|Cast Knock just ONE MORE TIME|
Here's a little something that I thought was interesting.
In the EnWorld.org thread entitled "I know the spell to solve the problem!" there's a rather telling post about the strength and, well, utility of the utility magic presented to classes. And I quote:
It starts with paladin's detecting evil, ruining careful disguises, to much stronger divination magics. Clerics asking the dead body who get the name of the murderer.
"Knock" spells that open any door faster than the thief can draw his lockpicks.
Charms that makes lies and bluff unnecessary (both as skill and roleplay). Creation spells that ruin any commerce system.
And then asks, essentially, what do you think? Is it a feature or a bug? Can you use it to enhance your game, or does it ruin the game?
If you ask me, this is really two questions in disguise. The original poster is asking "Is it ok for characters to have useful non-combat magic?", and also "Is role protection valuable?" But even that's not what he's really asking. The problem is that magic can be (and often is) a substitute for 3e and 4e's skill system, such that magical characters are able to bypass the skill system by casting a spell or two.
One of the most-cited examples in the thread is that a wizard, at very low levels, gains access to the spell Knock, allowing him to "take away" one of the Rogue's oh-so-valuable niches. This niche happens to be represented by a single die roll that the Rogue's player makes. This apparently totally de-values the Rogue class, which has been spending its skill ranks level after level to have a chance of doing what a wizard can do with a nod of his head and a shake of his staff. Apparently, it's ok for the Rogue to have the ability to make die rolls endlessly to unlock things, but it's not ok for the Wizard to spend one of his extremely valuable spell slots to do the same thing.
The reason? Apparently, this steals the Rogue's time to shine. This is what kills me. If there are honestly groups out there who gather in a big circle and get all excited when the guy who chose to play the Rogue gets to unlock a door, then I apologize, but what the fuck are you all so excited about? You roll a d20. Once. Maybe twice, if the GM lets you roll until you succeed, and then you're just waiting for the right number to come up. You might as well hand-wave it and say "Rogues can open all locked doors, eventually." Honestly, if I was the Rogue, I wouldn't give two shits who unlocks the door, as long as there's treasure or a dragon or something on the other side. It doesn't matter who opens it. The roll is not the interesting part of the game, and acting like it is sounds extremely derogatory. Oh, wow, Rogue, you rolled such a good number! Now step aside and let the big boys fight the orcs, hmm?
This reminds me: The 3e Rogue is damn useless. No, please don't argue. It's a class that specializes in gaining skill ranks in a system where skill ranks are grossly undervalued, while simultaneously getting the ability to backstab things really, really hard. Outside of combat, the Rogue gets to do things nobody else does (which results in the rest of the party sitting around), in exchange for having one actual action that he gets to undertake in combat. He gets to poke people's spines or do nearly no damage. How exciting!
It's past time to unlink the backstabbing and the sneaking from the guy who does the lockpicking and trap disabling gruntwork. More than that, it's time to either make lockpicking and trap disabling an actual activity, or it's time to quit pretending that having a lot of skills is somehow a class feature. It needs to stop. Skill ranks aren't a real class fature. If you gave the 3e Fighter 10 class skills, he'd still be an awful class. It doesn't help anything to pretend that the Rogue is somehow a vital part of the party when you have to explicitly design parts of adventures with locked doors and traps just so the poor sap who picked the only class (other than a wizard, apparently) can deal with it.
This has been one of the things I've been trying to do in my own games. There needs to be a total de-linkage of in-combat roles and out-of-combat roles, such that you can have a wizard with mechanical knowledge, or a charismatic warrior, or an assassin with a knowledge of medieval history. This is how people in real life work.Why shouldn't it be the same with characters in a game?
|All us assassins pretty much like the same things: stabby knives, long cloaks, puppies...|
I think it's about time that the Rogue got an actual out-of-combat niche, something that isn't comprised of die rolls for things that don't add drama or interest to the game. After all, his predecessor (the Thief of oD&D through 2nd edition) had a pretty good niche. Anybody could scale walls, but he could scale sheer ones. Anybody could see a trap, but he had a psuedo-supernatural 6th sense about danger. All this in a game with 6 classes instead of 60, and maybe one unique mechanic per class. There were a tiny handful of differences between classes besides the hit dice and combat advancement, and still each class does something interesting.
As to role protection, well, I've talked about that to death already, but if you're new here, let me put it this way: Role protection has no place outside of combat. In combat, each player should have something interesting to do, an enemy that is easier for them to fight than other classes, and a weakness that other party members must fill. They should also have something interesting or useful to do when they cannot attack directly. This is because when the group is fighting, everybody's fighting. Everybody's focused on the same thing.
Outside of combat, there's no reason that the guy playing the warrior should be bored, and one class should be doing everything. There's no excuse for it. Every player should be able to contribute (somewhat) equally inside and outside of combat, and it's not for some sort of "game balance" thing. It's so people aren't sitting with their thumbs up their butts, waiting for somebody to make six d20 rolls so that they can get to something that isn't boring. It's not about character balance. It's about Player Balance. Having entire segments of the game where a player's character has nothing to do is Bad Game Design. There's no two ways about it.