Saturday, April 02, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 16: Thieves

The slog through the PHB continues.  I'll get there eventually, but it has been sporadic, as my enthusiasm for D&D has waned recently.  Perhaps it's a side-effect of never getting to play...  To be honest, I feel like I need to give what I'm doing here a rethink.  In the meantime, I'll keep plugging along.

Thieves: This entry begins with something of a contradiction: Gary claims that the profession of the Thief is not dishonourable, but neither is it honourable or respected.  The confusion continues in the list of allowable alignments: Thieves are Neutral or Evil (some rare examples may be neutral good), and of Lawful or Chaotic nature.  I'm not even sure what this is telling me...  Can my thief be Chaotic Good?  True Neutral?  It's really not clear.  By the book, it seems that Lawful Good and Chaotic Good are not allowed.  This seems bonkers to me, as Chaotic Good is my idea of the archetypal good-hearted Thief.  The idea of a Lawful Neutral Thief is ridiculous, but there it is, allowable in the game.

(In the three-point system of OD&D, they were restricted to being Chaotic or Neutral.  The Basic D&D boxed set written by Eric Holmes has a five-point system in which Thieves are said to be Neutral or Evil.  This is consistent, as a chronological reading of the D&D books reveals pretty clearly that Law/Chaos in OD&D equate to Good/Evil in AD&D.  I suppose the only thing I need to explain here is the appearance of the odd Neutral Good Thief, though it's not difficult to imagine a basically Good person wanting to use their skills to help people.  They'd just have a bit of trouble navigating the treacherous politics of the local Thieves' Guild. And perhaps a small section of Lawful Neutral Thieves has arisen, determined to run the Guild in a very ordered, regulated manner.)

Thieves use 1d6 for hit points.  This is a step-up from the 1d4 that they used in OD&D (and a much-needed one).  It seems that the Guild is training its recruits to be a bit tougher.

In terms of weapons and armour available, thieves can wear leather, and they can use clubs, daggers, darts, slings, shorts swords, longswords, and broadswords.  Weapons allowable for Thieves were unclear in earlier editions.  OD&D said they could use magic swords and daggers, and gave no other guidelines (I might hve missed something here, so please feel free to point it out if I'm wrong here).  The Holmes Basic Set allowed them the use of all the same weapons as Fighters.  AD&D pares it back to a more thematically relevant list (although the lack of short bows is an oversight, I feel).

The primary skills of the Thief are as follows: picking pockets, opening locks, finding/removing traps, moving silently, and hiding in shadows.  These were basically considered to be self-explanatory in OD&D, but here Gary goes into some more detail and clarification.

Pick Pockets is clarified so that it won't be applied too liberally: it doesn't just apply to pockets, but also to folds of clothing, girdles, etc.  As in OD&D there is a chance that the Thief will be noticed, and it increases with the level of the victim.  The rules are a lot clearer here though, with concrete number to differentiate between a failure that isn't noticed, and one that is.

Opening Locks in OD&D applied to the regular sort, as well as "magical closures".  The same is true here, but it's been expanded to include "sliding puzzle locks".  It's also clarified that a Thief can only attempt to open a specific lock once, and can't try again until he has gained a level.

Finding/Removing Traps applies to small mechanical traps (as it did in OD&D).  I guess this rules out things like pit traps and stone slabs, and nature-based snares as well.  (Fair enough, it's thematically sound, and it allows Dwarves to be a bit more useful.)  Finding a trap and removing it are separate rolls, and can only be attempted once per Thief.  There's always a fine line between the Remove Traps roll and role-playing solutions.  I try to use the roll to allow a Thief to deactivate a trap automatically, but also to allow them to role-play a solution of the roll fails.  If you block the hole of a dart trap with a plank of wood, you should be safe regardless of your Remove Traps roll.

Moving Silently is clarified here to be in addition to the rules for surprise: it should always be remembered that being silent doesn't automatically grant surprise, but it does improve your chances.  Also, just because you failed a roll and made a sound doesn't always mean you'll be heard.

Hiding in Shadows is clarified in that the Thief must remain motionless.  I've always played it as a way for thieves to sneak around behind opponents, but apparently that's not the intent.  There's also some clarification of how it interacts with infravision - you can't hide from creatures with infravision unless there's a nearby heat-producing light source that would mask the Thief's presence.  (Though I would rule that a heat source that doesn't produce light would also work.)  The spells detect invisibility and true seeing also reveal a hiding Thief.

The Thief's secondary functions are listening at doors, climbing walls, and the ever-awesome backstab.

The Listening ability was present in OD&D, but it was given as a bonus to a system using a d6 that was also used by other characters.  In AD&D the Thief's Hear Noise ability is given as a percentage roll, and there's no indication if there are rules for other character to attempt the same.  (If there is, I think it must be in the Dungeon Master's Guide, because I'm not seeing it here.)  Apparently the Thief must "move silently" to the door to use this ability (this is clarified later, and doesn't actually require the Thief skill Move Silently).  It takes a full minute, and creatures that are undead make no noise that can be heard through a portal.  Apparently neither do sleeping creatures, though I would make an exception for very large creatures, and very loud snorers.  I have relatives who can be heard from outside the house, let alone through a door.

Climbing Walls is the ability to scale a wall as long as said wall isn;t completely smooth.  In general, a roll must be made to scale halfway, and then another to make it safely to the top.  Failure, of course, results in a fall.

Backstabbing works exactly as it did in OD&D: a +4 bonus to hit, and double damage.  The damage multiplier increases every four levels: x2 at level 1-4, x3 at level 5-8, x4 at level 9-12, and x5 at level 13-16.  I'm pretty sure that OD&D had no cap on this ability, but in AD&D it seems to top out at x5.  There seems to be no requirement in determining a backstab, except that the Thief must strike from behind.

Thieves in AD&D can speak a special language called Thieves' Cant.  I can't quite believe this, but I'm unable to find a trace of it in any OD&D material; this may be its first appearance.  It's not give much of a description, however.

The ability of Thieves to read any language is still present here, but it's been downplayed somewhat.  In OD&D, a Thief of 3rd level and above had an 80% chance to read a language.  In AD&D the ability kicks in at 4th level, and starts at 20%, increasing by 5% per level until it caps at 80%.  It's said to be useful for Thieves to decipher treasure maps, and I wonder if it should only apply to those?  Probably not, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Thieves of 10th level can read magical scrolls, as they could in OD&D.  As before they can't read clerical scrolls, but it's been added that they can use those intended for druids.  In OD&D it was only spells of 7th level and above that had a chance to backfire, but in AD&D it can happen with spells of any level.

The level titles for Thieves have been rearranged, and changed a bit.  The OD&D list is as follows: 1 - Apprentice; 2 - Footpad; 3 - Robber; 4 - Burglar; 5 - Cutpurse; 6 - Sharper; 7 - Pilferer; 8 - Master Pilferer; 9 - Thief; 10 - Master Thief.  The AD&D list has been changed as follows: 1 - Rogue (Apprentice); 2 - Footpad; 3 - Cutpurse; 4 - Robber; 5 - Burglar; 6 - Filcher; 7 - Sharper; 8 - Magsman; 9 - Thief; 10 - Master Thief.  The main difference is that Cutpurse has been dropped two levels (fair enough, it does sound a bit small-time), and the two Pilferer levels have been replaced by Filcher and Magsman.  I suppose someone decided that Pilferer didn't sound dignified enough, although Filcher is hardly an improvement.  OD&D Thieves in general advanced a bit faster than their AD&D counterparts.

AD&D Thieves have much higher perentages in their special abilities than did those in OD&D.  Hide in Shadows is the only skill that remains the same.  Climbing Walls starts with a base percentage of 85%, as opposed to 13%!  Racial bonuses for different races have changed a bit.  Elves, Dwarves and Halflings are the same in general.  Dwarves remain good at the mechanical stuff, but they've lost their bonuses for moving silently and hiding.  Halflings still get a bonus to basically everything except climbing.  Elves remain good at sneaking and picking pockets, but not so good with locks.  There are new bonuses included for Half-Orcs, Gnomes and Half-Elves.

1 comment:

martinho said...

From someone who started reading this on (I didn't imagine that now, did I?), whatever you end up doing it's been a fun ride while it lasted!