• Michael T. Christensen

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Rogue

I’ve briefly touched on my former allies in previous installments, but this week we’re shining the spotlight on one of them in particular: Kalan Lightfingers, the halfling rogue. And through him, we’re going to examine the fact that rogues have a reputation of being the least trustworthy members of the team (both in and out of the game), and how that is both completely justified and totally unfair.

Kalan was played by one of the brothers of our DM Daniel. In the RPG community, Kalan's player is what you’d probably call a “minmaxer” – he determines what he wants his character to be best at, and then makes his stats very specifically designed to do that thing exceptionally well. I think minmaxing gets a bad rep, and mostly that’s due to how those characters are played – they know the rules backwards and forwards, and use those rules very carefully to make their characters as affective as possible. He’s toned down quite a bit since, but in college, it wasn’t unusual for Kalan's player and Daniel to get into intense rule debates (though most of that is just because they're brothers, and that's just what siblings do when they play games).

Kalan was played as the fairly classic rogue - which is to say, he was not the sort of guy you would want to leave alone with a pile of loot if you ever wanted to see it again. In all fairness, he didn't just steal everything he got his hands on – but he would absolutely steal something if he thought he could get away with it. As I mentioned previously, when one of our characters (Ceos) did something incredibly stupid and potentially deadly (he ate a time-traveling plant), Kalan was one of the characters who decided that, if Ceos started acting weird, Kalan would totally mercy-kill him.

Well, I guess it's not really a "mercy-killing" if that person isn't dying, but corrupted by dark magic and threatening the lives of your companions - good intentions notwithstanding, that's basically just executing someone.

Based on the cover for Avengers: The Initiative Annual #1 by Jim Cheung. My version of Kalan is in the foreground.

Anyway, Kalan proved invaluable in combat many times, and like any rogue, was essential in clearing traps. However, Kalan's greatest asset turned out to be his tendency to hoard his share of magic items.

Over the course of the campaign (which ran for about 12 sessions over the course of several months), we found several stashes of loot and divided them up amongst ourselves, as is the custom. Through this process, Kalan wound up with a few magic trinkets – rings that grant fire resistance, or allowed him to take extra actions or whatever (it was almost 15 years ago, I don't remember all of the specifics). But these would go mostly unused – as I mentioned earlier, Kalan's player had built his character well, and didn't need to default to his magic items often. Years later, I'm legitimately not sure if he remembered he had those items and simply planned on saving them for a rainy day, or if he just wrote them down on his character sheet and then promptly forgot about them.

When the final session came around, several of our characters were engaged in an epic battle with the enemy armies, but a few of our characters (including my own half-orc ranger) charged into a wormhole into a plane of fire to disarm a doomsday weapon. We didn't have much of an escape plan, and it became clear pretty quickly that this was going to be a suicide mission.

But then Kalan charged in and rescued one of us, using a magic ring that helped resist the fire damage as he pulled that character to safety. Then he used another magic item to pull another one of us out of danger. And then another. I'm pretty sure one of them even allowed him to teleport once a day or something, so he was able to come back for us when it should have been impossible. Maybe one or two of us would have made it out without him, but there was no way we all could have escaped (I'm pretty sure my guy would have burned to a crisp, since I was one of the last ones to make it out). I actually remember Daniel the DM saying, "Aww… it's the last session, I was half-hoping one of you would go out in a blaze of glory."

The point is this – trust your rogue. Not with your valuables, of course – obviously that's a bad idea. But he's your ally, and if your group has done its job right, you'll all want to help each other succeed, and not want to see anybody get left behind. Even the chaotic neutral rogue who always gets in shouting matches with your paladin about doing the right thing – even that guy is your comrade-in-arms. It's okay to trust him with your life – he's not going to drop the ball. He probably has an unbelievable Dexterity modifier.

Discussion Question: This one’s an easy one – have you ever had trouble trusting another player character? I don’t necessarily mean you’ve had an argument out-of-game, but did your character mistrust another character? Maybe it was the rogue (it usually tends to be), but it could’ve been an overzealous paladin, or a blood-thirsty barbarian, or even a lecherous bard… let me know in the comments! Who was it, and most importantly, how did it impact the game?

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