What wouble be special about a Grave Robber [npc/subclass/background mechanics]


Entropic Good
The concept of a grave robber character/subclass for rogue caught my mind a while back. The problem is that it was only the feel of the class that came to me, not any specific mechanics, at least not any that hold up to much thought.

To me, a grave robber is someone who robs graves (digging up coffins, breaking into crypts) to steal jewelry or boots or gold teeth from the recently deceased. Darkest Dungeons has a grave robber class in it, and I've seen bits and pieces here and there of "Guy with shovel, probably robs graves" looking fellows about. I suspect that a grave robber would be pretty low on the thief totem pole. They deal with dead bodies which is poor hygiene to begin with, they break a pretty substantial taboo (don't desecrate the dead), they're either dumb or desperate or really creepy to have this be their defining profession. Add in the fact that in a fantasy setting, it gets a bit more dangerous when the undead are around. I feel like there is enough flavor here for a character to be based around, quite easily, but is there enough for a set of mechanics to be based around?

The simplest take would be a background: Give them athletics (for digging), some other skill, shovel proficiency :p , and pick the best fitting background ability. Sure. Or I could play a rogue(thief) and just call them a grave robber. Sure. But could I get more...

So my question is: What game mechanic traits would be specific enough to a grave robber that would make it into a subclass (rogue or otherwise). I don't need specific abilities, but more the concepts: Good at digging? Anti-undead skills? stuff like that. (though if you have a specific ability that's cool too).


Hawk Diesel

Personally, I don't think there is enough to make it a subclass. This seems more appropriate as a background. Most backgrounds are akin to jobs or careers pre-adventuring, which graverobbing was. I would say you could get skill proficiency in athletics (for the shoveling) and stealth (since they had to make sure they weren't csught).

For the special ability, I would have something along the lines of a dark reputation that can affect how people interact with you, maybe something between what the Haunted One and Cult of Rakdos offer for those backgrounds.


39th lv DM
I think this is a great example of every character concept not needing it's own unique mechanics.

Just make a rogue (or bard, or fighter). Make them a criminal. Then mix/match the skills, tool prof, & advantages granted by the background.
I'd imagine History, Arcana, Religion, Perception & Investigation would all be important skill wise. Thieves Tools as well.
You might also consider what stats are actually important to this character.
For example: I make Grave Robber Bob as a fighter. It's probably not important character-wise to max out strength. But Intelligence or Wisdom? Because of the skills that key off of them, those seem alot more vital to making a "professional" grave robber.

Of course once this is all done? Then you have to justify why this character is now adventuring with the typical odd mix the other players will bring....


It seems like a successful grave robber would need to be pretty good about detecting undead if not evading them or destroying them. You could fit an undead-specific "commune with nature" type ability into a background or subclass. It wouldn't be as powerful as the spell (being specific to undead), and it should take an action to use.


I agree that is a 'Grave Robber' is a rogue with a 'Grave Digger' type background more than it is a new subclass.

In my game world, owing to the problem of undead, Undertakers are skilled professionals who work closely with temples to ensure the dead are properly interred in such a way to both minimize the chance of undead occurring, and minimize the chance of undead getting lose and disrupting society.

I think 'Grave Robber' would be low on the criminal totem pole, not because there wouldn't be potentially great profit in such activity, but because the activity would be so taboo in a society with undead, that most criminals - even those comfortable with murdering their business rivals - would balk at the idea of desecrating graves. Though I suppose a criminal organization that wanted to make the bodies disappear would in a society where you have something like Revenants, employ professionals in that regard.


Sanctity of the grave isn't just a taboo in D&D worlds: The gods might actually curse you for such acts. So I'd imagine a successful grave robber has some way to propitiate or "trick" the deities involved, so as to bypass certain divine security features and repercussions. Good knowledge of history and archaeology might work too -- I'd imagine that the bigger and better graves are ancient mausoleums filled with strange glyphs and reliefs. Finally, a good collection of anti-undead powers seems necessary. I'm not sure exactly which anti-undead powers a rogue needs (maybe sneak attack damage bypasses damage resistance? maybe they can sense undead within a range?).


My take:

Criminal background.

Cleric (grave domain?)

Reason: The character is actually more concerned with how well the dead (stay) resting than with their valuables. Anything of value taken from the grave during those normal “quality checks” are considered posthumous donations.


Perhaps some alchemy? Being able to produce some sort of balm to place under your nose to avoid the stench. Something to spray on your clothing afterwards to hide the smell. A way to preserve body parts for people wanting to construct golems.


If I was to make a grave robber, the first thing I'd do is give him the Religion skill, to reflect all the knowledge he's picked up on the job.


I'd lean towards background over sub-class.

But, regardless, some mechanics (assuming 5E);
- advantage on fear saves (i.e. a grave robber has to be pretty resistant to fear)
- proficient skills; investigation, religion, stealth, perception (pick 2?) (Don't see a need for athletics for digging, come on, how good do you need to be with a shovel?)


Rotten DM
Ok. I will say while in a graveyard advantage on stealth, perception, and deception. So he knows to keep a ear out for the cops and bluff them. Advantage when doing research on grave sites.