Creative Class Constructs III: Rogues
You want your party to go against an NPC from a city’s seedier side, and you want this encounter to be challenging. They’ve cut down guilds of rogues with rings of invisibility and shadow dancer levels, and its getting old. You could simply switch the class of the NPC, but you want his levels to obviously reflect a criminal background. Or maybe your group is starting a new campaign, after the last one was ended by a kill-stealing kleptomaniac. So, how do you switch things up? I mean, the rogue is classic, and with all those skill points, who can resist playing a feather-fingered pickpocket? Here are a few alternatives to “Chaotic Neutral” friends and foes.
The Harrier: Getting hit is for suckers and the Battleturtle’s tanking style is all wrong. Or that’s what the Harrier would say. This rogue takes a unique perspective on collecting aggro. His main feats lie in the Mobility tree (going at least as far as Spring Attack) and then into combat maneuvers. Using Spring Attack, the rogue pops in and out of combat, giving a quick jab at the opponent (enough to make it hurt), then running off and taunting from afar. If he doesn’t have the freedom to move about the field at his leisure, the Harrier resorts to disarms and trips, stealing the opponent’s weapon or knocking him on his arse to give his party a chance to get in. This is an unorthodox style of tanking, and would require quite a bit of strategy — knowing when and where to pull the enemy, taunting, placement, etc — but adds a new level of fun playing the mischievous type.
The Charlatan: The Charlatan steals with his tongue. He uses smooth-talk and smoother lies to lower the mark’s defenses and then convinces them to hand over what he wanted to steal. As the old saying goes, he can tell a man to go to hell and make him happy for the trip. This rogue focuses heavily in the charismatic skills – especially Bluff and Diplomacy — but should also make sure to put some ranks into Sense Motive, Escape Artist, and Disguise. In combat the Charlatan works as a support, using Intimidate to shake the opponents and Bluff to render them flat-footed. Before the fighting ever begins, though, maybe give him a chance to talk. Who knows, he might be able to swindle the Ogre out of his magic club and let everyone get out unharmed and happier for it!
The Trapmaster: Who wants to fight on the enemy’s terms? The Trapmaster is an expert at always making sure he is in control of the battlefield. In the Trapmaster’s eyes there are three steps to combat: First, scout ahead and make note of the enemy. Second, double back and set the traps. Third, drop a thunderstone and let them come to you. To be a Trapmaster is a very difficult class, and not advised for new or casual players. It involves a high stealth (or Hide and Move Silently), high perception, and and even higher reserve of luck. He spends most of his time scouting well ahead of the party, finding enemy traps and setting his own. When enemies are spotted, he makes it back to the party where they can decide the most strategic location. From there he sets his traps, puts the fighter on the other side for bait, and sits back.
DMing Tip of the day: Obviously all of these alternatives can still be roleplayed as a stereotype. For that problem I would recommend talking to the player and suggesting that they spice things up. Encourage them to develop a unique backstory and take their character from a new perspective. See what unfolds and always, encourage roleplaying. It adds to the immersion and overall flavor of the game. But lead by example! If you have deep and original non-player characters, your players will want to do the same with their own characters.
Leave comments below with thoughts, suggestions, or commentary! Keep reading, keep DM’ing, and as always, happy gaming.