Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why the Rogue is Not Underpowered (Comparing the Rogue to the Fighter)

I believe that rogues are undervalued in pathfinder.  Lets compare them to melee fighters.  I'll be breaking each class down into roughly equivalent class features and directly comparing them.

Fighters get an extra feat every other level.  Rogues get +d6 sneak attack every other level.
Is sneak attack worth a feat?

To best compare these two class features, let's convert sneak attack into a feat called "Smack Attack."  If a fighter would be benefitted by taking Smack Attack with his extra feats, then sneak attack is worth that class feature.

Smack Attack:  You deal an extra 3.5 damage on all attacks when your target is denied his Dexterity bonus to AC or being flanked by you.  This damage is not multiplied on a critical hit.  You may take this feat multiple times, and its effects stack.

3.5 damage is a huge amount of damage when it comes to feat given bonuses.  In my games at least, melee fighters are attacking with one of the Smack Attack conditions at least half the time.  To give Rogues a disadvantage in this comparison, let's round it down to an even 50%.  If they got the Smack Attack bonus half of the time, then Smack attack would add an average of 1.75 damage per swing.

A feat that does an average of 1.75 additional damage to every hit.  Would I take that feat?  Yes, yes I would.  I'd take it till the cows come home.

Smack Attack activates more frequently than Precise Strike and isn't a teamwork feat.
Smack Attack deals just .25 less than Power Attack, but without the -1 penalty to attack.

Granted, with more feats fighters can make more flexible builds.  But it usually doesn't take more than four or five interesting feats to make the a build concept.  After that, I'd add on Smack Attacks any day.

Verdict: Tie at the very least, but my personal advantage goes to the Rogue.  A feat that gives 3.5 damage to each hit when flanking?  Give it to me.

By Level 20, Fighters get 5 more Bab and 20 more HP.  Rogues get 120 more skill points.
Is a point of BAB and 4 health worth 24 skill points?

Or, per level, is .25 BAB and 1 HP worth 6 skill points?

I'd gladly trade a single point of BAB and 4 HP for 24 skill points, and I'd be hard pressed to think of a fighter build that wouldn't be benefitted by doing this at least a couple of times.  Skills are useful in combat - perception, acrobatics, climb, stealth, handle animal, even intimidate and bluff can all add significantly to the combat abilities of a melee character.

Consider all of those times you are deciding between 1 HP or 1 Skill Point for your favored class bonus.  What if that were 1 HP and 1/4 BAB or 6 Skill Points?

Looked at another way, if 1 HP and 1 Skill Point are roughly equivalent (both potential favored class bonuses), then is .25 BAB worth 5 Skill Points?

Over four levels, a +5% to hit and 4 HP VS a +5% to succeed at 24 different skills (or a +10% to succeed at 12 different skills, or a +20% to succeed at 6 different skills, or a +40% to succeed at 3 different skills)?  That seems obvious.

As a cherry on top, Rogues have 22 class skills, while Fighters only have 10. That's a difference of 36 potential skill points.

Verdict: Tie for those who simply cannot figure out how to use skills in combat, and do not care about anything outside of combat.  For everybody else the Rogue has a significant advantage.

Fighters get heavy armor and marital weapon proficiency, armor training, and weapon training. Rogues get 4 rogue talents, 6 advanced rogue talents, evasion and uncanny dodge.
Are the Rogue's miscellaneous features equal to the Fighter's miscellaneous features?

Let's run through them.  I'll convert them to an approximate value of feats based on similar existing feats if possible.

Heavy Armor Proficiency is great, but Rogues can get it with two feats.  They wouldn't want to, but for the sake of argument I'll list this as 2 Feats.

Martial Weapon Proficiency is good, but if you want to use a specific weapon you can take proficiency as a feat. 1 Feat.

Armor Training is good, but can usually only gain an additional AC or two given a normal Fighter Dexterity. 2 Feats (such as dodge)

Weapon Training is great, granting an additional +4 to attack and damage with your primary weapon by level 17.  No arguing with that. 6 Feats (4 weapon focus, 2 weapon specialization)

That's about 11 Feats worth of bonuses for the Fighter, give or take a handful.

Rogue Talents are notably underwhelming, but remember that all four of them can be converted to feats that the rogue needs (Combat Trick, Finesse Rogue, Weapon Focus, and Ninja Trick>Combat Trick). If you don't like any talents, simply make them feats.   4 Feats.

Advanced Rogue Talents are much better.  One is equivalent to a feat (Feat), several others are at least as strong as feats (Crippling Strike, Improved Evasion,), and many of the rest are about equivalent (Stand Up,  Armor Mastery, Terrain Mastery, Trap Spotter).  6 Feats.

Evasion is fantastic, and has saved the skin of many a Rogue.  However, I'll call it one feat for the sake of argument. 1 Feat.

Uncanny Dodge is super situational but worth mentioning.  However, its not strong enough to give it a full feat. 0 Feats.

That's about 11 Feats worth of bonuses for the Rogue, give or take a handful.

Verdict:  Tie (well the fighter is one down, but that is close enough).  Weapon training is really floating the Fighter here, but it's hard to compete with all of the talents.  Given that all four rogue talents can be converted directly into feats, and there are many excellent advanced rogue talents, I feel that the talents class feature gets an unnecessarily bad reputation.


Overall we have a tie, although for each individual comparison I would favor the rogue.  I'd rather have Sneak Attack than the extra feats.  I'd rather have 6 skill points per level than a quarter BAB and a single hit point.  And I'd rather have 5 feats from rogue talents, 5 rogue talents, evasion and uncanny dodge than heavy armor proficient, martial weapon proficiency, armor training, and weapon training.


  1. Misleading title, I recommend changing it to something more appropriate given the nature of focus of your discussion. Your comparison is an interesting one (apples and oranges) contrasting of two low tier classes that more or less cries "tie" a la Fighter more reliable in combat, while Rogue usually better for skills. However your conclusion can't be that all fruit taste the same just because apples and oranges serve different purposes on average equally well...

    Seriously rename this to somehow reflect that it's about fighters and rogues only.

  2. I'd guess the reason why the Rogue gets a bad rep, is that a lot of people are very focused on the combat side of PnP RPGs. Combat takes up a lot of time in a lot of games and the fighter is simply better than the rogue in this respect. Yes, sneak attack gives extra damage when flanking or hitting flat-footed enemies, but the fighter has more attacks, a significantly greater chance at landing those attacks and high, consistent damage per hit (with access to weapon specialization, the improved version of the same, weapon training and higher BAB) and feats to spare for all the interesting combat feats. Given equal funds and level, the standard fighter will always beat the standard rogue (even if it might be impossible to arrive at any agreement about how such a standard build will look). All the rogue's miscellaneous features might be as valuable as feats, but he can't exchange them all for extra damage and attack bonuses.

    The rogue is a lot more diverse than the fighter and he can be built in a lot of different ways. Under any circumstances, he will be a better skill monkey, scout, party face and spy than the fighter, but the fighter is focused solely around combat, so naturally he'll outshine the rogue in that respect. This doesn't mean the rogue is underpowered, but it might explain why some people consider the rogue inferior: because combat is rated as more important than other aspects of roleplaying. That's my best guess anyway.

    Still, I like your breakdown and analysis. It did actually affect the way I think about rogues.

  3. I think the big problem with Rogues is that the Ninja class just completely outclasses them. Sure they have trap finding... but so do several archetypes of classes, and there's even a trait for it now.