Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Damnable Thief!

The Thief in Society

Let's start with the most basic of principals - no one, not even other adventurers, trust a thief.  You are probably a scumbag, most likely a liar, and definitely an opportunist.  These are traits that the majority of the population do not find endearing.  The "thief as scout" is rubbish - those are called spies or rangers and, in general, have no place wandering around dungeons.

The "Robin Hood" or "Danny Ocean" type character is fine ... but you are still a thief who steals money and things from people! There is not a romantic thief archetype that exists in the hard scrabble life in Eradu.  Not yet at least.  Someone clever and charming and who gives back to the people may be lauded as a hero - at least until the authorities catch them and show what a vile hollow monster the thief is.  Folks are fickle.

A thief will always have a hard time fitting into the party dynamic, but once they have solidified their place and gained the trust of their adventuring brethren, they often become invaluable allies.  Those little thefts of goods and gear and treasure tend to get ignored after the thief saves the party from certain rusty-bladed trap doom.

Crime & Punishment

There are pretty much 3 punishments for thieves.  It isn't like the modern world where you get fined and spend a few nights in jail. 

Steal something that isn't really significant and happen to be in a place where there is some concept of social justice or happen to be someone property?  You get branded - on the cheek.  The brand is big and nasty and identifies you as a thief in pretty much every society.  Add Social Outcast to your list of Quirks and Flaws, my friend.

Cut It Off
Steal a loaf of bread or a fancy ring?  Lose a hand.  Chop.  Just like that. With one less hand you are not as likely to cause trouble.  Of course now the only thing you can do is hope they cut off the wrong one (suddenly being a lefty isn't so bad) or join up with some adventurers and hope for the best.  Also, people sees to assume that a shifty fellow with only 1 hand may be a thief.

Did you take that horse that didn't belong to you?  Or was that ring from someone important?  Off to the gallows with you to Dance with the Stranger, do the Airborn Jiggle, and be in Endless Suspense.  Not much to do here except hope someone rescues you.

What A Thief Is Not

While we are at it, let us get some other details out of the way.  Thieves are not good at combat - they aren't damage machines.  Chances are a thief will get a single chance at causing a crippling blow (via backstab) and have to pray to whatever gods might be listening that it does the job.  If not, a sword is likely going to find their face.  The endless "sneak attack" of D&D3.x does not exist.  Thieves are not "strikers" a la D&D 4e ... that is what fighters do.  This isn't Assassin's Creed.

Thieves are not necessarily "skill monkeys."  While they are quite good at things that other adventurers tend not to be, they don't automatically have an endless array of skills that can save the day.  Disarm Traps only works once the thief figures out what the heck is going on ... but that has more to do with the way I run a game than the automatic nature of the skill.

The good stuff and what a thief can do is pretty obvious.  The initiative bonus is huge and allows a thief to escape danger before it starts, the core thief skills are ones that others rarely take, so the focus make the thief useful in that arena (much like a fighter is useful at smashing enemies with a sword and a mage at setting things on fire with his mind).  Oh yea ... and LUCK.  Thieves are the luckiest fools on the planet.  In short, a thief can just plain survive.

Also, don't forget that unless he is branded or especially shifty ("I have on a black cloak and black tunic over black pants and black gloves and hang out in the shadows"), the thief blends most easily with normal folks.  Wizards are weirdos that make people uncomfortable, clerics are religiousy types that make people uncomfortable, and fighters are usually brooding hulk or partying frat boys, either of which make people uncomfortable.  Thieves are pretty normal by comparison.

The Guilds

In short, the player character thief isn't going to be part of any guild.  The guilds don't like adventurers because they are too volatile, tend to get infected with the pathwork dungeon fevers, and don't pay their dues.  For that matter, they aren't guilds so much as criminal gangs.  In the villages and towns you won't find them, but in the cities there are always movers and shakers looking to pick up some spare change and rule a neighborhood.

A thief looking for "guild training" may be in for a rude surprise.  If the PC manages to find somewhere they can get formal training they should expect to pay a pretty penny not only in goods and coin, but in demanded tasks, future taxes on finds, and generally have someone watching over them demanding they "pay up" whenever a score is made. 

Getting Started

Characters playing a thief (or one of the hybrid classes) likely had some sort of training from another thief, usually in a back alley, that ended with the PC either leaving or fleeing (the parting is rarely amicable, but it happens).  Roll 2d6 for some background (1 BP to re-roll as usual) for Early On, once for More Recently. Then roll 3d6 taking the two that add up the closest to 7, modify, and check results.

2d6 Early On More RecentlyResults
2As a victim you decided to become predator, not prey (-3 R)You've been a lone wolf (-3 R)as #3, -1d4p to you 4 highest core skills and 50% of missing right hand.
3Your parents were petty criminals (-2 R)  Your "mentor" was a sham and didn't really know anyhting (-2 R)as #4, You are branded a thief
4Arrested for vagrancy, you found a mentor who took advantage of you (-2 R)You've been parternering with someone who turned you in (-1 R)as #5, you are a known thief and wanted by the authorities
5Bad Home Life, you took to the streets (-1 R)You dropped enough coin with a local organization they taught you some thingsas #6, you aren't so great (-2 on all initial core skill rolls)
6You followed around a clever looking fellow and learned by osmosisA former adventuring thief did some jobs with youNo matter how hard you try, you look shifty.
7You stole as a means of survivalYou worked for the man sniffing out trouble and reporting backToday is just another day
8Part of a small street gang You loved her, but she was more skilled than you and moved onFree mastery roll for fast talk or skilled liar
9You worked for a guy who knew a guy who asked you to get things for him (+1 R)It was you or them ... and you are still aroundAs #8, plus you've got an additional contact
10You rebelled to show them - show them all! (+1 R)A street master chose you to pass along his skills (+1 R)As #9, plus 6 BP for skills
11Stories of thieves demanded action (+2 R)You've been working in the streets long enough you just have a feel for things (+2 R)As #10,plus 2d6p points to add directly to core skills
12Pure Natural Talent (+3 R)You are thought of among the circles as a "guy to know" (+3 R)As #11, you've got an extra 5d20p silver you've earned

Advanced Backstabs & Butchery

The backstab is under utilized in my game, partially because it is limited to the dagger, and partially because it seems impossible.  I like backstab to be a completely badass thing - it really defines the thief class to me, so I beefed it up.

Getting Ready
The thief needs to Hide, Sneak, or otherwise be in a position such that the target is unaware of the thief and facing away from them.  Also the target needs to have a back and be vulnerable to some sort of critical strike (no backstabbing a skeleton).  In other words, a backstab can happen in the middle of combat, but isn't particularly likely.

Get Set
I've added the Backstab, weapon Skill.  By default a thief can take this skill (Dex 10) as one of their core skills.  They can pick any small melee weapon - dagger, short sword, or hand axe.  Each rank of mastery above novice improves the ability for the thief to effectively backstab by increasing the range for a critical hit.

A thief can stab someone in the back with a weapon they aren't skilled in, but do not gain extra dice or crit range.
 Rank  Ability
1 Backstab with this weapon 
2 Backstab, crit on 19-20
3 Backstab, crit on 18-20
4 Backstab, crit on 17-20
5 Backstab, crit on 16-20

Backstab by the rest of the rules as normal and enjoy a bloody good time.