In this month's exclusive interview, Mike McArtor, one of the designers for the new Complete Scoundrel emerges from the shadows to reveal the secrets of the sourcebook! In the interests of better involving the player community with the D&D website, questions for this interview were solicited in part via the message boards. Our thanks to everyone who took the time to submit their fiendish questions.
Wizards of the Coast: To start with, the title Complete Scoundrel certainly connotes the rogue class. Is this book aimed squarely at them, or to characters in general looking to add a bit of scoundrel-ness to their careers?
Mike McArtor: The book takes a broader aim for the most part, allowing all classes the chance to act a little scoundrelly from time to time (yes, even paladins!). That said, however, we did not forget the original D&D scoundrels, so we have some support specifically for rogues (and bards, ninjas, scouts, and spellthieves, as well).
Wizards: Complete Scoundrel offers up a baker's dozen new prestige classes--any favorites among the bunch? I see the magical trickster listed: does this play off the arcane trickster? Are any PrCs geared toward the more martial classes (such as barbarian), or spellcasters?
Mike: Hmm... I really enjoy concept of the spellwarp sniper, and fortune's friend was a lot of fun to write, but I'd have to go with the psibond agent as my favorite of the bunch. It was both fun to write and it also has some really neat abilities.
The magical trickster (and its brethren the battle trickster and uncanny trickster) plays off the new tricks system presented in the book.
The gray guard, which lets paladins take off their armor and skulk in the darkness, is aimed directly at, well, paladins. The battle trickster is also meant for the more martial classes, although I think a quick-moving character (like a ranger or a fighter who utilizes Spring Attack) will find more use from it.
Spellcasters (and even--gasp--psionics) get plenty of support throughout the book, and the prestige class chapter is no exception. The magical trickster, malconvoker, and spellwarp sniper all focus on spellcasting, and the aforementioned psibond agent requires psionics to use.
Wizards: Does the book give more love to the rogue's darker side, the assassin? Any PrCs aimed at them (such as a new sniper), or new poisons?
Mike: There is certainly a lot in the book for assassins to use, but we didn't aim much specifically at them. Five new spells appear on the assassin spell list and Wes (F. Wesley Schneider) also created eight new potions, but that's just about as focused on assassins as we went.
Wizards: What of psionics--what does the psibond prestige class entail? Or the psionic version of the arcane trickster?
Mike: I have always been friendly toward psionics, so I wanted to make sure that system got *some* support in the book. In addition to the psibond agent, there's also a feat that lets spellthieves become psithieves.
The psibond prestige class lets a character get into her target's mind and see what her target sees. It also gives her the ability to nudge her target toward doing something she wants done. The control is pretty limited, but it offers up a variety of non-control abilities the psibond can do while connected to her target. It really is a neat class, and if I ever get a chance to play a psionic character I'll probably aim him squarely at it.
Wizards: And for roguish characters' (often) lighter side, the bard--is there material included for them? Perhaps further uses of their bardic music?
Mike: Alas, poor bards. Ever the least-appreciated class. Mindful that bards usually get the short end of the stick, we wanted to make sure their proponents could come away from Complete Scoundrel with something to show. Along those lines, we have five new bardic music feats and fourteen bard spells.
Plus, there are a lot of tricks from the skill trick section that will undoubtedly appeal to bards and their players.
Wizards: When it comes to the new feats and skill tricks--well, to start with, what exactly are skill tricks? Are these new options to incorporate skills into combat? To give something to those dastardly combatants who like to trip, feint, disarm and sunder?
Mike: Skill tricks land somewhere between new uses for old skills and feats.
They offer unique and unusual abilities that aren't powerful enough to be feats but that don't really work well as new uses for existing skills. Stuff like opening a lock by tapping on it or making an attack as you dismount from your mount. Cinematic stuff like that. I'm a big fan of Jackie Chan movies, and I wanted to make it possible to emulate that sort of frenetic and kinetic action in D&D .
When Andy Collins went through and developed the system we worked together to make sure it retained that cinematic flexibility. I'm really happy with how the system worked out, and I hope everyone else enjoys it as well.
Wizards: And as for feats--any new options for every rogue's favorite, the sneak attack? And luck--does this come into play in the book's mechanics, considering luck and roguishness pair well together?
Mike: Oh my yes! Complete Scoundrel presents ten new ambush feats (first introduced in Dragon Magazine #344) that let you reduce the amount of sneak attack damage you deal in order to create a variety of other effects. A few other feats support sneak attack as well.
Funny you mention luck. When we sat down with Chris Perkins and Matthew Sernett to hammer out the details of the outline (which remained really flexible throughout the whole process) we decided we wanted a mechanic for luck in the game. We had a precedence of what luck can do for a character (in the Luck domain), but we wanted to let other characters in on the fun. Eventually, we settled in on luck feats, of which there are twenty presented. Luck feats build up a luck pool, from which you can pull in order to reroll specific rolls (as defined by the luck feats you pick) and also to perform other minor, lucky tasks. It's a fun little system that I even got to build a prestige class around (fortune's friend). I hope everyone enjoys playing it as much as I did writing it.
Wizards: Complete Adventurer had a lot of interesting new gear, and both Complete Adventurer and the PHB II had some very interesting spells. Can we expect more additions from Complete Scoundrel?
Mike: Indeed you can. Complete Scoundrel even builds off the alchemical capsules presented in Complete Adventurer. Wes wrote all the spells, and although I've only had the opportunity to read a couple of them they look pretty neat and imaginative.
Wizards: How useful will the book be in terms of non-combat encounters (whether options for players or for DMs looking to challenge them)? Does this cover things a rogue's fellow PCs can do other than standing on the sidelines?
Mike: One of the things we wanted to do with Complete Scoundrel was to provide something for everyone to do while the rogue or bard was "doing his thing." In fact, let me back up a little here. When we wrote up the outline with Chris and Matt, Wes advocated for the book to contain a heavy dose of intrigue support, which I feel it does. Intrigue, of course, is all about the non-combat encounters, so Complete Scoundrel gives a great deal of support to surviving (and excelling at) non-combat encounters. And not just for bards and rogues. Feats, prestige classes, spells, magic items, and skill tricks all give mechanical aids to back up the advice.
Wizards: Any new guilds or organizations to join? New contacts (such as coverage on black markets, fences for stolen items, and other dealings?)
Mike: Yes indeed. Three new organizations, in fact, as well as several pages of new contacts. Wes took care of the contacts and two of the organizations, though, so he can tell you a lot more about it than I can.
Wizards: Finally, of the book's 100 Scoundrel Challenges, are there any you'd love to put your own players through? Any you would be daunted to try yourself?
Mike: That's a fun question! I enjoy a healthy (or maybe a greater-than-healthy) dose of "wacky" in my D&D , so someday I'd love to put my players through Scoundrel Challenge #10: Forge an alliance of gnomes and halflings to attack the larger races. And yes, I wrote that one!
I also like rebels, so I think I'd enjoy playing Scoundrel Challenge #37: Ambush the tax shipment of an evil empire, or Scoundrel Challenge #39: Break a popular rebel out of prison. I can see having a lot of fun with those. And no, I didn't write those!