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I'm up to level 6 in a friend's campaign with this Rogue 3/Swashbuckler 3. I'm not sure which route to take from here, as there are so many.

For my goal, I'd like to focus on being a super sneaky rogue that no one suspects. I took Changeling for the Incognito mode. I have high bluff and diplomacy for interactions.

After this I plan to go druid until I get a few shapeshiftings/day.

I would like to keep a balance leaning toward roleplaying options without completely degrading combat ability. I in a sense want to play my character something like this (not sure if the mechanics will work ...yet):

  • For thieving: Changling to get into a mansion disguised as a servant or relative and case the place; wait till no one is looking, or purposely wait till they're looking; grab all the nice shiny things; then trolololo it druid style out the window.

  • For combat: Rogue/swashbuckler it up until I'm in trouble, then shift bird and rain down whatever spells my low Wis and +Wis items will give me.

Also among my resources: the DM is allowing me to take 2 flaws for 2 feats. I'm thinking Daring Outlaw for one... not sure about the other.

I am also considering Anklets of Translocation and better armor as things to spend my wealth on.

This is a 3.5 game that allows pretty much anything, so no real restrictions on books. I'd like to keep true neutral as my alignment, but I'll shift that for a good build suggestion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! When you get a chance, please take the tour. It's important to note that we're not a forum; we answer concrete, specific questions, rather than giving general feedback/suggestions. As-is this question is too broad, but you could probably edit down to something we can answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Mar 7, 2016 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ O, wow. Where can I find those bracers of quickstrike? Take a swift action 1/day to make a full attack? For 1,200 gp? Sign me up! \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2016 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage This might be (after a cleanup to see it better) a type 2 charop question. Assuming that's accurate, it should be OK here. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2016 at 18:30

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Totem Druid to the rescue

The issue here is, the value of 1 level goes up as you get into higher levels. You leveling up from 6th to 7th should be worth more than someone else leveling from 1st to 2nd, or similar. Where wild shape is well worth the 5 levels from 1st to 5th, it is not worth the 5 levels from 7th to 11th. At 11th level, a druid should have much better wild shape, plus powerful spells. You would have the bare minimum of wild shape, and long-obsolete spells you can’t cast.

So you want to get wild shape in fewer levels. There’s an option for that: totem druid from Dragon vol. 335. That gives you “totem shape,” a special version of wild shape (“uses the same rules as wild shape”) at 1st level, so you can have wild shape in just 1 level. It is a limited form of wild shape—you can only pick one of eight forms, and you only get the ability to shape into that form and no other, but for your purposes, that should do nicely. One of the forms is a snake—one of the natural world’s best infiltrators—and that will provide substantial stealth bonuses due to its Tiny size, and its climb and swim speeds are convenient for getting where you need to go.

(It isn’t clear from the article which snake you can turn into—it just says “snake” even though the Monster Manual lists 7 different animals under that name. I presume that you can turn into any of them, subject to the usual HD limits of wild shape, but it’s not super-clear. Anyway, the tiny viper is the weakest snake presented, at CR ⅓, and gets the biggest stealth bonuses, so however your DM rules on this, you should be fine getting that one.)

After you have totem shape, you might want to consider prestige classes that improve it, rather than more totem druid levels. The totem druid levels aren’t terrible—you get a reasonably-powerful combat form in the dire snake at 6th and the ability to speak in snake form at 8th—but you can do better. Daggerspell shaper from Complete Adventurer is fairly good, though you’ll want something other than a snake for that since one of its best features is its dagger claws. (Or ask your DM if you can have dagger fangs, instead; certainly seems reasonable to me.) Even better is master of many forms, also from Complete Adventurer—that will allow you to turn into many, many more creatures than just various kinds of snakes, offering you enormous versatility and enabling you to get in just about anywhere. The usual downside of master of many forms—that it doesn’t progress your spellcasting, as druid itself or daggerspell shaper would—doesn’t matter to you at all since you have just 10 Wisdom and can only cast druid orisons anyway.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm a bit unsure how Totem Shape works with classes progressing Wild Shape, but the write-up definitely deserves a +1. \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Apr 18, 2023 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @From Strict RAW, it’s definitely a debate, but I don’t think anyone could accurately argue that allowing it for this character is any kind of a problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 18, 2023 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hah! No, definitely not a problem. Except that the character may need some further boosts/allowances to make encounters easier to balance, if there's an actual Druid (or Cleric, or Wizard) in the party. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Apr 19, 2023 at 7:14
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After this I plan to go druid until I get a few shapeshiftings/day.

Don't.

Multi-classing is a fine thread to walk on. Unless there are specific synergies to exploit (Rogue/Swashbuckler work quite well together for example), by multi-classing you end with a Jack of all Trades, Master of None.

For example, let's suppose that you actually multi-class R3/S3/D5 as proposed. In 5 (long) levels, you will be ECL 11:

  • you will have Wildshape 1/day, and be able to Wildshape into a Small or Medium animal of at most 5 HD, say a Dire Hawk (MMII, p. 76); a CR 11 Forest Sloth (MMII, p. 106) has 147 HP, by comparison, and its 2 Claws (2d4+7) + Bite (2d8+3) deal an average of 31 points of damage...

  • you will have 3rd level Druid spells; by comparison a 11th level Druid will have 6th level Druid spells. You get Speak with Plants, the 11th level Druid gets Transport via Plants.

  • you will make +2d6 (Sneak Attack) and +3 (Insightful Strike) precision damage (average +10) when you catch your opponent unaware, or flank it; by comparison a Rogue 8/Swashbuckler 3 would deal +2d6 more points of damage (average +7), on top of having Improved Uncanny Dodge.

If your only plan to incorporate the Druid class in your build is only to get some weak spells and wildshape, I urge you to reconsider.


TL;DR: Check prestige classes that you find cool or like, check they can really do what you wish for (some are traps), and build your character toward them.


If you need some utility spells (who doesn't?), then invest more thoroughly in Use Magic Device. You have the skill in-class (as a Rogue) and 11 skill points per level given your Intelligence, by next level it could maxed out (at 10 ranks), netting you +12. Activating a wand has a fixed DC of 20, pump up Use Magic Device until you get +19 (rolling 1 is not an automatic failure on skills checks), and you'll be able to use any wand: Wizard's, Cleric's, Druid's, ...

If you worry about escape routes, Anklet of Translocation are indeed a cheap and very useful item for now. You can have several for when you run out of charges. Spider Climb is only 2nd level spell (a full 50 charges wand costs 4,500 gp), and few people think 3D when securing houses; much cheaper than flying.


Which classes to go from there?

You might consider a dip into Swordsage (Tome of Battle), or otherwise use a feat/item to get access to the useful Shadow Jaunt maneuver (Shadow Hand 2, teleport 50 ft. through shadows as a Standard Action). The Swordsage normally relies on Wisdom (bad fit for your character), but only a couple maneuvers really require it so you can just avoid those.

Similarly, a dip into Cloistered Cleric (just one level) would net you 2 Domains (on top of the Knowledge Domain) and 3+Cha Turn/Rebuke Undead attempts per day on top of the ability to use Cleric Wands without a Use Magic Device check. Now the Domains and Turn/Rebuke Undead attempts are not very useful in and out of themselves to you... but:

  • Domains sometimes come with passive abilities, such as free feats
  • Domains can be converted into Devotion feats (Complete Champion), and notably the Knowledge Domain can be converted into the Knowledge Devotion feat: +1 to +5 Insight on ALL attack rolls and ALL damage rolls, based on a Knowledge check (+5 requires a 36+...) as well as adding one Knowledge skill to your in-class skills (forever)
  • Turn/Rebuke Undead attempts can be used to power feats, for example Travel Devotion is 1/day, but you can exchange 2 Turn/Rebuke Undead attempts against another use... as long as have remaining attempts

For example, you could dip Cloistered Cleric with the Knowledge, Travel and Trickery domains, and convert all those into Knowledge/Travel/Trickery Devotion (the latter allow, 1/day, creating a simulacrum of yourself, which gets more and more real as your ECL rises).

Also, check out Complete Scoundrel: the skill tricks inside are "mini-feats" that you can buy using skill points (which you have aplenty). A trick is usable only once per encounter (in general) and you can only have ECL/2 tricks, but picking a couple is quite handy.


But... personally, I tend to build my characters backward: start from a Prestige class I like, and check how to get the requirements to attain it.

For example, in the infiltrator theme, have you heard of the Nightsong Infiltrator class (Complete Adventurer, p. 62)? Not only do YOU get better at infiltrating, but you also grant bonuses to your teammates (Teamwork Infiltration (Ex), study "obstacle" and grant +2 to allies to bypass it).

Or maybe you'd rather be a Spymaster (Complete Adventurer, p. 77) or a Thief-Acrobat (Complete Adventurer, p. 83)?

Unfortunately, none of those are exactly potent in combat situations; I fear. Infiltrators generally are not.

Tome of Battle has two potential Prestige classes that you might be interested in:

  • Jade Phoenix Mage (dip 1 level in Swordsage and 1 level in Wizard + take the Precocious Apprentice feat to get access) is a fighter/wizard gish; only 1 dead spellcasting level, Full BAB, and a spattering of maneuvers and stances.

  • Shadow Sun Ninja (requires Good alignment) (dip 1 level in Swordsage to get access; the unarmed variant) is a monk on steroids; it gains extra Shadow Hand and Setting Sun maneuvers as well as abilities thematically based on Light/Darkness.

Initiators are multi-class friendly because your 6 levels of Rogue/Swashbuckler count for 3 Initiator levels (half your levels), so that when you dip Swordsage 1, you count as being Initiator level 4 already (having immediate access to 2nd level maneuvers), and by the end of the JPM or Shadow Sun Ninja (10 levels each), you'll be Initiator 14 (having access to 7th level maneuvers).

I would personally recommend the Jade Phoenix Mage here. Whilst not specifically an infiltrator, at level 18, you'll have access to 5th level spells "for free". There are many spells in the Sorcerer/Wizard list, and you can pick many to help with infiltration (Divination and Abjuration to counter/dispel magical defenses, Transmutation to emulate Wildshape, ...); the Wizard synergizes well with your high Intelligence, and you can have as many spells as you wish in your spellbook.

And yes, you get those "for free" because you will also have a BAB of +15, 11 maneuvers and 3 stances. Plus the capstone is a very cool ability where 1/week you explode (20d6 damage in 20 ft. radius) and 1d6 rounds later reform, dazed but fully healed of all damages :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer; while I shudder to say it, it might be worth mentioning the Daggerspell Shaper, since the OP seems interested in a Rogue/Druid. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Mar 7, 2016 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman: I am not sure the OP really is interested in the Druid per se; for now the only motivation we've seen is a desire to be fly/flee and the Druid was a mechanical mean to fulfill this desire. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 8, 2016 at 7:21
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The pieces you're interested in for this character are... incongruous. The game does not offer a lot of ways to make them work, but without them question becomes very broad in scope and loses its novelty. That said, I have a very definite sense of how I would like to proceed if I were meant to start playing an interpretation of your concept, so I hope you'll forgive me for offering this narrow and completely dictatorial path ahead:

Chameleon for the spells, Geomancer for the weird.

Since your DM is offering feats for flaws, which are ordinary only selected at level 1, I'm going to take it for granted that he wouldn't mind you taking a level-1-only feat (called Able Learner, by the way) so that you can enter the ne plus ultra of the "I'm level 6 and I don't know what I want" prestige classes. Printed in Races of Destiny and also linked above, the Chameleon class bootstraps an uncertain character like yours into a broad suite of competencies. It's solid stuff. Maybe not always stellar, but that's what you get for not planning ahead. Anyway, the most compelling Chameleon feature, for me, is casting off anybody's list and starting with second-level spells right from the outset, so you're not quite as far behind on level-appropriate abilities. There's also a floating bonus feat and turn undead and stuff. I know the class description says that you need to be human or doppleganger, but a changeling is both of those things and it pretty much says as much in the "Adaptation" section near the end of the class entry.

The Geomancer class, from Complete Divine, is, frankly, a mess. It requires both divine and arcane spellcasting and gradually merges the better qualities of the two, except it only advances one spellcasting class at a time? And also turns you into a mutant because you love the planet so much? I don't know. Look, here's the skinny: on that first point we are all good, because the Chameleon covers both types of spellcasting and is the only class we care to advance. If you can convince your DM to award you benefits that are unenumerated in the description of the Geomancer's Spell Versatility feature, that's great, but at minimum it lets you cast arcane spells in armor and use whichever mental stat you favor for DCs. What made me think of Geomancer at all, though, is the potential interaction between his mutations (called "drift") and your nature as a changeling. Ideally what you do here (and yes I know this is banking on a modicum of homebrew) is persuade your DM to let drift function less as selection of permanent features and more like a menu or set of guidelines for the shapes and functions you can achieve with your racial ability to Changeshape, and thus, the categories of disguise you can assume. The caps on size and absolute utility would be far less than wildshape, but mix-and-match is attractive and you wouldn't be completely tanking your character in the meantime.

Alternatively:

If you like the idea of picking up spells but want to back off of the shapechanging to stick closer to your roots as a sneak attacker, you could go in for Arcane Trickster, a combined spellcasting/sneak-attack classes. Fairly self-explanatory. Note that even though he requires arcane spellcasting to enter, the class actually advances any type of spellcasting you want, so it works fine with Chameleon as its base.

If your DM was willing, you might consider converting your rogue levels into the psionic version. You'll drop a sneak attack die compared to an ordinary rogue, but pick up intelligence-based manifesting to get a handful of subtle supernatural abilities, which are humble, but befitting of an infiltrator. Otherwise you continue on taking same as ever, and take rogue levels for the rest of your life plus the Daring Outlaw feat at level 7.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're taking Daring Outlaw, wouldn't you take Swashbuckler levels for the rest of your life rather than Rogue levels? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Mar 11, 2016 at 6:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Daring Outlaw gives more to swashbuckler than it does to rogue, but Swashbucklers are really awful and Rogues are far less so. If he continues on as a Phychic Rogue, he gets skills, powers, and rogue abilities; the feat is to give him back his missing d6. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eikre
    Mar 11, 2016 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you wanna be a full-BAB sneak attacker with Daring Outlaw, the pro-move is not to take any levels of Rogue at all. One level of Spellthief and one level of Sneak Attack Fighter will get you the two SA dice you need for the feat, which means you cut two levels that wouldn't offer SA dice out of your progression. At level 7 you would sneak attack for 5d6; One each from your dip levels, and 3d6 for stacking 5 swashbuckler levels on top of zero levels of rogue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eikre
    Mar 11, 2016 at 20:04
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It sounds like your motive for being a druid is to be able to avoid detection by shapeshifting. That's a good effect, but you're spending five character levels on it, and that's a lot of character levels. (And there's nothing in your background about actually liking nature, which is important for a druid.)

Instead of being a druid, consider using potions or scrolls (of fly and invisibility) to let you avoid detection. This lets you continue leveling as rogue or swashbuckler which will let you keep improving your skills and your sneak attack.

Alternatively consider leveling as wizard, which will eventually let you cast those spells yourself. Wizard is a better fit for your stats since you have high intelligence.

The prestige class arcane trickster is a combination of rogue and wizard; it lets you improve your skills and your spellcasting at the same time. It's a good fit for your character if you go the wizard route.


Be a little careful, though. The problem with "thief" style characters is that a thieving scene is a conversation between you and the DM, where the other players can't do anything because their characters aren't there. If you do thieving scenes too often, the other players might get bored, or the DM might be reluctant to give your thieving as much attention as you want.

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Abolisher is a thing

If you were planning Druid just for the Wild Shape, then the Abolisher (LoM, p. 182) PrC provides it at level 1. However, it requires Track and Wild Empathy (and two Knowledges you don't currently have) - Ranger provides both features and both skills, with Int+6 skill points. Two levels of (Mystic) Ranger could give you everything you need to fulfill all requirements, along with access to a (fast) spell-list (and leaving you with multi-class penalty for one level only).

Once you have Wild Shape, consider MoMF

Master of Many Forms (CAdv, p. 58) is a PrC which advances Wild Shape. The very first level allows you to talk in Wild Shape form as well as Wild Shape to Humanoids - and each level both provides more uses of Wild Shape as well as more utility. Abolisher and three levels of MoMF will mean you can become Medium or Large Animals, Humanoids, Giants or Monstrous Humanoids, and you will also get Fast Wild Shape (Wild shape as a Move action).

Cabinet Trickster gets Change Shape

Cabinet Trickster (RoE, p. 139) is a PrC aimed specifically at Changelings. It doesn't give you Wild Shape, but instead "upgrades" your Minor Change Shape to the "real deal" over five levels:

Change Shape (Su): At 5th level, you gain the ability to assume the shape of any Small or Medium humanoid, gaining the size, natural weapons, movement modes, and extraordinary special attacks of your new form and losing any such abilities granted by your native form. You can remain in this humanoid form until you choose to assume a new one.

A change in form cannot be dispelled, but you revert to your natural form if you are killed. A true seeing spell or similar ability reveals your natural form. See page 306 of the Monster Manual for more information on the change shape ability.

Using this ability is a standard action. If you have the Quick Change feat (see page 110), you can change shape as a move action.

It also gives you some nice Thought Tricks, Detect Thoughts as a SLA, and two bonus feats from a list (which includes Quick Change, see the above text).

However, it requires significantly more skill ranks in Disguise than you currently have, as well as the feat Persona Immerson (and some fluff), so this would probably require three additional levels for you, before entering. Factotum works, and Brains over brawn lets you add your Int modifier to Str and Dex checks and skill checks.

Detect Thoughts means access to Mindspy...

Mindspy (CWar, p. 62) is an interesting PrC, have a blurb:

By reading the minds of her enemies, a mindspy knows exactly what they're going to do a fraction of a second before they do it.

It, over five levels, massively increases the utility of your (at-will) Detect Thoughts from Cabinet Trickster. After four, your Detect Thoughts instantly allows you all the information the base spell needs three rounds to provide, in a spherical area around you rather than a cone. With a Concentration check, you can keep that going during combat, as a free action.

TL; DR

Rogue/3, Swashbuckler/3, Mystic Ranger/2, Abolisher/1, Master of Many Forms/3

OR

Rogue/3, Swashbuckler/3, Factotum/3, Cabinet Trickster/5, Mindspy/4

OR

Bribe your DM to allow you to Acquire the Acquired Template Mulhorandi Divine Minion (say, of Nephthys) and gain some Wild Shape (as an 11th level Druid, at-will, as a free action, limited forms) for the low-low cost of LA +1 (which you could bribe your DM more to get to buy-off).

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