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I've been taking a look at the Scout, and it seems like a really fun class! What I am struggling with a bit is which skills to pick for one.

Now, for a ranged Scout build DEX is of course important, and a fair bit of them seem useful in some way or another Tumble, Balance, Hide, Move Silently etc. Others include a few INT skills (Knowledge Nature, Disable Device, Search) that also seem useful. Now, my problem is that as a Human Scout, even with as little as 14 INT you have access to a staggering amount of 11 skills to get max ranks from. So in which skills should I be investing, and which should I ignore?

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Can you provide the details of the rest of your party, and your party's expectations of your character? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jul 9 at 12:08

4 Answers 4

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It's fortunate the scout (CAd 10-13) gets 8 skill points per level because that lets him dump Intelligence. As an archer he'll need Strength and Dexterity, and as a fighter-type (with a medium base attack bonus... sigh)--and like everyone, really--he'll need Constitution. The elite array probably puts either an 8 or 10 in Intelligence (saving the 12 for Wisdom or Charisma). Anyway,

Here's What a Scout Should Take

Maximum Ranks
When the scout gains a level, he puts a skill point in these. He just does.

  • Disable Device (Int): The errata for Complete Adventurer added this skill to the scout's list of class skills so he can use his trapfinding special ability. Although it's valid to say No when asked to play the role of trap victim, it's usually going to fall to the scout because he has this ability. Best to invest maximum ranks or else neglect the class feature entirely.
  • Hide (Dex): If the DM uses the Rules Compendium's description of the skill Hide, things are much better for the scout. If the DM uses only core rules, however, the skill Hide has much less utility.
  • Listen (Wis) or Spot (Wis): I gravitate toward the skill Listen. Blind is a devastating condition that happens frequently to adventurers, while deafened is far rarer. Put ranks into skills which offer more opportunities for their use.
  • Move Silently (Dex): An essential skill for moving while in darkness. Humans blunder about in darkness without magical aid, though. Be prepared.
  • Search (Int): To disarm the traps first one must find the traps. Better to find them this way than the hard way. Note: The hard way is taking cross-class ranks in the skill Bluff and convincing the barbarian that you already searched that passage and it's clear. Assuming his survival, he may be angry afterward.
  • Tumble (Dex): Yes, yes, yes. A scout must be constantly on the move. A scout needs the skill Tumble or he dies.

Minimum or Variable Ranks
The scout should invest leftover points in the following skills, meeting the minimum requirements of some skills, investing just enough in others, and putting maximum ranks in the some skills for fun.

  • 1 rank in Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int) and Knowledge (nature) (Int). Unless the scout has the feat Knowledge Devotion (CC 60), he probably has neither the skill points nor the inclination to put maximum ranks in his Knowledge skills.
  • 1 cross-class rank in Spellcraft (Int): Spells are everywhere. Having a chance at identifying them can save the scout's life.
  • 1 or enough cross-class ranks in Use Magic Device (Cha): Invest enough skill ranks to overcome whatever Charisma penalty the scout may have, but always at least 1 to be able to use the skill. The scout casts no spells. Staying alive at high levels mandates employing spells somehow.
  • 5 ranks in Balance (Dex): A scout who invests more is just showing off. The 5 ranks means the scout isn't flat-footed while balancing.
  • 5 ranks in Jump (Str): Only for the +2 synergy bonus to Tumble skill checks. Really, jumping is something one does with magic.
  • maximum, enough, or 0 ranks in Sense Motive (Wis): The hunch use of the skill Sense Motive is interesting and makes the skill worth taking to a point where that can be used consistently. Note: The uses of the skill Sense Motive don't specifically require the scout interact with the creature whose motive he's trying to sense; it's perfectly reasonable for a scout to remain hidden from such a creature, observe that creature for the appropriate amount of time, and employ the hunch, sense enchantment, or discern secret message uses of the skill Sense Motive versus that creature.
  • maximum or 0 ranks in Craft (Int): If the campaign allows the skill Craft (poisonmaking) and the scout picks up the feat Master of Poisons (DrU 51) or if the scout is big on throwing flasks of alchemists fire or acid and wants to save some cash via the skill Craft (alchemy), those are things. Note: At least some spellcasting is required for the skill Craft (alchemy).
  • maximum or 0 ranks in Escape Artist (Dex): A Small scout with a low Strength might put maximum ranks into this to escape grapples before he can get an effect like that of the spell freedom of movement; everyone else can probably skip it. Note: The scout gets as a class feature a freedom of movement-like effect at level 18; this is far too long for a Small, low-Strength scout to wait.
  • maximum or 0 ranks in Speak Language (n/a): I am personally fond of the huge variety of languages available in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, having compiled a list of the over 100 official languages available. I think it's fantastic for a character to be able to say, "Why, yes, stewardess, I speak Elsewhale," or, "What, you didn't learn Sporebat in wizarding school?"

No Ranks
A scout can skip these skills entirely.

  • Climb (Str), Swim (Str), and Use Rope (Dex): Unless consistently stripped of gear, these skills are all obsolete by character level 5. Magic does them better and cheaper than devoting one's valuable skill points to them.
  • Knowledge (geography) (Int): The scout has Speak Language as a class skill. If he gets lost he can just ask someone.
  • Ride (Dex): The scout's special ability skirmish doesn't function while he's mounted. The scout himself must move, not his mount.
  • Survival (Wis): I wish I could recommend it, but the DCs are so low that luck and the aid another action directed at a higher Wisdom member of the party should meet all the check's DCs. Without the free Track feat the ranger gets, the skill Survival's a waste of points. Be awesome in the woods with a hand of the oak father (MIC 109) (5,000 gp; 1 lb.) instead.

Example
Human Sct1
Str 13, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8

  • Level 1 Skills: Disable Device (Int) [4 ranks], Hide (Dex) [4 ranks], Knowledge (dunegoneering) [1 rank], Knowledge (nature) [1 rank], Listen (Wis) [4 ranks], Move Silently (Dex) [4 ranks], Search (Int) [4 ranks], Sense Motive [4 ranks], Speak Language (pick 4) [4 ranks], Spellcraft [cc] [1 rank], Tumble (Dex) [4 ranks].
  • Level 2+ Skills: 5 ranks into the skill Jump, and 1 into each of the skills Disable Device, Listen, Search, and Tumble. Level 3's the same except the 5 ranks go into the skill Balance instead. Afterward, work on catching up other skills.

Note: This is just my experience with long-term campaigns and not meant to apply to everyone's campaigns. If playing in an E6 campaign, for example, the skills Climb and Swim certainly can retain their utility throughout the character's career.

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Alright, so as a Human with 10 INT you get nine skill points per level. So the good ideas are: Disable Device, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search and Tumble. Sense Motive is a bit of an odd one for me: it requires social interaction which the Scout is bad at. Alchemy only works if you're a spellcaster, so that doesn't work. Bowmaking can work as an alternative (AaEG has Alchemist's Arrows, who do the same as the fire but with less damage and better range). Escape Artist sounds nice, but Scouts get Freedom of Movement (EX) at level 18, and other solutions can come earlier. –  Thomas Jacobs Jul 10 at 11:01
    
@ThomasJacobs Having the scout be good at sensing motives is no weirder than having the scout be good at speaking languages; scout also equals (not necessarily urban) spy, and being able to Speak Language and Sense Motive is important for such activities. How can the scout successfully interrogate the orc he captures without both speaking orc and knowing if the orc's telling the truth? –  Hey I Can Chan Jul 12 at 16:19

I am currently playing a Half-ling Rogue character with 14 INT, which means 10 skill points per level.

While it may seem a lot, actually I spend points in more than 10 skills. Rather than absolutely maximizing 10 skills and being completely useless outside of those 10, I much prefer spreading my character a bit:

  • Maxed out skills: mandatory ones where the DC may be high and the penalty for failure is harsh
  • 2/3 skills: mandatory ones where the DC may be high but that may reasonably be retried
  • 1/3 skills: optional ones

Note: a DC may be high either because the flat DC is high (Use Magic Device is relatively high) or because it is an opposed roll (Hide vs Spot).

Of course it really depends whether your GM likes pushing you to the limits or not.


At the moment, I only have one skill that is maxed out (Use Magic Device, because it takes a lot of points to have a reasonable chance to activate an item in combat), and otherwise I thus have 9 2/3s and 9 1/3s.

For example, the Balance skill has relatively reasonable DCs (DC is 20 for less than 2 inches wide, before modifiers) and your character will always have a high Dexterity (naturally & from bonuses). Furthermore, as long as you only fail by 4 or less you do not fall, which means that the DC to avoid catastrophes is in fact 16 which requires only a score of 15. Finally, you can easily supplement your score with potions/spells for the rare cases where you really cannot afford failure (Fly, Spider Climb, ...). Balance => 1/3.

In comparison, Hide and Move Silently are opposed rolls, and once you have been spotted it is too late. It is reasonable to expect that my score in Hide is better than the opponent's Spot (especially with the Racial bonuses of a Halfling), but I do not want it to lag behind too much so those are 2/3.

In the end, it's a matter of balance between specialization and diversity. However, as the skill monkey of the group, I have found that diversity was expected of me.

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Unless it is a house rule of your group's, a roll of 1 on a skill check is not an automatic failure. Automatic failures on a roll of 1 apply only to attack rolls and saving throws. Similarly, a roll of 20 on a skill check is not an automatic success. –  Matt Hamsmith Jul 9 at 14:29
    
@MattHamsmith: Thanks for the correction, I removed the mention. –  Matthieu M. Jul 9 at 14:34

It really depends what you want to do with the character. To me, the Scout seems like a mix of Rogue and Ranger.

My wife almost always plays Rogues. I suggested she try a Scout in the current game I'm running.

So, she chose skills that would let her fulfill the "Rogue role" in the party - hide, move silently, disable device, etc.

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Well, you've already got 7 there, so for 4 more I would go with Spot, Listen, Jump and Climb.

Even though they are based of abilities that you won't have all that high, there will be many situations where the scout is the best person around to use those skills ,either because you are out on your own, or just because not many wis based classes have spot and listen as class skills and not many strength characters have skills to spare on Jump and Climb.

Should a scout really have 14 int, by the way?

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I am wondering if a Scout should have that much INT, yes. This character is based on a 32 point buy, so I spend that on it. Or should I go to 12 and drop Balance? But come to think of it, like this I don't have Survival. And how useful is Knowledge: Dungeoneering for a Scout? –  Thomas Jacobs Jul 9 at 8:17

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