One thing that bugs me is that most domain activities are measured in increments down towards weeks, while thief hijinks are in solid-month blocks. This somewhat hampers the utility of PC thief hijinks at the mid-levels. Consider the case where a mid-level party decides to take two or three weeks of downtime. The fighter can recruit mercs in that time, and he gets to exercise his +morale modifier. The wizard and cleric can each attempt to make a potion or scroll or two. And the thief... can't do his thing because he's a week or two short. Now, I get that setting up a good heist takes time and planning. But it doesn't necessarily need to be a contiguous month's planning.
Another thing that somewhat bothers me is the perhaps-unnecessary complexity involved in having many different hijinks, each with different rates of return, different rates of success, and different possible punishments, all of which ultimately serve to just generate gold at different rates. When combined with proficiency selection (stacking, for example, Skulking and Lip Reading for +3 to spying), the system gets to be a bit complex mathematically, and the consequences for choices become... not opaque, but somewhat obfuscated, for effects which are (except for stealing) largely identical. Consider by comparison the spell research system - you get a target number based on your level, stats, and one proficiency that applies across the board, and then you apply situational modifiers based on the thing you're attempting. One mechanic with a bunch of functionally-different and interesting applications to a wide variety of ends, rather than many mechanics which all lead to the same end.
Both of these lead me to a proposal inspired by Iron Heroes' token mechanics. The gist is as follows:
- Single hijink throw number as a function of level and Dex, much as with magic research. There's an argument to be made that in a multi-part operation of reasonable duration, aggregate skills and ability to perform consistently (level) matter more than any one single skill. Some of the hijink-skill mappings, like Treasure Hunting for maps to Find Traps and Stealing bulk cargo to Pick Pockets seemed sort of forced anyway.
- Thieves can generate 'intel points'. Intel points are attached to a particular settlement and represent the groundwork, rumor gathering, and connections the thief has made in that community. Intel points expire at some uniform rate as operational intelligence goes stale - sometimes the guard you bribed retires, they sold the piece of artwork you were after, and the plumbers' guild changed their uniforms.
- Intel points are gathered by spending time performing a carousing-like hijink in town and making a hijinks throw. Taking more time than the baseline provides a bonus, while taking less time provides a penalty. Every n points of success beyond your target number generates an extra intel point.
- Possibility of bonus to intel-gathering attempts for spending gold? For bribing guards and buying drinks. Requires some math to get right, probably.
- Actual hijinks can be attempted with an expenditure of intel points, a small amount of time (somewhere between a day and a week - most of the groundwork has already been done), and a hijink throw. Intel points may be spent to lower the target number or boost the payout (to a cap based on performer's level and market class - payouts now a function of intel points spent, rather than per-class-level). Higher payout levels increase risk of being auto-caught (as with experimentation in ACKSPC magic research) and penalize sentencing roll.
- Ex: Assassination: per intel point allocated to payout, +1 to victim max HD, -1 to hijink throw. At 5 HD, auto-fail on 1 or 2, -1 on sentencing. At 9 HD, auto-fail on 1-3, -2 to sentencing. Per 'ease of use' intel point, +1 to hijink throw. XP on success: per target's hit dice.
- Hijinks should serve distinct purposes - assassination is for killing a guy (I'm OK with this; high-power opponents rarely stay dead anyway, they just come back madder and uglier than before. Might warrant a save vs death anyway). Spying is for learning a secret (possibility of secrets as a second, higher-tier type of intel point? "The only way you're going to pull that off is if you blackmail the prince..."). Stealing is for acquiring commodity cargoes. Treasure hunting is for getting maps. Smuggling is for avoiding tariffs. The Domains at War: Campaigns hijinks already fit into this mould. Some means to find stuff on the black market would be a neat one (or maybe a class prof - spend an intel point to reroll an availability roll, but also increases price if available), as would fomenting rebellion to penalize domain morale. Conflicted on having one to just generate gold (fraud?), and if it does exist, should have low RoI relative to treasure hunting, smuggling, and stealing, due to necessity of follow-up effort (ie, interesting play) on those.
- Thief hijinks as urban toolbox, rather than thief hijinks as slot machine.
- Thieves may pool or transfer their intel points. Carousers now useful to a guild in that they gather intelligence that higher-level thieves can act upon.
- Some math would need to be done here to re-figure simplified guild incomes.