Ever since I picked up my copy of the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, I’ve been annoyed with the arcane trickster. I’ve always felt it was a waste of an opportunity, like they wanted to have an arcane rogue archetype, but they didn’t know what to do.
So they just slapped a limited stock of wizard spells in there because enchantment and illusion spells are rogue-ish. Perhaps they felt that because D&D rogues rely on Intelligence for investigation for looking for traps or identifying locks, they should just stick with the sole Intelligence spellcaster.
A D&D rogue archetype with chutzpah
However, rogues can also rely on Charisma. Using just the Player’s Handbook, the assassin’s Imposter ability uses Charisma, and that doesn’t even include the mastermind or the swashbuckler, two class archetypes that include Charisma skills, but not Intelligence ones.
It’s also not unreasonable to have an Intimidation and Deception rogue instead of a traps-and-locks rogue.
Charisma rogues may not even concern themselves with picking locks or disarming traps at all. They probably won’t dump stat Intelligence, since that’s what Strength is there for when it comes to rogues, but it doesn’t have to be an important one.
In fact, from a narrative or characterization perspective, I would argue that Charisma is a more important stat to have. Unlike every other class, rogues are criminals. With the other classes, you can make characters that are good or bad, but thieves, assassins, and swashbucklers are purely criminal enterprises. People who are masterminds and arcane tricksters can apply their skills in more official, and legal, places, but they’re realistically geared very specifically for criminal enterprises. As such, Charisma (Deception) and Charisma (Intimidation) are going to play significant roles in their everyday behavior. It’s going to be second nature for them, and just lends to their character.
However, just saying that being a Charisma spellcaster is a more appropriate choice for the rogue isn’t enough. There are three Charisma spellcasters, after all. Of them, the bard aligns best with the tools of what a rogue spellcaster would need. Beyond having the spell list that fits best with the needs of the rogue, and the fact that bards have nearly every spell arcane tricksters are given access to, bards actually share several commonalities with rogues.
Both are the primary skill monkeys, where the bard has six skill and tool proficiencies, the rogue has five, and both have the expertise ability. They’re also both Dexterity melee fighters, and their primary recommended weapon is the rapier. While these may be somewhat superficial similarities, the point is that the bard is a more appropriate choice for the rogue than the wizard. Besides, the idea of a trickster is closer to a kind of entertainer than anything associated with wizards.
Realistically, it would probably be easy to just homebrew the arcane trickster to use the bard spell list instead of the wizard’s, and remove the restriction of illusion and enchantment spells. Frankly, it would make the arcane trickster a more valuable archetype, and there wouldn’t be any interference with their abilities. If you’d like to do that, and have an improved arcane trickster, then that’s perfectly fine, but ending it there really isn’t worth me doing this article. Since the arcane trickster exists as it does, and it’s too late for that, I’ve decided to take this one step further and create my own bardic rogue, which I’m calling the jester.
You are equal parts entertainer, acrobat, satirist, and vagrant. You learned how to fight for the stage, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t hold your own. The crowds demand as much realism as much as they do flash and flair, so you’ve learned to intertwine the arcane with every swing and strike to wow them at every stage. Jesters are well known for their quick wit, sharp tongues, acrobatic feats, and natural tendencies for pulling off pranks. They may dress like the fool, but it’s all a clever costume designed to make you all the more foolish when they cut you down with a clever phrase or a well placed blade.
When you reach 3rd level, you gain the ability to cast spells. See chapter 10 for the general rules of spellcasting and chapter 11 for the bard spell list in the Player’s Handbook.
Cantrips. You learn three cantrips: vicious mockery and two other cantrips of your choice from the bard spell list. You learn another bard cantrip of your choosing at 10th level.
Spell Slots. The Jester Spellcasting table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level or higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell’s level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.
For an example, if you know the 1st-level spell charm person and have a 1st-level and 2nd-level spell slot available, you can cast charm person using either slot.
Spells known of 1st-Level and Higher. You know three 1st-level bard spells of your choice.
The Spells Known column of the Jester Spellcasting table shows when you learn more bard spells of 1st level or higher. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spells slots. For instance, when you reach 7th level in this class, you can learn one new spell of 1st or 2nd level.
Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of the bard spells you know with another spell of your choice from the bard spell list. The new spell must be of a level for which you have spells slots.
Spellcasting Ability. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for your bard spells. Your magic comes from the heart and soul you pour into your performance. You use your Charisma whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Charisma modifier when setting the saving throw for DC for a bard spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.
Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
|Rogue Level||Cantrips Known||Spells Known||1st||2nd||3rd||4th|
Starting at 3rd level, when you cast vicious mockery, if the target fails the Wisdom saving throw you can add sneak attack damage to the spell. All other rules for sneak attack still apply.
You can inspire others through wit, jokes, pranks, or good-natured taunts. To do so, you use a bonus action on your turn to choose one creature other than yourself within 60 feet of you who can hear you.That creature gains one Jesting Inspiration die, a d6.
Once within the next 10 minutes, the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes. The creature can wait until after it rolls the d20 before deciding to use the Jesting Inspiration die, but must decide before the Dungeon Master says whether the roll succeeds or fails. Once the Jesting Inspiration die is rolled, it is lost. A creature can have only one Jesting or Bardic Inspiration die at a time.
You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once). You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.
By 13th level, you have plundered magical knowledge from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Choose two spells from any class, including the bard. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Jester Spellcasting table, or a cantrip.
The chosen spells count as bard spells for you and are included in the number in the Spells Known column of the Jester Spellcasting table.
By 17th level, you have learned how to focus your insight and awareness to identify physically, mentally, and emotionally weak areas to attack. You can use your bonus action to add your Wisdom modifier to your spellcasting ability until the end of your next turn.
Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier + your Wisdom modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier + your Wisdom modifier
I think the jester is a much more appropriate class for the rogue, and it’ll be a lot more fun to use. However, as was the case with my modern firearm classes, this hasn’t been playtested, as it’s more of an exploration than a final product. But I will more than welcome any feedback in the comments below.
Until then, stay nerdy!
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