... now with 35% more arrogance!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dodging Thieves

There was a side issue raised in the comments on the simple dodge mechanic I posted a couple days ago. Hedgehobbit asked, in part, "why restrict it to Fighters when classes like Thieves should be better at dodging?" and I replied, "Why should Thieves be better at dodging?" What I was getting at is that later editions (I think it began with 3e, but I'm not sure) began to interpret the thief -- renamed "rogue" -- as a quick, dancing skirmisher type who, just by accident, happened to also know how to pick pockets, open locks, and sneak up behind people.

But there's absolutely nothing in the earliest write-ups of the thief class that suggests that. The thief abilities seem to be selected with the idea of avoiding direct confrontation: pocket an item without anyone knowing, hide in shadows, move without making a sound, attack unawares from behind. They steal when no one is looking, not by outright thuggery.

I think the idea that thieves ought to be better at dodging comes from one or two places:

  1. Thieves are limited to lighter armor, so maybe it's because they prefer dodging?
  2. Thieves use Dexterity as their primary ability, and that has something to do with dodging?

But, of course, although many people (including me, from time to time) have used Dex as a stand-in for speed or agility, it's not really either; it's nimbleness of finger and hand-eye coordination. Originally, all Dex modified was accuracy with missile weapons. Later, Greyhawk added the AC modifier, which may have cemented the idea that Dex = dodge skill in people's minds. However, if you are using the AC bonus, then that's your dodge mechanic; thieves aren't naturally better dodgers because they are thieves, but because they may happen to have a high Dex. There's no reason to let thieves double-dip for an ability that isn't really part of the class conception.

Now, if you want to do a class that is all about speed, agility, and unusual movement abilities, you could take the Thief, drop open locks, pick pockets, remove traps, hear noise, and language abilities, and replace those with a move bonus. Hey, that gives me an idea...

1 comment:

  1. Be fair, that impression was already there by 2E. You're partly right - lighter armor, Dex as their prime requisite and its modifying AC did all play a role in this, but I don't think people were unreasonable in their conclusions. They didn't simply think "Oh, thieves must prefer light armor because it helps them dodge." Rather, it did exactly that. Once the Dex mod to AC was extended to non-fighters, thieves got better at avoiding attacks. It was a real eye-opener when I discovered that modifier wasn't always present, even for fighters, and I plan on replacing it with a parry mechanic based on Chainmail that works with my thoughts on two-weapon fighting