Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Thief: +25%

After posting this Thief thread recently I had another couple of little thoughts of only miniature merit.

My Double Dexterity house rule puts a huge premium on the Dex score. For my own games, this is fine because I let players put their scores wherever the hell they want. If you're gonna play a Thief, you'll almost certainly put your best score in Dex. And I think that's perfect for my campaigns.

But what if you run games a little bit more close to rules-as-written? Meaning, what if you do the whole 3d6-in-order thing? Then it is probably going to be the case that only players who happen to roll a good Dexterity will choose to be Thieves. In that case, perhaps an even simpler house rule would suffice: Thieves add +25% to all skills other than Climb Sheer Surfaces and Hear Noise.

I mean, this isn't a genius move or anything. It's a blunt instrument. The Thief skills are too low, we all agree*, and this is just a brute way of addressing that fact.

Another idea for the 3d6-in-order crowd (or anyone, I suppose) is to give Thieves a randomized bump. The player rolls dice for each skill at the point of character creation and adds the result to the skill. This one just hit me, actually. And I kinda like it, in principle, because it makes all Thieves very unique in their skill sets. So let's explore this by looking at some ways to randomize it.

1d100: Just roll 1d100 and add the result as your bonus. Uber swingy! You might start with Hide in Shadows 21% and Pick Pockets 105%. But what an excellent reflection of individual thievery.

1d20: Far more modest, low key. Blah.

3d20: Now this is interesting. You'll have an average bump of 30 points, which puts your skills around the 40%-50% range that the Double Dexterity rule gives you. But it disentangles skills from your Ability score, if you like that sort of thing.

3d6 Exploding: Hmm... average of 10 or 11? With the exploding bit I'm not sure how to do that math. I suppose the average would be higher than 11 but not by too much. Yet you have the potential for a huge skill bump if you luck out and roll a lot of 6s.

Off the cuff... out of all these ideas I actually like the +1d100 one the best. It's super swingy but that really adds some flavor to your PC right out of the gate. Like why is Sniffle the Sneak total shit at picking pockets but he can melt into the shadows like a magic ninja? Perhaps he gets nervous around people.

Ideas and shit.

*We all agree.


  1. Off the top of my head:

    Give a 1st level thief 300(?) points to assign to skills as their % chance. Additional 30(?) points each level.

    Or a Runequest method. Roll your d100, not as a bonus-straight skill score. Each time they succeed with a skill mark it. When character levels up, for each marked skill roll d100, if score is higher, new skill level. Otherwise old skill score stays the same.
    Or you could increase failed advancement roll (rolled lower) 1d6 and the successful ones (rolled higher) 2d6. Maybe the never successfully used skills 1d4?

    Have to say your d100 merits some further thought on my part--something about it appeals to the 3d6-in-order advocate in me.

    1. Cool beans. That first idea sounds like the AD&D 2e method, right?

  2. My Thief houserule is what I call the 20/20 rule: all Thieves add 20% to their Thief skill roles (except Climb Sheer Surfaces and Hear Noises). AND, all non-Thieves have a 20% chance of attempting Thief skills (except Climb Sheer Surfaces and Hear Noises). But this never goes beyond 20% for non-Thieves).

    This addresses the two biggest issues regarding Thief skills: 1) Why do Thief skills suck? and 2) Can non-Thieves attempt these things?

  3. Do other classes get a "Double Primary Stat" rule? If not, why not?

    1. No real need. Thieves are the only ones with percentile skills.

  4. Quick thought:
    Roll d100 for initial scores, then every level thieves get double their ability scores to spread as they wish in their skills. In BECMI their thieves skills improve by 26 points per level, equal to a 13 in this method.

    1. It's a good one. I just don't want to abandon the original skill table stats.

    2. Sorry, double their Dexterity score.

  5. I know this is an older post, but I just discovered your blog! As StuRat said "something about it appeals to the 3d6-in-order advocate in me." I like your swingy d100 take to meld with the original tone.

    While I understand disconnecting from Dex, I do wonder if there'd be some way to incorporate it if you have a crap or great dex. If you have a low dex it doesn't seem realistic that you happen to roll great for disarming traps or sneaking around. But of course you're also trying to keep it simple and really the addition of swingy flavor seems to outweigh this concern.

    1. Yeah, it doesn't make sense if you assume a logical and consistent connection between your Dexterity score and all things related to manual manipulation. However, like Charisma, Dexterity doesn't necessarily point only to one thing. Perhaps a PC with high Dex is really nimble on their feet but more of a klutz when their hands.

      So I think having a Dex of 9, for example, but being able to open locks with 90% skill from level 1 is a fun character quirk. This guy trips over his own boot laces but can work magic on a locked door!