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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thief Skills As Surprise -- Theft

Continuing to think about Thief Skills As Surprise, this time about picking pockets, swiping stray items, or otherwise taking something without being noticed.

Any adventurer can try to take something when no one is looking as long it is not literally in someone else’s possession. For example, taking fruit from a merchant’s basket while the merchant is shouting at another customer. This is a standard surprise roll.

  • Apply a -1 penalty (or shift down 1 row on the Surprise Table) if there are a lot of witnesses.
  • Apply a penalty or shift down a row if the owner or a witness is exceptionally vigilant. This is cumulative with the previous penalty.

Taking an item that is being held or stowed away in someone’s pockets, or any other situation where the victim must be touched or moved, is impossible for the untrained adventurer, although potentially doable with magical aide (Sleep spell.) A trained pickpocket who is not a member of the Thief class can attempt it, but never at better than standard surprise chances.

An actual thief can pick pockets with better odds. Either add half the difference between the thief’s level and the victim’s level, rounding up, or use the Surprise Table to find the die roll.


  1. Here's something that has perplexed me: How, mechanically, does a figure pay to learn a particular Thief skill? Or, for that matter, learn to cast a single spell if they're not a spell caster by trade? These things ought to be possible, but I'm not sure how to cost them out, or what currency should be used to pay.

    1. There's two ways I handle it.

      1.) To start the game with a mundane skill, buy the associated tool during character generation. To learn lockpicking, buy lockpicks.

      2.) To learn a skill or a single spell, treat it as magical research. Mundane skill training costs 1/10th as much as researching a spell. Many mundane skills are treated as 1st level, but something you normally see a class pick up at 4th level, for example, will be treated as being that level when determining base costs.

    2. Oh, and in case it's not obvious, the currency I use for that is gold pieces. And time, of course.

    3. That’s really brilliant. The cost associated is already there. Find a teacher, spend the time and money, and you can learn it. Brilliant and elegant and I think worth its own post. Thank you.

    4. It actually does have its own post. A couple posts, in fact. I just haven't talked about it for a while.

      Bribe, Craft, Train

      That's not the first post where I talked about it, but it describes universal process and links to specific applications (creating arcane libraries, shrines, legendary weapons, barony investments.)

      What I really need to do is expand it and arrange it all in a PDF and offer it as pay-what-you-want. But that's true of a lot of things I've written. Once I get the energy...

    5. Thanks for this, it's really good. I think you really nailed it. If you layer the appropriate RP elements over it, it will be just right. Perfect. Thank you!

  2. I edited your system for clarity here:


    1. Good work!

      You might want to clarify which sections you've added. I wouldn't use the 30-INT for the minimum time to learn languages, for example.

    2. email me so I can make the changes you want. sanderson2208@gmail.com