Role vs Roll: Why I Play A Rogue

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on June 25, 2009

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend during my last few gaming sessions. The Fighter consistently deals more damage than my Rogue. We’re 9th level, almost at paragon, and I’m struggling to deal more damage than the Fighter. Fundamentally, something seems wrong when the defender can dish out more damage than the striker. My numbers should be consistently higher on a round for round basis, instead my jaw drops as I hear how much damage he’s dealing.

I began rationalizing. I secretly wondered “Perhaps he’s cheating.” Maybe his Strength is too high or he’s not doing the math correctly. Nope, he’s using the character builder so I have to assume the math is right and his PC is legal. Then I thought “Perhaps he’s been cheating by fudging his die rolls?” So I sat beside him during our last session. Again, I realized he’s not cheating as I witnessed him call ‘em as they fall.

Reality check, he is really doing that much damage.

Determined to look a little deeper into the issue I built a 9th level Fighter designed to do maximum damage. Then I compared it to my Rogue. I’m fortunately that Ameron had already done a lot of the work for me in his article Deal the Most Damage.

The Builds

In comparing the two classes I considered the following:

  • hit points
  • defenses
  • attack modifiers
  • minimum damage
  • average damage
  • maximum damage.

The Rogue damage will include sneak dice. We’ll look at select 1st level at-will powers and 9th level daily powers. We will also consider feat selection. Finally, the characters are both equipped with a weapon, armor and neck item. All items are +2, no extra gold was spent.

Build #1

Rogue – Brutal Scoundrel Human Level 9 PC
AC 22 (Leather +2); Fortitude 21, Reflex 24, Will 18

  • WP Focus (light blade)
  • WP Expertise (light blade)
  • Backstabber
  • WP Training (Rapier)

Str 18 (+4) Dex 20 (+5) Wis 10 (0)
Con 12 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Cha 12 (+1)

Rapier +2
+15 vs AC; 1d8 + 2d8 + 8 damage

Number Crunching

Deft Strike – At-Will

  • Attack vs AC: +15
  • Max damage: 36
  • Min damage: 15
  • Average damage: 25
Sudden Strike* – 9th Level Daily

  • Attack vs AC: +15
  • Max damage: 60
  • Min damage: 17
  • Average damage: 29

* This assumes the Rogue uses this attack as the first attack in the encounter before its opponent has acted allowing for 4W rather than 3W.

Build #2

Fighter – Two Handed Weapon Dwarf Level 9 PC
AC 23 (Scale +2); Fortitude 23, Reflex 16, Will 17

  • Dwarven Weapon Training
  • Weapon Expertise (axe)

Str 20 (+5) Dex 10 (0) Wis 13 (+1)
Con 18 (+4) Int 10 (0) Cha 8 (-1)

Execution Axe +2
+15 vs AC; 1d12 + 9 damage (brutal 2)

Number Crunching

Brash Strike – At-Will

  • Attack vs AC: +17
  • Max damage: 25
  • Min damage: 16
  • Average damage: 20
Victorious Surge – 9th Level Daily

  • Attack vs AC: +15
  • Max damage: 45
  • Min damage: 18
  • Average damage: 29


Attack Scores

The two builds come out equal. Though we used sneak dice in the damage calculation for the Rogue I did not include the +2 modifier to hit in the attack numbers. We could easily say the Rogue was flanking with the Fighter which makes the bonus a wash.


At-Will Powers: The Rogue comes out ahead with 11 potential extra points of damage available. Daily Powers: Again the Rogue comes out as the clear winner. However, if we eliminate sneak dice from the totals the Rogue looses 20 points of damage. This is a significant amount of damage and shouldn’t be overlooked. The Fighter has one other advantage over the Rogue and that is the reliable keyword in many of the powers. When the Fighter misses with his big guns, he gets a second chance (and a third, and a fourth). The Rogue does not.


The Fighter only needs to take two feats to complete this build; the Rogue on the other hand needs to select four. This gives the Fighter three available feats to select things like Toughness, Armor Proficiency (plate) and Durable to make him that much tougher. Or the player might opt to select feats that round out the PC making him more useful in skill challenges.

The Fighter in this example gains access to a weapon (Execution Axe) that normally requires a specific feat to gain proficiency in, and he gains extra damage as well. The Rogue only gains access to the weapon (Rapier), and when the weapon properties are compared the Rogue clearly comes out as the looser.

The Final Word

Combat isn’t everything. I play a Rogue because of my role in the party. The Rogue is one of only three classes that gains training in Thievery and that makes me useful to my party. He also gain training in a larger amount of skills than his brawny companion. While I find it concerning that Fighters can compete with Rogues for damage, the issue isn’t going to force me to create a new character. I have combat advantage about 80% of the time and if the Fighter is doing his job right I shouldn’t be taking too many hits anyway.

What do you think? Should the Nerf bat be applied to Fighters? Does playing a Rogue require more skill to maximize damage output and mitigate damage? Should Rogues gain access to more weapons with properties similar to what the Fighter can gain access to?

1 Mike June 25, 2009 at 11:08 am

Looking at the comparison a couple of things jump out at me, brash stike is ST+2 to hit and the fighter grants CA to targets, which would drop the accuracy difference a bit. The max damage jumps out as well, in both cases the rogue’s max damage is higher (11 and 16 points). In addition, there are quite a few rogue powers which target non-AC defenses, which aren’t listed. Oh, this just occured to me, your rogue is about to get another die of damage to his sneak attack damage since he’s almost paragon right? That might explain why at this level the fighter is keeping up with your rogue’s damage.

2 Cedric June 25, 2009 at 4:55 pm

A fighter that is built to be a striker is doing almost as well as a rogue? I don’t see the problem really. His lower defenses mean that he’s not doing as well a defender and a real striker has a bunch of abilities that allow them to maneuver and set up optimal positions from which to attack.

Your rogue can, for example, just use ranged attacks and snipe from hiding and still dish out the same amount of damage. Or he can maneuver across the battlefield, to take out the squishy controller in the back.

Also, a rogue will do most of its damage from at-wills. That remains true for most of your career. However, you’ll have plenty of immediate and minor attack abilities that will allow you to attack multiple times per round which should push your damage up higher than the fighter.

3 Wyatt June 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

I don’t think the Fighter needs a nerf, because one of the main problems with the 3.5 Fighter as a defensive unit was he didn’t scare monsters as much with his damage than other characters could by killing or ganking them.

If the Fighter is rendered less effective at damage-dealing (and honestly, looking at his [w] numbers, there’s not exactly a lot that can be done that’s reasonable, or he’ll end up like the cleric doing at most 2[W]s as Dailies at heroic which’d be lame for Man Who Fights) then he’s also rendered less effective at defending, because he isn’t like the Paladin or Swordmage or Warden who have completely supernatural effects backing them up.

He has being a scary mofo and doing damage to back him up.
.-= Wyatt´s last blog ..Wyatt’s Notes: Adventurer 101 Intro =-.

4 Toldain June 25, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Yeah, the fighter build is very focused on damage dealing, and is kind of slacking on his job as a defender. For one thing, he hasn’t got a shield. So no, I’m not too worried about balance.

Remember, the point is to win. Who deals the most damage means nothing if you are in a TPK, or have to break and run.

Oh, and you used one of the weapons from Adventurer’s Vault if I’m not misaken. I’m not too thrilled with them, they seem to be a bit unbalanced.

I don’t think the Brutal Scoundrel class feature leverages STR all that well, though. It would be better if you used some of the abilities from Martial Power that were “rattling” so you could use the STR bonus to damage there, too. Like Disheartening Strike or something.

5 Nocte June 26, 2009 at 8:33 am


I had played with a Drow Rogue until lvl9 (when a troll eat me).

The fighter damage potiental is very high but rogue can make a great damage, and paragon path are oriented to that (for example: Dread Fang); otherwise Rogue can play the Cat&Mouse very good (with a corner in the map, Deft Strike is gold).

The possibility to hit is another strong point in rogue class; rogues can (and must) take 20 to dex, without lose too much (defenders must have high CON and fighters WIS), and Piercing Strike at-will is a very effective attack:

F.ex: (NADs are,generally, 2 points lowers than AC):

Attack at will to AC: +2 (prof) + 5 (str) + 2 (mag) + 1 (expertise) + 2 flank = +12 to attack (+14 if Brash Strike)
Piercing Strike: +3 (prof) + 5 (dex) + 2 (mag) + 1 (expertise) + 2 (flank) = + 13 to attack.

If monsters have 22 AC (and 19-20 reflex) a rogue have 10 % more to hit.

And, this fighter isn’t a defender (he can’t soak any damage) (NADs & AC very low for his lvl)… when fight with a tough brute he dies for sure.

Finally, two things: use PIERCING STRIKE (deft strike only when you don’t want to get close to monster) and change 9th lvl Power to Knockout.


6 Wimwick June 30, 2009 at 7:45 pm

My apologies to everyone for the delay in response to the comments here. A hectic work week followed by a short vacation resulted in me not responding sooner.

@ Mike
The first fighter build I looked at was the battlerager fighter, where brash strike is a necessity. While I chaged the build, I left the power as I was primarily looking at damage output. I agree that Rogue’s have many powers that target non-AC defenses. I’m a big fan of piercing strike myself.

You raise a good point about the fighter being not as good a defender due to his focus on damage. I’ll have to pay attention at my next session as to how he handles the role of defender.

@ Wyatt
I suppose you’re right about the fighter needing to deal out damage to hold the attention of mobs. His larger weapon die is eventually downplayed by the amount of sneak dice the rogue will eventually wield.

@ Toldain
The weapon is from the AV, in creating the two builds I looked at all sources as anything WotC publishes is now considered core and legal for play. I’ll take a look at some rattling powers, thanks for the suggestion. The reason I didn’t use any in this mock up is due to the fact that I used my Rogue as the template for that class.

@ Nocte
Thanks for the suggestions regarding the builds. You’re correct that through Paragon Paths rogues can begin to seriously outdamage the fighter.

7 Butch July 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Other things to think about with this comparison:

Many Rogue exploits, in addition to targeting NADs, also are usable either at range, or at range AND in melee. Once ranged combat is on the table, fighters tend to suffer, as they have almost nothing to do at range (other than Come and Get It). This gives rogues a chance to inflict damage when a fighter is at a loss, and also protects them in ways that a fighter cannot take advantage of (like hiding behind something 50′ away). In addition, the Sneak Attack damage can be applied to rogue ranged attacks, and the fighter has no comparable equivalent.

Sneak Attack damage is not very granular. Assuming you use d8s, the level 1-10 rogue gets 9 average damage from sneak attack, and the level 11 rogue suddenly jumps to 13.5 average damage. If that damage was drizzled out over the career of the rogue, it might not be as noticeable.

Fighters can often choose between “status effect” attacks, which do little damage, and pure damage expression attacks, as can rogues. For the purpose of this comparison, you have chosen a “pure damage” set of exploits for each. However, a fighter has very few options for adding damage to a “status effect” attack. It simply does less damage. A rogue, however, whether he chooses a more damaging attack, or a lower damage one which pushes, slides, etc, can still add his Sneak Attack damage to either, so the tradeoff between status effects and damage is much less of a all or nothing choice for the rogue. These powers will often edge out in favor of the rogue on damage, when he and the fighter both have the same “status effect” to inflict.

8 Scott July 9, 2009 at 4:59 am

I don’t think this is too much a concern, for a couple of reasons:

1. Fighters have striker as a secondary role. Their damage is supposed to be pretty good, if they build for it. Building for it does mean that they trade some of their defense, though.

2. Fighters’ damage output isn’t that far behind rogues’… but rogues are a lot more accurate than fighters. Lots of rogue powers attack NADs, while fighters are generally attacking AC. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that many fighter dailies are Reliable, but even then, the fighter needs to spend another action using that attack again to get that damage.

3. Your fighter build takes fewer feats, but only because it’s a dwarf. DWE is the equivalent of both Weapon Focus and Exotic Weapon Proficiency. At heroic tier, its damage bonus is better than Weapon Focus (but at epic tier, it’s worse). A non-dwarf would have only a 1-feat advantage, and his average damage would be 1 lower.

4. If these characters were level 11, the rogue would be up a total of 5.5 damage on average — one extra Sneak Attack die and one for Weapon Focus improving. The fighter’s numbers wouldn’t change. (Of course, each could take or retrain new feats that could change their numbers… but going off what’s there right now, the rogue gets a big improvement, while the fighter doesn’t.)

5. As mentioned, the rogue can be very effective at moderate ranges, if desired. The fighter cannot. The fighter, having given up some defense for his damage, has an AC only 1 better than the rogue’s, so he’s not all that much better off in melee than the rogue is — he has more hit points, sure, but he’s going to be eating more attacks too, even if the rogue melees.

6. Paragon paths. The rogue has a couple of options that will boost damage pretty well, if that’s what he’s after. The fighter doesn’t have so many. (Pit Fighter is pretty good at it, but this fighter lacks the wisdom to make good use of it.) This is a couple of levels off… but it will kick in right when the rogue gets that big paragon-tier boost, making for an even bigger difference.

Basically, you’ve caught the rogue at a weak point in his career, while the fighter is at a relatively high point — but even so, the rogue’s damage is still better than the fighter’s.

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