Here’s the next mundane character in the line, this time the Rogue. The rogue’s signature ability in combat, available to all rogues, is the sneak attack. Balanced against that is that the rogue will only get one attack in combat, ever (without multiclassing).
The rogue is fundamentally a skills expert, however. With many allowed skills and the “expertise” feature that gives double proficiency bonus, there will be a large swath of skills at which the rogue is simply amazing.
With the array rolled, and the focus on skills, the low skill goes into STR – this is, of course, a nod to the fact that many, if not most, of the rogues proficiencies can be with finesse weapons or ranged weapons that allow single-attribute focus on DEX. Naturally, we put the highest stat there. If creating a character that will stand and fight (likely a bad idea for a stealth-oriented character with one attack per round), one might put CON as a higher value than I did . . . but I’m deliberately sacrificing some f the HP ability to put higher stats in skill-driving abilities: CHA, WIS, and INT.
For race, I choose normal human. The thief uses too many different abilities to drive skill rolls to not grab the +1 boost to all stats, and the rolls I’m using here (16, 15, 14, 13, 13, 11) are very friendly to the +1 boost to hit the even-numbered values that drive attribute bonuses.
STR 12 (+1); DEX 18 (+4); CON 14 (+2); INT 14 (+2); WIS 16 (+3); CHA 16 (+3)
Easy to put the 14 in WIS or CHA instead of INT, but CHA hits up deception and performance, and WIS is perception and insight.
STR +1; DEX +7; CON +2; INT +5; WIS +3; CHA +3
It will be quite challenging to do full damage to our rogue with DEX-based spells. On the flip side, he’s toast if you grapple him
The true standout area for rogues is, of course, skills. I chose to pump up thieves tools, stealth (of course), deception, and insight with expertise, and proficiency in stealth and deception (from the criminal/hired killer background), and acrobatics, insight, sleight of hand, and performance as my skill choices.
This gives very, very respectable skill levels – bordering on fully awesome. Stealth, Deception, and Insight at +9 or +10. Acrobatics, Performance, and Slight of Hand in the +5 through +7 range. The rest are +1 to +3.
His passive protection is nothing special, though: only 13. This would make him a great candidate for the Observant feat – in fact, both Observant and Alert would make good adds to his repertoire.
High DEX and studded leather puts him at AC 16. You’re going to want to assiduously avoid anything that gives disadvantage on Stealth rolls. And besides, you only have proficiency with light armor anyway. So there you go.
For attacks, you get . . . one. But any time you attack with advantage, or a few other conditions, you get some huge bonus damage – 3d6. You get to lead with this if you manage to act before your foe in combat, too, thanks to the assassin’s special feature.
Melee attacks: 1d20+7 and 1d8+4 with rapier (+3d6 if you invoke sneak attack)
Ranged attacks: 1d20+7 for 1d6+4 with shortbow (+3d6 if you can invoke sneak attack)
So lacking sneak attack, you’re looking at 5-12 damage with a rapier, and 5-10 with a shortbow. Nothing special. With sneak attack, it’s 8-30 with the rapier and 8-28 with the shortbow.
I have whinged for a while about the combat effectiveness of rogues relative to fighters. I see this was exaggerated, and perhaps brought about more by choice than anything else. The way to make fighters compete with rogues is to realize they get a lot of attacks. Rangers still seem the most dangerous, and the ability of the rogues to sneak attack each turn makes up for anything resembling combat output by any other means. If a paladin can hit twice with a longsword for 1d8+4 (10-24), but add 2d8 or 3d8 a few times per fight, and a dual-weapon Champion at 18-39 all day long.
The use of poison and being a sneaky bastard can of course offset some of this, and the thing about the rogue getting the free sneak if there’s another fighter within 5′ of your chosen enemy is huge. Any time you’re fighting with a partner, you’ll basically be hitting for lower-tier fighter levels of damage.
If that bugs a group, allow a “saving throw” versus the sneak attack – probably a Perception vs. Stealth test. Of course, that still vastly favors the rogue, but that’s probably OK.