Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Scoundrel, Part 2

So, today let's continue with working on the Scoundrel class… We've got two objections to address today:
  • Thieves make it so that other classes can't do what they do. Before Thieves came along, all the characters had to pull their weight doing thiefly things like disarming traps and picking locks and pockets.
  • Thieves can infringe on the proper role of fighting men.
Both of these objections have to do with our thiefly class usurping another class' role. The first objection is mostly about things that are stereotypical of thieves, like picking locks, and the second has to do with being so good at fighting that a fighting man gets serious competition.

The first objection is, honestly, the objection that makes me most open to leaving out a thief class in my games. I don't want any particular class to become absolutely necessary to a party, nor do I want the existence of one class to mean that other classes become more limited than they were. If I have to choose between using a thief class and preventing these things from happening, so long thief class!

I'm not convinced that I have to make this decision, though. Here's how I think my Scoundrel can address this objection:

The Scoundrel is going to be made up of numerous options that can be chosen by a player, a la Telecanter's Choose You Own Rogue, and some of them are going to be abilities and some are going to be skills.

I'll defend my use of skills in my next Scoundrel post, but for now let's just say that abilities are actions that are available to one class and not to others and that they are usually binary- you can either do them or you can't. Skills are actions that are available to every class (though some classes may have advantages in them) and they are scaled- you can increase your chances of success in one way or another.

So, with this dichotomy, which I'll argue exists among most, if not all, other classes, we can make sure that the Scoundrel doesn't impinge upon another class' roles by making sure that anything that I want another class to be able to do that I want the Scoundrel to be allowed to do is made a skill instead of an ability. Picking locks? A skill. Picking pockets? A skill.

On the other hand, actions that I want exclusive to the Scoundrel will be abilities. The ability for Scoundrels to use some arcane magic from scrolls, for example, would be an ability and would not be open to other classes.

This kind of intentionality also addresses our second objection for this post. Fighting can be seen as a skill in which Fighting Men get an advantage. Their ability to use two-handed weapons, the heaviest armor and the ability to whomp on under-1HD monsters are abilities, exclusive to their class. A Scoundrel class, then, needs to first of all leave these abilities and fighting advantage alone: Scoundrels can never fight as well as Fighting men, nor can they do things that only Fighting Men can do. To-hit bonuses won't advance as quickly as for Fighting Men.

There is one other option concerning Scoundrels and fighting, though. Scoundrels can be given abilities that pertain to fighting that Fighting Men don't have. This allows for Scoundrels to keep violence as one of the many tools they keep at their disposal as they solve problems with their wits. The classic thiefly ability in this area is backstabbing/sneak attacking, where thiefly character gets massive damage whenever they attack under certain circumstances. That's all well and good, I think, so long as we don't get ridiculous about it. For example, in 3.5, I believe that any flanking allowed this kind of damage multiplication, meaning that a Rogue of the same level as a fighter could easily do more damage than the fighter if they were on both sides of an enemy. That's lame and it doesn't make sense. I would suggest, instead, something like a Scoundrel doing double damage during a surprise round, then reverting back to normal damage. Not only does the Scoundrel only have a single round in which he could potentially out-fight a fighter, but he has to work for it, getting a surprise round, probably by sneaking… hence the whole "sneak attack" name for this in the first place. That both keeps the Scoundrel from usurping the place of the Fighting Man and it, you know, actually makes some sense.

That, I think, addresses these two objections as well as my cold-addled brain can at the moment. What do you think? Do you buy these fixes?

Next time, I'll address the idea of using a skill system.