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Confessions of a Rogue: I Hate Sneak Attack!

It took me all of five seconds to pile in on various feats and class abilities I felt were too deadly when I first started this blog in 2016… but it’s taken me five years to tackle 5th edition’s most commonly-occurring damage spike: sneak attack.

The reason being, of course, that when it comes to playing D&D I’m a rogue through and through… and I hardly wanted to talk my DMs into nerfing my beloved assassins and swashbucklers!

A lone rogue… is pretty useless! (Art by WOTC).

Nonetheless, in a belated show of impartiality, I’d like to share my misgivings about the rogue’s sneak attack.

Which are as follows:

My 5 Misgivings About Sneak Attack…

1. Unconvincing Premise

While it works as a game mechanic, sneak attack has never really made sense to me. Why is a back-alley chancer so much better at sticking a sword in an opponent than a trained fighter, who presumably also can look for an opportune moment to strike and take advantage of an opponent being distracted?

2. Disproportionate Damage Dice

What is it with 5e’s obsession with flashy damage? All it does is make usual damage feel like a real let down… when my high level rogue assassin was fighting with two weapons, if I managed to hit with my first attack and do my SA damage, then I could barely be bothered to make my second attack. An unmodified d4 offhand weapon attack felt so puny in comparison to two handfuls of d6s as to be pointless.

Meanwhile, I’ve often made my fellow players’ melee damage look trivial in comparison when fighting with my swashbuckler… that doesn’t make anyone feel good at the table, neither me nor them. I’ll all for damage bonuses but when a shortsword sometimes does 1d6 and other times 9d6 damage in the same hand, it feels like proportion and balance has gone out the window.

3. Ranged Rogues

Is there anything more annoying than a rogue using a light crossbow, and utilising full cover, to decimate the battlefield with impunity? I don’t care if the PC taking no chances on the sidelines is just that… on the sidelines. But if they’re doing the most damage while not even putting their bodies on the line, that’s just galling.

4. Too Few Restrictions

Ok, you can’t use it when you’re isolated in melee, but given that D&D is all about fighting together in adventuring groups, you can pretty much deal sneak attack damage every round. Even when surrounded, you simply disengage and then stab an opponent locked in melee with an ally, leading to some stupid scenarios (see below). Not only that, but all the rules from earlier editions that meant thieves could only backstab creatures that had physiological weaknesses like throats, brains and hearts etc. have been stripped away for the sake of simplicity. In 5e you can backstab a zombie… or an ooze. You can also sneak attack a gargantuan creature, even if you can only reach its little toe.

5. Stupid Scenarios

I guess you could argue backflipping out of combat (using disengage) to go and impale a distracted opponent is the very impish epitome of roguishness, but the evading of any kind of one-on-one melee to run half way across the battlefield to attack someone else feels kinda dumb to me most of the time. This of course is exactly what the sneak attack mechanic encourages, and players start to act in weird, immersion-breaking ways in order to get their beloved SA.

Can Sneak Attack Be ‘Fixed’?

Overall, I’m not sure how the rogue would look without a powerful sneak attack – pretty meh, I guess! And the mechanic is already one of the most complicated of 5th edition’s, and I imagine any attempt to ‘fix’ it would start making it very clunky, very quickly.

I do feel, however, that a distinction could easily be made between a sneaky attack against a distracted foe and a genuinely stealthy backstab against a creature that didn’t see you coming… so for that reason my own little Hipster Fix will be the following. When you have advantage to hit your sneak attack dice are d6s (as usual), but when you’re only gaining sneak attack damage due to an enemy being within 5 ft. of your target, your dice are d4s instead.

And because I’m a grumpy bastard I’d reserve the right to withdraw SA privileges against certain foes (ghosts, shadows and gelatinous cubes spring to mind!) and in certain circumstances (fighting a huge / gargantuan creature – this could lead to some fun scenarios of rogues jumping on a dragon’s back or climbing up a giant’s leg to deliver their SA damage!).

Those fixes certainly don’t deal with all of my reservations, and if anything they make the ranged rogue (may they burn in hell!) even more appealing, but I think they should be easy to implement and most players won’t rage quit at these fairly mild nerfs.

Your Thoughts?

What about you? How have you played sneak attack at your table? Exactly as RAW, or using some restrictions from previous editions or house rules? (I read every comment I get, and I do my best to reply whenever time permits!).

Finally, For Players…

Oh, and if you’re here as a player and sorely disappointed at the lack of sneak attack playing tips presented here, I think it would be hard to surpass this advice on Flute’s Loot.


Stripping Your Players of Plot Armour


Dual Wielding: An Elegant & Balanced Solution


  1. Pkbyron

    I think the design intent was a special type of critical hit they wanted for the Rogue that improved with levels. But Rogues don’t have an uncanny ability to fight Plants, Beasts, Dragons, Fey, Fiends, Celestials, Elementals, Constructs, Abominations, Monstrosities, and Undead. To say so is to declare that ever martial class – Fighter, Ranger, Paladin, Barbarian, Monk, et al. – are overlooking potentially the most significant fighting technique in combat. And they are the ones dedicated to the endeavor of fighting, where as the Rogue is actually interested in many other endeavors. Rogues shouldn’t be the alpha strike glass cannons of the party.

    Suggested Fix
    Starting at 1st level, when you attack a humanoid target from an unseen position with a light, finesse, or ranged weapon, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack, you can do a sneak attack.
    With a sneak attack you:
    – score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20, and
    – can add 1 sneak attack die (d6) to your damage.
    When rolling a sneak attack die for damage, if you roll a 6 you can immediately roll another sneak attack die and add it to your damage. This effect can chain multiple times.
    At 5th level your initial sneak attack dice increases to 2 on a successful hit, at 11th level it increases to 3, and at 17th level it increases to 4.

    Design Notes:
    – “humanoid” targets is a fair limitation IMO,
    – “attacking from an unseen position” is more specific than the general advantage but more thematic with rogue craft. And it’s a different type of attack that martial fighters wouldn’t necessarily learn as they are rarely thinking of hiding in a fight.
    – “without disadvantage” implies you need to to be able to see the target too,
    – adding “light” weapons allows a rogue to blackjack a target with a light club,
    – the extended critical range allows for Rogues to have their moment to shine,
    – sneak attack die (d6) as exploding dice means you don’t always need a critical to have fun when they get their sneak attack hit,
    – the additional sneak attack dice at 5, 11, 17 allows the feature to scale.

    This version of sneak attack does make the Rogue a half fighter, instead of being a full fighter – (aligning with the idea of full/half caster terms).
    Sneak attack has over shadowed too much of the Rogue’s other features and often stops the Rogues from doing more interesting actions in Combat too.

    But if you crimp the Rogue Sneak Attack RAW, then I I think the Rogue needs something extra. For me, I would make the Thief’s Fast Hands (BA to interact with object) part of cunning action.

    • duncan

      Hi PK

      Cool, I like your fix… I was also just thinking now about how an extended critical would be a natural fit for the rogue, and more in line with what I would like to see. It seems to me, what you’ve built here is a kind of “deadly blow” mechanic that is less reliable but capable of awesome amounts of damage – which is what I want! The chain effect on the sneak attack dice would be fun IMHO (critics will say it slows the game down, but I’m not obsessed with speed in combat).

      You’re taking A LOT away with the humanoid restriction and the removal of the ‘enemy within 5 ft’ method of getting SA. And so – while I’d have to crunch the maths a bit more – I’m thinking maybe granting rogues a 2nd attack at 9th level, and maybe even the possibility to do SA damage on this attack.

      Cheers, appreciate these ideas!


      • Pkbyron

        Hi Duncan,
        I don’t play Rogues often, so am happy to follow your instincts that “a lot” is being taken away. Rather than make the sneak attack broader, I thought – as a design exercise – it might be interesting to explore other features that could support this new version instead of changing it.
        Here are some ideas (mostly around the notion of a 6th level feature for rogues):
        [Assassin] Assassinate (extension): At 6th level, your Sneak Attack critical hit range (19-20) now applies for any attack you make with advantage using a light, finesse, or ranged weapon. Additionally, if you roll a critical hit, you can add half your sneak attack dice (round up) to the damage roll. You can use this feature only once on your turn or in a ready action.
        [Thief]: Sneaky Blow: At 3rd level, you can make a special type of Sneak Attack to hinder a target with a light or improvised weapon or with unarmed fighting. When you roll your damage you can remove any sneak attack dice roll of 3 or higher and apply one of following conditions to your target: deafness, blinded, grappled, prone, restrained. All the other rules for Sneak Attack still apply.
        [Arcane Trickster]: Spell Casting: At 6th level, when you are hidden from your targets and cast an Arcane Trickster spell that requires you to make an attack roll, you can add your Sneak Attack dice to the spell damage. This sneak attack dice can only be added to damage of one of the spells targets.
        [Inquisitor] Insightful Fighting: At 6th level, when you are successful with Insightful Fighting once on each of your turns you can make a Sneak Attack against that creature (regardless of their creature type), and you don’t need to be hidden.
        [Mastermind]: At 6th level, when you use your Master of Tactics feature to help an ally, you can also empower them with one or more of your sneak attack dice for their next attack. Once allocated those sneak attack dice can’t be used by you or allocated to another ally. When you use Master of Tactics help this way you can not stay hidden. All your sneak attack dice return to you at the start of your turn.
        [Scout] Skirmisher (extension): At 6th level, when an enemy moves and ends its turn within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to make a Sneak Attack against that creature before moving half your speed away.
        [Swashbuckler] Rakish Audacity (extension) At 6th level, when using Rakish Audacity to make a Sneak Attack, and the attack misses, you can use your reaction on your turn to immediately make another sneak attacker against the same target.
        (Note: Rakish Audacity – makes sneak attack available against a creature (any type) if you are within 5 feet of it, no other creatures are within 5 feet of you, and you don’t have disadvantage. So this can stay the same.

        This has become a bit of a hack now as Rogues don’t get 6th level archetype features – but they really should – as having to wait to 9th level to get your second archetype features is too slow.
        Anyways, this was fun.

        • Frederick Dale Coen

          These are all really interesting ideas, PK. I might add them (with some tweaks) to the *existing* Rogue subclasses for variety and flavor.

          The Assassin ability, though… you already get to add Sneak Attack to critical hits; in fact, Sneak Attack dice are doubled on a critical hit (like weapon dice). Am I missing something here?

        • duncan

          Damn, these are really cool…

          Might need some more thought and playtesting to truly balance. I’ve just realised from your Assassin 6th level feature description that – in your original comment – you’re not giving rogues SA when they have advantage, only when they have advantage from being an unseen attacker (which is much more niche, and requires continual use of hide action… not a fan of the old, hiding and reappearing in combat! Subject of another post, no doubt).

          My favourite idea is the Thief’s sneaky blow… rogue’s that are able to blind or disable their opponents would be loads of fun to play – and feel more roguish!

  2. Frederick Dale Coen

    My first comment is “Keep in mind, Rogues are the only Martial that attacks only once.” This is a big deal. At 3rd level, sure, it seems powerful when the rogue is doing 3d6+3 [13] with his shortsword and the fighter is doing 1d8+3 [7] with his longsword. OP! Then at 5th, the rogue is at 4d6+5 (stat increase, +1 sword) [19] and the fighter is at 2d8+10 [19] (stat increase, +1 sword). Hmm… the fighter is always doing 19, the rogue is *mostly* always doing 19 (when he has friends or is hidden). By 11th, the rogue is doing 7d6+7 (stat increase to 20, +2 sword) [31] and the fighter is doing 3d8+21 (same stat increase, same +2 sword) [34]. Where’s the OP?

    Second comment: I already limit the rogue’s ability to do Sneak Attack damage dice – as on-the-spot rulings – when the targets don’t have vulnerable areas. So I agree here, despite my “comment #1”! Last session, the party fought a clockwork golem (sneak attack YES), a swarm of animated obsidian shards (sneak attack NO), hacked away at a coral plug (because Story) (sneak attack NO), and then crossed a lake inhabited by Drowners (underwater zombies, sneak attack… YES). That last one I waffled on, but I decided the rogue could impair their bodily functions with key shots to joints, so I allowed the boosted damage. (The previous session included a fight with a ghost, though, and “sneak attack NO”!)

    Third Comment: I think most people’s mental image is jarred by the *name* “Sneak Attack” – which harkens back to previous editions’ Backstab and flanking Sneak Attack – but in 5e has been simplified down to “bonus damage”. I think if it were simply changed to say “Critical Strike”, most people would nod, accept, and move on. If the fighter can critical hit the ooze, then the rogue’s Critical Strike can critically damage the ooze too.

    “If this technique is so powerful, why isn’t every fighter in the world using it?” Well… why isn’t every soldier a sniper? Why have assault rifles when sniper rifles can kill so much farther away, do “more damage”, and keep you safer from harm (hidden, far away)? Because assault rifles can kill lots of people per trigger pull, “anyone can use them” [not looking to trigger a military discussion, just highlighting snipers are a “special breed”, and have extra training]. Fighters *could* conceivably use this same technique… instead of Extra Attack… One precise/powerful strike to a vulnerable spot… to do roughly the same thing as simply hitting it twice, getting two chances at critical hits, two chances to activate spells/feats/abilities/enchantment, the ability to hit the next target if the first strike kills the first target… wait, why is the fighter wanting this?

    Now, one of your other comments – “Stupid Scenarios” – yeah, I can’t help you there. 5e, what can I say. Previous editions, though, did still allow you to Tumble away from a foe, move to a better position, and still get in a Sneak Attack, so I guess all the hate isn’t for 5e! I have spoken before about how we locked normal movement down to 5′ steps in my game… but that doesn’t prevent the Disengage Cunning Action class feature.

    pkbyron’s idea, for an “exploding” critical damage die is interesting, especially once you get more dice. I would have fun with it, I think. But look again at my first comment… Yes, the rogue now does less damage at 1st level, compared to the 1st level fighter. “Yay, solved the OP problem!” But it *isn’t* actually a problem; all you did was nerf the rogue’s damage output, and she’s already in a “hurry up and wait” cycle with the fighter’s output that puts her a few more inches/points behind every time the fighter catches up.

    And if you limit it to humanoids… well… maybe what you want is to redesign the Rogue class. And I’m not saying that’s a “bad thing”, necessarily… the 1e “Thief” was about traps and locks and skills, and almost never did noticeable damage. And there was still one in every party! Just keep in mind that while D&D has “three pillars”, (as designed right now) Combat is holding up the weight, while Exploration and Social are there as decoration. If you take the “sneaky skill-hound” out of being combat capable, then I hope you’re running a campaign where she gets to shine just as much as the warriors.

    • boxty

      Thank you for doing the math. Ask any optimizer and they’ll tell you the rogue is a weak class that rapidly falls off in damage at higher levels. Treantmonk gives the highest rated rogue subclass a “C” grade on an A-F scale only because they have access to some spells.

      While the rogue and fighter are doing 19 average damage at 5th level against a single target, the mage with a fireball is doing 28 average damage to multiple targets.

      I like the cunning action and sneak attack are left vague. It allows the rogue to flavor their actions to suite their character. If you want to roleplay a ninja that throws flash powder into his enemies face to disengage in a cloud of smoke and light and then targets vital nerve centers for his sneak attack then that’s your choice.

      • duncan

        Hey Boxty

        Interesting video by Treatmonk, although I think he’s playing surprise wrong (and it sounds like he is not playing it all anyway!), which has led him to severely underestimate the assassin. He also doesn’t think proficiency in poisoners kit is much to write home about… my assassin begs to differ 😉

        Regarding swashbucklers he also talks them down too much… fancy footwork enables you to attack any create your ally is attacking and then walk away with impunity. Your allies might get pissed that they have to take all the hits, but for the swashbuckler you’re putting a respectable veneer on the cowardliness of the ranged rogue 🤣. Rakish Audacity is also great – going first is one of the secrets to dealing a lot of damage + not taking as much. Meanwhile not sure how he considers Charm Person at will (Panache) a bad feature! Esp. as with expertise in Persuasion and reliable talent the opponent effectively auto fails their saving throw. It’s a borderline game breaker.

        I don’t like Arcane Trickster much because I feel you can get those spell slots cheaper by multi-classing (admittedly giving up the progression on your SA to do so…).

        “If you want to roleplay a ninja that throws flash powder into his enemies face to disengage in a cloud of smoke and light and then targets vital nerve centers for his sneak attack then that’s your choice.” Sounds like my kind of fun!

        Cheers mate!

    • duncan

      Hi Frederick

      Absolutely, SA is not overpowered [edit: or the rogue isn’t OP’ed at least], and thanks for crunching that one quickly. SA is unbalanced though. All the damage goes into one attack per round and that’s what I don’t like too much.

      I do also think rogue’s damage is perhaps a little higher than the maths shows. There are ways to get two SA a round, and a rogue’s critical hits are much much higher in damage than any other class. By virtue of hiding, being manoeuvrable and not really being expected to hold down any foes, they also get advantage more often perhaps than a fighter might (hitting more often therefore) and often deal the damage where it is most influential. At least that’s my experience. Also a rogue shouldn’t do as much damage as a fighter IMHO!

      Agree with pretty much everything else, esp. the vulnerable areas rulings you made.


  3. Juan

    Very good points in this article, and good ideas in the comments.

    As a DM I don’t mind so much the damage numbers that SA can reach, but I do care about how being able to trigger SA might change the way a player RPs his rogue.

    • duncan

      Agreed, does feel like a rogue that doesn’t do their SA is useless – and the higher the SA gets the more important it is to deal it!

      Rogues should be looking for ways to swing from chandeliers, to cut down a mainsail onto a horde of opponents, or to collapse a pile of barrels between them and the city guards…

      I did enjoy PK’s suggestion of swapping out a sneak attack die for imposing a condition like blinded. Makes me think of someone hoisting their opponent’s own cloak over their eyes, or throwing dust in them or something (while spiking them with their rapier / knife).

  4. keith

    I agree, Duncan, that the rogue, IMO, is just too powerful in 5E. I and a few other DM’s I know say it is basically the same as a paladin using a short sword with unlimited smites. What I did to try to fix it was to bring back facing(which slows a game down). I would allow the rogue ONE SA on a character using the within 5′ rule as long as they were not in the front 3 spaces. After that, it would be a contested stealth roll with disadvantage for the rogue since the baddie obviously knows you are there now but only if the rogue was not in the front 3 spaces at the beginning of his turn. I figured this would allow the rogue to make combat use of stealth alot and encourage them to invest in it and related feats(as all good rogues should). I also, got rid of anything over M size or at least reduced the damage dice down, and got rid of things that a SA wouldn’t affect – like undead, unless as someone said they were doing called shots at joints with the intent to slow/cripple them.

    Needless to say, this used a lot of time and caused some arguments.

    But, I like the other ways of doing it that I have read here better and will pass this on to my other DM’s.

    I still like my way of having a contested stealth check with disadvantage, but I like the reduced damage die even though I might take it down to d3 or even d2, but that might be too far.

    THANK YOU PK!!! I absolutely LOVE the idea of exploding dice, and on a ‘true’ sneak attack I could see myself allowing a rogue to roll 2d6 and keep the one highest roll and if it is a 6 then allowing the exploding dice to again be 2d6 keeping the one highest and on and on. Thinking about it, I might only allow the 2d6 and keep the one highest once for a regular rogue but might allow any character leaning more towards assassin to have multiple 2d6 and keep the one highest to add a little flavor since one shot killing is what an assassin is all about. Would need to play test this, but it sounds right.

    This is definitely one of the things that I don’t like about 5e and there are some good fixes here. I will be incorporating some of them into my games.

    • duncan

      Hey Keith

      The rogue definitely FEELS too powerful. With strikes that do more damage than any other class, without even expending a finite resource. And I don’t like that! I think the feeling is intensified by the fact that they can deal this damage from range, they often find ways of getting advantage, thereby hitting more often, critting more often and doing even more damage. Plus their high Dex modifier means they often go first… sometimes they have decided the battle before the fighter has even had a chance to swing their sword.

      But as Frederick points out, the maths actually shows that the rogue’s damage is not OP’ed and evens out vs. martial classes at 5th level when they get extra attacks.

      And as Boxty points out, Treantmonk even considers them one of the game’s weakest classes!

      For that reason they might even need a boost, not a nerf, but I’d rather they got that boost from something new, and not from Sneak Attack, which does for sure feel overpowered.

      Btw, what people often seem to miss about Divine Smite is that is SMASHES the action economy. The rules state that you can cast one levelled spell a game [edit: I meant per round!!!]… DS allows you to cast a levelled spell PER MELEE ATTACK HIT and is IN ADDITION to your melee attacks! Combat is a damage dealing race and DS is cheating!!! If there’s one thing I hope they fix in 5.5e it’s DS…



      • keith

        Hey Duncan,

        Where does it say you can only cast one levelled spell/game. I don’t remember seeing that and have never heard it before. Would that apply to any spell that you can ‘cast at higher levels’? I think this is what you mean by levelled.

        As for rogues being underpowered at higher levels, yes and no. Yes, they don’t do as much damage as a paladin or fighter, but if played as something other than a murder hobo then their utility is awesome, but in order to be used as such they also need a DM to have segments or times when they are a necessity and be able to work them into everyday adventuring.

        But that is for another post.

        Thank You

        • Frederick Dale Coen

          This is stated under Spellcasting, and clarified by Jeremy Crawford. “Leveled spell” = “non-cantrip”, not “spell I upcast with a bigger slot”. Another way to define it would be “it takes a spell slot to cast” (again, not-a-cantrip).

          You *can* cast more than one spell per turn/round; the only specific restriction is that if you cast a spell as a bonus action, you can’t cast a non-cantrip spell during your turn.

          You can:

          * Cast a spell as a bonus action, then cast a cantrip as your action or reaction.
          * Cast a spell as an action, use Action Surge, cast another spell as your second action.
          * Cast a spell as an action, then cast another spell as a reaction on your turn or someone else’s turn.
          * Combine the two to cast two spells as actions and a third as a reaction in the same round.
          * Cast a spell as a bonus action on your turn, then cast another spell as a reaction on someone else’s turn in the same round (Shield or Counterspell for example).
          * Cast a spell as a bonus action, then do something that kinda looks like a spell but really isn’t as your action. (Ki powers that are not spells, Lay on Hands, Divine Smite, Channel Divinity, use spells which let you do something for X rounds (Witch Bolt, Call Lightning, Flaming Sphere, …), etc.)

          The order in which you do things doesn’t matter, so when you can do X then Y, you can also do Y and then X.

          • keith

            Thank you for the rulings by Jeremy Crawford.

            But your last sentence seems as if he is contradicting his ruling on shield master. In that he says you can’t bash(Y) with your bonus action until after you have attacked with your regular action(X) and nowhere in the RAW does it say that these need to be in order.

            But I didn’t like that ruling so maybe I am not looking it all correctly.

            But that is for another conversation.

            Thank You

        • duncan

          sorry Keith, I meant one levelled spell per round!

          I agree that a rogue really needs a bit of DM love and/or patient allies and a chance to do a little solo work at times for them to really be able to take advantage of some of their best abilities. If they get to do that few rogues will care too much if they deal less damage than a fighter!

          • keith

            I also believe that every character needs an occasional 15-20 minutes of ‘solo’ play with the DM just to make everyone feel special not just the rogues. But I always felt that rogues needed a little more in normal play also, or most people wouldn’t play them and I believe this is where the SA in 5e came about, so that rogues would feel as if they are ‘contributing’. In Advanced if a DM planned things right rogues were fun, but if the DM was more of a hack n slash type then they were terrible.

      • Frederick Dale Coen

        To be fair – and rules lawyerly – Divine Smite allows you to “expend one spell slot”; you aren’t casting a spell. You are allowing your stored energy to bleed out through your weapon. Now, there *are* Smite *spells* too, and those are absolutely *spells*, but the core class ability is not a spell, and thus is not breaking the “one leveled spell per round” rule. [As for the action economy, sure, it gets trampled a bit. But paladins are partial casters… they run out of spells *fast* if used this way. Meaningless in a 1-per-day wilderness encounter, but matters in a dungeon crawl.]

        • duncan

          Yes, I know technically you’re not, but to all intents and purposes you really are casting a spell. And while the damage is single target and doesn’t appear amazing, when you consider it is a) of the most valuable type (radiant) and b) without a saving throw, I think it’s a very powerful ‘spell’ indeed.

          When you think you can cast this spell 4 times in a round at 5th level (using PAM for example), and also still attack 4 times, it’s absolutely bonkers.

          • Frederick Dale Coen

            Wow, that’s a pretty specific circumstance to get 4 attacks at 5th level (someone entering your threat for a reaction-attack, plus attack+extra_attack+PAM_pole_attack). And at 5th level, the paladin will have 6 spell slots: 4 first and 2 second. So in a single perfect nova round, he can attack 4 times, and if hitting all four, unleash 2/3 of his daily spell power in an overwhelming 10d8 radiant obliteration. (plus the 3d10+d4+4*STR from the weapon itself) Yup, that’s amazing, no question about it! [And we’ll just ignore any potential critical hits.]

            As little shiny particles float down in a wide area, the paladin looks at the rogue who is doing one 4d6+4 attack each round, and wonders why *anyone* thinks the rogue is OP.

            Meanwhile, the wizard or sorcerer, who just did 8d6 to ten creatures, and will do it again next round, wonder why anyone picks up a weapon in the first place.

            Twenty minutes later, facing their third “medium bad” foe of the dungeon level, the rogue is still doing 4d6+4 [18]. The paladin is still averaging 3 swings a round with PAM for 2d10+1d4+12 [25], and two spells left in the gastank for later (plus Lay on Hands). The wizard has fallen back on his firebolt for 2d10 [11], with maybe a couple 2nd level slots left “in case”. The warlock is still blasting things for 2d10+8 [19] at 120′ range and hasn’t bothered to cast one of her two spells yet. The rogue is… Well, he did unlock that one door (which the wizard could have burnt down with a cantrip). And disarmed that trap which *might* have force the paladin to heal some one. So I guess that justifies being third in power *after* the novas?

          • duncan

            Nice summary of class balance 4 in paragraphs 🙂

        • JAG

          How much better is the rogue doing with a feat like sharpshooter? If we’re giving everyone a feat lets give one to the (now assassin) rogue too. Were going for damage numbers in a best case scenario and these criteria are much less specific than the paladin set up.

          First turn, they creep up and open combat with a surprise attack of 8d6+14 [42] before slinking back into the shadows to be hidden, safe from return attack. Post opener we’re left with 4d6+14 [28] at range with advantage (since were using our bonus action to hide and grant ourselves unseen attacker bonus) vs the [25] melee for the paladin.

          You also just pick-pocketed 250g from the bazaar before you left because no noble or commoner passive perception is going to reliably beat your expertise rolls. Rogue is maybe stronger than you’re saying but definitely not in an unhealthy or over-tuned place

  5. JAG

    I take it you don’t allow multiclassing at your tables?

  6. Ben

    Maybe it’s just because I play at a table with rangers and spell casters, but swashbuckler SA feels like the only way to keep my rogue viable compared to Shatter and a +8 sharpshooter longbow. I’ve played a sorcerer in another campain, and when I go back to my rogue I really miss the variety of having more than one option every round. Can’t imagine how bad it would be if I was only rolling 1d8 instead of adding an extra 3d6 into the mix.

    And yes, I’ll admit that it’s a little silly to backflip around the battlefield taking pot shots at whoever is closest, but it’s thematic at least. And sure, I’ve one shot an enemy or two with it early on, but as far as I’ve seen the damage starts to drop off after not too long.

  7. Merlys

    As a DM that has run into this ‘problem’, I added a simple ruling to my campaigns. Outside of the obvious (hiding, etc), for the swashbuckler in my campaign, I make then roleplay/explain how they are accomplishing their sneak attack (rakish audacity aside), and maybe adding in a roll (sleight of hand, acrobatics, or appropriate roll) to accomplish the feat.

    It adds a little depth and forces them to think since I am completely against ‘i walk up to the dude facing me, who is watching me, and stab him in the face’. I do love me some flavor, plus…it is a role-playing game after all.

    • duncan

      I like the idea, although I rather conceptualised the swashbuckler’s Sneak Attack in one-on-one scenarios being due to the fact that they are expert duellers. So it’s not really Sneak Attack for me in their case… it’s ‘Deadly Precision’. Swashbucklers are Olympic fencers if you will… not really dealing their SA the same way as other rogues.

  8. Anthony Sumner

    It gets even better that sneak attack damage is based off whatever weapon damage you attack with so say you have lvl 3 shadow blade used as your weapon you get juicy juicy physic damage on your sneak attack instead makes for a wonderful Crit

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