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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default StarStuff's Thief Guide

    StarStuff's Thief Guide

    If your DM arbitrarily rules you cannot don/doff a shield as a Fast Hands bonus action, get out now. Otherwise strap on, strap in, and get excited. This brand of rogue is optimized sans weapon specialization.

    It doesn't seem like a big deal to most people, but builds in 5th edition often demand weapon specialization. Say you're a fighter and you nab Great Weapon Fighting and the Great Weapon Master feat. At the table, you're probably not going to use that shield, or your longbow, or your offhand weapon. Instead, you'll probably take the same action, round after round, attacking with a heavy weapon. After all, you've sunk resources into being a badass with a greatsword. We in the biz call that "opportunity cost."

    But what about the guy who doesn't specialize? Shouldn't he be a badass too?

    Enter the Thief. Unlike other damage dealers, the Rogue is discouraged from chasing more attacks. After all, you can only proc Sneak Attack once per turn. Unlike the Great Weapon Master and the Shield Master, you Shouldn't blow every bonus action on an attack. You have options. You have Cunning Action.

    This guide is all about optimizing Cunning Actions without adding opportunity costs. If you DON'T want to know how you'll blow your bonus action every turn, then you've come to the right rogue guide.

    Spoiler: Reference Thief
    Show
    This is my vision for the rogue optimized according to the priorities of this guide.
    • Levels 1-4: Variant Human, 15 Str, 14 Dex, Mobile, Athletics/Sleight of Hand Expertise, Rogue Archetype (Thief), Moderately Armored (+1 Str)
    • Levels 5-10: Deception/Perception Expertise, Dual Wielder, Lucky
    • Levels 11-15: ASI (+2 Str)
    • Levels 16-20: Alert, Skilled/Weapon Master, Str 18, Str 14


    Spoiler: The Gist
    Show

    Most of the time: you'll be...

    • Actions: Attacking with Main-Hand Weapon (with sneak attack), Grappling, Breaking Stuff, Dashing, Dodging, Aiding Allies, Searching for Nearby Killswitches, Readying Actions, and Deceiving Monsters
    • Bonus Actions: Attacking with Off-Hand Weapon (to salvage missed sneak attack), Using Cunning Action (Dash, Disengage, Hide, Use Object, Dexterity (Sleight of Hand), and Thieves' Tools to disarm a trap or open a lock), or Donning/Doffing a Shield (utilizing Fast Hands and Use Object)
    • Reactions: Using Uncanny Dodge, striking with an AoO Sneak Attack, following a Readied action
    • Movement: Climbing 40ft, Dashing over difficult terrain, and Disengaging from attacked target for free
    • Defenses: 17 or 19 AC (tailored to circumstance), 1d8 HD, Evasion, Ranged Damage Options, Dexterity/Intelligence and eventually Wisdom Saving Throw Proficiencies




    Spoiler: Rating Guide
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    I'm obligated to credit someone here. TreantMonk? Idk. Basically:
    Red = blech
    Purple = meh
    Black = nice
    Blue = cool!
    Gold = OMGWTFBBQ


    Spoiler: Thief: The Dark Souls Project
    Show
    Dark Souls is my favorite video game of all time. On the surface, it's a challenging, 3rd-person fantasy/horror dungeon crawl that combines show-don't-tell narrative techniques with imposing level design and monolithic monsters.

    A particularly effective tactic in Dark Souls entails wielding a shield and a claymore. The shield is essential for blocking attacks from unfamiliar bosses, but leaves you unable to effectively attack with your claymore. The trick is to doff the shield just after the boss overextends, chunk down their HP with the claymore now 2-handed, and then don the shield again just before he recovers.

    Thief: The Dark Project is my second favorite game of all time. Incidentally, the Thief subclass of rogue is also the only class who can don and doff a shield in the same round as they attack. That's how I arrived at this build.
    Last edited by StarStuff; 2016-10-03 at 10:40 AM.
    "What!? Just what!? Congrats Starstuff you have become one of the few people who have won d&d."

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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: StarStuff's Thief Guide

    Race and Stats

    Races: Variant Human. Feats define this build. The extra skill is yet another to exploit with Reliable Talent. Stat bonuses are incidental; just make sure the only odd stat you have at level 1 is one you can bump with Moderately Armored. Should you choose another race, drop Skilled/Weapon Master altogether and delay Lucky. You'll have a juggle all of your feats up a few levels, but that's no big deal. This build doesn't really come online until you have Moderately Armored and Fast Hands, which you can do with a non-human by level 4.

    Strength: Affects saving throws, encumbrance, checks to pry open trap doors, and checks to climb up shear walls with Second-Story Work. The combination strength score and dexterity bonus feeds into your total Second-Story Jump distance, not that it should matter to anyone. Strength also supports attack and damage values with shortswords and daggers and many break/destroy commands are often accepted as a Fast Hands: Use Object actions.

    Dexterity: Get it to 14 and forget it. You can't ask for much more from half-plate at 17AC. Dexterity is everywhere strength isn't. Every other rogue caps it for a reason. This build prioritizes survivability, ability checks, and dynamism over single target damage support. The opportunity cost of high strength over dexterity is almost completely mitigated by Moderately Armored and Expertise.

    That's about it, really. Do what you will with the rest of your stats. I prioritize Charisma over Con, Int, and Wisdom. To me, every true rogue is an "entrepreneur" first. But if you're not someone who sees value in Expert Deception and decent social skills overall, then there's no foul in running towards Con or Wisdom. At least those boost commonly targeted saving throws.

    Spoiler: Typical Stat Allotment
    Show
    As a variant human, I elect these stats at level 1: STR 14+1, DEX 13+1, CON 12, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 14

    Strength gets bumped 3 times: Variant Human, Moderately Armored, and eventually from an Ability Score Increase. Dexterity stays at 14 to prevent clipping on AC. Medium Armor Master is a little underwhelming as a feat and nothing in this build is wasteful. Raising it higher is just fine, though - even over Strength, so long as you're not taking the same action over and over again every round.

    Feats are always higher priority than stats.


    Proficiencies

    Hit Dice: d8. Not as much as you want, but enough to tank a hit like a champ with Uncanny Dodge. You never have to roll Concentration ability checks, and if you're positioning properly, you control whether you get hit or hurt.
    Armor: Light Armor will get you by until Moderately Armored. Studded Leather is still handy on the occasions you can't find a way around the disadvantage from Half-Plate and still want to sneak your way through an encounter.

    Weapons: Quite fun until you find a magic item. Most of the time, you'll want to equip a hand crossbow and a shortsword. But bring along several daggers, a light crossbow, a sling, and a rapier. If your opponent is 80ft away, shoot him with the light crossbow. If he's resistant to slashing/piecing, break him with a sling bullet. You'll typically draw daggers after the first light crossbow bolt. Though the daggers' damage is low, you're getting most of your damage from sneak attack anyway and the thrown and light properties are handy utilities to pair in a weapon. The rapier isn't a light weapon, so you can't throw a dagger and still sneak attack if you miss with your main hand. Until you get Dual Wielder or Crossbow Expert, or you literally can't miss with your first attack, you're probably better off with the short sword.

    Tools: Thieves' Tools. Hardly comes up. When it does, it rarely needs a high check to overcome. Negligible after Reliable Talent. Don't Expertise this if you run published adventure modules. Traps are more to set off with conjured animals/elementals than to disable.

    Saving Throws: Dexterity, Intelligence. There are few things more satisfying than surviving a dragon's breath attack unscathed through Evasion. Though in 2 years of play, I've never rolled an Int save.

    Skills & Expertise: Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth

    Athletics: Expertise. Grappling is immensely fun when paired with Cunning Dash and Mobile. With a foe grappled, you can move him 60ft before your turn ends.
    Sleight of Hand: Expertise. Used by scoundrels everywhere to lift spell component pouches, McGuffins, quivers, weapons, Scying components... with Fast Hands, our rogue mugs his monsters while stabbing them for sneak attack.
    Perception: Expertise. Take it because everyone else told you to. Yesss. That's it. Succumb to the peer pressure.
    [Social Skill]: Deception is my favorite, but Intimidation and Persuasion have their places. It's more fun to get away with "the truth" than to tell a troll what he wants to hear.
    Stealth: Even though Half-Plate disadvantages more of your checks, proficiency and Reliable talent prevent you from ever being really bad at this skill. That said, I don't like relying on failed monster skill checks to secure sneak attack in the first place and familiars make better scouts

    Background: Charlatans put the rest of the backgrounds to shame. False Identity basically allows you to roleplay two characters, though rarely is the effect particularly game breaking. The proficiencies alleviate some of the opportunity costs of skill selection for our heroic thief. And everything benefits from Reliable Talent. Note: many players fail to take advantage of class customization. Page 126 of the PHB frees you to mix and max skills, talents, and background features at your leisure. I'm also particularly fond of the Wanderer feature from the outlander...
    Last edited by StarStuff; 2016-10-03 at 10:35 AM.
    "What!? Just what!? Congrats Starstuff you have become one of the few people who have won d&d."

    StarStuff also wrote:

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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: StarStuff's Thief Guide

    Class Features


    Sneak Attack: The limitations aren't that bad.

    * It still requires finesse or ranged weapons
    * An enemy of my enemy must be within 5ft or attack must otherwise be advantaged
    * Can only be applied once per turn and once more on an reaction attack

    Sneak attack doesn't compete with the damage numbers the Wizard can draw with a Sleep or Fireball spell. As such, it isn't always the best way to use your action. What can you do with a well timed Dodge in a crowded room? Can you accomplish more with a Grapple check, or a Sleight of Hand check, or a second Dash action?

    Thieves' Cant: Forgotten in everything published since the Player's Handbook. Lovely fluff. Anything rated red that still ends up in your kit is opportunity for style points.

    Cunning Action: Dash, Disengage, and Hide as a bonus action. Dash is your reward for a successful main hand sneak attack. A single target is refused opportunity attacks ale Mobile. This is like having Action Surge every round.

    Fast Hands: Cunning action extends to Use Object, Dexterity (Sleight of Hand), and Thieves' Tools to disarm a trap or open a lock. Check with your DM to see how Donning a Shield rules interact with Fast Hands and Use Object. Fast Hands is one of the funnest class features in the game. The in-combat shenanigans are endless. If you're not stealing something from a grappled monster, then you're tying a rope around your leg before going over the edge of a cliff with him. Playing tag is like 80% of what this rogue does best. Don't leave home without Mobile.

    Second-Story Work: Your jump distance is extended by your Dex mod. You can easily jump 20ft by level 14. The climb speed is not to be underrated. Combining Mobile and Cunning Action lets you throw a rope 40ft, climb it, and fire a crossbow at a beholder - all in the same turn.

    Uncanny Dodge: 1/2 damage from one attack. I use this almost every time I have a reaction. Even though your AC is much higher than most rogues, you'll still get hit once or twice per turn with solid positioning. That isn't a bad thing - you don't have concentration saving throws to lose. And every hit point unspent by the end of an adventure is a resource wasted.

    Evasion: Save for Nothing / Fail for Half on dexterity saving throws with riders. I once watched my adventuring party get one-shotted by an adult red dragon's fiery breath. Evasion + Lucky ensures I'll never see that happen to me.

    Supreme Sneak: With this and Reliable Talent, you're reasonably good at Stealth checks without Expertise. Even in Half-Plate armor...

    Reliable talent: Treat rolls of under 10 as 10 on proficient ability checks. Opposed checks are beastly with this. If you're a player that can apply as much pressure with an Athletics, Sleight of Hand, Investigation, or Deception check as with an attack, Reliable Talent will go far for you.

    Use Magic Device: Most of the time, when there are class restrictions, it's because the bonuses from the item are to a non-rogue class feature. Still, Use Magic Device is handy for fooling dungeon censors and there are plenty of items requiring attunement by a spell caster. While the barbarian and fighter are finally put in their place by the wizard after level 10, you'll still make yourself useful with DC15 wands (paralysis, fireball, web, etc) and the freedom to cast scrolls from every class list.

    Blindsense: 10ft doesn't amount to much by time you get this, but now you can't be suffocated in your sleep by an invisible stalker. Now no ambitious cutthroat can mug you blind in the middle of the night. Not without you noticing, anyway. Combining blindsight with Alert will save our plucky scoundrel a handful of HP over the course of an adventure. Some say I'm paranoid, but when you get your jollies by teasing demigods and other omniscient beings, Blindsense and an Amulet of Proof Against Detection go a long way in helping you sleep at night.

    Slippery Mind: Wisdom Saving Throw. It amounts to a +5 bonus to Wisdom saving throws by time you get it, saving you more than a handful of Lucky rerolls over the course of your career.

    Thief's Reflexes:

    Elusive: Nicer than it looks on paper. Advantage is everywhere at high levels. Blanket immunity to advantage will save you some HP and a few more uses of Lucky.

    Stroke of Luck: Turn a missed attack or ability check into a success 1/rest. Your first and only exhaustible resource, besides Lucky and hit dice. And you don't see it until level 20.
    Last edited by StarStuff; 2016-09-20 at 07:21 PM.
    "What!? Just what!? Congrats Starstuff you have become one of the few people who have won d&d."

    StarStuff also wrote:

    Looking for a games writer, tech writer or web content manager? See StarStuff's professional work at ZackeryRobinson.com

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: StarStuff's Thief Guide

    Feats

    Moderately Armored: +1 to Strength or Dexterity, Medium Armor and Shield proficiency. Getting to 20 dex is hard and cost at least 2 ability score increases. Getting to 14 dex is easy and with one feat and 750 gold, you're suddenly sitting on 17 AC and a 15+1 strength score. This burly brand of thief can also don a shield as a Fast Hands Use Object action.* So in a pinch, you're pushing 19 AC. Couple those numbers with the Dodge action and Uncanny Dodge reaction, and you have yourselves a legitimate tank.

    Mobile: This should be a rogue class feature. I take the dash action more than sneak attack in 5E. Mobile adds 10ft and no difficult terrain issues. Combine with the climb speed of Second-Story work for maximum style points. This feat basically gives you a free action in the form of Disengage against at least one enemy every turn. You only have to attack to proc the free disengage, regardless if you hit and do damage.

    Lucky: Rerolls are among the most powerful abilities in the game. Ask a Diviner or anyone holding Inspiration. Without Lucky, the rogue has nothing to manage besides HP, equipment, and actions. I find Lucky to be an adequate solution to this build's low wisdom and constitution saving throws. Though it's also useful for salvaging Sneak Attacks and winning vital ability checks. 3/day is enough for most adventures if you're judicious. Some checks are just more important than others. Think of this feat as as the Fighter's Indomitable class feature, except better in every way.

    Shield Master: With Reliable Expert Athletics, our burly thief never really struggles to make the push. As much as I like the style of pushing enemies on the ground or towards your allies, being a thief already comes with a ton of options that compete with your bonus action. The AC and Dex bonuses are completely redundant. Maybe grab this feat if you score a magic shield. Otherwise, keep the shield off until you need it and keep your off hand free to Sleight of Hand, Use Object, or throw a dagger/fire a crossbow.

    Dual Wielder: Being able to draw/stow two weapons when before you could only draw one is arguably the coolest feature of this feat. Another +1 AC is nice. The ability to attack with your shield as an offhand improvised weapon - that's especially handy paired with the free disengages from mobile. Attacking with two rapiers can be handy, though nothing changes for ranged weapons and thrown weapons. You can easily get by without grabbing this, but it's useful across most of your bonus actions. At least until the magic items start rolling in...

    Sharpshooter: With this build, we only attack with the off-hand if the main hand misses sneak attack. Choosing this feat practically forces you to commit your bonus action to firing an off-hand crossbow with a -5 to hit for +10 damage, regardless of whether you missed sneak attack. It's very effective, but isn't as much fun since the opportunity cost competes with Cunning Action and Fast Hands. However, Sharpshooter is incredibly potent on high dexterity builds. Anyone else, consider taking this feat to ignore cover and attack at obscene ranges.

    Crossbow Expert: There is a ton of overlap between daggers and crossbows; generally you won't need to fire your crossbow more than once an encounter before breaking out the daggers. Of course, if you're getting sneak attack with your main hand shortsword, you rarely need to shoot your crossbow. As a free disengage, Mobile already allows a Thief to stab at someone with their main hand and step 10ft away to shoot their hand crossbow. The hand crossbow is a light weapon. It can already be fired as a bonus action if you're using another light weapon in your main hand. Only nab this feat if you find a rapier or other magic one-hander without the "light" property, but consider reaching for the Dual Wielder feat instead.

    Alert: At 19th level, Thieves' Reflexes benefits twice from the +5 bonus to initiative. More bonus actions and movement all around.

    Healer: I'm among the crowd who interpreted the "As an action..." qualifier as too specific to encapsulate under the Use Object action of Fast Hands. If I were your DM, I wouldn't allow you burn healing kits for HP as a bonus action - but yours might! Go and ask.

    Magic Initiate (Find Familiar): If it bothers you that you suffer from disadvantage on stealth checks, consider nabbing a bat or an owl familiar. When spotted, they're still basically just critters. Unlike you, they can be easily replaced. This is also your golden ticket to the bladesinger cantrips in the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide. Booming blade synergizes beautifully with the free disengage from Mobile.

    Resilient (Constitution): As a rogue, you'll already get proficiency in half of all saving throws by level 16. I usually keep a Lucky roll around instead, for death saving throws and stinking clouds. If you plan on taking this feat, be sure to account for the odd +1 in your leveling .

    Skilled: More skill proficiencies translates to more opportunities to abuse Reliable Talent.

    Weapon Master: Net, Scimitar, Whip. If you find a magic item in one of these categories, grab this feat. Nets in particular are woefully underutilized in 5E. If your DM takes the "only one attack" rule to mean to mean one net attack, it may be the best weapon for your off-hand (with Dual Wielder).
    Last edited by StarStuff; 2016-09-20 at 07:22 PM.
    "What!? Just what!? Congrats Starstuff you have become one of the few people who have won d&d."

    StarStuff also wrote:

    Looking for a games writer, tech writer or web content manager? See StarStuff's professional work at ZackeryRobinson.com

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: StarStuff's Thief Guide

    Multiclassing

    Multiclassing: There's tons of value in multiclassing out of rogue. Sneak attack does plenty of single target damage for an at-will, but at high levels there are superior methods for wearing down a bad guy. Consider what 2 9th-level Wizards can do with one Wall of Force and one Conjure Elemental, for example. Then again, one of the primary reasons Thief is so appealing is their unique ability to cast scrolls and use magic items from any spell list, ale Use Magic. Their "spells known" rivals wizards in the strictest contexts of versatility. Level 17 is top notch way to get double actions. You'll need all of it to close the range on one well-equipped caster. Still, it's cool enough to hang around for a while.

    Basically what I'm saying is there are much better guides for multiclassing. I'll come back to it later.
    Last edited by StarStuff; 2016-09-20 at 07:22 PM.
    "What!? Just what!? Congrats Starstuff you have become one of the few people who have won d&d."

    StarStuff also wrote:

    Looking for a games writer, tech writer or web content manager? See StarStuff's professional work at ZackeryRobinson.com

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: StarStuff's Thief Guide

    Strategy and Tactics

    It may help you defeat a dragon someday:

    • Only strike when you have the upper hand and can afford the risk. You never want to use your offhand to attack on your turn unless you missed a sneak attack with your main-hand attack.
    • There's nothing wrong with using a shortsword and a shield. Historically there was no shortsword. A few western traditions made the distinction between arming swords and longswords, bastard swords and zweihanders. But "shortsword" was not a common qualifier. If the visual of a shield with a shortsword bothers you aesthetically, start calling it an "arming sword" and ask your DM for inspiration.
    • Using more than one weapon type or style opens up more opportunities to claim magic item certificates at conventions.
    • Take advantage of the Dodge action. Especially if most of your monsters use melee attacks and you can position them for an ally's Fireball.
    Last edited by StarStuff; 2016-09-20 at 07:22 PM.
    "What!? Just what!? Congrats Starstuff you have become one of the few people who have won d&d."

    StarStuff also wrote:

    Looking for a games writer, tech writer or web content manager? See StarStuff's professional work at ZackeryRobinson.com

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: StarStuff's Thief Guide

    Reserved until the world cracks open like a Champagne bottle off a freshly built cruise ship.
    Last edited by StarStuff; 2016-09-20 at 07:18 PM.
    "What!? Just what!? Congrats Starstuff you have become one of the few people who have won d&d."

    StarStuff also wrote:

    Looking for a games writer, tech writer or web content manager? See StarStuff's professional work at ZackeryRobinson.com

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