[Where I read] The Complete Bard's Handbook and The Complete Thief's Handbook


Corvus Sapiens
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You seem to expect I mean by subtety. Armed robbery and banditry have a long and glorious tradition.
Presumably, so does putting a chicken under your jacket if you can't manage to get a pointy stick to poke someone with or aren't strong enough to take on the farmer.
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Presumably, so does putting a chicken under your jacket if you can't manage to get a pointy stick to poke someone with or aren't strong enough to take on the farmer.
If we wanted to do the longest-lived most-glorious tradition of thievery in Pre-Industrial Society, it'd be cattle-rustling.

It was the national sport of ancient Ireland!

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Corvus Sapiens
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If we wanted to do the longest-lived most-glorious tradition of thievery in Pre-Industrial Society, it'd be cattle-rustling.

It was the national sport of ancient Ireland!

Yup. It's where the word Tory comes from too (Whig comes from Scottish 'mare-drivers', Whiggamores, apparently).

I can't believe that no pre-industrial (or pre-mediaeval) thief ever resorted to stealth as well as or instead of force of arms, but yeah.
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Catharsis Cat

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4e is obviously a much, much, much more balanced Final Fantasy Tactics.
Other than grid based movement, 4e is nothing like Final Fantasy Tactics. The games play very differently. That is also doing a diservice to 4e. (people get irritated when it's suggested 4e isn't a real rpg and then go around and compare it to a game that revolves all around combat, kind of a strange way of thinking)
Oh, some comments I missed.

Regarding the scale factor: much of the fantasy world stuff out of there is done on American scale, which is completely alien to me as a Briton. It's not really germane to this thread, but briefly, Ansalon is a little alien in that regard because it is slightly less huge than Faerun.
I think part of the issue is Ansalom is more culturally homogenous. There's a number of countries in Dragonlance but before the POL setting--Faerun was a WEIRD place. Everything under the sun existed in its many nations and they ranged from Russian berserkers to wizard kings to pastoral villagers to Elf Kingdoms.

I LOVE the Whistler. When I heard you were doing the Complete Bard's, that's the kit my mind instantly flashed too. Admittedly, the flavor does suffer somewhat heavily from the "we're backporting modern day relationships with nature to a much more agrarian society" issue we've already touched on a bit, but still, it's just so fun. Give him some slightly more sensible relationship with nature and he's pretty solid.
The Halfling Whistler nicely gives their race something bizarre and unique to deal with. Most of all, it's overwhelmingly flavorful and doesn't have anything similar in the other races--so that makes it both memorable and useful. So, kudos to the designer of it.

I wish he wasn't still tied up with 2e's odd instence that dwarves and halflings were walking little piles of anti-magic though. I'd love it if Whistlers really were the halfling wizards, a proto-sorcerer, summoning up magic with a tune on their lips and a whistle in their heart. Would be better for their odd assortment of nature spells to be gained supernatural abilities versus mysteriously granted clerical spells as well, but again, 2e.
I never believed halflings should be anti-magical since Gandalf had said that Hobbits had a little of their own in terms of the arts of disappearing.

While trying to find the Whistler image I remember from the book, I stumbled over this! :cool:

Yes, the scales are quite different. The driving distance from Miami to Jacksonville is about 20 kilometers more than the distance from London to Edinburgh, while Key West to Pensacola (pretty much the two significant towns in Florida furthest from each other) is around 350 kilometers more than Plymouth to Aberdeen. Florida by itself is about 30% larger by land area than England, or about 2/3 the size of Britain. Until I realized that, I had never figured out why it was so easy in British history for people to blunder into each other, because my sense of scale was much different.
As mentioned below, it's the old adage, "To Americans, 100 years is a long time and to Great Britainers, 100 miles is a long way."

Whenever I think of "the Whistler," I ALWAYS flashback to the old-time radio character (no, I'm not that old ;)).

And America/Britain reminds me of something I read somewhere, possibly something Stephen Fry said. Paraphrasing, "Americans are always overwhelmed by Britain's depth of history, Britons are always overwhelmed by America's breadth of geography."

DDG - you forgot the songs!
Oh, I mentioned them. It's just not much utility out of them since:

A. No music notes.
B. I can't read music anyway.
C. I couldn't sing worth a damn anyway.


I never got the Bard's Handbook as I remember nothing in it really interested me, but this WIR has been nifty. Really looking forward to Thieves, as that was one of my favorites of the Handbooks.
Welcome, Taarkoth. Glad to have you in our thread!

Objection! Wesley was a) far to competent a warrior to be a bard, even a gallant one, and b) couldn't have been a gallant anyways as he was pretty solely dedicated to Buttercup which would have broken the gallant's code. The weakest I could buy him as would as be a very experienced thief with the swashbuckler kit.
Point taken.

If they had actually written the Blade as a bardic assassin and dropped the, oh, most of the other kits and replaced them with the Dervish, Muse, Entrancer, and Sleuth I might actually have picked up this book. Because those sounded a lot more interesting than what was actually in here.
I got my money's worth from the Loremaster, Riddlemaster, and Gallant classes. The Bardic classes were imaginative, interesting to read about, and flavorful--which is what I wanted from these books. Still, I agree those might have gotten more utility from the majority of players out there. Poor Fluttershy Meistersinger is about the only member of her class.

This and previous comments about how races with level limits below ten suck at those classes forgets how low level in general pre-3.x D&D Land was. Maybe because 2e had gotten rid of level titles maybe? Most novel characters for instance are not the 15+ level monsters 3e statted them as. They'd actually be around 4th to 6th level. As for 9th level characters sucking? 9th level is powerful enough to carve your own kingdom out of the monster-haunted wilderness, teleport, conjure forth elementals, and raise the dead.
I believe that's very much a difference of opinion at Tables. Forgotten Realms was constantly railed at because Elminster and Company were about 30th level with their ridiculous collection of super-abilities (spellfire). Drizzt Do'Urden had his "Automatic Kill" attribute, which allowed him kill instantly a PC or other character just because he was that awesome. Ed Greenwood, however, was basically of the mind this just meant PCs should be upper-scale themselves rather than hiis world's characters should be the reverse.

Dark Sun had its own plot threads devoted to becoming 60th level characters.

Note to the authors of The Complete Bard's Handbook: Tom Bombadil was not a Hobbit.
Yeah, that does serve as a nice inspiration there.

Yes but people aren't animals, so it's perfectly okay! In fact, if Lawful Good wasn't just another name for Chaotic Evil it'd be that. But because Lawful Good is that, instead people-killing is True Neutral. :D /sarc. This sort of nonsense is why some people honestly believe in things like the Voluntary Human Extinction movement.
I confess, I'm one of those types who'd voluntarily move to Elysium.

Robin Hood was a fighter with the Forester secondary skill, or the Hunting and Survival non-weapon proficiencies.
The advantages of Woodsey Stealth!
(bold mine)

"I was dating the Third Goblinoid War, but it wasn't working out. Too much reliance on secondary and tertiary sources, and there was that strange obsession with the family trees of monarchs.

"Now I'm with the Hoyndite Insurrection, and I'm much happier. Finally, someone who appreciates cyclical deconstructionism! We complete each other."

<scribble, scribble>

<rustling through a sheaf of notes>

<eyes glistening, a furtive touch...>

<cut to black>
You win an Internet Point.

A thing to remember is that the thieves handbook was the only one of the first 4 to not recycle the fighter kits.

That being said, you kits sound better. :)

I still would have kept the scout though.
Point taken. I look forward to reviewing these Kits, nevertheless.

Taarkoth said:
I have to take issue with this. The Hobbit was neither satire nor parody, but rather a love-letter to old English and Norse poems and fairy tales both, with a lot of traditional heroic journey elements. The reason it stars a laid-back landed gentleman and not some strapping young warrior is mostly the fairy-tale elements (many of which feature some unassuming person as a protagonist). Even the tale Of Turin Turambar/The Children of Hurin where he lays out exactly how he sees how the typical Heroic Fantasy style character (which do draw heavily from old pagan heroes) turns out doesn't contain satire. More a sad fondness.
I'm going to argue with you here, being something of a Tolkien scholar myself as a great deal of the humor in The Hobbit is situational. The Heroes Journey may not exist as Campbell lays it out but enough of it was there that 90% of the Hobbit's enjoyment factor comes from the deliberate contrast. A major reason why I couldn't get into the movie is, for me, that the Dwarves are just as completely unheroic and awful at this heroism thing as Bilbo--they're just better at hiding it.

Taarkoth said:
Heist movies! Watch more of them and rip off draw inspiration from them.
I will say our current All-Thief game is working out lovely. I'm drawing from Dishonored for a lot of wonderful locations to rob blind.

Taarkoth said:
Got to keep the filthy peasants out! They might get airs and start wearing the same fashions as the nobs and then how do you tell the important people apart?
Ah, must be a Grey Elf city.

Taarkoth said:
Whether the Middle Ages is a poor fit for professional thieves depends on exactly which part of it one is talking about. The thief the way it's envisaged in D&D heavily relies on large urban settlements of which there weren't a lot of in the early Middle Ages. Late Middle Ages (particularly the Renaissance period) and some of the major city-states in Antiquity (such as Rome or Babylon), are a much better fit. As for harshness of laws, that wasn't anything new to the Medieval period.
My issue primarily boils down to the fact the Thief is a sort of skilled professional who has numerous practiced abilities which, unless one has a lot of walls to climb like Constantinople and a lot of territory to blend into, seems a bit of overkill for the kinds of environment a lot of D&D takes place in. You're right, of course, and the schizoid nature of environments in D&D are part of the fun.

Taarkoth said:
Taxes have always been more or less "give us a portion of the loot or we'll stab you."
To be fair, it's always been balanced by, "better us than the guy over THERE." It only becomes likely to piss people off when the guy overe becomes the one taxing you. We can see how that went over in the Bible plenty of times as well as Roman history. Of course, Romans were smarter than Spartans in they actually DID (grudgingly) learn to intergrate and when they made all of the Italian peninsula Romans--they started the road to Empire.

Taarkoth said:
Likely because it's stating the obvious. Unfortunately, I can understand why the author might have included it. One doesn't have to look very far to see people simultaneously claiming that there's no such thing as objective morality and lambasting someone else for something the first thinks is wrong, all without recognizing the cognitive dissonance in that position.

We live in a philosophically illiterate society.
Point taken.

I guess it is all a matter of taste. Personally, I liked the kits in this book and it is my favorite of the Complete series. On the other hand, I liked the bard book for everything, but the kits (and I despised the Whistler).

The concept of taking wealth from enemies has long predated the existence of written law. IIRC, the effect of law is that one had to do so secretly.
As Shadowrun says, "Steal a hundred dollars and you're a thief, steal a billion and you're a corporation."

Most of my vision of D&D is late mediaeval - 14th-15th century, even into the early modern era. The early mediaeval period has its character, but the eclectic Discworld feel of many actual fantasy settings gives them a bit more technological and social advancement than your average society. Although I've done a course on legal history, the Angevin period of English history seems a little rough-and-ready (although obviously it was the period in which the legal system developed most rapidly; due to Richard I being away on the Crusades the monarch started to delegate the dispensation of justice). I'd say Dragonlance was definitely a gritty 14th century (going by feel rather than with anything to back it up), but Forgotten Realms feels more Tudorbethan, or even Stuart-era, to me; magic might propel a society forward just like gunpowder must have done.

The Tudors made me want to start gaming again - it was the D&D history version of the actual history :D. The world I envisaged as my setting was that very rollicking, romantic, mercantile and exploratory world. I enjoy historical fiction and get a lot of ideas from it - they are caricatures rather than actual scholarship but it gives a bit of dramatic flair to the game, which is what I'm aiming for in entertainment (I'd recommend A N Wilson for some really good, thorough social and political histories of various eras; he's a serious historian but accessible for a general reader). Thieves would have good pickings in town; they'd still be looked at funny in the country, but then for much of history peasant society would be very simple compared to the urban world, and rather close-knit for a thief to really survive very long.
I remember one of the big appeals of 2E (Red Box) Ravenloft was that it decided Ravenloft's "thing" would be it was possessed of Renassiance-level technology. Ravenloft was, for a time, thus the place where you had Natural Philosophers (scientists in all but name), Doctors, and guns which were actually useful. It became something of a running gag in our games that everyone kept a pistol on them or two because while that one shot couldn't be repeated, that extra one or two shots was pretty damn useful.


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I confess, I'm one of those types who'd voluntarily move to Elysium.
My only problem with Elysium is the problem I have with almost all the Upper Planes; unless I missed something, which is always possible, they all seemed to be very rural. All the big cities I remember were in the Lower Planes (hi, Dis!) or otherwise unpleasant to live in (Sigil, Ysgard). What, can't Heaven be urban?


Red-eyed dust bunny
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Chapter 1:Role-Playing Thieves

Thieves are perhaps the most fascinating and diverse class of player-characters in the AD&D® game—or at least they can be, if played properly. The thief has a certain innate, charming flair, which the Player's Handbook describes: "Thieves are people who feel that the world (and everyone in it) somehow owes them a living. They get by day by day, living in the highest style they can afford and doing as little work as possible . . ." This is an accurate description of many thieves, but not all; and there are many exceptions. You will find that the character—that is, the personality—of your thief character will be very important, vital to making the thief a living, breathing person. It makes them more fun to play, too.
One thing I enjoyed about this books were their consistent attempts to help people ease into role-playing. I didn't know much about the "role" part of the game when I first began and these helped me get into the understanding I was performing a role. I will say, however, that I enjoy the description from the Player's Handbook having the piss taken out of it.

"Yes, thieves are lazy. That's why they have ridiculous skills in a wide variety of areas."

Personality, then, is the topic of this chapter. It comes before the chapters of technical information on kits, new abilities and so forth, because we believe that when you are designing a thief character, perhaps even more so than with other classes, personality considerations should come first. Who is this character? Where is he from? Why is he a thief—has he stolen bread crumbs all his life just to survive, or is he an idle fop who moonlights as a burglar just for thrills?
I wonder how many of the latter existed.


Where is the character from? This will have an effect on what sorts of skills the thief may have picked up. City, countryside, and wilderness are all possible settings; or the thief may have been a wanderer all of his life.
Pretty obvious questions but tackle head-on the issues of Rural vs. City thieves.

City: Any place where people gather in large numbers, there will be those who live off the sweat and toil of others. Besides politicians, thieves are often among this group.
Ooo, burn.

A city background will open many possibilities of specialization for your thief. Because a city is a complicated web of many people, each person tends to have more specialized functions. This is true for thieves as well as normal, respectable citizens.
This leads to one of the more complicated suggestions of this book, which is that thieves should specialize in one type of robbery over another. I never quite liked this because I'm happy with Generalist thieves who can sneak around, pick pockets, AND Backstab people.

Note that thieves in cities, especially those who have very specialized skills and abilities, are most likely connected with a thieves' guild; or, if they are not, they will surely run afoul of one sooner or later. If your thief hails from an urban center, be sure to figure out what his relationship to the local thieves' guild (or, in some places, guilds) is.
The Thieves Guilds are the best part of this book and something I've always enjoyed in virtually any game I've participated in. I think one of my earliest favorite groups for a Guild was the the Thieves Guild of Calimport which was the employers of Artemis Entrerei.

In the early Drizzt Do'Urden novels (before they became all Drizzt-all the time), I enjoyed the rather gutteral treatment of the Guild. It was a protection racket, loan business, and numerous other criminal activities but existed in contrast to immense poverty with the Guildmaster living in rather disgusting luxury (he kept a semi-private harem--sharing with his underlings).

RA had the subtlety of a brick wall but you could understand why an organization like it existed. I also admit, to a certain extent, Artemis informed many of my later characters--the perfect professional thieves who take pride in their work. Of course, Artemis was primarily a fighter but that doesn't mean much.

Countryside: A few thieves are able to make a living in a single populated, rural area. They tend to be quite different from their city-dwelling cousins—pickpocketing, for instance, is probably not going to be practiced much without the shelter and anonymity of the urban crowds. Extortion, banditry, burglary, and various similar thefts are more typical means of making a living from the peasants and their rulers in the countryside. Fences also may work the countryside, selling wares that may have been stolen in distant cities. Thieves' guilds often have an active hand in populated rural regions, though it is not as firm as in the cities.
Nothing I really disagree with, though this doesn't really present much. I also am surprised that they assume pick-pocketing is less likely to do much good in the countryside than burglary for instance. I am, however, inclined to think that country-dwellers are more likely to involve high-noon showdowns for some reason.

Crossbows at the OK Corral!

Wilderness: Thieves are, by definition, those who garner their living from others, so few are to be found making their permanent abode in the wilderness, far from human settlement. Those who do are usually bandits, with a stronghold set up somewhere secure, from which they can make raids on nearby settlements or trade routes. In AD&D fantasy settings, there are also innumerable possibilities for thieves who survive by taking liberties in their relationships with the local non-humans.
*Simpsons quote* "You're just encouraging hate!"

A great many demihuman thieves originally hail from a wilderness setting, although they do not necessarily fit the "bandit" mold common among humans. (See the section on demihumans, below, for more information.)
Can elves be thieves? Aren't they naturally devoid of property because of their awesome communist libertarianism?

Wandering: Finally, some thieves have never called any place "home." They travel town and village, city and wilderness, wherever they think fortune might grant them better opportunities. Charlatans, those who make their living by duping others with all sorts of fraud, are often wanderers: They will stay in one place as long as there's money to be made, but they hope to be long gone, preying on others' gullibility, before their scams are uncovered.
Those bastard Charlatans have infected this book too! Stupid Bards!


Shadow Mage
Validated User
"Yes, thieves are lazy. That's why they have ridiculous skills in a wide variety of areas."
But look at how much effort it takes to be lazy! I mean, all the work to *learn* the variety of skills they have...

Can elves be thieves? Aren't they naturally devoid of property because of their awesome communist libertarianism?
Of course Elves can be thieves. And the best thieves around, obviously. Because Elves.
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