Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Thief / assassin / acrobat mashup

I found myself, some days ago, browsing the AD&D 1st edition Unearthed Arcana, and re-read the description of the thief-acrobat split class for the first time in quite a while. It got me to wondering whether that class' abilities could be integrated into the standard thief class, without requiring a separate sub-class. In class-based games this is how my tastes go - I want a few very archetypal classes (fighter / thief / magic-user), perhaps with a sprinkling of options within each one to give a bit of variety. The number of classes in AD&D 1e/2e is too great for my sensibilities, let alone the madness of all the classes and 'prestige classes' (or whatever) in 3rd and 4th edition D&D.

The thief-acrobat abilities seem like the perfect example of the kind of 'options' I'm talking about for a class. You're still a thief, but you can choose (at character creation, ideally) if you want to specialise more in traditional thievery or in fancy acrobatic tricks. Likewise, I think the skills of the AD&D / Advanced Labyrinth Lord assassin class could easily and pleasantly be integrated as options for the standard thief. That's another class which, according to my criteria, isn't really necessary - it's just a thief with a couple of skills swapped out.

So I compiled a list of all these thief-like skills, including those from the acrobat and assassin:
  1. Pick locks
  2. Find & remove traps
  3. Pick pockets
  4. Move silently
  5. Climb walls
  6. Hide in shadows
  7. Hear noise
  8. Back stab
  9. Script: Read languages / Use scrolls
  10. Disguise (as assassin)
  11. Poisons (as assassin)
  12. Tumbling (as acrobat)
  13. Balance (as acrobat)
  14. Jumping (as acrobat)
So, just in theory, a newly created thief character could simply pick 9 out of those 14 skills.

(Note that I've not included the assassin's 'percentage chance to kill things automatically' ability - I've always regarded that as a bit over-powered and silly. Besides, it's sort of just a variant on back-stabbing for multiplied damage.)

The script skill, which includes read languages (usually gained at 4th level) and use scrolls (usually gained at 10th level), could probably do with a bit of expansion. Ideally all of these skills would provide some benefit at 1st level. So I'd extend the read languages ability (at a lower percentage of success) to 1st level, and possibly include some kind of code-breaking abilities too, which would be pretty useful for a thief.

Likewise, I'd consider giving back stab a progression of sorts (as it does in AD&D, but doesn't have in LL), so the damage multiplier increases at higher levels.

Also the poisons skill would need some kind of progression - perhaps a percentage chance to analyse or even create poisons?

It'll need a bit of work, but I think it's a pretty promising idea...


  1. Have you seen the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg? It's a D&D variant, and the thief class in that is not exactly the same as this, but has a similar skill-customisation idea behind it. You can download the game here.

  2. the Poison skill could certainly be broken down into subskills if one wished. off the top of my head I can think of : Brew Poison, Harvest Venom, Slip Dose, Identify Poison,Antidote and Envenom Blade.

  3. Thanks for the input guys!

    @kelvingreen: Yes I guess the LotFP 'specialist' class was probably lurking somewhere in my subconscious, inspiring thoughts of a combined and expanded thief.

    @Carter: I'm gonna do a proper write-up of this class, coming soon...

    @JDJarvis: I think I wouldn't want to split it that finely, but I very much like the idea of the Antidote skill. I think a split into 'use poisons' and 'create poisons' (which would also include antidotes) would be appropriate, without making it so a thief specialising in poisons could do nothing else.