Of Thieves and Rogues

Sorry for the delay folks. That cold from last post just won’t die. If anything it put me even more out of commission last week.

Today I’m going to take a look at the problem of specialist classes in a class based game. In particular, we’ll be taking a peak at the thief and it’s later incarnation, the rogue. This will be a much briefer tour than the previous Delver Evolution articles.

Thief Origins

The thief first appeared in the Greyhawk supplement for OD&D. The original thief was a pretty weak combatant roughly on par with the magic user. They had slightly better weapon and armor selection, but roughly the same attack bonus and slightly worse hp.

Their one combat related special ability was “striking silently from behind”. It required both stealth and proper positioning but greatly increased damage. The problem here is could be hard to pull off more than once per combat due to the stealth requirement.

Where the thief really shone was infiltration. The majority of their special abilities centered around getting into areas, detecting and circumventing danger, and extracting items. In short, they were built for getting in, getting the goods, and getting back out.

Thief Issues

While a solid and playable concept, the thief ran into two basic issues.

The Conflict Dependency Issue

The problem with being a specialist in one type of challenge is the character’s value to the group’s success is heavily dependent on facing that challenge. If the adventure is short on that type of challenge, the class suffers.

Many basic OD&D classes had this to some degree. The Fighter was most useful if there was plenty of combat while the Cleric did best with undead to vanquish. The magic user could also run into this issue if they hit a blind spot in their spell selection.

However, this may have been more notable with the thief. After all, combat was pretty common and even without that the Fighter still had extra resilience to go on. By the same token, the Cleric had spells which could serve them well even when their signature enemy wasn’t present.

The “Decker” Issue

So named for the “decker” character in Shadowrun, this refers to having challenges that only specialist character’s can participate in. The classic example is net running. Unless the character is outfitted for it, they have to sit on the side lines while the other character’s play.

While less severe in the thief’s case, there was a some of this in play. While the thief could infiltrate, their companions were generally less maneuverable and stealthy. As such, the thief was good at going it alone and scouting ahead while the rest of the party waited for them to do their thing.

Next Up

That cover the original thief and it’s sticky points. Next time I’ll look at how the transition to the rogue and how that tried to address this.

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Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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