Best summed up as “professional troublemakers,” rogues come in every stripe, from the lowly bandit to the alluring drifter to the canny thief-catcher. Anyone can start down the roguish path, but skills make them successful. More than any other class, the rogue relies on a wide spread of trained abilities to overcome challenges. Stealth, opening locks, disarming traps, and dealing telling sneak attacks on enemies are all the purview of the rogue.
Rogues are not equivalent to thieves, but the distinction is lost in many people’s minds. The mindset to be a successful rogue requires a certain mental flexibility – it’s less about committing illegal acts than a matter of appreciating unorthodox problem-solving. In either case, common folk appreciate neither, and would rather the local thief swing from a gibbet and be done with the matter.
Most rogues start their careers as independent agents, self-taught and self-motivated. The best advance in skill and move naturally toward larger, more demanding goals. This puts civilized rogues in touch with guilds, where more formal training awaits.
In the distant past, thieves’ guilds (as they are called) were likely rarer or stranger. Across Avistan and Garund today, thieves’ guilds are a matter of course in any city and most towns. No matter how repressive or permissive the government, no matter how rich or poor the local marks, rogues band together for protection and training, like any group of like-minded people. Larger communities have multiple guilds that seldom get along. competing guilds often fight running shadow wars, skulking beneath visible city operations but occasionally exploding into the open, spilling their illicit activities into public view.
Iconoclasts that they are, a few freelance rogues try to operate outside guilds. Guild members tend to frown (violently) on independent operators, putting them out of business or out of town. Fortunately, a marked rogue has numerous options outside of professional theft. Investigators, scouts, spies, militia, bounty hunters, and soldiers are all legally acceptable, socially permissible paths for someone with a little gumption. Ironically, smooth-tongued rogues who choose to go legit – or seem to – often find it an easy matter to take public office, becoming part of the same establishment that once persecuted them. (After all, the loose morals and diplomatic skills that mark a good con man translate remarkably well to politics.) And of course, no adventuring party gets far without a rogue around to circumvent traps and locks.
Rogues with legitimate careers tend to dress in the garb of their professions, while those who work freelance dress like everyone else in order to blend in. Sometimes this might require the finest silks, while other occasions call for muddy wool – it all depends on the job.
Among the most ecumenical of roles, rogues operate all across Avistan and Garund. Larger-than-average concentration of the class operate in the Shackles, Varisia, and Katapesh, where law is less stringent (or nonexistent), and in Nidal, where assassins are formally trained in silent death-dealing, especially with poisons and other debilitating toxins.
Absalom, Manaket, Oppara, Sedeq, and Westcrown all host large, influential guilds. The guilds in Absalom and Sedeq are relatively open, while guilds in other cities attempt to hide their identities and activities. There is no true accounting of the number of thieves’ guilds in Absalom, but knowledgeable reports place the number in the dozens. Most prominent are the Sewer Rats (cutpurses and cutthroats) in the Puddles, the Silkenhand (tight-knit racketeers) in the coins, and Dod’s Filchers (child thieves), who operate throughout the city.
Rogues trained in shadow-shrouded Nidal are renowned for their use of poison and other brews to weaken and kill their foes. They are not so good at finding traps as other rogues, however.
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting