Friday, November 27, 2020

Everybody is Thieves

One natural extension proposed by Koewn to Everybody is Cultists is Everybody is Clerics.  I think this is a good idea, but I would be tempted to overcomplicate it with custom spell lists and lots of deities to choose from, or making spellcasting use something like a reaction roll, or something like that.  So I'm going to think about that a bit more and maybe come back to it later.

But another potential extension is Everybody is Thieves.  It's a meme I've heard floating around the OSRosphere every now and then - what do you need a thief class for, all OSR characters are thieves.  Well and good, but the abilities of the class are (occasionally) useful.

So what if we let every character also be a thief, with a separate thief XP progression?  Turn both of the classes that level weirdly fast (thief and cleric) into side progressions, and then you choose a Real Class (Fighter, Magic User, Elf, or Dwarf) as your main class and can take one of the two side progressions if you like.  In keeping with Rolesrules' analysis of the thief and the cleric sitting opposite each other philosophically (and in the interest of simplicity), make it an exclusive choice.

So what would a thief side-progression look like?

Any character who has Dex 9+ and has not yet reached 6th level can become a thief in addition to their primary class; low-level adventurers spend enough time in seedy taverns to learn the tricks of the trade from their environment.  Thieves gain a second XP progression independent of their main class.  When they gain XP from treasure found while adventuring, they may spend up to half of that XP into the thief progression.  A thief cannot gain two levels in the thief progression from any single adventure.  Thieves gain a bonus to XP earned on the thief progression for having high Dexterity scores:

Dex 9-12: +0%
Dex 13-15: +5%
Dex 16-18: +10%

Unfortunately all that time spent drinking with shady characters limits the thief's ability to advance to the heights of power in his main class.  A thief's maximum level in his main class is reduced by 2, and his maximum thief level is the same as his (reduced) maximum level in his main class.

A thief gains the ability to open locks, hide in shadows, move silently, detect or remove traps, and hear noises as a member of the old thief class of his thief level.  These abilities are only usable while wearing leather or lighter armor; rattling metal and restrictive helms interfere with his hearing and peripheral vision, and heavy gauntlets interfere with his ability to manipulate fine mechanisms.
Thieves add Acrobatics, Alertness, Bribery, Contortionism, Gambling, Lip Reading, Lockpicking, Running, Skirmishing, Skulking, Swashbuckling, Trap Finding, and Weapon Finesse to their class proficiency list.
Thieves of 5th level or higher may perform hijinks personally, while thieves of 9th level or higher may run crime syndicates.

XPLevelOpen LocksTrapsMove SilentlyHide in ShadowsHear Noise


I cut the skill list down to fit it into Thievery 2 under ACKS' classbuilding rules.  I picked the skills that fit best into the typical dungoneering gameplay loop without having to go out of your way in dungeon design.

I'm on the fence about Finding/Removing Traps, since making it a roll removes interactive gameplay, but I do like the idea of it as basically a saving throw where you're about to set off a trap and you get to roll it to realize at the last second and avoid triggering it.  Maybe the right thing here is to keep Finding Traps but remove Removing Traps; dealing with detected traps descriptively is a lot easier than dealing with finding them descriptively.  So I left it as just "Traps" here.  Climbing Walls I'm sort of ambivalent about; you can design dungeons around it but otherwise it doesn't seem to come up much.  I hate Picking Pockets - the only things my players have ever seemed to use it for were stealing from random low-value townie NPCs, and for stealing from each other.  It has no place in the dungeon gameplay loop except maybe stealing from rival adventuring parties but no sensible rival adventuring party is going to let you get within arm's reach unless the situation is quite desperate.  Reading Languages and Using Scrolls I'm OK with dropping because if you want to do those things, play a MU/Thief.

Backstab is the real sticking point.  It's great on fighters, elves, and dwarves, and pretty worthless on MUs (although because nobody expects an MU to attack in melee, it would make a good sucker-punch).  Backstab was sort of the only thing thieves had going for them in combat; if you already have a combat-capable class and the thief side-progression is supposed to be supplementary, do you really need the help?

Maybe I should have an assassin side-progression too, with backstab, hide, move silently, climb walls, and one of poison use, tracking, or disguise.  It would level at the same rate as a 5-skill thief side progression.  I like that a lot.  It would be especially terrible if you could only spend XP from killing things into it.
Bard should fit perfectly too, since it's already a Thief 2 class - Inspire Courage, Performance, Loremastery, Arcane Dabbling...  huh I guess they should really get Read Languages at 1st, unless there's something I'm missing here.  The trick is that the stuff the side-class gets has to get better as it levels, or there's not much reason to continue investing XP in it instead of dipping (until you hit max level in your main class).  Fortunately bard's stuff does mostly improve with level (inspire courage uses per day, target numbers for Loremaster and Arcane Dabbling), and that might be a good reason to keep deferring Read Languages to 4th.

(This requirement to improve with level poses a challenge for side-loading Paladin, since most of the stuff they usually get is front-loaded and boolean except for Lay on Hands)
6th level was chosen as the cutoff for starting on the thief progression because it's sort of a natural breakpoint between hard-scrabble low-level dungoneering and mid-level wilderness play (where the thief isn't as useful anyway) and as a simple way to prevent the situation where you wait to become a thief until you're already within two levels of your class' max (without needing complicated wording).

Fighter/thief is pretty close to MU in terms of XP progression.  Sort of neat.  And if you have thief skills on a better class, then you can lean on that class to get you through the low levels to a point where your thief skills are usable (and if you invest your XP heavily into thief, it should blow past your main class too).

The "up to half of XP from treasure" bit is a nice thought but probably not really worth the complexity.
The proficiency bit is a hack; ACKS RAW would have you add like two thief class profs to your class' proficiency list.  Ambushing might also be a reasonable pick for that list in lieu of backstab.  I'm torn about Swashbuckling; it's nice for dwarf thieves to be able to take it, but if it were on the list MUs might dip thief to get it (but MUs get so few class profs anyway, and losing two levels off the top of MU hurts, so it's probably fine).  Precise Shooting should also maybe be on this list.


  1. Seems it might be nice to take 1st level abilities from Clerics, Thieves, and Rangers and provide them to characters as a form of background (Faithful, Criminal, Outdoorsy).

    1. I dunno... turning is quite strong and clerics don't get much else at first level. Likewise thieves get a bunch of stuff at 1st level. I'm not averse to providing something to characters who commit to a side class from first level rather than waiting though.

  2. OK! Somewhat unstructured:

    I like the 6th level limit (or drop it one); at 5th the Fighter gets her battlefield prowess, the Mage 3rd level spells, and as such seem like a decent breakpointon either side - espc. for the mage, the "war spells" Fireball and L-Bolt seem like the point of no return. The level limits rhyme with how adding racial value work now; so; right and proper.

    XP dedication: It's an odd one for thief. On Everybody's Clerics, one might stipulate you need to dedicate the upcoming excursion to your god/patron, and "do it faithfully", to move XP to the Cultist progression. It's a bit less black/white in the secular world, and kinda hearkens back to "use it to better it" skill systems, which are fiddly. That being said, domain XP should go to the class that it best fits...maybe there's some future thought on where the XP from GP goes based on how the GP gets used? (still fiddly)

    It seems in the aggregate you'd be obsoleting certain odd mixed builds; looking specifically at the Freebooter; and depending on how many "paths" there are available other F2 builds might need another look - espc. those that do a lot of trade-off-ing, and whether or not those tradeoffs really feel as valuable when taking proficiencies that could be slotted into an alternate path here; and as you note, bards, etc; the "adventurer classes" that are F1/HD1. Genericize the "adventurer", kill all the other classes but Fighter and Mage, allow and force Adventurers to take at least two side-classes? :) (the adventurer + side-bard + side-cleric = Friar Tuck)

    Given ACKS; you'd think "Everybody is Venturers" kinda suggests itself, no?

    Dunno if I can get excited about proficiency list addition issues - a player looking for a specific proficiency from a build using this is, honestly, welcome to it if they've got that strong a vision. So few slots, so many better choices for the primary classes.

    1. Yeah I waffled on 5th vs 6th. You present a good case for 5th.

      I like that idea that if you want to earn cleric XP, you have to go hard on code of conduct or something on that particular adventure! And yeah that would make a lot of sense for domain XP (but agreed, fiddly).

      Yes, obsoleting some of the F2/HD1/Thief1 is a welcome side effect for me. My old group never played with HFH but I couldn't see them using freebooter - d4 HD is rough. I do agree that there's definitely room here for a HD1 / Fighting 1 / ??? adventurer base class.

      Ha, yes, Everybody is Venturers would be one solution to "venturer is required but nobody wants to play one". And venturer v3 does have enough stuff that scales up that it might work OK with this.

      I mostly agree about the class proficiencies - if you're going MU/Thief for swashbuckling, OK, you're losing two levels *and* you only get three class profs so it's quite expensive.

  3. Back in the day did a long Thieves Guild campaign where I allowed multi classing for humans so there could be specialists in the guild. Fighter thief, MU thief, etc. I think at one point even an (urban) Druid Thief. I wanted at least half the characters to be plain single class thieves, so ended up having to do a lottery because everybody wanted to be a whatever/thief. Everybody was tired of doing plain thieves.