Pathfinder Class Analysis 9: Rogue

Paizo's Iconic Rogue
Paizo’s Iconic Rogue

Core Concept: In ages long past, when the world was shrouded in the mist of ignorance and I was but a young boy, my very first D&D character was a rogue named Tarin Resche. I’ve still got his character sheet. Once that campaign ended and it was time to begin another, my next character was also a rogue, as was the following character, and even the character after that. To say I like rogues would be an understatement. This is my class, and I love it. It took me a long time to branch out into trying other classes, though I did eventually do that.

The rogue/thief class is perfectly suited to the fantasy adventure genre. They’re not big and strong, nor are they magically adept. They’re not good at staring danger in the face. What they do know how to do is how to avoid danger in the first place. Which, consequently, is why I can’t stand playing rogues in most video games. For me, the point of playing a rogue is to skillfully avoid danger. In a video game, typically you can only level up if you charge headlong into danger.

The rogue is actually quite simple for a Pathfinder class, with a scant 9 abilities, compared with classes like the monk which have more than 20. So this’ll be pretty brief.

Sneak Attack: In Pathfinder, I think it’s a little too easy to get a sneak attack. But this balances out, because sneak attack doesn’t actually deal all that much damage. So you might say that the sneak attack ability works, it just doesn’t work the way I’d want it to. I’d much prefer sneak attack to require careful planning on the part of the player, and for the damage it deals to be a probable 1-hit-kill.

Trapfinding: To be honest, I kinda hate trapfinding. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because it’s so damn skill-ish. Rogues should have a leg up on finding and disabling traps, no question. I just wish Pathfinder didn’t rely on the skills system to do it.

Evasion: It’s hilarious that out of all the classes which have Evasion / Improved Evasion, the rogue is the only one which doesn’t automatically receive the improved version. I know it’s available as an optional talent, but this still seems backwards to me.

Rogue Talents / Advanced Talents: The rogue makes up for its rather paltry list of 9 abilities by having these “talents” which allow the player to customize the class. Some of them are quite interesting, and if I wanted to delve into the talents in detail, discussing which are good and which are bad, this post could easily be 3k or 4k words long. But I won’t do that. I’m not even going to devote much space to discussing them in general, because they’re just re-branded feats. Sometimes literally.

I’ll grant that few or none of the rogue talents fall prey to my problem with feats, where the ability granted is something any character should be able to attempt anyway. None the less it’s a huge list of abilities which the player has to select from, which Pathfinder has too much of already.

Trap Sense: I always get this one mixed up with Trapfinding, which is probably because of three things. First, they have similar names. Second, they seem like a pretty basic rogue ability. Third, they both seem far more complicated than they need to be. Though I’ll grant that Trap Sense (bonus to reflex saves and AC against traps) is less annoying than Trapfinding (Bonus to preception and disable device checks against traps).

While I’m on the subject, why is “Trapfinding” one word, but “Trap Sense” is two?

Uncanny Dodge / Improved Uncanny Dodge: While these are solid abilities, I don’t know if I like their inclusion. I understand the logic behind them. The rogue is very dextrous and has a high level of situational awareness, thus they cannot be caught flat footed, and cannot be flanked. But I think my dislike for them stems from my dislike of the way sneak attack works in Pathfinder. In both cases, Pathfinder represents the rogue’s situational awareness mechanically, while I prefer for it to be represented with the player’s own ability to play their character cautiously.

As I said, though, these are solid abilities. I’m really just nitpicking about my own preferences.

Master Strike: The target can either be put to sleep, paralyzed, or killed outright, pending the result of a fortitude save. It’s a respectable capstone ability, without anything I really want to comment on.

This may have been the most boring class analysis yet, which isn’t what I wanted for my favorite class in the game. But I guess I just don’t have much to say about these abilities.

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