This is my first attempt at a homebrew subclass, and I am doing my best to follow all best practices.
I first started to think of designing a rogue subclass when I was looking for multiclass options for my barbarian. The traditional barbarian did not seem to synergize with any of the other classes fully, and the best option seemed to be the rogue. However, all the synergy came from the base class and none of the official subclasses seemed to offer anything of value to the traditional dumb-smashy barbarian. I began to consider what I might want from a subclass for the purposes of this multiclass.
Then I realized that it was dumb to try to create a subclass for the sole purpose of multiclassing and began to think of what the identity of this class of rogue would be, how I would expect it to be played, and what unfilled niche would it fill.
Flavor and Concept
When I think of rogues in the fantasy setting, I think of the various members of a rogue guild. The thieves, assassins, scouts, masterminds, etc. have all already been accounted for with subclasses. However, in addition to the sneaky, highly skilled roles, an effective rogue guild would have some bashers to do the dirty work. They would shake down merchants for protection money, intimidate politicians, protect smuggled goods, or start bar fights so that the pickpockets or assassins could work in the ensuing chaos.
I have developed the subclass abilities with the idea of a rough, cheap-shotting, honorless thug in mind. It is a class that is intended to have more battlefield control and survivability than some other subclasses, but no direct subclass damage increases. Socially it is intended to rely more on intimidation than deception. It also does not emphasize intelligence as much as other subclasses but instead likely wants a higher constitution.
I am not sure that I am happy with the name of the subclass (I didn’t even have one in mind while I was writing it), and suggestions would be appreciated if there is an appropriate term for this type of rogue that I cannot think of. The current working title is Enforcer
In developing this subclass I have looked at the rogue subclasses that I felt were consistent in complexity to this class. I have primarily used Assassin, Mastermind, Scout and Thief. To a lesser extent I have used Inquisitive and Swashbuckler. Arcane Trickster, Phantom and Soulknife did not factor significantly into my development.
Can this be accomplished with another class?
In my opinion the rogue class is more defined by its core attributes than its subclasses. Some subclasses rely more heavily on subclass customization than others. Most of what makes a rogue a rogue comes from the base class, and no other class offers the combination of thieving skills, damage avoidance, sneak attack, expertise, and flavor that the rogue does. I do not think that this concept could be better filled by a heavy-armor wearing fighter, a raging barbarian, or a reflavored monk. While this class nudges the rogue towards “tougher” classes like barbarian, it does it in ways that do not change core of the class. A celestial patron warlock is not invalid just because it pushes into cleric territory, and I think that the same could be said here.
3rd Level Bonus Proficiencies
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with improvised weapons. In addition, when you make an attack with an improvised weapon, it gains the finesse property.
Starting at third level, you can use the bonus action granted to you by your Cunning Action to make a Charisma (Intimidation) check contested by a target’s Wisdom (Insight) check. You must be within 10 feet of your target and the target must be able to understand you. If you succeed, you may choose one of the following:
- Until the start of your next turn, that target has disadvantage on any attack roll against you.
- Until the start of your next turn, that target has disadvantage on any attack roll that isn’t against you.
Bonus proficiencies are not usual for 3rd-level rogue archetypes (assassin, mastermind, scout). These proficiencies tread on the feet of Tavern Brawler a little, but the archetype is intended to have some tavern brawling baked in. Additionally, Tavern Brawler is a half-feat and this is only half of the features of the feet, so it feels like a quarter-feet is reasonable. This proficiency is almost entirely flavor in most combats – finesse on an improvised weapon does not make it hit any harder than a dagger. However, the idea of a rogue that can do serious damage by cheap-shotting you with furniture to get sneak attack is incredibly flavorful. Additionally, it could be extremely useful in situations such as escaping from confinement – another situation where I imagine one of these characters finds himself periodically.
Several rogue archetypes give additional uses for cunning action (mastermind, thief) or opportunities to use a skill check for a specific outcome (inquisitive, thief) in combat. The idea is that the rogue issues a series of threats and profanity that is intended either to provoke attack (“Your mama’s so ...") or scare them away from attacking you (“If I get my hands on you I’ll..."). It is based somewhat on the Ancestral Guardians subclass from barbarian but does not grant resistance to anyone and is a contested check that might fail rather than automatic on a hit. I kept the distance to 10 feet because I don’t want it to be too easy to kite around, although I do love the idea of an enraged duergar chasing a foul-mouthed rogue around the room, ignoring all of the battle chaos around him because his insult hit home. I based the insight check on the wisdom saving throw that is granted by the frightful presence of a dragon. A possible change would be to reduce this from 2 options to 1, though I hope it is not too overpowered offering a choice.
At 9th level you have perfected the art of forceful coercion. You have advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks made to bargain for a more favorable price on goods and services. Additionally, you have advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks made for the purpose of gathering information.
Most of the subclasses that I reviewed did not have the 9th level ability add a specific combat improvement (Thief, Mastermind, Assassin). I decided to make this a social improvement consistent with the flavor of the class. Initially I had only planned to make this apply to ways to make additional gold, but gold in 5e is not a big deal after a certain point and so I wanted it to have another use. Rogues are masters of skills and many subclasses (Mastermind, Inquisitive, Scout) grant improvements on methods of intelligence gathering. Keeping with the idea of this class shifting away from intelligence and towards thuggery, I thought improving Intimidation for the purposes of information gathering would be appropriate. I did not want to grant advantage for all Intimidation checks due to the Instigator ability. The language is vague because I want it to apply to the following situations, as well as substantially similar ones, but I would prefer to keep the ability description shorter:
- Selling specialty goods to a shopkeeper
- Buying specialty good from a merchant
- Negotiating a price for quest or job
- Hiring someone to do a job
At 13th level you have learned a variety of ways to gain an edge in a fight. When you are targeted by a melee attack, you can use your reaction to force the attacker to make a Dexterity saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Dexterity modifier). If the save fails, the target is blinded until the end of its next turn. It may use an action to remove the blinded condition.
You may use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.
13th-level abilities tend to run the spectrum in power, but they are all very flavorful. I had trouble figuring out a power level for this because some 13th level abilities seem very strong (Inquisitive, thief) very weak (Mastermind, Swashbuckler) or very situational (Assassin). I had some trouble with the language here as I could not find a good template in other subclasses and advice would be appreciated, if necessary. The goal is to have an ability that improves survivability without simply tacking on AC. It also is consistent with the idea of this subclass as an unscrupulous brawler, hurling sand in the eyes of a foe. As a reaction this competes with uncanny dodge and opportunity attacks, which are both very useful, and therefore needs to be powerful enough to consider. I set the DC based on the Soulknife’s “rend mind” feature.
- I considered requiring the rogue to see the target, but at 14th level the rogue gets blindsense so it did not seem necessary.
- I am not sure if I should require a free hand.
- The one round seems short as a duration and I had considered 1 minute since it can be easily removed with an action. However I supposed that the target can ignore the disadvantage and take its attacks anyway if it does not want to use its action and this was a consideration to lower the power level.
- I could have the uses restore on a short rest instead of long rest. Or, you know, however long it takes to fill your pockets back up with sand.
At 17th level you have learned how to separate your mind from your body, making yourself numb to pain. As a bonus action you can enter a state of mental disconnect for 1 minute (10 rounds). During this time, you gain resistance to magical and nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage. In addition, while you are in this state you have immunity to the charmed condition. If you were charmed when you entered this state, the effects are suppressed until the state ends.
Once you use this feature, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.
At this level many of the rogue classes can put out huge damage. The assassin and thief can essentially double their opening round damage. Scout and Inquisitive have a significant and consistent increase. This subclass is less focused on raising the rogue’s overall damage output beyond the base class and instead is focused on increases survivability and battlefield control. That is why I landed on an ability that grants resistance to damage for a period of time. The flavor of the idea is that the rogue gets so drunk that he cannot feel normal amounts of pain, but not so drunk that it affects his fighting. I predict the most balance issues with this ability. I have never played a campaign up to this tier and therefore only have research on which to base my concept of balance.
- My first draft had him preparing a ‘potion’ on a short rest and then drinking it with a bonus action. My instinct is to keep the ability simple and not require the potion, so I re-flavored it (but the intent is still there)
- My first draft also included a period (10 minutes) of gaining the poisoned condition after the effect wore off, to simulate a quick hangover.
- I am not sure if once per short rest is the reasonable recharge
- I do not know how much magical bludgeoning/slashing/piercing damage there is
- The charm immunity was a tack-on, and I am not sure whether it is necessary
Critique is requested and frankness appreciated. Please be kind. Thank you.