Sunday, July 17, 2016

Roguish Archetype: The Archaeologist [ROUGH DRAFT]

So, this one went through an interesting development process.

It started out as a bard college, and as I was building it, I slowly realized that I was building a (thematic) rogue that could cast spells like a full caster. That didn't seem like a terribly great idea.

So, as I sometimes do in moments of doubt, I went over to d20pfsrd to see how Pathfinder handled it. Pathfinder, for its flaws, does a great job of engaging and creating more obscure class options that have a lot of thematic weight. While not everything they do works for 5e, seeing how Pathfinder handles thematic content usually works very well.

It didn't. Pathfinder ended up doing exactly what I already did: Take a bard, and slowly make them into a rogue (plus spells, minus Sneak Attack).

I deconstructed everything, then, and rebuilt the class option from the ground up as a rogue. I figured if it was going to be trying with its every class feature to be a rogue, it might as well actually be a rogue in the first place.

What does it do? Why is the archaeologist worth playing? Let's take a look-see:


  • Proficiencies to help your rogue feel like a world-class explorer, complete with whips (of course)!
  • Reduce your Sneak Attack damage to deal added effects with attacks, with Intelligent Combat!
  • A small assortment of low-magic spells, picked up from a lifetime studying ancient, eldritch secrets.
  • I'm not sure how balanced the effects of Intelligent Combat are against one another, or against the trade-off of 2d6 damage.
  • Overall, I feel like this option trends weak, but rogues have a wide power spread for archetypes. This option feels closer to what is offered by the Thief and Assassin, rather than the (higher) power level of the Arcane Trickster or the Swashbuckler. 
  • Don't be afraid to scrap it and try again. That, and Pathfinder doesn't have all the answers.


  1. I can see the archaeologist as a bard, but you definitely get the flavor with a rogue. I like the abilities, too. The objection I have is that some of them come so late. Identify and Comprehend Languages seem as if they are staple abilities, something that you would use from the beginning of your career, not late in it.

    I may also be biased because I can't seem to get into a player group that doesn't break up before all of the party are over 8th level. More to the point, what 5e does well (and 4e also did well, to give credit) was to have classes doing what they do as unique entities within the first three levels. This is the one possible argument for keeping the Archaeologist as a bard - bards are scholars, and they are equipped to be from the beginning. Maybe shuffling when the rogue version gets research abilities could fix that?

    1. The biggest issue I usually have when designing roguish archetypes is the 3-9 gap. Roguish archetypes get two thematically-vital features at 3, and then get nothing at all until 9th level, relying on the core rogue class to carry them through.

      This means that level 3 is burdened with carrying thematic weight for pretty much most of what people will be playing. I have to be careful not to over-stuff 3rd level, while keeping the rest of the features varied, thematic, and interesting.

      I agree with you that the limited magic seems like a more important thing. I'll probably move it to 9th level, which feels like a nice place for it. I want it to be something you've "discovered" after being in your adventuring career for a while, rather than something you have from the start.

      >bards and rogues

      While bards start as scholars and progress into becoming adventurers, rogues like the Arcane Trickster kind of strike me as the inverse. A scholar rogue comes into a life of schloarship through adventure, and naturally they go about it in a very rogue-ish way.

      Mostly, I still feel the spell progression of a full caster would overburden this option. Even if a bard has the right basic thematic kit (which is why I went with bard in the first place), I think rogue works better for what I'm trying to make.

  2. I completely agree with Doug0 on the research feature.

    Another gripe I am currently having is that I find the first two Options of the "Intelligent Combat" Feature far superior to the third mainly because they do not allow for a save.

    Blinding an enemy as part of your attack with a minor damage decrease as the only trade-off is a little too good I feel. The same could be said for the disarm feature depending on the enemy you are fighting and their dependency on weapons

    1. I disagree with the idea that this option is strong for rogue. The main purpose of a rogue in the group is a high single target damage per round character with high utility outside of combat. Taking away some of the damage (average 7) per attack can be a huge deal in the early stages of the game when you might only get a small advantage over a single target. The power of features is always going to fluctuate by enemy- oozes ignore basically the feature entirely, while Hobgoblin warriors being disarmed hurts their ability to fight greatly.

    2. I think the take-away here for me is that I need to normalize what the feature expects.

      Either every option should require a saving throw, or none of them should.

      I'm leaning towards "they should all have a saving throw," but if I choose that, there are two options:

      A) Give up damage, roll saving throw. If you fail, you've lost both the potential damage AND the effect. I feel this disincentivizes using Intelligent Combat.

      B) Roll saving throw, if enemy fails give up damage (and apply effect). This one is weird because a successful save on the part of the enemy will actually deal them MORE damage.

      I think a more common sense thing to do would be to make everything require a saving throw, add Intelligence into the mix, remove no damage for ANYthing, and just make it so you can use Intelligent Combat a number of times equal to your INT mod per short rest.

      Using Sneak Attack dice as a resource a la Battlemaster fighter seemed like a great idea on paper, but after workshopping here, I'm not sure it's right for this archetype.

  3. Intelligent Combat, to me, seems a bit on the week side. In comparison, Martial Fighters get similar options that enhance the damage on their attacks. I think the idea is neat, but I think the actual numbers just make it more efficient to either blind or do straight damage to the enemy. The other Rogue Options (namely assassin and arcane trickster) can enhance the damage of your SA as well as provide interesting utility with the rest of their kit. To top all this off, Sneak Attack already has a requirement to even use- the situations where you need to Disarm, Blind or Prone a target will be coming up even more infrequently because of this. The rest of the options later feel thematic and awesome- maybe allow an Int mod worth of uses with no damage reduction between short rests or something? Allow Rogues to benefit from a weak stat that they want to use!

    1. I like your INT mod idea, I'm definitely going to be adding that to a wide variety of features in my second pass-through.