What D&D class would Robin Hood be?

What does Robin Hood do and how does he do it? My understanding of Robin Hood comes mostly from three sources – listed in the order I first saw them.

Amalgamating these sources tells us that Robin:

  1. Steals from the rich and gives to the poor
  2. Is an outlaw who hides in a secret base in the forest
  3. Leads a band of Merry Men
  4. Principally opposes the Sheriff and Evil Prince
  5. Is highly skilled with a bow (thought still capable with a sword)
  6. Is a member of the nobility
  7. Is a fox

I’ll be looking at the 5e player’s handbook and the Old School Essentials system reference document (available online here). OSE matches the 1981 Moldvay edition of D&D.

Robin Hood in OSE

OSE has six classes in the base game:

  • Cleric
  • Dwarf
  • Elf
  • Fighter
  • Halfling
  • Magic-User
  • Thief

The Cleric and Magic-User can be discounted as Robin Hood does not do magic. He is also not an Elf, Dwarf or Halfling. So the only reasonable candidates are the Fighter and Thief.

The Fighter gets more HP, can use all types of weapons and armour and can make a stronghold at any level. Robin’s base in the forest could be a stronghold, and the Fighter allows him to use a bow and a sword.

The Thief can also use a bow and a sword, and can establish a Thief Den (which could also be the secret forest base), though they can only establish it once they are 9th level. The thief get’s increased hit-chance and damage against unaware targets which it is attacking from behind with the ability Back-Stab – which does work for arrows, despite its name and therefore fits with Robin. The thief can’t use heavy weapons or shields which is fine, and gets a bunch of skills relating to exactly the type of skullduggery that we expect from Robin Hood, including:

  • Climb sheer surfaces
  • Hear noise
  • Hide in shadows
  • Move silently
  • Open locks
  • Pick pockets

So the Thief fits pretty well with Robin Hood, as long as we ignore the Roll Languages and Scroll Use features, which are unlocked at higher levels.

Robin Hood in D&D 5e

Robin is not a Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Sorcerer, Warlock or Wizard.

He could be a Fighter, Paladin, Ranger or Rogue.

The Paladin is the biggest stretch. The reasoning is that a Paladin is defined by an oath, and the oath to ‘rob the rich and give to the poor’ is quite central to Robin. However, the mechanics of the Paladin are centered on melee fighting and divine magic. Additionally, there is minimal mechanical support for the oath the Paladin takes, and so the Paladin fails to emulate the idea of Robin Hood.

The Ranger could fit Robin’s ‘lives in a secret base in a forest’ concept, they start with a longbow, and they can take the Archery Fighting Style at level 2. While this is not the rules as written, a GM could reasonably allow the Favored Enemy to be those working for the local sheriff.

Much of the Ranger’s abilities would be fine with Robin, even if they do not directly support the archetype. Extra attack, Vanish and Hide in Plain Sight both work well, and Primeval awareness and Natural Explorer are fine.

Of the subclasses in the PHB, Hunter would be fine, as there are options that fit with the idea of robin as a ranged menace and a swashbuckler.

The big issue is that Rangers get spells, and Robin is not magical. Whilst the spells could be flavoured as feats of skill, especially ones like Hunter’s Mark, the class ends up leaning too far into the whole ‘woodsman’ concept.

Both the Fighter and Rogue fit Robin better than the Ranger (there is some nice symmetry here with OSE).

Robin as a 5e Fighter

Nothing in the Fighter’s kit is a problem for Robin Hood – its basically a big list of buffs to your fighting. Both the Champion and Battle Master are viable as subclass choices too. The Champion gets improved critical hit chance, which fits with the idea of Robin as a devastating archer, whilst the Battle Master has combat maneuvers, which fit with Robin as a scrappy outlaw eternally fighting against larger organised forces.

There is no support for stealing and sneaking around, and nothing for the idea of leading a band of Merry Men. However, the Fighter gets a lot of ability score improvements, which can (using variant rules which I’ve never seen anybody not use) be traded for Feats. Inspiring Leader, Lucky, Martial Adept, Mobile, Sharpshooter, Skilled and Skulker are all viable for Robin, and can go some way to supporting the leadership, sneaking and shooting elements of the character.

If Robin has Dexterity as a primary attribute, then he can shoot and swing a sword. Making Charisma a high scoring attribute will help too.

So Robin as Fighter-as-fine, but is Robin-as-Rogue better?

The County Flag of Nottinghamshire

Robin as a 5e Rogue

The 5e Rogue starts of with Expertise, doubling proficiency bonuses for 2 skills, and again gets proficiency at 6th level. This goes a long way towards rounding out Robin as a character from the very start. The Rogue gets lots of support for sneaking, and is a capable fighter, so the expertise can be spent on rounding out Robins leadership, daring acrobatic feats or woodsman-ship. Or it could double-down on his thievery with stealth and slight-of-hand.

Sneak Attack, the Rogue’s big thing, leaves me in two minds. It feels unsporting of Robin Hood to start a fight with a sneak attack, and I’m not sure every Robin would do that. It also encourages the rogue to dip in and out of combat to get new sneak attacks which is unbecoming of a major antagonist. But it’s not that detrimental, these are minor gripes.

Most of the Rogue’s other core features are about dodging and sneaking, which is fine, but the Thieves’ Cant can be reflavoured as a dialect used by Robin and his Merry Men to communicate surreptitiously whilst near the forces of the Sheriff. The Thief archetype works well for a Robin who sneaks into castles and loots chests, but the Assassin actually fits Robin better. All of the disguise and infiltration abilities fit the concept of Robin sneaking into an important event before whipping back his hood to reveal himself, much to the irritation of the Prince or Sheriff, before a snappy fight ensues wherein Robin rescues Maid Marion or steals the Prince’s coronet etc.

(Throughout this I didn’t mention the nobility element of Robin Hood, as that is easily handled by choosing Noble as a background.)

King John hunting a stag with hounds

Summary

In OSE Robin should be a Thief or maybe a Fighter.

In 5e Robin should be a Rogue (subclass Assassin) or a Fighter.

Class structures can be limiting. If we could get the Oath from the Paladin, matching it with some forestry skills from the Ranger, some fighting skills from the Fighter, and the Rogue’s expertise and sneaking. Multi-classing would be doable. A total mess, but a doable mess.

However, the class structure is not so limiting that we’re left with no options for Robin Hood. In fact, we are left with two options in both systems. I don’t know if that is a win or not. I do know that it would be easier to represent a pre-defined character idea in skill based system than a class based one.

Also I have twitter, where you can follow me for occasional hot takes, blog updates, and highlights from the rpgs I am running.

Example hot-take below.

One thought on “What D&D class would Robin Hood be?

  1. In Whitehack 3e, Robin Hood could be a Deft (class) Outlaw (vocation) with the additional group Nobility (affiliation) reflecting the whole Sir Robin of Loxley thing. His next group affiliation as he levels up would presumably be Outlaws of Sherwood Forest. He’d probably be attuned to Bow and Quarterstaff and later Sherwood Forest and Streets of Nottingham.

    Liked by 1 person

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