D&D (2024) Maybe this is a bit late, but let's talk about Rogue's Niche, and What Rogue Should Be.

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
THANK YOU!

One of the biggest things people notoriously forget is how convoluted the thief skills in B/AD&D are. Nearly every Thief Skill has so many provisions, riders and quid pro quos that they are nearly impossible to use RAW. That creates a situation where a thief's abilities are only as useful as the DM was willing to allow and had knowledge of the intricacies of the rules. Good DMs knew the rules and applied them in a way that was fair to the Thief. Bad DMs neither knew nor cared and made the penalty for failure the worst possible consequence.
Yeah people forget how bad thief skills and backstab used to be.

Part of me thinks that they were made purposely bad so that DMs would be able to ease up on the restrictions to their own comfort level.

This is the opposite of what they do now where they purposely try to make things decent or even strong and DMs overreact and nerf features down to their comfort level.

It is almost like they were purposely making bad content in order to sell you better content later. Purposely power creeping up from negatives.
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
And the Swashbuckler only exists because WOTC messed up Finesse weapons, TWF, and their feats and refuse to errata. So the melee dex fighter sucks.

So they made the Swashbuckler a rogue as a patch.

No. The swashbuckler exists because of Erol Flynn, Zoro, and, ya know... swashbuckling rogues being a thing in fantasy. It has nothing to do with any of that other stuff, and I don't know why you would try and act like it is. I guess you could try and pretend that they should be a fighter subclass, but the term "Dashing Rogue" was practically CREATED by the swashbuckling, charming duelist with a silver tongue and a mysterious mask to hide their identity.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think the finesse weapons mechanic is much better than the similar mechanics in previous editions. I don't see how it is messed up.

I also think Two-weapon fighters are perfectly fine and in fact one of the strongest fighting styles if you optimize around it. Dex-based fighters are fine too (but are a different thing than TWF).

At 6th level point buy small size strength-based fighter on a wardog or similar can do 3d12+15 with two-weapon fighting style, dual wielding feat and two Lances and can sport a 19AC while doing it. That beats PAM by 6 DPR at the same level. If they waste attacks to kill your dog, climb on the back of another medium-sized PC and keep going. Worst case, if you get stuck on the ground with no one around you pull out battleaxes or morning stars and do 3d8+15 which is still the same as a PAM fighter is doing, while having many more magic weapon options.

Now a dex-based fighter can't do that, but people on here rightly piont out that a dex-based fighter are much more powerful than strength-based fighters, generally so losing some melee damage to be all around a better PC is not a bad thing IMO.
The assumption is equal levels of optimization.

With equal levels of optimization one-handed finesse weapons fighting or two weapon fighting with Finesse weapons deals less damage than a two-handed weapon a reach weapon or archery. Two weapon fighting only beats and damage one-handed finesse weapons or one-handed strength weapons. But one handers typically are playing for defense and again you get more power and defense with same levels of optimization.

That's where WOTC messed up.

D&D is typically based on everybody in the group using similar levels of optimization. A dex based melee nonmonk character is lower in output than most other offensive or defense builds.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
No. The swashbuckler exists because of Erol Flynn, Zoro, and, ya know... swashbuckling rogues being a thing in fantasy. It has nothing to do with any of that other stuff, and I don't know why you would try and act like it is. I guess you could try and pretend that they should be a fighter subclass, but the term "Dashing Rogue" was practically CREATED by the swashbuckling, charming duelist with a silver tongue and a mysterious mask to hide their identity.
Errol Flynn, Zorro, the Musketeers, and other Swashbucklers are supposed to be Fighters.

The Buckler in Swashbuckler is a Shield Rogues dont get proficiency in.

Swashbuckling should have been a fighting style with a die increase and +1 to attack with finesse weapons..But that's too close to 4e.

Also they forgot to put bucklers in the game.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
THANK YOU!

One of the biggest things people notoriously forget is how convoluted the thief skills in B/AD&D are. Nearly every Thief Skill has so many provisions, riders and quid pro quos that they are nearly impossible to use RAW. That creates a situation where a thief's abilities are only as useful as the DM was willing to allow and had knowledge of the intricacies of the rules. Good DMs knew the rules and applied them in a way that was fair to the Thief. Bad DMs neither knew nor cared and made the penalty for failure the worst possible consequence.
Now it is totally fair that most people did not play with all the rules- either from not knowing them, or their DM's deciding that the rules were sometimes too obtuse (or both).

It's perfectly ok to say "at my table, Thieves were backstabbing machines", and if that's your experience, I hope you had fun! But the intent of the Thief class was, apparently, to pretty much suck, and I've posted quite a few of my rants about that on ENWorld. People who think Thieves were incredible were engaging in one of four things-

A) not playing the game as written. Again, no shame in that! I don't think anyone ever played D&D as written before 3e. Even the people who made the darned game didn't!

B) excessive optimization. With sufficiently min/maxed ability scores, the right race, proficiencies, and Kits, there were ways to get better performance out of the Thief. One of the Forgotten Realms books (Warriors & Rogues of the Realms, I believe) has several Kits that give you bonus points for thieving abilities, let you backstab with ranged weapons, and other ways to get around the limitations of the class.

C) happenstance or DM fiat allowing you to get items that either enhanced your abilities, or bypassed them completely. Who needs Climb Walls when you own Gauntlets of Swimming and Climbing? A Ring of Invisibility (and Inaudibility) makes sneaking about a snap!

D) skilled players navigating around the edges of the game's rules. Using mundane items and ingenuity (aka "MacGyvering") to make it so that you can achieve the results of finding traps, opening locks, etc. etc. without ever needing to make a check.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Yeah people forget how bad thief skills and backstab used to be.

Part of me thinks that they were made purposely bad so that DMs would be able to ease up on the restrictions to their own comfort level.

So this is my conspiracy theory (get out your tinfoil)

So OD&D started with the fighting-man, magic-user, and cleric and no discernable skill system. A few skill-like rules were hidden here-and-there (secret door detection, surprise as sneaking, etc) but everything was handled ad-hoc by the DM. Thief Skills were thus seen as abilities that could bypass things the DM otherwise had planned: a find traps roll could eliminate the need to pick-and-poke at traps, for example. As such, they were afraid thieves would dominate the exploration game and make dungeon crawling a breeze, so they put every possible restriction possible to make sure they couldn't override the game. A fair amount of "verisimilitude" got added to the mix as well, such all the caveats about backstabbing only working in very specific situations. The net result though was a class whose primary features were hobbled both by low % chances of working at low level, numerous stipulations that limited how and when they could be used, and harsh penalties for failure. Coupled with the fact magic was often easier, reliable, and easily accessible enough that right when your % chances started getting reasonable, your group had access to enough magic via spells and items that you were superfluous anyway.

I'm honestly surprised it took until 5e for rogues to actually be good at their primary function. Expertise and Reliable Talent may make most checks trivial, but it's a far cry better than having a 20% chance to pick a lock (and if you fail, you can't try again until you put more points in Open Lock next level).
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
So this is my conspiracy theory (get out your tinfoil)

So OD&D started with the fighting-man, magic-user, and cleric and no discernable skill system. A few skill-like rules were hidden here-and-there (secret door detection, surprise as sneaking, etc) but everything was handled ad-hoc by the DM. Thief Skills were thus seen as abilities that could bypass things the DM otherwise had planned: a find traps roll could eliminate the need to pick-and-poke at traps, for example. As such, they were afraid thieves would dominate the exploration game and make dungeon crawling a breeze, so they put every possible restriction possible to make sure they couldn't override the game. A fair amount of "verisimilitude" got added to the mix as well, such all the caveats about backstabbing only working in very specific situations. The net result though was a class whose primary features were hobbled both by low % chances of working at low level, numerous stipulations that limited how and when they could be used, and harsh penalties for failure. Coupled with the fact magic was often easier, reliable, and easily accessible enough that right when your % chances started getting reasonable, your group had access to enough magic via spells and items that you were superfluous anyway.

I'm honestly surprised it took until 5e for rogues to actually be good at their primary function. Expertise and Reliable Talent may make most checks trivial, but it's a far cry better than having a 20% chance to pick a lock (and if you fail, you can't try again until you put more points in Open Lock next level).

I came to the same theory.

Early edition thieves were very bad at thief skills and backstab so the base thief could not overwhelm the base game obstacle. Because they knew every table was different, the designers knew that DMs could just adjust the numbers or handle out magic items to make their preference earlier than the game would naturally do it. By mid to high level, it wouldn't matter if the DM did or not.
 

Errol Flynn, Zorro, the Musketeers, and other Swashbucklers are supposed to be Fighters.
Any AD&D non-kit fighter who tries to play like Eroll Flynn, Zorro, or a musketeer is so stupid they can't count to nine with their boots on. Nine because by giving up their armour and shield for literally no benefit they've probably lost at least two fingers.
The Buckler in Swashbuckler is a Shield Rogues dont get proficiency in.
Yeah, and if words meant the same as their derivations a booty call would be the same as a butt dial. Seriously how often can you recall Flynn, Zorro, or the Musketeers with a buckler?

Seriously, if you wanted to play a (non-kit) swashbuckler as a single class you could either play a fighter exceptionally badly or you could play a bad-across-the-board class in the rogue and play it well. But how bad across the board depends on whether you're playing 1e when it's just a little bad, or 2e (or with Unearthed Arcana) when their rivals had been massively buffed; the fighter gained a more than 50% damage output buff with Weapon Specialisation and the wizard gained bonus spells from specialisation in a school.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Any AD&D non-kit fighter who tries to play like Eroll Flynn, Zorro, or a musketeer is so stupid they can't count to nine with their boots on. Nine because by giving up their armour and shield for literally no benefit they've probably lost at least two fingers.

Yeah, and if words meant the same as their derivations a booty call would be the same as a butt dial. Seriously how often can you recall Flynn, Zorro, or the Musketeers with a buckler?

Seriously, if you wanted to play a (non-kit) swashbuckler as a single class you could either play a fighter exceptionally badly or you could play a bad-across-the-board class in the rogue and play it well. But how bad across the board depends on whether you're playing 1e when it's just a little bad, or 2e (or with Unearthed Arcana) when their rivals had been massively buffed; the fighter gained a more than 50% damage output buff with Weapon Specialisation and the wizard gained bonus spells from specialisation in a school.
AD&D 1e and 2e didn't support swashbucklers. Dex was only to ranged attacks. An AD&D swashbuckler was Str based.
3e did and did it as a Fighter. Weapon inese and the Duelist PRC heavily leaned on being a Fighter to get access quickly.
4e did and did it as a Rogue. However the 4e Rogue was closer to a Fighter in past future editions than a Rogue.
5e did and did it as Fighter. It sucked. So they redid it as a Rogue.

TSR and WOTC always intended the Swashbuckler to be a Fighter. They just were bad at designing it,
 

AD&D 1e and 2e didn't support swashbucklers. Dex was only to ranged attacks. An AD&D swashbuckler was Str based.
3e did and did it as a Fighter. Weapon inese and the Duelist PRC heavily leaned on being a Fighter to get access quickly.
Meanwhile to be a decent swashbuckler you really needed the Tumble skill. Fighters could barely manage the jump and climb skills.

From level 3+ 3e did it as a rogue. It just for whatever reason gated an essential feat.

But it's laughable to talk about requiring the rogue to be level 3 to get weapon finesse and in the same post trying to defend the miserable failure of the fighter-duelist bring up an explicitly optional prestige class that required a BAB of +6, and five ranks of Tumble (a cross class skill for fighters so they couldn't get in before fighter level 7) and a further 3 in Perform (again cross-class for fighters) to get into. Meanwhile rogues didn't need to contort themselves and burn the majority of their skill points on cross class skills to get in; they just needed to reach level 8 and take the most obvious swashbuckling feats (Dodge, Weapon Finesse, Mobility). I was going to comment about how fighters don't have any problems fixed by going duelist but it's pretty redundant when you're looking at a prestige class that is a natural progression for a swashbuckling rogue and build contortionism for a swashbuckling fighter.

Meanwhile a high Dex low STR melee fighter using PHB options was a miserable failure. There was a feat to let you attack with Dex - but no feat to let you damage with Dex (again in either PHB) so you'd always just be doing papercuts. The rogue didn't care because their damage source was Sneak Attack.
4e did and did it as a Rogue. However the 4e Rogue was closer to a Fighter in past future editions than a Rogue.
Nah. It's simply that the 2e rogue was ditched for being incompetent at everything. The 5e rogue is closer to the 4e rogue (Cunning Action is a simplification of 4e abilities and it has inbuilt Finesse) than the 3.x rogue - and those three are way closer together than the backstabbing silo'd skills thief.
5e did and did it as Fighter. It sucked. So they redid it as a Rogue.
5e did it as both. The rogue version was the version that didn't suck, even using the PHB. Because they fit the rogue archetype better.
TSR and WOTC always intended the Swashbuckler to be a Fighter. They just were bad at designing it,
TSR possibly didn't want swashbucklers or thieves at all - but WotC has always made Swashbuckling high damage rogues. And in every WotC edition there have been specific tools for swashbuckling rogues. And I believe that every WotC edition makes swashbuckling fighters a failure.

WotC appear to have always wanted swashbucklers to be rogues - which is why rogue swashbucklers just about work in every WotC edition. Meanwhile WotC has normally tried to include options to allow you to just about force fighters to be swashbucklers - but in all editions where they have tried it has been a failure with 5e being the only edition where melee fighter swashbucklers are even vaguely close to a thing.

WotC weren't so much "bad at designing it" as didn't even try to put a melee fighter swashbuckler in the core in 3.0, 3.5, or 4e because the rogue could already do that job. They just got one by accident in 5e because they turned Dex into a god-stat. But in every edition the fighter has been intended to have strength as it's primary stat and in every edition the thief/rogue has been intended to be the Dex primary class.

And it's not that WotC were bad at designing it - it's that they weren't even trying to as a primary thing. If you could make it work that was fine by them - but they made sure the rogue worked.
 

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