|Source: Rogue Moodboard - Celtic Heroes by Dave Allsop|
RogueRogues do not draw power from a semi-mystic source. All the power they need can be found in a sharp knife and a fat purse of gold. And yet it seems like they must be something supernatural about them. Why can a thief scale a wall which, seen in daylight, would be too sheer for a spider? How can an assassin approach her target unchallenged, strike him down, and then fade back into the crowd? Does gold appear in the treasure chest where there was no gold? Was it hidden by a veil only the rogue could pierce? Was it simply Lady Luck who left it there, for years, undiscovered by generations of greedy searchers? And when a commander unrolls his map to discuss his battle-plans just as the rogue bends down to eavesdrop, when an unlabeled package opens to reveal just the tool you needed, when a lock opens soundlessly with barely a touch — what do you call that?
Monks speak of the flow of chi, the scales of karma, or the turning of the tao, or fickle earthly fortune. Wizards shrug and chalk it up to entropy. Rogues who benefited from a proper thieving education call these circumstances cipher; the tendency-of-things. "Tendency of things towards what?" you ask. Some rogues sneer and say "There is no 'towards', no universal goal, only the tendencies". Some rogues tap their nose and wink and say nothing. Some rogues go perfectly still for a long moment, and then change the subject in a quavering voice.
All rogues have a cipher score equal to their [templates] in their rogue class. Given some unusual tools (1 slot for a case) and a few minutes of fiddling, they have a cipher-in-6 chance of succeeding a cipher check in addition to normal resolution rules. The cipher skills are, according to tradition, to Climb Sheer Surfaces, Find Or Remove Traps, Hear Noises, Hide In Shadows, Move Silently, Pick Pockets and Pick Locks.
Rogues also have a sneak attack while wielding a light weapon in one hand and attacking a distracted target. Targets who don't know the rogue is there or are engaging with another enemy are assumed to be distracted, though particularly experienced combatants might force a sneak check to avoid their perception. Sneak attacks roll 1d8 for damage, with to-hit and damage bonus modified by the rogue's cipher and their highest ability bonus (dexterous rogues stab with grace, smart rogues identify stab-vulnerable points, wise rogues stab at the right moment &c).
Unless otherwise mentioned you may wear light armor only, may not use shields, and are proficient with hatchets, knives, clubs, slings and any weapon you start with.
There is a tendency for the unnatural to burn.
It isn't uncommon for a failed student of magic to turn to theft. Whether expelled for incompetence, exiled for the darkness in their souls, or left to pick up the pieces after the destruction of their school, these students (sometimes called "tricksters", "mousers" or "scunners") can be simply too spell-mazed to return to normal life. If sufficiently askew from the rest of mankind, they may even become aware of cipher.
Skills: 1. Arcana 2. Ancient languages 3. Duels and knife-fights
Starting Equipment: Stylish street-fight stiletto (light weapon), student's robes in white or black (as unarmored), esoteric tome, pack of scented candles (3 doses), case of unusual tools.
- A Good Trick, +2 skill
- B Sneak Enchantment
- C Invisible Assistance, +2 sneak
- D Thief of Fire
Your training lets you cast from scrolls as a wizard of equivalent level, and you know one random spell from any wizard school of your choice which you cast with an MD that is always lost. Additionally, you may project an invisible mage-hand 30' away, which is strong enough to slowly move tiny objects (coins, gems, cards, keys), though it does not have enough motive force to deal damage.
When you bespell someone from hiding, they have disadvantage on any saves.
Your mage-hand has been strengthened by practice and can now lift up to five pounds. Once per enemy per combat, you can tap someone on the shoulder to distract them for a round.
Thief of Fire
With a bottle and the use of your mage-hand, you may pickmind a spell and an MD from an unsuspecting caster and store it for your own use. You can try to do this when someone casts a spell on you in combat if you pass a save.
There is a tendency for the living to die.
Few use cipher for wholesome purposes, but none turn it to such violent ends as the assassins. Assassins may join religious orders (and call themselves "sicarim"), or form professional guilds (and call themselves "hitmen"), or work for high society on word-of-mouth (and call themselves "Mr. So-and-so") — regardless, they kill.
Skills: 1. Courtly etiquette 2. Advanced esoteric theology 3. Intimidation
Starting Equipment: Manhunter Tomahawk (light weapon), spooky mask (your choice of skull, animal or animal skull), badass black leather and silk suit (as unarmored), makeup kit, collection of wigs, case of unusual tools.
- A Quick Win, +2 initiative
- B Mr. Thus-And-Such, +1 to-hit
- C Let Me In, +2 initiative
- D Invisible Stalker, +1 to-hit
In open combat, you have advantage on attacks against enemies whose turns are after yours.
With a week and a few 10s of gp to the right friends, you can create a foolproof false identity. For example, you might acquire appropriate clothing, letters of introduction, and official-looking certification to establish yourself as a member of a trading house from a remote city so you can insinuate yourself into the company of other wealthy merchants. The effect is perfect; NPCs will genuinely believe your false identity is a real independent person unless they see you don or doff the disguise.
Let Me In
Spend three hours studying someone, their voice, their mannerisms, their stride, their handwriting &c. Thereafter you can unerringly mimic those things.
In a crowded scene , when your exact position hasn't been established yet, you can declare that any generic NPC was really you in a disguise. If you've copied a named NPC in the scene with Let Me In, you can declare that they are really you in a disguise.
There is a tendency for the secret to disclose.
One of the few who use cipher for wholesome purposes. Inquisitives (who often style themselves as "investigators", or even "detectives") root out lies and conspiracies habitually. They are often unassuming, perhaps even faintly ridiculous, but murderers, cheats and fellow cipher-aware who underestimate an inquisitive are sure to find their carefully-laid plans unraveling.
Skills: 1. Quaint village life 2. Being foreign 3. Street magic
Starting Equipment: Ridiculous hat, unfashionable clothes (as unarmored), little notebook and stubby pencil, case of unusual tools.
- A Nosy Parker, +2 save
- B Many Friends,+1 HP
- C Obvious Ruse, +2 skill
- D Capacity To Spit At Back Of Head: Neutralized
Years of irritating fiddling and inquiry have made you a master of investigation, and of hounding down liars. If you consider two clues for a full minute, you have a revelation about how they are (or aren't) connected. Every time you do this you have a cumulative 1-in-6 chance of coming down with a splitting migraine, preventing you from doing anything useful until you get a full night's rest. If an NPC states something you know is a conscious lie, you may mark them as a liar. You may sneak attack people who are marked even if you otherwise couldn't.
In every city's underbelly there are a few burglars who owe you their freedom from gaol, and in every high-class salon there's an aunt with a remittance-man nephew who gives her grief. When you need something unsavory, like identifying a gang tag or purchasing explosives, you always know who to ask and there's a cipher-in-6 chance they owe you a favor already.
Elementary deceptions might fool your quaint, comic-relief friends, but you notice them at once. You can literally smell illusions and mechanical booby traps at 30'.
Capacity To Spit At Back Of Head: Neutralized
There is a time for everything; a time to work and a time to rest, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to engage in psychological cat-and-mouse games and a time to pounce. Your sneak attacks against marked enemies deal an extra 3d6 damage.
There is a tendency for the proud to fall.
Cipher is often turned to practical ends; stealth, skulduggery, murder, rapine. But it is easily applied to the more abstracted fields of diplomacy and politics. Masterminds (who strive to one day be called "viziers") excel at these more subtle applications, and so rise high.
Skills: 1. Forging paperwork 2. Alchemy 3. Mystery religions
Starting Equipment: elaborate turban, silk formalwear (as unarmored, +1 to reactions), wickedly-curved kukri (light), oil lamp with faded lettering, case of unusual tools.
- A Voice of Reason, +2 save
- B Game Instinct, +2 HP
- C Discretion, +2 save
- D Smooth Brain, +2 HP
Voice of Reason
Your soothing voice can fake any accent or verbal mannerism, and always sounds local and trustworthy. With shouted advice, you can give advantage on a d20 check to a friend within 30' when they are attacking an enemy you can see or attempting to use a skill you are also proficient in.
With a full minute of study, you can intuit if another person has a better intelligence, wisdom or xharisma score than you, and can guess their HD and cipher score (if any).
When an attack would hit you, you can choose to cower behind an adjacent person (friend or foe) and let them be hit instead. If the original to-hit roll doesn't beat their AC, the attack misses entirely.
Your brain runs on several virtual levels; schemes within schemes, wheels within wheels. Your thoughts cannot be read, and if you know someone is trying you can put up fake thoughts for the mindreader to think he's reading. Magical truth detection always pings you as truthful.
There is a tendency for the dead to not rest.
When balanced on the knife's edge between the world of shadow-casting men and the screaming infinity of Death, most fall to the other side. This is true of the living but also of the dead. Every phantom (sometimes called "revenants", though this is incorrect) was once a normal person, before a close brush with their own mortality revealed cipher behind every action and reaction that occurs.
Starting Equipment: grave cerements (as unarmored, -1 to reaction and enemy morale checks), stonebow (1d6 at 20', -1 to-hit every 20' thereafter), spade (medium), fistful of tallow candles (3 doses), case of unusual tools.
- A Bleak Memories
- B Grim Reminders
- C Dark Presence
- D Unpleasant Toll
Lost spirits follow you, and your dreams are filled with last moments. Every time you wake, choose a skill, such rope-tying or navigation or brewing. You may use that skill until the next time you sleep. Additionally, your sneak attacks are mimicked by invisible hands. The damage of a successful sneak attack is applied to a different person within 30'. This exhausts the spirits, and you must sleep before using this feature again.
When someone dies in your presence, you can pocket a little smidgen of their soul for later use. This bit of soul takes the form of a trinket, such as a coin or artificial flower or playing card. You may carry up to your cipher score of trinkets at one time. When you would fail a save, you can destroy a trinket to reroll it. You can destroy a trinket to revitalize (heh) the spirits around you, granting another use of their sneak attack duplication. Finally, you can destroy a trinket to summon the ghost of the person you took it from. They will answer one question concisely (for they are eager to return to Death), but are not bound to tell the truth, and might hold a grudge if you're the one who killed them.
With a sigh, you can partially fade from the world of the living. While in this form you float slowly, invisibly, and intangibly. You can pass through mundane barriers less than 10' thick; for the purposes of detection and warding you are a ghost. The effect lasts for ten minutes or until you end it yourself. You may only do this once per waking period, unless you fuel it by destroying a trinket.
The ghosts who imitate your sneak attack do so for two targets within 30', possibly including your original target. Every time you wake you are holding an additional trinket. The ghosts associated with these trinkets have more interest in the world of the living, and may be stranger or more powerful than the usual sort.
There is a tendency for the tamed to turn.
Rangers come in many forms, but most operate on an instinctual level and never understand why they are so comfortable far from their fellow man. The rare handful with both talent and comprehension ("spies" in military nomenclature) are at risk of becoming more than mere footmen.
Skills: 1. Equipment maintenance 2. Horses 3. Military hierarchy.
Starting Equipment: Boring but practical armor (as chain, which you may wear), tomahawk (light), flint and steel, combination breathing reed and dodgy blowgun, newspaper with eyeholes cut out, case of unusual tools.
- A Skirmisher, +1 to-hit
- B Wide Ranging, +1 HP
- C The Thrill, +1 AC
- D Sell Dear, +1 HP
Once per combat round, on anyone's turn, you may scuttle 10'. That's the trick to not getting hit, see?
Choose two of the following adjectives: barren, populated, abandoned, forested, frigid, windswept, arid, damp, craggy, dark, coastal, spooky. While in an area described by that adjective, you can light a fire (given tools, fuel, 60 minutes and cooperative weather), find enough food for one person, follow tracks a day old, and may protect one person from poor conditions.
Every time you level up, select another adjective. Effects stack. Adjectives may be selected multiple times.
Foxes might have beautiful tails, but dogs live longer. You gain +1 to-hit and damage against an unintelligent target for each of the following things you know: its age, sex, proper scientific name, and where it slept last night.
Dogs might have friends, but that's no reason for the fox to bare his neck to their teeth. You have an extra attack on your turn against a second target.
There is a tendency for the confident to succeed.
Tired deck-hands and hirelings sit in taverns and spin strange yarns of dashing adventurers, brave hedge knights and avaricious captains of the sea. How did the illustrious Rathbone scale the Starry Tower unseen just to fight her way down to the bottom with a princess over each shoulder? How did ol' Calico Kite jump the deck of the Maiden Voyage before the hook-lines were set? When the whole town was burned by a vengeful red dragon, why was Nine-Fingers Gellman (who'd stolen the beast's egg in the first place) left unharmed? Well, they say, it's just that some are born who can smell the cipher.
Skills: 1. Entertaining crowds 2. Mixology 3. Monsterology
Starting Equipment: colossal feathery hat, sabre (light), officer's uniform (as unarmored, your choice of nationality), grapnel and 50' of rope, impressive medals, shiny black boots, case of unusual tools.
- A Macaroni, +2 initiative
- B Rakehell, +1 HP
- C Nogoodnik, +1 AC
- D Broken on the Wheel, +1 HP
They lied; good looks are never a curse. Those who can see your face are distracted if you wish.
You're dashed interesting and that's that. You may challenge intelligent targets in combat, forcing them to spend their next turn attacking you instead of anyone else, or charm them out of combat, making them consider you at least an acquaintance. They check morale to avoid either case.
Leaping Gaps, Outrunning Guards and Swinging On Chandeliers are cipher skills for you. In fact, any feat of acrobatics is a cipher skill for you, if the DM lets you get away with it.
Broken on the Wheel
Attacking With A Light Weapon is a cipher skill for you, and so is Not Taking Damage From Something That Obviously Should Have Hit You.
There is a tendency for the money to turn up safe in my pockets, somehow. Not my fault. Be more careful next time.
The thief needs no introduction, and has no other common names. There was no first thief outside of legend. Few enough show up in legends at all, let alone history books. Sure, maybe a common thief isn't as glamorous as a swashbuckler or an assassin. But every thief knows, in their heart of hearts, what really matters is a full heart, reliable friends, and... and... an amusing third entry to a list three entries long. Damn, where'd it go?
Skills: 1. Architecture 2. Art history 3. Numismatics
Starting Equipment: Dark clothing (as unarmored), lead cosh (light), grapnel and 100' of elf-hair rope, diamond-tipped hand drill.
- A Fast Hands, Second-Story Work, +2 sneak
- B Supreme Sneak, +2 sneak
- C Use Magic, +2 sneak
- D Catlike Reflex, +2 sneak
Faster than the eye, even. You may use cipher skills in combat, and a single hairpin counts as a full case of unusual tools.
Like a spider. You can climb as fast as you can walk.
You may invert any of your cipher skills to lay traps, render walls unscalable to your brother-thieves, see in the dark, or do whatever else needs to be done to keep lesser sneaks firmly in their place.
You deceive like you breathe. If it comes up, you count as any class, race, sex, age or demographic that would most benefit you. Magic items recognize you as their rightful wielder, magical identity-checks ping you as "okay I guess", and somewhere out there a very confused angel has confused your records with that of a 90 year old grandmother who is also a 20th level paladin and a pro-bono defense lawyer for cancerous orphaned bunny rabbits.
The first round of combat, take two full turns.