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A Guide to the Burglar Rogue (Pathfinder)

Kevin has been playing tabletop games for almost as long as he can remember and currently edits for Jon Brazer Enterprises.

You'll never see him coming.

You'll never see him coming.

The Overview

The burglar archetype (Advanced Player’s Guide 132) is short and simple, but the idea is well-executed mechanically. Some (perhaps too many) of Pathfinder’s archetypes either give too little or give up too much to create a different sort of character, but with the burglar, the designers found that perfect balance between the two. With a bit of specialization, a burglar character can handle just about any trap a Game Master can devise, and, unlike the trapsmith (Advanced Player’s Guide 135), will be more well-rounded than hyper-specialized.

At 4th level, the burglar gives up uncanny dodge to gain the careful disarm ability, which makes him less likely to set off traps he’s trying to disarm. With maximum ranks in Disable Device, a good Dexterity, and the bonus from trapfinding, the burglar’s likely able to tackle any trap he encounters. Obviously, you want your burglar to have a high Perception score to ensure you’ll be able to find the traps, but since you’re giving up uncanny dodge, you probably want to do that anyway to minimize the times you’re caught flat-footed. Careful disarm goes a long way to make you quite capable of handling any trap-happy Game Master by itself, but you can combine it with rogue talents such as quick disable and trap spotter to solidify your expertise here.

Unlike the large number of highly specialized archetypes out there (such as nearly every fighter archetype), the burglar turns you into more of a generalist character, spreading your talents into two areas, rather than one. Instead of another trap-related ability, the burglar trades improved uncanny dodge for the distraction ability at 8th level. This gem of an ability lets the rogue attempt a Bluff check if he’s ever detected while using the Stealth skill as a way to remain undetected. This can be a life-saver, as sometimes a lucky Perception roll can spell death for your rogue while scouting (and, as good at you are at disarming traps, you’re likely to be doing that often as a burglar!). Combine this with the honeyed words rogue talent to give you a once-per-day +10 bonus to such a crucial Bluff check, and you’ve got a great insurance policy for your scouting missions.

It probably goes without saying that the burglar benefits greatly from the skill mastery advanced rogue talent (you’ll want Bluff, Disable Device, Perception, and Stealth to be your first choices). By 10th or 12th level, you can be a veritable master scout for your party, on top of being able to lighten the local baron’s treasury without breaking a sweat, if the opportunity arises.

This archetype comes highly recommended for any game that features a preponderance of traps, and for a game that doesn’t, the distraction ability is still very solid for any rogue that does a lot of scouting or other solo work that requires a great deal of stealth.

Sample Build

There are a lot of ways to go about playing an effective burglar. Just about anything that would work for a standard rogue should work well for the burglar. You can approach combat however you want because you don’t need specific feats to make good use of the burglar’s tricks. With that in mind, the following foundational build is just one example. I’ve chosen to buck the trend a little bit and go with a half-orc, giving you greataxe proficiency, which keeps your damage high even when you don’t get the opportunity to sneak attack.

Half-Orc Rogue (Burglar) 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy):
Str 17, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12
Feats and Talents
Improved Initiative
2 Rogue Talent: Trap Spotter
Weapon Focus (greataxe)
Rogue Talent: Quick Disable
Power Attack

This is all very basic, but it’ll set you up for success as an effective damage dealer and gives you the edge against traps. Remember, you’ll also want to keep Bluff, Disable Device, Perception, and Stealth maxed out to make the most out of your burglar abilities. This does mean you shouldn’t dump Charisma as you would otherwise like to (leaving Intelligence as your best dump stat—but you’ve got the skill points per level to handle that). With higher point buy, you definitely want to get that Intelligence out of the gutter.

That’s it for the burglar. If you’re looking to create a well-rounded rogue with a focus on traps and stealth, this is one of the best archetypes you can take.


Holly Kline from South Jersey on April 18, 2013:

As a trap-happy GM, I'm glad to see this out there!