Perfect Ten: Ten things you need to understand about MMORPG Rogues

Sometimes I know that I may be a bit too old-school because there’s a little twitch in my eye whenever I have to refer to a given class as a Rogue. That’s become my go-to replacing Thief, and it really does make a fair amount of sense: Rogue skillsets are usually more covering a variety of skulky activities, which incorporates but is no means limited to thievery. Not to mention that calling someone a “Thief” seems like it’s underselling the situation.

Especially when the party is frequently engaged in the act of assault, murder, destruction of property, and unnatural acts with corpses.

A while back, I talked about how to understand the lifestyle of the MMO Warrior, because there’s always a Warrior. Just as surely, there’s always a Rogue, or a Thief, or if you have to go a little further afield, a Scoundrel or Stalker. So in the spirit of understanding these conventions, let’s talk about understanding MMO Rogues.

Just imagine all of this leather squeaking.

1. Rogues always dress in leather

In real life, being a successful thief involves not drawing attention to yourself. You have to blend into the background or at least look like someone no one would ask a single question about. So most thieves dress in normal but nondescript clothes, and roguish sorts try to look either fashionable or forgettable.

Not so in MMOs. No, Rogues wear leather. Half of the time they wear leather that’s covered in things like little vials of poison or depictions of one elf shivving another elf for the crime of having shiny things. The point is that there is a dress code, and it’s a dress code covered in tanned animal skins.

2. It’s a life of knives

The weapon of choice for Rogues always comes back to knives. That’s not to say every Rogue wields knives as their primary weapons, although a lot of them do, but you’ll always wind up coming back to knives. Sure, there are things called knives in Final Fantasy XIV that are clearly short swords, but then you start throwing knives in a circle and you’re right back to knives all over again.

Frequently you’ll even have a bunch of those knives on your aforementioned leather, as if you’re advertising that you are in fact a Rogue.

The usual runners-up for when knives aren’t available, of course, are guns. I’m not sure where this one comes from. Knives are small and easy to conceal, so that has some rationale. But guns are loud and tend to draw attention, so it seems like Rogues would prefer something else while doing crimes.

3. Every Rogue is connected to crime

Half of the time, a Rogue’s class name is the description of someone who commits a crime. A Thief is someone who steals. A Smuggler is someone who smuggles. A Stalker is someone who sits outside of your bathroom with a camera. But even if you don’t get named after a specific crime, you still exist in the larger criminal continuum. Sure, the Rogue Order Hall in World of Warcraft has lots of spies and such, but it also hires a lot of people with names that would sound normal for mafiosos from the 1950s – because if there’s one thing that works well for espionage, it’s interacting with people known to steal and backstab others.

Of course, this ties in nicely to a mechanical similarity…

Grand Theft Tiger.

4. Stealing is a vital part of being a Rogue

Pickpocket in WoW. Mug in FFXIV. Steal in Guild Wars 2. You get the idea. Sure, you plan to kill this tiger, but before you do that, maybe you can steal from it. Take some of its tiger things, you know.

Half of the time it still works, and none of the time does it make sense. Maybe you get a piece of loot that the tiger would normally drop! That makes no sense because how can you take a tiger fang from a still-living tiger? (In the same way that getting stabbed gets you a knife, presumably.) Or maybe you get something else, like some currency or one of a small pool of items. That makes even less sense because where was it keeping that? Is there some kind of tiger coin purse there?

And sometimes you’re stealing something nonsensical, like GW2 letting you steal, like, the idea of being a tiger. That doesn’t even work on a conceptual level.

5. A Rogue becomes invisible at will

Stealth is the art of avoiding notice. It’s about standing in the shadows, looking unobtrusive, moving where eyes are not, and otherwise slipping from notice. Except in MMOs, where it’s the art of clicking a button that gives you the Stealth status and then laughing as enemies don’t notice you standing right there.

The one nod toward realism is the fact that stealth usually makes you move more slowly, like that’s the penalty instead of part of what makes you stealthy. But every single Rogue seems to have some kind of ability to go into a semi-transparent stealth state. The only game that seems interested in really playing with the idea of “being stealthy” is The Elder Scrolls Online, and that’s a game without a specific “Rogue” class. So take from that what you will.

6. Ambidexterity is also part of the territory

Why don’t you see real-world people using two handguns very often? Because it’s not actually useful. Handguns are designed to be fired with two hands (take some lessons on proper firing stances) and even if you can wield one in either hand, you’re still stuck with regular stereo vision. So you’re pointing those two inaccurate guns at the same one target as someone with one gun.

But that shan’t deter the noble Rogue. No, the Rogue needs a weapon in both hands and won’t be satisfied with a two-handed weapon. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Scoundrel can at least be satisfied with a proper pistol firing grip, but then it also needs to have a second shotgun for close-range combat. Because shooting someone with a normal blaster just tickles if you’re closer than five feet, or something.

Oh, wait, no, it’s because you need a backstab.

Guns hurt more when you're shot un the back, I can only use this gun for that, sorry, don't make the rules.

7. Backstabbing is more painful than regular stabbing

Rogues love their backstabs. Show me a Rogue without some ability that boils down to “hit an enemy from behind and it deals more damage” and I’ll show you some other leather-wearing knife fetishist. Of course, the whole point of backstabbing in the real life is that the person doesn’t know they’re about to get stabbed. It hurts, but getting stabbed in the front hurts about as much. Don’t try it at home to find out.

In MMOs, stabbing someone in the back is something that’s not just a good idea but one you can do repeatedly. WoW will even let your Rogue do it repeatedly and without having to be behind your target, making it either the worst-named ability ever or the weirdest reacharound in history. And how does that even happen? “Urgh, that dude in leather stabbed me in the back! Well, the good news is that he won’t do that another dozen times, right? Ow, again! The pain is compounded by my inexplicable surprise!”

8. All Roguish behavior is very nimble

Who remembers that Conan (the barbarian, not the comedian) was originally a thief? A mugger, specifically, because when that dude asked for your money, it seemed like a reasonable request. Being someone big and scary has long been a good approach to crime, but all MMO Rogues are the quick and nimble sort.

Not to worry, though; Rogues can use that dexterity to hurt people more, while conversely being stronger is of less help if any. Yes, you want to be more nimble because that’s what makes a knife hurt more, while really strong guys are actually less scary to be stabbed by. Because they ought to be Warriors who are yelling and breaking stuff.

Technically by this point we're talking Ninja, but let's not quibble.

9. Inflicting serious injury is totally normal

An awful lot of Rogue abilities describe injuries that should not really be something you replicate multiple times. For example, WoW loves its ability Eviscerate. Do you know what evisceration is? It literally means removing the digestive tract by slicing open the abdomen. I don’t think I can do that multiple times over the course of a fight, let alone trying to figure out how I’m managing that on a golem.

Of course, it keeps going. Mutilation seems like it’s pretty one-then-done; you’re either mutilated or not. Internal Bleeding should be the sort of thing that quickly requires medical attention. A Garrote doesn’t tend to end with someone wincing and saying, “Whew, that hurt a bit, eh chaps?” These seem like rather finite abilities. Perhaps you’re just trying to do this stuff and you’re particularly incompetent?

10. You’re probably around for tricks instead of anything else

Final Fantasy XI players do not want to party with Thief for damage, or tanking, or pulling, or… well, lots of possibilities. No, they want a Thief around for one reason and one reason only: Treasure Hunter, which passively improves the loot you get. Having thieves around just passively means you get more stuff for some reason. If you do a little damage along the way, that’s cute, but the Blue Mages have the situation largely under control. Stand in the back and look dangerous.

Maybe you’re picking locks, maybe you’re disarming traps, maybe you have some other utility. But the odds are high that you get to stick around in groups because your various larcenous tricks also provide some universal party benefit that can’t be acquired any other way. So your party slot is assured, but it’s not because you’re awesome.

Then again, you’re the one wearing more leather than the average herd of cows. Maybe you’re just trying too hard to be cool.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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20 Comments on "Perfect Ten: Ten things you need to understand about MMORPG Rogues"

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ratstewcruz
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ratstewcruz

Thank you for this. I needed a good laugh!

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Zen Dadaist

My Rift Rogues don’t have any sort of actual steal capability. I wuz ripped off :( (Otherwise yep, all the other boxes very much ticked…)

bereman99
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bereman99

Yes, you want to be more nimble because that’s what makes a knife hurt more, while really strong guys are actually less scary to be stabbed by

I kinda like how XIV decided to give this a more organic origin, at least on the Rogue side – they tend to work in alleyways and other cramped spaces, so shorter weapons and deft movement serves them better, and so that’s where the nimble fighting style came to be as opposed to the axe-based, deck-clearing fighting that happened on ships and led to the Marauder fighting style.

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Bryan Correll

12. If you join a random group the other characters will start out with a low opinion of you. Don’t take it personally, they’ve just played with random rogues before. It’s like how everyone just assumes the tank is going to be the leader and that the healer will heal.

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thirtymil

Who remembers that Conan (the barbarian, not the comedian) was originally a thief?

This is from Robert E. Howard’s The Frost Giant’s Daughter, which is arguably the earliest Conan tale in terms of chronology:

… Conan was dashed into the snow, his left shoulder numb from the blow of the survivor, from which the Cimmerian’s mail had barely saved his life

The giant roared and wrenched his axe free, but even as he did, Conan’s sword sang down.

He’s wearing mail, carrying a sword. He didn’t start out as a thief :)

ratstewcruz
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ratstewcruz

For argument’s sake I could point out he’s a young ‘un in The Tower of the Elephant and is definitely a thief there, but I think you’re right, he seems younger in Frost Giant’s Daughter where he’s a merc.

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thirtymil

Yes, fair point – I was going by the Dale Rippke/Joe Marek chronologies to put Frost Giant’s Daughter first, but it was an awful lot of effort for a weak joke about rogues not wearing mail :)

ratstewcruz
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ratstewcruz

So true! I was just happy to see another Howard fan lurking here and had to jump in.

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Weilan

11. A rogue IRL is either an emo or a weeb, sometimes both and believe that they know the meaning of life and all the secrets, everyone else is dumber, beneath them and nobody understands them.

I know for a fact, for I was once too an avid fan of Sasuku-kun from the Hillbilly Clan.

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Archebius

I like the idea that Conan the Comedian started out as a thief, too.

styopa
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styopa

Anyone playing a rogue in a game is an annoying douche that basically wants to one-shot everyone and never get caught, and whinge if they can’t. That’s not the character, that’s the player I’m talking about.

At least, that’s my experience. The moment someone mentions their main is a rogue (in ANY game) I understand their personality completely.

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Serrenity

So I’m always either a rogue main or a healer main :-) I don’t want to one-shot everyone and rarely PvP … and when I do it’s in battlegrounds. I always think of myself as more of ‘dexterity/agility’ warrior than anything else and I don’t like playing heavy-armor guys. I play it for the mythos – the shadowy mysterious type.

Plus dual wield and bows :-)

I don’t now, nor have I ever played to be a douche and I’ve never whined about my characters power / abilities.

So I break your stereotype :-)

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Peregrine Falcon

So I break your stereotype

I love it when people point out an exception to the rule as if that disproves the rule. All it really proves is that you don’t understand what a generalzation is.

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Serrenity

I don’t have an eye-roll big enough for this comment. At no point did I say that the generalization is invalid or that a single instance invalidates his experience. I don’t really care whether it does … all I said is that I play rogues, I’m not like that, and I don’t fit the stereotype.

Dear god I was trying to post a tongue-in-cheek comment

*grumbles to himself*

styopa
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styopa

Ah, but you’re a “rogue” player, so….probably lying.

:)

See how neatly that works for me?

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Tobasco da Gama

The only game that seems interested in really playing with the idea of “being stealthy” is The Elder Scrolls Online, and that’s a game without a specific “Rogue” class. So take from that what you will.

OTOH, “Nightblade” is a pretty damned Roguey name for a class. And they’re the only class that gets magical stealth.

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Serrenity

making it either the worst-named ability ever or the weirdest reacharound in history.

I keep laughing at this … and I’m in meetings which is making it really hard to convince people I’m paying attention (doubly compounded by the fact that I’m actually not…paying attention).