HD&D: The Rogue

What, more playtest-ready material for HD&D? Could it be that we’re in danger of sticking to the playtest deadline of 5 October? We still have Spells, Clerics, Wizards and an updated post on Races to get through in the next few weeks, but it’s looking promising, isn’t it?

The Thief, the Thug and the Backstabber

So, the Rogue… I openly confess, that I probably haven’t given quite as much thought to the Rogue as I have to many of these other classes. I suspect there could be some advantages in not overthinking things too much. As it stands, the rogue is a class that seems to write itself. A bit of sneak attacking, some hiding, some sneaking and Bob’s a close relative.

There was very little of the fourth edition rogue that I felt I could bring into HD&D. The class abilities from PHB 1, Martial Power and Martial Power 2 didn’t seem particularly distinctive outside the context of 4e. The rogue’s powers were equally flavourless. Most of them concern themselves with attacking, dealing significant amounts of damage and then shifting away without provoking opportunity attacks. All of that’s really summed up by a couple of talents in the hybrid game.

I am a little concerned that the HD&D is more of a damage dealer than he was in third edition. A clever selection of feats and talents could allow the rogue to add his sneak attack damage multiple times in a round. This maintains the ‘striker’ role bequeathed by 4e. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that as (to me) that’s not really what a rogue is all about.

Still you have a look and tell me what you think:

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16 thoughts on “HD&D: The Rogue

  1. I like rogues generally but they are more of a combat monster than I would want. I do like Devious Sniping though.
    So what’s missing?
    Thieves’ cant?
    Perhaps an increased focus on skills – gaining additional skill training at set levels or tiers.
    Or how about feats that impose penalties on the opponent (possibly more suitable for a bard or cavalier):
    You use the terrain around you to wrong foot your opponent causing them to take a -1 to their attacks for every odd level you have (So a level 5 rogue would cause a -3 penalty to attack, a level 21 rogue would cause a -11 penalty).
    This would be the equivalent of throwing sand or a drink in their face, or perhaps pulling down curtains, pulling out rugs, forcing them to bump into or trip over furniture, etc.

    I fear they, like most of 4ed characters, have become too soulless and lacking in colour.

  2. Hi Malcolm.

    I think, to be fair I should point out that almost all the talents here are direct updates of third edition class talents. The HD&D rogue bears far more ressemblance to the third edition and Pathfinder rogue than (for example) the fighter does to the third edition fighter.

    However, the uniform way that skills are acquired an applied in HD&D do rob the Rogue of his enduring third edition shtick: he was a skill-monkey. Now, he’s not a skill-monkey. He’s got as many skill points as everyone else. Of course, his favoured skill list is slanted toward the character’s traditional strengths.

    We do have feats and talents like Devious Sniping, Hide in Plain Sight, Ledge Walker, Rapid Stealth and Skill Mastery that enhance the rogue’s signature skills. Do we need more?

    I’m not sure that Thieves’ Cant is exciting enough to be a feat or a talent. Perhaps better to call it a special language only available to Rogues (in much the same way as Thari is to druids)?

    The rogue shares three talents with the fighter: Sudden Riposte, Acrobatic Élan and Parry. I’ve kept these, as they fall squarely under the Swashbuckler archetype: something that’s as relevent to the rogue as it is to the fighter. However, these talents do succeed in edging up the damage a rogue can inflict. That said, I’m not sure that they’d be able to match the fighter without multiclassing into fighter, and taking talents like Double Attack or Two Weapon Fighting.

    Your idea for creating a fear to mimic a rogue fighting with his environment is an interesting one. It’s something I may go with. However, it does bring up a certain interesting point: How far should talents go in dictating ‘story’ elements during combat?

    A problem I’ve always had with the 4e powers is that they force the GM to constantly interpret combat to make sense of the power. The warlord’s Inspiring Word power is the obvious example: where the warlord manages to heal an ally’s hit points simply by telling him to “pull himself together”. But there are also powers like the 4e Rogue’s Bait and Switch. The rogue hits an opponent and they swap places. How does the GM describe that when the rogue is facing a gargantuan dragon?

    I think I’ve said this before, but very specific powers like Bait and Switch run the risk of making us lazy. Rather than coming up with clever strategies ourselves to get out of situations, we fall back upon the power because it is easier. Surely anyone can grab a handful of sand and throw it in the eyes of their opponent, or topple furniture in an attempt to stop pursuit, or slice through a cord and drop a heavy curtain on the dastardly villain. We don’t need special powers or talents to give us permission to do these things, the canny player should always be looking for new and innovative ways to gain the advantage over his foes.

    I’m not particularly singling out your suggestion here. This is more of an observation on the game as a whole. At what point does the system stop holding the player’s hand? At what point must the player taken responsibility for his own tactics? It’s a very 4e way of thinking to depend on the system to take care of this for you. In third edition (and even more so in second edition) players were left to their own devices in coming up with absurd schemes. Is that what we should be trying to invoke in HD&D as well?

  3. The reason the powers were made explicit in 4e is because they were not explicit in 3e, which led to a large number of GM’s not allowing players to do things like throw sand in their opponant’s eyes.

    I won’t say whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s just a thing.

    That isn’t an issue for HD&D though, so creative uses of the environment can remain outside of written purview.

  4. I think players should all aim to use the environment around them in their actions, sadly 4e has sucked away almost everything unless some rule exists to allow it. Perhaps I am tring to cater for this environment – justifying a combat advantage with stylistic description – rather than relying on the good judgment of the DM to accept such innovation.
    Of course if I were assured of inflicting such penalties against my opponents from behaving in this way I’d probably adjust my fighting style to suit this each session. At some point will the DM tire of this though?

    • Not really, Page 42 of the DMG explicitly states that DM’s should encourage players to do fancy things and give them bonuses for doing so. One of the nice advantages is the little table that tells you what an average attack\damage value should be based on character levels, which saves a lot of time.

      The problem is that a lot of DM’s don’t like operating outside of the explicitly defined rules. I hear a lot of horror tales about players and DM’s waging what amounts to cold wars against each other with periodic Afghanistans, although i myself have never experienced this, i can see why a DM who does have players like that would baulk from letting them do anything that isn’t explicitly defined by the rules.

      It’s got nothing to do with 4e; exactly the same thing has always happened in all games ever.

      The main problem with environment stuff is always going to be effectiveness; if kicking a brazier into an enemy is more effective than whacking him with a sword, your players are going to start using braziers as weapons instead of their swords. If it’s less effective then they’re not going to bother.

      Using the environment well without a battlemat is probably asking a bit much in most cases though; no matter how well you describe something, everyone will still have subtly (or not so subtly) different images in their head. I wouldn’t expect people to really get creative with the environment without at least sketching something vague on a piece of paper so everyone can see definitively where everything is.

  5. I think that using the environment (by which I mean the ground, tables, chairs, chandeliers, natural hazards etc.) successfully can be a tricky thing.

    Firstly, you need a good GM who can evocatively, succinctly and accurately describe the world around the PCs. With no battle mat and no miniatures, there isn’t a ‘definitive’ version of reality that players and GMs can reference. This places some heavy responsibility on the GM’s shoulders.

    But, you also need creative players who are willing to give things a go, even if success is far from certain. It’s all very well, the GM describing the long benches next to the tables in the inn; it’s up to the player to decide to jump on one end and whack his foe under the chin.

    This is why it’s easier to have powers for this sort of thing. 4e even has a “swing on a chandelier” power. It’s an at-will power in DMG 2. Anyone can use it, as long as they’re adjacent to a chandelier. Slightly misguided, I think.

    To take your point, I can absolutely guarantee you that (as a GM) I would reward imaginative and cinematic tactics when fighting. Two fighters standing toe-to-toe and repeatedly clubbing each other on the head until one falls over, is just a bit dull. Anything that spices that up is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

    Now there are special rules for grappling, or pushing someone over, or barging past them… but only because these are actions that require mechanics. And the mechanics in HD&D for these manouevres are pretty simple. There are of course dozens and dozens of other tactics that the rules do not cover.

    The one thing to remember is that attempted use of the environment doesn’t guarantee an advantage. You might have a great plan, but fumble your roll. Your plan might just be pants, or the GM might rule that it’s impossible in this particular situation. But I don’t think I would ever tire of a player trying these things.

  6. Ah, yes. I remember the section in the 4e DMG on Actions the Rules Don’t Cover. It offers some good advice, such as the bonuses and penalties to unfavourable and favourable conditions. Of course, these are the same as the third edition rules.

    I have to say that I’m not a very big fan of the table on that page, though. It seems to sum up everything that’s wrong with fourth edition D&D. If a 10th level ogre stumbles into a fiery brazier, it inflicts 2d8+5 damage. If a 20th level ogre stumbles into the same fiery brazier then it inflicts 3d6+8 damage.

    I can see why 4e works that way: rules-based consistancy. Some things are more important than balance, however.

    I take your point about the effectiveness of the environment. Sometimes the choice will be style over substance. And even if it is more effective to throw hot coals in the face of your enemy then stab him with your dagger, the chances are you’re only going to be able to pull that off once during a fight. There’s still plenty of recourse to stabbage.

  7. Neil has commented on the last few posts. I’ll pop it all down here for simplicity’s sake:

    I have read the latest enties in your blog and can’t help think that you are over complicating things. Whilst I applaud your efforts and I personally agree with armour being damage reduction rather than to-hit reduction, I think it could get bogged down in the detail to be properly implemented. If you do want this level of detail it should be throughout the system and it quite simply isn’t.

    First off there is very little difference in the attributes of some armours other than price; spiked leather and studded leather for example, begging the question why would my character buy the more expensive armour?

    Second, I’m no expert but I believe a squire was required to put on full plate and it would take considerably more than 4 mins! Having said this, I think that this is too much detail and not at all necessary, how many times have characters taken off armour in your games, ever? Whilst I see the realism in having to take time, this is high fantasy and shouldn’t be bogged down in such trivia, leave that to the rolemasters of this world.

    Thirdly, weapon bonuses against different armours need to be completely re-thought. For example you cannot say that a quarter staff (blunt) can penetrate plate armour better than an axe (slashing) for example. Yes, a flanged mace was designed to crush plate armour and therefore injure the person inside but that is a very specific weapon designed to counter plate. Also, a great sword was more like a big iron bar than a traditional sword so it should be blunt and piercing, not slashing.

    Fourth, the damage reduction from armour is not enough for anyone to seriously consider their armour choice (considering the disadvantages). If I’m a thief I will choose cloth or leather, depending on whether I have a high enough dex bonus to worry about the cap. If I am a wizard maybe I’d think about scale, a fighter nothing higher than scale mail.

    Fifth, as I have said before, with HP increasing with level, it makes armour less and less useful at higher levels until it is probably redundant. Even 5 points off of a weapon is nothing if the weapon is doing 50 points of damage and I have 150 HP!

    My last point is concerned with the difference between rogue and fighter. IMHO ALL fighter types, regardless of how they fight, are fighters. Anyone who goes toe-to-toe with an enemy, unless desperate is a fighter (or maybe certain clerics). Rogues are not a combat class, they do everything they can to avoid combat and will only get involved either from afar or through the use of traps, poisons etc. with this in mind your rogue talents are far too martial IMHO. The worst culprit is sneak attack, 1d6 extra every other level?! An extra 11d6 at 21st level! If he has the backstabber feat it is 11d8! Perhaps I’m wrong but do any of the other classes have anything comparable? The fighter doesn’t seem to. Also, why can’t the fighter have sneak attack, or something mechanically simlar called, for example, “voonerables atack”? A fighter has spent their life perfecting combat surely if any class should get such horrendous bonuses it is them? Where’s the balance you say you are striving for? The only possible comparison for a fighter is triple attack but this needs another talent plus is only accessible at 21st level.

    You only need to look at recent games to see the ludicrous attacking ability of a rogue (Falco and Graham’s character). But they need combat advantage I hear you cry, yes but how difficult is that to get? Judging from the aforementioned character, not very. Unless you make getting CA a lot more difficult, or can only get it for the first attack without disengaging and then performing a successful stealth action, for example, rogues are too powerful. Combined with their other abilities such as stealth, sleight of hand, pick locks etc they are the class to be in 4e and, it seems, HD&D.

    Wrapping this all up, take a 21st level rogue with backstab feat against a knight in full plate. I don’t know HP for the two or weapon damage but potentially 88+ points of damage is a lot. Subtract the DR of 9 for the knight’s armour and it is still 79+ from a dagger/light crossbow!

    Below is a link to a page from a blog I thought might be of interest.

    Evolution of Armour

  8. Thanks for the link. When I have the chance I’ll give that a good read. I feel as though I should be educating myself about this sort of thing. Now, let’s answer some of your points:

    Armour

    Well, there’s always the question of availability of the armour. Armour like scale mail or banded mail is often found instead of plate armours. There’s also weight to consider: some characters may be too weedy to cope with something as heavy as chain, so they choose something out.

    I see your point, although studded leather and spiked leather isn’t the best example. Spiked Leather is covered in damaging spikes, that inflict damage if you try to grapple your foe. That’s where the difference in price comes from in that instance.

    However, all things being equal – and all armour being equally available – I’m sure that some sets would be more popular than others with PCs. But that’s always been the case in D&D hasn’t it?

    Donning Armour

    Yes, the chances are that this will never come up. However, these rules have appeared in almost every edition of D&D, so it seems appropriate to include them somewhere. And there’s always the chance the paladin gets thrown into a lake while wearing plate mail and has to see if he can take the armour off before he drowns.

    And, I don’t know if it takes four minutes to don plate armour. I know what’s what the third edition rulebooks says, so I’m going to stick with that.

    Weapons vs Armour

    Yes, you’re right. These rules have to be completely rethought. I’m beginning to think that having different categories of Armour and different categories of Weapons may be a mistake. Nothing this complex exists in the Basic Roleplaying (d100) system, or even in GURPS.

    I’m going to ignore the bonuses and penalties for penetrating armour when I run the play test. We’ll see how the rules stand without them. If and when I return to them, I’ll try and give each weapon unique properties to try and simulate these properties more effectively. And the quarterstaff certainly won’t work the same way as the flanged mace.

    The level of Armour Class

    No-one except a fighter, warlord or paladin could wear anything heavier than brigandine or a chain shirt. As for the fighters themselves… would they really stop at scale mail? Personally, I think that plate mail would be the one to aim for, to be honest. The Amour Optimisation talent can get around pesky armour check penalties and maximum dexterity adjustments.

    Maybe with the rules for blunt weapons vs plate armour as they stood in the previous post, plate armour was a less attractive option. Disregarding those rules (as I now intend to) I don’t think it’s that bad. It really depends on how many feats you’re willing to spend to protect yourself.

    Taking 50 points of damage in one blow is unusual in HD&D. You might suffer 50 damage in a round, but it’ll be in the shape of several hits that each inflict less damage. As the character’s AC applies to each hit separately, then armour with a higher AC value confers exponentially greater protection. Unless you’re sneak-attacked of course….

    The Rogue and Sneak Attack

    I thought that some of the rogue talents were a bit too martial – although I was singling out the three talents they share with fighters, and not Sneak Attack. I honestly don’t think Sneak Attack is much of an issue, for the following reasons:

    1) It wasn’t a problem in third edition. The rules are almost identical to the third edition rules set, and rogues never out-paced fighters in terms of damage in that edition. At least not in my campaigns.

    2) The key limitation on sneak attack is that you have to take a Standard Action to attack with it. That means (unless you spend an action point) you can only make one sneak attack per round. Usually sneak attack needs to be done with small light weapon – like a short sword.

    By contrast a 21st level fighter, is attacking three times per round. His attacks will do less damage than a single sneak attack, but there will be three of them (or six of them, if he’s a two weapon fighter).

    Let’s compare two 21st level character. One is a rogue with Str 18, Weapon Specialisation feat, sneak-attacking with short sword as a standard action.

    The second is a figther Str 24 also with the Weapon Specialisation feat and the Overwhelming Assault talent attacking three times with the great sword. This is also one standard action:

    Rogue: 12d6 + 7 (av. 49) or 1d6 + 11d8 + 7 (av. 60) with Backstabber
    Fighter: 6d10 + 30 (av. 63)

    Yes, the fighter needs to take a few extra talents to get to that level – but the rogue will want to diversify into more areas than just stabbing people. And, as you say, he needs combat advantage to pull this off. It’s not too tricky to get combat advantage, but the rogue still needs to fight intelligently to make it work.

    But the rogue still has a benefit. He’s doing 49 damage in one attack. The fighter is making three attacks each inflicting 21 damage. The rogue’s attack is better against very heavily armoured foes. But then, that’s why it’s called sneak attack.

    The benefit of the way HD&D works (in my opinion) is even if the rogue multiclassed into fighter, he still wouldn’t be able to sneak attack more than once per round, because each attempt to sneak attack is a standard action.

    The 4e rogue is designed to deal more damage than the fighter. That’s why Falco is so effective. As for Graham’s winged githzerai wererat beholder-crossbreed (that was an odd campaign), well… there was a lot wrong with that character, but very little of it could be traced back to him having sneak attack!

    When I look at the damage of spells and other talents, they will be weighted against the damage that fighters and rogues can dish out. No class gets left behind, although some will do significantly less damage than others. I don’t think we’d want our illusionists any other way.

    The Voonerables!

    Yes, fighters can do this. There are feats and class abilities in third edition called Dirty Fighting, which I basically forgot to port over to the first draft of the HD&D fighter. Fighters with those talents inflict more damage with each attack (not just once around).

    So the dwarven giantslayer optimised to repeatedly pummel the large folk in the crotch with his craghammer is still available.

    I don’t really want to take Sneak Attack away from the rogue, though. I know it’s an argument that I often fall back on, but they’ve always had Sneak Attack or Backstab or something similar. Amalgaer would never have been the same without it.

  9. Neil says:

    I hate the idea of the rogue being a combat monkey, that should be the fighter’s job, and it is no use saying that some fighter types fit a rogue better, just change the definition of the class.

    In my opinion character classes should be different from one another; you say you are striving for balance in combat but why? The combat machine should be the fighter or specialist, for example combat mage, nothing else. To make all classes do the same average damage is to take away the very thing the fighter is there for. You don’t expect the fighter to be as good as picking locks as the rogue, or have the same breadth of knowledge as the wizard so why do you expect those classes to be on a par with the fighter in combat? If you insist on all classes being able to do the same sort of damage then you must make sure that each class uses the same number of abilities and upgrades to get there. For example, yes maybe a wizard who has specialised in combat can dish out the same sort of damage as a fighter but he needs to take similar abilities such as enhance damage, multiple strikes etc and you must assume the highest ability of 18 with the wizard upgrading this everytime he can, just as you have assumed for the fighter, and if you go down that route what happens to the character when there is no combat? He is useless because he has spent all his talents, feats and stats on being a better .

    The biggest problem with 4e is that it homogenised classes; a striker can do X so a controller/defender must be able to do the same, only in a slightly different way. They took away the beauty of the wizard, the fact that he can be useful in many different areas, by making the spells do the same thing, basically, as the powers of other classes. in combat he doesn’t have to dish out the damage but could hold the enemy or confuse or panic etc etc

    Classes are there so that people can roleplay different types of character, not just be the same character with a different “skin” which is what you are in danger of making classes in HD&D into.

    11d8 is too much in one hit for a rogue and means, as you said, that they can make mincemeat of heavily armoured foes, ridiculous!

  10. Well. Firstly, I’m not trying to homogenise character classes or ensure that all classes can dish out the same amount of damage in combat. It’s not a notion I’ve seriously entertained.

    Rogues and Fighters should play very differently. The rogue won’t be able to stand toe-to-toe in mêlée with an opponent. They’re unlikely to have the hit points or the Armour Class to sustain those sort of tactics. Neither can they dish out the damage a fighter can. They won’t be as skilled in the weapons they are using. They just won’t be as good at that aspect of the game.

    However, HD&D is a much freer system than any version of D&D before it. Players are encouraged to pick and choose abilities from different classes that suit their character the best. A class-based system is a handy short-cut to creating archetypes. Roleplaying has little to do with the character class in reality. It’s character concept first, and then class. The rules might dictate what you want to play, but not how you play it.

    So basically you could create a character that was a blend of rogue and fighter that would defy many of the tradition D&D conventions. That’s fine. Conan spent his life happily chopping the heads of monsters, and he was technically a thief.

    A war wizard might select only damaging spells, and he might be at a disadvantage in social situations. That’s the player’s choice. There’s no right or wrong way to build a character. The advantage of a game that values interaction and plot over combat is that players shouldn’t feel as though they have to build the biggest combat monster in the world just to survive.

    You think that Sneak Attack is too offensive an ability for a rogue, but I say it is the defining ability of the class. It’s the rogue’s signature power and has been for thirty years. If an epic level rogue can use this power to make mincemat of heavily armoured foes then I applaud that. It’s what the ability is for!

    This doesn’t make the rogue a combat monkey. Far from it. It enables him to sneak up on a foe and stab him in the back for a lot of damage. But if that blow doesn’t kill his opponent then the rogue has to fall back on his mêlée prowess, which may be far from adequate. Rogues can only pull out Sneak Attack in a straight fight if they outnumber their opponents by 2:1. But the archetype of a mob of enforcers is a well founded conceit, and the rules seem to play into that.

    To be honest I don’t see a problem. The HD&D rogue isn’t the 4e striker. He’s not even close. I will grant that the Backstabber feat (that upped sneak attack damage form d6s to d8s) might have been a step too far. I’ll have to see during the playtest to be sure.

  11. If the Fighter has 3 attacks with the same average damage over those 3 attacks as the Rogue with 1 attack, he’s actually got a leg up anyway. The 3 attacks [i]massively[/i] increases the liklihood he’ll hit with at least one attack, as well as giving him more crit opportunities.

    To put it another way; if the fighter misses with 1 attack, he still does 2/3rds of his full average damage. If the Rogue misses with 1 attack, he does [b]no[/b] damage. Statistically, the Fighter will actually perform better over time, as he’ll be hitting more often, he might not be doing as much damage with each hit, but he’s far more reliable.

    On a related note: Rogues, like every other class in the game, absolutely need to be effective in combat. One of the problems Rogues really suffer in 3.5 is that large chunks of monsters, including the vast majority of high level monsters, are flat out immune to sneak attack, which effectively neuters the class at higher levels. Sure they’re still useful as skill monkeys, but that doesn’t make the Rogue player any happier when he can’t help out in a fight.

    Ultimatlely, D&D always comes down to combat, it evolved from wargames and it still has solid roots in those wargames. Yes, non-combat interaction happens, yes i’ve even seen some very compelling non-combat campaigns. But at the end of the day, D&D as written and as usually played is a system to play out several groups of creatures beating each other up.

    Combat has always been the central defining core of D&D, and if there is to be equality (i won’t use the word balance because i’m not sure balance as usually envisioned applies in a co-operative PvE environment) anywhere in the system, it [i]must[/i] be in the combat.

    If the Rogue ends up averaging higher damage than the Fighter, then excellent; the Rogue is a glass cannon, he [i]needs[/i] to be massively front-loaded on the damage, because he just doesn’t have the hitpoints or armor to stand there and take the blows; same with the Wizard, and many, many other classes.

  12. Neil says:

    I totally disagree with you and Will, rogues, or any other class should not be capable of doing the same, or more, damage as a fighter, unless they have to spend the same number of talents/feats to do so and in a very way, it is disadvantaging the fighter. Armour is currently useless at high level and is even worse against a rogue because he does all his damage in one hit.

    Yes it is more likely that a fighter will actually hit with at least one attack but then again you could argue that the rogue only has to hit with one attack to do more damage. Getting combat advantage is ridiculously easy, just look at how Falco operates, and so I maintain this is a much too powerful ability, no other class has anything like it. I agree with James DH that people will just take sneak attack to get the damage up on their class and as a great back up. However, if you tier the ability, i.e. sneak attack, then improved sneak attack then superior sneak atack etc. that would be okay I think. OR make it so that doing the sneak attack isn’t as easy as getting combat advantage which just needs two people to flank the enemy. For example maybe rolling stealth to get up to the enemy then make the attack then either needing to make another stealth roll, with a penalty, going toe-to-toe or just run!

    I agree that a rogue should be able to back stab, what I disagree with is the amount of damage, given that it is one talent, and the relative ease that it can be done. At low to mid levels it might not be a problem but at high levels armour will become an irrelevance, you might as well go into combat naked with the current rules at high levels! The rogue is nothing like a glass cannon with the rules as they currently are make it so and I would agree.

    BTW, plate armour should massively reduce sneak attack damage since the basic premise is that the rogue is hitting the enemy in a vulnerable spot; plate was specifically designed to cover those vulnerable areas, yes, all but the best still have little gaps but these are not over the vulnerable areas of the human body and so the blow would not do the huge amounts of damage.

    On Will’s point about D&D combat, yes that is true but there is more than one way to skin the proverbial! 4e basically makes it so that all classes just slug it out which is boring and stupid, 3e was much better in that it gave you a range of abilities (spells and/or skills) to do other things. You should have to be clever when playing a rogue, you should fear for your life if directly confronted by a fighter, you should have to think of ways to even the fight before it starts (sneak attack plays into this but it should be a one-off per enemy job or similar). They are the mad men the dare devils, the guys who live life on the edge, knowing that if they get caught it could be all over.

    I await the play test with interest but I’m afraid that my issues with the system wouldn’t be too visible until the higher levels generally speaking.

  13. Well, as we dicussed on Tuesday evening, I think you and James are probably right about Sneak Attack. The talents do need to scale, rather than having everything top loaded into one talent that can be taken at first level.

    There are issues of balance with Sneak Attack, so having to pay for the progression with a talent every 10 levels (as fighters do with their extra attacks) seems reasonable to me.

    So Sneak Attack would let you add 1d6 Sneak Attack damage per odd-numbered level to a maximum of 5d6 at level 9. Then at level 11 you would need Improved Sneak Attack to allow the damage to increase from 6d6 to 10d6. As soon as you add multiple talents to the equation then the chance of other character classes investing in enough talents to unbalance the game is drastically reduced.

    I don’t think that Combat Advantage is any easier to achieve than a rogue flat-footing an enemy in third edition. If a rogue is double-teaming an opponent with another character then Sneak Attack is usually an option (although the opponent can do someting about that). If the rogue is alone then Combat Advantage requires a combination of die rolls to pull off – either a successful stealth or bluff check.

    I still think that the way Sneak Attack can bypass armour is a feature rather than a problem. If the character wearing plate armour is completely unaware the rogue’s presence, then the rogue should be able to hit for large amounts of damage. The armour will still absorb some of the pain.

    I will agree with you that I don’t think the rogue has been a glass cannon since second edition. Certainly in fourth edition I have seen absolutely no difference in the rogue’s ability to stand up in combat when compared to the Defender types.

  14. I feel i should add that the Fighter is also better off for damage with multiple attacks due to static bonuses having more impact. A +5 to damage for the Rogue is just +5 to damage (assuming he hits), a +5 for the Fighter is +5 for every attack that hits.

    But, given the way that HD&D seems to be set up, requiring constant talent input to scale the ability is appropriate as all other class ‘features’ require something similar.

    On the note of the 4e Rogue, if you havn’t noticed 4e Rogues being less able to stand up in direct combat than 4e Defenders, then with all due respect something is very wrong. An Artful Dodger Rogue can last a fair while in direct combat by not getting hit, but sacrifices quite a lot of damage for that survivability, Brutal Scoundrel Rogues on the other hand put out huge amounts of pain but lose a lot of survivability.

    You may not have noticed Rogues being fragile due to the Defenders taking more hits than the Rogues and protecting them from harm, in which case the game is functioning as intended, but if a Rogue build can take as much punishment as a Defender build (with the singular exception of a certain Revenant\Shadar-Kai build) then something very very strange is going on.

    Admittedly characters in 4e are much more resilient than they have been in prior editions, but so is everything else; the resilience is relative.

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