Greetings fine readers, it is my, Frank Gori’s, first go as questioner in our ongoing series Questions about Class. For this installment we are interviewing esteemed Flying Pincushioner David McCrae as we prepare to release Into The Breach: The Rogue and Tides of War: Rogue/X Feats..
FG: First off, thanks a lot for taking the time to let us pick your brain and for all the times you’ve been the “guy behind the mic.”
DM: No problem at all. I’m completely stoked for these two releases. And you guys know you can always count on me to step forward when I’m able to!
FG: Please, tell us a little about yourself and your contributions to Flying Pincushion.
DM: I hail from New Jersey, USA. I’m the author of 2 novels, and currently in the process of drafting my third. For Flying Pincushion, I’ve been developing the “Tides of War: Class/X” Feat books. I also have several archetypes and an alternate class submitted for more of the upcoming Into the Breach books. For Into the Breach: Rogue, I designed the Booksmart Scout, Honeypot, and (my favorite) the Trickster Chef.
FG: Rogues are one of my jams but I often end up in debates about the value of a rogue over say a bard or vivisectionist or even the investigator, what makes rogues unique and worth playing over other similar themed classes?
DM: Sometimes it’s hard to make a case for the rogue against classes such as those since those three classes have access to spells and extracts. I think that sometimes the only people who really understand the usefulness of the Core Rogue are the ones who look at what the class has to offer and strive to make it work as designed. I feel power creeping plays a huge factor into why many find the core rogue unappealing. If it doesn’t wreck bad guys consistently, it’s not worth a second look to many. But those who understand that playing a rogue is not about “wrecking bad guys” find them much more fun to play.
FG: I’ve seen a lot of debate over the traditional way to play a rogue so I’m curious what makes a rogue a rogue to you? Is there some sort of needed roleplaying trait or cannot lose class feature that makes a rogue a rogue for you?
DM: Roleplaying is HUGE for rogues. Their ability to be a party face stands right on par with the bard. But what really makes the rogue can be summed up in three words: Talents, talents, talents! The Rogue talents, like Alchemist discoveries for example, allow full and complete customization. Does your rogue talk the party out of fights? Does it use poisons? Does it blend in the shadows? How about using spell-like abilities? Does it do all four, and then some? This treasure trove of options to make effective, efficient rogues.
FG: Is there a best rogue build?
DM: As silly as this is going to sound at first, the best rogue build is the one you build for yourself and your party. Different parties have different needs. And no party, let alone single character, can be prepared for every possible situation. I like to play and grow my rogue to meet the party’s needs; pick up slack where others lack. In many cases, it’s becoming the party face.
FG: From an optimization standpoint what’s your favorite rogue trick?
DM: 3 simple feats: Skill Focus (Bluff), Combat Expertise, and Improved Feint. Nothing frustrates me more than to see a person playing a rogue trying to dictate where the other players should move during their turn just because they want to flank and get their sneak attack damage. Improved Feint allows you to do all the sneak attacks you want, without having to divert others from where they need to be or what they need to do.
FG: Is there a class dip that compliments the rogue well in particular?
DM: I can mention 10 classes a rogue can dip into, but then I’d be shamelessly plugging Tides of War; Rogue/X (haha). Really, though, I think bard is a shoe-in dipping class. It allows you to still maintain your party-face, grants you party buffs via bardic performances, and still gives you 6 +INT skill ranks per class level. Not to mention the spellcasting capabilities.
FG: You’re trying to sell someone on the idea of trying a Rogue, but they seem reluctant. What do you tell them?
DM: I think it’s easier to sell the idea to people who are accustomed to playing ¾ BAB classes and/or classes with only 1 good save. You would hear a lot of “Muh damage output!” and “Muh Will save!” if you were to try and convince the heavy hitters and the spell-slingers that a rogue is a good direction to take.
For someone who likes their damage output, direct them to options that optimize sneak attack, as well as the high skill ranks. Plenty of room to fit in Acrobatics to avoid those attacks of opportunity, and Bluff to more effectively feint, therefore making your ability to score sneak attack damage more consistent.
For spellcaster players it might be a little tougher. But Use Magic Device being a Charisma-based skill, a rogue can take Skill Focus (UMD) and optimize for Charisma. This way, they can stash wands and just UMD them when they want to cast a spell. Think of it like having 50+ spells per day.
FG: What makes the Rogue fun to play?
DM: Let’s not kid ourselves: there is a certain thrill you get when you’re rolling an extra 2, 3, 4, 5 dice when you deal damage for sneak attacks. But what makes playing a rogue more fun are those moments where you’ve helped that party make great progress without even having to draw a weapon. Bluffing your way through an encounter; sneaking past guards and dispatching them stealthily. Many encounters I’ve seen made easier or completely circumvented using a rogue’s skills, and it’s often hysterical.
When the rogue picks a lock, opens the door, and hears, “Who’s there?”...
And the rogue’s response is, “Housekeeping!”...
And the enemy believes it long enough for the rogue to get in close, dirty trick (blind), then shank for +4d6 sneak attack and drow poison to knock them out and steal all their gear...
...comedy gold that I don’t think many, if any, other classes can replicate.
FG: What do you feel is, bar-none, the most useful class feature of the Rogue?
DM: I’ll reiterate: the talents! Bar-none. Talents are what can make each individual rogue unique in the same sense bonus feats makes unique fighters, and discoveries make unique alchemists. The talents have such a wide variety of boons, bonuses, and effects, you could make a multitalented jack-of-all-trades just as easily as a well-optimized powerhouse.
FG: If there was one thing you could change about the Rogue class, what would it be?
DM: Fortitude save. Give the rogue a Fortitude save. Rogues deal with poisons and such things. They should have the Fortitude save to better protect themselves if they don’t feel the need to invest in Poisoner archetype.
FG: Thanks David for letting us interrogate you?
DM: Well, it was a successful interrogation for you! I know you had Zone of Truth up! You’re quite welcome all the same! ^.^