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[Basic D&D] A thief that can contribute from level 1

Miss Atomic Bomb

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#1
I'm working on a PbP game, and I'd like to be able to cover levels 1-8. There are a few problems with this, and one of them is the thief.

Up front: I like the thief, and consider it core to the D&D experience. Getting rid of the thief is not an option. An alternate thief is an option.

The problem is that the thief isn't very good at several of its core skills at levels 1-3. I'd like a thief's player to make use of their abilities right out of the gate... in fact, for the environment I'm thinking of, it's almost essential.

What have you done to address these problems?
 
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Jon 45

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#3
Make the thief skills like AD&D non-weapon proficiencies. You have slots you can spend on the skills. Spending the first slot gets you your DEX in proficiency. Each extra slot gives you +1 to that base. If you don't have a slot, you still get it at DEX-4.

Resolve checks by a d20 roll under proficiency level.
 

The Wyzard

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#4
This isn't really too bad. What you need to do is realize that thief's percentage abilities are just the ability to do those things remarkably well.

Anyone can try and do something to disarm a trap in BD&D, by narrating whatever they're going to do (Jam a door spike in it, etc.). A Thief has a percentage chance to do it perfectly. Anyone can try and sneak up on a bad guy, by creating a distraction or whatever. A Thief, if they succeed on their check, is a fucking ghost. Or maybe, even though you'd typically allow a dex check to sneak up on a guy in appropriate circumstances, the circumstances are now inappropriate. Well, that means that the Thief still gets his percentage check.

In short: Forget that Thief skills exist. Play a game where PCs can try whatever makes sense, ruled by their attributes.

Now, Thieves have a percentage ability in addition to that to do things which are relatively improbable, or to do those things improbably well.
 

Wratts

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#5
Let the thief start at 10% in each skill. Player can distribute 127 points onto the skills any way he/she feels fit, even after play has started (allowing selection of whatever you feel is most useful). At each level up, the thief gets 36 extra points for distribution. The max the thief can have is 85+character level.

It's not a whole hell of a lot better, but it does allow to neglect things that don't crop up until after several games (climbing walls? In a one-dimensional dungeon? Hmm, no.), and beef up things that are useful off the start (stealth skills mostly, then stuff like lockpicking and trap-circumvention skills depending on how often those kind of hurdles make an appearance). Perceptive actions are left best in the hands of elf or dwarf at the low levels.

Edit: And what The Wyzard said.
 
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Cold Steel

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#6
Let the thief start at 10% in each skill. Player can distribute 127 points onto the skills any way he/she feels fit, even after play has started (allowing selection of whatever you feel is most useful). At each level up, the thief gets 36 extra points for distribution. The max the thief can have is 85+character level.

It's not a whole hell of a lot better, but it does allow to neglect things that don't crop up until after several games (climbing walls? In a one-dimensional dungeon? Hmm, no.), and beef up things that are useful off the start (lockpicking, stealth skills). Perceptive actions are left best in the hands of elf or dwarf.

Edit: And what The Wyzard said.
I did something very similar:

Thieves:

- Start with ten percentage points in each Thief Skill.
- Then assign 132 points between the six skills.
- No skill other than Climb Sheer Surfaces may be raised above 40% at character creation.
- Hear Noise is resolved normally, using a d6.

- Receive 26 more points for each level gained.
- No more than 10 points can be placed in any skill each level.
- No skill can ever be raised above 95%.

So, characters receive the same number of skill points that they would normally - but they can choose how to allocate them, as per AD&D 2nd edition.
 

Jet Bastard

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#7
I'm with the Wyzard on this one. In my own RC campaign, thief abilities represent ability beyond what most normal people can muster. The thief gets to roll vs his skill, and if he fails, he can STILL try a normal ability check like any other member of the party. That almost all of those checks will likely be based on dex greatly improves the thiefs chances.

If he suceeds with his thief skill, he's done something special. He spots the trap nigh-instantly. He blends impossibly with the environment, becoming nearly invisible, etc.

It worked for my game.
 

PTiKachu

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#8
Or borrow an idea from 4e standardize abilities in a more radical, nakedly gamist fashion. Give the Thief a number of daily Thief Stunts (spider climb, instant unlock/disarm) like a Magic-User's spells, which increase with level, and give better ones at higher levels (hide in plain sight, escape from restraint). He can use those in place of the crapshoot skill rolls. :)
 

Sleeper

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#9
Roll under attribute minus level is one option, but places a huge emphasis on a high Dex.

Another option. Thief skills progress by +5% per level until 4th to 6th level, when they start making jumps of 10%. Around name level, the progression slows down again (as the chances approach 100%). If we get rid of the fast progression in the middle, and shove those extra percentage points down then a 1st level thief starts with:

Open Locks 45%
Remove Traps 40%
Pick Pockets 45%
Move Silently 45%
Hide in Shadows 35%

From there, just increment the abilities by 5% per level. The new thief will reach 95% at the exact same level as a thief using the normal progression (11th to 13th level), but won't suck as badly at the beginning. Once at 95%, use the standard table.

Another option (which can work in conjunction with the one above) is to use difficulties. Assign a level of difficulty to a trap, a lock, or so forth. Pick Pockets already has a rule for this: The chance to pick the pocket of a high level character is reduced by 5% per level above 5th.

Why 5th? If we ignore that, and assume that picking the pocket of a 1st level apprentice is easier than picking the pocket of a 4th level hero, then that means that the chance to pick the pocket of a 0 level character is 25% higher than indicated on the table.

If we extrapolate that to all of the other abilities (and flatten out the curve, as above), then the base chances increase to:

Open Locks 70%
Remove Traps 65%
Pick Pockets 70%
Move Silently 70%
Hide in Shadows 60%

Then subtract the difficulty level, in 5% increments. Most locks will be level 0. Difficult ones might be 5th, 10th, or very rarely even higher. Certain special challenges might be set at level / 2, or even level.
 

Dormammu

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#10
Thief skills progress by +5% per level until 4th to 6th level, when they start making jumps of 10%. Around name level, the progression slows down again (as the chances approach 100%). If we get rid of the fast progression in the middle, and shove those extra percentage points down then a 1st level thief starts with:

Open Locks 45%
Remove Traps 40%
Pick Pockets 45%
Move Silently 45%
Hide in Shadows 35%

From there, just increment the abilities by 5% per level.
This solution makes a lot of sense to me. The difficulty thing is also sensible, but I don't know I'd personally "default" to 0 level. 70% chances at level one feels extreme to me.
 
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