Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Roguish Archetype: The Corsair [Third Draft]

One of the biggest things I wanted to do during my absence was update older content. So much of what I make can use additional iterations, especially with the quantity of good feedback it has been collecting.

The Corsair has always been one I've been meaning to update. I didn't leave it in a good place, and the familiar it introduced stole the spotlight and bogged it down with math.

So, I fix that by just getting rid of the damn thing. Here's what I did.


  • Removed First Mate, brought Dirty Fighting to 3rd level to give a distinctive feature early on that wasn't a nightmare for everyone involved.
  • Added Lookout feature, to give this pirate a good fluff ability and to keep the option from being centered almost exclusively on combat.
  • Moved familiars to an optional rule, because they should still be there, but should definitely be about as useful as a wizard's familiar. 
  • Added a Feint-like ability to Dirty Fighting, to introduce CHA-dependence at an earlier level.
  • Maybe I bunged something up without noticing in Lookout, but I'm betting not. This seems pretty water-tight to me.
  • Half-year turn around time for project updates? Maybe I want to do these sooner instead of later.


  1. This is the first time I've posted here, so let me start off by saying that I love your ideas and want you to make more of these. With that said, I feel the Corsair lacks some mechanical cohesion.

    To show you what I mean, what is the Corsair from a purely mechanical perspective? Well, from levels 3 to 12, it is a guy that gets a solid benefit to disengages, so obviously they should be a character that runs around the battlefield handing out disadvantages and getting into odd places to help with flanking.

    Well, when they hit level 13 they transform into a Charisma based support/controller, which none of the other mechanics hint at, but to make matters worse they have the same problem Frenzy Barbarians do: The first combat mechanic they get (Frenzy/Dirty Fighting) requires the same action as the second combat mechanic (Intimidating Presence/Infamy), so you have two abilities that are now fighting for relevance rather than a set of abilities that compliment one another.

    I feel that if you want them to be a Charisma-based support archetype, make them that from level 3. If you want to go down that path, I suggest putting Infamy as their level 3 ability and having it scale with level in some way, whether that is additional uses per level, allowing it to affect more people after a certain level, or even making it more potent with level.

    Alternatively you could have them get additional benefits to their Dirty Fighting: Maybe when they disengage they cause the creature to take a Strength Saving Throw against Dex+Prof+8 or else be knocked prone and if they succeed they get the disadvantage on their first attack as normal.

    tl;dr: It feels like you have two mechanical concepts in one class and you need to stick with one. Are they a charisma-based support character handing out buffs/debuffs by shouting at people or are they a guy causing havoc by running around the battlefield jumping between groups of enemies with their high mobility?

    1. I feel you about the CHA-dependence coming out of the woodwork. It's not a design decision I was happy with - I wanted to introduce CHA earlier, but I couldn't come up with a way that didn't feel contrary to the concept and forced.

      As I designed it, the corsair is kind of SUPPOSED to change roles. You start out as a drudge-level pirate, gain some on the job skills, and end up in pirate management. Whether or not you're actually a captain or leader, your earned reputation and respect means that others turn to you.

      This in mind, I don't think Infamy would work at lower levels, for fluff reasons. The idea behind Infamy is that you've earned a reputation through your actions, and people respond accordingly. You just wouldn't have that at 3rd level.

      What an entry-level pirate would have is gall and cunning. Dirty Fighting works thematically because it's about doing more with less, throwing dirt in someone's face to get out of a sticky situation.

      Now, all this is ignoring that I really SHOULD have CHA early on, if I can manage it. If I really want to I can break that rule, and I did, but it just isn't as good design as it could be.

      Maybe you're right with adding another function on to Dirty Fighting. A CHA-based bluff to gain advantage might be a great idea, acting as support while still being as gritty and low-level as a basic pirate should be.

    2. Let me start off by saying thank you for replying. I never know if I am being too blunt or not, so if I come off as insulting, I do not mean it.

      With that said, I had a shower thought this morning:
      What if Dirty Fighting gives benefits to every Cunning Action ability and not just the disengage?

      Something like taking the dash action can help someone else move (Maybe choose someone within 30 feet when you take the dash action and they can move their movement speed as a reaction?) and taking the hide action can cause some other kind of effect (I can't think of something, but perhaps you will be able to). Perhaps you can think of more Cha-based benefits rather than just straight benefits as I think that would be more in line with what you want.

      On a more thematic note, I disagree with the idea that a 5e character can't be a pirate captain by level 3. A level 1 PC is considered to already be a powerful and special individual, hence why the Folk Hero background exists; furthermore, the Bandit Captain NPC, for example, only has the mechanics of a level 5 fighter. Now, I'm not saying they are suddenly a big name captain that has the whole navy after them, but they can certainly be a captain by then. Hell, at level 5 they are supposed to be famous throughout the realm, so I see nothing wrong with them captaining a ship at level 3.

      If you really don't like the idea of them being a captain at level 3, though, perhaps just fluff it as they are so used to working alongside a tight knit crew that they naturally have the ability to benefit others in combat.

      Other idea:
      What if you combine Dirty Fighting and Infamy? At level 3 the player chooses how they want to conduct themselves: Inspiring their crew/party or filling their enemies with fear. After that they get benefits to their three Cunning Action abilities. Dread Pirates cause slow with their dash, disadvantage with their disengage, and fear with their sneak while Inspiring Captains cause free movement with their dash, advantage with their disengage (maybe not, it might be really OP if there is a second rogue in the party), and temp HP or something when they hide (I imagine they shout something along the lines of “I'll be back, lads!” before disappearing below deck, and it puts the crew at ease, knowing the captain has some kind of plan. Maybe not, though: It doesn't make a lot of sense to shout something while trying to hide).

    3. >What if Dirty Fighting gives benefits to every Cunning Action ability and not just the disengage?

      Eh, I don't want to overburden it. Adding to every Cunning Action would also make it significantly better (or at least having more tools in the box) than your average rogue.

      My game plan here is to integrate CHA early-on without having to change too much. A simple ability tacked on to Dirty Fighting that hinges on CHA should hopefully be enough.

      I don't want to shuffle abilities around more than I already have, nor do I really want to make this a rogue-warlord. The Mastermind already does a pretty good job of that.

      More than anything, I want to make a rogue that feels like a pirate, if that makes any sense. It doesn't have to occupy a specific role, I don't think, but it DOES have to convey CHA-reliance at earlier levels.

      And don't worry about being too forward. Comments like this are how I perfect my material. =)

  2. It's a very solid homebrew this time round. I can't come up with any serious complaints or things to add. I wouldn't play it myself but that's because I don't really do rogues.

    All I can really add is that the INT for parrots and Monkeys would be 6 or 7, not 2 and 5 respectively. You gave the parrot an INT on par with an ooze.

    Damn, I want a Monkey familiar now.

    1. I am going to have to both disagree with you and agree with you at the same time.

      It really depends on what is wanted from these animals. Are these animals the kind of supernatural, fantasy animals that are actually sapient (The talking parrot that can carry on a conversation) or actual, real parrots and monkeys?

      If they are supposed to be real animals, then I'll agree that 2 is too low an Int for a parrot, but 6 is WAY too high! 3 appears to be the average for most animals, so I would put it there. In fact, the Gazer from Volo's Guide, which is capable of repeating statements like a parrot, only has 3 int.

      As for the 5 int, I think that's pretty on the money. 5 appears to be the Int level of smarter, trainable animals that cannot speak a language, but can understand it. 6 Int appears to be the realm of tribal creatures that are able to make stone age tools.

    2. I actually did a lot of run-around with the INT-scores on both those creatures. Here's my thought process:

      MONKEY: The Ape on page 317 of the Monster Manual has an INT score of 6. Meanwhile, the Baboon on page 318 has an INT score of 4. I placed the monkey at 5, directly between the two, because that seemed like a reasonable place for it to be.

      PARROT: This one was frustrating to me. The Raven (Monster Manual, page 335) has an INT of 2, and real-world ravens are remarkably smart birds, capable of tool use, mimicking noises, and recognizing faces. The question then was: should a parrot be smarter than a raven? I decided against it, and pegged the parrot's INT at 2.

      Now, it's also important to note the difference between INT and WIS. INT is mostly book-learning, things like History and Arcana, esoteric subjects you would study on. WIS, on the other hand, is practical knowledge, gained by observing and learning from the world.

      Both the monkey and parrot have a WIS of 12, indicating that they're more knowledgeable of the world around them (in their way) than an average human with a WIS of 10. The raven, ape, and baboon also all have a WIS of 12, further driving this point home.

      I still think ravens should have a much higher INT, though, but I'm probably just going to have to live with that.