at this point in the game, you have a grand total of 10 favored terrains. Just how many can you get, anyway? Well …
- The “worldly” terrains amount to ten (cold, desert, forest, jungle, mountain, plains, swamp, underground, urban, and water).
- There are four elemental planes/ (air, earth, fire, and water)
- There are at least nine “aligned” planes. (One for each alignment.)
- There’s the Shadow Plane and the Fey Plane (or the First World for you Pathfinders).
- There’s the Negative Energy Plane and the Positive Energy Plane.
- Total: 27 Planes
This is excluding the fact that the ranger ability says, “pick any one besides the Material Plane.” Theoretically, you could start picking demiplanes and never run out. But 27 is a good number to keep in mind for now. Speaking of mind, what’s our total favored enemy bonus right now? I’ll be generous and say that we prioritize keeping our three dominances at an even pace within the the prestige class, so it looks like this at Horizon Walker 9:
- Rogue 2: Urban +2
- Rogue 4: Urban +4, Underground +2
- Rogue 6: Urban +6, Underground +4, Astral +2
- Horizon Walker 1: Urban +6, Underground +6, Astral +2, Swamp +2
- Horizon Walker 2: Urban +6, Underground +6, Astral +4, Swamp +2, Forest +2
- Horizon Walker 4: Urban +6, Underground +6, Astral +6, Swamp +2, Forest +2, Plains +2
- Horizon Walker 5: Urban +8, Underground +6, Astral +6, Swamp +2, Forest +2, Plains +2, Jungle +2
- Horizon Walker 7: Urban +8, Underground +8, Astral +6, Swamp +2, Forest +2, Plains +2, Jungle +2, Mountains +2
- Horizon Walker 8: Urban +10, Underground +8, Astral +6, Swamp +2, Forest +2, Plains +2, Jungle +2, Mountains +2, Desert +2
At Horizon Walker 10, you get another Favored Terrain AND a +2 bonus to all favored terrains you currently have from master of all lands, so it looks like this:
- Horizon Walker 10: Urban +12, Underground +12, Astral +8, Swamp +4, Forest +4, Plains +4, Jungle +4, Mountains +4, Desert +4.
So at 16th level, you’re looking at a +12 bonus to hit and damage any creature native to an urban environment or an underground environment. You’ve officially beaten the ranger at his own favored enemy game and you’ve still get 4 more levels to go.
Let’s talk about those last four levels. After graduating from the horizon walker, there are still plenty of goodies for you left in the rogue class. By going 10 levels in rogue, you bump your sneak attack die up to +5d6, which is great (only one die less than a slayer) and you also get two more rogue talents: as you can see, I used one to effectively afford Greater Vital Strike (something a pure rogue wouldn’t ever be able to qualify for) and the other to take another favored terrain (let’s say heaven) to bump the final terrain dominance bonuses to +14 against anything urban or underground and +10 against anything from the Astral Plane. These bonuses handedly beat out the slayer’s and ranger’s bonuses.
In the end, your plane is simple: run around and get off sneak attacks by moving. When you charge, you sneak attack. When you move more than 10 feet, you sneak attack. When you do crazy dimensional dervish tactics, you sneak attack AND flank with yourself. The dimension door tactics is something that you want to save for important moments because your daily uses are limited. Ultimately, you have a bunch of cool tricks to call upon and you shouldn’t be afraid to use them. Against enemies belonging to your favored terrain, you’ll likely demolish them thanks to your massive +14 bonus to hit them. Generally speaking, you only Vital Strike when you have to move, otherwise you full attack and likely hit with at least two attacks, if not more. This is a nasty, nasty build when you fight on your terms.
For Mythic, go champion all the way. There are tons of great speed-increasing options, which synergize well with Dimensional Dervish and the scout’s skirmisher ability. Grabbing precision to make your iterative attacks hurt more is a great idea and picking up Mythic Vital Strike allows you to multiply your favored enemy and Power Attack bonus damage on a successful hit. To a mythic character using this build, the role of Vital Strike changes: its your method to punch through damage reduction instead of the ability you depend on when you have to move. Grab lots of Strength bonuses and tear your opponent apart!
And there you have it; a deadly horizon walker build! What do you think? Is this something you’d want to play, or is it a little too exotic for your taste? How do you think an enemy like this would fare against your PCs/party? Does this build make you think differently about the horizon walker prestige class? Leave your answers and comments below and I’ll see you next time!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune horizon walker, and his favorite pastime is wondering what colors Anaji will be next.