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D&D 5E Rogue, Bard, Assassin, Tinker, (Tailer, Spy)

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay, I don’t actually plan on making a tinker class. For once, that’s a concept I think can live in a few subclasses for various classes and some other options like feats and expanded downtime rules.

HOWEVER, I do have a problem with the Rogue and Bard, and how they divide their shared conceptual space in 5e.

Rogue is the skill monkey who can gank you. Overall the story archetype at play here could be called Jack. Luck, wits, and skill are your tools. You’re designed to trick the devil into setting his pants on fire, and survive doing so, but not by being tough.

Bard is...the Jack of all trades? Why!? How did this even happen!? (No don’t tell me, I know the game history, I’m being facetious)
The 5e Bard is perhaps the least Bardic Bard I’ve played, IMO. Some of the problem is the spell list, part is being too much a spellcaster which leaves not enough room for Bard.

What I want from a Bard is to curse those who cross me, to change the luck of friend and foe, to walk into the King’s Court without invitation and be tolerated because I am a Bard, and to heal and harm with words, to call an enemy clumsy and they become clumsy, to turn crowds and kingdoms for or against someone, and to embody the archetype of the Bard.

I know druids have basically nothing to do with RL druids, but they also have a very unique and compelling place in D&D , where the 5e bard is really just the Jack of all trades caster.

Ideas

Rogue and Bard overlap too much. I’d focus the Bard’s skills a bit more, possibly ditch JoAT and replace it with a Lore feature.

Bardic Inspiration is effective, but feels weird and just...lacking thematically. This should be group buffs and debuffs, IMO. Perhaps you create an aura as a bonus action, choosing from a few effects when you do.

Spellcasting...I’d get rid of magical secrets, and decrease the Bard’s high level casting to still get to 9th level spells, but just have fewer slots above 5th level. I’d also cut out spells like lightning bolt. If the Bard hits someone with lightning it should be because they called out to the sky for lightning and the sky answered. Any damage spells should be those that are very thematic, no random damage spells just to have them.

The base class should be a little better at fighting. Not a full warrior class necessarily, though that wouldn’t be inappropriate, but at least decent proficiencies and put Hex on the spell list.

Just some thoughts. I don’t know if they’ll lead anywhere.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
If the “Assassin” design space were mostly removed from the rogue, andthe rogue became a dirty fighter via some other means, or their combat efficacy was more determined by archetype, with the base class focused on being a daring, cunning, lucky, skillful, charming, Jack from fairytales type character, would there be enough design space left for the rogue?

What if the Rogue also stole the Jack of All Trades from the Bard? (Well, the Rogue and Ranger would steal it and split it between them, ideally, or the three would form a triangle of “expert classes” together, sharing the Jack of all trades design note)

The Assassin could then have sneak attack, as well as a “extra damage against surprised or incapacitated creatures, and creatures who are unaware of your presence” boost for that damage, with a skill set that is focused on infiltration, mobility, etc.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I agree with all of these points. The rogue doesn’t need to be a murder machine. I’m fine with sneak attack conceptually - the rogue isn’t good in a fair fight, but they can take advantage of a distracted or otherwise disadvantaged opponent. But I don’t like that the payoff is bucketloads of damage. That’s fine for an assassin, but for a rogue, I imagine maybe a small damage boost, but more importantly, debilitating status effects. The rogue should feel tricksy, not brutal (though there’s room for brutal in a subclass). I also think Jack of all Trades would go well with the rogue.

The bard feels so un-bardlike, I can’t stand it. Way too much rogue overlap, way too much athematic casting, bardic inspiration is fine, but I’d much rather a buffing aura or something. If we aren’t going to get a 5e Warlord, I think the bard should be the one to pick up that slack.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Imagine instead of Rogue you have Assassin and Jack. This will help keep things clear.

Assassin has Sneak Attack, and Backstab (the above feature that boosts SA when used against especially vulnerable targets), optional poisons, and a feature where you treat a hit that brings an enemy to X hp or lower as bringing them to 0hp. Keeps Hide as Bonus Action, maybe gains attack as a bonus action so they can attack even on a turn where they have to use an action elsewhere? Keeps expertise but has less general skills.

Jack has Cunning Action, more skills/Jack of all trades, less/later expertise, archetype at level 1 and 5 or 6, and archetype determines how you fight. Alternatively, Jacks fight by debuffing enemies? Maybe a general debuff feature flavored in trickery, and archetype dials it up in different ways.

So, a swashbuckler would get Extra Attack at 5 or 6, Fancy Footwork and Trickery at level 1, special attacks at 1 or 3 that dial up trickery in a very “fancy sword flashiness” manner.

Acrobat would be able to move through enemies spaces, and can cause up to prof mod per round enemies to make strength saves or be moved or knocked prone, doing so any time the Jack moves while within 5ft of the enemy, or attack them. Just running around doing damage and knocking people around. Idk.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
So.. you want to have all the abilities of a Valor Bard (better fighting) and a Lore Bard (three more skills and cutting words) ... and you want to get rid of the ability that would let you just take the spell you think Bards should have (Hex)? You say you want to focus on Bard's skills... but then want to get rid of the very ability (Jack of all Trades) that makes a bard good at skills?

I agree with all of these points. The rogue doesn’t need to be a murder machine. I’m fine with sneak attack conceptually - the rogue isn’t good in a fair fight, but they can take advantage of a distracted or otherwise disadvantaged opponent. But I don’t like that the payoff is bucketloads of damage. That’s fine for an assassin, but for a rogue, I imagine maybe a small damage boost, but more importantly, debilitating status effects. The rogue should feel tricksy, not brutal (though there’s room for brutal in a subclass). I also think Jack of all Trades would go well with the rogue.

The bard feels so un-bardlike, I can’t stand it. Way too much rogue overlap, way too much athematic casting, bardic inspiration is fine, but I’d much rather a buffing aura or something. If we aren’t going to get a 5e Warlord, I think the bard should be the one to pick up that slack.

A rogue already doesn't have to be a murder machine. You never have to use sneak attack.

What should a bard "feel" like?

I personally think Bard is the most powerful class in 5e which is an over correction from being the weakest in 3/3.5.

It could have stood to be just a 1/2 caster like the ranger or paladin and still been just fine balance wise with the other classes. To go back to their 2e status which is how I first encountered them, part rogue, part fighter, with a smattering of wizard casting picked up here and there + music and lore (via songs and histories). Their overlap with Rogue is... historic, they were afterall a subclass of rogue in 2e alongside thief. it's their massive increase in casting capacity which throws me for a loop in the 5e Bard, not their roguish overlap.

That said... I've mostly given up on changing classes to suit my tastes for my game. I set the stage and let people play what's in the books as they want to play them.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I agree with all of these points. The rogue doesn’t need to be a murder machine. I’m fine with sneak attack conceptually - the rogue isn’t good in a fair fight, but they can take advantage of a distracted or otherwise disadvantaged opponent. But I don’t like that the payoff is bucketloads of damage. That’s fine for an assassin, but for a rogue, I imagine maybe a small damage boost, but more importantly, debilitating status effects. The rogue should feel tricksy, not brutal (though there’s room for brutal in a subclass). I also think Jack of all Trades would go well with the rogue.

The bard feels so un-bardlike, I can’t stand it. Way too much rogue overlap, way too much athematic casting, bardic inspiration is fine, but I’d much rather a buffing aura or something. If we aren’t going to get a 5e Warlord, I think the bard should be the one to pick up that slack.
Yes agreed on all points.

I want a Bard, not a magic rogue.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So.. you want to have all the abilities of a Valor Bard (better fighting) and a Lore Bard (three more skills and cutting words) ... and you want to get rid of the ability that would let you just take the spell you think Bards should have (Hex)? You say you want to focus on Bard's skills... but then want to get rid of the very ability (Jack of all Trades) that makes a bard good at skills?
A rather cynical and uncharitable read of my posts. In short, no.

Magical Secrets serves only to make the class more of a Jack of all trades. I propose a more focused spell list that allows cursing of enemies in multiple ways from low level, and dropping spells that don’t lean into the Bard’s identity. There is no contradiction there.
Nor is there any hint of any statement in my entire post that suggests the bard getting “all the features” of any of its subclasses.

as for Jack of all trades, I’m not sure how you missed that my intention is to focus the Bard, rather than having it just have basically all the skills. Expertise is more what makes the bard skillful, anyway
A rogue already doesn't have to be a murder machine. You never have to use sneak attack.
That isn’t a helpful reply. The rogue is built to be a murder machine, this thread exists to discuss whether that is good, and how to build a rogue that isn’t that.
What should a bard "feel" like?

I personally think Bard is the most powerful class in 5e which is an over correction from being the weakest in 3/3.5.
Power is pretty irrelevant, though, to whether the class is accomplishing its intended fiction to a satisfying degree.
It could have stood to be just a 1/2 caster like the ranger or paladin and still been just fine balance wise with the other classes.
Disagree strongly. If you did nothing else but replace its Spellcasting with half casting, it would badly need a boost in turn.
To go back to their 2e status which is how I first encountered them, part rogue, part fighter, with a smattering of wizard casting picked up here and there + music and lore (via songs and histories). Their overlap with Rogue is... historic, they were afterall a subclass of rogue in 2e alongside thief.
Okay. I can’t speak for others, but my attachment to or care for tradition is literally nonexistent.
it's their massive increase in casting capacity which throws me for a loop in the 5e Bard, not their roguish overlap.
Fair enough. I find it totally sensible that a Bard can cast the powerful spells it is possible for a mortal to cast. I just don’t think they should be doing a lot of it. Only way to do both is a custom Spellcasting chart with fewer slots, or just something like the warlocks mystic arcanum, but allow them to learn all the rituals they want.
That said... I've mostly given up on changing classes to suit my tastes for my game. I set the stage and let people play what's in the books as they want to play them.
Totally fair. I am just getting started.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, if the Jack (non assassin rogue) uses status effects to model fighting dirty/unfairly and/or using wits to win, what could that look like? A short list of effects like the Open Hand Monk, once per turn when you hit? More powerful effects available if you crit?

Preferably things that feel like they’d let the Jack run away from the threat, and that definitely do make the enemy vulnerable to the other PCs, I think. Hmm.
 

Stormonu

Legend
So, if the Jack (non assassin rogue) uses status effects to model fighting dirty/unfairly and/or using wits to win, what could that look like? A short list of effects like the Open Hand Monk, once per turn when you hit? More powerful effects available if you crit?

Preferably things that feel like they’d let the Jack run away from the threat, and that definitely do make the enemy vulnerable to the other PCs, I think. Hmm.
I suspect the best way to handle it might be to "spend" sneak attack dice for conditions or effects when they hit.

  • spend 1d6 to trip an opponent
  • spend 1d6 to blind an opponent for a turn
  • spend 1d6 to reduce the target's speed by 5 feet
  • spend 1d6 to give an ally advantage on their next attack

If they want to just run away, they get the Cunning Action to do that already (via bonus action Disengage).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I suspect the best way to handle it might be to "spend" sneak attack dice for conditions or effects when they hit.

  • spend 1d6 to trip an opponent
  • spend 1d6 to blind an opponent for a turn
  • spend 1d6 to reduce the target's speed by 5 feet
  • spend 1d6 to give an ally advantage on their next attack

If they want to just run away, they get the Cunning Action to do that already (via bonus action Disengage).
I like that, though I think to be really effective with those effects they’d need to have more attacks, and leave the single big attack shtick to the assassin.
 


Stormonu

Legend
I like that, though I think to be really effective with those effects they’d need to have more attacks, and leave the single big attack shtick to the assassin.
Well, consider that a Battlemaster fighter is going to get around 4 such tricks during an entire fight at most, and the monk has to spread their Ki use out throughout the day. Most rogues I know go for the sneak attack every round, and restricting it to once per round lessens any headache for the DM and keeps them from outshining the monk or Battlemaster.

Besides, you could let the rogue spend multiple dice in one hit - if they had a 4d6 sneak, they might decide to blind, trip and still deal 2d6 damage. Or, could chose to spend all four dice to reduce the target’s speed by 20 ft., making it much more likely to get away if they use canny action to disengage.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I like that, though I think to be really effective with those effects they’d need to have more attacks, and leave the single big attack shtick to the assassin.
The sidekick Expert class in TCoE might be a decent starting point for a non-SA rogue-type; just kick it up a few notches and add subclasses.

Adding some reaction trigger abilities (like Uncanny Dodge but broader in scope than just damage reduction) might be good for "think on their feet" fiction.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well, consider that a Battlemaster fighter is going to get around 4 such tricks during an entire fight at most, and the monk has to spread their Ki use out throughout the day. Most rogues I know go for the sneak attack every round, and restricting it to once per round lessens any headache for the DM and keeps them from outshining the monk or Battlemaster.

Besides, you could let the rogue spend multiple dice in one hit - if they had a 4d6 sneak, they might decide to blind, trip and still deal 2d6 damage. Or, could chose to spend all four dice to reduce the target’s speed by 20 ft., making it much more likely to get away if they use canny action to disengage.
I was running with the earlier notion brought up by @Charlaquin of the Jack not having a big damage buff. So, small attacks that put the enemy at a disadvantage, with only subclasses like the swashbuckler getting any kind of real damage buff.
The sidekick Expert class in TCoE might be a decent starting point for a non-SA rogue-type; just kick it up a few notches and add subclasses.
I’ll give it a look. Thanks!
Adding some reaction trigger abilities (like Uncanny Dodge but broader in scope than just damage reduction) might be good for "think on their feet" fiction.
Oh, what if when they pass a saving throw or when they use uncanny dodge, they can move 10ft or something without OA?
 

Stormonu

Legend
I was running with the earlier notion brought up by @Charlaquin of the Jack not having a big damage buff. So, small attacks that put the enemy at a disadvantage, with only subclasses like the swashbuckler getting any kind of real damage buff.

I’ll give it a look. Thanks!

Oh, what if when they pass a saving throw or when they use uncanny dodge, they can move 10ft or something without OA?
Maybe on uncanny dodge (as a slightly higher level add-on), but with having cunning action available, I don’t think they should be able to do a 10 ft. disengage on every saving throw - I can’t see it fitting against, say, being charmed.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
I don't know that I agree about the Rogue/Bard stepping on each other's toes. I totally agree with the Bard being...not what it should be.

It absolutely boggles the mind how they created the design space of "half-casters" in the game, as a basic construct for integral classes. Then said, "Yes let's do this with Paladin and Ranger" but somehow, simutaneously, thought, "Nah, the Bard doesn't have to be that. We'll do something else and [bafflingly] keep it [yet another] full caster."

It is one of the -if not top of the list- serious design missteps of 5e, imo.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
So, if the Jack (non assassin rogue) uses status effects to model fighting dirty/unfairly and/or using wits to win, what could that look like? A short list of effects like the Open Hand Monk, once per turn when you hit? More powerful effects available if you crit?

Preferably things that feel like they’d let the Jack run away from the threat, and that definitely do make the enemy vulnerable to the other PCs, I think. Hmm.
I imagine conditions like blinded, prone, restrained, maybe even stunned that last for a round or can be ended on a save or something. Maybe non-condition effects like attack penalties, speed penalties, inability to take reactions, etc.
I like that, though I think to be really effective with those effects they’d need to have more attacks, and leave the single big attack shtick to the assassin.
Yeah, I think lots of attacks makes sense for the Jack. If you look at rogue-type classes in video games, their damage often comes from making lots of attacks that don’t individually do a lot of damage, but have a high crit chance. I think that would be a strong direction for the Jack. Dual-wielding, extra attacks, ways to gain Advantage on the attack rolls, maybe an expanded crit range, and debuffs or other rider effects they can apply on a hit, or maybe on a crit.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I don't know that I agree about the Rogue/Bard stepping on each other's toes. I totally agree with the Bard being...not what it should be.

It absolutely boggles the mind how they created the design space of "half-casters" in the game, as a basic construct for integral classes. Then said, "Yes let's do this with Paladin and Ranger" but somehow, simutaneously, thought, "Nah, the Bard doesn't have to be that. We'll do something else and [bafflingly] keep it [yet another] full caster."

It is one of the -if not top of the list- serious design missteps of 5e, imo.
The bard was a half-caster at first in the playtests. Apparently feedback showed a demand for them to be full casters though. I think this followed from the idea of the bard being jack of all trades. There was a lot of demand for the bard to actually be good at all trades, and half-casting just wasn’t enough to make them a good fit for the caster role.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
The bard was a half-caster at first in the playtests. Apparently feedback showed a demand for them to be full casters though. I think this followed from the idea of the bard being jack of all trades. There was a lot of demand for the bard to actually be good at all trades, and half-casting just wasn’t enough to make them a good fit for the caster role.
Yea, I was definitely one of the people voting for them to be full casters; I like the idea of song being a magical source on par with arcane, divine, and primal (druid).

Although I do feel the warlock base (pact magic and invocations) would be even better for bards, just replace invocations with bard songs.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
The bard was a half-caster at first in the playtests. Apparently feedback showed a demand for them to be full casters though. I think this followed from the idea of the bard being jack of all trades. There was a lot of demand for the bard to actually be good at all trades, and half-casting just wasn’t enough to make them a good fit for the caster role.
Right. I get that.

Unbelievably, and it may not be a popular view, but it is entirely possible for a "majority" of feedback -or the "avidly vocal minority" of a playtest sample, more likely- to be wrong.

Since when and why did people think a Bard was supposed to walk into a "full caster" role? That is so very not what I think -nor history, legend or game history support- a bard "should" be/is.
 

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