Hello all, and it’s a pleasure to welcome you back to our second installment in the Underrated or Underpowered series! As I mentioned before, this series is going to look not only into spells, but also subclasses and abilities so… here we go with our first subclass! The thief rogue has always been an interesting one to me, and I’m extremely excited to dive right in and pick this subclass apart with you guys!
Fast Hands and Faster Reflexes
Thief rogue is a subclass you pick up, like all other rogue subclasses, at level 3. It is seen as the archetypal Rogue, being the one available in the normal SRD on websites such as DnDBeyond. The thief rogue can be seen as a subclass that mainly focuses on making all of the core abilities of the class “better,” broadening the already large amount of actions a rogue can take in and out of combat.
Starting at 3rd level, the thief rogue gets access to two abilities: Fast Hands and Second-Story Work. Fast Hands allows you to use your bonus action granted by your Cunning Action to make a Sleight of Hand check, attempt to disarm a trap or pick a lock, or take the Use an Object action. Now, I could probably write an anthology series on the pros, cons, and practical uses of this ability, but let’s keep it short.
Very rarely will you run into a situation where you have to pick a lock or make a sleight of hand check in combat unless you’re trying to snatch a sword off of an enemies hip or steal a potion from them. Where the creativity and fun of this ability comes in is being able to take the Use an Object action as a bonus action. Go against stereotypes and stabilize your friends with a Healer’s Kit, showing that you’re not the selfish rogue they thought you were! Douse your enemies in oil so your casters can light them on fire! Drop some ball bearings or caltrops to create zone hazards for your enemies! Hell, you can even set up a hunting trap… as a bonus action!
What’s beautiful about this ability is its versatility and as long as there are shops selling these supplies? You have an amazing berth of ways to use your bonus action. The other ability, Second Story Work, helps with your mobility. Climbing doesn’t cost you extra movement (maybe your DM won’t impose an athletics check on you, or if they do it will be at advantage) and you get to add your dexterity modifier to your jump distance. Nothing game breaking, and all things that just help add to the feel of the character.
The next ability you get at 9th level is Supreme Sneak. As long as you move no more than half your speed on your turn, you get advantage on your Stealth checks. Simple and effective. Stealth is one of the core skills for a rogue, and when you combine expertise in Stealth with advantage? Even dragons won’t be able to spot you. In combat this is great for using your bonus action Hide to get yourself advantage on an attack and apply your sneak attack, out of combat it makes you nigh invisible in the right circumstances. Definitely an amazing ability to have.
Things get a bit crazy starting at 13th level when you acquire Use Magic Device. With this, you ignore all class, race, and level requirements to use magic items. Yes you read that right, that means you can use wands, staves, holy avengers, bardic instruments, you name it? You can use it. It’s hard to really put into words how effective this ability is. If your DM allows you to use spell scrolls and with enough money, you can become quite a potent caster while still having all the benefits of being a rogue. Use Magic Device is one of those abilities that seems so strange and out of the ordinary that I’d recommend talking to your DM about it, and we’ll get more into that later.
Your capstone which you receive at level 17 is Thief’s Reflexes. This ability lets you take two turns during the first round of combat, one at your normal initiative and another one at your normal initiative minus ten. I honestly think this capstone is incredible, as it allows you to not only deal your sneak attack damage twice (that’s 20d6 from just sneak attack ya’ll), but it also allows you to move twice as much in the first turn of combat and take twice as many bonus actions (DOUBLE CALTROPS). Many games won’t go up to this point, but if you are able to get to this capstone, it is quite competitive with many other capstone abilities and, just like the rest of the subclass, facilitates the rogue’s core abilities extremely well.
Stop! You’ve Violated the Law!
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, as we jump into the downsides of the thief rogue. While Fast Hands is an incredible ability, there’s no question that it is much more situational than some of its competition. Swashbucklers get Fancy Footwork, opening up their bonus action by not having to disengage. They also get Rakish Audacity, boosting their initiative and making their sneak attack more reliable to land. Scouts get a similar ability to Swashbucklers, allowing them to duck away from front line combat. In addition, they get expertise in both Nature and Survival, giving them a huge boost out of combat. Arcane Tricksters gain access to an invisible mage hand and spellcasting. In the end, you’ll see these abilities used much more commonly and in general, they’re much more user friendly and directly effective versus the thief’s ability to take the Use an Object action as a bonus action.
Another problem with thief rogue is that, similar to the likes of Champion Fighter or Hunter Ranger, it doesn’t necessarily give you anything new. If you’re a player who is constantly looking for classes such as the Battle Master that completely change how you can act in combat or someone who looks to play the likes of a Great Old One Warlock for the amazing roleplay potential, you may find that the thief rogue is lacking in that department. Much like it facilitates the core abilities of a rogue, it also seemingly facilitates the stereotypes of the rogue, leading to – in my experience at least – characters that just want to steal things and be the epitome of Chaotic Neutral… or Chaotic Stupid.
The Final Verdict
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! If it isn’t apparent by now, I do have a little bit of bias towards this subclass. I think it’s so versatile and really opens up a lot of different opportunities for the Rogue in terms of mechanics. Therefore, I think that this class is Underrated! I believe there’s so many cool things you can do with this subclass and every single ability that it offers is useful and makes you a better rogue. One day I’ll write a whole article on Fast Hands, but until then I’m more than happy enough to say that I approve of this subclass and think it is amazingly fun to play!!
If you’ve made it this far, I’d just like to thank you once again so very much for reading through this article. I know this one had a lot of content, and I did my best to not go off on too many tangents. If you have any comments or feedback, please do leave them in the comments below or tweet at us on twitter. Make sure if you want to see more of our content in the future you give us as follow on our social media, and I again look forward very much to writing the next Underrated or Underpowered. Thank you all so much!