CrazyIvan777
 member, 279 posts
Wed 16 Oct 2019
at 17:45
Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
So, I'm back for another heaping helping of brainstorm from you fine folks!

I'm running a 5th ed D&D game set in a large metropolis. A lot of the game is about investigation and intrigue, and the eventual uncover of a massive conspiracy dating back centuries. It's all gonna end in the city being (literally) in the middle of a war involving factions from the north and south.

We've recently brought on a new player (well, new to the game. Gamed with him before numerous times) who is playing a rogue with the inquisitive archetype. He's a former cult member turned into something between Sherlock Holmes and Hannibal from The A-Team.

Problem is, as we found last session, his social skills are shadowed by the group's face (A warlock with a lot of charisma and such skills), and his investigation is overshadowed by the group artificer who has high skill and keeps giving herself Fox's Cunning to get advantage on her rolls. Needless to say, the rogue is feeling a little overshadowed in general.

I've talked with the player about how to get more story in for him (in fact, he gave me some really meaty backstory that's going to come around in the near future), but he's still shaky about feeling like a 'third wheel' when combat's not going on.

Any suggestions as to how I, as a GM, can make the rogue shine a bit more?
steelsmiter
 member, 2059 posts
 BESM, Fate, Indies, PBTA
 NO FREEFORM! NO d20!
Wed 16 Oct 2019
at 18:08
Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
give him guild contacts who have inside information the artificer can't access, and who don't care about the warlock's Charisma.
engine
 member, 739 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Wed 16 Oct 2019
at 18:41
Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
I'm not sure off-hand, but I wanted to recommend that the whole table be brought into this discussion.

As I typed that, I wondered if a slightly altered character would work. I don't know 5th Edition well, but in other editions of D&D a fighter, ranger, monk, barbarian, bard and probably other classes could be a "thief," "thug," "investigator/inquisitive" etc. simply by building them a bit differently from the usual archetypes. That might broaden the characters abilities in other directions, though it might also just step on other toes.

I assume that an "inquisitive" rogue is more like an investigator. I would think that a rogue would be the tops at leading infiltrations into barred areas, places that can't be talked, tricked or fought into, and for which there are few external clues as to what's inside.

I don't recommend scenes involving just the rogue going in by themselves. I'm not in favor of scenes that one character can deal with by themselves. Which raises a question: why are the warlock and artificer able to handle interaction and investigation on their own? A situation like those could easily be made into a skill challenge, or multiple skill challenges that require or at least benefit from having more than one character working on them. So, getting away from non-combat situations that only require a single character who can easily be brought to the fore will address this issue and probably others you're having.

Okay, I guess I'm less unsure than I thought it was.
Hendell
 member, 221 posts
Thu 17 Oct 2019
at 01:09
Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
The main advantage of the Inquisitive Rogue Subclass isn't that it is better at doing things than other classes its advantage is that it is both faster and more reliable.  If you wan't the rogue to outshine the overly prepared artificer you need to take away that preparation time.

Put the 'discover' somewhere that both stealth and speed play an important role, use one skill to grant advantage to the subsequent skill, or just make the artificer's magic hard to use for some reason.

In general the Rogue won't be better than a focused Warlock or Artificer because it isn't as good of a class for non combat situations, unless they have their expertise class feature dedicated to being 'better' at that particular skill.

In the optimum party the roles will split up naturally and each one will take their turn doing things.

The Rogue goes in first with Stealth, Perception, Sense Motive, and sometimes Sleight of Hand.  With that information taken back to the rest of the party the Artificer can make a plan and apply magical advantages to whomever needs them (including the Rogue), then the Warlock can go in and use Deception Persuasion, and or Intimidation to get the job done.

It sounds like some of your players are intentionally hogging the light, Artificers that cast spells on themselves to transition from second best, to best, rather than on the character already best at a role should probably get a talking to.

This message was last edited by the user at 01:11, Thu 17 Oct.

engine
 member, 740 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Thu 17 Oct 2019
at 06:10
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
Hendell:
The main advantage of the Inquisitive Rogue Subclass isn't that it is better at doing things than other classes its advantage is that it is both faster and more reliable.  If you wan't the rogue to outshine the overly prepared artificer you need to take away that preparation time.

Put the 'discover' somewhere that both stealth and speed play an important role, use one skill to grant advantage to the subsequent skill, or just make the artificer's magic hard to use for some reason.

That seems to resemble the typical advice I see for trying to balance casters with non-casters: the caster's versatility requires time and ideal conditions, whereas the non-caster is always ready with their particular schtick. Sure the wizard has an unerring magical arrow, but only one, whereas the fighter can attack, albeit fallibly, all day, right?

I'm very fond of time and resource pressures in games, but I can't see that helping this situation. Even the artificer doesn't just figure out a way around the pressures (using their free time to make lots of scrolls or wands for various occasions worked in 3.5, as I recall), making magic hard to use in D&D is likely to come across as contrived and nitpicky, and as coddling the non-casters. Maybe less so if everyone across the hobby was on the same page about making magic harder to use, but as it stands, it's not likely to go over well.

Hendell:
In the optimum party the roles will split up naturally and each one will take their turn doing things.

The Rogue goes in first with Stealth, Perception, Sense Motive, and sometimes Sleight of Hand.  With that information taken back to the rest of the party the Artificer can make a plan and apply magical advantages to whomever needs them (including the Rogue), then the Warlock can go in and use Deception Persuasion, and or Intimidation to get the job done.

That strikes me as odd advice. Why break the game up like that, so that only one person is playing at a time? Combat doesn't require that, apart from the exigencies of initiative. Plenty of shows and stories involve the whole group at once, even in non-combat endeavors. Why can't we do that in the games designed to emulate those stories?

Hendell:
It sounds like some of your players are intentionally hogging the light, Artificers that cast spells on themselves to transition from second best, to best, rather than on the character already best at a role should probably get a talking to.

I've heard this advice before too, but what I don't understand about it is how it's particularly fun for the Artificer. There's not much gameplay to just casting a spell on someone else. The artificer is being a good team member, but they're cooperating themselves right out of getting to actively participate.

I honestly believe that some people enjoy playing spellcasters in complete support roles, rather than as active participants who use spells to compensate (or, in certain editions, at certain levels, overcompensate) for their disadvantages, but I think most people would rather get into the fray.
Hendell
 member, 222 posts
Thu 17 Oct 2019
at 08:06
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
There is no reason the artificer can't get into the fray.  And indeed spellcasters of all kinds can easily take the primary role in almost any situation if they are willing to expend a few limited resources to do so.  The question is do they need to be in everyone's way doing so?

If your whole party can manage stealth then you can do that, but sometimes a quick glance at the setup of the room is worth a few minutes wait.  You don't want the Rogue to go full solo stealth mission and sneak through to the quest objective, loot the place, and come back out.  But pop around the corner and get the room description, hand that off to the other players so you can make a plan without being jumped by the angry things in that same room.

It is part of what makes Rogues different from other characters and eliminating it would be very similar to eliminating the combat in a game and being surprised that the fighter isn't particularly useful.

As for making magic difficult that isn't an important step, just insist that the spellcasters use and track time, 5e spells have a very short duration and most classes don't get a lot of them, so if you keep track they won't be active nearly as much as they were in 3.5 games.
engine
 member, 741 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Thu 17 Oct 2019
at 14:14
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
Hendell:
There is no reason the artificer can't get into the fray.  And indeed spellcasters of all kinds can easily take the primary role in almost any situation if they are willing to expend a few limited resources to do so.  The question is do they need to be in everyone's way doing so?

In this case, the spellcasters don't seem to be "in anyone's way." The artificer seems to be acting appropriately for a game about investigation and intrigue. Perhaps they'd be acting differerntly if the rogue had been present from the beginning, and perhaps some artificer players would be relieved at the addition of a mundane detective, which would free them up to prepare other spells. If the artificer is enjoying being the investigator, though, and is good at it, they're helping, not hindering. They might not be helping optimally, but they're helping in a way they (presumably) enjoy.

Hendell:
If your whole party can manage stealth then you can do that, but sometimes a quick glance at the setup of the room is worth a few minutes wait.  You don't want the Rogue to go full solo stealth mission and sneak through to the quest objective, loot the place, and come back out.  But pop around the corner and get the room description, hand that off to the other players so you can make a plan without being jumped by the angry things in that same room.

The whole party can manage "stealth," depending on how one plays things. A skill challenge that's about infiltration can probably involve every character in some way. Rogue types would make the Stealth and Thievery checks, strong types would handle climbing and abseiling, the knowledgable ones can guide everyone, etc. Ideally, of course, there's more going on at the same time than just "infiltration," maybe "avoiding guards" is split out as its own thing, or there's some secondary goal like finding and grabbing a particular item.

Hendell:
It is part of what makes Rogues different from other characters and eliminating it would be very similar to eliminating the combat in a game and being surprised that the fighter isn't particularly useful.

Except that pretty much everyone can participate in combat, and probably expect to be able to do so to about the same degree and with as much enjoyment as the fighter.

Hendell:
As for making magic difficult that isn't an important step, just insist that the spellcasters use and track time, 5e spells have a very short duration and most classes don't get a lot of them, so if you keep track they won't be active nearly as much as they were in 3.5 games.

I'm glad you said "time" rather than "components" which is the other thing people seem to point to when trying to keep casters balanced with non-casters. Yes, tracking time can help with keeping options balanced, but the fact that you have to bring it up, rather than it being an inherent thing to track like HP or spell slots points to why it's not a reliable way to balance things. Besides, enhance ability apparently works for an hour. The example you give of the rogue popping around the corner implies something quick and easy, well within the duration of that spell. Now, maybe someone would prefer not to use a spell with an hour's duration on a quick recon, anymore than they'd want to waste a fireball on a single weak target, but with an hour to use, they could scout, come back to plan, and probably still have some of the spell left for use during the plan, as long as the plan didn't require more concentration spells.

I'm not clear whether casters can make scrolls or wands in 5th Edition. If anyone could, I'd expect it to be the artificer, but maybe there are adequate downsides to prevent those from obviating spell-slot limits.

Frankly, enhancement spells are are primary issue here. The game is better off without things that allow someone who is a good back-up in an activity to move directly into the primary for that activity, for any significant length of time.
Hendell
 member, 223 posts
Thu 17 Oct 2019
at 14:28
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
There are so many types of artificer for 5e, all of which have their own particular quirks and methods it is hard to predict exactly what this one can do, and or how well.

That said any spellcaster can make magic items with the rules in the DMG but it takes a LOT more gold and time to do so than any previous edition, which makes the throwaway scroll use a limited to impossible idea in most games.  Wands operate entirely differently in 5e and most GMs don't find them to be a problem.
engine
 member, 742 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Thu 17 Oct 2019
at 15:16
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
At least they fixed something, then.
Hendell
 member, 224 posts
Thu 17 Oct 2019
at 21:28
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
There are a lot of fixes in 5e, many of them a bit subtle, but on the whole it does a very good job of bringing back the feel and mood of the original and or 2e D&D without any of the clunky rules problems.  A very good effort to modernize the game rather than try to reinvent the wheel like 4e did.
engine
 member, 743 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Fri 18 Oct 2019
at 02:06
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
In reply to Hendell (msg # 10):

You've outlined my problems with it quite succinctly.
Karack
 member, 161 posts
Fri 18 Oct 2019
at 21:29
Re: Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
i had a big long response to this, but it's gone now. so i'll make a short one. i know pretty much nothing about 5e. so take this for what it's worth.

it sounds to me (i could be wrong though) that you have two main problems.

one: you have a new player whose character's main roles in the party have already been filled. in such a case, it is tough. in the interests of everyone having fun, the players should discuss how to work the new character in. as the dm, maybe add additional aspects to their missions. for example, maybe two guards in two different locations need to be charmed at the same time. the warlock can handle one, but can't be in two places at once. so the rogue can help. while this can feel a bit contrived, it doesn't necessarily need to. maybe the party is just taking on larger challenges and therefore needs more manpower. if you had a party of two fighters, and then added a third fighter, you might increase the number of goblins they have to fight from 4 to 6 to give the third fighter something to do. i can't imagine you wouldn't. otherwise the fights would become too easy for the party. same thing applies to adding a third non-combat focused character in a non-combat focused game. you need to increase the challenge.

two: possibly you're not having their enemies act as intelligently as they should. for example, if they're doing investigating, it sounds like maybe they are tackling criminals. if that's the case, and the criminals are organized and good at their jobs, then they should actively protect themselves. if the 5e warlock is anything like the 3.5e warlock, their super-charm capability largely comes from their invocations. a criminal underworld would and should absolutely take magic into account. they should have detect magic active at all times at important guard posts. criminals are paranoid and expect investigators to come calling at any given moment, or worse, rival gangs. they should be ready. as soon as the warlock walks up with his invocation active, the guards should at the very least detect it, and send him away or disable him, by default. he should never even have a chance to open his mouth. depending on the criminal organization, they might instantly try to kill him. this isn't an arbitrary tactic to make the rogue useful. this is a criminal organization and an unknown someone just walked up with active magic. for all they know, it could be a shapechange spell and the person is about to turn full dragon on them and start a slaughter. possibly exaggerated, but you hopefully get the point. criminals who are good at their jobs should also take into consideration someone using magic to investigate the crimes. they would have countermeasures to use against that, either magic to destroy evidence, or a landmine that goes off if it detects magic. something. if they had no countermeasures for magical investigation, then they would have been easily and quickly caught before becoming good at their jobs. not sure if the rogue in 5e is the only one able to detect magic traps, but that would also make him useful (for example, a detect magic spell can easily be gotten around, but the 3.x rogue successfully searching cannot).

hopefully this helps give you some ideas.
Gaffer
 member, 1581 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Sat 19 Oct 2019
at 14:17
Game advice needed: Letting a rogue shine
In reply to steelsmiter (msg # 2):

If he's a former member of the cult, it seems natural that he should have knowledge/information/contacts that wouls prove vital.