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D&D 3E
Cunning rats, can they be done? 
22nd-Nov-2009 06:04 am
Hey all, I've been lurking this community for quite some time and I finally decided to hop in. Obligatory introductory posts aside I do have something I'd like an opinion about.

I have a character in a group who's whole function is manipulation, not in the traditional social or arcane sense but in sheer preparation. This guy is meant to outwit the enemy, not overpower them. So far I've been relying heavily on creative uses of rope and fire. However I also have some plans for an oar, some torches, and a suit of leather armor. I rolled him as a rogue but I was shooting for the kind of off-the-wall-tricks even a peasant or some other NPC class could pull off had he been insane or cunning enough to try. My question is if anyone here has some sort of idea or story for this type of character concept.

On a completely off subject point: NPC classes, can they function as player characters granted they're played smart?
22nd-Nov-2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
First, NPCs should not be used as character classes. They're far outclassed by PC classes, and monsters will eat them alive. I've used them and been completely wiped out. I have also used them as a "zero" level class for my players. I let them take one level of an NPC class to represent the person they were before they became an adventurer.

Secondly, on your character concept, I don't think I have enough information about what you need. But for classes, I would suggest you check out Dungeonscape for the new core class called the Factotum. The ultimate jack-of-all-trades! A Factotum can even be a better skill monkey than a rogue, and that's saying a lot. But for your backstory, I would need moer info about what you want to do, sorry.
22nd-Nov-2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
I took a look at the factotum, they had an intriguing style. I really liked their whole 'inspiration points and cunning' system. To tell the truth it was the spells that threw me off, I don't mind magic items but I'm not a big fan of using spells. It would completely break the character of 'wait, your doing what with an oar?' if he could simply use magic.

What I was hoping for would be some amusing stories and fodder from other groups that have toyed around with something like this. As far as background his stats were absolutely mediocre compared to other members of the group (including a scout who finagled his way to 20 in his dexterity so he has to use less then straightforward tactics when dealing with combat.

Thanks for the firsthand experience with NPC classes though, that is a huge help.
22nd-Nov-2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
I think this really depends on your DM. If he or she is willing to give you enough leeway with the rules to make this sort of thing work, then it could be done pretty well.

The main problem is that, really, just about anything you do will be outside the scope of the rules, which brings it down to what you can come up with and what your DM will allow.

Personally, I like having characters come up with new and inventive uses for things, but it's always a struggle not to let that derail the rest of play. There are a couple of issues here: First, if you make this flexibility into something that the other players view as an unfair advantage or a monopoly on the DM's time and the story spotlight, it can be pretty disruptive. Second, trying an outlandish and tricky solution is cool the first time, but once you've done it once, there is a temptation to use it as the solution every time that situation comes up. This gets really dull, not to mention that it undermines the character concept of the creative problem-solver, the tropes of the genre and the flow of the narrative of the game. Obviously, you can get around this by resisting the urge, but it's something to keep in mind. ;)

From a game design perspective, I would suggest that the difference between a PC and an NPC class is that they can both try outlandish and crafty tricks, but the PC will succeed where the NPC will fail. I don't think there's really much reason as a player to take an NPC class, because they are just versions of other classes with key features removed. It sounds very much like you should be playing a rogue. If you don't like the sneak attack feature, I would look to replace it with something that will carry roughly equivalent utility within the campaign. See if your DM has any ideas, as changes like this will alter the style of the campaign.

You could also try looking at some of the stuff in Complete Scoundrel, particularly stuff like the skill tricks and luck feats. Even if you don't end up using the rules in the book, it might give you some ideas for how those sorts of things can be handled within the system. Another idea, if you really want flexibility at the expense of raw combat power, would be to check out the Factotum class in Dungeonscape, although this does go well beyond the realm of 'even a peasant could do it'.
22nd-Nov-2009 06:10 pm (UTC)
A lot of it was just simply strange improvised weapons and traps. I think the most unfair thing I attempted was balancing a font of holy water (gallons of the stuff) ontop of a door for one of the most sadistic pranks of all time. It didn't work out as planned, but if it had the results could have been devastating.

We have this rule though that we only look up something mid-game when absolutely necessary, so if I wanted to say make some deranged morning star out of an oar and some caltrops I would need to have the rules on hand or it would just be treated as an improvised weapon with some piercing damage. Which conveniently enough is how most of my tricks wind up. Unfortunately this leaves me far too familiar with certain DM manuals.

Up to this point my sneak attack fills the void between any flashes of inspiration. Thanks though I never considered luck feats or the Complete Scoundrel book in general I'll have to take a look at that. Funny thing is I started all this McGuyver nonsense to allow some balance between me and the players that completely outclassed me in stats.
22nd-Nov-2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
You might also check out some of the various "trapsmith" classes/features (I think Master Trapsmith might be in Dungeonscape, and/or maybe the kobold books have some stuff). Those could function as ways to work within the rules but still be using more mundane items to deal with things.

Part of the issue though is that, in D&D, you eventually leave the mundane in favor of the supernatural. Where spellcasters become more powerful, and even non-spellcaster start doing supernatural feats (just check out some of the high-DC skill uses). So while the "uses rope and fire" might start out nice, it'll get old and just not be how the game works anymore. You'll want to upgrade to "uses animated rope and holy water", or even "uses walls of force and elemental chaos" or something like that. Basically you can stick with the same McGuyver kind of feel, it's just that the tools he's using are much more fantastic. Yeah, it's not "I can defeat people with a mundane item!", but the game isn't really designed to work that way. "I can defeat people with clever uses of magical items" could maintain the same character flavor, without requiring a ton of work on your and the DM's part.

Higher level trap abilities may point towards that, so may be helpful. Also check out alchemical items. Maybe focus a lot of getting the weird Wondrous Items (the hookshot rod in Complete Scoundrel could do wonders for this character). With those as the goals, I would also recommend you check out Factotum, particularly for extended or higher level play. I think you'll be able to get a lot of milage out of reflavoring spell-like abilities as creative uses of various magical bits. Similarly, if you want to focus on kind of weird magical items, Artificer from Eberron might do you some good.
22nd-Nov-2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
I have no problem jumping to the supernatural when the time comes, I just don't want to be a character completely dependent on spells. I could even see multiclassing into wizard a few levels on. I was thinking some of his growth will come from his pocket, pricey things like acid or mirrors or maybe even gut mites.

I was initially avoiding trapmaking because we already have someone in the group who put some ranks in it, problem is I've only seen him touch the skill once. I think I'll give it a look, if only to Jerry rig some interesting snares.
4th-Dec-2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
Any character, properly played, can be a cunning rat. I had a C-N half-elven bard once who qualified. Completely short-circuited a story module once by dropping a celestial bison on the dragon's head. Well, the rulebook does say you can summon one up to 25 feet away in any direction.
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