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


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.

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Example hot-take below.

Minimalist Modular Magic for 5e and DnD clones

Minimalist Modular Fire Magic

This is the blueprint for most fire magic. It’s what a 1st level fire spell would look like.

Each of the numerical elements – the radius of the sphere; the range; and the damage – can be increased.

Each increase in any of those three areas increases the spell level by one.

So a 1st level fire spell makes a sphere of radius 5ft, has a range of 120ft and does 4d6 fire damage.

A wizard can cast their 2nd level fire spell as any of the below:

  • A 5ft radius sphere, 120ft range and 8d6 damage
  • A 20ft radius sphere, 120ft range and 4d6 damage
  • A 5ft radius sphere, 240ft range and 8d6 damage

Under this system, wizards can modify their spell to suit the situation they are in.

If a wizard with access to 4th level spells wants to cast a fireball with a radius of 40ft, then it can either have a range of 120ft and deal 8d6 damage, or it can have a range of 240ft but deal just 4d6 damage.

The power of the fireball increases in line with the idea of ‘Quadratic Wizards‘.

A wizard casting fireball as a cantrip would use the 1st level blueprint, except they would halve two of the values. For example, 4d6 damage but only 60ft of range and 2.5ft radius for the sphere.

In fact, the numbers I’ve use keep the power levels approximately the same as Firebolt, Burning Hands, Fireball and Meteor Swarm in 5e.

Nuclear fireballs – an oft-ignored cautionary tale for overly-enthusiastic fire wizards.

Fire Magic status quo

Here’s a brief rundown of the fire magic spells in the player’s handbook. I’m only including spells where the main purpose is fire damage and which wizards can cast.

SpellLevelDamageRangeExplanation and details
Fire BoltCantrip1d10 fire120ft1 target
Burning Hands1st3d6 fire15ftCone area of effect
Scorching Ray2nd2d6 fire120ft3 attacks at up to 3 targets
Flaming Sphere2nd2d6 fire60ft5ft diameter sphere, move 30ft each turn, damage each round
Fireball3rd8d6 fire120ft20ft radius sphere
Wall of Fire4th5d8 fire120ft60ft long, 20ft high, 1ft thick
Flame Strike5th8d6 mixed60ft10ft radius, 40ft high cylinder, fire and radiant damage
Delayed Blast Fireball7th12d6 fire150ft20ft radius sphere, 1d6 more damage per round for 1min
Incendiary Cloud8th10d8 fire150ft20ft radius sphere, move 10ft per round, damage each round
Meteor Swarm9th40d6 mixed1 mile40ft radius sphere, fire and bludgeoning damage

Some thoughts:

  • As they advance, wizards can use their fire magic attack to:
    • Do increasing damage to each target
    • Hit more targets at once
    • Hit targets which are increasingly far away
  • Most of the spells are fire damage in an area of effect, but some have their own gimmicks
    • Flaming Sphere, Wall of Fire and Incendiary Cloud all persist on the battlefield
    • Delayed Blast Fireball has a ramp up in its damage until it is released
  • There is a mildly annoying lack of symmetry.
    • There’s no 6th level fire spell for Wizards. They have Sunbeam but it only does radiant damage.
    • Most spells use d6s but not all of them.
  • Each spell takes roughly 1/4 of a page, so in all they take about 2.5 pages.

There is some functionality to the spells above which the modular system does not have. However, they can be patched on.

  • At a cost of 2 spell-levels, a fireball can persist for a minute, and can be directed to move 30ft every round as a bonus action. Creatures inside the fireball make a save at the start of their turn etc.
  • At a cost of 2 spell-levels, a fireball can be delayed for a minute, with the damage increasing by 1d6 for every round of combat that it is held for.

In fact, any desired functionality could be patched on.

The minor annoyances have gone since every level has fireball magic and it all uses d6s.

The modular version is also a lot more concise – perhaps half a page rather than 2.5 pages.

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