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Rogue Design Goals
Legends and Lore
Mike Mearls

T his week, the rogue takes center stage. Why the rogue? Well, I conducted a quick poll on Twitter to determine if I should tackle the wizard or the rogue next. I tallied the tweets, and the rogue won out! If you want to add your voice to the Twitter crew when I conduct these polls of mine, or if you want to get a sense of what the team is working on each day, you can hop on Twitter and follow @mikemearls and @Wizards_DnD. Just don't forget to add #dndnext whenever you join the conversation there or ask questions! Now I can't promise that I can get to everything, since my availability is determined by my work schedule and my wife's willingness to let me keep my nose in my laptop at night, but it's probably the best way to communicate with me.

So, what's up with the rogue in D&D?

1. The rogue doesn't fight fair.

Fighters, clerics, and wizards take it straight to their enemies in a fight. A fighter charges in with a sword or maybe unleashes a volley of arrows. A cleric wields a mace and throws a support spell, while a wizard blasts you with a lightning bolt. The rogue prefers an indirect approach to a fight. A rogue thrives on tricks and misdirection. If a rogue can't attack from behind or with some other key advantage, he or she might be better off withdrawing or remaining out of sight until the opportunity for a surprise attack presents itself.

If a rogue can surprise an opponent with an attack, that attack might be overwhelmingly powerful. If a rogue is cornered and forced to fight fair, he or she is at a huge disadvantage. In such a situation, most rogues would choose to run away rather than fight.

Rogues are tricky opponents, because determining what they might do next is almost impossible. A smart rogue always keeps a few tricks in his or her back pocket, ready to spring them when the time is right. Whether it's throwing a handful of caltrops under a bugbear's feet as it tries to charge, leaping from an ambush to drive a blade into an ogre's back, or dodging beneath a dragon's claws and tumbling into the shadows to hide, a rogue always has a trick in mind.

2. Rogues are skilled.

Rogues have many different tricks up their sleeves, and no two rogues are identical. They can hide in shadows, squeeze out of manacles, scamper up walls, and adopt a disguise. You can never be fully certain of what a rogue might be able to do. If a rogue decides to master a mundane skill, he or she can reach a higher level of expertise than other characters.

In many ways, a thief is simply a rogue who specializes in handling traps, opening locks, and getting past the opposition to reach a goal, such as the loot at the end of the adventure. Just as fighters might distinguish themselves by their choice of weapons, armor, and tactics, rogues are separated by the tricks and skills they have developed.

3. The rogue exists in a world of myth, fantasy, and legend.

This one showed up in the fighter goals, but it also applies to the rogue. The rogue can trick others, slip through shadows, and talk his or her way out of anything. Although these abilities are not magical in nature, a high-level rogue can transcend the limits of a mundane skill to achieve legendary heights of myth and legend. A wizard might use a spell to charm the king, but a dispel magic can free that king. The same king tricked into an alliance by a rogue is much harder to sway. A simple spell is not enough to counter the web of lies, half-truths, and fears that a cunning rogue might use to manipulate a way into the royal treasury.

4. The rogue makes the routine look trivial.

Rogue are in a class by themselves when it comes to attempting ability checks and using skills. Not only is a rogue more skilled than other classes, but he or she can achieve many difficult tasks without much exertion. To the rogue, luck and chance play no role in determining success. The rogue's talent and training make such concerns negligible.

Traditionally, the mechanics of D&D have reflected better training by increasing the chance of success. That doesn't quite capture the rogue's level of talent. The rogue isn't just more likely to succeed. Instead, he or she takes success for granted in most cases. It's only when facing a real challenge that the rogue must worry about the outcome.

A Little More on the Playtest

One thing to keep in mind about these design goals is that they are flexible and open to discussion. A big part of the playtest process tackles having us all make sure that the game feels like D&D. If you've played rogues for ten years, ask yourself if the new rogue feels like the class you've played and loved. In addition to testing the core of the game, the early rounds of testing are geared toward making sure that the game is hitting the correct notes for all the classes. On May 24th, you'll get to see how we tried to hit these goals, whether we're on the mark at this early stage, and if the target we've aimed for is the correct one.

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