Meet Mr. Face Man

Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!

Every now and then I like to do an Iconic Design that isn’t trying to create an iconic character or that isn’t trying to show off cool, innovative builds for players. Sometimes I just want to throw the GMs of the world a bone with my designs. Today’s one of those days. Time to introduce you to the ultimate hassle, the most obnoxious character build that you could ever throw against your PCs.

Trust me, its nasty. Really nasty.

Build Concept

This build seeks to maximize the amount of influence that it can put on the PCs while thwarting the PCs’ attempts to discover the character. It is focused on lies and deceit so you know it’s going to be a fun one!

  • Kitsune: This build shows off why the kitsune is my favorite race using its shapechanging powers. The kitsune also has an awesome favored class bonus for this build and includes the gregarious racial trait, which is a must-have for this build. A Charisma bonus is also a fantastic bonus.
  • Rogue (Charlatan): The charlatan rogue archetype has this nifty ability that makes it easier to influence enemies that you have already Bluffed in previous rounds. It is the lying expert archetype with a lying expert race. What’s not to love?
  • Master Spy: The bread and butter of this class; a class that focuses on lying and disguising. This class is all the more dangerous in this build considering that the kitsune also focuses on both lying and disguising while the Charlatan focuses on lying.

Let’s begin!

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Rogue (Charlatan) 7
  • Favored Class Bonus (7): 1/6 Rogue Talent, +1 skill point
  • Feats: Combat Expertise (1st), Weapon Finesse (Finesse Rogue), Improved Feint (3rd), Deceitful (5th), Disengaging Feint (Combat Trick), Weapon Focus: Rapier (Weapon Training), Iron Will (7th)
  • Abilities: Evasion, Natural-Born Liar, Rogue Talent (Combat Trick, Coax Information, Finesse Rogue, Rumormonger), Sneak Attack +4d6, Uncanny Dodge

For the first seven levels, you’ll be spending your time setting up your build. Improved Feint is an important feat for this build, as it’s an easy way for your character to pull off a sneak attack while flying solo. Disengaging Feint allows the rogue to peace out if things get dangerous and Weapon Finesse is as important as always. Nestled into the build are two feats that are required for the Mid Levels, Deceitful and Iron Will. These feats allow entry into the Master Spy prestige class, which is where things start to get very obnoxious for your players.

Sneak Attack damage stays consistent and the kitsune favored class bonus shines here: you get an extra rogue talent before moving on to the mid levels, which is pretty great if you use it to pick up another rogue feat. In my build, I spent it on Weapon Focus since that’s always a great choice, but this talent is basically a freebee for you. As for rogue talents, the Charlatan gets Rumormonger for free in place of Trap Sense and Coax Information allows Bluff and Intimidate to double up on each other for some purposes, which means the rogue can spread the rest of his skills around a bit more freely.

In all, this is a very mellow early-level build. Let’s turn it into a social juggernaut.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: Rogue (Charlatan) 7, Master Spy 6
  • Favored Class Bonus (7): 1/6 Rogue Talent, +1 skill point
  • Feats: Combat Expertise (1st), Weapon Finesse (Finesse Rogue), Improved Feint (3rd), Deceitful (5th), Disengaging Feint (Combat Trick), Weapon Focus: Rapier (Weapon Training), Iron Will (7th), Realistic Likeness (9th), Disengaging Flourish (11th), Swift Kitsune Shapechanger (13th)
  • Abilities: Art of Deception, Elude Detection, Evasion, Glib Lie, Mask Alignment, Master of Disguise, Natural-Born Liar, Nonmagical Aura (2/Day), Rogue Talent (Coax Information, Combat Trick, Finesse Rogue, Rumormonger), Slippery Mind, Sneak Attack +6d6, Superficial Knowledge, Uncanny Dodge

The Master Spy prestige class is REALLY nasty to use against the PCs, especially in a kingdom building game. Among its gems are:

  • Up to a +10 bonus on Bluff, Disguise, and Sense Motive checks.
  • The ability to deceive truth-detecting magic.
  • The ability to deceive divination spells that detect alignment.
  • The ability to deceive detect thoughts and similar magic.
  • The ability to deceive most divination effects, as nondetection, at will.

The class only gets crazier at the end game, too.

In terms of feats, our charlatan has picked up Disengaging Flourish, which allows him to escape from all enemies. As a kitsune, the charlatan can use alter self to change into any human at will as a swift action using Realistic Likeness and Swift Kitsune Shapechanger too, meaning that her ability to break from combat with Disengaging Flourish and quickly change into another character makes her almost impossible to capture if a crowd is present. As I mentioned, a very annoying character for the PCs to go up against.

However, this build is best at 17th level or higher, as you’ll soon see.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: Rogue (Charlatan) 10, Master Spy 10
  • Favored Class Bonus (10): 1/6 Rogue Talent, +4 skill points
  • Feats: Combat Expertise (1st), Weapon Finesse (Finesse Rogue), Improved Feint (3rd), Deceitful (5th), Disengaging Feint (Combat Trick), Weapon Focus: Rapier (Weapon Training), Iron Will (7th), Realistic Likeness (9th), Disengaging Flourish (11th), Swift Kitsune Shapechanger (13th), Fox Shape (15th), Persuasive (17th), Rhetorical Flourish (19th)
  • Abilities: Art of Deception, Assumption, Death Attack, Elude Detection, Evasion, Fool Casting, Glib Lie, Hidden Mind, Improved Uncanny Dodge, Mask Alignment, Master of Disguise, Natural-Born Liar, Nonmagical Aura (2/Day), Rogue Talent (Coax Information, Combat Trick, Convincing Lie, Finesse Rogue, Rumormonger, Skill Mastery), Slippery Mind, Sneak Attack +9d6, Superficial Knowledge, Uncanny Dodge

Okay, so here’s the build in all of its ridiculous glory. With this build, the Master Spy can assume the identity of anyone (read it-ANYONE) and fool anything short of the gods with their skills. They can even cast mind blank on themselves virtually at will. Then they go back to their rogue class and pick up another sneak attack die and a few more talents before hitting the end. Let’s talk about those talents. Convincing Lie is awesome, as it allows the Master Spy to spread her lie throughout an entire kingdom with disastrous effects while Rhetorical Flourish allows the Master Spy to further confuse others with her wordplay.

Even if it is the capstone of this build, the ability to Take 10 on all of the class’s most often used skill checks is great. It removes a lot of chance from the Master Spy’s abilities and allows her to have a reliable DC to go against Perception and Sense Motive DCs instead of a variable one. If you manage to justify a 20th level Master Spy in your campaign, chances are they will harry the PCs for the entire campaign. (Which could also be awesome, based on the scope of the game.)

Mythic

You go trickster. No questions asked. Why?

  • Combat Trickery, which allows you to use your massive Bluff bonus to perform combat maneuvers against foes.
  • Compelling Feint, which allows your feint attempts to affect all opponents within 10 feet.
  • Improbable Prestidigitation, which gives you a personal extradimensional space to “hide the evidence” in.
  • Master Dilettante, which makes you even better at impersonating others.
  • Master of Escape, which lets you break out of anything.
  • No One of Consequence, which screams Master Spy.
  • Redirect Attention, which also screams Master Spy.
  • Perfect Lie, which is self-explanatory.
  • Perfect Mimic, which is perfect at impersonating specific folk.
  • Vanishing Move, because Stealth is always nice.

Since there are 10 Path abilities listed, those are the ones that I would likely choose. Feat-wise, Weapon Finesse (Mythic), Deceitful (Mythic), Weapon Focus (Mythic), Iron Will (Mythic), and Rhetorical Flourish (Mythic) would be my selections.

And there you have it; a super-schmoozing kitsune who is bound to annoy the heck out of your players! What do you think? Would you, as a player, use this build or is the utter lack of combat focus bothersome to you? What do you think of the Master Spy prestige class? Personally, I think that it is completely worth it for a rogue at the cost of two feats and one sneak attack die. How would you use a character like this against your PCs? Leave your answers, comments, and questions below and I’ll see you next week for the next Iconic Design!

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 master spy, and he adores the Realistic Likeness feat for all of its transformative cheesiness.

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3 thoughts on “Meet Mr. Face Man

  1. I’m sorry, but builds like this are nothing less than disruptive to the game. If a player wanted to use this build, he’s almost completely ineffectual in combat, so he’s going to be little more than a bag of HP in a fight. As a player, I would despise this persons character because he’s not contributing. As a GM, I would have to tone down encounters because I know that one of the party can’t really contribute.

    At the same time, I also know that come time for social encounters there is, nearly, nothing I can do to challenge this guy. As a player, this guy could just spread rumors that completely destabilizes a kingdom, sowing mass chaos and discontent. So unless you’re intending for that type of game, this character is just going to annihilate any type of social encounter.

    If this guy were thrown against me as a player, I would find it very unfun. Unless I’m a character who is great at social encounters, this guy will defeat me, socially, at every turn, leaving me with little more than the brute force approach of, basically, murdering this guy.

    Honestly, a character like this is so unfun, for me, that I would walk from the table. I don’t want to spend hours of a session running around in circles because the GM unleashed a guy that so badly dominates social encounters, that there is nothing we can do to beat him. Anytime we lose track of him for more than six seconds, he just changes to someone else and now we can’t find him. One of my GM’s tried this in a game we played years ago, to the point the party developed a code word system that we changed all the time. If someone didn’t answer the code word correctly, then, no matter what was going on, we were to drop what we were doing and kill them immediately unless they spoke the code word. We were to even uphold this in case the *player* forgot the code word, as the GM tried this tactic too (he told the player to pretend he forgot the code word).

    This type of play gets real old, real fast, and leaves a sour taste in the mouth of those involved. It kind of even gets to the point where the players adopt the ‘orphan backstory’ approach of everyone playing neutral characters. Why? So they can kill such NPCs without ‘falling from good’ or something like that.

    It really doesn’t seem to add to the fun of anyone other than the GM who gets to sit back and smile evilly as he is ‘winning’ against the party. Same is true for the player with this type of character. Once he gets the mindblank ability, there is no divination spell the GM can throw for an NPC villain to discover this guy, so he can run around and sow unrepentant chaos in the GMs world and he, legitimately, has a hard time countering that without handwaiving it.

    Plus, the writing and crunch behind some things like this really are kind of odd. I always reference the Ninja when I bring this up, as his 20th level ability, Hidden Master, states he ‘cannot be detected by any means’. Some friends and I were joking around one day and realized that, per RAW, once the Ninja uses Hidden Master, the party has to stop communicating with him. If the Ninja stands in front of the Cleric and starts screaming, the Cleric can’t hear him, as that would be ‘detecting him’. Say the Ninja got knocked out due to an evil Cleric channeling negative energy, or something like that; the party won’t know because no one will know he’s been hurt and needs to be healed. I mean, if you were running down the hall and crashed into a Ninja using Hidden Master, you wouldn’t know it, because you couldn’t detect the fact you crashed into him.

    With the Master Spy, if he were to walk up to the kind and take over his persona, then no one, not even the King, would be able to tell the difference between himself and the Master Spy. Only a god could pierce his disguise.

    I guess I kind of ranted and rambled along here as I’m not entirely sure how to express how I feel for these kinds of classes/builds. They just really, really frustrate me as they. ultimately, serve no purpose other than to screw with PCs, or to annoy the GM, because the Master Spy is ‘untouchable’.

    • Some points:
      1) Hidden Master only applies while you’re invisible. It basically nullifies the need for Stealth checks and thwarts things that normally pierce invisibility. For the master spy, I’m not exactly sure which ability you’re talking about, because the “gods only” aspect of Assumption is only a blanket attempt against divinations that would normally root out the master spy from hiding.

      2) This build is most certainly not crippled in combat. As mentioned, it can still feint, allowing it to deal a bucket of sneak attack damage. About the only must-have feat this build doesn’t gain is a Power Attack ability. Having things like Iron Will actually makes this build a bit more durable than other rogue abilities that I’ve done and Master Spy itself progresses sneak attack at an acceptable rate. Its better to think of these special abilities replacing the rogue’s talents more than anything else. Is it the most powerful rogue build I’ve ever done? Goodness no, but to say that it can’t fight well at all is criminal.

      3) A fighter / paladin / barbarian can optimize to hit everything and do tons of damage. I don’t see why a rogue shouldn’t be able to optimize at social combat and deal tons of damage that way. This is a perfect example of how to make a rogue a useful character to a party; if you run a game with a healthy dose of social intrigue, this build is going to make you a beloved, valuable member of your PC’s party.

    • Also, nowhere in the entire Master Spy prestige class does it say that you can’t root out a Master Spy the good old fashioned way: with a monstrous Perception / Sense Motive skill check Inquisitors are great at this.

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