Has the Slayer Killed the Rogue and the Ranger?

Has the Slayer Killed the Rogue and the Ranger?

Ferdinand_Keller_-_Jagender_JünglingWhen the Advanced Class Guide was released by Paizo, every Pathfinder player who could get his or her hands on the book went absolutely nuts over it. It was like the new toy at Christmas you’d been hoping and praying you’d get, and when you did you couldn’t think of anything else. Now that the dust has settled a bit, and players have largely gotten over the initial shininess of the new classes, there are a lot of questions being asked.

One of those questions is this one: “Why would you ever play a rogue or a ranger when you could play a slayer?”

What Is the Slayer?

For those who haven’t investigated the hybrid classes just yet, the slayer is the love child of the ranger and the rogue. It’s also hard to tell which of its parents the slayer takes after more. The class gains studied target (which is like favored enemy, but you can use it on any enemy, any time for the price of a move action), Track, and Quarry from the ranger, and it gains Sneak Attack, Talents, and Advanced Talents from the rogue. With a full base attack bonus progression, along with good Fortitude and Reflex saves, it’s a class that studies enemies, runs them to ground, and brings them down.

Visualizing these mechanics in action would help. Slayers make ideal bounty hunters, since they have a lot of skill points to throw around, they’re martially capable, and they can track someone down even while moving at full speed. Slayers would also make phenomenal military scouts and skirmishers, with their ability to move stealthily, study how a target moves, and then fight them using guerrilla tactics. Slayers could also be skillful assassins, using their abilities to kill specific targets before vanishing into thin air.

How Does It Measure Up?

At a glance, it seems as if the slayer just took all the best parts of the ranger and rogue classes, then put together something superior to both. After all, while a ranger’s favored enemy is more potent, it’s also more limited, and while rogues get more 6-sided dice to throw around with their sneak attack, the slayer has a full base attack bonus, which means a slayer can actually hit more often. From a pure combat perspective (the only one that a lot of players are looking at), slayers are definitely the class that will be the most reliable when it comes to dealing out damage and putting down enemies.

There are more ways to kill a dog than by hanging, though. Put another way, it’s important to look at what you’re giving up from the parent classes before you decide that the slayer is the next big thing.

Let’s start with the rogue, a class that players give a lot of guff because so many of its class features have been farmed out to archetypes for other classes. While the slayer gains access to sneak attack as well as rogue and ninja tricks, there are a lot of features it loses out on. Uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge are at the top of the list, as is evasion and improved evasion. The slayer can gain access to trapfinding, but it requires a slayer talent to do it. And, of course, rogues get more overall sneak attack damage dice.

What about the ranger, though? Well, I’ve already mentioned that favored enemy is more powerful, but a lot stricter on when the bonuses actually kick in. So the slayer is a definite win on that front. Rangers are a lot more than their favored enemies, however. While the slayer can gain access to ranger combat styles and camouflage with slayer talents and advanced slayer talents respectively, those abilities aren’t just something the slayer gets handed. Another thing the ranger didn’t pass on was the ability to choose an animal companion, or to give favored enemy bonuses to other members of the party. Rangers also have spells which, while they might not be the class’s bread-and-butter, can allow rangers to pull off some extraordinary things when initiative has been rolled and the chips are down.

A Good Addition

There’s no denying the slayer, as a class, is a fine addition to Pathfinder. It’s ideal for players who want the stealth and killing-blow capacity of rogues, but who also want the tracking and enemy bonuses of rangers. Slayers are likely to be very popular for players who wish that rogues could hit harder, or that they didn’t have to mess with all that magic and managing the situational benefits of rangers.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no place in a party for a traditional ranger and his or her trusty wolf, or for a rogue’s deft fingers. It just means there’s a new way to play for those who really wish they had a skirmisher with sneak attack.

For more tabletop gaming posts check out Neal F. Litherland’s blog Improved Initiative!

11 thoughts on “Has the Slayer Killed the Rogue and the Ranger?”

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    I wish more people were this rational about the hybrid classes. I personally like the Slayer a lot, and the next character I roll up (when I get to be an actual player rather than GM) will likely be one.

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    I also like the slayer class quite a bit.

    Of course, the slayer has quite a bit in common with Kobold Press’s own spell-less ranger class (hmmm …) so go figure :)

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    This class right here is reason alone to pick up the book. I’ve always loved playing rogues as military scouts, but it’s a pain to try and get your ranger abilities in there. This sounds like exactly what I’ve been looking for in my PF games.

    I really wish they’d gone spell-less in 5th ed, and the spell-less option they released is incredible. I’d much rather have battle master/warlord tactics in my ranger than spells.

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    I half-agree; while the rogue is still viable (especially with its Unchained version), the ranger has never been good. Favored enemies are meh since they’re so damn situational and only add a little damage and add nothing to your attack rolls, combat feats were mostly used to pick up TWF as a str-based character which slayers can totally do, and most of the ranger’s abilities are lackluster or don’t add to your raw combat potential, something it is definitely missing (it is NOT just enough to have a full BAB to be combat-worthy).

    The only saving grace of the Ranger is the animal companion (which requires a feat, Boon Companion, to be decent, especially at low levels, and which other characters can get with 2 feats), and their spellcasting which is limited and can fairly easily be subsumed by other characters simply through the use of a wand and UMD as most of the ranger spells are fairly low-level.

    I would love to see a ranger archetype that gives it the slayer’s Sneak Attack progression, probably at the cost of both Favored Enemy and Favored Terrain. That would probably make it far better. But as it is, top-to-bottom, the ranger brings almost nothing combat-wise to the table compared to almost every other class.

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    Actually, I have seen and also played Rangers that have dished out more damage than rogues and fighters combined, and when going ranged instead of TWF, could do single target and burst damage very well. They key is to utilize your spells well. High level rangers don’t worry so much about how specific their favored enemies are because they have several favored enemies at that point, and because if they need to, they can cast the spell Instant Enemy on that nasty boss that is kicking everyone’s butt. Not to mention Rangers end up with a LOT more places to use HiPS than a rogue. Only Assassins and Shadow Dancers are better at HiPs, and SD’s are crappy for combat damage.

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    @Milty: Please, link a build of a ranger archer who can out-damage a fighter, or out-damaging a ninja going invisible and getting sneak attack on every one of their arrows? (And you can even do it at any range using Sniper Goggles.)

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    As someone who has played many Rangers, a few Rogues, and a Slayer – the Slayer sucks. I find most of the hybrid classes are broken and far too over powered for what they are. The Slayer’s studied target should be a swift action to even make it viable. It’s a terrible class which was poorly designed.

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    The Ranger is still completely viable – spells, animal companion, and the Favored Enemy is still way more powerful than studied target in the right campaign.

    The rogue though? Uncanny Dodge and Trap finding are poor, poor replacements for a full BAB and the ability to take Ranger combat feats. Rogue has always been painfully underwhelming and now the Slayer has made it completely obsolete. Even if the Rogue has a better sneak attack dice progression, the Slayer gets static bonuses and in 3.PF static bonuses are much better.

    So yeah the Slayer does totally negate the Rogue – but the Rogue was a waste to begin with when the Bard and Ranger could already do its shtick way better.

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    While I do enjoy the concept of teh slayer class, I think paizo went overboard on the “lets make it cool” factor. It’s just too powerful and offers too many goodies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bash it and I haven’t banned it from my games. I just think its too powerul the way they built it.

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