Beware a hobbit in a bowler hat bearing pies.

So I’m enjoying playing a Burglar in Lord of the Rings Online at the moment, but what is a Burglar if common misconceptions are to be avoided? As unwize mentions in a comment to that post, there is a possibility that Turbine themselves are a little unsure as to the real role of the Burglar class within the game’s group content, and being new to the class myself, I would have to hazard a guess that part of this exasperation on the part of experienced Burglar players stems from the class already having had at least one major revamp along with continuing tweaks to specific class mechanics since then.

So what is a Burglar not? They are not a primary DPS class, although this is perhaps an area that Turbine are struggling with. They are not crowd control specialists, but they do bring several powerful crowd control abilities to the table; I think it’s fair to say that Burglars are to crowd control as Captains are to healing – they are not the first choice in that area, but can perform admirably at the job given a lack of alternatives and when traited accordingly. And, perhaps most importantly, they are NOT Buglers. I do not like to ‘blow my horn’ in front of other people; patting me on the head does not ‘set’ me to play Reveille at first light; if I am a Hobbit my title is ‘of the Quick Post’ not the Last Post. My role in a group is not to signal the start of an orc hunt!

And breathe. And relax.


And breeeeaaaaathe.

So what does a Burglar do? Like the best and arguably most enjoyable of utility classes, it seems that they do a little bit of everything.

The Burglar has a number of short term debuffs called Tricks which can be spread liberally, one per mob, and help to reduce the attack potential of a group of mobs. Personally I like to picture my stealthy little hobbit running around tweaking nipples, yanking wedgies, pulling hats down over eyes, and tying shoelaces together in order to distract and demoralise his foes. Of course this breaks down a little bit when it’s a pack of wargs you’re fighting, but a true Burglar is a master of stealth, and is therefore quite able to sneak some shoes onto a warg’s paws before initiating combat, thus allowing them to tie the warg’s shoe laces together during the fight. And now you know why they call such shoes sneakers.

The second part to Tricks is that they enable a number of other Burglar skills to operate. These skills are generally more powerful abilities on longer cooldowns which require a Trick to be active on the target before they can be used, and which will remove the Trick when they are used. So the Burglar generally spreads Tricks around amongst the mobs, and then juggles adding Tricks to the main target while removing them with their Trick-powered skills. Think of it as a sort of Charlie Chaplin routine, where Charlie kicks the villain in the pants and, when the villain spins around, rolls between his legs and head-butts the villain in the groin as Charlie sits up from the roll looking confused; as the villain doubles over, Charlie then tweaks the villain’s nose, rolls through his legs, hops up, turns around and kicks the bent-over villain in the bum such that he falls into a puddle of mud, whence the villain looks up dazedly into the camera with his mud-covered face, in a light-hearted comical fashion. Then, while the villain is still prone, Charlie leaps onto his back, pulls his head back and slits his throat with a dagger, before severing his spine at the base of the neck, just to be sure.

C’mon, admit it, Charlie Chaplin would have been even cooler if he’d done that last bit. Anyway, that’s the primary role of the Burglar as I see it: it’s a Charlie Chaplin meets Sweeney Todd sort of affair.

The Trick mechanic in itself is quite fun (especially if you have a slightly wild imagination), but the Burglar has so much more going for them. Like the Captain, the Burglar also has a set of skills on a ‘response chain’, skills that are unusable until a certain event occurs, which in the Burglar’s case is whenever they score a critical hit (and later also whenever they evade, if they choose to slot the Stick and Move legendary trait). In Charlie Chaplin terms it’s the moment where he’s suitably rendered his foe inoperative but can’t resist giving him one final kick in the pants while the fellow is down. These skills generally lead to more damage for the Burglar, but there are also some useful utility abilities, such as the chance to start a fellowship manoeuvre.

Starting fellowship manoeuvres is not unique to the Burglar, but they are the only class that can reliably start one at will. Other classes will trigger a fellowship manoeuvre on certain events, such as when a Guardian is stunned during combat, but the Burglar has specific skills that will start a manoeuvre if they successfully hit the target. Fellowship manoeuvres are powerful events which can easily turn the tide of a battle when performed in a well coordinated group, so you would think that this would make the Burglar an absolute ‘must have’ in any group, but the skills which trigger it are on such a large cooldown that they are once-per-fight emergency buttons, more akin to a Captain’s Last Stand than a really class-defining mechanic. The ability to start a fellowship manoeuvre at will is clearly very useful from a tactical point of view, but when you have a number of other classes in a group with chances to start manoeuvres, what seems as though it should be the defining power of a Burglar becomes somewhat diluted in the sea of unpredictable but reasonably regular occurrences of the fellowship manoeuvre event.

Really I’ve only scratched the surface of the Burglar here, the class has all manner of other utility skills, not least of which is the ability to enter stealth, from where the Burglar can strike at targets for extra damage – after picking the pockets of eligible targets, naturally. Burglars have a very nice fire-and-forget debuff which increases damage to a specific target, and remains active until combat ends, the Burglar deactivates it, or the mob manages to resist it. There’s the Hide in Plain Sight skill, the equivalent of Charlie hopping inside a conveniently placed barrel as his pursuers stand around looking all about themselves wondering where he could possibly have vanished to; of course, in the Sweeney Chaplin/Charlie Todd version this enables him to then pounce out and fillet the confounded villains with a devastating critical strike, should he so choose. There’s the signature Riddle, a suitably Bilbo-esque ability, allowing the Burglar to keep a humanoid opponent stunned for up to thirty seconds as long as the target takes no damage and which, when traited for, can be used to pretty much permanently keep one enemy out of the fight for as long as the Burglar chooses. And although I haven’t gained the skill yet – my Burglar only being in his early thirties at the moment – the Provoke skill will cause the threat generated by it to apply to the mob’s target instead of the Burglar, thus allowing the Burglar to aid, say, an off-tank with holding aggro on a mob.

The final mechanic I want to talk about, and one which sounds rather fun but is probably actually quite frustrating in the normal run of play, is the gamble. My character is not really high enough in level to have experienced this properly yet, but at the basic level he gets a skill on a fairly lengthy cooldown which when activated will randomly pick one of four effects similar to those found in a fellowship manoeuvre, but understandably of lesser magnitude and which only apply to the Burglar. What makes this mechanic potentially both fun and frustrating is that one of the Burglar’s class trait lines allows them to increase the number of abilities that will have a chance of applying a specific type of gamble under specific conditions, and thus it adds a level of ‘tactical unpredictability’ to the Burglar’s combat performance; a lucky run could see the Burglar perform in such a way as to put most other classes in the shade, where an unlucky run will yield no additional benefit – not a huge problem in itself, but I imagine it’s problematic for raiders who require a more consistent performance and could otherwise be heavily invested in one of the other two trait lines for a solid, albeit slightly more mundane, boost to abilities. Still, there’s a reason why the trait line is called The Gambler, and I’m resolved to trying it and seeing what it adds to the class.

Who knows, with random and unpredictable boosts to his abilities, I’m already starting to picture Charlie Todd transforming into the Hulk on occasion, just to really mess with the genre.

8 thoughts on “Beware a hobbit in a bowler hat bearing pies.

  1. darkeye

    Burglars have a legendary trait/skill ‘Exposed Throat’ that gives them a 20% to start a fellowship maneouvre every 10s at end of the crit chain, much more likely than other classes to start ones with that equipped. Gambling only comes into its own with the gambler legendary trait and the right legacies.

    I think Arenanet just kneed the burglar concept in the groin with the leaked thief stuff, a class that can steal ‘environmental’ weapons from enemies and wield dual pistols. I mean it’s hard to beat being able to pluck moas for a bunch of feathers to throw in an enemies face and momentarily blinding them.

    Except in the meantime still playing Lotro, but kinda parked my burglar in Moria and gone back to leveling my captain, was hoping for some new stuff in the upcoming class revamp to freshen things up but a little disappointed with it, more traitline exclusive stances, really? At least they are making fellowship maneouvres more powerful.

  2. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Burglars get 2 abilities to start fellowship manoeuvre (FM): They can also use trip at the beginning of combat to get an FM. It can be quite useful to get a big jump on an enemy.

    I think Tubine in general is having trouble with how some classes are defined. Burglars and Champions in particular seem to be feeling the brunt. I don’t have a high level Burglar, but I’ve seen how a lot of the Burglar abilities have been restricted often to make them useless in boss fights.

    Champions were pitched as the heavily armoured fighters who could slap on a shield and be an acceptable tank. Well, of course, that made Guardians feel obsolete, so they nerfed the tanking ability to the point that Champions are almost glass cannons now.

    A shame, because I really loved how LotRO had some non-traditional classes in a typical “holy trinity” setup. But, I guess it’s the irresistible force to hammer classes into one specific role, and a class that doesn’t fit into “tank/healer/DPS” definition (like the Burglar) gets a muddled experience.

  3. Melmoth Post author

    @darkeye: I’m certainly looking forward to getting my hands on some of those legendary traits! Exposed Throat sounds rather splendid. I definitely like the idea behind gambling, but it does sound like it needs a very specific build to make it work at all. I’ll keep picking away at it though.

    And yes, Guild Wars 2’s Thief sounds quite, quite delicious. I’m looking forward to the official ArenaNet reveal with some anticipation. I’m still hoping that one of the remaining classes is going to be a Shaman though.

    @Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green: Indeed, three if you count marbles. And obviously you can Trip in the middle of a fight by burning your Hide in Plain Sight cooldown too. I read in Darkeye’s comment that they’re making fellowship manoeuvres more powerful, and I think that will probably help encourage people to use them more. I think they’re brilliant fun and, as in EQ2, one of those neat mechanics that just hasn’t caught on for some reason, yet surely it’s something that everyone can understand, regardless of class or ability, and which really encourages teamwork. Curious.

    I agree; there was a time when Hunters, Burglars and Champions would tank at a pinch, and although I think Champions did need a tweak at the stage where they were AoE tanking in their DPS stance, Turbine did perhaps apply the nerfbat a little too forcefully, right in the Champion class’s delicates. Sometimes it seems as though a developer wants to punish an entire class just because of the ‘exploits’ of a few players; not true of course, but it is one area where I feel Turbine could improve – their application of the nerfbat often seems wild and slightly overzealous.

    Here’s hoping, though, that Turbine won’t homogenise the classes too much more based on the expected norm of the Holy Trinity.

    @Zubon: Ah, if only the mobs would fall over into a convenient puddle of mud when the Burglar kicked them from behind, perhaps with an off-key piano chord to accompany it. The next animation we need for Burglars is a walking cane that they use to trip up mobs as they run past to get at the tank.

  4. Pardoz

    @Melmoth – my impression is that the long-awaited (by the three people who actually use them to their full extent) buffs to FMs is mostly to address the fact that they didn’t scale properly in post-SoA content, which quite a few of us left /feedback on as far back as the Moria beta. Despite that I doubt that people will use them more, or at least use them to their potential, rather than calling for ‘all green’ or ‘all red’ rather than trying the far more fun (and effective) combinations – after all, they didn’t in the SoA days, before the scaling issues came into effect.

    Today’s anti-spam word is ‘gadzookery’. Which is actually not a bad description of the FM system when used properly.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    I wonder if the system in EQ2 is used, or is equally ignored by a large portion of the player-base.

    Is it simply due to the coordination issues involved with the mechanic, or is there another reason for fellowship manoeuvres being unpopular? Is it simply a lack of ‘marketing’? There’s no real tutorial to explain them, for example, and I imagine they’re therefore somewhat baffling to new players. Perhaps the mechanic itself is just slightly the wrong side of awkward for players to be bothered with – range issues can be a pain, and inadvertently cancelling your contribution due to accidental movement can also be frustrating.

    I think it’s an interesting case study: why is something that should be fun and add an element of cooperative challenge (without outwardly punishing the group for failure) ignored by the general player populace outside of close-knit casual groups and raiders?

  6. Pardoz

    In my experience the EQ2 system is actually even more ignored than the LotRO system, sadly. It’s also somewhat less intuitive and a little trickier to pull off.

    I think lack of ‘marketing’ is part of it – as you say, there’s no real tutorial or explanation of what’s going on when you suddenly get this big glowing wheel on your screen – part of it is probably down to people soloing through the leveling period, so they don’t have much experience of how game-changing good FM use can be in challenging encounters, and part of it may just be that the effects aren’t immediately obvious – unless you’re squinting at buff icons you may not notice that the elite mob you’re fighting now has a nasty DoT ticking away on it and everybody in your fellowship is benefiting from a nice power regen buff (okay, the ones that summon ghostly assistants have a fairly obvious effect, but you’re only likely to hit those if you work for them).

    Oh, and speaking as an ex-hardcore LotRO raider, most of the people I ever raided with pretty much ignored FMs other than calling “all green” or “all red” on Vent – you were *far* more likely to see people knowing and using FMs in casual groups than in raids.

  7. Melmoth Post author

    okay, the ones that summon ghostly assistants have a fairly obvious effect, but you’re only likely to hit those if you work for them

    Hmm, I’d also say that new players are very likely to try to hit them in a “What the fu…” fashion when such entities turn up unexpectedly and start following you around.

    I know I did the first time I saw one in the Barrows and didn’t know about FM effects. Ran all the way back to the entrance with this thing chasing me. /facepalm

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