Sunday, January 20, 2019

Once Again with the Thieves

In a couple of weeks I'll be starting a regular game at a local brewery. I plan to run B/X using B/XE at the table. I want as few house rules as possible. One rule is regarding thief skills... because as written, they really do suck the big one.

This is just a refinement of an idea I've ranted about for years. I believe this is a very simple way to handle thief skills and goes a long way toward correcting the (IMHO) poorly-designed thief skill set without changing the stats or adding too many fiddly bits.

-Thieves roll their skill on percentile dice + an ability check at the same time. If the percentile roll is good, ignore everything else because they have perfectly executed their subtle craft and cannot fail. Otherwise, go with a simple ability check.

-Non-thieves do sneaky stuff on an ability check, usually with Disadvantage. They cannot do super-secret stuff like climbing sheer surfaces or disarming complex traps (unless the player has a terrific plan).

The idea here is to say that thief skills are special. The thief isn't merely trying to be very quiet or trying to find footholds on a wall. They have been trained or have discovered lost secrets or have tapped into natural talents that normal people cannot access. The thief doesn't simply "hide" in shadows, they fucking disappear. If that percentile roll is a good one, the thief cannot be detected. They are as good as invisible, though not in a magical way.

Failing the percentile roll means they have not executed their subtle craft perfectly and they can be detected or they can fall to their doom. At that point, an ability check tells the story. But note that while non-thieves make their sneaky ability checks at Disadvantage most of the time, thieves do not.

And that's pretty much it. I think this method is intuitive when you describe the thief skills as being esoteric and carefully developed. It has logical consistency and definitely helps mitigate those god awful 10% skill rolls.

1 comment:

  1. (Sorry for the necro-commenting).

    I like this idea, which is elegant and simple to implement.

    I went in a different direction : most Thief skills are automatically sucessful, unless the situation is especially dire (in which case an ability check is required; no one else thant the Thief could even try it).

    - Climb : you do it if there are handholds (like a wall; think Assassin's Creed climbing).
    - Find treasure traps. The skill chance is the probability of finding it with a quick glance; you automatically find it by spending a turn looking. Only the thief can disarm it; a failure mean you can't try before gaining a level, but only a catastrophic failure (natural 20) means the trap is activated.
    - Hide in shadows : if there is something to hide (boxes, a table whatever), you are hidden and nobody see you (of course, if someone was already aware of you, they still are, even if they can't see you). A check is needed if only shadows is available to hide. It's basically the same for Halfling.
    - Move silently. If you move slowly, you don't make a sound, unless the floor is itself very noisy (broken glass, dead leaves, etc.)
    - Open locks : as disarm traps.
    Pick pocket. A roll is needed, and only the Thief can try to pick pockets by bumping into someone in a crowd or otherwise take a small object withtout being noticed. A failure means another try is impossible unless the situation changes, and a catastrohic failure (natural 20) means the attempt is spotted.