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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

The Bazaar 54: OCC Overview: Rogue Scholar


INTRODUCTION


General. The Rifts RPG is a game that brings a lot of different play styles and classes to the table with varying levels of viability. Several stand out immediately as the most easily applicable to a gaming group in this setting (e.g. Glitter Boy, Juicer, Ley Line Walker, Mind Melter), while others require a more nuanced approach. The Rogue Scholar is not a combat monster, likely have few/if any psychic powers, and no magic abilities whatsoever. Sure, they may be able to make up for some things with cybernetics and/or bionics, but now we’re getting into the territory of the Headhunter. So what does the Rogue Scholar do? Well, he does skills like few other classes, and typically all in areas that most other skill jockeys don’t ever touch, or don’t accomplish as well. The Rogue Scholar also comes with a bit of a myth attached to it, making it one of the more notable classes that brings the least up-front and tangible set of capabilities to the group. From that perspective, they make for a great puzzle the Player can try to solve within the group dynamic; sure they can shoot an energy rifle, but this is the character you want solving puzzles, or making key supporting decisions based on skill-based rolls, not so much how much damage they deal.


Type of Characters. As one of the more iconic Scholars and Adventurers, the Rogue Scholar is presented as an intrepid explorer and keeper of knowledge. Reading the description would lead the reader to think this was the Indiana Jones of the Rifts RPG – and they would fairly close to the mark. They are the ones that fight to educate the masses, espousing a freedom of expression and tolerance that typically runs counter to the leadership of the regions. Definitely not comparable to the combat capabilities found in the Men at Arms, they also lack the esoteric abilities the Psychics and Practitioners of Magic wield. Instead, they possess a raft of skills and special abilities that provide them a niche position in the Rifts RPG. While others provide brute force or mystical abilities, the Rogue Scholar solves problems or provides a specialized expertise few other classes possess.


Key Characteristics of the O.C.C. With a couple of notable exceptions, few O.C.C.s come out with as many skills and abilities. There are some questionable additions in the RUE version of the O.C.C.; I get what they were trying, but the methodology seemed a little off. The Storyteller & Teacher ability is really a background activity that provides no game play options, and the Find Books and Historical Artifacts could have been simply expressed as a +20% to the Find Contraband skill (giving it a total +35%). The two remaining Abilities, Recognize Authenticity and Professional Restoration, gives the character a unique slant that allows them to increase the value of any scavenged items. Another oddity is the ratio of Spoken Languages to Literacy in languages (they are not equal), which is a minor oversight. What you do have though, is over 30 starting skills, which most classes don’t accumulate over their entire career. One thing of note is that this O.C.C. does not start with a Hand to Hand skill, which is surprising.


Relevant Books with Updates. Oddly, the books that provide this character the most in terms of updates are those that add to the Skills catalogue. The RUE version does a good job capturing many of the skills entered to that date, but there were a number of other books with newer skills that would be or some relevance to the Rogue Scholar. For the most part though, these are very minor, ineffectual updates.


GAME CONTEXT


How I Would Play This OCC. Given that we are now saddled with the skill limitations of the Rogue Scholar as presented in RUE, I would play this as an adventuring hero in search of ancient artefacts and spoils of war. Something akin to an Indiana Jones character, my Rogue Scholar would be hiring himself to contracts to search for and bring back bounty, either to a wealthy employer or city state, or even to the Black Market. I think the idea of a “digger for hire” and chasing treasure in pre-Rifts ruins sounds like a great series of adventures to be had. Let the heavy hitters deal with the massive combat potential and risk their lives in close combat with the aliens and D-Bees or monsters that inhabit the regions, I’ll be playing someone laser focused on get the goods and surviving to make it to the dealer. If this means letting someone else eat the laser blast or get gorged on by a demon, so be it! LOL. I think I just went and precluded myself from any of the Good alignments.I like playing a more independent character, so after selecting my 4 Technical Skills, I’ll probably look to round the PC out with a variety of skills that allow me to work among the group, but also keep themselves out of trouble and survive to acquire an artefact another day.


The Rogue Scholar in Context

  • All Human. This is one of the best places this character could find themselves; not completely outclassed in terms of most combat capabilities any Men at Arms, Psychic or Practitioner of Magic brings to the table. As the group advances through their level progression this becomes a different matter, but by then the Rogue Scholar has near tapped all his skills and is a veritable skill jockey par excellence – there are very few that could compete. Likely a key, integrated member of the group, they fill a niche that nobody else has, making it the ideal spot to be playing.

  • With the Big Boss(es). Here things can get a little ungainly for the Rogue Scholar. We have Players that may be piloting a Glitter Boy/Robot, and R.C.C. with spectacular natural abilities, perhaps even a series of M.D.C. Player Characters. Outside of a suit of body armor, the Rogue Scholar stands little chance in a straight up fight; depending on the antagonist, this may parlay as a problem even while in body armor, LOL. We start seeing a tipping point between those with serious and powerful natural abilities and the skill choices they have available to them. Here the Rogue Scholar comes out even more as a niche solution space that others in the group may have no possible solutions to provide.

  • With the Demi-Gods. Well, things are going to be a little off-putting for the Rogue Scholar. As the other Players are leveraging city-devastation level powers and abilities or weaponry, the Rogue Scholar is throwing perhaps 5 energy rifle shots per melee round. The saving grace is that they are definitively not on the top of the food chain for target acquisition by the enemy. Because of the stereotype associated with the Rogue Scholar, they may find themselves doing a lot more role-playing for effect, definitely rolling more for skill checks vice combat that other characters likely excel in.


Rifts Main Book (RMB, or Grey Book) to Rifts Ultimate Edition (RUE). Opening the two books together, side by side, there isn’t all that much that pops out. Attribute requirements remain the same, but when we get to skills and selection options, things see some significant divergence. In the RMB, O.C.C./Other/Secondary skills numbered 8/16/8 (total 32), while in RUE they are 20/11/3 (total 34) and there are a number of Abilities that the RMB version is lacking. The second major difference is the Other Skills selection: RMB is wide open (Any) for EACH category, with only 5 skills not available; RUE has a much more restrictive selection dynamic.



FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE ROGUE SCHOLAR


The Rogue Scholar was meant to be the adventuring professor cliché, one that could be encapsulated as a type of Indiana Jones figure in Rifts. Who wouldn’t want to play that? Well, considering the combat orientation that many Rifts groups likely take, it starts limiting the Player options, as they are a very minor source of damage output in and of themselves. They certainly have something to add to the group, particularly those centered around combat characters or RCCs that have limited skills in lieu of special abilities. This is a balance factor that the GM must take into account, but skill checks and puzzle solving should be where this character shines. They are also a premium source of role-playing potential, as the O.C.C. has been set-up as a wandering folk hero (a la Erin Tarn). They can easily be leveraged as the “brains” of the operation, chasing after loot in ancient pre-Rifts ruins, or the one to provide the critical information in terms of dealing with monsters, demons, magic, what have you.


It’s unfortunate the O.C.C. has not seen any kind of official upgrade or sub-class options. One would hope that the eventual release of the World Book Lazlo would provide this kind of relief. I honestly think that the “upgrade” they received in the RUE is so exceedingly small that the old O.C.C. still stands up in comparison. It’s this secondary dynamic that makes me prefer the RMB version, for all its shortfalls, over the RUE version. There are so many ways to specialize your character to the vision you as the Player wish to represent. I find the option space in the RMB more appealing. In either case, you are presenting a character that will still be able to contribute to a battle by shooting their energy rifle with the rest of them, you just may find that the character has more to offer in the less tangible aspect.


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