Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Musings on the Rogue

Art by Wayne Reynolds
If you were to walk up to a random Pathfinder player and ask them which class they believed to be the weakest one in the game, they will most likely reply with the Rogue.

While I don't believe its completely useless like some players do, I would be lying if I said the Rogue was a perfect class. Many of its features are somewhat lackluster, most of its useful abilities are situation-based, and other classes do the same things much better than the Rogue. Want to be a combat Rogue? Pick the Ninja, the Slayer, or the Vivisectionist Alchemist instead. Want to play more of a skill monkey? Pick the Bard and choose the Archaeologist archetype. 

Since I'm a fan of the Rogue and have always liked the concept, I've been toying with a few ways to enhance the class. Most of these changes are minor alterations with a few additions that will hopefully enhance the abilities they already have. These additions and changes haven't been tested yet. They are simply ideas that might make the Rogue a stronger class.

First, we need to help the Rogue live up to its role as a skill monkey. With that in mind, I'm thinking that we could replace Trapfinding with an ability called "Skill Expertise". The ability would look like this:
Skill Expertise: The Rogue, through trial and tribulation, has become particularly deft with a small number of skills. She selects a number of skills equal to 3 + her Intelligence modifier. The Rogue adds 1/2 her level (minimum +1) when making a skill check with one of her chosen skills. At 4th level, and every four levels thereafter, the Rogue chooses an additional skill to receive the benefits of this ability. 
Secondly, we should probably enhance their ability in combat. While some believe the Rogue should have the good Base Attack Bonus progression (the bonus equal's the character's level), but I don't belong to that camp. Instead, I'm thinking about adding an additional ability at 1st level called "Dirty Tactics". This ability is inspired by Trailblazer and looks like this:
Dirty Tactics: The Rogue is a master at fighting dirty, taking advantage of their opponent's weaknesses and striking them when they least suspect it. When fighting an opponent who is denied their Dexterity modifier to their AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when flanking her target, the Rogue receives a +1 bonus to attack rolls against the target. At 5th level, and every four level thereafter,  this bonus increases by +1.
Next, let's focus on Rogue Talents. The most obvious change I would make is allowing the Rogue to take certain Talents multiple times. The Ninja can do it and the Rogue should be able to do it as well. Now, the Rogue can take the following traits multiple times: Combat Trick (must choose a different combat feat each time its taken), Major Magic (must choose a different 1st level spell each time its taken), Minor Magic (much choose a different cantrip each time its taken and opens up the choice for a second Major Magic), Ninja Trick (must choose a different Ninja Trick each time its taken), and Weapon Training (must choose a different weapon to apply Weapon Focus to each time its taken).

Let's also add a few new Rogue Talents and change one that already exists. First, let's rework the Ki Pool Rogue Talent to use her Intelligence modifier instead of her Wisdom modifier. We'll also add three new Rogue Talents, which will hopefully enhance some of their weaknesses and make ranged Rogues more feasible:
Canny Defense (Ex): While wearing light or no armor and not using a shield, a Rogue adds 1 point of her Intelligence bonus (if any) per Rogue level as a dodge bonus to her Armor Class. If a Rogue is caught flat-footed or otherwise denied her Dexterity bonus, she also loses this bonus. 
Deadly Range (Ex): A Rogue with this talent increases the range at which she can deal sneak attack damage by 10 feet and lowers the penalty they take to Stealth for sniping by 5. This talent can be taken multiple times, increasing the range by 10 feet (maximum 30 feet) and lowering the sniping penalty by 5 (maximum -15). (This is a modified version of a Slayer Talent from the Advanced Class Guide playtest). 
Finesse Expert (Ex): While wielding a light weapon, rapier, whip, or spiked chain made for a creature of the Rogue's size category, she may add 1 point of her Dexterity bonus (if any) per Rogue level to her damage roll with said weapon. The Rogue must have Weapon Finesse to take this talent. 
I have a few, more serious changes floating around in my mind as well. However, I only want to utilize them if these minor additions and alterations don't do the trick. One of those changes is to grant the Rogue a ki pool-like ability called "Guile". They'd receive it at 2nd level and it would allow them some special cool bonuses and they'd receive a few Talents that required the spending of Guile points. However, that would be a major reworking of the class and my final resort.

Question Time: What are some changes you'd make to the Rogue to make it a stronger class? Would they be minor changes or major ones?