The State of Scouting
I know it is likely far too late in the game for any really significant changes to be made, but for whatever opportunity may be left, and for time yet to come, I would like to share my perceptions on the state of the Burglar [from here forward ‘Scout’ :)].
So much has changed in these lands over time. Where once the Enemy lurked in the shadows, using guile and misdirection to work its machinations from afar, much is now out in the open. And, if I may be so bold, we have Scouts to thank, in part, for this. Our purpose has ever been to find the Enemy where they lurk in the shadows, assess the threat they pose, and lure them out into the open.
But once open war is upon us, what role then is there for Scouts? A bit part, if any, I fear, and that bit is shrinking. Here is why:
- A. Single Target Damage vs AoE [A word Master Tarn taught me. It must be Khuzdul! :)]
With the Enemy now out in the open, any Skirmishes or Instances of danger the forces of the Free Peoples either chance upon or venture to willingly will most certainly be met by swarms of enemy combatants. This is a trend that can easily be seen over time. As we have progressed from a war of detachment to one of engagement, the Enemy is putting more and more soldiers on the line.
And of all the different Classes of training soldiers of the Free People can take, Scouts are the least able to deal with swarms of foes, I have to believe, at least to deal with efficiently (More on this later!). Having only a single attack that deals damage to multiple foes, and only three at that, and which can only be performed once every two minutes, and which negates our ability to parry or evade attacks for the next 30 seconds, Scouts are far behind those with other training, who have multiple methods to deal with higher multiples of foes. And, while it is true that Scouts who Gamble have another way to strike multiple foes, that attack still only strikes three foes, requires additional action(s)/traits to perform, and still can only be done once every 45 seconds.
The ability to engage multiple foes at once has never been more highly valued than at this moment. And, it is a sure bet that ability will only appreciate with time. And with that comes my next point…
- B. Fellowship Manoevers: A potent tool…of the Enemy!
Back long ago, five of us once dared to enter the Spider Pit underneath the putrescence of Skumfil to engage the brood of Hwandrin. This was before the Overlords’ sweep of her lair, before many of her brood were removed and made more docile. On level, it was one of the most perilous places in these lands, so much so that most used trickery to make their way deep into her lair, by feigning death and other such methods.
One of my proudest moments in Scouting is when the five of us fought our way through the whole of the lair, slowly but surely making progress toward the Queen. The spiders in the pit are numberless, and they do not ever stop in their pursuit to end any who venture into their lair. We had to fight our way across, slowly, and without rest.
It was here, when I had thrown all my marbles to the ground to create openings for our fellowship, when I had exploited all the openings I could find and tripped as many as I could, until my shins would let me do no more, that I learned to see openings that I never thought were there. I learned to make my own openings, through chance and repetition, that would sustain our fellowship where, otherwise, we would have been lost.
What made me so proud is that I knew I had contributed to our effort, and in a most meaningful way, by starting manoevers that the five of us completed with great precision and effort. Sadly, these days, what was boon is now bane, and Fellowship Manoevers have now become a tool of the Enemy.
With the great swarms that engage us these days, and with the little benefit that is to be gained from coordinated attacks, Fellowship Manoevers have now become deathtraps. I cringe every time I accidentally set on off, and my companions dutifully, if misguidedly, stop their actions to stand like statues for valuable seconds, all the while letting swarms of creeps strike them with no defense.
“No! Keep attacking!” I cry, as I see it happen. And, thankfully, a great many now do. Smart combatants know that, these days, the best benefit to be gained from a conjunction opening is simply the lucky stun upon the creature it was started on, and to continue the fight on their own, as best they can. And, if any other benefit is to be gained from it, at the sacrifice of precious time, the best thing to do is to call upon the Eagle’s Cry (Green) or the Stallion’s Spirit (Blue) at the moment their best guess is to the end of the opening, for a small boon to their Morale or Power. To be avoided at all costs are damaging contributions, due to how little damage they now do, and which most any one combatant striking through the whole of the opening can far exceed just on their own.
As the number of enemies rises, the danger of these deathtraps grows, and will continue to grow unless we learn how to make our coordinated attacks more potent and worth the effort and time involved. And, while I know Fellowship Manoeuvers affect all the Free Peoples’s soldiers, they are largely the purview of Scouts, of course.
- C. The Damage Scouts can do, both to Friend and Foe
Of course, it is widely believed that Scouts can deal a great deal of damage, and this is very true, to a single foe. But the actual amount of damage we Scouts do in practice, compared to those with other Class trainings, is much less than what is widely believed amongst most soldiers of the Free Peoples, even against these single targets. And then there is the matter of how much damage is actually useful as well.
- 1. The Breakdown of the Fellowship – Useful damage vs Dangerous damage
When a Fellowship of soldiers is working well together, the battles they fight are well-ordered. Guardians and Wardens, trained well in the art of mitigating and negating the attacks of the enemy, keep the attention of the foes upon themselves and safely away from their friends. Where Order turns to Chaos then is when the attention of the foes turns toward others in the fellowship, others who are not as able to fend off attacks. Much efficiency is lost when this happens, and the goal of the fellowship changes from meting out the Enemy’s due to one of survival.
If the fellowship member whom the enemy turns upon is one whom can attack or boost morale from range, there is a bit of time to get the situation under control. The enemy will not usually attack until it reaches its new foe, so those in melee with it are more likely to be safe when the foe turns toward them. And there is more time for both the Guardian/Warden to regain the foe’s attention and the one at range to try to ‘lessen their allure’, as it were 🙂
Of those who fight in melee, the combatant who has the least ability to withstand sudden attack is the Scout, by far (more on this later!). Scouts are the only melee combatants who wear leathers besides Wardens, and cannot carry shields into battle, nor do they have the Vitality or the ability to Mitigate damage like Wardens can. And, since Scouts fight in melee, once the enemy turns upon them, it now has all other melee combatants in its arc of battle and is able to begin damaging them, instantly. The Guardian or Warden has to gain control all the more quickly, and any morale boosters must see to the Scout straightaway, else their thin leathers and low morale be reduced to none in a very short time.
Because of these things, the fellowship is put in more danger when Scouts draw the ire of the enemy than any other soldier. So, while Scouts may be able to slice up those training dummies in Snowbourn, Galtrev, and other places, that is not what matters in practice. As a practical matter, we can only do so much damage, being very careful to stay in the Useful damage range, without entering into Dangerous damage.
- 2. What We Face in Battle
As most everyone knows, Scouts are trained from very early on to strike at foes from behind, both to make their attacks more powerful and to be safe from the wide-sweeping arcs that certain foes swing. Much of the time, if you observe the battlefield, you will constantly see Scouts dashing to and fro to keep themselves behind their foes.
And, the truth of it is, it is absolutely vital that Scouts do so. Without a positional advantage, most Scouts lose nearly half of their potential to damage the enemy. But, not only that, the foe’s ability to block and parry attacks is lost when they are struck from behind. The truth is, everyone attacking a foe should be striking that foe from behind, whether they are Scouts or any other.
But most do not bother to do so. Champions, Guardians, Wardens, and Captains are so much sturdier than Scouts that many can simply brave standing face to face with their foe, trading blows. A good many Hunters and others whom attack from range find their spot and simply stay there, pew-pewing away, for the whole of the fight. ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’ they say, and for Convention as well, in the case of Scouts! We simply have to work extra hard to maintain facing, both to do our damage and to avoid damage.
But, when considering which Classes of Free-folk do the most damage, I think, in practice, a fair amount of the attacks made by those besides Scouts, even those who attack from range, are blocked or parried away, where they would strike true with a bit of the discipline forced upon Scouts. This factor is greatly underestimated in my opinion, as is my next point…
- 3. The Chaos of Combat and the need to be on the move.
It is difficult enough to maintain proper facing when foes behave and one’s environment is safe. But, in practice, the chaos of combat ensures even more lost damage potential from those who fight in melee, whereas those who strike from range are largely immune. And, due to the importance of facing, Scouts lose the most damage of all.
One would be hard-pressed to find any Instances of danger where this factor does not come into play and often. For this essay, I will just consider the three three-person adventures newly discovered on the Road to Erebor from memory:
- Iorbar’s Peak
- The clouds cast by Shadow-Menders
- The boulders cast at the fellowship by Helf throughout the adventure
- The exploding barrels Guthfinn sets down
- Guthfinn’s giants trying to stomp the fellowship
- The boulders Guthfinn’s giants throw at the fellowship
- The need to avoid Helf’s nasty attacks by moving behind him, even as he moves and changes facing
- Running to meet the Dourhand and keeping them from damaging the eagle’s egg.
Under all these circumstances, those who attack from range are largely safe from harm and in perfect position to keep attacking during the whole of the circumstance, whereas those who attack in melee must move about, both to cause harm and to keep themselves safe from it. A good amount of potential damage that could have been done is lost during these times, but many do not factor in such things when measuring damage at the training dummies.
- Seat of the Great Goblin
- Avoiding the Goblin Sneaks’ ability to Eviscerate
- Avoiding the disarming attack of the Cave-bats
- Avoiding the caltrops thrown down by the Goblin Sneaks
- Avoiding the fires cast by the Goblin Sappers
- Avoiding the cloud created by the troll in his pit
- Avoiding catching/spreading the disease inflicted by the second Goblin King
- Webs of the Scuttledells (It has been a while since I have adventured here, so I am sure I am forgetting some)
- Avoiding the clouds created by Beremud
- Avoiding the acid cloud cast by Digelir
These areas are, by no means, unique in aspects such as these. Most anywhere the enemy lurks, most everywhere the soldiers of the Free-People seek to engage them, these dangers, and dangers like them, can be found. And while they affect all who stand in melee with foes, they hurt the Scout’s ability to deal damage the most due to their absolute need to maintain proper positioning and, having no attacks that strike multiple foes, Scouts cannot deal damage so readily while on the move.
- 4. A Critical Problem
With the Overlords’ recent decree about how soldiers now are more Fated to strike critically, rather than the ability to do so being more dependent on Agility, the loss in Scouts’ and Hunters’ ability to do so has been reduced greatly, while that of other soldiers has been bumped up noticeably. And it sounds fair it should be so, yes? However, this change has impacted the Scout’s ability to maintain their role in dealing damage doubly hard, and here is why:
Firstly, the ability to strike critically applies to every opponent one can strike. While Scouts are limited to only one foe at a time, other Classes of soldier can strike many, even a great many, at one time. The amount of extra damage potentially done by those who can strike multiple targets due to this change is enormous.
And, secondly, unlike other classes, three of the Scout’s best attacks require a critical strike before they can used. Seeing as how most Scouts have lost nearly 3000 to their critical rating due to this change, there are bound to be more times than before when these attacks cannot be used. This has happened in my Scouting, I know. While it is not an issue every moment, it happens enough to be frustrating.
With the difficulties in Scouting these days, I wrote to my cousin, who is a Captain in one of the legions down south, about a year ago, to see if she could come visit for a bit, so that maybe she could aid my friends in ways I could not. I may mention her more later, but for now what is relevant is that her Critical rating is about 3500 higher than mine, in part due to these changes, and in part due to the fact that only Scouts, of all the soldiers of the Free Peoples, are in the position where they must make demanding and significant sacrifices to their potential for damaging their foes in order to survive out in the field (More on this later!).
There is one more issue concerning how Scouts deal their damage, that being how it is all but required for them to speed their attacks through the misuse of Addle to help keep up with the other Classes’ damage dealing of late. I feel this issue is so significant that it deserves its own section and will explore it later. But, from the points above, I hope it can been seen that, in practice, the Scout’s ability to deal real, meaningful, and practical damage to foes is likely much less than is widely realized, and most certainly overestimated compared to others who fight for the Free Peoples.
At this point, I would like to briefly (I promise!) discuss something that is not too much of a concern at the moment, but was a great concern in both the distant and recent past, and I fear might also be in the future…
- D. The Loss of Power
Before the recent changes decreed by the Overlords concerning the role of Fate in determining our ability to regain Power, it had long been a running joke amongst my friends to call upon the Stallion’s Spirit for me, whenever an opening to begin a fellowship manoeuver was started, whether purposefully or accidentally. And, the truth of the matter is, I was very grateful for it for, while most everyone I was with seemed to be fully rested or nearly so, before, during, and even right after a battle, I was always fighting to keep whatever energy and Power I could, and I would find myself at the point of exhaustion in mid-battle very often, even having sacrificed so much to give myself more of the ability to recover while in combat.
The issues Scouts have had for a couple years regarding their use of power, and the amount of sacrifice required to maintain that power while in combat are legendary. Even with the new changes, it is pretty vital that Scouts find Mischievous Glee in combat as often as possible to aid themselves in keeping their energy up. With the wide-sweeping changes to how Fate governs such things, and the quick reversal of such, it is clear the Overlords will be addressing this issue again very soon. Unfortunately, the tide of history seems to indicate it may well become a concern once more when that happens, but we will see. It is certainly something to keep in mind and be wary of.
- E. The Need for Compromise, and the Scout’s Juggling Act
As we have seen, there are a great many issues Scouts must be mindful of: survivability, damage dealing, the need for Power, the need to strike Critically, and so on. There is so much compromise that must be made for survivability when one considers:
- Scouts fighting in melee must be prepared to withstand many attacks that ranged combatants are largely safe from
- The recent change to Will in aiding tactical mitigation (a 5,000 point boost roughly to the tactical classes) means Scouts and Hunters have by far the worst mitigation to these forms of attacks, which have always been deadly to Scouts even before, and Hunters are largely safe from by being at range
- Scouts have very low morale for a melee combatant. I routinely see Loremasters, Minstrels, and Runekeepers with much higher Morale. And, because Scouts are more routinely susceptible to taking quick, sudden, and devastating attacks, it is very important for them to have boosted their Morale to the degree that they do not fall instantly and to give morale-boosters with them at least a chance to aid them before they fall
- Scouts need to concern themselves with facets of battle like Incoming Healing, Avoidances, and Mitigations that those whom attack from range needn’t bother with much and other melee combatants get a good deal of as a matter of course from their training
It is my assertion that no other class must make compromises to anywhere near the degree that Scouts must these days, and any compromises made deal largely with offensive measures, like dealing more Critical hits at the cost of regular damage, and things of that sort. Scouts must compromise an enormous amount just to stay upright on the field. I will bring up my cousin once again:
- My Cousin, who is a Captain, is able to wear jewelry and armor, every piece of which boosts her Might by 150 or more, save for two golden rings she bartered for from the Rohirrim, and which aid her offensively and with her morale boosting.
- She is free to have relics placed in her weapon and emblem for whatever purpose she desires.
- Even so, her Morale is 12,772, her Might 2,764, her Critical Rating 11,550, Physical Mastery 32,749, Physical Mitigation 15,569 (62.6%), and Tactical Mitigation 5,544 (34.5%), with no attention to that last one, whatsoever. She has no problems standing in the field
It is my belief that all other classes save Scouts are able to say similarly. Not the number, necessarily, but the lack of need for any compromise of their offensive potential. On the other hand, whenever I venture out with others into the field:
- I must wear an earring, necklace and carry a pocket scroll devoted to Guardians and Wardens. Both my rings, my bracelets, and my other earring, while not devoted solely to defense, contribute greatly to it. In addition, I wear Sarchol, an old cloak dedicating to boosting mitigation
- I must devote the relics I have placed in my dagger and Scouting kit to boosting morale and survivability, else I will fall to single blows. I have to give the morale-boosters with me a moment’s chance to come to my aid
- My morale with these things is 10,960, my Agility only 1,977, my Critical Rating 8,065, Physical Mastery 24,282, Physical Mitigation 10,450 (39.6%), and Tactical Mitigation 10,461 (39.6%), with every attention to that last one. Even with the obvious sacrifices I must make to try to stay upright in the field, my safety, and that of my allies, is in jeopardy at any moment, and I will fall without quick attention
I have heard of Hunters who are able to boost their Agility well past 3,000, and their Physical Mastery to approach 40,000. It is pretty clear that the sacrifices Scouts must make for their craft greatly reduce their ability to aid in the tasks of their fellowship.
- F. Addling Flashing Blades – Confusing all around!
Due to all the sacrifices Scouts must make as written above, many seek any sort of trick they can find to help boost their potential for damage dealing. One such trick that has been discovered is to use a skill, one meant for an entirely different purpose, as a means to speed up slow and deliberate attacks, such as Flashing Blades. It is rather unfortunate that such methods have been made to feel necessary, in my opinion. Looking at my Scouting manual, the skill mentioned, the ability to Addle one’s foe, is supposed to be used in this manner:
Addle – You confuse your enemy so thoroughly that he fails any skill attempts in process, and any subsequent skill attempts for a short time take much longer to execute.
How this is meant to speed up one’s own attacks is beyond me, unless one wishes to argue a relativistic relationship, which I still find to be relatively silly. It is very clear that there was no intent that this skill was to be used in the method that most Scouts use it these days. But, I suspect the Overlords allow it to continue largely due to the ineffectuality of Scouts in general, and that even doing so does not upset any balance in the Scout’s favor.
But there is a cost to doing this, both in Power and in respectability. I ask the Overlords here and now to give us the ability to make our attack with Flashing Blades a quick one on its own and end the need for this silliness!
- G. Efficiency and its ultimate cost on Scouting
I began this very long essay speaking of Efficiency, and it is only right to end with it as well for, in these days, Efficiency, now more than ever, is the driving force behind the adventures of the Free Peoples today.
The Overlords have wrought many changes to our lands, and these changes have made success in Instances of danger, easier on the soldiers of the Free Folk. Where once Survival was the ultimate goal, in the company of skilled combatants, Efficiency has largely become the goal. The desire to find victory in Instances of danger with all speed, in order to move on to the next place where danger lurks, is at the forefront of mind and thought, and it is in the area of Efficiency where Scouts fail most of all, for the reasons stated above. With the swarms of foes faced most everywhere these days, those who do battle with one foe at a time simply have no place amongst those who seek quick victory, which is the goal of most every team formed amongst the writings of the Glyphs [GLFF :)]
The costs to Scouts due to this are enormous and far-reaching. Since the adventures on the Road to Erebor were first discovered, I have not been able to find a single team within the Glyphs willing to bring me along for a three-person adventure. Not a single one. By far the most popular of the three is scaling Iorbar’s Peak, and the call for either AoE damage potential (for obvious reasons) or Ranged damage potential (for many reasons listed in my summary above, particularly dealing with the Dourhand seeking to damage the egg) is unrelenting. And I cannot blame those who seek adventurers for their team for that at all, to be honest. Really, what benefit can a Scout bring to that adventure that cannot be multiplied manyfold by Classes of other training, like Champions, Hunters, damage dealing Minstrels and Runekeepers, Loremasters, Captains, Javelin-heaving Wardens, and Overpowered Guardians? Most every one of those avoids the many pitfalls Scouts must deal with in the list above and has the potential to deal damage to many foes at once as well.
The truth of the matter is that there simply is no place for Scouts in three-person adventures these days, save for those who belong to a kinship and have kinmates willing to bring them along out of a sense of responsibility. And, of course, friends who will still venture with us, and thankfully they are there. But every time a situation like that comes along, I feel a bit guilty going along, when I know my Cousin could aid my friends far more than I. And I know this to be true, for many reasons, one of which occurred just recently: My Cousin, and a Champion friend of hers, went alone to unseat the Goblin Kings, and the two of them were able to do so, with over 1:20 remaining in the time they were Challenged to do so.
Until very, very recently, I had never been able to see that Challenge through, being the only damage dealer amongst my circle of friends for most of our adventures. Finally, though, an old friend, a Champion, came along with me and my Minstrel friend, and we completed the Challenge in about the same amount of time, with just over 1:20 to spare.
There is an incredible story to be told between those two adventures. Have you spotted it?
In the second group, my Minstrel friend was solely boosting morale, and doing no damage at all. But, she was constantly boosting the damage of the Champion and myself by 20%. So, what this means is, not only was my cousin, the Captain, able to boost morale for herself and the Champion as well as the Minstrel in the second group, but she also, between herself and the Champion, added to their damage dealing to a level 20% higher than what the first Champion and I, the Scout, were able to do. My cousin, traited for her Hands of Healing, with her other two traits aiding her tanking and survivability, boosted damage by 20% over a Scout’s ability to boost damage amongst the fellowship. And, while I was very happy for my Cousin, this experience only drove home a point that has weighed upon me for a long, long time. That the usefulness of Scouts is perilously in doubt. And I have no doubt that other Classes of soldier have a similar effect on their fellowships compared to Scouts, though I cannot say first-hand, save for observation. My Cousin brought two Champions through the Goblin Kings with well over two minutes to spare, which tells an awful lot.
To go further, it is my belief that there is simply no place for Scouts in six-person adventures, either. Scouts add nothing to the Survivability of their fellowships, what with the lack of benefit to coordinating attacks, and are only a drain upon Efficiency as well, dealing one by one amongst the hosts of evils to be found. There is simply no need for the tools Scouts have in their kits for such adventures. Riddles and crowd control are burdens these days, impediments rather than implements, to the goal of Efficiency that most fellowships have. “The best crowd control is death,” I am told, and I cannot argue the point.
Unlike three-person adventures, I have been able to find some six-person adventures within the Glyphs that will have me along, mostly due to their desire for speed in assembling and seeing their venture through. It is easier to hide the weak amongst greater numbers after all. You take what you can at such times, and I am glad for the chance to adventure, but I often wish that I felt more useful in such times. Then I speak with my Cousin, who has brought teams of 5 Champions and her through most every six-person adventure without a scratch, and that feeling grows. There cannot be a group more Efficient than that, right?
Finally, I do believe there can be a place for Scouts amongst larger teams, teams of twelve, largely because there are enough in the team that can perform the more substantive and necessary chores needed, leaving the Scout just to Reveal the Weakness of the main foe, and aid their team in Critically striking, but there are some caveats to be heeded:
- The team would need exceptional Guardians and Wardens, ones able to keep the attention of dangerous foes without any risk losing it.
- The team would need exceptional Morale-boosters, well-versed in the fragility of Scouts and always ready at the moment’s notice to protect and aid them.
- The team would many damage dealers, and ones who can strike multiple foes, as there are no places of danger where this ability is not needed
- The team would need at least one Loremaster, and perhaps another, with almost absolute certainty, as Loremasters have far better abilities to control crowds and weaken foes efficiently than Scouts, both in terms of number and in the safety of range.
In short, the Scout would be the twelfth member of a team of twelve, a luxury rather than a necessity. I fear this is the truth of the state of Scouting these days, and I am not sure what can or should be done about it. From long ago, the style of Scouting simply captivated me, and since the beginning days of these lands, I was a Scout, and a Scout alone, with never the thought of writing any cousins or trying any other Class of training, whatsoever.
But the world has changed and, with it, the nature of our adventures. I have seen the role of Scouting grow ever dim, and I fear for our future.
If I had to sum up these things in two thoughts, I would relate what my Cousin, the Captain, replied when I asked her what was her first thought upon undertaking an adventure into danger. “How am I going to aid my companions today?” was her reply. When I turned my thoughts inward, I realized my reply would be, “How can I avoid causing harm for my companions today?”.
For any who have stayed with me this whole time and read through the end, thank you!
…these are my thoughts, and my thoughts alone, on the nature of Scouting these days, posted to the forums of the Overlords, with the hope of helping them to realize how things are. I miss the days of old, but I cling to the hope that there will be days ahead like them, where I can be of service to friends, in time of need.