Friday, April 24, 2009

Thoughts on Skills and Thieves

Here Ryan talks about Perception. It got me thinking about skills, the thief, and D&D in general.

I think that for any skill based system You can combine the negotiated approach with the mechanical approach by limiting the times you need to roll.

For example if there is a chest covered by garbage then the player "says I will undercover the garbage" they will find the chest.

If however it is a jewel in that pile. Then I would have a roll because it may be missed despite the player digging through it.

If the player insist on standing at the door and looking around the room. Then you would roll for the chest in the garbage (the garbage is piled up unusually) but there would little or no chance to spot the jewel.

This the approach GURPS takes to avoid incessant rolling of skills. And I apply this technique to any skill based system.

Now for older editions of D&D what I would do it make sure that everybody can to a base series of actions. (Perception, climb, stealth, etc).


The thief class would sacrifice combat ability in order to be good at something else. I wouldn't even call it a thief class. More like a rouge class. A thief would be one of the many rogues that sacrificed combat ability to so something better.

In the thief case, the thief is better at things involving dexterity. A thug in contrast would be focused on strength, and charisma to rule his gang. Other combinations could be made for Conmen, Merchant Adventurers, etc.

The other classes are not prevented doing the skill based stuff. But because they are focused on fighting, praying, or spells they never are as good as the rogue.

The problem with the original Thief that it implies that only the thief can do certain things. Just only the fighter get the high HD and good to hit bonus. Only the magic-user get to cast wizard spells.

If they instead laid out how everybody could climb, perceive, jump, etc, and gave thief a bonus then I think everyone would have a better feeling about the thief class or in my class the rogue class .

I did think of another class that I would consider a rogue, the Mountebank. In my mind a Mountebank is someone who lost some fighting ability but gained the ability to cast a small number of Wizard's spells. Throw in hiding, and sleight of hand/pickpocket I think that would be a good addition to the mix.

7 comments:

James Maliszewski said...

I continue to toy with the notion of a mountebank class. I think the idea has a lot of merit.

Matthew Slepin said...

The old Bard Games Arcanum (which was AD&D compatible) had a Charlatan class that was essentially the Mountebank you describe. Untrained fighters with legerdemain skills and the ability to cast 1st level spells.

You might check it out.

Andreas Davour said...

I thought a bit about this idea that everyone can do stuff, but some are better at it. My first suggestion, of course (me being a T&T fan and all) would be to use the Talents from T&T7.

But, I also think I've read something like this for "D&D", and I think it was about Castles & Crusades. In that game every class had a primary stat, or something like that. If you do something that's dependant upon your primary stat you get some bonus.

I guess you could just roll a die and add something (level?) if the action attempted was related to the primary stat.

Someone correct me, but it might be just how C&C works.

Sounds neat, anyway.

jamused said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jamused said...

(trying again)

I'm currently running a D&D(ish) game that does exactly that. Both that everybody has a chance to do pretty much anything that a skill would cover, with actually having the skill granting a bonus, and that every combination of classes is possible where you sacrifice some of the ability of the primary class to gain some ability in the secondary class. Thief/Mages are even called Mountebanks.

Just started last night, second session in about 15 minutes. So far the players seem keen on it.

Matthew James Stanham said...

The "rouge" class, ehy? :D

I do not really subscribe to the school of thought that says "AD&D suggests that only the thief can do X skills". Like Robert Fisher and other uncountables, I have come to view them as exceptional abilities that already do what you here propose, and to see the rule books supporting that perception.

Anybody can move quietly, but the thief moves silently, etcetera.

Lord Kilgore said...

I don't really like the stand-alone thief class but also don't feel like ditching it completely is a good thing. So I decided to make the thief an "add-on" sub-class, essentially only available by paying an XP penalty to your "main" class.

I started by defining everyone's chances to perform what we call "thief skills," all d6 based like listening, then added a simple progression for those who elect to pay the thief penalty to improve those skills as they advance in level.

Check it out here if interested.

Feedback is appreciated!