In 3.5 I made a rogue / cleric / invisible blade that dealt sneak attacks through the inflict wounds line of spells.

This made the attack both a touch attack, and on a feinted character, which was basically a roll against 10 (some monsters had deflection and such), with negative energy, something only a select few creatures have immunity against. Against Undead, I used cure wounds line for similar effect.

But I digress. I am trying to make the same thing in pathfinder, but don't have the option of migrating Invisible Blade or using non Paizo content.

I would like the character to either cast or use a wand to cast the inflict wounds(/cure wounds) spell, or another spell that is also a touch attack and does more damage as he levels up. I'm not set on a specific spell or class, just one that few things are immune to, does decent damage, and is a touch attack. I'd like a class and feat build that does maximum damage via this single attack, which has the ability to do sneak attack damage in nearly any circumstance, and ideally is also attacking the flat-footed AC as well (thus nearly always hitting).

To reiterate; I would like a character build using only paizo-published books in pathfinder that uses touch attack spells to deal sneak attack damage reliably in all circumstances. Please tell me the best build, including feats, for this concept.


Thug Rogue

A build I recommend a lot on this site is the Thug Rogue.

The Thug is an archetype for the Rogue in pathfinder. It allows you to stack the Shaken condition from Intimidate up to Frightened. If you score well enough on Intimidate to make it last for four rounds or longer. With the Enforcer feat, you can Intimidate for free any time you use non-lethal damage. With the Swashbuckler archetype (stacks with Thug), you can swift action demoralize a certain number of times per day.

How is this relevant to what you want to do? Enter Shatter Defenses. It requires Weapon Focus and Dazzling Display, but once you have it, if you attack a Shaken or Frightened person, they are Flat-Footed against you until your next turn. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

Produce Flame

Produce Flame is a great spell. Much-maligned, people often forget that it isn't just for hurling fire bolts at people - the flame held in your hand can be used for melee touch attacks at no cost to the duration. Note that unlike spells such as shocking grasp or inflict light wounds, the 'charge' is not used up if you strike someone with the touch attack - this means you can potentially full-attack people with your palm of flame (although you can't dual wield it - i'd recommend actually using a non-lethal weapon like a sap (or an Improved Unarmed Strike) in your off-hand to trigger Enforcer/Thug/Shatter Defenses, before you go in for the kill with your murderpalm).

A druid dip gives you access to this fantastic spell, in addition to other goodies (like an Animal Companion who can trigger Flanking).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since you're making touch attacks here, I'd like to see some suggestions for how to turn attack into damage or other useful effects (i.e. take attack penalties to improve what happens when you hit, because you will not need a high attack bonus to make most touch attacks) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 26 '14 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan - Oh, hey, Power Attack would totally work on this. I don't really know how to optimize extra damage in pathfinder other than that - i'd be advising bands of the blood rage, Assassin's Stance, gloves of arcane murdering etc in 3.5e, but this is pathfinder only. Any suggestions? \$\endgroup\$ – user2754 Jun 26 '14 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Power Attack works, but poorly since you cannot two-hand produce flame (and it simply doesn't scale as fast as it did in 3.5). Unfortunately, no, off the top of my head I cannot think of anything particularly good here. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 26 '14 at 2:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeag, I chose inflict wounds because you can't find resistanct creatures, only immune or ones that would be healed by negative energy (like undead). Fire might be a problem since there are a lot of fire resistance or immune monsters. But some metamagic or a custom variation of the fire base to another energy type might work around that. \$\endgroup\$ – Discipol Jun 27 '14 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ In 3.5e I could recommend Searing Spell, or Energy Substitution, or even non-fire spells like Thunderlance, Wraith Strike, or Blade of Force. In Pathfinder, though, I can't really find anything that does that. There's like, a sorcerer bloodline power somewhere I think, but I can't find it, so it might as well not exist. Compared to 3.5e, pathfinder sucks for rogues, no darkstalker, no easy access to good wanded spells, sneak attack is more annoying. You can sneak more stuff, though, including undead, but still, ugh. \$\endgroup\$ – user2754 Jun 27 '14 at 23:56

Realize this is a bit old, but here it goes anyway! The witch class has the complete cure and inflict line of spells. (It starts being one level behind cleric at third level spells, but it still gets all of them.) Why is this important you might ask? Well, the arcane trickster class requires arcane magic, which the witch casts, which means you can go rogue/witch/arcane caster for both the spells and sneak attack. That said...

My favorite concept is a rogue that does sneak attack damage on touch attacks. Specifically, ranged touch attacks. The best way to do it, at least in my opinion and I fully admit I could be wrong, is what I like to call a Wandslinger. The concept operates as such. You go Wizard for 3 levels, Rogue for 3 levels, Arcane Trickster for 10 levels. You get Craft Wand and eventually craft staff, craft Ranged Touch Spells into them, and then once you hit level 8 you scribe into your book Greater Invisibility. Scorching Ray is usually my go to, but Acid Orb works, as does any spell with a touch attack. Heck, worst comes to worst, you can ray of frost. It's a little expensive, but you become like an arcane version of the gunslinger. You hit on 10 most of the time, you always catch them flatfooted while greater invised, so you deal your sneak attack damage along with the spell. You hit more reliably, but not for as much damage as full ranged character might, and unfortunately you're still limited with how far you can sneak attack. There is a rogue archetype and a ninja trick you can get to fix that but you can only increase it as far as fifty feet while taking the Arcane Trickster class. As a wizard, you're not even limited to set spells either. You can find or even try and create new versions of an old favorite with different elemental descriptors. Freezing Ray, Thundering Ray, Corrosive Ray, Tazing Ray.

Then have fun with it! The only downsides are the best level to start is really level 8. Before that, you can do what you want, but not as effectively without greater invis. The second downside is most of your gold goes into crafting wands and eventually staves, which thankfully doesn't take XP anymore.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a shame this comes on line so late. Threats of at least CR 8 can probably see invisibility. That Pathfinder's blink spell is so different from D&D 3.5's blink spell is serious hit to the Pathfinder rogue. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 26 '14 at 18:56

If you're looking to optimize negative energy damage, your best bet is probably to concentrate on rogue levels and dip a single level of cleric. The cleric level opens up inflict light wounds and it also enables you to use all inflict wands without chance of failure. This is particularly useful at lower levels when your Use Magic Device skill isn't that high. More levels of cleric can open higher-level inflict spells and an additional point of damage per level, but your sneak attack makes up for most of that.

The real limitation is that you won't have many inflict spells to cast for yourself and you'll have to make the difference up in wands. If that's a concern, then dipping oracle instead is probably better as that'll give you an extra inflict per day and tie extra spells to Cha instead of Wis. Also, the Bones mystery has some complementary revelations (like bleeding wounds or death's touch). Also remember that "In addition to the spells gained by oracles as they gain levels, each oracle also adds all of either the cure spells or the inflict spells to her list of spells known."

I don't see any great prestige class options published by Paizo for what you want. There may be third party ones that fit, though.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Discipol Pathfinder has a lot less emphasis on PrCl than 3.5 did; there are only a handful available. They provided more base classes instead; in particular, the inquisitor might be an interesting mix with rogue. \$\endgroup\$ – starwed Sep 21 '13 at 4:53

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