Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thieves' Skills


You're playing a Thief. You want to pick a lock. You take a peek at your sheet and see that your chance is 15%. That sucks! Surely you can do better than that?

I think you can. I think the Thief's skills are not meant to replace existing stealth rules (such as they are), but to augment them. This is what I mean:

You try to sneak through a room where some orcs are playing bones in the corner. The dice are thrown and the result is 55%. That's well above the 20% you needed to move silently. What does that mean? It means you didn't move silently. It does NOT mean the orcs heard you. It simply means you made some kind of noise that might be heard. So the DM should then make the normal roll to determine if the orcs heard a noise or not.

If you were a Fighter sneaking through the room you'd only get the second roll, not the first one too. So the Thief has an added layer of rules to cover stealth.

Same for hiding in shadows. A failed skill roll means you could be seen. It does not mean you actually were seen. When the Thieves' skill rolls fail you simply fall back to normal rules such as a surprise check or hear noises.

I don't know if this was how the rules were meant to be used or not but this is how I've been thinking of them for a long time. It makes a thousand times more sense to me now than before and it means I don't necessarily have to house rule the Thief (though in all honesty I still do...).


  1. I think you just made the thief class a viable character option in D&D.

    1. Hah! Well, I admit lately I've had this desire to be a B/X purist so I'm searching for ways to keep the game as-is by interpreting the rules in ways that make sense (to me).

  2. Excellent post. This makes a lot of sense.

    1. Thanks for the link, Samwise.
      I have to agree with the idea, but I admit that I had never gone through the trouble of that second roll, as I well should have. I'm not really a b/x player, but the skill concept is common across the games I play. I think I have even seen the concept written out as James points out in like GURPS or maybe it was Savage Worlds, but how often I have been running the game and have just plumb done it wrong is astoundingly frequent.

      Reminder appreciated.