Wednesday, September 3, 2014

13th Age Options: The Rogue

I've always really liked Rogues, and so it's a bit odd that it's one of the 13th Age classes I have the least experience with.  I've had three different players play one for just one (or a few) session(s) each, and two of them were dissatisfied.  Granted one of those players had a string of terrible dice luck for the few session he played (he went through multiple combats without hitting a single time), but that only highlighted one of the issues with the Rogue.  The other big three popular damage-dealing classes at my table who target AC (which is higher than PD/MD commonly targeted by spellcasters) all have ways to increase accuracy: the Barbarian rolls 2d20s while raging, the Ranger typically has either double attack and/or an animal companion, and the (shifter) Druid re-rolls the first missed beast form attack (and can also have an animal companion).  I'm not sure if I'd necessarily call the Monk a raw damage class, but even if you threw him in there Flurry grants more attacks and some of the Forms offer multi-attacks (or attacks at increased accuracy).  The Rogue, which was probably the most accurate of the weapon classes in 4E, depends on a single d20 roll.  The meager tricks able to ameliorate this either require a staggered enemy (Murderous with a feat, or Deadly Thrust), momentum (Sure Cut) which requires you to have hit already in the first place, or being engaged with more than one enemy (Slick Feint).  So a power that allows re-rolls was a priority for me to design.  

The even bigger glaring hole in the class as-written is more thematic than mechanical - the popular "sniper Rogue" is unsupported.  If the 13th Age designers set out to make a dashing melee swashbuckler they succeeded, but a lot of players expect Rogues to be pretty good at range as well, or at least have the option to go that route.  Thus the majority of this article supports that build.  

Finally, I thought a feat to enhance Swashbuckle was appropriate.  Despite being extremely cool, my players and I consider it the weakest of the improvisational talents since it not only requires momentum, but requires you to spend it.  We've found momentum to be extremely valuable in play, and sometimes tough to gain.  The costs associated with Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations, Tracker, Cackling Soliloquist, and Improbable Stunt are not as severe, and the one with the steepest limitation (Tracker) comes with a hefty background bonus to make up for it.  Swashbuckle can use some love.  My player who adored Improbable Stunt on his playtest Monk specifically avoided Swashbuckle because of its cost, despite liking the concept.

Swashbuckle Adventurer Feat: When you use Swashbuckle roll a normal save.  If you succeed you regain momentum after completing the stunt*.

*Now that I'm re-reading the talent, it's unclear whether the suggested attack you make as part of the stunt can regain momentum if it hits.  I had initially thought no since it's part of the same action, but if you interpret it differently then this feat isn't really needed.  The more I'm thinking about it the more I like that interpretation of Swashbuckle, though, since it puts it at much more even footing with the others.  I'll leave the feat up nevertheless for instructive purposes.  

New Rogue Talent

Sniper: You can now deal sneak attack damage with ranged attacks, provided you are hidden from the target.  To become hidden you need appropriate cover or concealment and you need to succeed at a skill check based on the environment (normal for low light and/or lots of hiding places, hard or even very hard for brightly lit areas with sparse cover).  Make this check as part of your move action.  When you attack from hidden, whether you hit or miss, you give away your position.
Adventurer: Once per battle you can use sneak attack without being hidden provided the target is engaged with one of your allies.
Champion: Once per battle you can attempt to hide using a quick action.  
Epic: Once per battle when you crit with a ranged attack it deals triple damage instead of double damage.

3rd Level Rogue Powers

Distracting Shot
Ranged attack
Target: one enemy engaged with an ally
Attack: Dexterity + level vs AC
Hit: WEAPON + Dexterity damage, and if your natural attack roll was even the target is Dazed.
Miss: damage equal to your level.

Covering Fire
Ranged Attack
Target: one enemy engaged with an ally
Attack: Dexterity + level vs AC
Hit: WEAPON + Dexterity damage and an engaged ally can either immediately pop free as a free action or gain a +2 bonus to their next melee attack against the target.
Miss: damage equal to your level.

5th Level Rogue Powers

Snap Shot
Momentum Power
At-will (once per round)
Interrupt action; you must spend your momentum
Trigger: an enemy moves to engage you in melee
Effect: make a basic ranged attack against the triggering enemy.  The attack deals half damage if it hits.
Special: you can't gain momentum from hitting with Snap Shot.
Champion: if the attack hits the triggering enemy is also Dazed.
Epic: The Snap Shot attack deals full damage.

I'm Quicker Than You
Momentum Power
Trigger: you miss with an attack
Effect: spend your momentum to re-roll the attack, but without sneak attack damage even if you qualified for it with the original attack.
Champion: you get your sneak attack damage with the re-rolled attack.
Epic: If the re-rolled attack was a natural even hit, regain momentum.