Posted by: Jess Riley | October 20, 2008

Do It Different: Rogues

Way back when, I made a post on being badass with your wits as well as with your fighting skill. In response to this post, Sean remarked to me, “It’s almost like a Do It Different for Rogues.”

Well, I didn’t think so. The subtle, witty badass is a great trope and a great jumping off point for a character, but I couldn’t just leave it there. I want to talk more about rogues, and I freely admit that I say this as someone who rarely plays rogues.

The archetype of the rogue that a lot of people seem to go for is that the rogue is inherently not a very good person – not necessarily that they’re evil, but that they fall on the scale anywhere between ‘assassin’ and ‘petty thief’. And, in fairness, they can very reasonably do that, and most of the ‘alternatives’ still centre around morally questionable activities in some sense, but the way this is played is very different. Most playings of the classic rogue I’ve seen are very dark interpretations of this ideal, and I don’t think that should always be the case.

The other main form of the rogue I’ve seen is the ‘catch-all I don’t know what class to pick’ class. I don’t know how common this is, but I seem to see it a fair bit – there’s a concept which lends itself to more up-close fighting than anything else, they don’t think their character could or should use magic, and they don’t want to play a warrior… so they roll a rogue. This all makes sense, but I’d really like to see more characters played around the concept of the rogue, rather than rogues who are that by default rather than by design.

So, where to go from here? Here’s a few other ideas to get you started.

The Spy: I know, I know – could I get any more broad? But, okay, I’d like to break that down a little more – there’s two main varieties of spy, best described by the TV Tropes Wiki here. I don’t think these two tropes are significantly different enough to warrant two separate points in the Do It Different, but they’re both worth mentioning. The Martini spy probably works best for most situations – for instance, a gnome rogue with engineering could pull off great gadgetry and explosions a la James Bond – but there’s a market for the stale beer variant, particularly with the (does this sound counter-intuitive to anyone?) blood elves. What? The blood elves have a rather dark story about the magic addiction and there’s so much market for ensuing immorality or questionable morals. After all, most stale beer spies (in detective fiction, these guys would be called ‘hard-boiled’) end up being alcoholics, so the blood elves have a leg up already.

I’m not sure I want to think about a gnome rogue getting all the ladies, a la James Bond. I think that pushes my idea just a bit too far.

But seriously, this is an idea that I’m surprised isn’t pursued more frequently. It’s such an obvious derivation of the rogues and alongside the engineering (for a martini spy), or alchemy (for a stale beer spy) professions. In terms of spec, for either it’s probably going to be assassination. Neither the stale beer spy nor the martini spy is in it for a long, hard battle – they want to get in, get out and go home – whether that home is to a pile of women, or a puddle of malt liquor.

The Pickpocket: I’m really going for the clever names here, as you can see. Look, this is an obvious one – there’s a pickpocket ability built into the game for rogues, why not make as much use of it as you can? The classic pickpocket in fiction – where, for reference, I’m thinking of characters like The Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist, or Skif from Take a Thief – is a charming young man who, outside of his element, looks a bit like he could fit in just about anywhere, and probably does. Odds are, he’s not too recognisable a guy, looking more or less like any other young man out there, and can conceal himself at a moment’s notice. This is a great idea to develop into a roleplay concept in my opinion. Most of his money comes from illegal endeavours, most notably pickpocketing but also breaking and entering, etc, and yet he seems charming enough at all other times and, if pressed, would just as likely state that he never causes anyone any harm as admit that he’s a criminal. He’s not a con artist – he’s too secretive for that. He works on the sly and hides in the shadows – or hides in anonymity – until it’s time for him to make a move. (Spec – obviously subtlety.)

The Double Agent: No, this isn’t the same thing as The Spy – though in fairness, it is awfully close. Where The Spy gets in, gets out and goes home, as I stated above, the Double Agent is in it for the long haul. He plays on both sides and no one, except perhaps the people he reports to, really knows what side he’s playing. Even then, it’s not quite possible to know what’s going on and who he’s really reporting to. He leaks secrets from one or the other to both sides, and no one’s quite sure what his motives are. He could be playing for one side or the other (in which case, he’s leaking as few secrets as he can to keep up his facade of working for the other side), or could just be playing for himself and his own motives somewhere along the way. Of all examples, I think Severus Snape of Harry Potter, whose allegiance was played with from the very beginning of the series, may be the best example of what I mean.

To be honest, this is one of the hardest ones to play in World of Warcraft, as you can’t very well infiltrate the opposite faction, or even pretend that you’ve infiltrated the opposite faction, what with looking so vastly different. No matter how good a gnome is, a gnome is never going to convince anyone that they’re really an orc. But that doesn’t mean this can’t be done! On a very local level, you could be playing between two opposing guilds within the same faction, pretending to be allied to both while a member of neither, while passing secrets from one to the other. More than that – or if you can’t find two conveniently antagonistic guilds in your play – there are groups separate to each faction that you can play at being a double agent – with the Scarlet Crusade, with the Bloodsail Buccaneers, the Syndicate, etc.

Of course, this gets a little difficult – you can’t really roleplay actually interacting with the Scarlet Crusade, for instance, but you can roleplay being friendly with them and people not knowing if you’re a double agent or not. This can be helped with the use of item sets like Chain of the Scarlet Crusade, or through (if you really want to) playing with reputation, like with the Bloodsail Buccaneers, wavering about how friendly you are with either Booty Bay or the Buccaneers, depending on what you feel like on any given day. This is a lot of work, but we’re pretty used to hard work when trying to acheive what we want for our characters.

Spec for this one? I’d like to say combat, because I’ve already done the other two, but I’m really not sure. I think this one is up to you, depending on what direction you want to take the character.


  1. “I’m really going for the clever names here, as you can see. ”
    Haha, well really with such a type of entry, you can’t be too creative with names. Especially, when talking about Rogues I would say.

    As for your ideas, like you said they all are fairly obvious, which begs the question of why there not done as much as the darker, thieving, criminal type who back stab you both literally & figuratively. But I guess the answer to that question be, that playing bad is fun and people do like to have fun after all. And for them, playing a Rogue, while they are being bad, they don’t veer off to the really bad & evil paths of the more sadistic, homicidal, genocidal types. So it gives them the ability to be very grey if they don’t want to be so black or white.

    Also, I think other ways you could play a Rogue different if I am to surmise that most play as the “back stabbing” type more often than not. Would be to play the (also obvious) Robin Hood type. The outlaw who has become a folk hero of sorts, by righting some sort of injustice through their criminal activities such as the classic “stealing from the rich to give to the poor.” Or perhaps playing the (obvious as well) Cat Burglar/Gentleman Thief type. Who steals for the thrill, the challenge & sheer pleasure of the act as well as the lifestyle it affords them.

    And like with anything, you can always combine aspects of each type. A nice example be a person who by day is a charitable doctor type who help the sick, injured, poor…etc but by night steals from the corrupt leaders of their government, the rich aristocrats..etc and then use said earning to help give more to those they care for in the day. So in effect they use their criminal activities to fund their charitable activities. A loose example of such, be Psiren of FMA or even Catwoman.

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