That said, when I do play, my favorite class is the mountebank. Even going back to Gary Gygax's original article in Dragon #65, this immediately stood out to me as sounding like something I wanted to play:
This sub-class of thief specializes in deception, sleight of hand, persuasion, and a bit of illusion. These factors, together with speed, are what the mountebank relies upon. However, disguise and theatrics also provide valuable tools of the trade to this class, so that one might never know one has been had by this class.In Adventures Dark and Deep, the mountebank is the quintessential con-man. He can use disguises (like the assassin), but many of his powers take the form of "performance and prestidigitation" and "verbal patter". The former gives him sleight-of-hand abilities, juggling, and so forth. The latter lets him attempt to distract intelligent creatures, confuse them, get them to trust him, etc. At higher levels, mountebanks also get some spell-casting ability as well.
I also included the ability to attempt to create potions. This came from Gygax's short story "The House in the Tree", where Hop, owner of the Inn of the Brothers One and Score and a mountebank by inference (although he calls himself "Hop the Savant" as something of an honorific to attest to his honest wares), takes Gord into the forest in search of mushrooms to use in the brewing of potions and patent medicines, some of which actually work! Of course, nothing is certain, and in the game such attempts could end up producing snake oil, poison, or even a potion of delusion (which may explain where they come from...).
The advantages of such a character in an urban environment are obvious. In a dungeon-type game, the mountebank can be no less effective, but in a way that is different from a fighter or a mage. The mountebank would be the one to parley with the orc guards, to attempt to persuade them that the PCs are invited guests of the chieftain. He would attempt to distract the troll with a tall tale about having met its cousin under a bridge several years ago, or try to undermine the pit fiend's trust in his malebranche minions. If weapons are being thrown at the party, the mountebank can try to use his ability as a juggler to try to intercept the missiles, and can himself hurl more weapons at an enemy faster than most other classes are allowed.
All in all, this is a great class, and in my experience a well balanced one. It's not a combat powerhouse by any stretch, but it's a class that rewards sharp, on-the-spot improvisational thinking, and that's exactly the sort of game I love to play, and GM.
The mountebank is just one of the new character classes in my Adventures Dark and Deep game, currently with one week to go for the Players Manual Kickstarter. We're almost at the funding goal, and need just a little bit of a boost to make it over the goal. If this sounds like something that you'd like to play, consider becoming a backer while there's still time!