There’s a general consensus on the Paizo message boards that the two classes with the most problems are the monk and the rogue. While the monk has received a lot of love through the addition of various archetypes and combat style feats, the rogue has been been left out in the cold.
Part of this has to do with a dilution of the rogue’s role in a group. Why play a rogue, many ask, when I could play an vivisectionist, lore master, archaeologist, or urban ranger? Paizo has been extremely bad at keeping what makes a rogue unique – a wide skill pool, sneak attack dice, and trap finding – unique to the rogue.
Power creep has also seemed to skim over the class in many regards. Rogues still rely on sneak attack to remain competitive in combat, and there hasn’t been much done to make flanking or surprising foes any easier.
Arguably, the addition of tieflings (with their prime attribute bonuses and darkness powers) to organized play has been the biggest boon. But what class hasn’t benefited from that one?
I’d like to propose a few measures to make the rogue a more competitive class. Unlike my post on feat taxes, these measures will be additions to the core class, not revisions. This means no existing feature will be tweaked and that everything in this post could potentially be added in a future splatbook.
Variant Sneak Attack
Clerics received a small boon in Ultimate Magic in the form of variant channeling. Variant channeling halves the amount of damage a cleric heals or harms with their channel energy ability, but grants a beneficial secondary effect.
Given that channel energy and sneak attack operate off of the same ubiquitous d6 mechanic, variant sneak attacks seem like a natural move. Many rogues would be eager to sacrifice damage for greater party utility, and the number of options are limitless.
Courageous Sneak Attack
When you successfully deal sneak attack damage, all allies within 30 feet of you gain a +1 morale bonus to attack and damage rolls for one round. This bonus increases by +1 at level 5 and every 4 levels after.
Cunning Sneak Attack
When you successfully deal sneak attack damage, you may attempt one free trip, steal, or dirty trick combat maneuver on the same opponent with a +1 bonus. This extra combat maneuver can only be attempted once a round. This bonus increase by +1 at level 3 and every 2 levels after.
Better Rogue Talents
Whenever a discussion on rogue talents is stirred, I inevitably make the following comparison.
Alchemists, witches, and oracles generally swap a good portion of their feats for bonus class features – discoveries, hexes, and mysteries respectively. Rogues tend to do the opposite, swapping as many rogue talents for feats as possible.
Frankly, many rogue talents are weak, poorly thought out, or terminally situational. Rogues need talents that help them deal with their most common issues – lack of combat options, the fickle nature of two-weapon fighting, and the decay of their group role.
Two Weapon Focus
Whenever you make an attack with both a main hand weapon and an off-hand weapon in a single round, you gain +1 to hit with each weapon. This bonus does not stack with Weapon Focus.
Req: Two Weapon Focus
Whenever you make an attack with a main hand weapon as a standard action, you may make a second attack with an off-hand weapon at your full BAB.
Powerful Sneak Attack
You can choose to take a –1 penalty on all melee attack rolls per sneak attack die you possess to roll d8s instead of d6s on your sneak attack damage. The damage dice increase to d10s if you are making an attack with a two-handed weapon, a one handed weapon using two hands, or a primary natural weapon that adds 1-1/2 times your strength modifier on damage rolls.
The time required for you to reload any type of crossbow is reduced to a free action, regardless of the type of crossbow used. You can fire a crossbow as many times in a full attack action as you could if you were using a bow.
You gain a circumstance bonus equal to your number of sneak attack dice to confirm critical hits with any type of crossbow. This talent does not stack with Critical Focus.
Whenever you confirm a critical hit with any type of crossbow, you may choose to stagger your opponent for a single round.
A rogue that selects this talent gains Skill Focus as a bonus feat, although it must be applied to one of his class skills. This rogue talent can be taken multiple times.
Eye for Magic
Req: Minor Magic
A rogue with this talent gains the ability to cast detect magic at will as a spell-like ability, using his rogue level as his caster level. However, he can only use this ability to detect magical traps and abjuration and illusion auras.
Not all campaigns have traps. The notion that every party would require a dedicated trapfinder is a relic from the Gygaxian era of improbable mega-dungeons, where every individual floor tile triggered its own unique and deadly mechanism.
Many archetypes already replace trapfinding with another class ability, but I think giving alternatives outside of the archetype system would allow for less rigid customization.
A rogue adds 1/2 her level to Sense Motive skill checks and to Diplomacy, Bluff, and Intimidate skill checks against creatures who have lied to him in the past 24 hours (minimum +1).
A rogue adds 1/2 her level to Survival skill checks to follow tracks and to Sense Motive and all Knowledge skill checks against a creature he has tracked in the past 24 hours (minimum +1).
A rogue adds 1/2 her level to Perception skill checks to locate valuables or hidden objects and to his Appraise skill checks (minimum +1). An Appraise skill check that succeeds by 5 or more also allows him to discern if an item is magical.
A rogue adds 1/2 her level to Diplomacy checks to gather information and to a skill checks in a single Profession or Craft skill of his choice (minimum +1). He may gather information in 1d2 hours rather than 1d4.