Rogue needs to be rethought

It's really coming together except, Wow!, I do not like the Rogue design now at all.  Here's the thing:


It might arguably mechanically represent what we want the rogue to be good at, but in this incarnation, it doesn't have anything that is mechanically unique to playing a rogue.  


I would argue that the four core classes should each have their own core mechanics.  Other classes can then do riffs and twists on these core mechanics.  For example Paladins might uses the fighter's expertise dice, and Sorcerers might use Wizard style vancian spell slots.  But the Big Four should each have a unique mechanic design that frames what they do best.  


For the Fighter, Expertise & Maneuvers are a slam dunk, as long as you keep those things unique to the fighter.  For the Wizard vancian spell slots.  For the cleric, its the ability to heal first, but there is also a nice mechanical destinction in the fact that they can cast different spells on the fly, and these domains are great. Incidentally, I am a huge fan of the Deity Archetypes design - Fantastic.  So I am giving a big thumbs up to the current Fighter, Wizard, and Cleric designs...  


For the rogue the goal is Skill expert and a more opportunistic approach to combat.  The problem is that every other class needs access to skills.  So it’s hard to make being better at skills feel truly mechanically unique to the rogue - but not impossible.  I think being able to use skills in more fundamental ways - for example without disadvantage in combat is better / more iconic / simpler than using expertise dice.  But the Rogue has also always had a different fighting style than the fighter.  It’s what you called being a "Striker" in 4th edition.  Sneak Attack could be better or broader but it is still the best D&D mechanic so far to express in general terms that situationally a Rogue can be more deadly in combat than a fighter, but needs to set up a situational advantage.


Expertise Dice and Maneuver mechanics are better if they more specifically represent the training only a fighter has from focusing on combat first (not skills).  Giving the rogue expertise dice, does two very bad things.  First, it takes the great new mechanic formerly unique to the fighter and gives it to some one else.  Expertise is a great design that solved the problem of representing a Fighter's combat training and versatility.  I love the elegant Maneuver design in this packet - but only for the fighter.  You took the fighter's shiny toy and immediately made them share.  That's no fun.  Second, this makes the rogue feel like a second class fighter in combat.


To use a Magic the Gathering buzzword, Sneak Attack is "strictly worse" than Deadly Accuracy.  That Stinks!  In magic card A is "strictly worse" than card B if there are absolutely no situations in which you would rather draw card A than card B.  Well, there are no situations in which you would rather have the Sneak Attack maneuver than the Deadly Accuracy maneuver.  Now, when the Rogue painstakingly sneaks through the sleeping goblin camp to deliver his killing blow to the chief, the fighter simply shrugs and walks right up to him and does the same thing without all the fuss.  


Why then, in the world these two central mechanics represent, would any character choose sneaking over swordplay?


You need at least one or two mechanics that make the other party members say, “good thing we brought the Rogue.”  The burglar, sneak, trickster, spy, assassin, ruffian, scoundrel archetype deserves it’s own special thing.  I believe that means back to the drawing board on this Rogue.



It does appear that, since the rogue gets the same expertise die advancement, that it's inheritly weaker. Sneak attacks can happen more often now, but it's still not going to be any better than a fighter than can do the same or more damage without restriction. 

There's something to be said for a unique mechanic for each class, but not just for the sake of it, only if a better, more appropriate system can be thought of. This iteration comes down to the rogue's maneuvers to set it apart from the fighter. I'll have to give it a test before I can say anything beyond conjecture at this point, though. 

I love the expertise mechanic, and I don't care if it gets spread around btw. Consider expertise dice as currency; it's what you buy with it that counts.
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Yeah, the rogue seems to be this packet's epic fail. It's just a disappointing class overall.

I also loathe that the rogue is the only one who's proficient with thieves' tools. There's a background called Guild Thief, that even gives thieves' tools as starting equipment. So, a fighter with the Guild Thief background is not proficient in the tools of his job. That's terrible.
My group agrees - latest Rogue changes are terrible.  We revised existing characters from previous playtest packet, and the Fighter and Cleric, while having some small changes, where essentially the same.

The Rogue was not - and really killed the joy of the character.  His comment "So basically, I am just a variant Fighter now with fewer HP".

Expertise dice for the fighter was good and addressed the critics of "the fighter is boring".  More does not mean better.  Keep the mechanic to the fighter.

The skills for the Rogue were also a problem - while he got more skills, he only received one of the now 3 perception skills in the new skill list.  He can disarm those traps, but has no skill in searching for them.  My thought is this that the fix is not the Rogue, but the skill list (which was also a big disappointment) - but that is of topic.

I think the real problem is the expectation of Sneak Attack - while it is a legacy ability of the Rogue, I think it would be better handled as a Specialty - such as part opf a re-written Slayer specialty (that way a player can choose to have sneak attack - or not).  By removing Sneak Attack from the equation, the Rogue Class Abilities can focus on Skills and Mobility (which are classic Rogue tropes), and leave the fighting/damage/striker nature to be based on player choice of Specialty.

I really like the idea of Expertise dice for the Rogue, I just think some of the manouvres (especially Skill Mastery) need work. I also think they should start with more then one.
Expertise dice for the Rogue is a good option I think. However I think sneak attack needs to be tweaked.

Perhaps... Something like this...

At level 1, 6, and 9 you gain an adittional ability when using sneak attack. Roll any dice and reroll all 1s and 2s also you gain an additional effect to the enemy (no save).

A: Slowed: Creature's speed becomes 2 for a number of rounds equal to the ammount of Expertise Dice used.

B: Blinded: The creature is blinded for a number of rounds equal to the ammount of dice used.

C: Weakened: The creature's dmg roll is minimized for a number of rounds equal to the number of expertise dice used.

This would give us a martial controller skill type of fighter who isn't all about dmg BUT can put the hurt/status on the creature.

(Please note I'm on my phone so this may need to be edited lol)
Expertise dice for the Rogue is a good option I think. However I think sneak attack needs to be tweaked. Perhaps... Something like this... At level 1, 6, and 9 you gain an adittional ability when using sneak attack. Roll any dice and reroll all 1s and 2s also you gain an additional effect to the enemy (no save). A: Slowed: Creature's speed becomes 2 for a number of rounds equal to the ammount of Expertise Dice used. B: Blinded: The creature is blinded for a number of rounds equal to the ammount of dice used. C: Weakened: The creature's dmg roll is minimized for a number of rounds equal to the number of expertise dice used.



Good idea.

D: Quieted. The creature cannot speak louder than a croaking whisper for a number of rounds equal to the number of Expertise Dice used. (This so the guard who isn't killed can't yell out the alarm)
One thing that bugged me in 4e was there wasn't a martial controller (until recently) and when PHB 1 came out I was a bit disapointed that the rogue wasn't a controller focus martial type (I know I know he is slightly controllerish) but there is so much potential for the rogue.

I love quieted, spell casters beware!

E: Dizzy: Due to a blow to the head the creature's next move action is off balanced and the rogue directs the creature's direction. Roll any number of expertise dice and move the creature in any direction a number of squares equal to the highest single dice roll. This movement takes the creatures next move action...

Ok this one needs to be worded better but I'll deal with that later when I have a real keyboard.
I would prefer the rogue to not have expertise dice. It's nice to have those as a fighter only thing. And it seems that the rogue's skill mastery is still overpowered. Personally the skill mastery thing should just be dropped from the face of the earch.
It's not the CS dice making rogue awful, it's the implementation.
I love how it's so important that different classes have different mechanics, to the point that they are talking about creating several different sets of mechanics for spell-casters and letting them be at least per-campaign choices if not per-character choices...

...

... and they are shoving all the non-caster classes (that have been presented so far) into a single mechanic.
 
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
Here's how to fix rogue

Sneak Attack
Benefit: When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can spend expertise dice to increase the attack’s damage against that target, provided you have advantage against the target or it is in the reach of a creature friendly to you. Roll all the expertise dice and add up the results, then multiply the damage by that total.

... and they are shoving all the non-caster classes (that have been presented so far) into a single mechanic.
 

In case you missed it, the 'alternate-system' casters disappeared.

Expertise dice for the Rogue is a good option I think. However I think sneak attack needs to be tweaked. Perhaps... Something like this... At level 1, 6, and 9 you gain an adittional ability when using sneak attack. Roll any dice and reroll all 1s and 2s also you gain an additional effect to the enemy (no save). A: Slowed: Creature's speed becomes 2 for a number of rounds equal to the ammount of Expertise Dice used. B: Blinded: The creature is blinded for a number of rounds equal to the ammount of dice used. C: Weakened: The creature's dmg roll is minimized for a number of rounds equal to the number of expertise dice used. This would give us a martial controller skill type of fighter who isn't all about dmg BUT can put the hurt/status on the creature. (Please note I'm on my phone so this may need to be edited lol)



These are cool, if the rogue had these options right now I think we would have much less of a problem. Though to be fair, I'd allow a saving thow. Otherwise fighter and rogue tag-team any single creature and destroy it utterly.
Man oh man, this Rogue looks like crap. Honestly, it didn't feel like I was much of anything other than a fighter wearing a hood and a couple daggers strapped to my belt.

I'm still getting annoyed by the presence of these dead levels (is that the term? Anyway, I like getting something every level from the class), but the Rogue had fewer in the last packet, IIRC, and the Fighter's maneuver mechanics were awesome. No argument there, must keep. So I'll leave that for now. The Cleric's Domains are fun and interesting, a nice take on god archetypes, as I see it. I think the Wizard should be using 0-level spells at will, but now I'm getting off-topic.

The expanding of skills is a total mess, for one thing, which is partly what hurts this new look rogue. Perception is split into 3 again (WHY?) and I don't understand the need for certain other skills (*cough*userope*cough*). If this is how it's going to go, I'd almost think I'm reading 3.5, but with advantage. I'd almost go with Pathfinder and stick in advantage for their skills, with this list.

If WotC is so insistent on Skill Mastery, I propose this: How about new training every few levels instead of this Skill Mastery business? Or give the Rogue advantage on trained skills when outside of combat? I get the need to make their skills stick out, but the current way is too wonky, espeically denying Sneak Attack at times with this, and the one before was overpowered. 

I do like the idea of coming up with more ways of getting Sneak Attack, but I wish it wasn't tied into maneuvers. If there is to be maneuvers (which I think should be Fighter turf), then insert something to make advantage a little easier. Like some form of trickery, like gaining auto advantage on a natural 1 or a missed opportunity attack? Maybe make it every 4 levels, as a special trick for advanatge, and every 3 levels, starting at 2nd, some kind of defensive ability, like a small bonus to Dex saves (some thing supplemental), a small bonus to trap-related skills, maybe an AC bonus against opportunity attacks? Like a +1 bonus every 3 levels as something that might help the Rogue more and more down the road 

Oh, and put back perception the way it was. When you search, you're trying to spot something. Case in point:

Search
: Carefully look for clues that point to something hidden
Spot: Notice hidden creatures

You're finding something HIDDEN!! No diff here.
Skill mastery need to be knocked down to a static bonus (+1-3) or they have advanatge on skill checks or something.

 Fear is the Mind Killer

 

I can't agree more with the OP and actually would extend my critque to every class but the fighter.  I'll stay on point with my gripes about the rogue as written for this thread though.

As written, the DDN rogue is in all ways a completely inferior class all around unless you really enjoy using skills and want that to be your reason to exist.

Firstly, with an overly fractured skill list, you have the same problem you did last packet, in that rogues need 8+ skills to be a rogue again.  Add to that, some skills aren't skills.  "Listen" is not a skill.  "Use Rope" compared to other skillsets and collections of abilities, is not worthy of being a seperate skill. Secondly, as was mentioned in the OP, its not about having a skill, its about how one uses it.  Since rogues no longer have unique skills, rogue abilities need to reflect this mechanically.  Anyone can take the skill monkey specialty and pretend at being a rogue.  Unless they encounter a lock, the skill specialist fighter is a mechanically superior rogue in combat, and not bad otherwise.

The use of skills in DDN is (at present) simply pass/fail.  There's no scale for how well one succeeded.  So having extra points just edges the failure threshold chance downwards.  Just getting an expertise dice isn't enough to say "that's a rogue".  A rogue rolling a 15 on a DC 12 task is as meaningless as a fighter doing the same.  It doesn't make the experience unique to the class, just more common.  I'd rather have the auto-success back if we're just going for "better at X than others".  I don't find this rogue interesting though.  I want some depth in the mechanics (not to be misread as complexity).

So what's a rogue to me, regardless of "scheme"? 

A Rogue is Perceptive.
Why? They have to be.  Rogues live a dangerous lifestyle.  Their ability to detect danger is not just part of their profession, it literally is how they stay alive.  From realizing the town guard is on to them, to spotting a bolt hole, to seeing the weak spot in a fighter's armor.  Without perception, a Rogue is not a rogue.  In my world, all Rogues should have an uncanny instinct for perceiving danger.  Rifling through a book of lore: no bonus.  Stealing the book: Every nerve is on fire for the faintest whisper because an invisible stalker may be guarding it, just waiting for you to touch it. 

A Rogue is an Opportunist.
A rogue takes advantage of opportunity, in whatever form that occurs.  They live an outlaw's lifestyle, taking what they want and ignoring the rules.  They refuse to be bound by society, so much so that is the freaking the title of their class.  Their willingness to ignore social rules and use the skills they have in unconventional ways is key too.  The rogue who takes Knowledge (warfare) is after *very* different info than a fighter.  They may have the same skill as another class, but they exploit that knowledge differently.  To that end, the 3.5 Skill Tricks or 4E Skill Powers are better representations of what a rogue does with the same body of knowledge.  Just having extra points is a complete failure to represent their best quality.  A rogue is not an encyclopedia, they are a predator, waiting to see the weak spot.  Looking at a building, they don't analyze the totality of the architecture like a mage, or look at defensive potnetial like a fighter.  They look at a building and see the myriad ways they can break into it.  They see vulnerabilities and opportunities instinctively.  It colors everything they do.  They may use this or good or ill, but the rogue breaks rules and exploits weakness.  Always and All Ways.

A Rogue is not a Fighter.
While a rogue does fight, they do so only when it suits them.  A rogue chooses his opportunity, and strikes when the timing is right (see above).  They wait and pick the timing that serves best.  They don't use two-handed melee weapons, they are too large to skulk with.  They don't wear heavy armor, it would be noticed (in several ways), and each reduces their ability to get closer to their goal and exploit the weaknesses left open by the unsuspecting people who never saw it coming.  They may be rough and tumble, but they aren't a fighter because they don't need to be, and it doesn't serve them past a point. 


WOTC: See how a "+X" skill bonus and "sneak attack" does the rogue no justice whatsoever?  Even with Maneuvers, many of those are also part of the fighter (in fact I only found two optional maneuvers that are rogue exclusive and they are also focused solely on attack or damage-Sneak Attack, Defensive Roll).  Top that with the fact they get less Maneuvers than a Fighter and you have a totally unappealing, non-rogue class.  The class deserves better, but moreover, needs better to simulate a rogue.  In 1-2E, the rogue had skills no one else had.  They were special.  In 3.5 they were universalized, but they also had sneak attack, and class feats and features that made them special.  In 4e, well, exploit city.  In 5e so far...well, they can use thieves tools to pick a lock. 

See my problem?

I have problems with the caster classes too.  Except the fighter.  That one is done.  Leave it be, it's perfect.







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