Over on his blog, Coyote has a pair of articles about the Rogue/Thief class in RPGs. He contends that the profession is somewhat second-class in comparison to others.

Just reading the articles, you can see that Coyote’s heart is in trying to flummox the DM or the designer, looking for cute ways to outsmart the game. He considers the Rogue the creative class, the one that “thinks outside the box”, and finds clever methods for getting things done without full-scale combats.

As it is, most of the time, it’s true that the Rogue is there mainly for traps and locks, and as a mediocre fighter. The two NWN games do have some social skills – bluff, persuade, intimidate – but only the main (your) character can really use them. So if you’re playing something else, or you haven’t built any up, they’re rather useless.

And there’s the problem in CRPGs that you can only do what the programs allow for. Usually, they don’t allow for more than locks and traps much of the time.

Which brings us to the question, should we just forget about rogues in CRPGs entirely? (Not counting Thief, a very special case) The current Neverwinter Nights 2, for instance, lets any class build up lockpicking and detrapping. There is a point where only a thief can disarm a trap, but even 1 level of Rogue is enough.

For that matter, in Oblivion you can make your own unique class, with whatever skills you like. So you can take some thief-type skills and others as suits your fancy. You don’t have to be any sort of conventional rogue.

One reason this might appeal to designers is that they don’t have to worry about rogues at all. Just let any class take the skills, since, as already mentioned, rogues are important mostly for locks and traps. If there had been no locks and traps in NWN2, would you still drag Neeshka along with you?

An interesting way this is being handled is the “group skills” in Planewalker’s upcoming Broken Hourglass. Some skills, among them perception (searching for hidden things, like traps), lockpicking & detrapping, and diplomacy, are handled by combining the individual scores of party members.

So yeah, do we really need rogues?

Rogues Part 1 on Coyote’s Blog

Rogues Part 2 on Coyote’s Blog

Group Skills on Planewalker

Hide and Seek on Planewalker