Monday, January 31, 2011

The Thief as a Sub-Class

I must confess that I am not a big fan of the Thief class; however, I do understand why people do and that it probably ought to be part of the game. My biggest quibble with it is the way that it tends to make Thief skills exclusive to that class. In this sense, Mr. Raggi's Specialist is probably one of the best renditions of the class (because Specialist skills are inherent to every class, but the Specialist is able to do them better). I am of the mind, however, that Thief skills ought to be supernatural in character — a flavor that is largely absent from the way the Specialist is presented.

In order to satisfy this particular itch, and to emphasize that Thief skills are, in fact, inherent to every class, I have been meditating on making the Thief a sub-class along the same lines that I proposed for the paladin.

The following base skills are true of everyone with a chance of 1 in 6:
  • Pick Locks
  • Search (Find Traps + Hear Noise)
  • Sleight of Hand (Pick Pockets + etc.)
  • Stealth (Move Silently + Hide in Shadows)
  • Climb Sheer Walls
  • Read Language (get the basic meaning if the character knows a related language)
The following (total) XP may be spent per skill in order to improve the base chance:
  • 200XP..........2 in 6
  • 1800...........3 in 6
  • 14,600.........4 in 6
  • 117,000........5 in 6
Note: any XP spent on Read Language allows for a more specific understanding of what is being read regardless of what languages the character knows.

Backstab works in a similar way. The basic "backstab" ability is the surprise attack that all players receive when they catch opponents unawares. By spending XP, the surprise attack may be amplified:
  • 200XP..........+4 to hit
  • 1800............x2 damage
  • 14,600..........x3 damage
  • 117,000.........x4 damage
Players are allowed to spend XP earned during a session on these abilities when they have fulfilled in-game requirements. Given that these are supernatural abilities, the requirements need to be in the form of serving/making contracts with/pleasing supernatural beings. These beings are often Chaotic in nature (read: demonic), but not necessarily. For example, St. Vineria of the Eyes is known to give the Search ability to those who she finds worthy. Different skills could (should?) require different sources.

Normally, all of these abilities ought to require characters using them to be unencumbered. Given the supernatural character of these abilities; however, one could wave this particular requirement or impose a penalty for various levels of encumbrance depending on the flavor of the campaign.

Hopefully, this will put a very interesting spin on what it means to be a Thief.


Erin Smale said...

I think this makes sense given your treatment of the paladin. And I like how you've broken down the thief abilities. It sure would make it easier to run a 'Conan' type character...

Although, the XP requirements seem pretty high to me - can you share your basis for those values? I mention this only in comparison to the XP expenses for Paladin abilities.

FrDave said...

I got these increments based off of the approximate 16.5% of each pip on a d6. Thus, the XP requirement of each skill is based on 4 levels of Thief progression. The paladin progression is based on the difference between fighter and paladin experience at every level. This explains the discrepancy.

Erin Smale said...

Got it. So if I understand you correctly, I could raise all 6 of the abilities to "2-in-6" for a total cost of 1,200XP?

But the XP costs are cumulative, right? For example, if I want to raise Search to "3-in-6" will it will cost 1,800 XP or 2,000XP?

Eager to see this play out - I like the approach.

Lord Kilgore said...

This is a nice way to implement this sort of thing. I'll be watching for updates and info on how it goes.

I tried something in a similar vein to make thief skills and a thief sub-class available for OD&D-type games with White Box Thievery, but we haven't played that very much and have almost no experience with it in actual use.

The Jovial Priest said...

Intriguing concept.
I guess one could choose to do the same with spell-casters. I once drafted up a classless adventurer who could buy with XP any traditional class skill/power/weapon mastery they wished. So a character was pluripotential at creation. Great perhaps for players but DMs?
Then I thought C2, F4, MU3, E2 - what more do I need to know to DM these individuals mechanically, the rest is role-playing.