Pathfinder – The Arcane Trickster Handbook (2023)

Last Updated: March 21, 2022


The Arcane Trickster is a very popular concept: a trickster who meshes thestealth and skill of a Rogue with the power and versatility of an arcanespellcaster. There is little that an Arcane Trickster can’t do, and with adecent build an Arcane Trickster can fill any role in the party exceptDefender and Healer. Depending on build, the Arcane Trickster can supply ahuge quantity of damage output, and can exceed the Rogue in stealth,versatility, and scouting ability.

However, the Arcane Trickster has trouble keeping pace with the rest of theparty at mid levels before it has a few levels of Arcane Trickster. Duringthis middle period, you will need to be clever and careful to stay useful andalive.

NOTE:: This class handbook currently depends heavily on theassumption that Scorching Ray can apply Sneak Attack one each ray, andregrettably thePathfinder FAQindicates that this is not allowed. At some point I will try to update thisguide with more useful advice, for the time being most of the advice in thisguide may be invalid.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Disclaimer
  • Requirements
  • Base Classes
  • Abilities
  • Races
  • Traits
  • Skills
  • Feats
  • Weapons
  • Armor
  • Spells
  • Magic Items
    • Rings
    • Rods
    • Staffs
  • Example Build – Just your ordinary Rogue/Wizard/Arcane Trickster
    • Abilities
    • Race
    • Classes
    • Skills
    • Traits
    • Levels


We support a limited subset of Pathfinder’s rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder options not covered here, please email me and I may be able to provide additional assistance.

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options whichare extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful optionsthat only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essentialto the function of your character. Useful very frequently.


Alignment: Shouldn’t be a problem.

Skills: 4 ranks in three skills is trivial, and you willwant to have both Disable Device and Knowledge (Arcana) on most builds.

Spells: Almost any arcane spellcasting class gets access toMage Hand, but access to 2nd level spells is a crucial component in decidingyour base class. See “Base Classes”, below.

Special: 2d6 Sneak Attack is easily achieved by a variety ofclasses, and you should expect to have 2 Sneak Attack dice by level 6. Youcould take one level in two classes which offer Sneak attack to get intoArcane Trickster early, but you will give up a lot of useful low level classabilities, and a much-needed +1 BAB. See “Base Classes”, below.

Arcane Trickster Class Features

Hit Points: The lowest hit points available.Arcane Tricksters need to be careful not to draw fire.

Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB.

Saves: Good Reflex and Fortitude saves. Besure to invest in Constitution to boost the Arcane Trickster’s lousy Fortitudesaves.

Proficiencies: None. You should geteverything you need from your base classes.

Skills: The Arcane Trickster only gets 4+skill ranks, and has a very long list of very important skills.

Spells per Day: The Arcane Tricksteradvances spellcasting at every level, meaning that you only give upspellcasting levels for your Sneak Attack class. Note that, like every otherprestige class with spell advancement, classes which have a specific “SpellsKnown” table will learn new spells, but classes like the Witch and Wizardwhich can learn spells on their own do not gain new spells known. This isinconvenient, but you can always buy new spells.

Ranged Legerdemain (Su): Situational, butvery flashy.

Sneak Attack: Increases at the same rate asthe Rogue. Note that if you took the Knife Master Rogue Archetype, only yourRogue Sneak Attack dice are d8’s; your Arcane Trickster dice are stilld6’s.

Impromptu Sneak Attack (Ex): The ArcaneTrickster gets a lot of great tricks which allow them to use Sneak Attack,like casting Invisibility. Sometimes you need a little extra help, which iswhere Impromptu Sneak Attack comes in. You only get it once a day (twice at7th level), but it’s good to have this in a pinch.

Tricky Spells (Su): Situational, butfantastic in a grapple or if you need to do something clever like casting anillusion while someone is staring at you.

Invisible Thief (Su): Wizards can castGreater Invisibility by 7th level, and other full arcane casters can cast itby 8th level. With 3 levels given up to get into Arcane Trickster, an ArcaneTrickster can expect to cast Greater Invisibility at 10th or 11th characterlevel. You get Invisible Thief at 15th or 17th character level. The rounds perday are .

Surprise Spells: This is where the ArcaneTrickster overtakes nearly every other Blaster in the game. Drop a Cone ofCold on a group of enemies and you will exceed other spellcasters by 6 or 7d6damage. Scorching Ray will still be your bread and butter, but a big AOE is afantastic opener.

Base Classes

The Arcane Trickster requires two base classes: One to provide arcane spells,
and one to provide Sneak Attack.

Spellcasting Class


Literally the worst option you can find. It takes a full 8 levels to meet theArcane Trickster’s spellcasting requirements, and the Bloodrager’s paltrynumber of spell slots isn’t nearly enough to fuel your need to constantly castScorching Ray. If you wanted to build a weird melee trickster it may looktempting, but giving up 8 levels of Sneak Attack progression largelyinvalidates the purpose of the class.


The Arcanist receives spells at the same levels as the sorcerer, but gets asmany spell slots as a wizard, combining the drawbacks of both classes. Thearcanist’s big draw is the ability to change their spell selection on a dailybasis, then cast from that pool as though they were a spontaneous caster.Arcane tricksters typically cast from a small set of favored spells whichnever changes, so the appeal of the Arcanist is largely wasted on the arcanetrickster.


Bards get second level spells at the same level as the Sorcerer, and havemuch better skills. Unfortunately, the Bard doesn’t have access to offensivespells which can be used to Sneak Attack. If you plan to be more of a meleetrickster, the Bard offers some interesting archetypes.


Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Tricksterlevels are included.

Arcane Duelist: A more melee-focused Bard,the Arcane Duelist gives up much of the Bard’s skill abilities to focus ondealing damage. Bardic Music won’t be very helpful, but the Arcane Duelistgets both Arcane Strike and a bonus feat by level 3.

Archaeologist: The Archaeologist’s Luckability is a much better option for the Arcane Trickster than BardicPerformance. Clever Explorer helps with scouting, and Uncanny Dodge can behelpful on a lightly armored character.

Archivist: Still stuck with a variant ofBardic Performance, but Lore Master lets you take 20 on one Knowledge check ina day, and Magic Lore can largely replace Trapfinding.


The Magus gets second level spells at the same level as the Sorcerer, andoffers some very interesting options for a melee trickster. 4 levels bringsArcane Pool, Spell Combat, Spellstrike, one Magus Arcana, and Spell Recall.With a bit of focus, this combination of abilities can make for a fantasticpile of damage by combining Spellstrike with Sneak Attack. In addition, theMagus allows you to cast spells in light armor, which helps with the ArcaneTrickster’s AC problems.


Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Tricksterlevels are included.

Bladebound: The blade’s abilities won’t scalewhile you take Arcane Trickster levels, so it will quickly become useless.

Eldritch Scion: The Eldritch Scion isCharisma-based, which can be a good option if you plan to use the Ninjabecause it will help with your Ki Pool.

Hexcrafter: If you don’t plan to use SpellRecall, gaining a free Witch Hex can be very helpful.

Kensai: You are already giving up a lot ofspellcasting to be an Arcane Trickster. Don’t give up more.

Myrmidarch: You are already giving up a lotof spellcasting to be an Arcane Trickster. Don’t give up more.

Skirnir: A shield helps with the ArcaneTrickster’s AC problem, but the diminished spellcasting is crippling.

Soul Forger: You are already giving up a lotof spellcasting to be an Arcane Trickster. Don’t give up more.

Spellblade: Two-Weapon Fighting is very hardfor the Arcane Trickster because their BAB is terrible.

Staff Magus: This doesn’t really improvethe Magus in this case.


The Sorcerer gets 2nd-level spells one level behind the Wizard, so it tendsto be used less than the Wizard. However, the sorcerer’s larger pool of spellslots can be appealing for arcane tricksters because they typically rely onsuch a small pool of favored spells.


Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Tricksterlevels are included.

Crossblooded: Giving up spells known is veryhard when you’re already giving up 3 levels of spellcasting to become anArcane Trickster.

Eldritch Scrapper: You won’t gain enoughlevels to make use of Martial Flexibility.

Mongrel Mage: Because you will only take 4levels of Sorcerer, you will get very few bloodline powers, and the specialabilities will quickly stop mattering.


Witches get spells at the same rate that wizards do, and give you a familiar(familiars are great for skill-heavy characters). Three levels of Witch getsyou two Hexes, which gives you a lot great utility options. Fortune is greatfor your skills, Prehensile Hair will let you dual-weild crossbows if that’ssomething you want, and Nails can give you a decent backup melee option. SeemyWitch Hex Breakdownfor more help picking hexes.


Most witch archetypes are bad, and none of them help the Arcane Trickster inany way. Gravewalker looks tempting, but Possess Undead is the only thing thatworks well for tricksters, and it doesn’t come online until 8th level.



Wizards get 2nd-level spells earlier than any other Arcane spellcaster,making them the obvious choice for the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting class.The ability to buy spells known dramatically improves the trickster’sversatility. The only issue with the Wizard is the relatively limited numberof spells per day.


Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Tricksterlevels are included.

Arcane Bomber: Literally never.

Exploiter Wizard: Arcane Bond and ArcaneSchool offer a lot of great options, but the ability to boost your spell DCand caster level can help you keep up with dedicated spellcasters. An ArcanistExploit offers some interesting options.

Scrollmaster: Save this for straightcasters.

Siege Mage: An Arcane Trickster is not usingsiege weapons.

Spell Sage: Focused Spells will get you afree ray with Scorching Ray, which is nice, but Spell Study uses spell slotstoo quickly for the Arcane Trickster.

Spellslinger: Not as awful for the ArcaneTrickster as it is for a normal Wizard, the Spellslinger’s access to firearmsis an interesting option. This greatly improves the number of spells withwhich you can Sneak Arrack because you can turn cone and line spells intoattacks. However, this limits you to a single shot per round when you can useScorching Ray to make several.

Spirit Whisperer: If you planned to take afamiliar, you can trade your arcane school for a small buff to yourfamiliar.


Abjuration: The Arcane Trickster isn’t muchof a support character, and defensive buffs don’t help much.

Conjuration: Summoning isn’t typically inthe Arcane Trickster’s wheelhouse, but the Teleportation subschool can befantastically helpful for the Arcane Trickster.

Divination: Forewarned ensures that, even ifyou’re surprised, you can probably Sneak Attack in the surprise round. TheForesight subschool offers a fantastic reroll mechanic.

Enchantment: Save or suck effects don’treally work for the Arcane Trickster because their spell DC’s won’t keep upwith full casters.

Evocation: Intense Spells offers a tinydamage boost to your spells, and the Admixture subschool makes it easier touse Scorching Ray when you encounter enemies which are resistant to fire. Thisdoesn’t seem like much, but Scorching Ray is important to the ArcaneTrickster’s most common tactic, and it can be completely shut down byresistance or immunity to fire.

Illusion: Extended Illusions won’t reallyhelp because you only get 3 levels of it. Blinding ray is helpful in a pinch,but it means that you’re only Sneak Attacking every other round. While you useit.

Necromancy: Arcane Tricksters can’t do muchwith undead pets.

Transmutation: Physical Enhancement willonly give you a +1 to one ability. Battleshaping out of the Shapechangesubschool can be nice to get an extra natural attack to Sneak Attack with ifyou’re in melee.

Universalist: Hand of the Apprentice ismediocre. Arcane Tricksters are just as good at throwing a weapon normally.

Air: Garbage.

Earth: Garbage.

Fire: Garbage.

Water: Garbage.

Metal: Garbage.

Wood: On par with Transmutation, and youget some Druid spells which don’t really help the Arcane Trickster.

Sneak Attack Class


Only usable with the Vivisectionist archetype (see below).


Vivisectionist: A very interesting option,the Vivisectionist gets +2d6 Sneak Attack at level 3, Brew Potion, Mutagen,Throw Anything, a Discovery, Poison Resistance, Poison Use, Swift Alchemy,Torturer’s Eye, Cruel Anatomist, and 3 1st-level extracts per day. However,the Alchemist only gets 4+ skill ranks, and skill ranks will be a problem formany Arcane Trickster builds attempting to fill in for a conventional rogue.If you combine alchemist with Wizard you can double-dip on Intelligence, whichwill help compensate for the lack of skill ranks from your class.


On par with the Rogue, the Ninja gets +2d6 Sneak Attack at level 3, andbrings Poison Use, the Ninja’s Ki Pool, a Ninja Trick, and No Trace. The sizeof the Ki Pool won’t be very large because it’s level-dependent, but it offerssome useful options like Vanishing Trick (turn Invisible as a swift action).The reliance on Charisma works well if you plan to use Sorcerer as yourspellcasting class, but you’ll lag behind other Arcane Trickster builds inskills, so this option may work best in parties with another high-skillcharacter to fill the gaps.


The gold standard since Arcane Trickster was written, the Rogue gets +2d6Sneak Attack at level 3 and brings Evasion, Trapfinding, Trap Sense, and aRogue Talent. The vanilla and unchained rogues will both work fine, but thethe unchained version is outright better in nearly every way, with thepossible exception of the removal of some of my favorite Rogue Talents, likeOffensive Defense. The biggest difference you’ll see in the three levels wecare about is whether or not you get Finesse Training, which only matters ifyou want to use melee weapons.


Only archetypes which take effect before you switch to Arcane Tricksterlevels are included.

Counterfeit Mage: Magical Expertise is theonly ability which the Arcane Trickster will see from this archetype untilvery high level, and because the Arcane Trickster can already cast spells UMDis much less important.

Knife Master: The Arcane Trickster willfrequently Sneak Attack with spells, and we don’t want to give up thatdamage.

Poisoner: The Arcane Trickster already hasplenty of tricks without Poison, but if you really want to use Poison thePoisoner archetype is a must.

Rake: Intimidating a target makes themShaken, and therefore more vulnerable to your other spells, so Bravado’s Bladecan be very effective for the Arcane Trickster.

Sniper: You trade your only Rogue Talent for10 feet more Sneak Attack range. Slightly useful, but getting a Rogue Talenallows you to take the Extra Talent feat to get more.


Takes far too long to get enough Sneak Attack.


The Arcane Trickster’s abilities depend heavily on your choice of base class, especially Intelligence and Charisma.

Str: Dump to 7 on nearly any ArcaneTrickster.

Dex: Important for AC, saves, andattacks.

Con: Crucial for the Arcane Trickster’s badFortitude saves and lousy hit points.

Int: If you use the Arcanist, Magus, or Wizard, this isblue.. If not, it’sorange because you need it for skills.

Wis: Only needed for Will saves, and thecombination of multiclassing with spellcasting classes should give you adecent base Will save.

Cha: If you use the Bard or Sorcerer, this isblue, otherwise it’sorange because it’s helpful for socialskills.


Bonuses to Dexterity and/or your spellcasting ability are great, but technically not essential because the Arcane Trickster doesn’t depend on spell DC’s.

Dwarf: Nothing helpful to the ArcaneTrickster.

Elf: With bonuses to both Dexterity andIntelligence, the Elf is a fantastic option for the Arcane Trickster. TheElf’s other racial abilities all contribute to the Arcane Trickster’sspellcasting abilities.

Gnome: The Gnome is fine, but the Halflingis strictly better for the Arcane Trickster.

Half-Elf: Everyone immediately thinksHalf-Elf when considering multiclass characters, and for good reason. However,dual-minded will get you at most 3 levels of favored class bonuses, so it’sreally not worth it. The Half-Elf’s other racial bonuses are still good,especially if your Arcane Trickster is a Face. If you want Darkvision (and youdo), consider the Drow-Blooded alternate class feature.

Half-Orc: The flexible ability bonus isnice, and Darkvision is essential for any stealth character.

Halfling: The best option for a small ArcaneTrickster, the Halfling’s bonuses to Dexterity and Charisma are fantastic. TheHalflings other racial abilities contribute to the Arcane Trickster’s stealthcapacity.

Human: Always fantastic, Humans make for anexcellent Arcane Trickster.


  • Deft Dodger (Combat): Bonus to your bestsave.
  • Hidden Hand (Combat): The attack bonuscan be nice, but generally Arcane Tricksters will be better with spells.
  • Reactionary (Combat): Going first isimportant for spellcasters and Sneak Attack characters. Arcane Trickstersare both.
  • Resilient (Combat): Bonus to a what islikely your worst save.
  • Indomitable Faith (Faith): Depending onyour build, a bonus to Will saves may be helpful.
  • Inspired (Faith): Nice for any characterwith a lot of skills.
  • Arcane Temper (Magic): Nice, but won’tstack with Reacitonary.
  • Focused Mind (Magic): Bonuses toConcentration are nice if you plan to be in melee.
  • Gifted Adept (Magic): Tempting, but becauseyou give up caster levels to get Sneak Attack, Magical Knack will be twiceas effective and works for all spells
  • Magical Knack (Magic): Absolutelyrequired. Two caster levels gets you a ton of additional damage and durationfrom your spells.
  • Magical Lineage (Magic): You need MagicalKnack much more.
  • Life of Toil (Social): Bonus to a what islikely your worst save.


  • Acrobatics (Dex): Good for getting out ofa tight spot.
  • Appraise (Int): Too situational.
  • Bluff (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Climb (Str): Too situational.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Essential for anyFace.
  • Disable Device (Int): Essential forhandling traps and locks.
  • Disguise (Cha): Situational, and you canreplicate it with spells like Disguise Self and Alter Self.
  • Escape Artist (Dex):
  • Knowledge (All) (Int): If you can sparethe skill ranks, an Arcane Trickster can make for a great Librarian.
  • Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill inthe game.
  • Sense Motive (Wis): Essential for anyFace.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Situational.
  • Spellcraft (Int): Great for identifyingspells, but not essential most of the time. If your game makes it to highenough level that you might be able to get Spell Perfection, you’ll need 15ranks
  • Stealth (Dex): Essential for stealth.
  • Swim (Str): Too situational.


  • Improved Initiative: Going first isimportant for Sneak Attack characters and for primary spellcasters. ArcaneTricksters are both.
  • Point-Blank Shot: To use Sneak Attack, youneed to be within 30 feet, and a +1 to attack and damage is nice, though notterribly significant.
    • Precise Shot: Your allies willabsolutely be in melee with your targets. You will depend almostexclusively on ranged touch attacks, so you shouldn’t have too manyproblems, but a removing that -4 penalty will nearly guaranteesuccess.
      • Improved Precise Shot: You can’tSneak Attack enemies with concealment. Remove it.
  • Spell Penetration: The Arcane Trickstergive up 1 caster level, and spell resistance will be a serious problem.Spell Penetration will do a lot to mitigate this issue.
    • Greater Spell Penetration: Evenbetter.
  • Spell Perfection: Despite the highprerequisite cost, this feat is absolutely essential. Scorching Ray, theArcane Trickster’s favorite spell, is only 2nd-level, leaving 7 levels worthof metamagic that you can apply to it for free. How about Quickened andEmpowered? How about Maximized and Empowered? You don’t get tomaximize/empower your Sneak Attack damage, but you get a pile of rays, eachof which apply Sneak Attack damage, and the damage is enhanced by yourmetamagic feats. All that from two 2nd-level spell slots.
  • Weapon Finesse: If you plan to go intomelee, you need Weapon Finesse. However, you will likely find that youdamage output is much better if you use spells. You can also go for threelevels

Metamagic Feats

  • Elemental Spell: If you didn’t go forAdmixture Wizard, energy resitance to fire will cripple you. Elemental Spellcan easily solve that problem.
  • Empower Spell: In my opinion Empower is abetter payoff than Maximize. Combining the two can be horrifyinglyeffective, but neither boost your additional damage from Sneak Attack.
  • Intensified Spell: Intensified Spellspecifically increase the cap on damage dice, which tragically means thatyou can’t use it to get extra rays out of Scorching Ray. It’s tempting onceyou get Surprise Spells, but at that point you can easily afford a metamagicrod (lesser or standard will suffice) for the two or three times per daythat you’ll get lucky enough to find a room that looks to be in need of aSneak Attack-laden Fireball.
  • Maximize Spell: Not always useful, buttempting with Spell Perfection.
  • Quicken Spell: Essential at high level.Twice as many Scorching Rays means twice as much damage output.
  • Silent Spell: When you find enemies, youare hopefully sneaking around and making a concerted effort to remainunnoticed Casting a spell with verbal components is a great way to ruin thateffort. But on a typical day you may not havy any need for Silent Spell, soconsider a metamagic rod.
  • Still Spell: Too infrequently useful. Ifyou’re worried about being grappled, you have Tricky Spells available, oryou can look for spells without somatic components like Dimension Door.Quicken Spells also removes somatic components.


  • Dagger: Carry a few even if you don’t planto use them.
  • Hand Crossbow: Pick up the Witch HexPrehensile Hair or the Alchemist Discovery Extra Hand, and you can usetwo-weapon fighting with hand crossbows. Arcane Trickster is a terrible wayto pursue this option, but it’s technically an option.
  • Rapier: The go-to melee option if youplan to take Weapon Finesse.
  • Shortbow: Nice if you run out of betteroptions, but personally I would turn to cantrips before restorting tosomething as simple as a bow.


  • Leather: Wear it until you can castspells or upgrade to a mithral shirt.
  • Mage Armor: +4 AC, hours per levelduration. If you can’t wear armor, this is a lifesaver.
  • Mithral Shirt: If you picked aspellcasting class which allows you to wear armor, the Mithral Shirt is yourbest bet.
  • Mithral Buckler: Most Arcane Tricksterscan’t wear real armor, so AC bonuses are crucial. With no check penalty orspell failure, a mithral buckler is one of the cheapest and easiest ACinvestments that you can make. Every Arcane Trickster should have one.


This section won’t address every spell on your spell list, but it will point out some especially notable options. For a complete list of spells, see the SRD Spell Index.

Magic Items


  • Invisibility: Normally a must formundane rogues, you have several powerful options for making yourselfinvisible, so this is much less useful. It’s still tempting to be invisibleall the time, but consider how many 2nd-level Pearls of Power you could buyfor the ring’s 20,000gp cost. Are you going to cast invisibility more than 5times in a day on a consistent basis? Probably not, but that’s a judgementcall that you’ll need to make based on the game you’re playing in.


  • Metamagic (See above): Metamagic rods inpathfinder are spectacular and inexpensive. Grab a few favorites like ExtendSpell, Intensify Spell, and Silent Spell. Conveniently you can rely onLesser metamagic rods for Scorching Ray, so you can afford a sizeablecollection of rods.


I normally likes staffs a lot, but the Arcane Trickster has few meaningful options. Only two staffs include Scorching Ray, and both are expensive.

  • Staff of Dark Flame: False Life is afanftasic option, but perhaps the best part of the staff is that Ray ofEnfeeblement and Scorching Ray both cost 1 charge, so you can cast a1st-level spell into the staff to get an extra use a 2nd-level spell. That’svery efficient, but for the same price you buy almost 12 2nd-level Pearls ofPower, which will get you more uses of Scorching Ray and won’t eatyour 1st-level spell slots.
  • Staff of Many Rays: All rays means thatevery single spell in the staff is a candidate for Sneak Attack. Thearrangement of the charge costs means that you can expend three 1st-levelspell slots to get a 6th-level spell (Disintegrate, specifically), which isa pretty great exchange. Unfortunately, by the time you can reasonablyafford one of these you can probably do more damage with Scorching Ray.

Example Build – Just your ordinary Rogue/Wizard/Arcane Trickster

Anything but ordinary.

The Arcane Trickster can do nearly anything. While there is certainly room for deviation from this build, this is a good example of how to make a viable Arcane Trickster that will work in almost any party.


25 Point Buy
  • Str:7
  • Dex:16->18
  • Con:16->14
  • Int:16->18
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:9


Elf. The bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence are nice, and the Elf’s other racial abilities contribute nicely to the Arcane Trickster.


We will use the Rogue and Wizard as prerequisite classes. They are the most obvious entry points for the Arcane Trickster, and they work very well. Because of the skill requirements for the class, we will start with Wizard, then move into Rogue. Our favored class will be Wizard because it will be the majority of our non-prestige classes by the time we hit level 20.

We will use Evocation (Admixture) as our Arcane School, and we will take a ring as our Arcane Bond option. The Monkey is a tempting option as a familiar because familiars share skills with their masters, but this is intended to be a simple example build. If you want a Monkey to scout and pick locks for you, it is a hilarious and excellent decision. The Admixture subschool ability allows us to switch Scorching Ray to do other types of energy damage, which removes the issue of energy resistance.


Allocating skills is difficult, and depends heavily on the makeup of your party. You may want to start picking up Rogue skills immediately, or you may want to focus on Knowledge skills until you absolutely need to start working on Rogue skills. Depending on your party, you may need to serve as the Rogue, the Wizard, or both.


Reactionary and Magical Knack.


LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1 – Wizard 1
  • Arcane Bond (Ring)
  • Arcane School: Evocation (Admixture)
  • Versatile Evocation
  • Cantrips
  • Scribe Scroll
  • Spells (2+4)
    • Color Spray
    • Mage Armor
    • Magic Missile
    • Sleep
    • Shocking Grasp
    • Reduce Person
  • Skills (2+4)
  • Feat: ANY

At level 1, the Arcane Trickster is largely the same as a 1st-level Wizard. Your best bet is to depend on save or suck spells like Color Spray and Sleep.

You may want to start picking up Rogue skills immediately. Depending on your party, you may need to serve as the Rogue, the Wizard, or both.

2 – Wizard 2
  • Spells (2)
    • Expeditious Retreat
    • Feather Fall
  • Skills (2+4)

2nd level is very dry. You get a bit more damage and some more spells, but your tactics remain largely the same.

3 – Wizard 3
  • Spells (2)
    • Invisibility
    • Scorching Ray
  • Skills (2+4)
  • Feat: ANY

Level 3 introduces Scorching Ray, which will be the Arcane Trickster’s go-to offensive option for the remainder of their career. From here on, I will track our “best case scenario” damage, which indicates the most damage we can do to a single target in one round.

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6 (14) damage.

4 – Rogue 1
  • Sneak Attack +1d6
  • Trapfinding
  • Skills (8+4)
  • Ability Increase: Intelligence

4th level is the precipice before we start falling behind straight casters. Magical Knack lets our caster level keep pace, but we don’t get new spells known unless we buy them. If you’re careful and lucky, you can do a tiny bit more damage than a straight Wizard due to Sneak Attack, but your damage still isn’t impressive so save or suck spells will probably be your best bet.

The huge jump in skill ranks will help you catch up to a straight Rogue, especially with 18 intelligence behind it. Be sure to maximize essentials like Disable Device and Stealth.

We want to increase our Intelligence over Dexterity because extra Intelligence will help us overcome our skill rank deficit. We don’t need Dexterity as much as a conventional Rogue because our attacks are already so easy.

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+1d6 (17.5) damage.

5 – Rogue 2
  • Evasion
  • Rogue Talent: ANY
  • Skills (8+4)
  • Feat: Any

At 5th level straight Wizards gets Fireball, and can obliterate groups of enemies. While our caster level keeps pace, we don’t get new spell levels while we’re playing Rogue. This is the hardest part of the Arcane Trickster’s life. Your damage and utility are worse than a single-class Wizard or a single-class Rogue, and you can’t do anything better than either one.

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+1d6 (17.5) damage.

6 – Rogue 3
  • Sneak Attack +2d6
  • Trap Sense +1
  • Skills (8+4)

Despite a bump in Sneak Attack damage, 6th level is likely the worst level of the Arcane Trickster’s life. Our damage output still lags, and our spells are as far behind as they will ever be. This is the first level where our caster level doesn’t increase, so we don’t even get additional damage from what few spells we have.

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+2d6 (21) damage.

7 – Arc. Trickster 1
  • Ranged legerdemain
  • Feat: Any

7th level is hardly better than 6th. We get back on track with our caster level, but that’s really all. At least now you can call yourself an Arcane Trickster.

At this level we finally start to get our favored class bonus. I recommend using it to get additional skill ranks. Despite our 18 intelligence, we only get 8 skill ranks per level, and our deficit from 3 Wizard levels sets us very far behind single-class Rogues.

Best case Scenario damage: 1 ray for 4d6+2d6 (21) damage.

8 – Arc. Trickster 2
  • Sneak attack +3d6
  • Ability Increase: Intelligence

At 8th level, things finally get better. We get access to 3rd-level spells, though we need to buy them to learn them. We get some more Sneak Attack damage, and our increased caster level finally earns a second ray from Scorching Ray, more than doubling our best case scenario damage, and far exceeding a single-class Wizard for single target damage.

8th level also brings our base Intelligence to 20, getting us an extra skill rank per level and some more bonus spells.

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+3d6 (24.5) damage each, totaling 8d6+6d6 (49) damage.

9 – Arc. Trickster 3
  • Impromptu sneak attack 1/day
  • Feat: ANY

Though not terribly exciting, 9th level brings Impromptu Sneak Attack, which offers an easy option to get Sneak Attack when you don’t have an easier way to do so.

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+3d6 (24.5) damage each, totaling 8d6+6d6 (49) damage.

10 – Arc. Trickster 4
  • Sneak Attack +4d6

10th level brings 4th-level spells, finally opening up Greater Invisibility. While it may be disappointing to spend all of your 4th-level spells per day on Greater Invisibility, you can’t deny how effective it is. Every fight should begin with Greater Invisibility, and end with a room full of smoldering corpses.

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+4d6 (28) damage each, totaling 8d6+8d6 (56) damage.

11 – Arc. Trickster 5
  • Tricky spells 3/day
  • Feat: ANY

Tricky spells is a fun ability. You can use it to get out of a grapple, to get out of ropes, to cast subtle spells while observed, or any number of other creative tactics. It likely won’t win you any fights, but it offers a lot of cool utility options.

Best case Scenario damage: 2 rays for 4d6+4d6 (28) damage each, totaling 8d6+8d6 (56) damage.

12 – Arc. Trickster 6
  • Sneak Attack +5d6
  • Ability Increase: Intelligence

12th level brings another huge damage spike. Our third scorching ray and an extra Sneak Attack die add up to a huge pile of damage. With a total of 27d6 worth of damage, we can very reasonably kill almost any enemy we meet with one or two spells, and those are just 2nd-level spells. We can further increase this damage with metamagic feats like Empower Spell, but remember that these feats don’t affect Sneak Attack damage.

12th level also gets us 5th-level spells, opening up options like Extend Spell on Greater Invisibility.

Best case Scenario damage: 3 rays for 4d6+5d6 (31.5) damage each, totaling 12d6+15d6 (94.5) damage.

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