Dungeons and dragons is in its fourth edition now and has been for several years. Through those years the basic classes that started the game Fighter, Magic User (now called Wizards) Cleric, Thief (rogue) have remained. Looking back how have these core ideas changed over nearly 40 years of product evolution? Lets take a look at the Sneaky Rogue.
More after the bump
1st edition - Rogues are called thief in 1st edition. They fall somewhere in the middle as far as HP and AC goes, not nearly as tough as a fighter nor as wimpy as a wizard. thieves get hit points on a D6 and can wear Leather armor. Their weapon choices are limited and their combat matrix is not that great. thieves get one ability for combat that makes them different than other classes, the backstab. Backstab is only used from behind and below the target but does more damage than a standard hit. Out of combat is where the thief really shines. Thieves get various abilities that are very useful including picking pockets, opening locks, finding/removing traps, moving silently, and hiding in shadows. In this edition these skills progress and become easier to preform as the thief levels up. One of the reasons many play thieves is they had the easiest xp table. It was not uncommon to have thieves that were 2 or 3 levels higher than the rest of the party.
2nd edition - Second edition thieves became known as rogues. The class really didnt change much from the first edition. the main difference was rogues recived a set number of points to spend at each level on their skills instead of a static number based on a chart. This allowed for more customization int he class, if you wanted a rogue that was very good at picking locks but didn't care about traps much you could do that in 2nd edition. Backstab actually got much worse in 2nd edition. Instead of just having to be behind an opponent the opponent had to be caught by surprise For the most part this meant that rogues got a single backstab per encounter from their original stealth. At high level rogues start to lose their shine. Other classes are getting awesome abilities and spells while the rogue is nearly maxed out in all his skills and still has low AC
and finds it hard to hit monsters.
3rd edition - Most of the rogues abilities stay the same but instead of special points just for rogues they use the skill system in 3rd for their abilities. The unifying of the XP chart removes the classic bonus of fast leveling. However however the rogue gains the amazing sneak attack ability. Backstab becomes known as sneak attack and becomes much better than its 2nd and 1st edition counterpart. Instead of just from behind or from surprise in third edition Rogues get extra damage anytime they have flanking (having someone standing on the opposite side of the monster from you) This makes the sneak attack apply much more often than in previous editions. A 19th level rogue does 10d6 more damage from flanking then he does without it. that's significant damage to say the least. in 3rd your
skill as a rogue player depends on predicting how combat will go and maneuvering to the best possible location on each monster.
4th edition - 4th edition does away with many of the skills that rogues have traditionally had and lumps them into the thievery skill. Stealth and Thievery are the two skills that thieves use now. Sneak attack has become even better than the very good 3rd edition version. Now not only flanking but anytime a opponent grants combat advantage such as when knocked prone or when another player ability makes the monster grant it. Combat advantage is much more common than flanking was. Many player abilities force it and situations such as being dazed can also inflict it.
Rogues were always the tool kit character being decent at combat and great outside of it. Many players love the sneaky side of the class for role playing purposes. With fourth edition rogues have become damage powerhouses. Their one target damage if built and played smart exceeds any other PHB1 class. Rogues along with rangers are the premier 1st players handbook strikers.
The four at wills for rogue are Deft Strike, Piercing strike, Riposte strike, and Sly Flourish
Deft Strike - Deft strike can be used with a range weapon and allows a quick shift before or after the strike. Deft strike is probably the most mobile of the rogues at will abilities. Deft strike is great for getting into position to sneak attack, being able to shift two squares in addition to your standard move lets you completly move around an opponent which is great for getting into that flanking position. *****/5
Piercing Strike - Piercing strike's only claim to fame is it attacks reflex instead of AC so it can be nice for if you are trying to hit something with a high armor value. alright ability not great **/5
Riposte Strike - Riposte strike sounds great on paper, if something hits you later you get to hit it back. However with defenders grabbing monster attention with marks often monsters wont even hit a rogue making this ability situational at best. ***/5
Sly Flourish - Deft strike without the shift that uses charisma modifier damage instead of dex. this is strictly worse than deft strike and only for a particular build that relies on charisma. **/5
Rouges are a fun class to play if you like doing tons of damage and sneaking around.