This is my first attempt at a formal review of a roleplaying product. As with any review, my personal biases and preferences of game style will color the review, so it’s probably a good idea to identify these. As a GM, I tend to prefer products that evoke a strong flavor and mechanics which support that flavor. This goes beyond mere mechanics; I like products that offer a leitmotif that extends beyond rules, one which can also suffuse the campaign world in a narrative way. I also get jazzed by products that provide elegant solutions to otherwise complicated or ineffective rules in the Pathfinder RPG. Rules systems which unify disparate concepts into a cohesive whole, which streamline the playing experience for both GMs and players are greatly appreciated by me.
As a player, I greatly prefer customization options and decision points that are built into the product. If it is a new character class, I like having the ability to choose from a selection of options, rather than being shoehorned into a class ability that may or may not fit my character concept. If it is a new rules subsystem, it should expand my ability to create interesting character concepts that effectively execute the concept during play, while not adding a large amount of complexity to the character management process.
Okay, with those caveats out of the way, let’s get on to my reviewed product: Legendary Rogues by Legendary Games.
This product offers us a complete rebuild of the rogue class; it was published in 2015, after Paizo had offered us their rebuild of the rogue in Pathfinder Unchained. Why all this rebuilding of one of the classic tropes of fantasy gaming? Well, the prevailing opinion of the rogue class as originally published in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that it is underpowered with respect to the other 10 base classes in the Core Rulebook. Initial complaints seemed to focus on the rogue’s opportunities to use her iconic sneak attack ability, her sub-par potential to be an effective DPR class, rogue talents being underpowered and subsequent class offerings from Paizo which rendered her skill mastery (another iconic rogue ability) second-rate. Paizo Publishing answered these criticisms with the Unchained Rogue.
The unchained rogue attempted to bring the rogue back into the general power-level of the other base classes. They executed this design goal by introducing skill unlocks (abilities only a rogue could attempt given a specified number of skill ranks), and by granting the Weapon Finesse feat as 1st level bonus feat. This allows rogues to use DEX as their primary combat stat, reducing MAD and making them more effective combatants at early levels. Rogue talents get a few additions, but generally remain about the same.
This is where Legendary Rogues steps in. The book launches with an unfortunate gaffe: It welcomes us to "Legendary Paladins" in the introductory page, which may cause some initial confusion for the reader. This is the only instance of this error, however, and the balance of the book does reference the correct legendary rogue class and product.
The introduction gives us a brief summary of the product, and identifies the key concepts that will be introduced in the book, such as Skill Specialties, Avoidances, and Instincts. It goes on to discuss how many Rogue Talents are redefined to align them better with similar abilities of other core classes. The rogue in combat is mentioned, and then the Legendary Rogue ties all of these concepts into a rebuild of the rogue class.
Skill specialties are addressed first. These are packages of skills (usually 1 skill plus a situational use of a second skill) that grant a scaling untyped bonus equal to ½ the rogue’s class level. Each skill specialty may only be selected once, and bonuses from multiple skill specialties don’t stack (nitpick: untyped bonuses in PF1 stack, so it may have been better to give these bonuses a type such as competence or insight). Athletic agility grants a bonus on Climb checks and Acrobatic checks made to traverse narrow or uneven surfaces. Imperceptible provides a bonus to stealth checks, and increases the miss chance for concealment. I like this one a lot! Information broker gives bonuses to Knowledge (local) checks and Diplomacy checks to Gather Information. There is a total of 14 skill specialties provided, giving the legendary rogue a means of diversifying or specializing while still remaining the best skills-based character class. Well done!
The supplement goes the extra mile by discussing skill unlocks from Pathfinder Unchained next. It discusses ways that skill unlocks can be substituted for skill specialties, or how you can use both systems simultaneously, giving the player a wide variety of ways to achieve skill mastery.
Avoidances are next, which are ways that the legendary rogue can avoid harm. Instead of the core rogue being forced to accept Trap Sense as a linear ability, the legendary rogue can choose an avoidance at 3rd level and every three levels thereafter. Avoidances include such abilities as Defensive Agility which grants a +1 Dodge bonus to AC when the rogue fights defensively or takes the Total Defense action, Elusive Moves which grants a +1 Dodge bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity and a +1 Dodge bonus to CMD to resist a Grapple combat maneuver, Missile Avoidance (+1 Dodge bonus against ranged attacks) and Poison Resistance (bonus to saves against poison, can be taken multiple times). Trap Sense is included in the Avoidances category, but is but one option among eight possible choices.
Instincts are abilities that highlight a legendary rogue’s superb senses and instinctive awareness, modeled upon the Evasion and Uncanny Dodge abilities of the core rogue. The legendary rogue may select an instinct at 2nd and 4th level, and at every four levels thereafter. Options include the familiar Uncanny Dodge and Evasion abilities along with their improved versions, plus Instinctive Awareness (always act in a surprise round, even if unaware of attackers), Leap Aside (rogue can take a 5 foot step as an immediate reaction to an attack or AoE spell; resolution of attack is possibly affected as a result), and Celerity (roll twice for initiative, take preferred result). 10 such instincts are provided.
The next section tackles Rogue Talents as a class ability, and attempts to bring them up to a roughly equivalent power level of other similar class abilities such as a witch’s hexes or a magus’s arcana. Several new rogue talents are listed and existing talents (such as Assault Leader) are upgraded from once per day to once per opponent. This approach makes a lot of sense narratively; after all, why would a rogue only be able to execute a talent (most are extraordinary abilities) once, and then forget how to use them?!? It makes far more sense for a rogue to use the ability on an opponent, who sees the ability and can defend against it once used, but a new opponent has no knowledge of this ability, and is vulnerable to it once as well. Rogue talents are gained at 2nd level and every two levels thereafter, for a total of 10 talents at 20th level. A massive 93 total rogue talents are offered, roughly balanced between re-worked and new talents, providing a wide array of effective options for the legendary rogue to shine.
‘Rogues in combat’ is the next major section of Legendary Rogues. It discusses how the core rogue tends to fall behind other martial classes in combat ability, and behind other ‘skillful’ classes such as the bard and the inquisitor in Saving Throws. It goes on to propose ways to compensate for this deficiency, making the rogue a more effective combatant. These solutions are codified into the Legendary Rogue class, which follows later in the book.
Legendary Rogues posits that without the Sneak Attack class ability, the rogue’s attacks are essentially the same as the NPC expert class, and then enumerates the various ways that Sneak Attack can be nullified in Pathfinder. This section of the book discusses ways to make Sneak Attack more effective and applicable. Most of these solutions are included with the Legendary Rogue class, which immediately follows.
The Legendary Rogue class gets d8 hp, 3/4 BAB progression, good Reflex saves and 8 + Int skill ranks per level. Sneak attack +1d6 is gained at 1st level, and increases by 1d6 every odd level. She gains a broad and deep group of class skills, and is proficient in all simple weapons plus the hand crossbow, longsword, rapier, sap, shortbow, short sword, and sword cane, as well as one of the following weapons: garrote, longbow, whip, or a single light or one-handed martial weapon. They are proficient with light armor and bucklers but not with other shields. Rather than enumerate each class ability (which other reviewers have done with painstaking analysis), I’ll skip this and move on to observations, thoughts and conclusions.
This class offering does something really cool, something that I wish other publishers would pick up on: In addition to the class rebuild, the document offers numerous commentaries and sidebars about design goals and implementation. The reader gets insight not just into how the class is reworked, but also why. We get justification for the design decisions that were made for the class, giving us better insight into why this class is balanced with more current Pathfinder classes, and how it goes about doing so. This is great; I wish more publishers would include such commentary.
I must mention one regret that I have about this product. Files for Hero Labs are not offered (as a rule, Legendary Games does not create Hero Lab content to support its products), which for me creates an additional investment of time. You see, I use Hero Labs character management software exclusively for my Pathfinder games, both as a GM and player. I find it indispensable, given the vast number of variables that can affect a character’s statistics and abilities during play. When I allow a third-party class into one of my campaigns, I insist that it is enabled for use with Hero Labs. Consequently, the Hero Lab files must either be offered by the publisher (as with Kobold Press and Drop Dead Studios), or I must create the file myself. Now, I am not a professional programmer. My job isn’t even programming-adjacent. Learning how to code in Hero Lab was purely a skill that I wanted to learn, and it has taken over two years for me to gain a basic proficiency in creating custom content through the Hero Lab Editor. I have coded all of the class abilities for the Legendary Rogue into Hero Lab and am now working my way through the rogue talents. If you are proficient in the Hero Lab editor and want to add the Legendary Rogue to your content, be aware that coding will take several dozen hours to complete, due to the sheer number of options and abilities included with the class. On a difficulty scale, I would rate this a six out of 10. The coding isn’t terribly hard, but the number of scripts is pretty large.
Legendary Rogues delivers the rogue class that I have always been hoping for, but never got. This is the rogue that delivers on the class fantasy, giving me a robust toolkit with which I can build the kind of rogue that I envisioned, not some cobbled-together patchwork of archetypes that doesn’t quite realize my vision. Matt Goodall and Jason Nelson have created the rogue that will hereinafter be the default rogue class in all of my future campaigns. The sheer amount of customization offered by inherent skills, skill specialties, instincts and avoidances allow me to create virtually any rogue concept that I can conceive without the need to add archetypes. Their design is impressive, their goals realized, and the final product is a glory to behold. I love this book! If Hero Lab files existed for it, Legendary Rogues would get a perfect ten out of ten from me. Lacking the Hero Lab support, I still rate this at 9 out of 10, and highly recommend it as a wonderful replacement for the lackluster core rogue, and its slightly less lackluster cousin, the unchained rogue.
Do your game a huge favor, and get this book! The rogue will no longer be the red-headed step-child of the Pathfinder RPG!
[5 of 5 Stars!]