D&D Party Composition — Playing an All Rogue Party
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel the Single Class D&D Party series got away from Nerdarchists Dave and Ted before completion. But this won’t stop me from pursuing a degree in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons through attendance at all the institutions of higher education in D&D academia. Here at Nerdarchy the Website we take a different approach to this popular video series through my take on the concept of single party composition. The all rogue party relies on skill, stealth and exploiting vulnerabilities to get the upper hand. When a 5E D&D character enrolls at Roguish Archetypes they develop a knack for finding solutions to whatever problems come their way by demonstrating resourcefulness and versatility. So let’s get into it.
How I would run an all rogue party for 5E D&D
In 5E D&D rogues present a unique situation. Unlike every other class in the game there is no resource management when it comes to the core class. There’s no ki, spell slots, rage, Wild Shape or other exhaustible components rogue characters need to manage throughout the adventuring day. Even fighters savor their Second Wind and precious Action Surge for moments when it matters most. In many ways this makes rogue the easiest class to play. Rogues also represent a tremendously versatile 5E D&D class. All the expendable resources available to other classes certainly offer huge variety and utility but on a purely consistent basis rogues come out on top.
What I appreciate most about rogues in 5E D&D is they give me a strong vibe of characters like Batman in the sense these are the folks without super powers, magic or mysticism and instead rely on perfecting skills and talents to unprecedented levels. In higher tiers rogues do display extraordinary competency but it feels rooted in the mundane — and this is a great thing. This isn’t to say rogues don’t have opportunities to develop superhuman qualities through subclass choices but even here out of nine official subclasses as of the time of this post only three of them incorporate features beyond the grasp of mundane mortals.
“Rogues have many features in common, including their emphasis on perfecting their skills, their precise and deadly approach to combat, and their increasingly quick reflexes. But different rogues steer those talents in varying directions, embodied by the rogue archetypes. Your choice of archetype is a reflection of your focus — not necessarily an indication of your chosen profession, but a description of your preferred techniques.”
In D&D academia Roguish Archetypes definitely represents a trade school approach to education. This environment is designed to provide technical skills required to complete the tasks of particular and specific jobs. Structuring Roguish Archetypes offers a window into worldbuilding and party dynamics for setting up for an all rogue party. I like the notion of a school to teach students the tricks of the trade under the pretense of producing individuals with the knowledge of not only how to use these skills for their own practical gain but also perhaps as a safeguard against their own ilk. In our own real world there are lots of security professionals and the like who were themselves once criminals and went on to find gainful employment thwarting those they once called their own.
The core rogue class provides a terrific suite of features any team of highly skilled specialists can put to incredible use no matter what sorts of quests (or homework assignments!) come across their desks. In addition to the flexibility of features like Expertise, which gives every person in the all rogue party an opportunity to catapult their competency to extraordinary degrees, they can all work in coordination to dish out devastating damage when everyone can Sneak Attack not to mention the extreme utility of hiding, dashing and disengaging without issue. As if those weren’t enough everyone in the all rogue party shares a secret language too! The broad spectrum of choices among the party in terms of skill selection and accompanying Expertise alone makes an all rogue party quite versatile right from the start.
Once the all rogue party reaches 3rd level and chooses their Roguish Archetype instructors begin diversifying their education by offering advanced courses. These specializations really illustrate the strength of the 5E D&D rogue because unlike many other classes and subclasses the features gained through Roguish Archetypes present wholly new skillsets rather than enhancing the base class features. Even the Thief — the defacto “generic” rogue — receives a whole new slew of features (except for Fast Hands, which adds astounding value to an already incredible Cunning Action feature).
With such a fantastic shared baseline of features a fledgling all rogue party’s instructors can confidently administer challenging assignments and tests of skill. I imagine the facilities at Roguish Archetypes include all manner of obstacle courses and training equipment put to as much or more use as any classroom time. For the players involved in such a campaign this translates to a relatively safe and controlled environment during the early levels when a cohort of rogues is still learning the ropes and discovering the dynamics of their all rogue party composition. From there a campaign can go in so many wonderful directions. Those in need of highly trained specialists can certainly approach Roguish Archetypes with offers of employment for students, instructors and mentors can connect characters with their own networks and players being players I’m sure they’ll discover their own motivations and develop goals for themselves. Above and beyond all these myriad possibilities Roguish Archetypes at the end of the day is an institution teaching students how to do some supremely sneaky stuff and get away with it too — who knows if the shadowy headmaster has their own sneaky schemes in play as well!
All rogue party plays with skill and precision
The other side of this particular party composition campaign considers life outside the halls of learning. Rogues operate in a shady world and when characters enjoy free time away from classes and instructors there’s a vast underworld of similarly shady people to navigate and explore. A cocky group of young rogues still learning their trade might begin taking on jobs from folks outside the school. This could put their education in jeopardy as easily as impress their mentors. Some of these scenarios may even be tests themselves as their instructors evaluate if the all rogue party deviates from their lesson plan by taking on work on their own, how they perform and might even come from sources connected to the school but operating on the downlow themselves!
It’s not hard at all to imagine rogue characters — and players — banking on their skills to start making a name for themselves out in the world. They spend their days learning how to move unseen, overcome obstacles and all manner of other sneaky skills so it’s easy to see how the group might wonder what they can do on their own. Who needs to be tied up with homework?
This series is nearly complete! Only one more class remains and we’ll have a strong foundation for an entire 5E D&D campaign setting in a world of academia inspired by single class party composition. For a running recap, here’s the list of 5E D&D class related institutions. I’m looking forward to exploring the next and final one!
- Bard College carries on a fine tradition of arts and arcane education
- Primal Paths sounds like a private school
- Domains is a seminary
- Circles is a new age school
- Martial Archetypes is a either a military school or a certified training program
- Monastic Traditions maybe a charter school
- Sacred Oaths is definitely a private school
- Ranger Conclaves is a series of correspondence courses (I know they’re called Ranger Archetypes but I think Conclaves sounds cool)
- Roguish Archetypes a trade school for sure. I learned how to pick pockets and now I’m doing great. Thanks, Roguish Archetypes!
- Sorcerous Origins get to attend Arcane Traditions U on a full-ride scholarship
- Otherworldly Patrons is 100% charter school
- Arcane Traditions clearly is the premiere institute for arcane study
- Artificer Specialists is a for profit university that confers certificates and degrees
Any of these individual campaign ideas really makes me want to play or run a campaign with these elements. 5E D&D party composition with all the characters of the same class is more about your group discussing their character choices together than about filling traditional roles. An all rogue party manages extremely well. Each character not only brings a ton to the table without relying on exhaustible resources but also works so well together because their features coordinate exquisitely.
What do you think? Are you ready to enroll at Roguish Archetypes to learn all the tricks of the trade for your next 5E D&D campaign? What single party composition video or post interests you the most? Let me know in the comments!
*Featured image — Rogues as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]