Rogues and sneak attacks... Must all rogues have it?

Horwath

Hero
Sneak attack is baked into rogue class for ages now and do all rogues want it?

There is a lack of a class that is a pure skill monkey without this backstabing knee capping fighting style.

It would be a hassle to make a completely new class and rogue does the skill monkey base really good.

It just needs more of it.


Variant:
every time you would get +1d6 increase for sneak attack(even at 1st level) you can pick instead;

1. bonus skill proficiency and one choice of one tool, language or weapon.
or
2. gain expertise in one skill or tool that you are proficient.


this variant would seriously lack combat potential so maybe it would not be a good idea in 2-4 party size, but this would be ideal 5th character in a party, especially if there is lots of "gain 2 skills at 1st level classes" in the rest of the party.

ofc, you can pick only half of your sneak attack dice for this to keep some combat presence or mix it however you want.
 

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delericho

Legend
I would be really wary of removing combat ability from a class to beef up skills. If you're specifically not wanting sneak attack, I might instead be tempted to try to persuade your DM to let you play another class but add some of the skill monkey elements of the Rogue.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Entirely feasible houserule. If you can run it and try it out and see how it works, I don't foresee any immediate major unbalanced problems. But whether hamstringing your abilities in combat scenes is worth the additional gain in non-combat scenes ends up being beneficial to the enjoyment of the Rogue player is probably going to be greatly dependent on the type of game being run and the style of the DM's play.

Speaking personally... I find the d20 roll to be the much greater impact on skill use than whatever bonuses or modifiers the character has from proficiency and/or expertise. So a character gaining more of them still doesn't make them seem like more of a so-called "skill monkey" per se. Yes, the Rogue will do better on average over a wider swathe of different skill checks... but that won't impact the number of times they're still rolling 1s and 2s and blowing their checks. And those events have a much more psychological impact than the entire suite of skill check rolls over the entirety of the campaign where the Rogue will have ended up doing slightly statistically better than before.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
because I have seen various abominations of Rogue(scout)/Bard(lore)/Cleric(knowledge) to get to that goal...

Me being guilty of one myself, haha

This would be simpler...
Yeah, in a case like this... where the options are a player creating a Frankenstein's Monster of a multiclass that cares not for the narrative of why the PC has these three classes... and just doing some class feature exchanges for a single class to give the player what they want... I'll always go with the latter.

If the player is willing to give up combat ability for a wider skill ability, I have no problem with that... provided that the Rogue's background and backstory at least tries to tip their cap as to why they know so much "stuff". If you're going to make a true jack-of-all-trades type of character, I'd at least hope you actually played that up in the fiction too. Bard players often do it... so I'd hope this Rogue did the same.
 

Horwath

Hero
Yeah, in a case like this... where the options are a player creating a Frankenstein's Monster of a multiclass that cares not for the narrative of why the PC has these three classes... and just doing some class feature exchanges for a single class to give the player what they want... I'll always go with the latter.

If the player is willing to give up combat ability for a wider skill ability, I have no problem with that... provided that the Rogue's background and backstory at least tries to tip their cap as to why they know so much "stuff". If you're going to make a true jack-of-all-trades type of character, I'd at least hope you actually played that up in the fiction too. Bard players often do it... so I'd hope this Rogue did the same.
my character had a concept of polymath and spymaster dealing in information,

only damaging spell was cantrip vicious mockery.

all other spells divination, illusion, enchantment and avoiding damage.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
my character had a concept of polymath and spymaster dealing in information,

only damaging spell was cantrip vicious mockery.

all other spells divination, illusion, enchantment and avoiding damage.
Something like this, I'd be all-in on helping you get to where you wanted to go.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The problem isn't that all rogues must have sneak attack.
It's that all skill monkeys are rogues.

Really, there should be more classes in 5e. Shoehorning every skill user into the "underworld crime class" wasn't a great idea to me an a forced trope D&D and D&D clones need to eventually get away from.
 

Horwath

Hero
The problem isn't that all rogues must have sneak attack.
It's that all skill monkeys are rogues.

Really, there should be more classes in 5e. Shoehorning every skill user into the "underworld crime class" wasn't a great idea to me an a forced trope D&D and D&D clones need to eventually get away from.
when you remove sneak attack from rogue, you remove most of the underworld baggage, just give option that you can take any tool or language instead of starting thief tools and extra language instead of thieves cant and you have pure expert.
Just dont take assassin or thief subclass.
Mastermind, inquisitive, arcane trickster and even scout work great as subclasses for this option.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Sneak attack is baked into rogue class for ages now and do all rogues want it?
No, not all rogues want it. I like playing skill experts/professional types as adventurers, and while the base rogue does this well, it isn't quite as good as I would like. Once you get Reliable Talent, it really shines, but only in those skills it has expertise in.

I like the ideas in the OP. A while back I proposed the idea that rogues can use their sneak attack dice instead to add to ability checks, regaining the dice on a short rest.

For example, your 9th level rogue has 5d6 sneak attack dice. You expend 1d6, adding the result to your check. You now have 4d6 sneak attack dice. Later, you use 2d6 sneak attack dice on an ability check, leaving you with 2d6 dice. You finish a rest, and get the expended dice back.

But the ideas in the OP are very sound. I think a subclass which at the sneak attack dice levels could choose an option like those suggested, would be welcome. However, I would limit it to once "per tier" or something. So, at worst, maybe the "sneak attack" would be 5d6 maximum, and the other 5 "dice" would instead be proficiencies or further expertise.
 

this variant would seriously lack combat potential so maybe it would not be a good idea

I think it's perfectly acceptable to remove sneak attack as long as it's replaced with something else equally useful.

I played a thief in 2E, which was one of my favorite characters ever. He was a dwarven rogue with the Locksmith kit. I don't remember ever using backstab once with that character. What I do recall was taking all kinds of engineering, stone working, architecture, mechanics etc. We came across a gate on a town wall that was locked from the inside and the DM said there was no way to disable the lock. I said so, I'll just take the whole wall down then, that'd be like telling Bob Villa he doesn't know how to install a sink. A few non-weapon skill proficiency skill rolls later and the wall (and gate) came tumbling down. I like playing rogues that engage in combat, but I also like to play rogues that are useful in other ways who enter into combat only when necessary. So, I don't think sneak attack is a necessary feature of the class at all, matter of fact I find it kind of boring sometimes.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I guess it comes down to how much of the game is assumed to be combat, and what an acceptable level of combat ability is equally assumed for a character to have in a party in order to be able to contribute in said combats to a certain threshold.

If your campaigns don't involve heavy combat, I would personally give all classes more skill proficiency, as that will likely be more important than worry about redesigning classes (the idea being, abilities like Sneak Attack would be used less often anyways, so there's no real reason to remove them).

All that having been said, you could create an optional class feature to replace Sneak Attack, but I'm not sure how to design something with equivalent power in the Social or Exploration pillars, since there's a already lot of complaints about how Exploration abilities, for example, tend to trivialize Exploration (see comments about the Ranger, which are prevalent online).
 


Horwath

Hero
I guess it comes down to how much of the game is assumed to be combat, and what an acceptable level of combat ability is equally assumed for a character to have in a party in order to be able to contribute in said combats to a certain threshold.

If your campaigns don't involve heavy combat, I would personally give all classes more skill proficiency, as that will likely be more important than worry about redesigning classes (the idea being, abilities like Sneak Attack would be used less often anyways, so there's no real reason to remove them).

All that having been said, you could create an optional class feature to replace Sneak Attack, but I'm not sure how to design something with equivalent power in the Social or Exploration pillars, since there's a already lot of complaints about how Exploration abilities, for example, tend to trivialize Exploration (see comments about the Ranger, which are prevalent online).
problem with the ranger(among many) is that exploration abilities either do nothing or solve all your problems by decree.

Favored enemy needs to go away or be valued at single tool or language proficiency.

Favored terrain should give advantage in that terrain(suvival/perception/stealth/investigation etc...) and some global benefit.
I.E.
forests: climb speed
tundra: cold resistance
desert: fire resistance
swamp: poison and disease resistance
urban: 2 skills from History, Insight, Deception, Intimidation, Perform, Persuation
underdark: +60ft darkvision
plains: +10ft speed
aquatic: swim speed and 10×hold breath time
planar: radiant and necrotic resistance


Now, for challenges;
If terrain that is half speed penalty offers DC15 Survival to move at full speed, then Rangers advantage in that terrain will come to shine, without being auto success.
If terrain is 3/4 speed penalty then DC15 can be to move at half speed and DC20(or 25) could be to move at full speed.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
problem with the ranger(among many) is that exploration abilities either do nothing or solve all your problems by decree.

Favored enemy needs to go away or be valued at single tool or language proficiency.

Favored terrain should give advantage in that terrain(suvival/perception/stealth/investigation etc...) and some global benefit.
I.E.
forests: climb speed
tundra: cold resistance
desert: fire resistance
swamp: poison and disease resistance
urban: 2 skills from History, Insight, Deception, Intimidation, Perform, Persuation
underdark: +60ft darkvision
plains: +10ft speed
aquatic: swim speed and 10×hold breath time
planar: radiant and necrotic resistance


Now, for challenges;
If terrain that is half speed penalty offers DC15 Survival to move at full speed, then Rangers advantage in that terrain will come to shine, without being auto success.
If terrain is 3/4 speed penalty then DC15 can be to move at half speed and DC20(or 25) could be to move at full speed.
I concur, but more design "weight" is given to Sneak Attack than the Ranger's exploration abilities. So an ability to replace it for either Exploration or Social pillar play might end up being so strong that even if it doesn't trivialize those sorts of challenges/encounters, it might create the perception that it does so among players.

I've seen Expertise alone cause these sorts of ripples.
 

Horwath

Hero
I concur, but more design "weight" is given to Sneak Attack than the Ranger's exploration abilities. So an ability to replace it for either Exploration or Social pillar play might end up being so strong that even if it doesn't trivialize those sorts of challenges/encounters, it might create the perception that it does so among players.

I've seen Expertise alone cause these sorts of ripples.
We never had problem with it.

At 9th level you have +4 prof bonus, +8 with expertise. Even if you combine it with your best(+5) ability that is only +13.

Sure, you will pass DC15 95% of the time, but as an expert in the field that DC should be a cakewalk for you.

DC 20 is at only 70% chance, and DC 25 45%. And at 9th level, you will see lots of DC's in that range.

but your secondary ability will maybe be 16, probably 14. with 14 and expertise, that is only +10, now even DC15 looks like trouble sometimes, and the d20 is treacherous.
 

Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
Sneak attack is baked into rogue class for ages now and do all rogues want it?
The answer depends on the GM and the type of setting they want to run. Do they want to run a campaign with a lot of political intrigue? This Rogue would probably fit in.

Are they planning on running a one shot meatgrinder? Perhaps not. It really just depends on what kind of game is being played at the time.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I think the expert sidekick class is closer to what you want.

The issue I see is by removing SA, you remove the rogues reliable source of DPS. Every class has either spells, multiple attacks, and some class features that can up damage during combat. By removing SA, you would either need to provide multiple attacks or something to make up for DPS loss. (I'm assuming you're looking at an official option in a Tasha-like book rather than a DM hack to fit his low-combat homebrew).
 


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