A Feat Full Of Tricks Part IV – Rogues

It’s been a while since the original “Feat Full Of Tricks” articles went up – mostly because after Barbarians and Rangers, several varieties of Clerics, and Fighters and Wizards, the basic idea seemed fairly well explained. Still, there’s a request for at least a few more of them – and so here we have Rogue Tricks.

As always, the “Tricks” are built using Witchcraft, heavily limited to bring the cost down to 6 CP – the price of a single Feat.

Originally Rogues were – quite literally – untrustworthy Thieves and Backstabbers. They got included in parties because they had a special super power; if nobody could figure out how to bypass a suspected trap, or translate an inscription, or some such… the Thief had a decent chance to just do it – and because they could sneak in in advance with a fair chance of taking out a major opponent quickly, efficiently, and possibly even silently.

Of course they might run off with some treasure too, but getting a fair share of the treasure was a LOT less important before third edition. A lot of treasure was either only really useful to specific character types or was just money – and money didn’t actually get you much except experience, and that usually got split up evenly regardless of who wound up holding the actual cash. In fact, it often went to barmaids, charities, politics, and similar impersonal destinations since you generally couldn’t really buy personal power with it. Snagging a little extra… was basically forgivable as a roleplaying quirk.

Importantly, Thieves had Thieves Guilds. Now Wizards might have a mentor, but if they did, he or she was virtually always a solitary mystic. Clerics might have church connections, but were usually independent wanderers since no player wanted religious superiors giving their character orders. Fighters might know a few nobles or other combative sorts that they’d fought with or for, but that was purely up to the game master since – with characters normally starting at first level – they’d have been just another raw recruit at the time. Only Thieves had automatic connections, and they had them everywhere, in both the underworld and respectable society. Thieves could sell your loot, locate special equipment, tap the rumormill efficiently, and come up with all kinds of missions. Even if they were pretty evil personally they came with swarms of street kids and apprentices to feed and be mentors for – all in the name of supporting their guild and it’s power base.

In third edition (and 3.5) money became power and skills you just rolled became a standard part of a character. Connections… pretty much became unimportant. There were easily produced magic items for sale at standard prices, the “gather information” skill, and a brand new stress on set-piece combat encounters instead of on getting the treasure any way you could.

So Thieves became Rogues – slightly differently-styled fighters (sneak-attackers rather than direct assault types) with lighter weapons and armor and some extra skill points. Sneaking in ahead of the party became a mostly dead tactic and the “thieves guild” became a minor stock element rather than a major center of activity.

Personally I think that’s too bad – so lets go a little old-school with this.

Limitations. Rogue Tricks require that the user…

  • Maintain close ties with the criminal underworld – helping support a network of street gangs, urchin pickpockets, petty thieves, beggars and informants, getting them out of messes, and maintaining his or her honor among thieves.
  • Maintain his or her ties with the bustling energies of urban environments. The user will often find themselves undertaking low-profit missions in defense of the city or on behalf of it’s people – no matter how many objections they have to its actual government.
  • Engage in seedy activities. The user MUST regularly engage in at least petty acts of lawlessness – cheating at cards, smuggling goods, participating in illegal gambling, or some other form of undermining the law of the land.

Basic Abilities:

  • The Adamant Will, Specialized and Corrupted in the Aura of Innocence only. The user may cloak himself or herself in the massed minds of the city without cost – allowing the user to defy magical and psychic attempts at truth-detection, determining his or her guilt or innocence, and otherwise being probed to get information about his or her criminal activities.
    • Really, given most d20 worlds… I cannot see having an actual underworld without some such ability being in the arsenal of every serious thief and miscreant. Mind-reading and truth detection is simply too ubiquitous for thieves to function effectively otherwise.
  • The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect in reading psychic traces only; the user may intuitively assess and identify valuables and magical devices (and get (2d4+10)x5% of the full value of their loot, rather than the basic 50%), and may easily get the “feel” of an area and the people in it, allowing them to make a Gather Information check with a +10 insight bonus in a mere ten minutes.
  • The Hand of Shadows, Specialized and Corrupted in The Delicate Touch; the user need not quite make contact with the things he or she is working on. Supplementing his or her actual skills with delicate telekinetic manipulations without cost. This provides a +6 bonus on Disable Device, Escape Artist, Open Lock, Sleight of Hand, Use Rope, and Saves versus contact poisons / poison needle traps, and similar “you touched it” menaces for one Power and lets the user avoid leaving fingerprints and such without cost.
    • In other words, true Thieves are actually good at their jobs.

Advanced Abilities: Web of Shadows (the character gains influence and contacts in an area), Spirit Binding (Specialized in the ability to seal bargains at no cost), and one additional ability – varying with the user’s style.

  • Ninja often have Bones of Iron – making them more durable in a normal fight and reasonably formidable combatants even without a weapon.
  • Young Thieves often have a Familiar – some cute pet that will scout for them, help them steal things, and carry off small and valuable items so that they don’t get caught with them.
  • Legendary Thieves – the sort who steal fire from the gods – will have Master the Elements, and thus the ability to steal magic and advances from spirits and gods.
  • Magical Thieves, such as the Gray Mouser, will usually have The Inner Fire.
  • Scouts and Adventurers often have Leaping Fire, allowing them to heal their wounds and fight more effectively.
  • Sneak-Thieves often have Whisper Step, allowing them to tread lightly on rooftops and leave few or no traces of their presence.
  • Master Spies usually take the next level of Basic Witchcraft, acquiring another four basic abilities – usually Glamour, Shadowweave, Witchfire, and Witchsight – a suite of abilities that serves them well in infiltration and intelligence-gathering.
  • The Semi-Mythical Thieves of Souls simply remove the restriction on their Spirit Binding (so they have to pay power to bind contracts) and take Seize The Wandering Soul. While such thieves are not REQUIRED to be evil bastards, they usually are.

Pact: Many Thieves have the Spirit Pact – expecting their god to collect them after death and not expecting anyone to bother raising them Those with more self-confidence may prefer to take Guardianship (usually of some dreadful item they foolishly stole), Missions (for their guild or a ruler), Tithe (usually to their guild), or even (for those who gain their powers from darker realms) Essence.

The basic setup is pretty much the same for all of the “Tricks” packages; buy Witchcraft I and II (gaining a little bit of Power and three basic abilities to spend it on), 3d6 extra Power as Mana, and three Advanced Witchcraft Powers, all Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost – taking a 36 character point package down to 12 points. With a Pact to reduce the cost by six points (and the efficiency of Witchcraft) you get a very effective power package that only costs six character points or one bonus feat – at least if you don’t count the drawbacks and the pact as a cost.

Thief Tricks are – as with all the “Tricks” packages – very efficient indeed. On the other hand, like all the other Tricks packages, they come with plenty of plot hooks and gets characters that are notorious for being stand-offish and secretive deeply involved in society.

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12 Responses

  1. It’s nice to see this series get rounded out. Considering that thieves (and similar scoundrels) tend to need all the help they can get in your average d20 world, I’d say this is a much-needed boost for them.

    As a note, the last sentence for “The Adamant Will” cuts off after two words (e.g. “Such abilities”).

    • The really awkward part is thinking of good limitations.

      And so it does – although that’s a result of incompletely editing out a sentence, so it’s gone now. Thanks for pointing it out though. Typos sneak in everywhere…

  2. I wonder… what is the difference between ‘cannot knowingly break a contract’ and ‘cannot willingly break a contract’? Does willingly mean that if an action would lead to a break in the contract, it cannot be taken, even if the person in question doesn’t know that it would lead to breaking the contract?

    I’m trying a lawful character, so I was wondering about how he can coax people into doing what he wants, so this is somewhat important >.>

    • In practical terms none; the target either cannot voluntarily break such a pact or will suffer some major penalties for doing so (depending on how the GM likes to handle it) – but even if your contract calls for you to live and return, it won’t keep you alive when someone kills you. It will prevent you from killing yourself or intentionally setting yourself up to be killed though – unless, of course, you’re sure of being raised.

      Figure “sincere best effort” not “your mystic oath drags you out of the grave to fulfill it!”.

      • “Sincere best efforts”… hmm…

        Can these “best efforts” be updated? For example, if I maintain a telepathic link to the pacted and he is about to take an action that would lead to him breaking the contract without him knowing, will telling him that it will break the contract prevent him from doing so? And if yes, can you possibly even bluff someone into believing an action would violate a contract even if it really doesn’t?

      • Yes. This is basically the “why mystic pacts are binding” effect. Both sides have to make a real effort to live up to the terms. Now if the other side was smart enough to throw in a “no messing around” clause, you’re out of luck on manipulation – but otherwise there’s no reason why it couldn’t work. There is a problem though; if you tell someone that a given action will break the pact, and they genuinely don’t believe that it will, they’re free to do it anyway.

      • Can one make the pact a subconscious thing? So that the characters in question don’t consciously need to go over what they can and can’t do at any time?

        Also, how does a pact work if they can choose to disbelief it (or rather, what it tells them)?

      • That’s not really disbelieving the pact – just you. For example, if you’ve made a mutual non-aggression pact with someone, guaranteeing not do things that would harm each other, and you show up in his kitchen at breakfast time to bluff that “You cannot eat waffles! For that will destroy me!” your victim may well say “Now you’re just screwing around with me!” and eat waffles anyway.

        Now if that actually DOES destroy you, he’s in trouble – he’s broken a binding mystical pact, and SOMETHING very nasty will happen (classically being dragged into the lower planes, but the game master may want to get creative) – but he had no reason to believe that eating waffles would harm you. Thus he broke the pact unknowingly (the classic way).

        Pacts are just contracts – but instead of enforcement by lawyers, you have supernatural forces which – since you accepted the pact and the consequences for breaking it voluntarily – get to bypass your defenses and saving throws.

      • I suppose it makes sense. Probably would give them something like “Hunted: Inevitables”, given that it’s their job to hunt down contractbreakers of any sort in D&D lore.

        If I were trying to create a servant/slave/whatever that could absolutely not break a specific ruleset, by any means… could I somehow breed it into them via the “Evolution”-spell?

        As someone who’s characters tend to have the backs of their armor adamantine-reinforced because that’s where they tend to be hit more often than not, trying to find actually loyal subordinates is quite important…

      • Well, here’s a general article on obtaining Minions for you.

        Using Evolution would pretty much be another way to design-your-own-template, so yes; it should work just fine – given time of course.

  3. […] one of the difficult ones – Monks. Barbarians and Rangers, Clerics, Fighters and Wizards, and Rogues were straightforward, but Monks, […]

  4. […] can also use the “Feat Full of Tricks” articles (Clerics, Fighters and Wizards, Rogues, Monks) – although those, once again, put “school” firmly in the character’s past. They […]

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