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.
- 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.