The preview of the final build from the D&D Essentials line is up, and I’m geekgasming that this is (drumroll please……) The Thief. Yes folks, the Thief is back. For too long have the lightly armoured sneaky types belaboured under the misnomer of “Rogue”. Time to reclaim their true title and status as Thieves. Whether there’s forty of them breaking into a Sultan’s palace or one trying to steal Smaug’s treasure horde, this is great news for the game.
If, right now, you’re reading this and thinking I want to play a Thief and I want to play one now! then, my friends, this blogpost is for you.
As with the previous posts where we looked at re-creating the Knight, Warpriest and Mage using only content from the PHB, let’s see if we can create something more Thiefly (is that a word?) from what the Rogue Class provides in the core.
As with the other Essentials previews, the Thief is just another build of the Rogue, and one which slightly tweaks the class features in some way to better represent the concept. In this case, the emphasis is best summed up in one word: Backstab. If there was any doubt remaining in the minds of old-school gamers that D&D Essentials wasn’t designed for you, it ends here, right now. Repeat after me: this is a Thief with a Backstab ability. If it could be any more old-school they would be reversing AC and bringing back THAC0. Damn.
Ok. Geekgasm over. Moving on.
Your Thief differs from the core Rogue in only a few respects. He has proficiency in Short Bow rather than Shuriken (oh yes), and gains Weapon Finesse rather than Rogue Weapon Talent. As the latter granted a bonus when using Shuriken (increasing the damage die one size), it makes sense to pop it out for something else. We don’t know quite what that “something else” is – yet. I’m liking the return of the Short Bow and move away from the all-too-Ninja throwing stars. Welcome back Thief. Oh how we’ve missed you.
Beyond that, the changes are in the Powers. More on those in a mo’.
To build our Essentials-inspired Rogue using only the PHB, let’s make him a Brawny Rogue with the Brutal Scoundrel tactic. This is a Rogue whose job is to get in, hit the guard hard and fast then steal the gold, & keep on the move at all times. This isn’t a swashbuckling ninja Rogue but a pure old-school sneak thief of the first degree.
With the previous faux-Essentials builds I’ve had to make them Human to account for the extra goodies the builds gain (especially as I can’t trade out the other features). In this case though, let’s make our Thief an Elf. This gives her that all-important Short Bow proficiency as well as Wild Step and Speed 7, perfect things for our mobile Rogue to possess.
With the Short Bow appearing on the Thief’s proficiency list, it looks like WoTC are going to need another Update to allow it to be used with all those lovely Rogue Exploits. Let’s hand-wave that for now though. If this Rogue has a Short Bow, she sure as heck can use it with her Powers.
As we’re building a classic Elven Rogue, we take Acrobatics, Athletics, Dungeoneering, Perception, Stealth and Thievery as Trained skills. She’s an asset to any adventuring company with skills which will help keep her and the party alive whilst exploring the underdepths.
For her Feat, we take Backstabber. The Essentials Thief, along with Sneak Attack, also has that Backstab ability I mentioned. This gives the Thief a further +3 to hit and +1d6 damage on an attack once per Encounter provided they have combat advantage. In other words, that one attack is good for a total of +5 to hit, and +3d6 damage – perfect for a strike that really needs to drop a foe. Ouchy. It’s not clear whether the Backstabber feat improves his bonus die to d8s as well. I doubt it does. We’ll see.
As with the Knight build for the Fighter, the Thief doesn’t gain traditional At-will Powers but instead has their own unique take on them. This Thief’s Tricks (as they’re called) are more movement oriented and seem to focus more on getting the Thief into position, out of trouble or setting up a telling blow. That’s best emulated with the Rogue’s Deft Strike and Riposte Strike At-wills. The former allows our faux-Thief to Shift 2 (ie, move 10’ safely) before making her attack while the latter lets her interrupt an enemy’s melee attack with an attack of her own. Nothing like a blade on the throat to make a goblin think twice, eh?
As with the other Essentials builds, the Thief is a little less powerful at the top end (no Daily Powers!) in return for being just a bit more awesome overall (Backstab! Backstab! Backstab!). Our PHB-based Thief doesn’t have that luxury so let’s plough onto her other choices, keeping with the same conceptual theme. We take King’s Castle to keep with the “always on the move” idea, and Trick Strike because… well, it’s got Trick in the name. Also, it combines high damage with being able to push the enemy around the battlefield each time your hit. What’s not to love?
As GM, I handwave that this Rogue’s Powers are all usable with the Short Bow, and she buys an Adventurer’s Kit, Thieve’s Tools, Leather Armour, Short Bow and Short Sword.
Shameless re-use of a render alert!
And with that, we’re done. We know that the D&D Essentials line begins with a Red Box and gives us the first few levels for the Knight, Warpriest, Mage and Thief. We know it contains both a solo and an introductory adventure as well as counters, maps, dice, monsters and GM guide. We know the line continues in the same vein with full class levels (at least to 10th) for these builds as well as an updated Monster guide and Rules Compendium (which I’m hoping is more like the D&D Rules Cyclopedia than the 3e Rules Compendium. In my dreams).
We know it’s Fourth Edition D&D through and through, and unashamedly old school, both at the same time. In this last article poor Bill sounded very grumpy about all the negative idiocy that’s been thrown around about what should, imho, be THE product D&D gamers should be getting right behind regardless of their gaming preferences and style.
So c’mon people! Let’s stop Bill being grumpy!
Me, I can’t wait for Essentials. How about you?