Rogue Rebalancing - what house rules do you use?


Homebrew and House Rules


Recently in another discussion about Bards we began speaking about Rogues and how there are holes in the character which make them effective compared to other classes. What house rules have you implemented to address these issues?

For example, I never realized that when a rogue is flanking that they are not also denying the foe their dex to AC. As such this became a house rule which I implemented to help with their to-hit rolls which are a concern for the class.

NOTE: the question here is not, what other class or multi-class combo are you using instead of the rogue, but rather how to address issues with the Rogue as a single class.


Lazlo.Arcadia wrote:

Recently in another discussion about Bards we began speaking about Rogues and how there are holes in the character which make them effective compared to other classes. What house rules have you implemented to address these issues?

For example, I never realized that when a rogue is flanking that they are not also denying the foe their dex to AC. As such this became a house rule which I implemented to help with their to-hit rolls which are a concern for the class.

NOTE: the question here is not, what other class or multi-class combo are you using instead of the rogue, but rather how to address issues with the Rogue as a single class.

Just use Unchained Rogue? Pretty much makes your Rogue a good character and someone who can stand on their own.


It doesn't exist. No martial classes do.

They're one class with full bab, all good saves, 8 skillpoints and customization towards a theme allowing any present concepts and many more.

Liberty's Edge

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Letric wrote:
Just use Unchained Rogue? Pretty much makes your Rogue a good character and someone who can stand on their own.

I agree for the most part. The only thing I did not care for was that Paizo created the Rogues Edge/Skill Unlock mechanic for the class. It makes it so that in order to do crazy things with a skill, you now have to have this Skill Unlock. I would have preferred that anyone with a really high skill roll to be able to do fantastical things.

I ended up using a modified Unchained Rogue for my game.


Lazlo.Arcadia wrote:

Recently in another discussion about Bards we began speaking about Rogues and how there are holes in the character which make them effective compared to other classes. What house rules have you implemented to address these issues?

For example, I never realized that when a rogue is flanking that they are not also denying the foe their dex to AC. As such this became a house rule which I implemented to help with their to-hit rolls which are a concern for the class.

They still get their +2 to hit from flanking and get sneak attack damage when they connect. If they want to deny dex, that's when the investment in the Improved Feint chain and the ranks in Bluff come in.


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Check out the Legendary Rogues for a different take on the rogue that helps cover a lot of holes.


There are loads of homebrew rewrites of the rogue. Some make minor changes, some major, some a bit over complex. Enter "rogue" into this forum's search bar and see what you come up with.


RedDogMT wrote:
Letric wrote:
Just use Unchained Rogue? Pretty much makes your Rogue a good character and someone who can stand on their own.

I agree for the most part. The only thing I did not care for was that Paizo created the Rogues Edge/Skill Unlock mechanic for the class. It makes it so that in order to do crazy things with a skill, you now have to have this Skill Unlock. I would have preferred that anyone with a really high skill roll to be able to do fantastical things.

I ended up using a modified Unchained Rogue for my game.

I agree with this for the most part, which is why I'm kind meh on the system in general. But there's something to be said for getting mechanical bonuses with consistency, not having to rely on high rolls and asking the GM if you can do something, and it does succeed in providing the Rogue with some advantages in skills compared to other characters.

Honestly, I'm really quite happy with the Unchained Rogue. They finally have a consistent source of damage (Dex to Damage), get Weapon Finesse for free, have some fairly nice skill-based perks in the form of Skill Unlocks, have a competent casting archetype, and I personally use fractional BAB which allows them to multiclass easier. Debilitating Injury is situational but when it works it is incredibly satisfying. The Rogue ain't a caster (archetype aside), so it's pretty much stuck in tier 4 so to speak, but it's very comfortable within tier 4.


RedDogMT wrote:
Letric wrote:
Just use Unchained Rogue? Pretty much makes your Rogue a good character and someone who can stand on their own.

I agree for the most part. The only thing I did not care for was that Paizo created the Rogues Edge/Skill Unlock mechanic for the class. It makes it so that in order to do crazy things with a skill, you now have to have this Skill Unlock. I would have preferred that anyone with a really high skill roll to be able to do fantastical things.

I ended up using a modified Unchained Rogue for my game.

Yeah, but the signature skill feat lets non-rogues do it for one skill.


I give my players options.

First, is the impressive Legendary Rogue - a very versatile upgrade to the core rogue that keeps all the flavor and adds some punch.

Second, is the classy Glory Rogue - a more narrow build, but if you want a rogue who lives and dies by his DX and CHA scores, I definitely recommend giving this a shot.

Third, there is the Unchained Rogue - a tough skirmisher with cool de-buff attacks and an arsenal of special skill "unlocks" - this is recommended if 3pp options are off the table.

Finally, I give my rogues, whether they use one of the options above or not, two additional abilities to compliment they're being a (mostly) non-magical class in a magical world. The first is a limited ability to re-roll a d20 a limited # of times per day. The second is the ability to "take 10" with a few skills despite danger/distraction.

The rogue in my game who is using the 1st and 4th option is having a blast. I have had a blast playing the 2nd option in a game years ago. Haven't tried out the 3rd option personally yet.


Personally I never liked the "ranged sneak attack only allowed if within 30 ft" rule. So I changed it to read like this:

"Penalties for a ranged sneak attack are double the normal range penalty for the weapon, and additional – 2 if outside of the 30ft “point blank range”. NOTE: this means sneak attack is allowed outside of the normal 30 ft limitation set by the core D20 rules, and both long bows and heavy crossbows are restored to being the dangerous weapons they were always meant to be."

Dark Archive

When it comes to rebalancing I think much has already been done in different ways, such as the Unchained Rogue and much earlier the Glory Rogue... honestly I have even considered combining the two and offering that as the rogue.


rainzax wrote:
Finally, I give my rogues, whether they use one of the options above or not, two additional abilities to compliment they're being a (mostly) non-magical class in a magical world. The first is a limited ability to re-roll a d20 a limited # of times per day. The second is the ability to "take 10" with a few skills despite danger/distraction.

Obviously, I'm a fan of this.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
rainzax wrote:
Finally, I give my rogues, whether they use one of the options above or not, two additional abilities to compliment they're being a (mostly) non-magical class in a magical world. The first is a limited ability to re-roll a d20 a limited # of times per day. The second is the ability to "take 10" with a few skills despite danger/distraction.
Obviously, I'm a fan of this.

there are rogue talents that allow you to take 10 in dangerous situation, plus are you giving boosts to fighters as well they need it a lot more than rogues do to be honest


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
rainzax wrote:
Finally, I give my rogues, whether they use one of the options above or not, two additional abilities to compliment they're being a (mostly) non-magical class in a magical world. The first is a limited ability to re-roll a d20 a limited # of times per day. The second is the ability to "take 10" with a few skills despite danger/distraction.
Obviously, I'm a fan of this.

There it is!


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
There are loads of homebrew rewrites of the rogue. Some make minor changes, some major, some a bit over complex. Enter "rogue" into this forum's search bar and see what you come up with.

I took your advice. Nice work you have done on the rogue as well.


Thank you. It adds a few extras into the bag of tricks, but still doesn't address certain other problems. Rainzax has a rewrite more extensive than mine.


What about this one: Sneak Attack as a standard action (both ranged and melee) but uses level for BAB to better insure the attack hits? Perhaps adding INT bonus to the attack roll?


You'll need to explain that better. Sneak Attacks isn't an action at all. It can apply to any attack.


Here is another one: "flanked" is a condition. Meaning once the enemy is flanked if a rogue attacks from a distance the foe is still considered "flanked" and thus sneak attack applies.


@ Ciaran Barnes
I know that, this was a suggestion on how to make SA work better. It keeps the theme that a sneak attack is basically some form of "cheap shot" you take when the other person is vulnerable. Thus it is a really well placed shot, but takes effort to set up.

IE; you still need all the normal things for it to trigger (flanking, etc) but when the conditions are right you chances to actually hit are much better and it hits like a tank. Thus redefining it as a standard action (because you only get one per round typically).


These are just ideas mind you. Kicking the tires so to speak.


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@ Lazlo.Arcadia, Unchained Rogue was writen to help Solo rogues use sneak attack.

- - - - -

On topic: rebalancing the Rogue is hard without either rewriting the system, rebuilding the Class from the groud up, or both.

...

Building the Rogue around Sneak Attack vs building Sneak Attack around the Rogue.

also, Sneak Attack: Class Feature or Combat Maneuver?


Lazlo.Arcadia,

What kind of change to the rogue do you seek? Can you specifically identify the areas you feel the rogue needs help?

Doing that may help to focus the discussion on an outcome you might like.


While I have a vision for how the Rogue should be handled within my personal campaign setting, that is true, I started this thread because I was hoping to see some of the house rules which others were using to address what they were perceiving as issues with the Rogue. In that way I could get a better feel for the degree to which the Rogue is "broken" compared to other classes and what might need to be addressed in order to have a more well rounded class.

Some of these issues are not truly issues with the class, but may indicate an issue with the core mechanics. Consider for a moment the issue with a melee fighter. Due to restrictions within the action economy it puts the class at sever handicaps when looking at the needs for attack and movement compared to an archer or spell caster.

In earlier editions of the game this was largely off set by limitations of spell casting per day, but under Pathfinder there are tons of disposable magic items like wands and scrolls which have eliminated those balances and thus imbalanced the melee classes in the process. Previously while a mage could out shine a fighter for a period of time, the fighter could swing his sword all day. Thus the mage learned early on to pace himself with his spells so as not to be useless when they were really needed.

Another issue with melee classes are a dependency on their magic items due to a lack of innate magical ability (this issue being somewhat addressed with the introduction of rules like "Scaling Magic Items", "Automatic Bonus Progression", and "Innate Item Bonuses").

These are the types of questions I'm looking at with the Rogue. Is it truly an issue with class features (or the lack of) that is hindering the rogue? Is it the level of magic inherit within pathfinder that classes like the rogue and fighter suffer from because they don't innately have it as part of their class? Is it that fact that other classes and archetypes have been allowed to intrude on the role these classes have historically held, thus leaving them no longer unique and too easily replaced?

Now, if your question is specifically what have I put into place within my own campaign that is a very different question, and one which would be best served in its own thread. Let it be enough to say my campaign is "low magic" and magic casters (of any type) make up less than 1% of the population, and magic items are VERY rare. This puts non-caster classes in a much stronger position. Think: Witcher video game, HBO's Game of Thrones by George Martin, and a Lord of the Rings mashup and your getting close. In fact my home game could best be thought of as "Low Fantasy D20" vs Pathfinder, and that is a distinction which I'm perfectly ok with.

Thus when you ask what I'm hoping to achieve with the question about Rogue House Rules, I'm not really looking for a specific answer here. Rather I'm hoping for a better understanding of the issues players are having with the rogue and what they have done to address it. Who knows, maybe in seeing what others have done will lend itself to a place at my own gaming table.


Guy St-Amant wrote:
@ Lazlo.Arcadia, Unchained Rogue was written to help Solo rogues use sneak attack.

Agreed. I've incorporated a lot of that material into my home campaign already. Was there any particular rule that your liked within the Unchained material which you've come to think of as essential to either the Rogue as a class, or to the core mechanics in general?

Guy St-Amant wrote:
On topic: rebalancing the Rogue is hard without either rewriting the system, rebuilding the Class from the groud up, or both.

I could not agree more. Way ahead of you. Is there anything in particular that jumps out at you as a smoking gun of an imbalance between the Rogue vs the core system? Such as the way flanking does or does not work when dealing with rogue combat, or some other class / system conflict?

Guy St-Amant wrote:
also, Sneak Attack: Class Feature or Combat Maneuver?

Personally? The answer for my home game is a solid "Class Feature" which only the core Rogue can master, but others may dabble in. This does not make it "right", simply the answer we settled on in order to achieve a specific feel for our game. Your mileage may vary of course.

What was your take on Sneak Attack? It sounds like you were leaning towards Combat Maneuver. How has that been applied in your game, and when / how does it work? How did that impact the rogue as a viable class within your game?


OK, well I guess here's what i would do. This is all for the old rogue, mind you, not the unchained one. That rogue looks pretty good but I've only seen one in play for a couple levels now. These are all lifted from my cursory rogue mod and the knave base class that I wrote some time ago.

Underhanded Attack: A rogue excels in an unfair fight. She gains a +1 bonus to attack against enemies who are denied a Dexterity bonus to AC, and those she flanks. At 5th level and every four levels thereafter, this bonus increases by +1.

When a rogue succeeds on an attack against an enemy denied a Dexterity bonus to AC or one she flanks, she adds her level to the damage roll. Ranged attacks gain this additional damage only if the target is within 30 feet. With a weapon that deals nonlethal damage (such as a sap, whip, or an unarmed strike), the extra damage is also nonlethal damage. The rogue must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vulnerable spot and be able to reach such a spot.

Replaces sneak attack, or just call this sneak attack.

Cunning (Ex): A rogue always has a trick up her sleeve, or a deception ready to unveil. Once per day when a rogue rolls a d20, she can roll a second d20 and use the more favorable result. The decision to use this ability must be made before the result of the first roll is announced. At 3rd level and every three levels thereafter, she can use this ability one additional time per day.

Add this in for free. You can reflavor it be a luck ability but I prefer that my rogues a little sinister.

Trap Sense (Ex): A rogue possesses an intuitive sense concerning all manner of traps and ambushes. Beginning at 2nd level, she adds 1/2 her level: as a dodge bonus to AC against attacks made by traps; to Reflex saving throws made to avoid the effects of traps; as a dodge bonus to AC against attacks that are part of a readied action; to skill checks made to build, disarm, or locate traps; and to any skill check made to determine awareness in a surprise round (such as Perception or Stealth). A rogue can also use Disable Device to disarm magic traps.

Replace the old trap sense.

Ambush (Ex): A rogue is a master of surprise attacks. Beginning at 5th level, a rogue who is aware of her enemies during a surprise round can treat it as though were a normal round of combat. She does not have to choose between a move action and a standard action. Additionally, she can ignore less than total concealment caused by darkness, fog, and smoke when making an attack against enemies who cannot add their Dexterity bonus to AC against her attacks.

Add this in for free.


Here are some of the ideas that we are working with in my home campaign, known as the LCM Ruleset / LCM Campaign setting, which are specifically targeted at the Rogue class. Before I get started please understand that my home campaign is a low magic overhaul which would be more appropriately called a "Low Fantasy D20 setting" vs Pathfinder. (For more on the campaign setting and objectives, cross reference our forums for "LCM Low Magic" against my name.)

NOTE: Many other factors are in place within an LCM campaign such as level restrictions, magic item & spell level restrictions, multi-class restrictions, Armor as DR/-, etc. It is these additional considerations which has caused me to not post this material earlier in the discussion. I have attempted to balance these options against the campaign limitations, and am not suggesting these Rogue House Rules will work well (or at all) outside of such a heavily modified environment.

As such, feel free to use any of this which you like and disregard the rest:

LCM campaign Rogues tend to focus on their sneak attacks, and skills which are Dex and Str based, vs the LCM Bards which are focused on their Int & Char based social skills, spells and party buffing abilities. This is not a "rule" per se but more of a guideline for use when developing your character to better align with the campaign.

Rogues are the only class allowed sneak attack progression greater than once every 4 levels, and the only class which can Disable Device, or locate traps, with a DC greater than 20 without magical assistance.

Weapon Proficiency for Sneak Attack: Rogues may only sneak attack with melee weapons with which they are proficient, and which are not greater than their own size, or with a ranged weapon which they are proficient with. IE: if a human rogue multi-classed as a fighter they could not sneak attack with a 2h pole arm!

Finesse training is applied to all finesse weapons at first level.

Expose Weakness (EX): At 3rd level, when flanking an opponent Rogues deny the defender their DEX bonus to AC. Abilities which defend against being flanked, also defend against Expose Weakness.

Exploit Weakness (EX): At 5th level the Rogue can take advantage of a foes weakened condition, thus gaining sneak attack against those suffering from a negative condition. Sneak Attacks triggered from this ability are at a – 2d6 vs normal sneak attacks. "Negative Conditions" cover situations like Shaken, Fatigued, Nauseated, etc, but does not include the condition of bleeding due to how commonly such things occur in an LCM Campaign. NON-LCM campaigns may wish to allow bleeding effects to trigger Exploit Weakness.

NOTE: Should the Wound Thresholds Optional Rules be used, the DM may opt to allow a condition of “Critical” to trigger the “negative condition” requirement for Exploit Weakness. Generous DM's may wish to limit this effect to PC use only.

Penalties for a ranged sneak attack are double the normal range penalty for the weapon, and additional – 2 if outside of the 30ft “point blank range”. NOTE: this means sneak attack is allowed outside of the normal 30 ft limitation set by the core D20 rules, thus allowing for dangerous tactical sniping scenarios to be set up. This is especially dangerous when using the LCM massive damage rules.

Ranged Sneak Attack is triggered when the foe is denied their Dex bonus (such as when surprised, helpless, etc), are being threatened by the rogue’s ally, or are effected by a "negative condition" per Exploit Weakness above.

Per D20 RAW, only one ranged precision attack is allowed per round. NOTE: The feats Precise Shot and Far Shot are both highly recommended for those who plan on making this tactic a core part of their combat style.

Hero Point / Freebie Point: as a free action declare foe vulnerable to sneak attack for the next round

OPTIONAL RULES: While the rules for Vicious Opportunist / Opportunities Aplenty (Ex) were reviewed and greatly enjoyed, they were not adopted for LCM Campaigns as they did not fit the campaign concept for what a Sneak Attack consists of. NON-LCM Campaigns however may wish to experiment with such.


Lazlo.Arcadia wrote:
Guy St-Amant wrote:
also, Sneak Attack: Class Feature or Combat Maneuver?

Personally? The answer for my home game is a solid "Class Feature" which only the core Rogue can master, but others may dabble in. This does not make it "right", simply the answer we settled on in order to achieve a specific feel for our game. Your mileage may vary of course.

What was your take on Sneak Attack? It sounds like you were leaning towards Combat Maneuver. How has that been applied in your game, and when / how does it work? How did that impact the rogue as a viable class within your game?

Making it a Combat Maneuver does't automatically mean that Rogues/Ninja are bad at it, I would probably give them optional bonuses to attack and number of damage dices... optional so if the players/GM don't want their Rogue to be build around Sneak Attack, well, they should have other options.


I add the following to the unchained rogue:

Quote:

Equipment Expertise (Ex): Whenever a fourth level rogue uses a masterwork tool that provides a bonus towards a skill check, that tool's bonus increases to half the rogue's class level.

Capitalist (Ex): Upon reaching 7th level, the rogue gains a bonus equal to her class level on all checks to accumulate capital through a skill he has selected with rogue's edge or the signature skill feat.
Magical Proficiency: At 7th level, you gain the benefits of the Craft Wondrous Item feat, except that your ranks in skills that you have selected for rogue's edge or the signature skill feat count as your caster level. You must use a chosen skill for the check to create the item. The DC to create the item still increases for any necessary spell requirements (see the magic item creation rules in Magic Items). You cannot use this ability to create any spell-trigger or spell-activation item.
Unlimited Potential (Ex): A number of times per day equal to half her class level, a 13th level rogue can gain the benefits of a limited wish effect. This effect has a caster level equal to the ranks you possess in a skill of your choice that you have selected for rogue's edge or the signature skill feat, and must have a way to be justified as being a function of that skill (for example, dispelling magic by using Knowledge (Engineering) to prove it is mathematically impossible, removing blindness by using Heal, absorbing toxicity through your training in Craft (Alchemy), fabricating a sword instantaneously by using Craft (Weapon), blind enemies by stealing their sight with your sleight of hand, detecting thoughts through sense motive, creating illusions by amazing bluffs, taking on the shapes of others through disguise, etc.). This effect is extraordinary and thus cannot be counterspelled, dispelled, or detected through magic like arcane sight or detect magic.
Improved Capitalist (Ex): Upon reaching 13th level, the rogue gains a bonus equal to double her class level on all checks to accumulate capital through a skill he has selected with rogue's edge or the signature skill feat.
Specialized Potential (Ex): At 16th level, a rogue must select one skill they have taken with rogue's edge or the signature skill feat. A number of times per day equal to that skill's ability modifier, you use unlimited potential with that skill except that it doesn't take up one of your uses of unlimited potential each day, and it replicates the wish spell rather than limited wish.


@ Milo v3 - Equipment Expertise is definitely a cool idea that I've not seen before, and the Capitalist abilities are certainly cool effects!

Personally I might have gone slightly different with them and made it a multiple effect like, at Capitalist I = 2x income from skill check, Cap II = 3x, etc. I like the idea however. I remember seeing something dealing with nobles once, but don't recall where.

@ Guy St-Amant - I see what you mean about allowing sneak attacks to not be the focus of rogue. On the other hand, the only real difference between the rogue and the bard is one is getting SA and the other is getting spells, so if you wanted an non sneak attacking "rogue" would a bard be a better option?


Lazlo.Arcadia wrote:
@ Guy St-Amant - I see what you mean about allowing sneak attacks to not be the focus of rogue. On the other hand, the only real difference between the rogue and the bard is one is getting SA and the other is getting spells, so if you wanted an non sneak attacking "rogue" would a bard be a better option?

8 + Int mod skill points/ranks, Trapfinding, Trap/Danger Sense, Evasion, Uncanny Dodge, Improved Uncanny Dodge, etc

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