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Hi! My name's Bia. I'm not that familiar with the pen and paper version of Dungeons and Dragons, but been playing the online variant DDO for a little over a year now, and I'm here to talk about my favourite class:

The Rogue Class in Dungeons and Dragons Online

Rogues. Yes, you can get obsessed with them. They are rightful masters of versatility in this game - in my opinion, they're the perfect blend of melee deadliness and indispensable usefulness for a group in a dungeon. Like Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings, one character the archetype is based on, their strength lies in stealth, wit, agility and the proper application of skills rather than pure brawn and intimidation. As long as they're not in the first row of battle, Rogues can kill with an almost morbid precision, they are the only class capable of disabling traps and opening locked doors, they can use their mechanical prowess to build traps of their own, repair constructs such as fellow Warforged, or destroy enemy constructs, depending on personal disposition. And some of them can even be deadly with a crossbow.
No Rogue is all of these things at once; you have to get to know their strengths and weaknesses in order to conceive an effective build, and you will most likely choose the one or the other focus.

Essentials of the Rogue class
When discussing or describing Rogues, two words are bound to fall eventually: One is "trapmonkey" and the other is "sneak attack". Regarding the first: Most people think of Rogues primarily as a helpful element in a party to spot and disable dangerous traps. Again, they are the only class capable of this feat, though you need to have a high Disable Device rank in order to lower the chances of the trapbox exploding in your face. This constitutes a sense of responsibility for the rest of the group you should not take lightly - it's akin to the job a Cleric has as primary healer of the group - it's your call to warn your fellow party members about imminent traps, save people from potential deaths and a resulting high repair bill. Rogues also get two class feats called Evasion and Trap Sense that allows them to go through traps - even after they've been set off - mostly unharmed. To be able to do this, however, they are restricted to light armor to keep agile and on their feet. The same goes for the dexterous feat of opening locks - no quest could be complete without the one or the other hidden door or locked chest which, unless you have a mage with the Knock spell prepared, is doomed to stay locked.

Most people I've encountered while playing don't think of Rogues as a damage-dealing class - they reduce them to their mechanical abilities. I've even heard one person say that 'pure Rogues are useless.' Poppycock. Let me tell you now: Rogues are deadly in combat. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. They're not only deadly, they're fucking deadly. Build them right, and Rogues - especially pure, non-crossclassed Rogues - can be freaking Death personified.
Which brings me to the other element essential to them: The sneak attack, aka backstab. There is truth to the saying 'Rogues do it from behind.' The game mechanics of the sneak attack are as follows: Provided an enemy doesn't see you, either because you're in stealth mode or because the enemy is attacking another party member, if your attack hits, you get a bonus to damage. It starts out at 1d6 and gets naturally raised by another 1d6 every other level. This bonus gets added to your usual weapon damage.
If that doesn't sound deadly at first, you can be sure that on higher levels, well-played Rogues outrun every Fighter or Barbarian in terms of the kill count, especially since there are enhancements (Sneak Attack Accuracy and Training) to make this attack even more efficient and increase the damage. Halflings even get an enhancement line called Halfling Cunning/Guile that makes their sneak attack stronger, something which, aside from their natural bonus to stealth, makes them perfect Rogue fodder by nature. The cool thing is that the sneak attack applies in full regardless of your Strength, so you can technically make a Rogue with a Strength of 12 (the lowest score to gain a positive modifier) and still raise hell, especially if you choose the feat Weapon Finesse that redirects your attack bonus to Dexterity instead of Strength. Anything lower than 12, however, and you run the risk of missing, or becoming burdened or helpless in battle.
Also note that this natural increase of sneak attack comes, at odd levels, to all Rogues regardless of what you will be focusing on.

This reliance on the sneak attack results in certain drawbacks, however. For one thing, Rogues cannot go solo. Again, don't let anybody tell you otherwise . Unless you do some real acrobatic stunt juggling classes, a Rogue's ability to solo through dungeons - even if they are technically way below his level - is nigh on nonexistent. Sneak attacking really depends on enemies not seeing you, as soon as you're out in the open, you're reduced to your regular damage, which, given the Rogue's poor base attack bonus, basically means you're fucked. Your last option is to either bluff the hell out of enemies (which is slow and doesn't always work) or run like hell. You simply rely on other people going into battle madly waving their arms and going 'attack me, attack me!' while you quietly stab them (the enemies, that is) in the back. Also, there are races of monsters who, no matter how much you may implore them, are straight-out immune to sneak attack damage. For example, oozes - such as everyone's beloved gelatinous cubes - constructs - such as golems and warforged - or, and this is the big one, undead. There are many kinds of undead in DDO, and all of them are immune to sneak attack, so they are the Rogue's achilles heel unless he finds an undead bane weapon. And those are rare and expensive. So inside graveyards and tombs and the like, as a rogue you depend on other people to watch your back, while you wach out for traps. This is another indicator why DDO is so much more group- and cameraderie-based than, for example, WoW.

Stats and Skills
The two most important stats for Rogues - yes, there are two - are Dexterity and Intelligence. Many people seem to disregard the Intelligence, probably based on the misconception that disabling traps is tied to Dex. You do need the Dexterity for sneaking effectively, it affects your armor class - light armor only, remember - and your ranged attacks, and it is tied to opening locks, balance and tumbling. All of which are important skills for a good Rogue.
Intelligence, however, is also essential, because that is the stat tied to disabling traps - the more intelligent you are, the lower the chances of a trap blowing up in your face. Intelligence is also required for searching and finding the trapboxes - spotting the trap is all fine and dandy, but what if you can't find the frigging box? - and if you go for the Mechanic path, your Int modifier is added to your damage if you use a crossbow. A responsible Rogue, in my opinion, keeps both Dex and Int at steady high levels.
Constitution is the evening-out stat that decides your hitpoints and fortitude saves; Rogues are naturally very vulnerable and squishy, so a high Constitution stat is also important. The next Stat to consider is Strength, though depending on what feats you choose, this stat is less important than with other classes - build on your sneak attack and dexterity and you can almost disregard Strength. Build on that with gear if you can.
Now where opinions usually differ is Wisdom - it's basically only required for two skills, Listen and Spot. But Spotting especially is important if you want to be a good trapmonkey, since without a high enough Spot skill you will not become aware of a trap until it's already too late. ("There should be a trap around here..." *SLICE* "Found it!") In my opinion, a Rogue who doesn't invest in Spot is plain out irresponsible - I recommend a Wisdom rank of at least 10 and maxing out Spot as much as possible.
Charisma, for all accounts and purposes, can be disregarded - unless you build on Bluffing, Diplomacy or Use Magic Device. Charisma? Rogues don't need Charisma - they are arrogant, narcisstic bastards. And they will proudly stab you in the back for thinking so.

It should be noted at this point that Rogues get the most Skill points - Intelligence modifier times four at character creation - and a whole shitload of class skills compared to other classes. It's easier to say what skill aren't class skills for Rogues. They swim in skills. But - in their defense - I've found that this class really needs all these skills, to some degree, and in fact even with as many as they get, you can never completely max out all of them. Disable Device and Open lock, of course, are indispensable for Rogue party duties, and these are also tied to Spot, Search and Listen. Both Move Silently and Hide get worked into sneaking, and Balance you need in order to keep on your feet. Then there's the question of whether you invest in Bluff - the chance of striking a sneak attack even in plain sight of the enemy, which, unless you learn how to time it, is pretty slow - Diplomacy - basically telling the enemy 'don't attack me, attack them!' - and Use Magic Device, to be able to use healing wands. If you spread out all your skill points among all these skills, they get used up pretty quickly. (There is always one skill you eventually disregard.) So yes, Rogues get a lot of skills. But they need them.

Weapons
This is another tricky - and, for pure builds, rather unnerving - point: Unless you invest a feat for a weapon, Rogues have pretty much the suckiest weapon choice of all melee classes. I guess it was a strategy to prevent them from getting too deadly with their sneak attacks (see above) but you're pretty much restricted to rather simple weapons: Rapiers, short swords, daggers, short bows, maces and sickles. If you dream of means of mass destruction such as greataxes and mauls, pure Rogues aren't for you. It's especially grating because this class - unlike Rangers - doesn't get Two Weapon Fighting by default, which I think is an oversight. In order to be effective in combat, Rogues are pretty much doomed to invest a feat in Two Weapon Fighting, since - get this - they aren't allowed to carry any kind of shield. (Someone explain this logic to me. Seriously.) Granted, rapiers and daggers are perfect sneak attack weapons and can get pretty deadly, but it's still pretty frustrating. If you're going for a pure build, it's your choice to take another weapon feat; or take a splash level of Fighter, thereby losing the Capstone Enhancements.
Don't get me wrong, even restricted as they are, Rogues are deadly as long as nobody sees them. But especially the oversight concerning Two Weapon Fighting - something Rogues should depend on even more than Rangers - and the inability to carry shields doesn't make sense to me,
Another choice you have, of course, is picking an exotic weapon feat such as khopesh or bastard sword, and raise hell with that. Again, sneak attack counts for everything.

Lastly, I am going to talk about two Prestige Enhancements exclusive to Rogues. Technically, there are three, but I've never bothered with the third one (Thief Acrobat), since these two pretty much focus exclusively on the class's two main strengths, respectively: Assassin and Mechanic.

Assassins
Quiz question: What's the deadliest class in DDO? Easy, though not many people know this: Assassins. Oh sure, Fighters and Barbarians can hack monsters to pieces, but only Assassins can kill them in one strike in total silence. Even DDO's own description of the path states: 'Your lethality is unmatched in battle.' And boy, ain't that the truth.
As an Assassin, you basically spend action points to enhance your sneak and backstab abilities to absolute sickening maximum. This is the path of choice for pure Rogues bent on dealing damage. Lots, lots and lots of damage.
The path comes in three levels, basically: As Assassin I (level 6) you get an additional sneak attack die plus the ability to - for a limited time - go into sneak attack frenzies that, if you time them right, leave heaps of corpses in their wake. You can also choose to inflict several kinds of poison into your enemies. It's at this point at the latest that you realize: Rogues. Are. Killers. Believe me, it's a fun class to play. Especially when you've got party members with you who still consider Rogues mainly a trap asset, and you get to imagine their jaws dropping as you kick ass left and right.
At Assassin II (level 12) you receive another sneak attack die and something that, in my opinion, is the most awesome thing for any Rogue to have: An attack called Assassinate. It's a melee attack you can only execute in stealth mode, but if the sneak attack goes through, an enemy must make an incredibly high Fortitude save (base formula: 10 + Rogue level + your Int modifier) or drop dead. Completely, in one strike, no questions asked. And even if they get out of it alive, they still receive 10d6 sneak attack damage. I have one halfling assassin rogue with maximum sneak speed who basically spends 90% of her time in stealth mode sneaking up to anything that moves and spiking it, one after the other. There are few things that prevent being Assassinated - Heavy fortification, Death Ward, or not having any vital organs to strike. But even on higher levels, this remains a surprisingly powerful attack.
Level III at level 18 gives you yet another sneak attack die and turns all of your sneak attacks vorpal, regardless of weapon - meaning, if you roll a 20 on attack, enemies are most likely dead, even if you're not Assassinating. Seriously. How much more lethal can you get? The only thing I've seen that even comes close to this is a Wizard's Finger of Death or Disintegrate, or a Monk's Fist of Death.
If you're into dealing damage but don't like tons of messy fighting, this class is almost sickeningly fun to play. But: Notice that all of these special attacks and manouvers are tied to sneak attack, so you're still expected to live a life in stealth. All of your open attacks remain the same, and you're still vulnerable to anything immune to sneak attack, such as undead or constructs. But this is the path that basically takes perfect advantage of sneak attacking. It comes a little at the cost of your trapmonkey abilities, but I've found that with the right gear, you can still be a loyal asset to your group. And kill everything that moves while you're at it.

Mechanics
I quite like the logic behind this path: Think of mechas as the geeky tinkerers of the group, the kind of person who dismantles everything just to see how it works. Then add a heavy pinch of a trigger-happy sniper. A mechanic's focus lies on - big surprise - anything mechanical, predominantly traps: Analysing them, disabling them, building new ones. The path comes in two levels at level 6 and level 12 and is easier to obtain - in terms of action points - than the Assassin one. Therefore it may be that it's easier to combine the Mechanics path with other enhancements and classes. At its first level, you receive a bonus to every skill that's elementary for trap handling: Spot, Search, Disable Device, Open Lock and Repair. Makes sense for a Mechanic to be an expert at anything with gears and valves. They have a higher chance of scavenging trap parts for their own contraptions, and traps Mechas build are harder to avoid.
Needless to say these special Rogues are the absolute dream candidates for group runs into dungeons with lots of traps. But there is yet another thing: Mechanics get the Repeating Crossbow - an exotic weapon in nature - as an earned bonus, the Light Repeating Crossbow at level 6 and the Heavy variant at level 12. And let me tell you, once you get a taste of repeaters, you never want to go back to bows. Especially since Mechas can apply their intelligence modifier to damage (!!!!) with crossbows of any kind. Seeing as Intelligence is also tied to disabling traps and should be naturally high, it goes without saying that Mechanics, while not as melee-lethal as Assassins, can be downright destructive with a good repeating crossbow, potentially deadlier than Rangers, even. Killing enemies from a distance by puncturing them with pointy sticks is more fun than you'd think.This also leads to a nice twist: The Rogue as a ranging class, which, prior to trying out this path, I had never considered likely. To a certain - still minuscule - extent, these Rogues are even capable of soloing. provided they can keep enemies at a fair distance. But, like all other Rogues, they depend on their sneak attack, so don't trust the soloing option too much. Another nice thing is that Mechas can offer some moderate repairing to Warforged. Considering that Warforged are usually at a disadvantage when it comes to healing through a cleric, it's nice to be able to supply some assistance to these party members. And with the right enhancements, you can still manage to max out your sneak attack damage. I've also heard that Mechanics are a nice class to cross-class - such as splashing them with Fighters or Tempest Rangers - though I haven't yet experienced this firsthand.

In conclusion: No matter what aspect of being a Rogue you focus on, if you build them right, I guarantee you lots and lots of fun - as both a sneaking killing machine and an indispensable asset to your group.

Comments

ashlaran
Jan. 16th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
beautiful description of the rogue class. very very detailed too, love it <3 thanks for writing this :D

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