How do you fight as a Rogue/Thief type?

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BadDecisionDino
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How do you fight as a Rogue/Thief type?

#1 Postby BadDecisionDino » Wed May 09, 2012 7:57 pm

I've been having a hard time conceptualizing the role of the classic "Stealthy stabby assassin" character in Savage Worlds. Of course, the class boundaries are more flexible, but I mean in general a character who has high agility, middling strength, and favors melee weapons.

I come from DnD, and I'm not really seeing staples like Sneak Attack bonuses being expressed quite as clearly in the rules. There's the Assassin edge which gives a +2 to damage, but it has quite a few prerequisites, but it seems like without it, the only advantage to striking from stealth happens only in the very first round of combat. It also doesn't seem very clear as to how to go about regaining stealth in combat, and what being caught "unawares" really means.

If the enemy knows you're around somewhere, but just not sure where, do you get any kind of bonus?

From where I'm standing, there also seems to be no obvious advantage to using a dagger over a battleaxe, and the tactics that help a rogue fight (ganging up, wild attack) would still be straight-up more effective if the character were using a ranged weapon, or bulked up a little and just fought more up-front.

I'm not crying "Imba!" here. If anything, it's more like I know that there are ways to make this work, or maybe rules that I might have missed, but they're not immediately apparent to me, and as a GM, I want to be prepared for when my players start crying to me that Savage Worlds doesn't have room in it for rogue characters.

What exactly should a rogue-type character be doing in combat, specifically, that a bulky warrior with decent agility can't do, and that the rogue actually has a comparative advantage in? Is it combat tricks? Because honestly, anything that tricks can accomplish seem like they can be accomplished more effectively by just whacking a guy upside the head. Should rogues be doing more Called Shots? Are they any better at hunting down a single target?

Basically, I'm just looking for experiences from folks who've played these types of characters. How did you define your role in the combat, and what kind of niche were you able to carve out as an agile, stealthy, melee character?

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#2 Postby Kristian Serrano » Wed May 09, 2012 8:38 pm

Most of the rogue-like tactics are distributed among combat options and Edges.

For example, the Drop gives you +4 to attacks and damage.

As written, you can move, attack, and finish your movement, something D&D v3.5 required 3 feats to accomplish. Extraction and Improved Extraction facilitate that even more.

First Strike and Florentine would be extremely useful, too.

Then there's also the Gang Up bonuses.

Regarding dagger vs. battleaxe, don't forget the rules for Minimum Strength in the Gear chapter.

The tactics are all there; they're just not bundled into a list of class abilities for a single archetype.

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#3 Postby BadDecisionDino » Wed May 09, 2012 8:48 pm

Amaril wrote:Most of the rogue-like tactics are distributed among combat options and Edges.

For example, the Drop gives you +4 to attacks and damage.

As written, you can move, attack, and finish your movement, something D&D v3.5 required 3 feats to accomplish. Extraction and Improved Extraction facilitate that even more.

First Strike and Florentine would be extremely useful, too.

Then there's also the Gang Up bonuses.

Regarding dagger vs. battleaxe, don't forget the rules for Minimum Strength in the Gear chapter.

The tactics are all there; they're just not bundled into a list of class abilities for a single archetype.


Well "The Drop" is vague because the rules say that you only get The Drop if the character is COMPLETELY unaware of your presence, or caught unarmed. But when it says that the attacker is considered on Hold for initiative, it makes it sound like that only happens once, on the first round of combat, IF you prepare an ambush.

First Strike is nice if you're expecting to get hit, so it's more of a consolation prize for doing your job as a rogue badly, plus it hits harder as a warrior. Gang-up Bonuses are, again, more effective as a warrior because if you're gonna gang-up, why not use it to hit like a truck than with a dagger?

And minimum strength on gear doesn't really reward you for choosing smaller weapons, it just penalizes you for not investing in more strength.

The only tactic I'm really seeing is something like combining First Strike and Extraction to pop in and out and get an extra attack every time an enemy steps closer to you to catch up.

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#4 Postby ashenwolf » Wed May 09, 2012 10:34 pm

Agile fighters tend to dual wield in my experiance , acrobat, florentine, two fisted, extraction, etc. I haven't seen much in the way of bonus backstabbing damage though.
Although tricks can simulate this to some extent.
Heavy fighters go with two handed weapons or sword and shield in place of lots of attacks.

An agile fighter can get away with agility tricks that a heavy fighter can't as well. True this is largely narrative but the scene limits what's reasonable to attempt. And remember you can trick and attack in the same round. A decent fighting and agility score makes the -2 penalty easy to work around.
Last edited by ashenwolf on Wed May 09, 2012 10:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#5 Postby robert4818 » Wed May 09, 2012 10:35 pm

BadDecisionDino wrote:
Amaril wrote:Most of the rogue-like tactics are distributed among combat options and Edges.

For example, the Drop gives you +4 to attacks and damage.

As written, you can move, attack, and finish your movement, something D&D v3.5 required 3 feats to accomplish. Extraction and Improved Extraction facilitate that even more.

First Strike and Florentine would be extremely useful, too.

Then there's also the Gang Up bonuses.

Regarding dagger vs. battleaxe, don't forget the rules for Minimum Strength in the Gear chapter.

The tactics are all there; they're just not bundled into a list of class abilities for a single archetype.


Well "The Drop" is vague because the rules say that you only get The Drop if the character is COMPLETELY unaware of your presence, or caught unarmed. But when it says that the attacker is considered on Hold for initiative, it makes it sound like that only happens once, on the first round of combat, IF you prepare an ambush.

First Strike is nice if you're expecting to get hit, so it's more of a consolation prize for doing your job as a rogue badly, plus it hits harder as a warrior. Gang-up Bonuses are, again, more effective as a warrior because if you're gonna gang-up, why not use it to hit like a truck than with a dagger?

And minimum strength on gear doesn't really reward you for choosing smaller weapons, it just penalizes you for not investing in more strength.

The only tactic I'm really seeing is something like combining First Strike and Extraction to pop in and out and get an extra attack every time an enemy steps closer to you to catch up.


Beyond the drop, the standard "Sneak attack" isn't really there as a mechanic. Thats really because the "Sneak attack" was primarily a class ability, similar to "flurry of blows" for a monk, not a combat tactic (so to speak.)

There are two things that you can do mid-combat that might allow you to think of as backstab.

The first are called shots. They impose a penalty to your attack (-4 for the case of head/vitals) but with the proper distraction (gang up/test of wills) this is largely negated, and gives you a good bonus to damage.

The other are Raises in combat. Again, when combined with gang-ups and test of wills/tricks, these become great added damage bonus hits.
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#6 Postby BadDecisionDino » Wed May 09, 2012 11:03 pm

Hmm...Okay, I can see things coming together now.

A character with Extraction, Acrobatics (assuming the +2 bonus also applies to Extraction), and First Strike would be a pretty tough thing to go up against. If a Trick succeeds, the -2 penalty to the next roll is technically negated.

And combining Two-fisted with Ambidextrous means you can Disarm on the first strike, and hit him as an Unarmed Defender on the next.

I suppose the thing to keep in mind with a rogue is that Savage Worlds doesn't just hand you the tactic on the silver platter. It probably isn't a great thing to try on your first character unless you're willing to really study all your options.

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#7 Postby ashenwolf » Wed May 09, 2012 11:35 pm

House rule to consider, allow tricks to be based of of things other than smarts and agility if it makes sense. Just make sure to allow more options for defending against the trick to make up for the flexibility of the attacks.

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#8 Postby Sadric » Thu May 10, 2012 1:57 am

There was a close combat fighter (dont know the exact name of the Edge) in 50 Fathoms and some other settings that give a knife fighter a parry bonus against enemys with a longer weapon.

Are the +2 for Acrobat and the +2 for dirty fighter added? This would give a deadly +4. But Im not sure If I would count it only if you describe a drity AND acrobatic trick. :-)

I've seen stats for throwing daggers give +1 on throwing, but-1 on fighting. Add this with Trademark weapon and Marksmann(it isnt explicit mentioned that marksmann works with throwing) and you have a really deadly knifethrower.

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#9 Postby Sean-Khan » Thu May 10, 2012 2:32 am

Sadric wrote:There was a close combat fighter (dont know the exact name of the Edge) in 50 Fathoms and some other settings that give a knife fighter a parry bonus against enemys with a longer weapon.

In Solomon Kane too. Close quarters fighting IIRC, and I think there's an improved version too.

I like it that thief doesn't have a mechanical 'sneak attack', even if the character is played in a bit similar way; stealth or disguise and surprises, utilize allies to gain bonuses for a called shot. I could see a thief having very high fighting skill, which is quite natural as he'll concentrate on agility. While he doesn't hit hard like fighters, he's often too fast for opponents and accurate with his blade.

And remember that high agility gives a better chance of interrupting actions, so you can wait for an opponent to charge an ally and then move to gain ganging up bonuses.

Hm, just read that you can get a drop against an unarmed opponent? I could see a sneaking character getting a drop against a combatant who's staying still (even if readying action), if the thief can really sneak up on him (requiring a raise if the target is aware that the thief is lurking somewhere). I don't know if there should exist some half-way suprise option, like with Burrow power. Perhaps just a normal stealth roll and attacking from a direction the target isn't looking at is good enough for a drop against unarmed opponent?

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#10 Postby BadDecisionDino » Thu May 10, 2012 2:46 am

Sean-Khan wrote:
And remember that high agility gives a better chance of interrupting actions, so you can wait for an opponent to charge an ally and then move to gain ganging up bonuses.


Okay, now that's clever! Yeah, this is exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for. Would've never thought of that myself!

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#11 Postby Zadmar » Thu May 10, 2012 4:50 am

You could also use Arcane Background (Super Powers) with the No Power Points rule. Take the Burrow power and give it a "burrow through the air" trapping; the character can no longer hide or move through solid earth, but neither do they need earth to use the power.

Flavour-wise this wouldn't represent magic (or super powers), but exceptional skill and training.

Mechanics-wise, it would work like this:

The character has a new skill called "Sneak Attack" (not linked to any attribute). He rolls Sneak Attack to activate the ability as an action; on a failure he's Shaken. A roll of 1 on the skill die counts as a failure, and also prevents him from using Sneak Attack for the rest of the encounter (unless he spends a benny).

Once activated, he can maintain Sneak Attack as long as he likes. However if he is Shaken or suffers a wound or Fatigue level, he must make a Smarts roll to continue maintaining Sneak Attack. On a failure he can reactivate it again as normal.

While Sneak Attack is active, he can attempt to sneak up on his enemies and surprise them. He moves up to twice his Smarts and makes an opposed Stealth vs Notice roll. On a success he gets +2 attack and damage for the round. A raise increases the bonus to +4.

End result...he's fast and hits hard, as long as he doesn't get hurt or surrounded.

Regarding dagger vs. battleaxe, I'd recommend taking a look at my Savage Armoury rules.

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#12 Postby BadDecisionDino » Thu May 10, 2012 5:14 am

What about something like allowing a rogue to get The Drop in the middle of combat, but with some restrictions?

For example, you'd always be rolling against an Active "Notice", usually without cover, often without darkness bonus, and if you're not in range, you end up taking a running penalty. Additionally, the sneak attack has to be made as an Interruption action against an enemy who is targeting someone other than the rogue (to reflect the fact that you can only really strike when his attention is split).

This creates a tense situation, as the rogue can get some big bonuses, but needs to play tactically because it all depends on executing Held Actions properly.

It can also backfire pretty dramatically as well.

The rogue runs into the shadows to hide, readies an action to leap out and pounce when the enemy turns his attention to the warrior. Next turn, the enemy starts an attack against the warrior, the rogue leaps out, fails his Stealth vs. Notice roll, gets caught, and loses the Drop bonus. Then he fails his opposed Agility roll, and the enemy can whack the rogue instead of the warrior.
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#13 Postby Zadmar » Thu May 10, 2012 5:22 am

BadDecisionDino wrote:What about something like allowing a rogue to get The Drop in the middle of combat, but with some restrictions?

That's effectively what I just suggested - and my proposal doesn't even require any changes to the core rules.

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#14 Postby BadDecisionDino » Thu May 10, 2012 5:29 am

Well the thing is, the rules for The Drop are written so open-ended, that I'm not really sure if I AM changing the core rules!

"Only the GM can determine when one character has obtained this kind of advantage over another...The attacker is considered on Hold and adds +4
to his attack and damage rolls should he decide to strike."

For what it's worth, I definitely dig the Savage Armoury rules, and have already incorporated them into my campaign.

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#15 Postby Kristian Serrano » Thu May 10, 2012 5:39 am

BadDecisionDino wrote:Well the thing is, the rules for The Drop are written so open-ended, that I'm not really sure if I AM changing the core rules!

"Only the GM can determine when one character has obtained this kind of advantage over another...The attacker is considered on Hold and adds +4
to his attack and damage rolls should he decide to strike."

For what it's worth, I definitely dig the Savage Armoury rules, and have already incorporated them into my campaign.
The open-ended aspect is intentional. Savage Worlds isn't as concerned with micro-managing details that really should be left up to the GM and players. Embrace that. You'll find it's more liberating than restrictive.

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#16 Postby Zadmar » Thu May 10, 2012 5:57 am

BadDecisionDino wrote:Well the thing is, the rules for The Drop are written so open-ended, that I'm not really sure if I AM changing the core rules!

However the rules for the Burrow power are pretty explicit, and allow you to use Stealth to get the same bonus as The Drop (at least on a raise - a normal success gives only half the bonus).

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#17 Postby Sean-Khan » Thu May 10, 2012 6:15 am

A thought about a simple way of dealing with the drop against unarmed opponent: A grapple check. On raise, the target really is grappled (and shaken on two raises). If the attempt fails, action is expended, but on success the character can deal the blow (or stay on hold).

Note that using just one hand to grapple is -4 to grapple checks - as this is a special situation I'd ignore this for initial check (in a way it's already factored in), but it's used if the target tries to get free - if he risks getting his throat split open.

The drop bonus should also be added to this roll, so if the target is surprised too, then the grapple happens on success (and shaken on raise).

Hm. I think I really like that, I feel it's an element that's been missing - something to giving mexican standoff's a bigger part in the game.

What do you think?

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#18 Postby Clint » Thu May 10, 2012 8:32 am

For the Drop in combat, I've suggested a minimum of getting a raise on an opposed Stealth vs. Notice roll, but even then, that's against the one person you want to attack. If they have an ally, they might see the attacker and warn their friend pretty easily.

There are Edges in some books that specifically cater to that kind of character, and as someone mentioned 50 Fathoms (which deals with scurvy pirates) is probably one of the better choices.

It has both Close Fighting and Improved Close Fighting for fighters who prefer smaller weapons, and it has Dirty Fighting and Improved Dirty Fighting, where the latter can give the character The Drop on any foe (at a price).

Or the player and GM can come up with their own depending on what they want and what fits the setting.
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#19 Postby BadDecisionDino » Thu May 10, 2012 8:48 am

Hmm. So maybe a simple enough ruling would be something like what I believe is used in DnD.

If you start your movement currently in stealth (unseen by anyone in the combat), you can roll a Stealth vs. Notice check against your target. On a success, get a +2 atk/dmg bonus, on a raise, it's +4.

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#20 Postby Sushi » Thu May 10, 2012 9:35 am

A setting edge I use:

----------------
Tricky Fighter Requires Seasoned, Fighting d8+, Agility or Smarts d8+
You suffer no MAP when using a Trick in the same turn as (and immediately before) a Fighting attack. You must choose which type of Trick this Edge applies to (Agility or Smarts) and must have a d8 in that Attribute. You may take this Edge twice to apply it to both kinds of Tricks.
----------------

I don't remember if I found it somewhere or made it up. You might find it useful.

I've gone back and forth with having the benefit being "no MAP" vs simply "+2 to the trick". The difference is in whether or not the attack is at -2 or not. Either way, I like the restriction that it be used in conjunction with an attack.


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