The rogue is one of the building blocks of a good D&D party. They can sneak, disarm traps, pick locks, and take care of many of those pesky social checks that crop up when you’re out of combat. While most forms of media have great examples of rogues, some of the best exemplars of the class you’ll find are in Dungeons and Dragons novels. The best of the best not only reinforce the knowledge players get from handbooks, but they also show off new ways to play the class. If you’re looking for a solid guide to playing a rogue, you’ll want to check these books out.
Saga of Old City by Gary Gygax (1986)
If you want to read about rogues in Dungeons and Dragons, you’ve got to start with Saga of Old City, a Greyhawk Adventures book. No, it’s not the first D&D book – or even the first book with a rogue-like character, but it’s arguably the book with the best pedigree. This is the first book to feature the fantastic Gord the Rogue, and it was written by the creator of Dungeons and Dragons himself.
If you’re going to read about rogues in Dungeons and Dragons, you’ve got to start with Saga of Old City. No, it’s not the first D&D book – or even the first book with a rogue-like character, but it’s arguably the book with the best pedigree. This is the first book to feature the fantastic Gord the Rogue, and it was written by the creator of Dungeons and Dragons himself.
This book takes place in Greyhawk, which was for a time one of the major settings of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s actually a great ground-level look a the world of D&D, something that often feels like it’s missing in an era of giant cosmic conflict. It’s a relatively simple story as far as these things go, but it’s still a fun read.
Gord’s adventures are absolutely a great way to get a handle on what rogues were initially meant to be. This book’s a bit of a relic and a bit outdated, but it’s still fun. Give it a shot if you want a look at D&D history.
Artifact of Evil by E. Gary Gygax (1986)
If you read Saga of Old City, the natural progression is to move on to Artifact of Evil. Once again penned by Gygax and starring Gord, it’s a direct continuation of the earlier novel. It’s also the last novel written in the Greyhawk Adventures line, so it’s your chance to read one of the last major works by Gary Gygax under the D&D banner.
If you put aside all of the historical notes, you’ll still get a fairly solid story. It’s more of a campaign write-up than anything else, but you’ll have a good time watching Gord and his crew tackling the various and sundry problems they encounter. You’ll also get a very unique look at the Drow, who first featured in this novel. It’s a real throwback, one that you’ll need to read in order to get a better idea of the roots of some classic concepts.
If you like Gord, the general history of D&D, or just solid adventure stories, this is an excellent book. The prose isn’t the best and the story’s a little cliched by now, but it still works. This book is best read as a companion piece to Old City, and it really is the conclusion that the earlier story deserved.
Kendermore by Mary Kirchoff (1989)
If you want to take a hard left turn away from Greyhawk, the best place to go is to Dragonlance. The setting is one of the more beloved to come out of the 80s, with stronger characters and more coherent world-building. While Kendermore does have a few problems as both a novel and a part of the Dragonlance setting, it’s nonetheless a great look at how some types of rogues tended to function in the setting.
Kendermore takes a rather different look at rogues than the Gord novels. Instead of necessarily looking at the rogue as a thief, it looks at the rogue more as an explorer, treasure-hunter and trickster. It’s a fun, alternative type of rogue that’s really become more popular than the stock version in the years since this novel was published. Though much of what makes this novel works seems like common sense today, it was a revelation at the time it was published.
This book helped to prove that rogues had a great deal of variability in their characterization. They didn’t necessarily have to fit into the boxes the game put them in and they gave players a great deal of freedom when it came to role-playing. While Kendermore might not be a role-playing guide, it is a good guide for determining tone and character. In addition, it’s also a fairly fun read.
Wanderlust by Mary Kirchoff (1991)
Tasslehoff Burrfoot returns in Wanderlust, another book in the Dragonlance series. While he’s not quite as much at the center of things as he was in Kendermore, this is he’s a vital part of the story. In fact, this whole book is one that’s really kicked off by the actions of a rogue, something that good DMs should examine when they’re crafting stories of their own. Pushing the character’s ability to steal and the problems that come with theft to the fore can provide fertile ground for creating story hooks.
While this is more of a Dragonlance book than a pure rogue book, it features enough sneaking, thievery, and general cleverness to make any rogue fan happy. It will allow most to not only get a better idea of how rogues function in any setting but give more potential story hooks to those who are building up their own character’s background. The theft of a simple object sets off this story, just as it can set off hundreds of stories in hundreds of other campaigns.
This is a good book for those looking at theft as a story hook. It’s also a great book for fans of clever rogues, as well as for those who like when rogues get their comeuppance. Like Kendermore, it’s also a good story in its own right that still stands up fairly well.
The Sword of Bedwyr by RA Salvatore (1996)
If you’re a fan of D&D novels, you had to expect that something by R.A. Salvatore would show up here. While there are a few great selections from the prolific author, the nod had to go to The Sword of Bedwyr. This is absolutely one of the best books about rogues ever written, combing several aspects of the beloved class with some fun mystical twists.
In fact, one might call this the book that proves how cool rogues can be. Luthien and Oliver both eventually end up personifying two different types of rogue and they both show off the rogue’s abilities as somewhat superheroic figures. They’re a great example of how cool gear can turn a simple thief into something much more.
More than any of the earlier books in the D&D series, this one also shows that you can create a great rogue without having to sacrifice the quality of the prose. Salvatore’s always a very solid writer and even his work from twenty years ago feels very modern. This is a great book to go back to if you have more modern sensibilities when it comes to rogues.
The Alabaster Staff by Edward Bolme (2003)
Some of the best rogues start out from humble beginnings. In fact, you can run a whole campaign based on the world of the streets, starring characters who are either rogues or who dabble int the same sort of world. One of the better novels to show this off is The Alabaster Staff, which keeps things firmly on the level of the streets while still presenting a fairly fantastic plot.
There’s a lot to appreciate in The Alabaster Staff. It’s one of the few D&D novels to get even moderate critical praise, with a lot of positive attention going to character development. It’s also one of the few books that really does show you how a rogue could build herself up from the bottom of society, becoming the type of person who could realistically vie for an important artifact. The story is also fun, which is a bonus for anyone picking up the book.
The Alabaster Staff is a must-read if you want to run a street-level campaign or you are particularly interested in having your rogue starting from the bottom. It’s a solid book that has plenty of good campaign hooks as well. Give it a shot if you’re aiming your sights on city life.
The Black Bouquet by Richard Lee Byers (2003)
The Black Bouquet is the middle book of the The Rogue trilogy, which should give you an idea of where the book’s focus is centered. It’s a solid book even on its own, though, one that gives you an idea of the degree to which a good rogue relies on his or her wits. This is the rogue as an underdog, the kind of person who might have great skills and big plans but who still tends to operate on the fringes of society. Consider this is as a guide to playing a rogue as an outsider.
Outsider or not, the rogues of this book do feel like fully realized characters. They’re not perfect, but they’re not just punching bags. The plots make sense, even if you have to suspend your disbelief a bit to stay in the book. A great deal of what works here has to do with some excellent prose, the type that will keep you invested even as it builds a bigger world in the background. Even if you’re not going to read the rest of the trilogy, it’s worth reading The Black Bouquet.
The Erevis Cale Trilogy by Paul S. Kemp (2003-2005)
One of the more interesting twists in playing a rogue is that your character’s morality isn’t really set in stone. While most of the books on this list focus on the rogue as a hero or as a trickster, this trilogy doesn’t pull its punches. This is a series of books about the rogue as a spy and an assassin, the type of person who runs on his own particular brand of morality and who could easily become part of an evil-aligned campaign.
That’s not to say that Erevis Cale is one-note or even necessarily evil. He’s more of a protagonist than a hero, though, the type of character that can do terrible things without necessarily alienating the reader. He’s a great example of how one can portray a complex character without having him or her slide too far into the realm of parody or cliche. The trilogy is definitely a must-read for anyone who wants to play a morally-complex rogue, even if that character won’t ever go as far as Erevis. Consider this series a case-study in how to get the most out of the more traditional definitions of the class as well as its darker prestige options.
D&D Books with Rogues
Each of these novels has something special to offer fans of rogues. Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your next campaign or you just like a good tale filled with wit and thievery, you’ll find it here. One of the great things about D&D novels is that most of them feature a well-rounded cast of characters, so you can follow most of these authors onto other books and still get your fill of rogue adventures. Whether you’re a fan of the stories or just the characters, though, you’ll be sure to get something unique out of each one of these books.