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I'm trying to compare a throwing specialist rogue (I'm thinking Two Weapon Fighting Knife Master) and Hurler Barbarian, but I'm having trouble visualizing them actually functioning.

Which class is more viable in combat and why? Notes from experience would be helpful to back up any math analysis.

The party is 4 with 1-2 melee. I'd like it to feel impactful by level 3 but I'd like to see concepts at level 12 or 15 because I'm most interested in scaling for a long high fantasy campaign.

All Paizo material is open but no 3pp; 25 point buy. If there is a better class that I'm overlooking, I'd be open to that too, but I thought some guidance would be in order (and I don't think many other classes have viable throwing options). If you use multi-classing, limit is 2 classes.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Since it might come up, this varies from rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/47735/… in a couple key aspects- namely the level and the fact that magic is not off the table, so assume normal buffs/magic weapons are available as well as applicable Wondrous Items. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 24 '16 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have some plan that your GM is amenable to that'll let you get sneak attack with thrown weapons reliably with the rogue option? Because that's usually pretty hard to do anytime but first-round. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Oct 24 '16 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk That was kind of the crux of my confusion on the matter, I'm not sure of methods to provide sneak attack reliable since Flanking is melee. If it works in the rules I can use it, such as Ranged Feint (Combat) and Shatter Defenses are feats that could do it, or finding a (at least somewhat) reliable way to blind enemies. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 24 '16 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ If that's the crux then you need to ask that as a question (in fact, we have several questions about how to get ranged SAs on the site). \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Oct 24 '16 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk well, no. I'm not asking how to make throwing rogue work specifically, I want to know what is a functional variation of throwing (or if it simply doesn't work well, as Cellion indicated in their answer. IF rogue is/was the answer, then that would be the question I'd expect to get answered, since it sounds like Barbarian is the general consensus, it seems more important to show how to accomplish the build's feat tax. I'm waiting to see if a better answer arises, or else I'll approve one of these since they're essentially answering it but not definitively. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 26 '16 at 11:34
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Throwing is notable for basically one thing: it can be both dual-wielding and ranged. And those combat styles share a common element: they focus on a large number of attacks. The thing about throwing is that it can, in theory, be both at once and get all the attacks.

This commonality actually goes a bit deeper: both of these combat styles get all these attacks through feats. Archery typically uses 6-7 feats.1 Dual-wielders need at least 3.2 Throwing itself often adds in 1 or 2 more.3 In a game where you only get 10 by default, and those slowly over the long course of the game, and several of them are burned on useless feats you need to get the real feats later, that is an untenable situation.

Thus, a good thrower is always going to have to involve bonus feats. Neither knife master nor hurler get any. If you use either, it will have to be done with some judicious multiclassing, but note that Pathfinder punishes multiclass characters extremely harshly.

The most efficient way to get bonus feats, of course, is with fighter. Fighter also improves your accuracy, particularly over the knife master, which is good because many of these feats involve attack penalties.

There are, kind of surprisingly, no fighter archetypes focusing on thrown weapons, though the two-weapon warrior has some benefit for you. Ultimately, though, its effects aren’t that good, and so we default to lore warden just because it’s the best general-case fighter archetype.

How much fighter to take is a question, but since you’re here for bonus feats, stopping after just 2 is very valid. Otherwise, it’s mostly a question of how much you want feats sooner rather than later. If you go in for the long haul, the hair’s breadth and swift lore features of the lore warden are pretty good, as is your first weapon mastery.

If you multiclass, barbarian is better than rogue; it has higher accuracy and it is less reliant on conditional bonuses. Sneak attack can be very difficult to apply at range. Hurler is nice enough, particularly with thrown weapons that often have very limited ranges, and it’s super lightweight which maintains compatibility with other archetypes. Elemental Kin is another ultra lightweight archetype that can extend your daily use of rage—very valuable when you’ve given up a fair amount of rage due to your fighter levels.

  1. Point-blank Shot, Precise Shot, Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot, Manyshot, and then one or more of Clustered Shot, Hammer the Gap, or Improved Precise Shot.

  2. Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, and Greater Two-Weapon Fighting. Ultimately, the large penalties on iteratives make these less valuable, however, so you could live without GTWF or even ITWF.

  3. Quick Draw and possibly Far Shot, though items, particularly blinkback belt, help avoid these.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If bonus feats are the only reason for going fighter, could I just sink a couple Rogue Talents to cover them? I know I can take one that's just any combat feat, do you know if any of the others could be done this way? Alternately, are there Barbarian rage powers that do the same? Assuming all my feats go into combat for this build, will it function near par with melee/archery based martial options? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 24 '16 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso You cannot take those talents repeatedly, so at best you get two, and one not until 10th (by taking the Combat Trick talent and the Feat advanced talent). Considering the number you need, that doesn’t help as much as it should. Perhaps Fighter 2/Rogue 18 works, but the problems of sneak attack make me leery of it (haven’t attempted a sneak attacking thrower in Pathfinder, myself). And no, no rage powers offer much help in this direction. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 24 '16 at 20:24
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Weapon Throwing tends to be pretty bad in Pathfinder, and neither rogue nor barbarian do it any favors as they don't address the core underlying issues:

  • It needs DEX to hit and STR to damage, splitting you across two offensive stats.
  • It needs a lot of feats to even function (almost all of the normal ranged feats used with bows, but adding quickdraw and perhaps others)
  • It needs a way to get your weapons to return to you in order to be effective turn-after-turn (Because throwing away your powerful magic weapons tends to be a bad strategy).

There are two more recently released options that can help you put together a viable build:

The Ricochet Toss feat allows your weapon to immediately return when thrown. This feat is easy to qualify for as a Fighter, but harder with other classes. Fighters also now have access to some other features that work well with weapon throwing, such at the Trained Throw Advanced Weapon Training. A Fighter with these two options helps to address all three bullets above.

Ricochet Toss

Prerequisite(s): Quick Draw, base attack bonus +6, weapon training class feature with a ranged weapon.

Benefit(s): When you make a ranged attack with an appropriate thrown weapon, the weapon returns to your hand immediately after the attack is resolved.

The other useful new option is the "Desna's Shooting Star" divine fighting technique. It is named "Way of the Shooting Star" in d20pfsrd and can be found on this page. This feat addresses bullet point #1 above and opens up the possibility for classes like Oracles or or Bards to be competent throwers while retaining most of their spellcasting prowess.

Way of the Shooting Star

Optional Prerequisite: A chaotic good bard of at least 2nd level can replace a versatile performance with the following initial benefit.

Initial Benefit(s): You can add your Charisma bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls when wielding a starknife. If you do so, you don’t modify attack rolls and damage rolls with your starknife with your Strength modifier, your Dexterity modifier (if you have Weapon Finesse), or any other ability score (if you have an ability that allows you to modify attack rolls and damage rolls with that ability score).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why bother with Ricochet Toss, particularly on such a feat-strapped build, when blinkback belt is so much more useful? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 24 '16 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would Guided weapons be better than Shooting Star to save a feat slot? Assuming I go for a Wisdom class instead of Charisma \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 24 '16 at 20:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Mostly because the Blinkback belt fills your belt slot and prevents you from using STR or DEX belts. \$\endgroup\$ – Cellion Oct 24 '16 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso If your DM allows Guided, its a perfectly good alternative. \$\endgroup\$ – Cellion Oct 24 '16 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cellion If you cannot get ability enhancements on other items slots, then play a spellcaster. Your GM has, per Paizo’s advice, made mundane characters unplayable. (This is despite the fact that a blinkback belt of dexterity would only cost 2,500 gp extra, which isn’t so bad—the real problem is the complete and utter shafting of martial characters relative to spellcasters.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 24 '16 at 21:08

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