I'm DMing a pathfinder campaign and it's been going pretty well. The Barbarian is having a grand time cleaving hordes of weak enemies, the Cleric is doing fantastic in the undead segments, and the Sorcerer is a great source of overall damage potential against bigger enemies.

However, one of my players is playing as a Rogue and can't seem to find his niche in the party. He is always leading the way in dungeons, so he can check for traps, listen for enemies, or scout ahead in stealth.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time this means he gets too far away from his party, and more often than not is the first person the enemies see. He has the lowest AC and health out of any other party members, yet he is always the first to enter a room full of bad guys with weapons pointed toward the door.

As a result, he has come within an inch of death multiple times, and spends large portions of many encounters unconscious and not getting to do much. Worse yet, he has gotten so frustrated with his character he barely even seems to be trying anymore, so it happens more and more frequently.

I'm now conflicted between letting him die, which I am certain will only alienate him further, or finding some other way to accommodate his play style. Would it be best to just have him re-roll as a fighter?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Rogues don't make very good scouts. They should stay close to the party in dungeons and deal with traps/locks and fade away in combat to surprise the enemy. If all the rooms your party enters have enemies pointed at the door, that's bad for him. But if they are huddled in the center of the room focused on a ritual with all the lights out... \$\endgroup\$
    – DampeS8N
    May 24, 2013 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DampeS8N Would you be willing to expand your comment, specifically the second sentence, into an answer? \$\endgroup\$ May 24, 2013 at 18:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is he charging in first into rooms filled with opponents because he wants to be a fighter, or because the party insists he goes in first and he wont say no? \$\endgroup\$ May 24, 2013 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ He chooses to walk ahead of the party to watch for traps (and often finds and disarms or averts them), but also walks around corners into rooms with enemies, who charge him. He doesn't back away when this happens, just 'fights to the death' \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric B
    May 24, 2013 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ If he's moving ahead of the party, he should be using stealth to avoid being the first one seen. A rogue properly using techniques to move undetected makes a great scout. Rogues must also learn to run away. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBlake
    May 24, 2013 at 20:54

5 Answers 5


From your clarification it sounds like he wants to be playing a front-line fighter, so perhaps it's best (and safest for his long term prospects) if he starts gaining levels as one.

That said, some options to give him more front-and-center time in the game:

  • Give him an opportunity to end the battle before it starts. For example, a group of enemy are crossing a rope bridge, and if he's thinking fast enough, he can cut the ends of the rope bridge, sending all the opponents to their watery demise. This allows him to be able to claim (or brag) about the time he took out a whole group of X by himself. You don't want to do this all the time, but every once in a while it's a nice morale booster for the rogue.

  • Something other than a combat-centered adventure. Make an adventure not about killing a bunch of whatevers that are threatening a town, but retrieving an object thats very well protected. Or breaking someone out of prison. Something where his rogue skills will be the difference between success and failure.

  • Role-playing, role-playing, role-playing. A rogue isn't just a guy who backstabs and disarms traps. He's a guy (or gal) who knows how to operate in the seedy underworld in a way other characters can't. Players have an item they want to sell? The rogue is the guy who can ask around and use his contacts to find someone willing to make the best offer (and not just the low-ball offer received from an established vendor). Looking to buy something? The rogue 'knows a guy'. Need to keep watch on someone in the city? The rogue can blend in as he follows the target around. And he's the one who can recruit an army of street urchins to help him out.

The key here, though, is that the player has to be willing to do the above, and not only be interested in disarming the traps so that he can get into combat. Most of the responsibility is on them to make the best of the role they've taken on.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The bridge idea, while a decent one in general, is not actually character or class specific. The barbarian could do that just as easily if he was there, as could the rogue if he was a fighter instead. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2018 at 20:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ So what? The point is to give the character a chance to have an impact without direct combat. That doesn't necessarily require rogue specific skills. The GM just has to provide the right opportunity. The same goes for all classes. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2018 at 7:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question is titled "How to give a Rogue ways to shine". I interpret that as class-based, i.e. how to make a Rogue uniquely shine in ways that other classes can't or don't. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2018 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nothing in the question specified such a limitation. Nor does such a limitation make sense in the context provided. But if that's how you interpret it, do feel free to add your own answer. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2018 at 3:20

IMHO, the easiest way is he needs to wrap his head around the character concept.

I've said elsewhere on this board that a Rogue's combat tactics should be:

Backstab, sneak to backstab spots, and retreat behind fighter(s) to use missile weapons.

If your Rogue is sneaking too far ahead, why does he get into fights before backup comes? Why can't he get back to the party before the bad guys catch up to him and turn him into a pincushion? Is he unable to hide in Shadows? If he is charging into battle, maybe you should pull him aside and let him know that maybe he should pull back. If the problem is that he gets spotted while hiding in shadows, then maybe it's bad DMing (sorry). Just because you know the rogue is there does not mean that the NPCs know he's there. If I had a DM that constantly muted a strength of my class, I would feel a little cheated and maybe withdraw a bit.

Places a rogue should shine:

  • Backstabbing
  • Find/removing traps
  • Scouting ahead for danger(s) AND reporting back to his allies before combat begins to alert them to the danger.

If your player wants to charge into battle, maybe he should either re-skin as a Fighter/Rogue or a pure fighter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Rogues should also shine when it comes to locks on doors/chests, or hidden doors/enemies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dakeyras
    May 24, 2013 at 22:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer represents a really, really narrow vision of the Rogue class, which is one of the most versatile in 3.X both mechanically and in terms of flavor representation. I didn't downvote, but I don't approve. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2013 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lord_Gareth: Very true - but, it does sound like an appropriate modification to what OP's player is currently doing. Right now, OP's rogue is doing precisely these things, but not effectively - pointing him towards the "strong" way of doing these is directly helpful :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Standback
    May 27, 2013 at 7:12

If the issue is the rogue PC keeps running into the monsters first and got slaughtered, perhaps you can warn him about the impending enemies? He doesn't have to see an enemy to know there is one. Some signs of nearby enemies could include: hearing muffled conversations, sound of armor, footsteps. Other sights of impending enemies will be light from under the door, light in the room, smell of ale/food, smell of garbage/excrement for monsters), recently gnawed bones etc...


As a GM I've found that whenever players start taking crazy chances it's because they're bored. The risks are an attempt to make something happen. As a player, thieves and rogues are my favorite character class in any system because I love roll playing and subtle combat tactics, but I've been in the exact same situation as your rogue player - ultimately driven to scrap my rogue character in favor of a barbarian.

Thieves are exploiters of personalities, terrain, and situations. Many GM's present a vague and under-detailed world consisting only of - room, monster, combat, treasure, repeat. If the opponents neither speak nor want anything (other than to fight) and if they aren’t really doing anything (other than waiting for combat to start), then their’s little for rogues to do.

What I can’t know is why you’ve set your world up this way. Sometimes these vague worlds are the unintentional result of excessive GM improvisation. There are limits to how much can be made up on the spot. Thus terrain is flat, personalities non-existant, and the story (and with it exploitable situations) lacking. If this is the case, pump up the planning to increase the roll playing potential.

Perhaps it was your intent to create a combat focused game. If that was the case there was a simple oversight of not communicating that focus to players when they were rolling up their characters. If so, take the rogue player aside and tell him or her that combat is the heart of the adventure and allow him or her to create a new character without penalty.

Or maybe the other players favor combat over roll playing and as GM you're simply giving them what they want. I think the hardest thing for a GM to pull off is pleasing a group of players that all want different things from the game. Not all players are equally interested in roll playing. If this is the case and the rogue PC desires a play style the others do not, then he or she may need to find another playing group. Sad but true.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you really mean to say "roll playing"? It's almost opposite of what one does with rogues and thieves. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2, 2013 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ What exactly is meant by roll-playing will vary depending on who you ask. I would define it as advancing one's interests in the game employing neither the rules or the dice. Combat focuses on rules and dice - the stuff of board games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom
    Aug 13, 2013 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you misread "roll" as "role". \$\endgroup\$ Aug 13, 2013 at 21:07

Rogue's abilities aren't really for front line toe to toe fighting, it amazes me that this player of yours hasn't reached this conclusion yet. Firstly it would help to bring this to your player's attention, from here you can discuss progression for him.

Very few (if any classes) are capable of soloing an encounter, rogues near the bottom of that stack. He either needs to totally reconsider his tactics, reroll his character or take some fighter classes.

If he's being slaughtered in fights and wants to up his battle prowess then he needs to take levels in one of the fighter classes for more hp and get better AC. Another alternative is to take a few levels in Wizard so he can use magic spells to raise his AC or cast invisibility.

Another more subtle method is to offer the party stronger thief equipment or as a reward for being first in, have an encounter where the rogue specifically gets given a singular powerful item that will help him in his play style. How about a ring that gives x3 a day Sanctuary or once a day invisibility? This gives him the ability to get away as well as battlefield tactical ability.


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