The material below is Open Game Content
Nature is deceptive. Animals evolve camouflage, plants pretend to be luscious and inviting when they are really insect-digesting carnivores and creatures emulate the appearance of others in order to fool predators. The rogue is not antithetical to nature but part of it. Although most rogues are urban and are not comfortable operating in the wilderness, there are those rogues who serve the wild and venture into the settled regions in order to redress the balance and strike at the forces that choke nature at the roots. Not all of the druids’ sacred trust involves defence; it is also necessary to attack and when attacking it is sometimes best to employ subterfuge.
A rogue who has made a religious commitment to druidry, undergoing and surviving the necessary initiations, is given the special title of a blackthorn. These characters train themselves in the rogues’ pursuits, learning to further the cause of nature through stealth and guile. They model themselves upon animals that use (or are associated with) cunning, patience and trickery rather than direct force; a blackthorn is more likely to honour the spirit of the fox, cat, monkey, coyote or raven than the bear or the wolverine.
A blackthorn gains a number of benefits from adding druid levels to his rogue class, the following being the most important for the role of the rogue:
- Saves: The druid has good Fortitude and Will saving throws, which are exactly the saves in which the rogue is deficient.
- Hit Die: The resilient health of druids, who live closer to nature, gives them more hit points than the wiry urban rogue, resulting in the druid’s d8 hit die being slightly better than the rogue’s d6.
- Natural Attacks Proficiency: The character becomes proficient with the natural attacks of the animal forms he can adopt.
- Wild Shape: The ability to transform into animals is a marvellous new avenue of opportunity for a rogue. He can adopt shapes that would let him fit into entrances too small for him, use the form of an animal with camouflage to gain a racial bonus on Hide skill checks, or even adopt the form of a winged creature to fly away from pursuers.
- Wild Empathy: Guard dogs and similar sentry animals very rarely trouble a blackthorn, as he can attempt to change its attitude and appear as a friend. This is useful when breaking into large estates or defended compounds at night.
- Animal Allies: With both the animal companion feature and the ability to cast summon nature’s ally spontaneously, the blackthorn is not likely to be caught without support when operating alone. An animal companion can assist the character to make sneak attacks by flanking enemies. Animal companions can also act as sentries and scouts.
- Venom Immunity: Although he does not achieve it until his 9th druid level, total immunity to poisons is something to which any rogue aspires. As rogues have weak Fortitude saving throws, poison can often be their Achilles’ heel, especially since it is used in so many traps.
- Divine Spellcasting: Divine spells may be cast while wearing armour, so the blackthorn can wear leather armour and not have to worry about spell failure.
The blackthorn damages his progression as a rogue by taking up the druid’s mantle, developing the following weaknesses:
- Abilities: Because of the druid’s dependence on his Wisdom for spellcasting, the character must allocate his ability increases between his primary ability (Dexterity) and Wisdom.
- Skills: The druid only receives 4 skill points per level, half that of the rogue, which sets back the rogue’s skill development.
- Armour Restrictions: The druid class prevents the character from wearing any sort of metal armour, which limits his options slightly; rogues suffer less from this restriction than other multiclass characters do, as they are quite accustomed to only wearing leather armour.
As the character combines rogue and druid levels, there are some options he can take to optimise the mixture of both classes’ abilities.
- The druid has all the 2nd level physical enhancement spells (bear’s endurance, bull’s strength and cat’s grace), so he can tailor his feat selection to a particular fighting style. Cat’s grace combined with the Weapon Finesse feat is an especially good choice for the blackthorn.
- Combat Casting and Concentration ranks are useful for a blackthorn who is likely to cast spells in the midst of combat. Silent Spell is very useful for casting preparatory spells while in hiding or while an opponent. The Extend Spell feat is also useful for increasing the time that enhancing spells last and summoned allies can exist.
- Blackthorns often infiltrate settled areas such as cities, carry out their work and then retreat to the wild again. Make the most of the blackthorn’s trackless step ability when setting up stashes of stolen goods or a similar base of operation in the countryside. It is useful for a rogue to have a place to flee to where the authorities cannot track him, no matter how hard they look. If the blackthorn works with a team of other rogues, make sure that it is he who buries any loot, as the lack of a trail will make it next to impossible for searchers to track him.
- The blackthorn retains all his level-derived rogue abilities while in wild shape, including evasion, uncanny dodge and sneak attack. Bear this in mind when planning strategies that involve taking animal form. Even a small animal such as a viper can make a sneak attack if it catches its opponent with its guard down. In the case of the viper, the sneak attack can also poison the target as an added bonus.
- A blackthorn who adopts a form that has the pounce special attack (such as that of a leopard) can use this ability to charge and make a full attack; if the target is flat-footed or otherwise denied his Dexterity bonus, the rogue can apply sneak attack damage. Big cats are particularly fine animal forms for blackthorns to take, as they so often have racial bonuses to their Hide and Move Silently skills.
- The magic fang spell affects the character’s own natural attacks while in wild shape; combined with feats such as Power Attack, they can be made even stronger.
- If the character expects to do a lot of combat in a wild shape he should devote a few feats towards enhancing his natural weapon attacks, though he should be careful not to duplicate racial feats such as Weapon Finesse if the wild shape has them already, unless he plans to use the feat with his regular weapon. Your Games Master may allow you to acquire feats that only apply to your wild shape, such as Multiattack, if you spend a lot of time in one preferred animal form.
- Endurance and Track complement the characters’ ability to survive in the wilderness, and to withstand certain extreme environments. Track in particular is useful when the blackthorn is planning to take a foe by surprise.
- With an above-average Wisdom, the blackthorn should invest substantially in at least one of the following skills; Sense Motive, Spot, Listen or Survival.
- Recommended Prepared Spells (for a 10th level druid): 0th – cure minor wounds, detect magic, flare, guidance, mending, resistance; 1st level – entangle, longstrider, magic fang, obscuring mist; 2nd level – barkskin, cat’s grace, spider climb, soften earth and stone; 3rd level – greater magic fang, poison, sleet storm; 4th level – cure serious wounds, dispel magic, flame strike, rusting grasp; 5th level – stoneskin, wall of thorns.
- Lessons Of The Trees: Upon gaining 4th rogue level, the character may elect to take Lessons Of The Trees. The rogue has turned the lessons of the druidic path somewhat on their head, learning how to damage trees and plants more effectively. The rogue’s sneak attack class feature will now work against plants and plant-type creatures. This concentrated learning means the character loses Decipher Script and Intimidate as class skills.
- The Wild City: Upon gaining 8th rogue level, the character may elect to take The Wild City. The character’s trackless step class feature now applies to the city and urban areas, as well as natural surroundings. The penalty for this expanded ability is to the rogue’s key abilities – his sneak attack damage is reduced by one die and Disable Device and Use Magic Device become cross-class skills.
- Rogue Companion: Upon gaining 10th rogue level, the character may elect to take Rogue Companion instead of gaining a rogue special ability. The rogue has taught one of his greatest skills to his animal companion. It gains the sneak attack class feature (+1d6). This variant rule may only be taken after 10th level at 13th, 16th or 19th rogue levels, but may never be taken more than once. Special: The character must be at least a 4th level druid before selecting this variant.
The Blackthorn (Rogue/Druid)
|Level||Class||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1st||Rog 1||+0||+0||+2||+0||Sneak attack +1d6, trapfinding, (character feat)|
|3rd||Drd 1||+1||+2||+3||+2||Animal companion, nature sense, wild empathy, (character feat)|
|4th||Drd 2||+2||+3||+3||+3||Woodland stride, (ability increase)|
|5th||Rog 3||+3||+4||+3||+4||Sneak attack +2d6, trap sense +1|
|5th||Drd 3||+4||+4||+4||+4||Trackless step, (character feat)|
|7th||Rog 4||+5||+4||+5||+4||Uncanny dodge|
|8th||Drd 4||+6/+1||+5||+5||+5||Resist nature’s lure, (ability increase)|
|9th||Rog 5||+6/+1||+5||+5||+5||Sneak attack +3d6|
|10th||Drd 5||+6/+1||+5||+5||+5||Wild shape 1/day|
|11th||Rog 6||+7/+2||+6||+6||+6||Trap sense +2|
|12th||Drd 6||+8/+3||+7||+7||+7||Wild shape 2/day, (character feat), (ability increase)|
|13th||Rog 7||+9/+4||+7||+7||+7||Sneak attack +4d6|
|14th||Drd 7||+10/+5||+7||+7||+7||Wild shape 3/day|
|15th||Rog 8||+11/+6/+1||+7||+8||+7||Improved uncanny dodge, (character feat)|
|16th||Drd 8||+12/+7/+2||+8||+8||+8||Wild shape (large), (ability increase)|
|17th||Rog 9||+12/+7/+2||+9||+8||+9||Sneak attack +5d6, trap sense +3|
|18th||Drd 9||+12/+7/+2||+9||+9||+9||Venom immunity, (character feat)|
|19th||Rog 10||+13/+8/+3||+9||+10||+9||Special ability|
|20th||Drd 10||+14/+9/+4||+10||+10||+10||Wild shape 4/day, (ability increase)|
A Slight Case Of Overkill
Blackthorns in big cat form, such as panthers, leopards and eventually lions (once the blackthorn can assume a large wild shape) can be devastatingly effective against opponents in an ambush situation. As an example, consider what a blackthorn in the wild shape of a panther can do.
In the first round of combat, if a 10th level blackthorn in panther form wins initiative, he can charge forward up to 80 feet in a straight line and perform a full attack including two rake attacks, for a total of five attacks (at an unmodified melee attack bonus of +7/+2/+2/+2/+2) all of which would inflict sneak attack damage against a target who was denied his Dexterity bonus to armour class. The panther’s racial Weapon Finesse feat allows you to add its Dexterity modifier of +4 to each attack roll. As an additional safeguard, cast Greater Magic Fang before making the pounce, in order to benefit from a +1 enhancement bonus to the attack and damage rolls for each of these attacks.
Blackthorns in a campaign that is based near or upon the sea have an even more devastating potential attack form, one familiar to students of ‘munchkinism’. A 16th level blackthorn can assume the wild shape of a giant octopus, whose tentacles have a 20-foot reach. Eight tentacles, each capable of inflicting an additional 4d6 sneak attack damage, make this variety of blackthorn an absolute nightmare, especially since the tentacles are the primary mode of attack and all eight may (apparently) be used without suffering a penalty to the attack roll!