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    Default Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Introduction:
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    Many people, when looking at classes in D&D, consider them based on their role in combat. When it comes to rogues and other skill-based classes, this is a mistake, since the true role of the skill-monkey lies outside of combat. Remember how Bilbo killed Smaug in the surprise round? No, you don't, because he didn't. Bilbo's role versus Smaug was to reconnoiter him, scout out his weak points, and steal treasure from underneath his nose. Most of the fighting, he left to others.

    No, a skillmonkey's real asset is the ability to avoid a fight. Remember, you get just as much experience for sneaking past a guard as you do for killing it, and you get just as much loot from the villain if he's still alive at the end as if he's dead. A truly successful encounter, from the sneak's point of view, is one where the other side doesn't even know that there was an encounter.

    To this end, an optimized skillmonkey isn't built around d6s of Sneak Attack damage; as the name implies, e's built around the use of skills. What BAB is to a warrior, or spellcasting levels are to a caster, skill points are to a skillmonkey: Your first priority is to keep your ranks high. However, unlike BAB or spellcasting levels, if you fall behind in your skill investment, you can catch up again on later levels. This gives skill-based characters a great deal of flexibility in choosing class levels, unmatched by other character types. You can even afford a few levels of low-skill classes in your build, so long as you make up for them later.

    Skills:
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    As mentioned, the skillmonkey's most valuable abilities are his skills. Here's a discussion of some of the more useful ones.

    Balance: It's good to have five ranks in this, since without that, you're considered flat-footed while balancing. Beyond that, though, you'll probably have enough miscellaneous bonuses that you won't need more ranks.

    Bluff: A powerful social skill, and relatively unlikely to be nerfed by houserules. If you can make people believe what you want them to believe, you can make them do what you want them to do. Best suited for bards, due to Charisma synergy, the Glibness spell, and other social-enhancing abilities.

    Diplomacy: How useful this is depends on what houserules your DM has in place for it (and almost all DMs will have some houserules). By RAW, a second-level marshal/binder can make Asmodeus, lord of the Nine Hells, his best friend in single round of using this skill. So don't do that, because that's only fun for about three seconds, and then everyone has to roll up a new campaign. If you have some more reasonable rules for it, though, it might be worthwhile. Again, like Bluff, this is best used by a bard.

    Disable Device: There are many ways, available to many different classes, for dealing with traps. Most of them, however, involve setting them off, which is sometimes a Very Bad Idea. Disable Device is for when you don't want the entire dungeon to know that you're getting past the impaling spikes, deadfalls, and giant rolling boulder.

    Disguise: Best used in conjunction with Bluff. Impersonation can get you anywhere, if you impersonate the right person.

    Forgery: Like Bluff, except for when you're communicating in writing, not face-to-face. If you ever need to deal with an entire army, this is how.

    Hide: Like invisibility, only better. It's just a DC 20 Spot check to notice the presence of an invisible creature, and you can get your Hide check up much higher than that. Plus, there are plenty of magical means to negate invisibility, but very few to negate Hide.

    Knowledge: Can be very useful, but the party spellcasters are probably already covering the Knowledge skills pretty well.

    Listen: Every character with access to Listen or Spot should max out at least one of them, so as not to fall into ambushes. There are some situations where one is useful but not the other, so it's not a bad idea to max both.

    Move Silently: Goes along with Hide. There are very few magical effects which can replace Move Silently at all: The cleric's Silence spell, for instance, silences more than just you, so you might give yourself away by the cessation of ambient noise.

    Open Lock: Can be partially replaced by the Knock spell, but sometimes, you want to be able to open a large number of locks, which costs a lot in spell slots or wand charges. I would recommend investing enough to be able to hit a DC 40 in an antimagic field using improvised tools, but the DCs stop scaling after that.

    Search: Use in conjunction with Disable Device to deal with traps. Also use to find hidden doors, or anything else others don't want you to find.


    Sleight Of Hand: This used to be called "Pick Pockets" in earlier editions, and that's still its primary use. Most foes become a lot less menacing when suddenly, they don't have a weapon, or spell component pouch, or holy symbol, or magic items. Can also be used to do other things with your hands that you don't want others seeing. This will effectively be your primary "attack", or way of doing bad things to enemies.


    Spot: See Listen. In addition to defeating stealth, this skill is also used against Disguise and Sleight of Hand.

    Survival: Useful if you have the Track feat. Otherwise, skip it.

    Tumble: Trained-only, so it's good to have one rank in it. But you probably won't need much more than that.

    Use Magic Device: If you're basing your build around UMD, you should probably just save yourself a bunch of gold and play a caster instead. But it opens up a lot of options for enhancing your existing abilities, so shouldn't be skipped.

    Use Rope:Very useful, but all the DCs are low. You probably don't need even a single point in it.

    Autohypnosis (XPH): Can save you from some bad situations, if you max it. If you're not maxing it, though, you might as well just rely on your saving throws, just like everyone else.

    Iajitsu Focus (OA): If Oriental Adventures is allowed in your game, and you can get Iajitsu Focus as a class skill (as, for instance, through Factotum or Exemplar), it can give you a lot of damage, which also works on objects. Many DMs disallow it, though, since it was never updated to 3.5.

    Skill tricks (CScoun): Not precisely skills, but you use skill points to get them. A skill trick is like a mini-feat, that gives you some new capability, or allows you to use a skill in a different way. They're especially important if you take the Uncanny Trickster PrC, which both requires them as a prerequisite, and gives you bonus tricks.
    Use Psionic Device (XPH): See UMD. However, in most campaign settings, magic is more common than psionics, and there will be a larger variety of spells than of powers, so UMD is more useful.

    Ability scores:
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    Strength: This is your dump stat. Strength is used for three things: Attack rolls, damage rolls, and carrying capacity. For those times you do end up in combat, you'll probably be using Dex for your attack rolls instead of Str (through Weapon Finesse or ranged weapons), and any Str bonus to damage will probably be insignificant compared to your precision damage. Meanwhile, for carrying capacity, you'll eventually be using a Heward's Handy Haversack, and before you get one of those, a pack mule only costs 8 GP.

    Dexterity: This is the traditional skillmonkey's primary score. Many of your most important skills are based on Dex, and it also helps keep you alive. Some class features can reduce the importance of Dex, however.

    Constitution: Everyone loves Con, of course, but if anyone can afford to skimp a bit on it, it's you. The rogue's primary defense lies in avoiding being targeted in the first place.

    Intelligence: This is the key score for Search and Disable Device. More importantly, it also impacts the number of skill points you get. For most rogue builds, Int should be your second-highest score. If you have any Factotum or Beguiler levels, it should be your highest.

    Wisdom: Few of your skills are based on Wis, and unless you're a ninja, swordsage, or cloistered cleric, none of your class features are Wis-dependent, either. Still, it adds to Listen, Spot, and Will saves, so it's not a complete waste.

    Charisma: How important Cha is depends on how much you focus on social skills: If you make heavy use of Bluff, Disguise, etc., it's great, but you can also make a perfectly viable sneak with Cha in the cellar. If you have any Marshal in your build, though, its importance surpasses Dex, due to its use in minor auras.

    Races:
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    Elf: The basic High Elf has a dexterity bonus and automatically makes Search checks for secret doors, and that's about all it has going for it. The Grey Elf, from the Monster Manual, also gets an Int bonus, which makes it worth considering, but there are still usually better choices.

    Gnome: They really ought to get a racial bonus to Disable Device and Open Lock, but don't. On the bright side, they're small, which offers several advantages for a skillmonkey (most notably, a +4 to Hide). See also the Whisper Gnome, below.

    Goblin: Similar in many ways to halflings, goblins also get Darkvision, a full 30 foot speed, and a larger bonus to Move Silently. The drawback is a -2 to Charisma, and being despised in most civilized lands. I wouldn't recommend one in a game with a lot of social interaction, but in a straight dungeon crawl, go for it.

    Halfling: Small size, a bonus to your most important ability score, a penalty to your least important, racial bonuses to some useful skills, and rogue as favored class. This is probably your best choice for a core-only game. The only drawback is their lack of low-light vision or darkvision, meaning they'll need to carry a light source in dark areas. See also the Strongheart Halfling, below.

    Human: Humans are good for any character type. The bonus feat is very nice, of course, but they also get a bonus skill point every level, which is even better for us. They also qualify for the Able Learner feat, which opens up many options for a skillmonkey.

    Pixie: The +4 LA hurts, but the hefty ability score bonuses, invisibility, and flight just might be enough to make up for it in some builds.

    Brownie (web): Like pixies, a fey with 4 LA. They can't fly or turn invisible, but they have even better ability modifiers, tiny size, better SLAs, and a very nice version of Hide in Plain Sight.

    Changeling (ECS): Their racial disguise ability is very useful for a socially-focused character, and they get some very nice rogue racial substitution levels. If Eberron material is allowed, the all-around best race for intrigue.

    Dark template (ToM): Can be added to anything. Has a LA of 1, but unlike many templates, it's well worth it. Hide in Plain Sight would almost be enough to justify it, but it also gives huge bonuses to Hide and Move Silently, Low-Light and Darkvision, a speed increase, and some cold resistance. Do note that the version of Hide in Plain Sight granted by this template does not remove the need for concealment (though that may be an oversight; check with your DM).

    Gloura (Underdark): An ECL of 9, which puts them out of reach of low-level campaigns, but most of that is fey RHD, which give good skill points, and they get full Bard casting. The 2 LA buys you nice bonuses to Cha and Dex, plus damage reduction, flight, and Unearthly Grace like a nymph, and if you're using level adjustment buyoff from Unearthed Arcana, you can eventually be rid of the entire LA.

    Illumian (RoD): Illumians don't get a lot of love, but their power sigils can give them a bonus to a great many different skills. They also count as humans, giving them access to Able Learner (but not the normal human bonus feat and skill points).

    Strongheart Halfling (FRCS): All the advantages of a regular halfling, but with an extra feat, too. 'Nuff said.

    Whisper Gnome (RoS): The absolute best race for stealth. Small size, a large bonus to Move Silently and Hide (in addition to the size bonus), a racial bonus to Dex, Silence as a spell-like ability, low-light and darkvision (so no need for a light source), full speed, and rogue as a favored class. Their charisma penalty hurts for social skills, but otherwise, an excellent race.

    The Smallest Giant Ever (ECS, XPH): A trick that can permanently and undispellably turn a giant Fine-sized, and shift ability scores heavily from Str to Dex. All giants have LA, but a mere +1 from Half-Giant is by far worth it. Of course, most DMs won't allow this, but if you're playing in a sufficiently high-cheese game, it's hard to imagine a better option.

    Class abilities:
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    This section covers some common class abilities you'll often get for skill-focused characters, either incidentally, or from seeking them out.

    Concealment: Several different class abilities grant you the concealment you need to be able to hide, or bypass the need for concealment. This gives you the option of walking right up to your mark, without worrying about whether there's anything to hide behind.

    Evasion: If you're having to make a saving throw, something's probably gone wrong already. Still, things do go wrong sometimes, so evasion is a nice insurance policy. It doesn't particularly relate to skills, beyond the fact that skillful classes often get it for free. Don't go out of your way to get the Improved version, though, since it only makes a difference when you fail a save, and your Reflex saves should be extremely high.

    Hide in Plain Sight: There are at least six different versions of this ability, each of which applies in slightly different situations. But all of them let you use your Hide skill when you otherwise wouldn't be able. Since Hide is one of the most powerful skills available, this is something you really want to get.

    Precision damage: As mentioned above, your primary role is not combat. However, many skillful classes end up getting some form of precision damage (sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike) anyway, and many folks enjoy throwing large numbers of d6s. The easiest way to optimize for precision damage is to dip into many different classes which gain it at first level. For instance, a rogue 1/spellthief 1/psychic rogue 1/ninja 1/scout 1/assassin 1 would be dealing 6d6 points of extra damage at level 6. Also useful is some means of doing things other than damage with your attacks, such as the Spellthief's magic-stealing abilities, the Crippling Strike rogue ability, or the ambush feats from Complete Scoundrel.

    Skill Mastery: At mid to high levels, you need to consider worst-case scenarios for your skill checks, since if you can fail, eventually you will, and the consequences for failure can be severe or even lethal. Taking 10 on a skill check increases the worst-case scenario result by 9 points, making it almost as worthwhile as +9 to your skills.

    Trapfinding: Essential for filling your primary role, and fortunately very easy to get, with many skillful classes gaining it at first level. You're likely, in fact, to pick it up multiple times, so you may want to trade out the extras for alternate class features, if available.

    Classes:
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    Base:
    Bard: Probably the best base class for a socially-oriented build. All of the social skills are in-class, you have Cha synergy with your spellcasting, and you have a variety of spells and class features (like Glibness and Fascinate) to enhance and complement your skill usage. But you also get a broad enough skill list that you don't have to just take social skills.

    Expert: You obviously wouldn't choose Expert over a standard class. But if you have to take an NPC class for some reason, Expert at least gives a decent number of skill points and a class skill list as good as you like. You might conceivably take Expert if there's some rarely-used skill you want to max, and it's not on the skill list of any allowed class, but I have a hard time thinking of a specific situation.

    Racial hit dice: In general, racial hit dice will hurt most characters, but Outsider, Dragon, and Fey RHD are all reasonable for a thief, since they all give a good number of skill points (class skills vary). Most races of those types come with LA attached, though.

    Ranger: If you want high skills and BAB both, this is the easiest way to get them. The skill list is so-so, though: You get the stealth and awareness skills, but none of the social or trap skills. A highlight of the class at high levels is the Camouflage and Hide in Plain Sight abilities, both (ex), which let you hide regardless of cover or who's watching, so long as you're in natural terrain.

    A powerful variant from Unearthed Arcana gives up the combat style feats for a limited form of Wildshape, which opens up many options. Another variant from Dungeonscape trades the ranger's tracking abilities for Trapfinding and Disable Device.

    Rogue: The standard Core skillmonkey, you get access to all of the most important skills and a nearly unrivaled 8 points per level. The dead level at 20 is a peculiar design flaw, but not relevant in most games, and at any rate you still get your skill points. Still, you'll likely want to dip at least one level in Shadowdancer or some other useful class.

    An interesting variant on the class is the Wilderness Rogue, from Unearthed Arcana, which shifts the class skill list to a bit more like the ranger's, and adds a few special ability options. Notably, the wilderness rogue can get the ranger's version of Hide in Plain Sight four levels earlier than the ranger himself can.

    Sorcerer/Wizard: Spells, of course, open up many options for a character, but sorcerer and wizard both get a fairly bland skill list, and a base of only two points per level. If you go this route, you'll want to go into Unseen Seer as soon as possible.

    Beguiler (PHB2): This is the simplest option for combining skills with spellcasting. You get all of the important skills, 6 skill points per level, and trapfinding, in addition to full spellcasting. Your spells are all fairly similar (mostly illusions and enchantments), but you can pick freely between them, and they include many of the most useful out-of-combat spells, making Beguiler a very solid option for handling intrigue. If you go Beguiler, you'll probably want to stick with the class for all twenty levels, or at most a one-level dip in something else, since almost any multiclassing will mean sacrificing spells, skill points, or both.

    Binder (ToM), Dragonfire Adept (DrM), Warlock (CArc): The unlimited-use nature of these classes' abilities may appeal to many of the same players as skillmonkey characters. Unfortunately, they each only have 2 skill points per level, and there's no good way to advance any of them with high skills. So unless you're using a homebrew or Gestalt rules, you should probably set these aside.

    Cloistered Cleric (UnArc): This variant of the cleric gives up some combat ability in exchange for getting six skill points a level and other abilities. Unfortunately, aside from all Knowledge skills, it's still got the same skill list as a standard cleric. You can either pick up class skills from domains such as Trickery or Kobold, or dip a more conventional skillmonkey class and take the Able Learner feat.

    Factotum (Dun): Perhaps the best skillmonkey class in any book. All skills (including the odd ones like Autohypnosis and Iajitsu Focus) are class skills, and once per day per skill, you can add your class level as a bonus to a skill check. At third level, you get your Int bonus to all Str and Dex based skill and ability checks (including initiative checks), in addition to Str or Dex. The eighth level ability, Cunning Surge, lets you take extra standard actions in combat, which I personally think is too powerful. Unlike many, I do not actually recommend the Font of Inspiration feat: It's only really valuable if you take it many times, which cuts into the other feats available, and you won't be burning all that much inspiration if you don't use Cunning Surge.

    Incarnate (MoI): Like most primarily magic-based classes, the Incarnate only has two skill points per level, but they have a fairly flat power curve: Most of what a 20th-level incarnate can do, a first-level incarnate can do, too, just not all at once. And several of their soulmelds boost skills, so it's a good class to dip. Don't take more than one level, though, before switching to Umbral Disciple.

    Marshal (MiniHB): A single-level dip will get you a minor aura, which you can use to add your Charisma mod to yours and your allies' skills. Motivate Dexterity is of most use for a standard thief build, but Motivate Charisma is also good for a socially-oriented character. You might take as many as three levels, to get you a major aura (which isn't actually as good as the minor ones) and another minor, but with only four skill points and a lousy skill list, there's not much reason to take it any further than that.

    Ninja (CAdv): Much like a rogue. The Ninja's variety of precision damage, Sudden Strike, isn't quite as good as Sneak Attack, and they get two fewer skill points per level, but in return, they get a variety of class features useful for avoiding detection (invisibility and spell resistance versus scrying), a Wisdom-based bonus to AC, and a few other benefits.

    Psion (XPH): Like spellcasting, psionics adds options. Like most spellcasters, they also only get two skill points per level, so you'll want to go into Slayer and/or Elocator as soon as possible.

    Psychic Rogue (web): With six skill points, Trapfinding, a good skill list, and special abilities similar to the rogue's at high level, the psychic rogue has the skillmonkey basics covered. They don't get very much manifesting, but their class power list covers most of the useful powers for their role, and you're not giving up much to gain them. Having access to psionics also opens up several other options. A solid choice.

    Scout (CAdv): A wilderness-themed character, the Scout gets a full 8 skill points per level. Their class skill list is good (note that Disable Device was added in errata), but they're notably missing any Charisma-based skills, including Use Magic Device. Their precision damage is based on mobility rather than sneakery, and they also have several of the ranger's special abilities (including Camouflage and Hide in Plain Sight).

    Spellthief (CAdv): A very peculiar class. They have most of the skills of a rogue and Trapfinding, but most of the rest of their class features are based on magic, not on skill use. They can steal magic from others, and can eventually cast a little of their own. They're quite versatile if you have other casters in the party they can borrow spells from, or if you face spellcasting opponents often, but otherwise, there are probably better choices.

    Swordsage (ToB): The Swordsage gets six skill points a level and enough good skills to spend them on (though they're missing several good ones, and don't have Trapfinding). The primary reason to take the class, though, is the maneuvers, melee abilities similar to spells which are mostly useful in combat. They're probably the best of the skillmonkey classes at fighting, and some of their maneuvers are useful out-of-combat, too.

    Prestige:

    Arcane Trickster: As a great Mon Calamari once said, "It's a trap!" (and you should have been able to notice that, seeing as you have Trapfinding). A rogue-based class that gives full Sneak Attack progression but only four skill points per level is like a wizard-based class that gives full familiar advancement but only half spellcasting. For a wizard/rogue hybrid, the class you're looking for is the Unseen Seer. The only situation I would recommend this class is if you can qualify as a spellthief, since they can actually do something useful with their Sneak Attack dice.

    Assassin: Good skill set, reasonable number of points, special abilities that mesh well with sneakiness, and a smattering of spells, this is the best rogue prestige class you'll find in the core rules. You'll always want to have a back-up plan for your death attack, though, since the save DC doesn't end up being all that high. The alignment restriction is problematic, since most PCs are non-evil, but that can be changed easily enough with DM cooperation, as illustrated by the Avenger

    Shadowdancer: The best non-evil prestige class in the core books. In a core-only game, a one-level dip is worthwhile for a rogue to pick up Hide in Plain Sight. Once you start adding splatbooks, though, there are enough other worthwhile feats to take that the prereqs start looking pretty onerous, and there are enough other ways to get Hide in Plain Sight that it's not worthwhile any more. The higher-level abilities mostly just give you what you already have, so even core-only, there's little reason to take more than one.

    Chameleon (RoD): Unmatched versatility. If you're going to dip into this class, the logical jumping-off point is level 2, when you get the changeable bonus feat. This can, for instance, be used on Open Minded, to be trained in a different skill every day. You also get spellcasting, which can come from any class list, and eventually boosts to your ability scores. It only gives four skill points, though. Just as a note, the Adapatation section at the end specifically says that the class (and the Able Learner feat) should also be allowed for changelings, if you're using them, for the ultimate in day-to-day mutability.

    Elocator (XPH): The class of choice for combining psionic and skillful base classes. You lose a couple of manifester levels, but the skills stay good. You also get a variety of mobility-related abilities, which may make Scout a better base class to work from than Rogue.

    Exemplar (CAdv): The class for anyone who's really, really good at some skill. The number of skill points (8) and the class skill list (all of them) both can't be beat. The prerequisites are easy, though relatively high-level. The biggest reason to take this class is Skill Mastery at level 1, but you also get a fair number of other skill-related abilities. Skill Artistry gives you a +4 bonus to one or more skills, but it's a competence bonus, so isn't all that useful. And the Persuasive Performance ability at level 4 can be used either for horrible game-breaking, or for flavorful fun, depending on what skill you use it with.

    Heir of Siberys (ECS): All class skills from any of your classes remain class skills for Heir of Siberys, but you only get 2 points per level. The real reason to take this class, though, is that at 2nd level, if you choose the Mark of Sentinel, you can get Mind Blank 1/day (or other spells from other marks, but those aren't as useful to a thief). The third and final level gives another use of it, but that's not really needed, since Mind Blank lasts all day.

    [Illithid] Slayer (XPH): This class has a lot going for it, but what we're most interested in is the 6th-level ability, Cerebral Blind. Good stealth skills combined with the Darkstalker feat can make you effectively immune to nonmagical detection; Cerebral Blind covers the magical side. Unfortunately, it only gives four skill points per level, but you can't have everything. In the Expanded Psionic Handbook, this class is called the Illithid Slayer, and includes a prerequisite that you kill an illithid one-on-one, but for copyright reasons the version on the SRD removes illithids both from the requirements and the name.

    Umbral Disciple (MoI): You don't strictly need a level of Incarnate to enter this class, but it makes it much more worthwhile. You gain some extra essentia to power soulmelds, while also gaining six skill points a level and a solid skill list. You also get assorted shadow-related abilities, the best of which is Embrace of Shadow, at 3rd, which gives you both concealment and Hide in Plain Sight.

    Uncanny Trickster (CScoun): This class has two things going for it. On the one hand, it gives you bonus skill tricks, which are of course useful. More importantly, though, it lets you advance some other class's features while maintaining 8 skill points per level and a roguelike skill list. This provides an excellent way to incorporate non-skillful classes into a build.

    Unseen Seer (CMage): This is what Arcane Trickster should have been. Like Arcane Trickster, Unseen Seer gives full spellcasting advancement, but the entry requirements are much more flexible, and it gives six skill points per level. You also get to add divination spells from other classes to your list. The only real drawback is that some key skills are missing from the class skill list, such as Open Locks and Disable Device.
    Last edited by Chronos; 2009-04-24 at 11:34 PM.
    Time travels in divers paces with divers persons.
    As You Like It, III:ii:328

    Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide
    Current Homebrew: Blood Warrior Shadow Rider

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Feats:
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    Improved Initiative: Going first in combat is useful for anyone, but it's especially useful when you have class abilities that are based on the enemy being flat-footed. Remember, a combatant is flat-footed until he takes his first action in combat, which isn't until his initiative count.

    Nimble Fingers: One of many core feats which gives +2 each to a pair of skills, Nimble Fingers is only worth mentioning because its bonus applies to two of the more useful ones. In an all-books environment, there are better things to get than a small static bonus, but there's frankly not much competition in core.

    Silent Spell: If you're planning on casting spells, this is a very good idea. Not only will you not break your stealth with a silent spell, but you can cast within any Silence spell you may have put up.

    Skill Focus: If +2 to two different skills isn't worthwhile, then +3 to a single one probably isn't, either. But Skill Focus often shows up as a prerequisite or bonus feat, and it at least gives you some benefit.

    Stealthy: See Nimble Fingers. Hide and Move Silently are also both good skills, but there are better ways to spend a feat.

    Two-Weapon Fighting: Having lots of bonus damage makes it a good idea to get in as many attacks as possible. This isn't a bad feat to take if you've already gotten all you need for your non-combat role.

    Weapon Finesse: Your Dex is probably much higher than your Str, so if you plan on fighting in melee, this feat will be very useful.

    Able Learner (RoD): This feat lets you buy cross-class skill points at normal cost, instead of double. Maximum ranks in a skill, meanwhile, depends only on whether it's a class skill for any of your classes, so with this feat, if something's once a class skill, it's always a class skill. This can make some multiclass combinations a lot more viable.

    Bonus Essentia (MoI): If you're dabbling at all in Incarnum, this will give your soulmelds and other essentia-powered abilities more oomph. The various incarnum feats can also be used for this purpose, but they lack flexibility.

    Craven (CoR): The best feat out there for optimizing Sneak Attack. If you have any Sneak Attack at all, this feat will add one damage for every character level (even levels in classes without SA). Further, since it's a fixed bonus instead of dice, it also gets multiplied by crits and the like.

    Darkstalker (LoM): If you could only take one feat, this would be it. You want to be able to sneak past all senses, not just sight and hearing. This feat makes you just as hard to smell, echolocate, or the like as it is to see or hear you.

    Deadly Precision (XPH): This might look tempting at first, but even if you're making precision damage a priority, it's still lousy. The average damage increase due to this feat works out to less than 0.42 points per die, about a fifth of the benefit from Craven.

    Greater Manyshot (XPH): Lets you make multiple attacks with precision damage attached, while still moving in the round. If you want to throw a lot of d6s, this isn't a bad way to do it.

    Martial Study (ToB): Lets you add a maneuver from the Tome of Battle to your book of tricks, without needing any levels in an initiator class. It might be easier just to take a level of Swordsage, though. See the Sublime Maneuvers section, under Magic, below.

    Master Spellthief (CScoun): It may seem tempting to take a single level of Spellthief with this feat, but it doesn't give you as much as it might seem. It advances the level of spell you can steal, but not the level of spell you can store and subsequently use yourself. So a Spellthief 1/other class X with this feat can't make use of a stolen spell of any level higher than 1st. It could still be worthwhile if you're taking more levels of Spellthief, though.

    Nymph's Kiss (BoED): This feat gives you two benefits, either of which would be worth the feat by itself. First, it gives you an extra skill point at every level, and second, it gives a +2 to all of your Cha-based skills. If your DM will let you take this at first level, by all means go for it. Many DMs won't waive the requirement, or let you write a fey significant other into your starting backstory, which may rule this feat out, but if you do ever get the opportunity to take it, do so as soon as possible, because the extra skill points aren't retroactive.

    Obtain Familiar (CArc): Familiars are fun for everyone, but they're extremely valuable for a skillmonkey, if you can qualify for one. A familiar has all of your skill ranks, which means that you effectively add another skillmonkey character to your party. It can serve as a lookout or second-story-critter, or if nothing else can use Aid Another to give you a free +2 to almost all of your own skill checks. Plus, of course, it gives you Alertness, and some other benefit depending on the creature chosen.

    Open Minded (XPH, CAdv): A fairly straightforward feat, which gives you five skill points to spend however you'd like. And you can always use more of those.

    Practiced Manifester (CPsi), Practiced Spellcaster (CArc): If you're dabbling in a magical or psionic class, these feats are good for bringing your caster or manifester level up a bit. Practiced Manifester is particularly useful, since it increase how much you can augment a power, and has the side effect of increasing your number of power points.

    Psicrystal Affinity (XPH): See Obtain Familiar. Psicrystal Affinity has the advantage of being slightly easier to qualify for, but the disadvantage that a little crystal with spindly legs is a lot more ridiculous than an animal that follows you around. You might want to ask your DM if you can re-fluff this one.

    Psymbiot (CPsi): Gives a +2 untyped bonus to all skill checks (and ability checks, and saves) so long as you're psionically focused and there's another psionic creature near you. If you can qualify for this feat, and there's another psionic character in your party, this feat is a no-brainer (or is that a two-brainer?). Otherwise, of course, it won't do you much good.

    Quick Reconnoiter (CAdv): Lets you actively look and listen for things as a free action, once per round, plus also gives you a bonus to initiative, which is always useful.

    Savvy Rogue (CScoun): If you have rogue special abilities, this makes them better, and if you get more special abilities, it applies to the new ones, too. Great if you're sticking with rogue for most of your levels, but not so much help if you're multiclassed.

    Shape Soulmeld (MoI): Lets you pick up a soulmeld, without needing any levels in Incarnate. Some melds are well worth a feat, and you can power them up further if you have any essentia. See Soulmelds, under Magic, below.

    Magic:
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    A note: There are many spells which are just plain great for anyone. I'm not listing these here; refer to any of the perennial "What's your favorite spell" threads or your favorite wizard guide for those. This section is dedicated to those spells and other magical options which work particularly well for skillmonkeys, due to synergy with skills or other class features.
    Spells:
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    Acid Splash: An easy way to get ranged touch attacks to apply precision damage to, and since it's a 0th-level spell, wands of it are cheap.

    Antimagic Field: Most of the nifty things other characters do depend on magic. Most of the nifty things you do don't. So if you can arrange to have an antimagic field up, you have an edge.

    Blur: You need concealment to hide, and this spell gives you concealment. It's better than Invisibility, since you can keep it if you attack, and it's better than Improved Invisibility, since it's lower-level and therefore cheaper.

    Cat's Grace: Improves Dex, and therefore improves Dex-based skills. It's an enhancement bonus, though, which means it's rendered obsolete at higher levels by Gloves of Dexterity.

    Detect Magic: Interesting things in D&D tend to be magical, so this spell lets you find interesting things. This could mean easily noticing a magical trap, or picking out the best loot at a glance.

    Detect Poison: Like Detect Magic, can be used to find some traps, since many traps involve poison of some form.

    Disguise Self: Together with a few ranks in Disguise, you can realistically fool even intimate associates.

    Find Traps: If you don't have the Trapfinding class feature already, this will give it to you. More importantly, it also gives up to a +10 insight bonus on your search checks.

    Glibness: A +30 bonus on Bluff is an almost guaranteed success, even for preposterous claims. Best of all, it's untyped, which means that it stacks with all other bonuses.

    Grease: Creatures in a Greased area must make balance checks, and anyone with less than 5 ranks in balance is considered flat-footed while doing so. This is good if you want to Sneak Attack them.

    Heroism/Greater Heroism: A +2 or +4 morale bonus to many different things, including skill checks. Not the most powerful buff, but a very versatile one.

    Hide from Animals: Many animals have Scent, and many also have decent Listen/Spot scores, so enemies might use trained animals to try to detect thieves. If you don't have Darkstalker, this is a good way to avoid them, since it stops all forms of detection.

    Invisibility/Greater Invisibility: Very useful at low levels, but at high levels, you can do better with just plain Hide. Remember, it's only a DC 20 Spot check to notice the presence of an invisible creature. That still doesn't tell anyone precisely who or where you are, but you'd rather they didn't know you were there at all. For best results, combine invisibility with Hide, since it gives a +20 to your check.

    Knock: Opens locks. Its main limitations, compared to the skill, are that the skill can be used as many times as needed, and can be used in antimagic zones. On the other hand, the spell doesn't require a roll.

    Mage Hand: Can be used to grab a key off of a hook out of your reach, or to unlock a door from the other side, or sneak something off of a shelf while someone isn't paying attention. Not the most powerful spell in the world, but that's why it's a cantrip.

    Magic Aura: Perfect for a thief who doesn't want to light up like a Christmas tree under Detect Magic or similar. Magical auras always draw attention, and you don't want attention.

    Mind Blank: Near-total protection against divinations, which can prevent your sneakery from being magically discovered. Unfortunately, it's high level, so it's probably out of reach unless you're an Unseen Seer or your party's wizard is very free with his spell slots.

    Moment of Prescience: Another high-level spell, but which can be used to gain a very large bonus to a single check. Good if you have to be absolutely sure you'll succeed.

    Nondetection: Effectively provides spell resistance versus detection and location magic. It's only a 50-50 chance of protection versus an equal-level caster, but it's better than nothing.

    Produce Flame: Another touch attack usable with precision damage. If you get it at a higher caster level than 1st, it can be used to make ranged touch full attacks. Since the flames are thrown, it also gets the halfling's bonus to thrown weapons.

    Reduce Person: An excellent buff, for you. You gain dex, an additional bonus to Hide checks, AC, and attack rating, all of an uncommon bonus type (size), so it stacks with almost everything else.

    Ray of Frost: Another cheap ranged-touch attack. Acid Splash is usually better, since it doesn't allow spell resistance, and fewer things resist acid, but some things do resist acid, or are vulnerable to cold. Heck, they're cheap, get a wand of each.

    Shrink Item: This spell has many, many uses, but the two most relevant to us here are smuggling out stolen items, and smuggling in useful tools.

    Silence: Completely stops all sound. The biggest disadvantage is that you can't customize the shape, so you might give yourself away if someone notices the sudden absence of background noise. One way to mitigate this is to cast it on the end of a 14-foot long rope, and drag it behind you. A nice side effect of this spell is that spells with verbal components can't be cast in an area of magical silence, so it can cripple spellcasters.

    Divine Agility (SC): This spell provides an enhancement bonus, which is disappointing, but at +10, it's larger than you'll get from any other source, so it's still worthwhile.

    Divine Insight (SC): An insight bonus of up to +15 on any skill check is very good for a second-level spell, and it can be cast long before it's needed.

    Guidance of the Avatar (web): A competence bonus, and it only affects one check, but it can apply to any skill, so it's versatile.

    Improvisation (SC): Gives a luck bonus of up to half your caster level on four skill checks (or other rolls), at the price of a mere first-level spell. Unfortunately, the duration is very short, so you have to know when you'll need it.

    Voice of the Dragon (SC): A +10 bonus to Diplomacy, Bluff, and Intimidate is invaluable for a socially-oriented character. And, most unusually for a spell which boosts skills, it's an enhancement bonus, so it'll stack with most other effects.


    Psionic powers (XPH):
    Spoiler
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    Note: I'm not including any powers in this listing which are just psionic versions of spells listed above. If a spell is good, assume the corresponding power is, too.

    Animal Affinity: Like Cat's Grace and related spells, this gives you a boost to ability scores, but it's more versatile, since the same power can affect any score. The only drawback is that you can only use it on yourself.

    Call to Mind: A nice boost to Knowledge checks, letting you re-attempt a re-try with a +4 bonus.

    Chameleon: The +10 bonus to Hide is nice; the fact that it's an enhancement bonus instead of competence is even nicer, since it stacks with most other bonuses.

    Compression: Similar to Reduce Person. The advantages to Compression are that it can be used with any creature type, and it can be augmented to shrink two size categories (doubling the bonuses). The disadvantages are that it can only be used on yourself, and (unless you augment it) it's shorter duration.

    Concealing Amorpha: Like Blur, this gives you concealment, enabling you to hide. Unlike Blur, it's not an illusion, which makes it a little less vulnerable to some forms of detection.

    Control Light: Dimming the ambient light gives a bonus to Hide checks. It's only +4, but it's a circumstance bonus, so it always stacks.

    Control Sound: In addition to giving yourself a circumstance bonus to Move Silently, you can also use this power to create a distraction or mislead someone.

    Escape Detection: Similar to Nondetection, but personal only.

    Personal Mind Blank: Just like Mind Blank, but because it's personal-only, it's slightly cheaper.

    Precognition/Greater Precognition: Gives you a +2 or +4 insight bonus to a single skill check or other roll, and can be cast some time in advance.


    Soulmelds (MoI):
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    Disenchanter Mask: To the extent that Detect Magic is good, having a continual Detect Magic always active is also good. But there are other uses for your face soulmeld slot.

    Dissolving Spittle: An at-will ranged touch attack, which can be used to deliver precision damage.

    Enigma Helm: Nondetection isn't bad, but your meldshaper level is probably going to be too low to make this worth bothering with.

    Fellmist Robe: Provides concealment. The miss chance isn't very much without a lot of essentia, but that's not why we're interested in concealment, anyway.

    Great Raptor Mask: The bonus to Spot would be nice, but it's a competence bonus. Get Keeneye Lenses instead.

    Keeneye Lenses: Only gives a bonus to one skill (Spot), but it starts at +4, and it's an insight bonus.

    Kruthik Claws, Worg Pelt: These look very appealing at first glance, but don't bother. The bonus to Hide and Move Silently is a competence bonus, so it won't even stack with a Cloak and Boots of Elvenkind.

    Lucky Dice: The bonus provided by Lucky Dice can apply to almost anything, and it's a luck bonus, one of the less common types, but it's only +1. And it takes up the same slot as Theft Gloves. So don't bother unless you have absolutely no idea what you'll need.

    Necrocarnum Touch: If you're evil, this is an effective choice, since the +4 bonus to Sleight of Hand is the rare Profane type. Unfortunately, unlike most soulmelds, esssentia doesn't increase the bonus any further (instead giving you a touch attack).

    Silvertongue Mask: If you're planning on using social skills, the +2 insight bonus to Bluff and Diplomacy may come in handy.

    Strongheart Vest: It's a scientifically-proven fact that the thief is the member of the party most likely to get poisoned. Most poisons deal ability damage, and the Strongheart Vest decreases ability damage, so you don't end up like poor Black Leaf.

    Theft Gloves: A very useful meld, which gives an insight bonus to three of your important skills (Disable Device, Open Lock, and Sleight of Hand).

    Truthseeker Goggles: Insight bonus to Gather Information, Sense Motive, and Search. Good for social situations, or if you're expecting a lot of traps (pair with Theft Gloves for disarming them).


    Sublime maneuvers (ToB):
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    Assassin's Stance: Gives you +2d6 Sneak Attack. Many PrCs designed for rogues require SA; this is a good way to pick up some if you wouldn't otherwise have it in your build.

    Child of Shadow: Yet another way to gain concealment. It doesn't help you hide if you're being observed (you need Hide in Plain Sight for that), but it does grant the other benefits of concealment.

    Cloak of Deception: A swift action to become briefly invisible. It only lasts a round, but that might be enough to do whatever you need to do (such as get to a better hiding place).

    Island of Blades: Lets you and an ally count as flanking, as long as you're both adjacent to a foe, providing (among other benefits) an easy way to trigger Sneak Attack.

    Stalker in the Night: Lets you make an attack from hiding, while remaining hidden at no penalty.

    Last edited by Chronos; 2009-04-02 at 11:49 PM.
    Time travels in divers paces with divers persons.
    As You Like It, III:ii:328

    Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide
    Current Homebrew: Blood Warrior Shadow Rider

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    The Land of Cleves
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Items:
    Spoiler
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    Adamantine (special material): Keep at least one adamantine tool available, even if it's just a small knife, for cutting through barriers and the like.

    Amulet of Proof against Detection and Location: A nice thought, but by the time you can afford it, the CL is too low to provide any meaningful protection.

    Bag of Holding: The standard extradimensional space, for carrying more loot than your strength would allow. And you like loot, don't you?

    Boots of Elvenkind: Cheaper than Silent Moves armor, but they also take up a body slot, and can't be upgraded to a higher bonus. They might be a bit easier to find, though.

    Circlet of Persuasion: Provides a bonus to all of your Cha-based skills, but it's only +3. Worthwhile if you can't get any better competence bonus, and you use multiple Cha-based skills.

    Cloak of Elvenkind: Goes with the boots. Again, it's cheaper than shadow armor, but can't be upgraded to a higher bonus.

    Daggers, assorted: A light, finesseable weapon, which can be easily concealed, and can be wielded in melee or thrown. Keep several, so they won't all be found if you're searched, so you can keep on throwing them in a fight, and so you can bypass multiple kinds of damage reduction. Get one or two of them enchanted, possible with the Returning property.

    Disguise Kit: A mundane item to boost the effectiveness of your disguises.

    Dust of Disappearance: A very powerful form of invisibility, negated only by Dust of Appearance. You're taking a gamble on the duration, though.

    Dust of Tracelessness: For erasing evidence that you've been snooping about in an old tomb, abandoned dungeon, or the like. Not much use in a regularly-used area, though, unless you want to impugn the capabilities of the cleaning staff. Cheap enough to buy a few doses for the situations where you do want it.

    Elixir of Hiding, Elixir of Sneaking: Good for the occasional situation where you have to be stealthier than usual, if you can't yet afford good Shadow/Silent Moves armor. An individual dose is only 250 GP for each.

    Elixir of Vision: 250 GP will buy you an hour's peace of mind while searching for traps. Use it when your intuition tells you there's a trap, but you can't find it normally.

    Gloves of Dexterity: Boosting your dexterity is a simple way to boost most of your most important skills, as well as a few other benefits (AC, attack rolls, reflex saves).

    Glove of Storing: Like a small Bag of Holding, but much more easily accessed. Would be a very useful item, if it didn't take up the same slot as the essential Gloves of Dexterity. If you're getting items custom-made, consider getting both enchantments put on a glove.

    Goggles of Minute Seeing: A +5 competence bonus to Search, when used to find traps and other concealed objects. The price is half of normal for a +5 competence item, presumably because it doesn't cover all uses of the Search skill, but it's still good for the most important uses.

    Grappling Hook: Good for getting past walls, cliffs, and the like, which are often annoyingly in the way of you getting to treasure.

    Hand of the Mage: 900 GP is a bargain, for a useful cantrip at-will.

    [Heward's] Handy Haversack: Cheaper than the cheapest Bag of Holding, and also more convenient, since the item you're looking for is always on top. The drawback is that it's smaller, but it's still big enough to carry a great deal of equipment.

    Hat of Disguise: A cheap way to get a useful level 1 spell at will.

    Ioun Stone (pale green prism): Pricey and only gives a +1 bonus, but it applies to almost all rolls, and doesn't take up a body slot. Plus, having a crystal orbiting around your head is just cool. Go ahead and get one if you're rich.

    Lantern, bullseye: If you must have light, at least only have it in the direction that you need it. It's better to have darkvision, but that's not always an option.

    Lens of Detection: A +5 bonus to Search and Survival is pretty good, when it's an untyped bonus (and therefore stacks with everything).

    Luck Blade: The main reason to get one of these is the once/day re-roll of any single roll, in case a check goes badly against you. This ability works as long as you own it, even if it's stashed in your backpack, but you can also use it as a weapon. Get one without any Wishes, to keep the price down.

    Luckstone: The bonus granted is small, but it applies to almost everything, and it's a luck bonus, so it'll stack with most other bonuses. A slightly better deal than the ioun stone.

    Lyre of Building: Excellent for a bard, who can probably make the DC 18 Perform check effortlessly, to keep using it for as long as needed. Plus it gives you an excuse to say "We built this city on rock and roll".

    Magnifying Glass: Before you can afford a Lens of Detection, get the nonmagical version.

    Manual of Quickness of Action: Eventually, you'll probably want to permanently boost your dexterity.

    Mule: Before you can afford a Handy Haversack, buy a pack mule to carry your loot. You have a low strength, so only carry the things you'll need quickly or on short notice on your person.

    Portable Hole: The largest of the standard extradimensional storage spaces, a Portable Hole is practically a small room. It's significantly more expensive than a Bag of Holding, though.

    Ring of Chameleon Power: Can replace a Hat of Disguise, but rings are a very valuable body slot. The bonus to Hide is a competence bonus, and therefore won't stack with most other hiding equipment. There are better options.

    Ring of Invisibility: Would be useful, except that there's a relatively narrow window between when it becomes reasonably affordable and when True Seeing starts becoming a serious issue. Work on improving Hide, instead.

    Robe of Blending: A nice idea, but you can get the same bonus from shadow armor and a hat of disguise for cheaper, or a significantly better bonus for only a trace more expense.

    Rope, silk: As a great halfling once said, "Rope! I knew I'd want it, if I hadn't got it!". Silk instead of hemp is to cut down on weight.

    Scrolls of any of the useful spells listed above

    Shadow armor property: Up to a +15 competence bonus on Hide. It's a flat price, not an equivalent plus value, so it's effectively slotless

    Silent Moves armor property: Up to a +15 competence bonus on Move Silently. Like Shadow, a flat price.

    Staff of Size Alteration: Multiple useful spells, but nothing that you couldn't get from a wand. You're paying extra for caster level that you might not need.

    Studded Leather Armor, Masterwork: Relatively cheap, and has no armor check penalty. Get it enchanted with various magical properties, including Shadow and Silent Moves.

    Thieves' Tools, Masterwork: A cheap +2 bonus, that stacks with everything, to some of your most-used tools.

    Tome of Clear Thought: Permanent bonuses are especially important for Intelligence, since a temporary bonus won't increase your skill points gained at each level. This will.

    Tool, Masterwork: These are all subject to DM discretion. But ask if you can get a masterwork tool for all of the skills you use. You've got room for them in your Haversack.

    Wands of any of the useful spells listed above

    Camouflage Kit (CAdv): A masterwork tool for the Hide skill, which costs a mere 4 GP per use. It's not clear how long the bonus lasts, though.

    Choker of Eloquence (CAdv): A neckpiece which grants a +5 or +10 bonus on Diplomacy, Bluff, and Perform (Sing). Since it's a competence bonus, it won't stack with a Circlet of Persuasion.

    Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis (ToM): Grants the Dark template, for up to 10 minutes per day (10,800 GP) or continuously (22,000 GP). The template itself still has its uses, since it can't be taken away or dispelled, doesn't require a body slot, and works in an antimagic field. But if you don't already have the template, this is a great item to get.

    Crystal Mask of Insightful Detection: A decent-sized insight bonus to two different useful skills

    Dorjes (XPH) of any useful psionic powers

    Hidden blades (CScoun): Complete Scoundrel provides rules for hidden blades, if you didn't already houserule or abstract over how to do them.

    Longspoon thieves' tools, masterwork (CAdv): Lets you work from up to five feet away, thus hopefully avoiding many traps. If you get the masterwork version, the only drawback is that they take a little longer to use.

    Panic Button of Flexing (CScoun): Provides a +5 untyped bonus on all Dex-based skills, but only lasts for one round, and can only be used once. Probably not worth the 750 GP price, unless you're very desperate.

    Power Stones (XPH) of any useful psionic powers

    Ring, Filcher's Friend (CAdv): +5 competence bonus to Sleight of Hand checks involving metal, and can draw small metal objects towards it.

    Shadow Silk (special material) (ToM): A nonmagical armor material that gives a +2 untyped bonus to Hide and Move Silently. As if that wasn't enough, it's also extremely lightweight, and can automatically repair damage to itself. Yes, please. The only drawback is that it can't be used to make a chain shirt.

    Skin of the Chameleon (XPH): An unslotted item which gives +10 to hide. Like the Chameleon power, it's a rare enhancement bonus.

    Third Eye: Conceal (XPH): Continual Mind Blank is an obviously useful ability, since it protects you from magical information-gathering and other effects. It comes at a very steep price, though. Get one if you're rich and don't have any easier way of getting Mind Blank or the equivalent.


    Sample builds:
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    All of these builds are based on the assumption of 25-point-buy, that being the equivalent of the elite array or the 4d6 drop lowest method. If your stats differ from this (either via luck of the dice or a different point-buy value), scores can be adjusted.

    The Core-only thief:
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    Halfling (or goblin) rogue 12/shadowdancer 1/rogue 7
    Ability scores:
    Str 10
    Dex 16 plus all level-up points
    Con 12
    Int 14
    Wis 10
    Cha 11 (or 9, if goblin)

    Feats:
    1 Improved Initiative
    3 Stealthy
    6 Combat Reflexes
    9 Dodge
    12 Mobility
    15 Two-Weapon Fighting
    18 Quick Draw

    Special abilities:
    10 Skill Mastery (Disable Device, Hide, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand)
    14 Slippery Mind
    17 Defensive Roll
    20 Crippling Strike

    Combat Reflexes, Dodge, and Mobility are included solely as prerequisites for Shadowdancer. They're not too onerous, though, since most feats are only useful for combat, which we're trying to avoid, so there aren't very many we need to pick up in a core-only environment.

    At level 20, this build can reach bonuses of +43 to Hide, +41 Move Silently, +26 Search, +28 Disable Device, and +35 Sleight of Hand, assuming reasonable equipment, without needing to expend anything.

    With these starting scores, you'll probably want to buy a Tome of Leadership +1 to even out that Cha score.

    The Holy Roller:
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    Human ninja 1/cloistered cleric 19

    Ability scores:
    Str 8
    Dex 14
    Con 10
    Int 14
    Wis 16
    Cha 9

    Feats:
    H: Able Learner
    1: Darkstalker
    (six others)

    Domains:
    Knowledge
    (two others)

    The single level of Ninja gives you Trapfinding and all the standard skillmonkey skills as class skills, and the Able Learner feat means that they stay class skills (we could also have used Rogue, Scout, Beguiler, Factotum, or Spellthief for this). You'll be a little shorter on skill points than a straight rogue (9 total per level), but in return, you gain 19 levels of cleric spellcasting. In addition, you'll get your Wis mod (which any cleric should be getting as high as possible) added as a bonus to your AC.

    Able Learner is needed to make this build work, and Knowledge is a bonus domain from Cloistered Cleric; all other feats and domains are open to variation. You could pick up mostly roguish feats, or take metamagic feats like a standard cleric (though you probably still want Nymph's Kiss, if you're eligible, and Darkstalker). Prestige classes are not recommended for this build, since you'd lose spellcasting, skills, or both, but you're already filling two full party roles, so they shouldn't be necessary anyway.


    The Dungeon-Delver:
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    Human factotum 3/psychic rogue 1/incarnate 1/umbral disciple 1/ranger 1/factotum +1/slayer 1/uncanny trickster 1/umbral disciple +2/uncanny trickster +2/marshal 1/exemplar 1/slayer +4/factotum +1
    Oh, just look at the table.

    Ability scores:
    Str 8
    Dex 12
    Con 13
    Int 16 plus all level-up points
    Wis 8
    Cha 14

    {table=head]level | class | skills | feats | special
    1 | Factotum 1|40|Able Learner, Nymph's Kiss|Cunning Insight, Cunning Knowledge, trapfinding
    2|Factotum 2|10||Arcane Dilettante
    3|Factotum 3|10|Darkstalker|Brains over Brawn
    4|PsiRogue 1|10||Sneak Attack, powers
    5|Incarnate 1|6||2 soulmelds, 1 essentia
    6|Umbral Disciple 1|10|Psicrystal Affinity|2 essentia, sept knowledge, step of the bodiless
    7|Ranger 1|10|Track|Favored Enemy, Wild Empathy
    8|Factotum 4|11||Cunning Strike
    9|Slayer 1|9|Obtain Familiar|Favored Enemy, Enemy Sense
    10|Uncanny Trickster 1|13||Bonus trick
    11|Umbral Disciple 2|11||Sneak attack 2d6
    12|Umbral Disciple 3|11|Practiced Manifester|3 essentia, embrace of shadow
    13|Uncanny Trickster 2|13||(advance Slayer) Bonus trick, brain nausea
    14|Uncanny Trickster 3|13||(advance Slayer) Bonus trick, Lucid Buffer
    15|Marshal 1|9|Craven, Skill Focus: Diplomacy|Minor aura (motivate dex)
    16|Exemplar 1|14||Skill mastery, skill artistry (sleight of hand)
    17|Slayer 2|10||Favored enemy
    18|Slayer 3|10|Bonus Essentia|
    19|Slayer 4|10||Cerebral blind
    20|Factotum 5|12||Opportunistic Piety[/table]

    This is a build that can hit any DC you throw at it, in any of the skills useful in dungeoneering. With reasonable equipment, you can get +63 Hide, +61 Move Silently, +43 Search, +50 Disable Device, +58 Sleight of Hand (and Skill Mastery in all of those), or much more if you're willing to burn psionic powers, spell slots, wands, or other expendable resources. In addition, your Hide also applies against most nonmagical means of detection, you can hide in plain sight and provide your own concealment, and you're all but impossible to find magically.

    This is of course an illustration of how much freedom a skillmonkey has in mixing and matching classes. The order of most of the levels can be shuffled around; this order gave what I considered the higher-priority abilities earlier, but that can vary based on circumstances.



    Pitfalls:
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    Other skill users: High skills can always be defeated by other, similarly high skills. The skill to especially fear is Spot, since it can defeat both Hide and Sleight of Hand. 'Ware druids and dragons: Both have Spot as class skills and tend to max it; druids are already going to be getting their Wisdom as high as possible anyway, for a further good modifier, and dragons have a very large number of HD and good skills per level, so they'll always have more ranks than you. Other thief-types can also have impressive Spot scores. This doesn't mean that you can never get away with dealing with such opponents, but it does mean that you'll want to be very, very careful with them, planning things out in advance, and not hesitating to use expendable resources like elixirs and scrolls if needed.

    Bonus types: You obviously want items, spells, and other benefits which give bonuses to skills, but keep an eye on the bonus types. In general, two bonuses of the same type to the same thing don't stack: Only the better one applies. This means that a bonus is useless to you if you already have something else that gives a larger bonus of the same type, and almost useless if you already have something that gives a bonus nearly as large. Most bonuses that apply directly to skills are competence bonuses, and most bonuses to ability scores are enhancement bonuses, so these bonus types are the least valuable (since they're so likely to overlap). Insight, luck, and morale bonuses are less common, and thus more valuable, while the most valuable bonuses are the extremely rare ones like sacred or profane; circumstance bonuses, which contrary to the general rule always stack as long as they come from different circumstances; and bonuses for which no particular type is given, which always stack as long as they're from different sources.
    Last edited by Chronos; 2008-08-22 at 07:26 PM.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    A point: Elves also get an auto-search ability which is VERY handy for a skillmonkey-on-the-go. Don't even need to bother declaring you are searching for secret/concealed doors, you do it automatically.

    Also, Swordsage gets 6 skill points per level, and has all the stealth skills (hide, move silently), all the detection skills (listen, spot, search) and even social skills (bluff), making it a solid skillmonkey class, particularly if you go heavy into Shadow Hand. In fact, you can be a very effective melee combatant and STILL be a very good skillmonkey, using your Dex for damage while in a Shadow Hand stance (which should be always). Island of Blades makes for very good synergy with flanking and precision damage.

    Even if you don't want to be a Swordsage forever, a two level dip nets you a LOT of useful things, including Island of Blades to make precision damage more effective, Dex to damage, Wis to AC even in light armor (like Mithral Chain), and still has plenty of skill points to keep bases covered.

    Also, my 'sneak suit', which any rogue would appreciate:

    +1 Mithral Chain Shirt Shadowed, Silent Moves

    It gives most armor for your buck, with a high enough dex mod that it won't hamper most skillmonkeys. It is light armor, so Swordsages still get their Wis bonus to AC. It negates the need to tie up slots on feet and cloak to get stealth up. Boots of Speed or Levitation are far more useful, and there are MANY cloaks out there that are extremely valuable to a rogue.
    Last edited by ShneekeyTheLost; 2008-08-22 at 06:19 PM.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Nice work, Chronos. This is a solid guide, and fills a lot of holes left by the current crop of guides at the Wizards forums.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Nice guide!

    You missed out one of my favourite core low-level skillmonkey items, though; the Goggles of Minute Seeing. At only 1,250 gold for a +5 bonus to Search, they're a great way to kick up your chances of finding traps and secret doors.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Very impressive. If I make a skillmonkey in the future, I'll certainly be referring to this.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    A point: Elves also get an auto-search ability which is VERY handy for a skillmonkey-on-the-go. Don't even need to bother declaring you are searching for secret/concealed doors, you do it automatically.
    True, but searching for traps is usually a lot more important. Still, I'll add a mention of it.

    Also, Swordsage gets 6 skill points per level, and has all the stealth skills (hide, move silently), all the detection skills (listen, spot, search) and even social skills (bluff), making it a solid skillmonkey class, particularly if you go heavy into Shadow Hand. In fact, you can be a very effective melee combatant and STILL be a very good skillmonkey, using your Dex for damage while in a Shadow Hand stance (which should be always). Island of Blades makes for very good synergy with flanking and precision damage.
    Huh, I thought I'd included them. I must have gotten a little too trigger-happy with the delete button somewhere along the way.

    You missed out one of my favourite core low-level skillmonkey items, though; the Goggles of Minute Seeing. At only 1,250 gold for a +5 bonus to Search, they're a great way to kick up your chances of finding traps and secret doors.
    OK, I'll add them. I hadn't noticed the low price.

    Keep the suggestions coming-- I'm sure there are some splatbook spells and items I'm overlooking, too (haven't gone through the Compendia with a fine-toothed comb).
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    if you want to include racial sub levels Kobalds make awsome skill monkeys... and trap monkeys if you use there racial subs.

    other wise this is awsome.

    although i understand the reason behind it you might want to expand on your "slight of hand becomes your attack" line...
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Could replace "Guide" with "Suggestions", "Strategies", "Stratagems", or some such, for the acronym.
    Of course, by the time I finish this post, it will already be obsolete. C'est la vie.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack_Simth View Post
    Could replace "Guide" with "Suggestions", "Strategies", "Stratagems", or some such, for the acronym.
    But then it's not unalliterative. And big words are fun.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Great guide the only thing I really disagree with is the interpretation of how the Master Spellthief feat works for a spellcasting skillmonkey.

    Since Oriental Adventures was mentioned for Iajutsu Skill the Magic of Faerun
    Spellfire Wielder feat is really strong if you can get access to the book.

    The Godsight feat from Lost Empires of Faerun could be useful or some of the Complete Mage bloodline feats with spell-like abilities could be useful depending on the campaign particularly social interaction and non-LA race campaigns.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Quote Originally Posted by monty View Post
    But then it's not unalliterative. And big words are fun.
    True enough. Perhaps replace with "Undiluted"?

    As for the guide itself....

    Hide in Plain Sight:
    Most versions of Hide in Plain Sight only remove the requirement that you not be observed when you start hiding, or that you need some form of cover or concealment. Few do both, so read the one you're using very carefully, ideally before your DM does.

    Slight of Hand:
    Negated by things being "well secured" and as "well secured" isn't a game-defined term, this has a lot of DM discretion. Additionally, when pickpocketing becomes a known problem, people start taking steps to better secure their possessions. If you rely on this strategy too much, you'll eventually find all your opponents will be guarded against it in one way or another - and this is in character for intelligent opponents, not a deliberate nerf.
    Additionally, Spot only makes the DC a little higher, and lets people know you're doing it. It doesn't actually stop you from lifting an item.

    Feats:
    I'm surprised Silent Spell didn't make the list for caster skillmonkeys. Seems a bit required.
    Of course, by the time I finish this post, it will already be obsolete. C'est la vie.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Hm... a Factotum/Chameleon Changeling...
    ...a Master of Disguise...

    (Couldn't a Chameleon take Open Minded every day as its bonus feat, netting it infinite skill points, rendering the skills-per-level pointless? I mean, it never says the points go away if the feat does, though it makes sense to rule that way)

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Quote Originally Posted by Vexxation View Post
    Hm... a Factotum/Chameleon Changeling...
    ...a Master of Disguise...

    (Couldn't a Chameleon take Open Minded every day as its bonus feat, netting it infinite skill points, rendering the skills-per-level pointless? I mean, it never says the points go away if the feat does, though it makes sense to rule that way)
    ... when you lose a feat, you lose the benefits of the feat. What's the benefit of the Open Minded feat? Five bonus skill points. What, therefore, is lost when you lose the feat?

    The argument that you don't lose the skill points when you lose the feat is comparable to the argument that you don't lose the untyped bonus to a skill when you lose the Skill Focus feat.
    Of course, by the time I finish this post, it will already be obsolete. C'est la vie.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack_Simth View Post
    ... when you lose a feat, you lose the benefits of the feat. What's the benefit of the Open Minded feat? Five bonus skill points. What, therefore, is lost when you lose the feat?

    The argument that you don't lose the skill points when you lose the feat is comparable to the argument that you don't lose the untyped bonus to a skill when you lose the Skill Focus feat.
    Well, it's just that skill points are a (relatively) permanent thing; do you lose the skill points gained from Nymph's Kiss if that feat is lost? If so, do you just randomly pick skills to lose points from?

    But yeah, my point was that to rule in favor of infinite skills would be absurd. And broken.

    Edit: looking at the BoED, you can't lose Nymph's Kiss. I thought I remembered it being lost if the intimacy ended. Oh well, silly me.
    Last edited by Vexxation; 2008-08-22 at 08:11 PM.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack_Simth View Post
    True enough. Perhaps replace with "Undiluted"?
    Fewer syllables = inferior.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vexxation View Post
    Well, it's just that skill points are a (relatively) permanent thing; do you lose the skill points gained from Nymph's Kiss if that feat is lost? If so, do you just randomly pick skills to lose points from?

    But yeah, my point was that to rule in favor of infinite skills would be absurd. And broken.

    Edit: looking at the BoED, you can't lose Nymph's Kiss. I thought I remembered it being lost if the intimacy ended. Oh well, silly me.
    Isn't it an exalted feat, which you lose if you commit an evil act?
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Nice guide !

    If you ever reformat the spell list, I would advise to sort it by spell levels.

    Quick Reconnoiter (CAdv) is also a good feat for the "scout" role.

    The Shadow Hand weapon of legacy has some interesting abilities: one of them allows you to hide as an immediate action at the beginning of a fight.

    You may not have Complete Scoundrel, but perhaps you can mention the existence of skill tricks in passing.

    At epic levels, there's the Void Incarnate for ultimate sneakiness: you erase your presence from the universe.
    Last edited by namo; 2008-08-22 at 09:38 PM.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Taking a 1 level dip in Factotum and Able Learner is something every rogue should do.

    Rogue 1/Factotum 1/Rogue 18 is a very good skill monkey. All you loose is 2 skill points and you gain all skills as class skills.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Excellent work. This helps my Haberdash build as well, so thanks.

    Now that 3.5 is done, its now finally fully knowable as well. No more rules means that once you figure out all of the uses for X, you know all of the uses. So I'm hoping each of the regulars takes the time to compile and post their guides and favorite builds. This is an excellent start.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    if you want to include racial sub levels Kobalds make awsome skill monkeys... and trap monkeys if you use there racial subs.
    From Races of the Dragon, I presume? What do the sub-levels do?

    Hide in Plain Sight:
    Most versions of Hide in Plain Sight only remove the requirement that you not be observed when you start hiding, or that you need some form of cover or concealment. Few do both, so read the one you're using very carefully, ideally before your DM does.
    So far as I know, the Dark template version is the only one for which this is an issue. Everyone else who gets HiPS also gets some other ability earlier or at the same time which either provides concealment (Umbral Disciple), or removes the need for it (Ranger, Scout, or Wilderness Rogue, with Camoflage). But I'll add a note to that effect in the Dark template section.

    If you rely on this strategy [Sleight of Hand] too much, you'll eventually find all your opponents will be guarded against it in one way or another - and this is in character for intelligent opponents, not a deliberate nerf.
    True, but the same could be said of any strategy. And you can't secure everything.

    If you ever reformat the spell list, I would advise to sort it by spell levels.
    That's a bit problematic, since some spells are at different levels for different classes, and a UMD user can potentially be dealing with spells from any list. The organization in every section is core options in alphabetical order, followed by non-core options in alphabetical order. I probably should have all of the classes and levels listed for the spells, but that's a lot of work (especially since some classes, like Assassins, aren't usually mentioned in a spell's statblock).

    Quick Reconnoiter (CAdv) is also a good feat for the "scout" role.
    Hm, I overlooked that one. OK, I'll add it.

    The Shadow Hand weapon of legacy has some interesting abilities: one of them allows you to hide as an immediate action at the beginning of a fight.
    Weapons of legacy are a mess that I can't sort out. Besides, isn't there only one of those? I'd rather stick to things that anyone can get.

    You may not have Complete Scoundrel, but perhaps you can mention the existence of skill tricks in passing.
    Yes, I'll do that.


    And it hadn't even occurred to me to try for an acronym in the title, though "CUSS" seems a rather fitting one for thieves, rogues, and ne'er-do-wells. The current title is, of course, a nod to Solo's Stupendously Superior Sorcerer Stratagems. I'll think about it.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    The skill descriptions seem misinformed. Players would do well to simply read the skill rules thoroughly instead. Some examples of these and other rules-deficiencies are in spoiler below, b/c I don't want to make this seem like a bash-fest. You could just skip the spoiler, crack open your PHB, get real comfy b/c it's gonna be a while and then learn a lot more than my shpiel.

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    Hide is not invisibility, nor anything like it, unless you are a shadowdancer with HiPS. Even a ranger's HiPS won't cut it; though arguably the ever-common darkvision might negate the SD'S HiPS entirely. Unlike invisibility, you must hide behind something! Even if you have HiPS (the shadowdancer's HiPS is an exception). And you cannot see an invisible creature with a DC 20 spot check. You only discover that he is around... somewhere... dunno where, but there's an invisible guy around here! Um, yeeeeah... DC 40 to find his 5' square, and even then you still have the same miss chance and flat-footedness. If he makes a hide check he adds it to those DCs, and he always has concealment so he can do this out in the open (which, again, you can't normally do with hide).

    Sleight of hand: Per the rules, what you described are unarmed disarm attacks. Sleight of hand may not be used for this. It is mostly used to pick pockets out-of-combat.

    Skillwise, rogues can do everything a bard can do and more, almost without exception. The bard's strength here is that he has skills and other things at the same time. IMO getting a higher cha than you need for your spells is a waste. Are you really counting on the save DC of your low level spells?

    Elf: Also has spot, listen and search bonuses, highly valuable to a skillmonkey in a party ("friggin' noisy, un-hidey party members always alerting the monsters, all I can do is scout for baddies and traps"). Also the only PHB dex bonus race with a 30' move speed. Handy for the many skills involving movement.


    Magic items are notably absent, as some people have pointed out. Besides what others mentioned there are also other armor enchantments, eyes of the eagle, lens of detection (name?), a lot of cheap +10 elixers and that's just the core stuff off the top of my head.

    Otherwise the guide is a fairly good compilation of what's in the rulebooks and popular opinion. If you're seeking to make a skillmonkey, I'd take the build parts of his guide, read the PHB skill rules carefully and research magic items selection yourself (unless the OP soon adds a convenient list to the guide ).
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    You've dismissed more than 5 levels of Balance out of hand. It does have one significant benefit, which is that it can be used to oppose trip attempts. (See the rule in Complete Adventurer.) As skill points will go up faster than the tripper's STR score, and you can "take 12" with Skill Mastery and Savvy Rogue, you can become immune to tripping. For Rogues who want usefulness in combat as well as skill monkey prowess, the ability to get up close and sneaky against spiked chain-wielding foes can save the bacon of all your party's melee types.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    A few other things that may be of interest to you...

    Feat
    Tactile Trapsmith (CAd): Allows you to use your dex modifier in place of your int modifier for search and disable device, also gives you no penalties for searching/disabling/opening a lock when you can't see. Could be very handy in a dungeon

    Prestige Class
    Human Paragon (UArc): First level of this class allows you to pick 10 skills as class skills, as well as allowing you to treat one skill as a permanent class skill, regardless of class.

    Whilst it does only have 4+Int mod skills per level, its sheer versatility ranks it up there for a 1 level dip in Factotum, not to mention that it also gives you proficiency in a single Martial weapon of your choice.

    Levels 2 and 3 are really only worthwhile if you have levels in a casting class. I'd recommend Warlock for the possibility to get darkvision and a +6 bonus to either acrobatic skills or social skills.

    Levels 2 and 3 also give you a bonus feat, and +2 to a single stat of your choice. Not bad, really.
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    This is a very useful guide. While I won't have time to use it as a player for a while it will come in very handy for the next campaign I'm running. Thanks!

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Quote Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
    True, but the same could be said of any strategy. And you can't secure everything.
    Part of it is that "well secured" is never defined, which means it is up to DM whimsey.

    But if you work at it, yes, you can secure everything reasonably well. Get a solid belt with a lock and lots of extra holes, and attach everything to steel wire by way of Sovereign Glue. Loop the ends of the steel wire through the holes in the belt, and join those with Sovereign Glue as well. Put belt on, lock it. An arbitrary number of items are now "well secured".

    Even if you don't do everything that way, you can get the essentials for the class (Cloak of Resistance, stat boosters, spell components pouch; armor and shield generally ought to already qualify on their own) to the point where it's a waste of an action up until it's just free actions.
    Of course, by the time I finish this post, it will already be obsolete. C'est la vie.

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    I know this isn;t quite the same thing, but I was thinking of using a Cloistered Cleric which can act as a skill monkey after Yeril brought a particular build up in a thread about Cloistered Clerics. My idea is to either pick the Trickery and Kobold Domains to get a lot of skills while using the Apprentice feat to get Move Silently and Open Lock as class skills, or (if you don't want to be a Kobold), have a customised anti-trap Domain rather then the Kobold Domain (that idea was discussed on this thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=87679 ).
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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    Wow, this is actually really useful to me, even though I never play the full-on skillmonkey role. I now know something of what skills can be more useful than others if my class abilities don't demand the attention of all of my skill points. Our party is almost always lacking one or more 'crucial' roles, so it's not a stretch to imagine an Int-focused Warblade having to sub for one in a pinch.
    • Chameleon Base Class [3.5]/[PF]: A versatile, morphic class that mimics one basic party role (warrior, caster, sneak, etc) at a time. If you find yourself getting bored of any class you play too long, the Chameleon is for you!
    • Warlock Power Sources [3.5]: Making Hellfire Warlock part of the base class and providing other similar options for Warlocks whose powers don't come from devils.

  29. - Top - End - #29
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    Thurbane's Avatar

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    There two classes I think might sit well with a skillmonkey build - Archivist and Exemplar. Any thoughts?

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Tempest Fennac's Avatar

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    Default Re: Chronos's Unalliterative Skillmonkey Guide [3.x]

    I've never heard of Exemplars. What do they do? Archivists can't really get access to enough skills to be good in this roll (you need a ton of Knowledge skill points for Dark Knowledge, and they don't get Domains, so you'd need Able Learner while ignoring Dark Knowledge to be that effective in a skill monkey roll as an Archivist, but this would limit you to playing as a Human or Changeling, and I don't think there's a way to get Trapfinding unless you're allowed to use the Generic Class Trapfinding feat).
    Last edited by Tempest Fennac; 2008-08-23 at 02:04 AM.
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