Thread: What should Rogues do?
Thursday, 4th October, 2012, 02:40 AM #11
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
- Join Date
- Aug 2007
ø Ignore Crazy Jerome
Timely topic. I've been thinking on this for the last week, and I think I have a new way to frame the problem, even if I don't have an answer to it:
We've been misconstruing the essential characteristics that define the rogue. Instead of skill money or trickster or stabber or thief, rogues are characters that swing back and forth between "gambler" and "plotter".
That is, any adventurer can be a risk taker or a careful planner, or even vary a bit between the two depending upon situations, but rogues are practically defined as "more swings back and forth, more extreme swings, one extreme cycles into the other and back again".
Take the 1E thief, for example. What is a backstab? It's the rogue "plotting" very carefully, maybe even over several rounds, for the big "gamble" payoff of doing a lot of damage all at once. The 3E and 4E sneak attack mechanic tries to fix the balance issues in the backstab by making it more reliable, but while fun in a "swashbuckling" style, that particular fix works counter to the essense of the rogue. I've noticed this in our Next playtest rogues by comparison. The effect is still a bit too reliable and repeatable (hide this round to strike next round), but they really enjoy that whole bit of planning for the big score.
Then what about scouting and sneaking? Same deal. They work best when the rogue is needing to be careful because the risk/reward is stronger than normal. Sneak up on the orcs, then maybe the party can ambush them. Get spotted, the orcs will get to beat on the rogue separated from his friends. I've seen this work well and not so well in the playtest. If I consciously put the rogue into a situation where they have some information, but can get more by getting closer, this dynamic works better. That is, you need decision points so the rogue can decide how big a gamble he wants to take.
There are some possible analogs with climbing, using devices, picking locks, checking for traps, bluffing, etc, some more obvious than others. I think the rogue's abilities should reinforce this plotting/gambling dichotomy. Skill mastery should work on the same principle. When a rogue bluffs, he can set up the bluff for a potentially bigger payoff, but runs more risk when it fails.
The exact mechanics to pull that off are tricky. Like I said, I don't have the answers. I do intuit that every rogue should always have at least some abilities that are gambling oriented, some that are plotting oriented, and a good mix that are both (such as a sneak attack that can't work without planning). Then ideally the choices for later abilities would also include a mix, such that a rogue makes subtle shifts to the playstyle towards more gambling or more plotting by those picks. The flavor of these picks on other questions can be all over the place. You can have "trickster" flavored abilities that cater to plotting, gambing, or the mix.
Last edited by Crazy Jerome; Thursday, 4th October, 2012 at 02:46 AM.
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IMO, the first thing they need to do with rogues is to get them the heck out of combat.
Don't get me wrong, stabin' tricky goodness should absolutely be an option. But I don't think it should be the rogue's identity. The rogue isn't the guy you turn to when you need something stabbed. Usually, that's the Fighter.
The rogue is the guy you turn to when you need access or information. The rogue is powerful on the Exploration axis like the fighter is powerful on the Combat axis: a master of progress in that domain. There is no door a rogue cannot get past. There is no secret a rogue can't discover. There is no lock a rogue cannot pick. There is no trap a rogue cannot find and then subsequently get around. There is no clever facade of lies and half-truths that the rogue cannot uncover. Your most precious secrets are not safe with a rogue around.
Need a dragon slain, hire a Fighter. Need a mystery solved, call in a Rogue.
For that, I think we need a peek at some of the non-combat systems they're developing in 5e. We could just give the rogue a +2 bonus to all ability checks and be done with it, but much like the original fighter's +2 bonus to damage, it's not quite enough options.
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Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
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- City of Champions
ø Ignore Shadeydm
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Enchanter (Lvl 12)
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- Jan 2002
- Decatur, AL
ø Ignore JRRNeiklot
The thief should be the master of striking from surprise. None of this flanking crap. He should do a crapton of damage by backstabbing from surprise, and be just adequate otherwise. He should be a master of stealth, and going where others can't. His skill list should look familiar - stealth, pick locks, pick pockets, climb walls, read languages, disguise, find/remove traps, and hear noise.
Lama (Lvl 13)
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- Jan 2002
ø Ignore Li Shenron
To me the quintessential Rogue is Indiana Jones, who never wants to be in a combat, and when he's in one, he always manages to win with a trick or sheer luck (e.g. the enemy gets stuck in a crushing machine, distracted while the airplane blades get him from behind, or Indy wins a fight against a master swordman by... pulling out a gun and shooting at him).
For me the Rogue is not so much the competent guy but rather the guy who knows how to make up for its incompetences: jams a device when he doesn't know how to properly switch it off; bluff the guards when he cannot legitimately obtain entrance permission; forge documents when he doesn't have real ones; steal when he cannot afford to buy; and in combat, trick the opponent into his own doom when he wouldn't stand a chance in a fair fight.
But I can see that there's a problem with my view. If the Rogue is the master at overcoming incompentences, who is the actual competent master of skills?
A possible answer is: anyone who wants to be.
It shouldn't take a Rogue to be a master locksmith or an athlete, and maybe the Rogue shouldn't even be potentially a better locksmith or athlete than someone else.
Maybe it's ok for the Rogue to be more easily a master of a larger number of things at the same time (i.e. more skill "points"), but it is not the most important thing. The most important thing IMHO is that he can compensate for skills he doesn't have, although this should not be strictly intended as actual "skills" as defined mechanically, but in the broader sense of being able at problem-solving. I think that the key lies in what they will put into Skill Mastery i.e. how skills work differently for a Rogue rather than how many she has.
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Lama (Lvl 13)
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- Port Coquitlam
ø Ignore MortalPlague
Another idea that someone put forward in a different thread was for rogues to 'gamble' on skill checks. So instead of a boring "minimum result of 10", you have the immediate option to reroll a failed skill check. If you take the reroll, you get another shot at success, but if you fail, you fail in spectacular fashion. It models the highs and lows of rogue luck in such a fun way.
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Magsman (Lvl 14)
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ø Ignore Tony Vargas
Seriously, the Thief and, later, Rogue, has been an inadequate class from the get-go. It's combat abilities are barely worth considering, and it's non-combat abilities don't stack up to spell-casting. It's an inadequate class.
The fighter's been nearly as bad, it's combat-focused to, and far beyond, the point of bone-headed stupidity. No one could really be as utterly worthless outside of a fight as the D&D fighter. Again, and inadequate and incomplete class.
Most other classes have meaningful combat abilities and meaningful out-of-combat ones. Any class that casts spells, for instance, will have both combat and utility spells.
So, combine the Fighter & Rogue and, while still strictly inferior any caster who has the right spell for the task at hand, at least it'll be inferior in both the combat /and/ non-combat portions of the game.
Quite possibly. It's not a bad mechanic, so it's unlikely to be limited to the fighter.But any speculation on what would such a mechanic be? Would it be a renewable pool of dice like Combat Superiority?
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
So are we advocating rogues who can pull off things with mundane skills that match what wizards do with magic? I mean, I guess you could have something like:
Rogue Stealth. You're invisible.
Rogue Climb. You're spiderman.
Rogue Bluff. The target is dominated.
Rogue Disable Device. You turn the door into an animated object that attacks creatures passing through it. Just hope the rogue doesn't get his hands on a ballista.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
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- Feb 2010
ø Ignore Neonchameleon
Rogue Stealth: You appear to blend wherever you are. Even if someone's looking straight at a painting behind you they'll reflexively walk past you and never think about you standing in the way.
Rogue Climb: You're spiderman. Or an expert free-climber turned up to 11.
Rogue Bluff: The target believes whatever you are telling them to do. And no detect magic is ever going to find out otherwise. They aren't dominated - they just believe that their best interests align with whatever you've convinced them. (Think Suggestion on steroids with no magical trace).
Rogue disarm traps: You hold a button in your hand that can control the pit trap - it only now triggers when you press it. Or you've just spring-loaded the door and have the posoned needle trap facing outwards.
The rogue can convincingly pass himself off as nearly anyone with a little time and preparation. To use this ability, 1/day the player temporarily stops playing. His character is presumed to have donned a disguise and gone “off camera”. At any subsequent point during play the player may choose any nameless, filler character (a villain’s minion, a bellboy in the hotel, the cop who just pulled you over) in a scene and reveal that that character is actually the PC in disguise!
Rogue Master Disguise
You inhabit your disguises so completely that you can actually fully inhabit another persona and unlock hidden skills and knowledge you don’t normally possess. While in a disguise, you may roll your Deceit minus two (so Fair if Great, or Good if Superb) instead of any other skill the disguised persona might reasonably possess. If you are outright imitating someone specific, sometimes this might give you a higher effective skill than they actually have – which is fine. You’re not a mind-reader, you’re simply so good at pretending that you can actually, temporarily unlock a skill that you believe your persona could have. Any time you use this stunt, you must roll a DC-10 saving throw. If you miss that target, you become lost in the persona for a time...
Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)
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- Aug 2002
- Burlington, MA
ø Ignore DEFCON 1
The Story of the Rogue has been hashed out quite well over the last several editions, so I don't think we have a need to work on that. But the big issue right now are the mechanics used to convey that Story.
Rogues are supposed to have a wider range of applicable adventuring skills than other classes, and be less prone to mess up with them. Right now that is being conveyed by the second Background (giving the Rogue six skills) and Skill Mastery (changing any roll of 1-9 to 10). While I'm fine with the second Background to a certain extent (I like the additional trained skills gained, but the second Background Story the PC now layers on seems a bit like overkill)... I'm not a fan of Skill Mastery because that "hard floor" of a minimum roll takes away some drama for me. There are now just too many DCs the Rogue cannot fail on, and thus screws up bounded accuracy if the DM wants to assign a DC that will be a challenge for the Rogue, while at the same time also not be completely impossible for the other PCs to accomplish as well. I'd prefer another method of conveying Rogues being "better" at skills.
To me... there's a simple way to accomplish it that's already in the game:
Rogues roll all Ability Checks with Advantage.
The elves get to roll all their WIS checks for perception with Advantage and so far I have not found that to be too over the top... so why not give the Rogues the same thing? They will usually always have pretty good rolls (like you'd want from Skill Mastery)... and yet they occasionally still can fail. It'll be rare, for sure... but unlike Skill Mastery, its possible. And what I like about this idea is that if/when the party is in a crazy situation where the Rogue and/or the entire party is suffering from Disadvantage (say, in the midst of a thunderstorm)...
...the Rogue now gets to make his ability checks normally because of the Ad/Disad cancellation. There is something to be said for a PC class that is so good under pressure that even on a bucking longboat in the midst of a tidal wave... the Rogue can make a DEX check to balance without ever suffering Disadvantage.
THAT'S an ability that is more dramatic to me. Never rolling under a 10 is 'meh'... but never suffering from Disadvantage on any ability check is cool. That's grace under fire. That's Indiana Jones.
Now on the off-chance that granting automatic Advantage for the Rogue on all ability checks does become too much and is too much of an advantage (pun intended)... then I have a secondary mechanic that could also serve as a possibility...
The Rogue is the only class where multiple cases of Advantage stack.
For all PCs currently... it doesn't matter how many Advantages you are operating under... the first time you get a Disadvantage as well, they all cancel out. But perhaps the Rogue is the one class where that doesn't happen on ability checks? If you have two Advantages and one Disadvantage... the Rogue still has Advantage.
I know that this goes against the stated elegance of the Ad/Disad mechanic of not needing to remember how many of each a particular PC has on them at any one time (which is why they cancel each other out)... but perhaps this is the ONE CASE where having a player remember how many of each he has would be okay and provide a cool bonus.
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