If you are interested in reading lengthy explanation for why there is an updated class preview, please keep reading. Otherwise, please feel free to download the re-write here.
From the beginning, there has been a great deal of overlap with the Agent and the Scoundrel. The two classes stem from two archetypes found in previous fantasy roleplaying games; that of the distinction between the assassin and the thief. Star Wars also marks this difference, represented in Han Solo and Cassian Andor (before that, Leia Organa’s role as a spy and infiltrator in the Return of the Jedi served as the Agent’s touchstone and where I drew inspiration from, but moving on…). How then do you mark this contrast in class design? There approaches differ but they share more than a few qualities: both are sneaky, favor finesse and skill over force, and take advantage of an enemies’ weaknesses. At first, they had similar methods of dealing damage. Whereas Scoundrels need only have a high Communication, an Agent’s damage output came at the cost of action economy. This was in large part due to the superior selection of weapons and armor, namely the capabilities of rifles in enabling them to deal more damage from an even longer range. In a game centered on ranged combat, that seemed like a pretty big advantage to hold over its cousin class, and so the Agent having to eat up a minor action seemed reasonable.
Having two abilities that add 1d6 to damage in Trick Attack and Deadly Aim was balanced, but it was never satisfying. With the excuse of having one more final re-write before its release, I really wanted to have a justification to address this. This began with taking a look back at what these two archetypes do differently. The Thief is a smooth-talker, lulling or distracting you while he or she reaches into you pockets, and can deliver a quick cheap shot or wriggle free if caught in the act. The Assassin remains in the shadows, staying out of sight until the perfect moment to strike, and escaping undetected when the job is done.
What does that mean then in terms of game mechanics? What I found during the playtest was that the prevalence of penetrating damage really went a long way to mitigate the effects of high AR and Health bloat. It was perhaps an over-correction, but it gave me a great idea of how to proceed. This was further validated by the concept of “piercing” damage that was posted by Taylor Bland who goes by the handle of VladGenX on the Green Ronin Forums (if you like this blog, I would recommend checking out some of his stuff on the Fantasy AGE/Titansgrave subforum). With this in mind, I went back to the drawing board.
Let’s take a look at how this turned out..
(Level 1) Precise Aim: You can take time to target your enemy for a precision strike. You must first use the Aim action and then the Attack action on your turn. If you hit, you reduce the target’s Armor Rating by half (rounded down). If your attack is influenced by other effects that half Armor Rating, like the Pierce Armor stunt and piercing damage (see Chapter 5), the damage is instead treated as penetrating damage.
What I found with additional d6s to damage is that it is mostly there to balance out the low damage from 1d6+x weapons. Since the Scoundrel relies on his or her trusty blaster, having a feature that added this was essential and needed to be kept. Scratching that off, I moved on to the Agent. Rifles already have decent damage, so although rolling an extra d6 on your damage is fun, it did little in conveying how these classes deal damage differently. Now, Agents have Precise Aim, which has two benefits, 1) it goes a long way in representing that while a Scoundrel takes advantage of an opportunity, the Agent makes them, and 2) renders effects like the Pierce Armor stunt still viable throughout the rest of the game.
(Level 2) Stealth Attack: You can strike from the shadows undetected. While you have concealment or are unnoticed by the target, opponents with the chance to detect you can make opposed tests of Perception (Hearing or Seeing) vs. your Dexterity (Stealth) to remain hidden. Normally, you or your position is revealed automatically after making an attack.
This is in keeping with the theme of the assassin. The Agent can strike and hopefully remain hidden to snipe another round. Losing the ability to avoid taking damage based on effects that target Dexterity (Acrobatics), such as bombs, is balanced with the ability to stay undetected and out of reach in the first place.
This now feels complete. It does what it needs to do without stepping on the toes of another class. What did not feel complete (or particularly coherent) was the Influence feature for the Diplomat. On another pass, it looks more like this…
(Level 1) Influence: You can subtly manipulate the course of events, whether by force of will, clever scheming, or a silver tongue. Once per round during an ability test, you may roll your own d6 and use your result to replace any single d6 used in the test. The ally or opponent whose roll you replace must be able to see and hear you, and you must decide to use Influence before the success or failure of the test is determined. You can use Influence a number of times per day equal to your Communication ability (minimum once per day). You must be conscious and able to use free actions on your turn to use this ability, however this does not require you to use an action.