Monday, May 11, 2020

Thief's Knacks

Ostensibly this is still an "OSR"y blog so here's some OSRish content.

Some people have problems with the thief.
a) Wait, so, what do I need to roll if I'm a fighter and I'm trying to pick a pocket? Can I just...not do it?
b) OK so I am a thief and I am picking a pocket holy shit I only have 20% to succeed? I kind of suck.
c) Hang on, so the wizard can just cast Knock, and then turn Invisible? OK, let the damn wizard break in and steal the teapot, then.

Some people have proposed generous rule interpretations that let you play the thief "straight" and fix some of these perceived problems. 

Some people have translated the percentile table to a d20 table, to resolve the multiple type of resolution mechanics in the game.

Personally, I really like Lamentation's d6 Skill Rolls and how the Specialist gains points in it. It's my favorite base rule set for mostly this reason.

Here is ANOTHER thing to do with thieves thiefs.

The Caffeinated Symposium: Book Review--LANKHMAR: TALES OF FAFHRD ...
Lookin' good, boys

Thief Knacks

A village witch once told me that a thief was actually a very, very specialized sorcerer. The missionary from O told me that actually thiefs tapped into their psi powers. The Beggar's Guild told me that the Thief's Guild was actually a cult, and whispered of forbidden rites of ancestor worship and the terrifying grave of deified guild masters deep in the vaults of Thief House.

Whatever the truth, all thiefs have seven supernatural abilities. Some can use them more frequently than others.

Anybody can sneak. The thief makes the Sign of Silence and stills the air around him.

Anybody can climb a wall. The thief uses the Invocation of the Spider and runs to the top of the Tower of the White Elephant.

Basically, whenever you're trying to do something by mundane means, use your rule set's resolution mechanics. A Xd6 roll, an attribute test, whatever.

A thief can choose to use one of their knacks instead. They can use each of their seven knacks once per day. When a knack is used, roll on the thief's percentile skill table. On a success, the knack is refreshed and may be used again. On a failure, the knack is gone until the next time the sun crosses the horizon.

(Yes, that means that thiefs can use their knacks once during the day, and then again during the night.)

Here are the knacks. They have boring names. Thiefs who use them understand that naming things with flair to be one of their primary duties.

Climb Sheer Surfaces
You can climb a sheer surface like a spider. This knack lasts as long as you're continuously ascending; a thief can climb the Tower of Babel using this knack. However, you cannot stop moving or the knack will end.

Find and Disarm Trap
When you use this knack, you can ask the GM if one particular thing is trapped. If it is, the GM will tell you what the trap is, what its triggers are, and what you need to do in the fiction to disarm it. Disarming traps in this way almost never require a roll.

Hear Noise
When you use this knack, point your finger towards something. You can hear perfectly what you're pointing towards.

  • If your fingers are pressed against a door, you can hear what's being discussed in the next room. 
  • If you point towards an area with hiding enemies, you can tell how many lie in ambush by hearing their hearts beating. 
  • If you point at someone you can see, even if they're miles away, you can hear them as clearly as if you were standing next to them. 
Hide in Shadow
You can step into your own shadow. While in your shadow, you're practically invisible. The only things that can hurt you are magic weapons or spells that target ethereal creatures. However, you can't move or interact with your environment while in your shadow. 

Move Silently
You can utterly still the area around you as long as you hold your breath. Nothing within 10' of you makes any noise. You can smash through a window. You can gank a husband and not worry about his screams waking up his wife, lying in bed beside him. You can pat the wildly barking dog on the head. It's all good. 

Pick Locks
You make a secret knock--like the Fonz on a jukebox. A locked or magically sealed door/chest/shackles instantly pops open. Even barred or stuck doors pop open. 

Pick Pockets
The GM tells you everything that the person is carrying. You've opened their inventory. Select one thing. It's now in your inventory. Nobody notices until it makes sense for them to do so. 


  1. I wondered about handling it in a similar way a while back here when I was hacking the Rules Cyclopedia regularly and wanted to address those pesky percentages. It's a bit like Warlock in a way, but I noticed the correlation between some M-U/Cleric Spells and Thief abilities as well, and thought...what if? :)

  2. "On a success, the knack is refreshed and may be used again. On a failure, the knack is gone until the next time the sun crosses the horizon."

    That also explains why there is more thieves in the hot places... Using your abilities twice a year in the poles sucks. Better to stay in the Equator where you can use it t each 12 hours.

  3. This is a really cool idea (the refresh rate thing). Another option would just be to give a player their level x a day of using these abilities.

  4. I really dig this. Anyone can be a criminal, but only a member of the magical guild/cult can be a capital-t Thief.

  5. Does failing the roll also prevent the thief from using the knack for that instance?

    1. No, they always get to use it once. It just prevents them from using it again that day.