One of my players asked for advice on developing her dwarf rogue. I looked for options and found the dwarf rogue substitution levels in Dragon #338 on page 96. The class feature part of the table reads like this:

\begin{array}{l|l} \text{Level} & \text{Special} \\ \hline 1^\text{st} & \text{Demolitionist, trapfinding} \\ 3^\text{rd} & \text{Expert demolitionist, trap sense +1} \\ 5^\text{th} & \text{Rapid demolitionist} \end{array}

It replaces the sneak attack class feature with the class feature demolitionist, expert demolitionist, and rapid demolitionist. Those class features confer the ability to deal an extra +1d6, +2d6, and +3d6 damage to constructs, respectively.

Trading sneak attack damage for this highly situational extra damage seems like a horrible deal, but the last paragraph of the class feature rapid demolitionist says

This substitution replaces the rogue's normal 3d6 points of sneak attack damage at 5th level.

Yet this point isn't mentioned by the other two class features.

Crystal Keep's Index of Base Classes lists the dwarf rogue substitution levels as the first two not losing sneak attack damage but the third as losing sneak attack damage. If this reading is correct there would be no reason not to take the dwarf rogue substitution levels 1 and 3 (assuming the character were a dwarf, obviously).


Do the dwarf rogue substitution levels 1 and 3 incur a loss of sneak attack damage or any other trade-off?

  • \$\begingroup\$ What is "DR #338"? Is that a contraction of "(Dr)agon magazine"? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2016 at 10:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that's the abbreviation used in Crystalkeep's indexes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Jul 31, 2016 at 10:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I've expanded it in your question so readers understand. (Some might've anyway, but no harm in saying the whole name.) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2016 at 10:25

1 Answer 1


The dwarf rogue substitution levels don't grant sneak attack damage

The Dragon #338 Class Acts: Rogue column "Dwarf Rogue" says, "See 'Solstice Knight' on page 94 for more information about substitution levels" (96). The Class Acts: Paladin column "Solstice Knight" says

You can select each substitution level only at a specific class level. When you take a substitution level for your class at a given level, you give up the class features gained at that level for the standard class, and you get the substitution level features instead. You can't go back and gain the class features for the level you swapped out--when you take your next level in the standard class, you gain the next higher level as if you had gained the previous level normally. (94)

Emphasis mine. Thus when extraordinary ability rapid demolitionist says, "This substitution replaces the rogue's normal +3d6 points of sneak attack damage at 5th level" (96), this may be read as, depending on one's point of view, either cruelly taunting or maddeningly superfluous. I recommend forgiving the magazine writer for earning another $0.75 on the back of your confusion, ignoring that text, and playing the dwarf rogue substitution levels as indicated by the column "Solstice Knight."

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't that statement simply reiterate the fact of the substitution feature replacing the standard class feature? \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jul 31, 2016 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user30200 Do you mean the statement at the end of the class feature rapid demolitionist or the statement that's included in the column "Solstice Knight"? Anyway, the statement at the end of rapid demolitionist isn't necessary because of the statement in the column "Solstice Knight," yet it would've been better had either the statement in "Knight" been included with the dwarf rogue article or the statement in rapid demolitionists repeated for all 3 dwarf rogue levels. The editorial decision to reference the other article then mention the rule again in the other is the confusion's source. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2016 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guessed so. This reading is logical. Though: Bad news for my friend. \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Aug 1, 2016 at 0:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Afterthoughts: The entry for rogue 5 says: "sneak attack +3d6". Could you read this the way that sneak attack is not lost but postponed in case you take the substitution levels? I think you have proven that dwarven rogue substitution levels 1 and 3 exchange the sneak attack for the demolitionist ability - but if you take the regular rogue level 5: Does sneak attack kick in again at full strength? In that case dwarven rogue substitution levels would be a good choice for retraining once you have reached rogue 5! (Lose nothing, gain demolitionist.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Aug 6, 2016 at 10:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Giorin That's really a separate question: When the rogue's sneak attack on the table says, for example, sneak attack +2d6, is that added to the rogue's previous sneak attack +1d6? A question like that's already been asked, but if that other question's answers are insufficient, you could pose a new question separately. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6, 2016 at 13:16

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