Different Paths: Shadow Dancer Rogue

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I’m interested in looking at alternate paths to certain archetypes, concepts, etc in 5e. Things like some different flavors of assassin, or trick shooter or fancy footwork duelist that isn’t a battlemaster, or even just things like a paladin archer, or a weapon focused Druid.

Today, I’m going to explore the idea of a Shadowdancer Rogue. Obviously, this is not an entirely unsupported idea in 5e, but I often find myself looking at the shadow monk, and not wanting to deal with all the monk stuff that comes with it, and I think there is room for a very different approach in the rogue.

So, some goals, and clarification.

Clarification: This not a thread wherein I’m asking if you think I should build this, if the game needs it, etc. I am operating under the assumption that this is a good goal, and I’m just not interested in challenges to the premise. This is a thread about how to do it.

Goals:

Thematically, we want a character who can be one with shadow, who is supernaturally graceful, swift, and able to manipulate shadow around themselves.

Mechanically, I’d like to see different abilities and benefits than the Shadow Monk, and be balanced against the Arcane Trickster.

Ideas thus far, in very rough form: note, these are not organized by level. This is just a rough cut of what sorts of abilities I’d want if playing a shadowdancer rogue.

movement: benefits with speed, jumping, and acrobatics while in shadow. Probably want some benefit always, but greater in shadow. Stuff like +5 speed and jump distance, can use Dex for jump distance in shadow, and gain extra +10 speed in shadow. OR, small bonuses always, and the use of spells while in shadow, like jump and longstrider. Could be more powerful or gain power with levels.

Combat/damage: Gain Shadowblade spell? Or maybe summon any light or finesse weapon as part of attacking with it, it’s magical, and you can SA when you or Target is in dim light or darkness and you don’t have disadvantage?

Gain or increase dark-vision?

Minor Illusion works well, but maybe also a higher level ability to steal shadows and turn them against people?

Eventually become insubstantial for a while?

Spells like Blur and Mage Armor also seem appropriate as using shadow to obscure and protect yourself.

Should it gain the spellcasting trait, or just certain spells x/day? or can it work largely without spells?
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
I'm leery of actual spellcasting for the concept, at most I'd give it spell-like abilities. Definitely gain/increase darkvision (like the shadow sorcerer).
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I'd be tempted to pick a couple of core ideas and then spin the abities around that. For example, lets call one shadow meld. You could give some of those athletic bonuses in dim light, you could reskin or add some defensive stuff wrapped around the idea of momentary insubstiality, and also tie in some shadow manifestation that could look like shadow blade or whatever. It's cool and its themed.

The shadow teleport thing has been done of course ut its still very cool. You could always do something like Shadow Scrying where the PC can look or listen through shadows at a distance.

On the spell front, Id be more tempted to go with a mechanic more like invocations and then specifically hit up the shadow theme with appropriate per day or per rest numbers. Give that a name to, lets say Shadow Invocations because every single thing here needs he word shadow, and add new effect, durarion and whatever at incremental levels.

Thats what i gots off the top of my head, but its a cocept I love, so I'll be around.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'm leery of actual spellcasting for the concept, at most I'd give it spell-like abilities. Definitely gain/increase darkvision (like the shadow sorcerer).
True! The rogue already has a spellcaster, might as well get a little weirder with this one.

I'd be tempted to pick a couple of core ideas and then spin the abities around that. For example, lets call one shadow meld. You could give some of those athletic bonuses in dim light, you could reskin or add some defensive stuff wrapped around the idea of momentary insubstiality, and also tie in some shadow manifestation that could look like shadow blade or whatever. It's cool and its themed.
I love this. Maybe a flat AC calculation similar to Mage Armor (effectively a +1 AC compared to studded leather), some kind of bonus with athletics and acrobatics that gets much better in dim light or darkness, and extended darkvision. I think comparing it to the Swashbuckler you can just fit a "Sneak Attack if you or target are in dim light or darkness" in there. Shadow blade would have to be an upgrade, I think.

The shadow teleport thing has been done of course ut its still very cool. You could always do something like Shadow Scrying where the PC can look or listen through shadows at a distance.
This is where I want some kind of x/day mechanic, where you can choose between things to do with that x/day, because I love tenebration, and I love this shadow scry idea!

What if you could reach through shadow if you and your target are in dim light or darkness, attacking them as if within 5ft?

On the spell front, Id be more tempted to go with a mechanic more like invocations and then specifically hit up the shadow theme with appropriate per day or per rest numbers. Give that a name to, lets say Shadow Invocations because every single thing here needs he word shadow, and add new effect, durarion and whatever at incremental levels.

Thats what i gots off the top of my head, but its a concept I love, so I'll be around.
I like Invocations. Then you could choose whether you want a shadow blade, teleportation, shadow scrying, even greater speed, become insubstantial, etc.

I do wonder how much we could fit in a balanced subclass without leaning on invocations or spell slot equivalents?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I think the answer is a lot less than with the use of invocations, at least as far as adding some choice goes. If what we want is the standard power at 3rd, power at 9th approach, etc then it's easier to envision because it's only four abilities. If you gate abilities behind x/day or x/rest and provide some choice inside that ability you still get options and flavor without leaning on a spell-like mechanic. Multiple options for one ability or invocations probably gets us to about the same place though, so maybe we should hash out some specifics on abilities and then figure out how to implement them?

Standard Archetypes generally get two light or one heavy ability at 3rd, and then one heavy at 9/13/17. Is that the rough template we want to start with?

I'd go with the multiple light abilities at 3rd so we can splat the theme a little wider. Generally there's a movement or maneuver ability and then something with sneak attack. We might reasonably up the power level a titch if the abilities only work in dim light or darker.

Maybe something like this:

Movement (Shadow Dance?): when in dim light or shadow, the Shadow Dancer gets an additional 10' of movement and X. That second part could be advantage on athletics/Acrobatics; don't provoke attacks of opportunity; stuff like that.

Attack: when in dim light or darkness the SD get advantage on the first round of combat unless they already have disadvantage. I'd like a defensive thing in here too, something shadow-formy. Maybe call it a bonus action so it's more of choice rather than a constant mod. Maybe the bonus action grants you +2 AC for the rest of the round? Something like that - essentially it works as an additional option for cunning action. Maybe +2 is too much, IDK, that was just the number that came to mind. If this sounds like it's too much you could gate some or all of it behind, say, an Performance check (that's the shadow dance) DC whatever, at which point I'd grant Performance proficiency at 3rd as part of the Archetype. You could even add some extra effect for higher DC checks, which essentially makes the abilities scale by level, which is neat. That would get us that 'invocation' feel without using those rules, and we've added a check to help balance the strength of the skills.

I'm going to stop there. Let me know what parts of that catch your fancy and we'll keep hacking away.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
I feel like rogues often get a 3rd level ability that helps them to use their sneak attack more often. The Shadow Dancer speaks to this immediately; let them enter stealth with their cunning action in dim light while under observation.

You're going to have to steal from other subclasses, though. I doubt you'll get to be fully unique on this one. We have a shadow monk, a shadow sorcerer, a shadow ranger, and lots of shadowy warlock stuff. There's going to be some overlap. That's okay. Shadow is a big enough power source for multiple classes; how many arcane casters do we have?

Do you want this to be a shadow weapon creating class (I wouldn't), or just someone who uses shadows to be a thief/assassin/scout?

I'd want to see no penalty to stealth when moving full speed. I'd want to see darkvision and possibly de il sight. I'd want to see the invisibility to darkvision from the gloom stalker ranger.

I don't think I'd want to see too much manipulation of shadow, though. I wouldn't want the darkness spell. I would want shadow teleportation (that's the dancer part to me). I'd want disappearing under someone's nose. Maybe the ability to snuff out flames, as shadows sap heat.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think the answer is a lot less than with the use of invocations, at least as far as adding some choice goes. If what we want is the standard power at 3rd, power at 9th approach, etc then it's easier to envision because it's only four abilities. If you gate abilities behind x/day or x/rest and provide some choice inside that ability you still get options and flavor without leaning on a spell-like mechanic. Multiple options for one ability or invocations probably gets us to about the same place though, so maybe we should hash out some specifics on abilities and then figure out how to implement them?

Standard Archetypes generally get two light or one heavy ability at 3rd, and then one heavy at 9/13/17. Is that the rough template we want to start with?

I'd go with the multiple light abilities at 3rd so we can splat the theme a little wider. Generally there's a movement or maneuver ability and then something with sneak attack. We might reasonably up the power level a titch if the abilities only work in dim light or darker.

Maybe something like this:

Movement (Shadow Dance?): when in dim light or shadow, the Shadow Dancer gets an additional 10' of movement and X. That second part could be advantage on athletics/Acrobatics; don't provoke attacks of opportunity; stuff like that.

Attack: when in dim light or darkness the SD get advantage on the first round of combat unless they already have disadvantage. I'd like a defensive thing in here too, something shadow-formy. Maybe call it a bonus action so it's more of choice rather than a constant mod. Maybe the bonus action grants you +2 AC for the rest of the round? Something like that - essentially it works as an additional option for cunning action. Maybe +2 is too much, IDK, that was just the number that came to mind. If this sounds like it's too much you could gate some or all of it behind, say, an Performance check (that's the shadow dance) DC whatever, at which point I'd grant Performance proficiency at 3rd as part of the Archetype. You could even add some extra effect for higher DC checks, which essentially makes the abilities scale by level, which is neat. That would get us that 'invocation' feel without using those rules, and we've added a check to help balance the strength of the skills.

I'm going to stop there. Let me know what parts of that catch your fancy and we'll keep hacking away.
Okay I think Performance is good, and bonus expertise if already trained in it? Idk

For movement I’d maybe give jump distance set by your Dex instead of Strength score in addition to speed boost? What about something similar to Bladesong, that has to be activated? Either way, I’d prefer it have some small benefit even in bright light, but maybe I’m being too wary of situational benefits.

I’d be down to keep the combat benefit more on the defensive side, and give a Shadow Armor benefit, but I’m also willing to leave that for level 9?

Perhaps a flat bonus to speed and jump in dim light or darkness, proficiency in performance, and a Shadow Dance ability 2/SR, bonus action.

Shadow Dance: AC boost (+2 or +a stat?), Advantage on Stealth, ability to dim lights around you, and you can SA while in dim light or darkness (teleport 30 feet as a bonus action while active too much?), no OAs when dashing, stuff like that. Your movements and being wrapped in shadow protect you. You become partly shadow. Etc.

level 9, Shadow Dance now includes a Shadow Blade style benefit? Or tenebration?

Level 13, something out of combat. Phasing? Shadow scrying?

Capstone: Insubstantial while in Shadow Dance, or create a shadow duplicate that fights with your AC and Attack and Damage, can deal SA 1/turn, half your HP?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
[MENTION=57494]Xeviat[/MENTION] stealth at full speed and hiding while in dim light are great ideas. Hiding in dim light allows more SA without making it explicitly about that.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Thinking back, does stealth get a penalty with speed actually? Cunning Action still allows the rogue to use their action for a dash.
Not exactly. You can be stealthy when moving at slow speed, but that's outside of combat. That's where the Ranger ability to stealth at normal pace comes in. There's no rules for stealth when the game changes to combat intervals, oddly. Hiding yes, stealth no. So what we're talking about is the same as the Ranger ability with shadow as the favored terrain (essentially). There aren't any penalties, you can either stealth or not. Now that I read that again I find it odd. Higher DC for increased pace seems like a natural idea.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
To start, might we call the whole package Shadow Dance, and then think about names for the various abilities based on steps or moves in that dance? Not important mechanically of course, but it might sound cool.

Okay I think Performance is good, and bonus expertise if already trained in it? Idk
The standard is here's the proficiency, full stop. That's probably enough.

For movement I’d maybe give jump distance set by your Dex instead of Strength score in addition to speed boost? What about something similar to Bladesong, that has to be activated? Either way, I’d prefer it have some small benefit even in bright light, but maybe I’m being too wary of situational benefits.
When you're talking about Jump, are you envisioning some sort of limited teleport, or just a straight jump bonus? I like an activation mechanic too, and we could certainly use Bladesong as a model for some of what we want to do. Adding an activation and limiting it to x/day or rest allows us to up the power level, which could be fun.

I’d be down to keep the combat benefit more on the defensive side, and give a Shadow Armor benefit, but I’m also willing to leave that for level 9?
I'd add it in earlier than 9 and scale it at 9 before I'd make them wait all the way until 9. That said, there's only so many abilities so they'll be waiting for something.

Perhaps a flat bonus to speed and jump in dim light or darkness, proficiency in performance, and a Shadow Dance ability 2/SR, bonus action.
Shadow Dance: AC boost (+2 or +a stat?), Advantage on Stealth, ability to dim lights around you, and you can SA while in dim light or darkness (teleport 30 feet as a bonus action while active too much?), no OAs when dashing, stuff like that. Your movements and being wrapped in shadow protect you. You become partly shadow. Etc.
We can work with that model. This is where using Bladesong as a template might be useful. Let me go re-read that right now.

level 9, Shadow Dance now includes a Shadow Blade style benefit? Or tenebration?
To start, I would like a shadow teleport, even though it's already in another archetype. Level 6 us the usual there, so that's where I'd stick it. L9 is where I'd probably stick the tenebration. Some basic questions. Sight and sound, or just one? Shadow you can see, or shadow within X? Range? (something less than 100' maybe...). Shorter range and bigger effect makes it cooler and also more challenging to use. For example, if you called it shadow trance, and explained it as reaching out with your senses it could be both sight and sound within, say, 60', but not limited by line of sight. Longer range with line of sight could be another way to go. I'm picturing the PC using every shadow in range like a one-way mirror and mic in a police interrogation room.

Level 13, something out of combat. Phasing? Shadow scrying?

Capstone: Insubstantial while in Shadow Dance, or create a shadow duplicate that fights with your AC and Attack and Damage, can deal SA 1/turn, half your HP?
I haven't imagined wuite this far, but what you mention is pretty much in the range and style of what I'd like to see, yeah. Maybe something like Blink at 13? I'm just spitballing at this point. Shadow Doubles is a great idea too, and both work in either slot. I'd probably put shadow doubles at 13 and then really work the insubstantial thing as the capstone.
 
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Esker

Explorer
For abilities at 3rd, I like the idea of (1) sneak attack working in dim light regardless of other conditions being met (as long as you don't have disadvantage), (2) gain darkvision 60 ft, or if you already have it from your race, the range increases to 120 ft, and (3) can hide when in dim light.

Instead of a boost to acrobatics/athletics, what about getting to use two of your cunning action options with a single bonus action (maybe 2 / SR)? All three combinations feel shadowy.

9th: How about a spider climb ability when in dim light or darkness?

13th: Manipulate Shadow: You have learned to control the shadows as if they were a material substance. You can use an action to cause areas of natural shadow to spread, filling an area up to a 30' cube for one minute. You can even cause the shadows to try to envelop a creature you can see. The creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw with DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier, or be enveloped by darkness, and be Blinded and Restrained for one minute. As an action an affected creature may make a strength (wisdom?) check to end the effect.

17th: I like something like doctorbadwolf's Shadow Double suggestion. A full duplicate seems too strong though, unless it's a 1xday thing that lasts a minute or something.
 
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Dausuul

Legend
I love this idea, since I also prefer rogues to monks but like the shadow theme. Here's how I might go at it:

Flicker of Shadow. At 3rd level, as a bonus action when in dim light or darkness, you can turn yourself and any objects you are carrying into shadow. While in this form, you can pass through gaps as small as 1 inch wide without squeezing, you can hide anywhere, and you do not suffer disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks for moving more than half your speed.

This effect lasts until the end of your turn or until you enter an area of bright light.

Dark Sight. At 3rd level, you gain darkvision with a range of 60 feet. If you already have darkvision, its range increases by 30 feet.

Thief of Light. At 9th level, as an action, you can steal the light from all light sources (including magical ones) within 60 feet. They are extinguished and cannot be relit while you hold the stolen light in your fist. You must have a free hand to use this ability.

As an action while holding the light, you can release it in a blinding flash. Each creature within 20 feet that can see you must make a Constitution saving throw against a DC of 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. A creature that fails its saving throw is blinded until the end of your next turn.

After you release the light, or after 1 minute, the light sources are rekindled and return to normal.

Shadow Killer. At 13th level, you can kill your enemies through their shadows. When you are within 30 feet of a creature, if there is a light source on the other side of that creature, you can attack the creature's shadow with a melee weapon as if you were attacking the creature itself. The target takes damage normally from this attack.

One With Darkness. At 17th level, when you use Flicker of Shadow, the effect lasts until you use a bonus action to end it or until you enter an area of bright light.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
With Shadow Double I was thinking more Mirror Image, not a clone. Although now that you say that...:heh:
[MENTION=68021]Das[/MENTION]uul - Flicker of Shadow seems strong for 3rd level, although I like it a lot. It seems more like the equivalent of the shadow teleport type thing, which is more usually a 6th level ability.

I also might be more tempted to have the SD exude an aura of shadow over stealing light, but that's more of a theme thing for me. That said, something like Thief of Light is a cool ability (I like the free hand stipulation a lot, that's clever). A lower power version could be more of hit the dimmer switch kind of deal without the flash. It provides shadow to work in when there isn't any but could fit into a lower level or split level ability slot (depending on how many cool ideas we have we can only use so many, so I'm trying to think of various versions of cool stuff as it come up).
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Food for thought. The Bladesong model has a raft of smaller bonuses packed into it at 2nd, and then 3 big abilities at 6/10/14 and it works on a 2/rest model with a 1m duration. I think that is a strong way to model what we're doing, we just need to figure out how to package it. What that doesn't get the archetype is always on mods, so it's give and take. 2/rest is almost every encounter though, so assuming a standard work day maybe it's fine.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
Not exactly. You can be stealthy when moving at slow speed, but that's outside of combat. That's where the Ranger ability to stealth at normal pace comes in. There's no rules for stealth when the game changes to combat intervals, oddly. Hiding yes, stealth no. So what we're talking about is the same as the Ranger ability with shadow as the favored terrain (essentially). There aren't any penalties, you can either stealth or not. Now that I read that again I find it odd. Higher DC for increased pace seems like a natural idea.

Typical people need to spend an action to stealth, so they only get their movement. This, half speed since they can't dash. At least that's how I interpret it.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Typical people need to spend an action to stealth, so they only get their movement. This, half speed since they can't dash. At least that's how I interpret it.
That sounds fine to me, I just didn't find nearly as much guidance as I thought I would when I went back to the PHB to verify. Honestly, as reasonable as that sounds I think it's more in the way of a house rule (not that that's bad somehow). In non-combat movement stealth limits you to slow, not normal, and base speed is 'normal' as far as I'm willing to extend that interpretation. I can't find anything in the PHB other than the general comments in Ch7 that at least suggest that the combat procedure is hide then stealth to maintain that state, but there's still no movement restriction of any kind.

We may want to add that, just because we're awesome and it makes sense. Or we could just monkey around with advantage or bonuses on stealth checks in combat period and go home happy. I'm good either way.
 

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