Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rogue Rant: Suck it!

No, not her.

Like most of you, I like to pretend that I don't give a crap about the edition wars; as if they're beneath me and all that. Yet also like you, I actually prefer the older, mustier versions of the game to those 21st century editions that the kids are rabid about these days.

That's where our similarities end, however, because unlike you I've actually found indisputable evidence to support my personal bias. You see, post-Gygaxian versions of D&D are objectively inferior for one simple reason: the Rogue. Introduced, I believe, in the much-vaunted 2nd edition of Advanced Big D [EDIT: it was 3rd ed., not 2nd {EDIT EDIT: I've now been informed that rogue was introduced as an archetype in 2nd ed. but not a class, whatever that means <EDIT EDIT EDIT: Now I'm being told that Rogue was a "group" in AD&D2, not an archetype. Did this ever have any value?>}], rogues are essentially thieves with a coat of paint to give them somewhat less illegitimacy.  Or something.  

I don't really know why they changed the name, but I do know that it has been scientifically proven that any edition of D&D that includes a class titled "Rogue"--regardless of any other merits it may have--is clearly the product of an inferior mind and should be derided mercilessly at every opportunity excepting only those situations when simply ignoring it seems more palatable.

I can almost rationalize why TSR [EDIT: it was Wizards, not TSR] might have decided to change the thief moniker--presumably cuz of its criminal baggage--this was around the same time that the title of Deities & Demigods was changed to Legumes & Lorries after all [EDIT: Actually it was much later than this].  But rogue?  Couldn't you try not to suck so bad at naming stuff?  Sure, thieves, by definition, tend to steal stuff; that could be kinda' off-putting to some.  But at least "thief" points to a skill set that has potential value in a dungeon setting.  Rogue, however, is just a disposition of scoundreliness. While that may be fun to run in the tavern, what the fug good is that gonna do a party of adventurers?  Who needs a jaunty-capped seducer of barmaids when your six levels down in the Acrid Tomb of Malcontents?
DM: The chamber is filled by a viscous, burbling, black blob; it reeks overpoweringly of vomit and strychnine and seems to be sliming its way toward you.  What do you do?
Roger the Rogue: I flash my most menacing grin and offer a defiant witticism.
DM: Ok, roll against your "Crack Wise in the Face of Danger" ability.  While you've got your 20-sider handy go ahead and make a save vs. flesh-eating bile.  
Truly though, the term rogue has come to mean an outlier, someone who lives beyond the norm, who is possessed of an attitude of nonconformity.  While definitely more open ended than "thief," this makes no sense at all as the name of a character class.  What you have is a class that specializes in not doing what's expected of it.  While there's no reason that you can't count on a well appellated thief to climb walls, decrypt codes, or defuse bombs for the good of the party, all you can expect from your rogue is that s/he's going to give you lip if you ask him or her to do something:
Fred the Fighter: I try to open the door on the west wall.
DM: It's locked.
[The rest of the party looks meaningfully at the "Rogue"]
Rachel the Rogue:  Stick it ya' buncha' hosebags, I'm not your lapdog. [Leaps onto a nearby table sending crockery flying and raises a fist in the air]  Fight the power!