Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Outdone in Ingenuity, Skill, Extent of Resources, and Fertility of Invention (💰)

"There is something of the devil in the thief's voice when he boasts, even if his message is nothing but the truth. There is something in the traitor that enflames the heart and lures the mind. Let no one say that the man is peculiarly strong in his passions. If he does not marry for love, he is apt to marry for property; if he is addicted to intoxicating drinks, he is apt to marry for pleasure.

Is it a question of education? 

Yes, education is a great help."
-Arnu, Patricove of Hepton


Start with a big burlap sack, shoes good for running, lockpicks, a longknife, a mask, a striped shirt (to avoid being spotted), and three random pieces of gear from the Catalog. These are in order of importance.

For every level of Thief attained, get +1 to running away.

  • A: Efficient Ratio, Plunder
  • B: Society

Efficient Ratio: You can always carry something if you have the inventory slots to carry it. You don't need to specifically get a bag or satchel or backpack beforehand.

Plunder: When you've got a big old sack or a carpet bag, it comes in useful to stow the swag. Get +[level] inventory slots. You can ransack a room before anyone happens upon you, automatically triggering any traps around.

Society:  You are now a "made man" in thief society. You are entitled to sanctuary and have learned thieves' cant. You know where to purchase poison, thief's rope, hits, and the like. You can bring disputes to your local anti-noble to be resolved. Before every adventure, you can get 2d2 loyal-yet-bumbling lackeys who are fearlessly loyal as long as they get their cut. You have nebulous responsibilities to Society now.

The Catalog
1. rocket, shoots 150' before exploding into flames crimson and adamant. Spooks spirits, pulps people, and blows doors off their hinges.
2. grappling hook and 40 feet of silk rope
3. earhorn. When set against a door, an eavesdropper tends to hear the juiciest secrets.
4. black iron crow, Also called a prybar, wrecking bar, or jemmy
5. smoke bombs (4-pak)
6. red-glass bulls-eye lantern (won't ruin nightsight!)
7. oil can. Scentless. Stops a rusted door from squeaking or causes pursuers to trip.
8. telescoping pole (goes out to eleven feet!)
9. climbing shuko and foot spikes (really works!)
10.  Hand of Glory. Light an unburnt digit to cast hold person. (Certified genuine hand!)
11. x-ray goggles. Penetrates two inches. Shows hollow spots in the wall and who has a skeleton.
12. disguise resembling a godparent

from Basileus, by Andrew

A Digression about Lockpicking
Some people don't know this, but learning how to pick locks is easy. With simple tools, some free time, and pointers from another novice you can pick up the skill super fast. Most locks at the tech level of your game are likely simple by modern standards. Many medieval lockpicks were glorified keyrings, since you didn't need precise teeth to seduce a lock. Therefore, you don't get special lockpicking abilities with this class, but it's understood that you can pick locks. Other people can with a ten minute lecture and a practice lock.

A Digression about Thief's Tools
Assembling a full pack of thief's tools is a wonderful goal for a fledgling adventurer of any class. Vital equipment includes a file, lockpicks, mirror, scissors, and pliers. Look also for a hook, pulley, rope, pry bar, hammer, spikes, saw, and lock oil. Since these tools are so various, you can understand why some designers would simply give out blanket "thief kits". Yet, each tool is handy for a variety of adventuring situations, and you're likely to forget you have a file if no one tells you. Collect tools! A handyman's closet is more useful than a jewelry box to an apprentice burglar.

A Digression about Thieves' Cant
This is a cryptic vocabulary. Some words a thiefing jargon, technical terms of differentiation that those of other professions would have no need for. Other words are for very common concepts like "man" or "woman." Canting would do a good job of obscuring the meaning of a sentence like "the apprentice pickpocket drinks the adulterer's alcohol" but a poor job of obscuring "where is the hollandaise sauce?" or "brevity is the soul of wit." The difference between common speech and thief's cant is not as significant as the difference between English and French, but every difference is made to intentionally exclude outsiders to Society. You can't cant every idea, but you can cant some ideas so well that a mark won't be able to tell that any innuendo is going on. Full conversations in cant are seldom desired.

A Digression about Robbery
Some people don't know this, but robbery is easy. (Don't rob people.) In the modern day, the standard method is to pass a bank teller a note telling them that you're robbing them. In the olden days, you would walk up a traveler, brandish a weapon, and tell them that you're robbing them. The risk is not so much that they'll resist you as much as that the authorities will try to capture you later. If a PC is robbing easy targets, treat it like carousing or rumor-mongering-- a down-time activity with a small chance of coming back to bite you. That said, the funds offered up at knifepoint probably really does pale compared to the wealth tied up in treasuries, fortresses, and dungeons, where the guards will actually try to stab anyone who brandishes a snicker-snee at them.

Gameplay Loop: The Catching-Harvest Campaign

Live fast ☞ scope out a mark ☞ burgle ☞ fence the goods ☞ repeat step one

The point, as ever, is to be stinking rich. The problem is that levels are not permanent-- the more extravagant your expenses were last month, the higher your level. You can maintain a level-one existence without risk just by sticking up passers-by, always moving so the law never catches up to you. But if you dream of a full meal and an emptied wineskin, you need to get your hands on real lucre. 

The early game consists of seducing the innkeeper's assistants to have them let you in at night, or sneaking by kept captains to free them of their pensions, maybe digging up the town's latest stiff for their jewels. The mid game involves collaboration, winning the friendship of landladies to get tips on where you can find wealthy travelers, bribing black monks to switch you with a dead body to have you smuggled into the earl's uncle's wake, forming a gang, and beefing with rival flocks. The late game involves clearing out dungeons for hideouts, knocking over the king's treasuries, and buying a modest barony in Zaldo.

This ambition is in danger of getting spoiled by something-- a war, a vampiric usurper, or the dying out of Society crime. The roads are better watched than they used to be. Getting your money at best is getting worse and worse.


  1. D6 boons from outside the catalog: 1. poison bubbling and green 2. the affection of the nearest Dungeon Master's spouse 3. STUPIDITY ONLY SIN, she is a +1 stabbing spike inky and brazen that shoots out of a hidden holster on your wrist, speaking with a low whisper that the dead can understand 4.the alliance of a robber's wife 5. little imp in a bottle you're trying to convince to grant you wishes 6. rivalry with a foolish police inspector whose attempts to thwart you always end up giving you the upper hand.

  2. Basileus is great. Always surprised when someone else has heard of it.