Thief Skills for the Masses

There comes times in everybody’s game where things come up which aren’t exactly clear. When exploring a mountain range, we need to know the base chance that a character has of climbing. Same goes for looking for traps in a all too quiet passageway, hiding in wait behind a keg of beer, quietly slinking across a chamber floor and listening to what is being said on the other side of the door.

BUT RIPPER! You say, These are Thieves skills! Why, yes they are, but did you know that anybody can use them? Taking a gander at the base thieves skill list, this will tell you the base chances of using them. While anybody can use these skills, only a rogue or a few sub-classes with rogue-like powers, can improve upon them.

Beyond table 26., which I will talk about in a minute, a few other charts are helpful in figuring out the characters chances of success. They are: Table 27: Thieving Skill Racial Adjustments, Table 28: Thieving Skill Dexterity Adjustments, & Table 29: Thieving Skill Armor Adjustments.

These apply to all characters, not just thieves, as ones race, DEX, and choice of armor all factor into the characters chances of success.

Picking Pockets: 15%

Gaffing a key, smoothly handing over a fake map, while passing the real one off to someone behind you without getting noticed, placing false evidence on somebody’s person, all of this can be handled by anybody, of course thieves are the best at accomplishing it without getting caught, but when you are in a pinch, and there isn’t much hope of accomplishing your goal anyway, a last ditch effort can be attempted.

Open Locks: 10%

Sometimes we are faced with a problem, more often then not a good solid axe can help us with it, but other times, such as being trapped in a cell for a crime that we didn’t commit, our captors have a nasty habit of always relieving us of our trusty axes. If we can find some sort of small object, such as a bone or something, we can use it as an improvised lock pick. This challenging feat does require some sort of tools to accomplish . . . unless the lock is large enough to stick your hand in, which would be a rare lock indeed! The rules for improvised lock-picking tools are found in the thieves handbook, but if you don’t have that tome, just make the player make a DEX check, if it is successful, then he can attempt to roll his 10%, failure of course means that the tool broke.

Again, this is a last ditch effort, but it sure beats hanging around waiting for your executioner to show up.

Find/Remove Traps: 5%

If the searching rule works better for this, then still use it, however they are probably going to set the thing off by searching. This roll is checked exactly like a rogues, it takes more then noticing ropes, chains, or a mysterious statue, this roll dictates that those who are successful understand how the trap works, and can either decide to attempt to avoid it, or . . . um . . . disarm it. Good luck with that! But hey, stranger things have happened, right? This of course assumes that a trap CAN be removed, after all, the dice aren’t magical.

Move Silently: 10%

Clearly, anybody can sneak around. This number dictates their chances of doing it. Some races, such as elves, have a really good base (90%) for moving silently in specific environments, such as woods, this rule supersedes this base chance. Though, if he is trying to sneak down an ally street or in some other environment other then the one specified in his racial benefits, he uses this number instead.

Hide In Shadows: 5%

This is more then just hiding in shadows, this is hiding in general, but Hide In General doesn’t sound as cool as Hide in Shadows, does it. Normally it is up to the DM to decide if you are hiding good or not, but if there are any arguments, then you can fall back on this system. Naturally there has to be something to hide in, be it shadows or behind some cover. Again, the DM can add or subtract bonus and penalties has he sees it, a dark warehouse full of boxes should be pretty easy to hide in.

Detect Noise: 15%

This can be used for both eavesdropping and identifying odd noises which seem to always be present in spooky old dungeons and caves. There isn’t anything supernatural about what a thief is doing when he is trying to detect a noise or while he’s listening, he just better trained at it then normal.

Climb Walls: 60%

While a thief can climb a smooth surface, anybody can climb a rough one, and this is the number which dictates his success. Be it scaling a rotten castle wall, or climbing a cliff with death waiting on the bottom, this is our base chance of being able to do it, and THIS number comes up more then any of the others, so we really don’t want to forget about it. It is also worth noting that the Mountaineering Non-Weapon Proficiency modifies this base chance some, or may replace it all together, but this is a most helpful number regardless.


Timeshadows said...

Are these subject to Racial and Ability-score Modification?
--> she says, hopeful <

Anonymous said...

As I recall, the 2E PHB had a section on climbing for everyone other than thieves. It had a +50% bonus for using a rope, +10% for mountaineering proficiency. But the base was very low, lower than the Thief skill I believe.

I'd give everyone their armor, DEX, and racial modifiers to a 5% chance for any Thief skill - that is, the average Dwarf has a 15% chance to pick a lock.

But honestly it makes more sense to put all those skills as proficiencies in the Rogue group. Give the Thief 12 free nonweapon slots to spend only in the Rogue group at first level and 6 per level thereafter (spending no more than 3 in one skill at any level). Bard gets less, one slot per 5% of thief skill he can spread around. Remove the base skills table and the DEX modifier table.

This way a Thief can focus on other skills like acrobatics or forgery without expanding those into percentage skills. You get rid of two tables for thief skills and each skill effectively has its own stat modifier (Read Languages for example would be WIS or INT, Climb Walls would be STR, Detect Noise would be WIS).

This would also let you give Rangers 1 slot per level in Move Silently and Hide in Shadows, and if they wanted to buy more they could spend the slots. And if you wanted a stealthy Fighter you could spend double for going outside your proficiency groups.

A DM who wanted a stealthy campaign could either insist that everyone take a class that had the Rogue group, or give all PCs the Rogue group, or move stealth into the General group, or give / require stealth proficiency expenditures.


Timeshadows said...

Ripper: Yeah, I saw, too late, that you did say that the Racial, etc. Mods applied. Sorry.

Also, Tacoma,
--The Red Death 2e boxed set did put the Thieves' Skills into a Proficiency mode, which I really appreciated at the time. :)

Ripper X said...

Timeshadows, I suppose that I should had made that more clear, that would be my fault that you didn't see it, sorry.

Tacoma, I guess that I feel that that the chart which you referred too is inconsistent with the Thief's chart.

I can see how the Skill as NWP would work at some tables, but I really don't care for it. As a player of a thief, there are things that I'd rather focus on and explore other then the skills that are suppose to be entitled to me. By making it a NWP, I feel that you're cheapening the class.

As Timeshadows says, The Masque of the Red Death, Ravenloft setting tinkered with every rule in the book, and they use the system that you refer too. It works for that game, but truly good thieves aren't as present in 1890's Gothic Earth.

Post a Comment


Contact me at

My photo

Advanced Gaming & Theory is my Blog

I use AD&D that has been modified over they years.

Search This Blog

Blog Archive