Posted by : David Guyll May 08, 2012

I guess according to Twitter it was supposed to be the wizard's turn to show off her design goals, but the rogue *ahem* stole the spotlight.

Ultimately the design goals can be condensed into two key points: rogues do not fight fair, and they are skilled. So, very, very skilled.

The first part I have no problem with, and has basically always been there from the start. In older editions I guess thieves had to work a bit more in order to get their backstab off, but it was probably relatively cooler given that ability scores did not do much to affect melee attack and damage output.

In other words, landing one big attack without much of a risk of getting caught was better than trying to go toe-to-claw with a big monster.

This was made easier to pull of in 3rd and 4th Edition, as all you really needed was to flank a monster. 3rd Edition made it a bit riskier, partly because there were plenty of monster types that were immune to critical hits (and therefore sneak attacks), but mostly because there was no way for a fighter to actually defend you from a monster should it decide to turn its attention to you.

4th Edition reduced the damage quite a bit, but opened up the floodgate on what was fair game, and with fighter-types being actually able to keep monsters off of you, it was easier to get into the fray without much fear of retribution...not that rogues did not have tricks of their own to get away when that happened.

From the sounds of things it looks like rogues are somewhat receding back to 3rd Edition, with a more rapidly scaling sneak attack an emphasis on waiting for an opportune moment. I would like to see 4th Edition's flexibility maintained, so that players can make a thief-type, swashbuckler-type, or even a street thug-type depending on their tastes.

As for skills, they will apparently be able to reach a higher degree of mastery than other classes in a given skill. Since the statement lacks a qualifier for either skills or classes, I take this to mean that if they want to be better at Arcana than a wizard, or know more about Religion than a cleric, they can.

This mastery extends to them performing feats that while not technically magical, certainly seem so. The only magical-ish think mentioned was slipping through shadows, the idea that a rogue could spin a lie so complex that even magic would be hard-pressed to unravel is pretty appealing. To top it off, the article states that they will be able to do so without "much exertion", and that "luck and chance play no role in determining success".

On one hand I can kind of see where they are coming from, as back when rogues were called thieves they were one of two classes that had more than a handful of skills. As editions progressed they became one of the classes that got the most skill points or trained skill choices. In order words there is a reason why they are commonly labeled the "skill-monkey".

On the other hand--if the article is to be believed--I do not particularly like the idea of a rogue being able to transcend any class in any skill they choose. Lots of stuff I do not have a problem with, but I think that wizards should be head of the class at wizard-type skills like Arcana, extraplanar knowledge, alchemy, etc, and that rangers and druids should be the best at nature and what-have-you.

Ultimately I am curious to see how both goals play out, though I am a bit wary of the latter. But, hey, that is what a playtest is for.

{ 1 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. That skill stuff does seem more than a bit wonky. I do like the committment to giving Rogues fast talking abilities, but with no roll?

    The problem with Thieves, as they were originally called, is that it doesn't sound like so much like a class as it is a job or outlook. Even looking at some of the fiction D&D was based on, Conan was a thief, but clearly a member of the fighter class. From the halfling thief archetype, we could guess Bilbo and Frodo were inspirations for thieves, but without the One Ring, they don't exactly have the same power level as Gandalf or Aragorn.

    To thrive in the 4-class environment of D&D, they need to have access to the same kind of abilities the other classes do. Instead of Bilbo, they should be based on movie and TV super-spies and other epic masters of subterfuge. It's all skill, but you don't know how they did it.

    Think stage magicians, rather than wizards. They should be scaling walls like wuxia heroes, making escapes worthy of Houdini, disguising themselves like they were on Mission Impossible, getting bonuses to elaborate heists and cons, and going from spot X to spot Y without anyone noticing like some kind of short range teleportation. I want my thief to surprise the party by taking off and opening the door from the other side. And in combat, I want my thief to face a bad guy that does a double take because the thief glued up his scabbard. I want the class tricksy well beyond the idea of sneaking up for more damage, which I find very dull indeed.



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