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

Crowqueen

Corvus Sapiens
RPGnet Member
Validated User
For myself, I didn't realize that "Gypsies" still existed in the modern world until sometime in the mid 90's. Up until college, I had no conception that they continued to exist outside of old movies and ren-faire shtick.
It's still a very much alive subculture over here too, though 'travellers' in Britain are slightly different to what we think of when we see gypsies in fantasy (there's a couple of settled families in our village; while they retain slightly different customs and values to the majority population - they can be particularly conservative when it comes to attitudes towards women - they are not outwardly distinguishable so I only realised I had a traveller co-worker when I actively started getting to know her). Awkwardly enough, I was told a number of years ago by someone I can trust to be sensitive - she's now a university professor and has the deep commitment to social justice of, say, Something Else - that it was OK to use the word 'Gypsy' as a descriptor, but understand it's also used as a slur, and things could have changed in the mean time (in fact in my case moving to a very rural community - I was more used to suburbia when growing up - was when I first became more aware of the issues).

It is a really touchy subject in society at the moment, with antagonisms on both sides of the fence and the existence of New Age travellers (essentially, people who have dropped out of society of their own accord rather than been part of a specific 'ethnicity') also confusing the picture. Theoretically designated sites for those still nomadic should be available but they never are, which creates the big problems that cause most of the friction.

As for the current book - enjoying DDG's review, particularly because I'm playing a thief with the Spy kit while my friend was on holiday (it was my turn to play someone else's character as well as my own, and a second-level mage can't exactly do an awful lot in combat). Unfortunately I took a gamble and shot into melee...and hit the fighter in the back with IIRC a critical hit. (Hey! I thought I could do it!)

Of course, now the thief is having to earn back the respect and trust of his comrades, including sacrificing treasure that could have been useful to him. He's not quite James Bond...yet.
 

DoctorDogGirl

New member
Banned
On a completely unrelated note, I'm currently working at length on my YA Steampunk novel. The confusion about what constitutes the genre in the main forum kind of illustrates that a lot of people have very different ideas about what constitutes an appropriate representation of the genre.

I'm also talking with a lot of fellow authors about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate for the YA genre. You wouldn't think kids killing other kids would be appropriate but it's fine in The Hunger Games while no one can swear at all. Sometimes, also, the story wants to be written in a way you can't like one of my characters is the son of a prostitute but you can't exactly say that.

OR CAN YOU?

Dum Dum Dum.

Demihumans
Now onto the Demihuman suggestions!

Dwarf

Many dwarven thieves are not stealers, as such; but rather experts in mechanical things, such as locks, traps and so on, that are used to thwart thieves. The dwarven thief, then, is often an installer of such items, or an advisor on security matters. And, naturally, knowledge of how to put something together is also useful for taking it apart . . . The kit most favored by dwarven thieves is, naturally, the troubleshooter. Here he can make use of his knowledge and skills without engaging in the dishonorable activity of genuine theft. If you want to check how secure your jewels actually are, or whether your prison is in fact inescapable, a dwarven troubleshooter is probably the best way to find out.
Now, see, here is the problem I have with the reverse of the "Always Chaotic Evil" problem. People talk about the fact that orcs should be able to be good or not, but they rarely pay much attention to the idea that Dwarves and Elves are supposed to be mostly good. Here, they take the idea seriously but if there's no dwarven thieves--why the hell do they have such extreme security systems? Is it to solely keep out those damn dirty humans?

Bounty hunters also are found in the ranks of dwarven thieves. They may serve the kings under the mountains, bringing back scoundrels and criminals who have somehow escaped dwarven justice—and such characters are the only bounty hunters permitted to be of lawful alignment. Other dwarven bounty hunters specialize as repossessors. They use the full range of thieves' skills to recover stolen items; and they are careful to take nothing else, thereby keeping their honor and reputation impeccable.
Again, who exactly are the Bounty Hunters chasing if there's no thieves? Likewise, I'm stunned that the best the book could come up for Dwarven Thief was "Repo Man." While the appeal of a reality show starring a Dwarven Bounty Hunter is awesome--I'm going to say that I preferred the "Dwarven Commoner" origin of Dragon Age: Origins. The addition of the Casteless fit into what 2E talked about Dwarves and made them more interesting to me.

It may be dangerous to call either of these sorts of dwarves a thief—a grave insult in dwarven culture, in which tradition absolutely prohibits one dwarf from stealing from another. Theft within a dwarven community is punishable by banishment at the very least, and sometimes death.
We totally needed this in the Complete Book of Dwarves. "Dwarves do not steal from one another, create the best architecture, have the best beer, are the best warriors, and do not practice magic but have something EVEN BETTER." Really, the books SHOULD have racial posturing every page.

The prohibition does not extend to stealing from other races, however (especially goblins), but stealing is still less than honorable and a known thief is usually viewed with caution and suspicion by his neighbors. Dwarven thieves living outside the dwarven world either became tired of that suspicion, or were expelled from their homes for theft or another transgression. They still tend to retain a great deal of honor and the professional attitude characteristic of their race; a former criminal may even have learned from his crimes and youthful excesses, and could be a very reliable companion. A very dangerous few, however, have abandoned their racial legacy, and become treacherous and unpredictable. Any dwarf found in a thieves' guild can be assumed to be an outcast from dwarven society.
It's not theft if the other party is dead, then it's spoils of war my friend. Also, I love the fact dwarves have a "racial legacy" of non-stealing. Anyway, part of the reason why I loved the Carta and Outcasts was because it fits perfectly as the Dark Side of Dwarves defining everything around Honor as well as family. If your great-great-great ancestor did something terrible *YOU* would be marked for it. Likewise, when you deprive people of any chance of doing a fair trade--of course, they'll turn to crime and begging because that's all that's left.

It also made dwarf culture more INTERESTING.

Elf

Elven thieves are sometimes characterized as eavesdroppers or spies. Elven culture has shown relatively little interest in personal, material property; with their incredibly long lifespans, they are more aware than most of the transitory nature of things.
Which is totally why they build houses, cities, and artifacts to last thousands of years. I do like the stereotype, however, that elves treasure information more than they cherish material possessions.

But while material things come and go, knowledge is eternal, and it is what the elven thief covets above all. With their higher chances for finding secret doors, and superior senses in general, elves are excellent at gathering information.
This seems more like a Halfling quality than an Elf. Halflings gather gossip, after all, and are very good at sneaking around. Elves, however, are very likely to consider the vast majority of information cultivated from humans excessively trivial and possessed of a built-in shelflife. After all, how important is the fact the King has a new mistress when it's likely to change in a few years?

Of the various thief kits, they are most likely to become spies. An elf raised in a larger human community might be inclined to take the investigator kit, but this is a rare situation.
Notably, in the notoriously anit-Demihuman Ravenloft there was Alanik Ray the Elf Investigator--and Sherlock Holmes' Expy.

The adventurer kit is also popular, especially for the elven thief who wishes to traverse the world in search of exotic knowledge. (Note that multi-class thieves cannot take a kit, however.)
Oh that's BS! They should be so able to!

Elves are careful with preparations; they can have patience that amazes other races. They like to do research before a mission is undertaken, whether it be a relatively simple burglary or a dive into a deep dungeon to track some precious artifact. Because of their heritage, elves are more likely than other thieves to recognize the value of archaic or obscure items, such as books and artwork. (If you are using the nonweapon proficiency system, you might let an elf check information gathering or a similar proficiency to identify or estimate the value of such an object.) An elf is also more likely to know where to fence the item—although he would probably want to keep it for himself.
Elves are so good, they get Appraising for free!

When elves do desire material goods, they are sure to be beautiful and innovative ones. Elves take a special interest in items that are long-lasting and of intellectual value (art, rare books, etc.).
You know, what's valuable to a lot of races.

Though enthralled by knowledge, elves are not overly secretive. They find information exciting, and may delight in sharing it with their friends.
Wow, they'd be ****y spies.

Finally, elves are dependable. You can usually expect an elf to behave as a professional (though he might not be recognized as such) or a reliable guildsman (though elves prefer to be independent of such organizations).
Another reason they'd be crap spies.
 
Last edited:

Silvercat Moonpaw

Quadruped Transhuman
Validated User
Now, see, here is the problem I have with the reverse of the "Always Chaotic Evil" problem. People talk about the fact that orcs should be able to be good or not, but they rarely pay much attention to the idea that Dwarves and Elves are supposed to be mostly good.
I think it's an assumption that anyone who gets to be Good automatically has enough will to freely choose evil, whereas "Always Evil" implies no free will which can get uncomfortable.

Or maybe that's just me.
 

DoctorDogGirl

New member
Banned
I think it's an assumption that anyone who gets to be Good automatically has enough will to freely choose evil, whereas "Always Evil" implies no free will which can get uncomfortable.

Or maybe that's just me.
That's true. Still, it occurs to me that if you want to seriously play the Alignment spectrum it'd be interesting for humans to note there's other races instinctively drawn to cooperation, honor, and general good behavior while they can do incredibly nice things or become horrible barbarians. Yes, reality is racist and you're not the Important Race!

Nah, I'd still hate elves in that spectrum.
 

DoctorDogGirl

New member
Banned
Okay, part two of the Demihumans stuff.

Gnome

"Prankster" and "thrillseeker" are words that best describe the gnomish thief. He takes delight in stealing, not out of greed but because it is like an exciting game—a trial of puzzles and challenges, with a valuable prize if you succeed. Thievery is recreation rather than a profession—but the reader knows well how devoted and involved people can become with their games and recreation!
I'd love to see where these particular gnomes ever existed in fiction, I really would. There's not that many gnomes in fiction to begin with so the idea of them being garish jesters, illusionists, and more really needed a R.A. Salvatore series to talk about.

Gnomes are fond of burglary, though wall-climbing is difficult on account of their small stature. They may be infallible "box-men" (experts at lock-opening and trapdisarmament), having technical expertise comparable to dwarves', but being more willing to put it to larcenous use. Some have compared gnomish thieves to pack rats: Show one something shiny and interesting, and he'll likely be so overcome by curiosity that he'll drop everything in eagerness to discover a way to put the object of interest in his own little paws. Bulky treasures, such as coins or awkward items that must be fenced, are avoided by gnomes. They are collectors, hobbyists who like to admire their trophies: gems, jewelry and (perhaps favorite of all) fascinating magical devices.
So gnomes are just Chaotic Dwarves huh? Good to know.

Also, gnomes love to put their magic items to clever use. They delight more than any other race in practical jokes. They may make themselves a nuisance to fellow adventurers and thieving partners; but, though embarrassing or amusing, such pranks are harmless. And at heart, a gnome, well-treated, is a most loyal and reliable adventuring companion.
And people wonder why no one ever took the Gnomes seriously? That and, well, the charges of Anti-Semitism.

Half-elf

Half-elves live between two worlds—and perhaps this gives them a special affinity for thievery, taking the best that both have to offer. Some half-elves favor the world of one parent or the other, if raised and accepted by that parent's society. But many more are wanderers, never quite feeling at home or accepted in either society.
I feel bad that Tanis Half-Elven is pretty much the embodiment of Half-Elves. He basically took the stereotypical wangst of Half-Orcs and turned it up to the 11. "I'm so horrible and disgusting for my vile human heritage." Which, given his background, you'd not blame him. Still, I much prefer Eberron or Arcanum's take on Half-Elves as--"People ridiculously attractive to both races and naturally successful."

They make perfect Swindlers!

By seeing and understanding two diverse cultural viewpoints, half-elves are acutely aware of peoples' differences in point of view—and how to capitalize on those differences. This helps develop a well-honed ability to shade the truth and, combined with the elven affinity for knowledge, makes half-elves excellent swindlers. Targets are sometimes further impressed by a half-elf's exotic appearance (pointed ears, lithe build, and so forth).
Huh.

I always made it so the exoticism of humans and elves went both waves. Elves, naturally, looked a bit on the short side and were extremely flat. Humans, by contrast, have muscles and curves which elves find STRANGELY ATTRACTIVE. It's their dark little secret, they can't get enough of us.

Many half-elves are loners and wanderers, which is not conducive to guild affiliation. The ties of a half-elf thief to a guild are loose, at best, unless the character has been raised in the guild structure and well-indoctrinated into its mentality.
So are they ridiculously attractive and alluring to the community or loners?

Halfling

Sometimes portrayed as consummate burglars, halfling thieves are really motivated by curiosity. The average halfling is content to lead a simple, safe, comfortable life. But the thief longs to see and experience the world beyond the hills and burrows of his home shire.
Wow, they aren't even hiding the influences are they?

"Adventurer" is probably still too strong a word, for even halfling thieves have their race's characteristic shy caution, plus a healthy dislike for danger, discomfort, and uncertainty. Halflings make careful preparations whenever possible, and use their skills of self-concealment liberally. Careful scouting is always a must, and frontal assaults (whether in combat or robbery) anathema.
You could also argue that many halflings aren't so blessed as Bilbo Baggins and need to MAKE the money necessary for their rich Hobbit holes.

Many halflings have remarkably little interest in money, which can be burdensome (especially for a small person). They'll take a good amount of loot, certainly—at least enough for a pleasant period of ease and comfort before work is made mandatory—but they are hardly motivated by greed.
Seinfeld Conversation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xen6Qont0s

"It's actually the very definition of greed."

[Of great puzzlement to sages is the question: Where do halflings get their extraordinary talent for thieves' skills? There is precious little locksmithing or metalwork found in their culture, and thievery amongst the halflings themselves is virtually unheard of—yet the halfling thief has an amazing knack for almost all thieves' skills. Coupling this knack and the attitudes just described, plus a fierce loyalty for their friends, the halfling thief is understandably in high demand for adventuring expeditions.
Probably because they have small delicate hands, natural trustworthiness, and perhaps agility?

Other Nonhuman Races

As the Dungeon Master's Guide mentions (p. 15), it is possible to design new character races for your campaign. Some of these characters likely will end up joining the thief class. The races most commonly adapted for characters are humanoid—ogres, orcs, and half-breeds of those races; goblins, kobolds, and possibly even hobgoblins or bugbears. As thieves, these characters favor the kits of highwaymen (that is, bandits) and thugs— they prefer armed robbery, where no great deal of finesse, delicacy, or dexterity is required.
When you read stuff like this, you have to assume Gruumsh was just being an asshole when he designed his race and everyone else followed suit.

"I'm not onboard with this plan. I'm going to make a plague on other races so we can get back to just lounging our celestial asses off."

Demihumans, Cities and Guilds

The entries above describe demihumans who were raised among their own kind, and have picked up most of their race's cultural trappings. Some demihumans, however, are found in other settings, such as human cities. Most such demihumans still originally lived among their own people, but some campaigns may include second- or even thirdgeneration displaced demihumans. This particularly happens in large cities, where there may be ghettoes of demihumans, or where thieves' guilds have purposely raised demihumans in their midst to take advantage of their races' special abilities and benefits, while suppressing natural and cultural inclinations (dwarven honor, halfling peacefulness, half-elven wanderlust, and so on).
Dwarves: Eat lots of pasta, big on honor, big on family, and will make you sleep with the fishes.

Elves: Fresh off the boats from Evermeet, they have a chip on their shoulder and get annoyed when people assume they're friendly because of their accents. Mostly they live in South Waterdeep.

Gnomes: Corsican, not Sicilian.

Halflings: I got nothing.

Ghetto-born demihumans undoubtedly still exhibit some stamp of their "homeland," but the tendencies are weaker. In fact, a guild-raised demihuman's personality might hardly be recognized for what it is, if the conditioning was done well. (There could even be such oddities as a claustrophobic dwarf or a repressed elf.) Interesting role-playing could arise from an alienated, city-born demihuman thief breaking away from the guild that was the only parent he knew, and trying to find himself in the unfamiliar lands of his ancestor
I can't decide whether this is unintentionally offensive or so audacious as to be art. Racial segregation and organized crime for Demihumans! BRILLIANT!
 
Last edited:

Crowqueen

Corvus Sapiens
RPGnet Member
Validated User
On a completely unrelated note, I'm currently working at length on my YA Steampunk novel. The confusion about what constitutes the genre in the main forum kind of illustrates that a lot of people have very different ideas about what constitutes an appropriate representation of the genre.

I'm also talking with a lot of fellow authors about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate for the YA genre. You wouldn't think kids killing other kids would be appropriate but it's fine in The Hunger Games while no one can swear at all. Sometimes, also, the story wants to be written in a way you can't like one of my characters is the son of a prostitute but you can't exactly say that.

OR CAN YOU?

Dum Dum Dum.
Kids are more knowledgeable than you might think. Personally, if writing for teenagers, I'd play it safe (particularly if you're planning to find a professional publisher), even if it makes the story a bit bloodless, but The Hunger Games shows how much you can get away with. I write for adults and I was shocked by some of THG. You can perhaps imply a connection with the character's mother, and use euphemism to convey what it might mean. It was done well with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, where it was obvious to the reader where the story was set but obscured through the mind of an uncomprehending child. Straight out suggesting she's a prostitute is less interesting to the reader, perhaps, than slowly revealing what that means and making the character come to some sort of realisation about their mother's string of male companions and the major epiphany that is going to hit them about who their own father is. (That's also the sort of thing that I would make the subject of a whole book, rather than just a piece of background detail to an adventure story; for an adult it could be background but through the perspective of a teenager understanding their own sexuality, it could be a powerful motif. Remember Jon Snow, who refused to have sex because he was uncomfortable about possible conception and the life of the subsequent child as a bastard.)

Now onto the Demihuman suggestions!

Now, see, here is the problem I have with the reverse of the "Always Chaotic Evil" problem. People talk about the fact that orcs should be able to be good or not, but they rarely pay much attention to the idea that Dwarves and Elves are supposed to be mostly good. Here, they take the idea seriously but if there's no dwarven thieves--why the hell do they have such extreme security systems? Is it to solely keep out those damn dirty humans?
Or other marauders from the underdark. I quite like the idea of mentality about crime; perhaps dwarves heavily discourage it through other means, and have a cultural taboo against it; it doesn't have to be innate, rather the product of close-knit living. Reading around the subject of dwarves, they take casting someone out as serious business, and adaptation to survive in a hostile environment means that there will be less of the chaotic urbanisation of humankind and more of the rigid fossilisation of society into situations where thievery is catastrophic for social order. This also fits, not with an Always Good race, but a Mostly Lawful one.

Again, who exactly are the Bounty Hunters chasing if there's no thieves? Likewise, I'm stunned that the best the book could come up for Dwarven Thief was "Repo Man." While the appeal of a reality show starring a Dwarven Bounty Hunter is awesome--I'm going to say that I preferred the "Dwarven Commoner" origin of Dragon Age: Origins. The addition of the Casteless fit into what 2E talked about Dwarves and made them more interesting to me.
Renegades (see above). When someone does go rogue, they need to be tracked down. Also, adventuring dwarves might offer their services in a productive manner to humankind or other communities.

Which is totally why they build houses, cities, and artifacts to last thousands of years. I do like the stereotype, however, that elves treasure information more than they cherish material possessions.
To an elf, material possessions are probably transient, but knowledge is power.

This seems more like a Halfling quality than an Elf. Halflings gather gossip, after all, and are very good at sneaking around. Elves, however, are very likely to consider the vast majority of information cultivated from humans excessively trivial and possessed of a built-in shelflife. After all, how important is the fact the King has a new mistress when it's likely to change in a few years?
Again, power. Diplomatic negotiations might be tomorrow, and knowing that, the elf queen might have leverage over the king by making friends with the mistress or even, if it's not common knowledge, subtly blackmail the humans. I ran an elf noble as the PCs' patron in my last 2e FR game; he was heavily invested in the concerns of his large estate, but secretly exploring psionics and hoping to take back Myth Drannor in the name of the Sun Elves to provide a bolthole for elves on Faerun and as a rival power to Evermeet. Current affairs concerned him a great deal even though to him they were merely stepping stones on the way to his own position as an international potentate.

(I'm riffing here on possibilities, not providing definitive answers.)
 

Crowqueen

Corvus Sapiens
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I can't decide whether this is unintentionally offensive or so audacious as to be art. Racial segregation and organized crime for Demihumans! BRILLIANT!
That particular quote strikes me as more descriptive of what happens when you raise someone in different circumstances to those that they experience in their homelands.

I've been an expat who went 'native' rather than living in a specific enclave - and the first few months adjusting to the new expectations of the people around me were very difficult. People from urban environments find it difficult to adjust to living in the country (they have the theme park version in their heads and object to being woken by a cockerel at 5 am, for instance; it's happened here more than once with a neighbour's birds). So what this is saying is that a city-born elf would find it rather hard visiting Evermeet and fitting in with their urban attitudes - I don't think that's a terribly inappropriate idea.
 
Last edited:

DoctorDogGirl

New member
Banned
Crowqueen said:
Kids are more knowledgeable than you might think. Personally, if writing for teenagers, I'd play it safe (particularly if you're planning to find a professional publisher), even if it makes the story a bit bloodless, but The Hunger Games shows how much you can get away with. I write for adults and I was shocked by some of THG. You can perhaps imply a connection with the character's mother, and use euphemism to convey what it might mean. It was done well with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, where it was obvious to the reader where the story was set but obscured through the mind of an uncomprehending child. Straight out suggesting she's a prostitute is less interesting to the reader, perhaps, than slowly revealing what that means and making the character come to some sort of realisation about their mother's string of male companions and the major epiphany that is going to hit them about who their own father is. (That's also the sort of thing that I would make the subject of a whole book, rather than just a piece of background detail to an adventure story; for an adult it could be background but through the perspective of a teenager understanding their own sexuality, it could be a powerful motif. Remember Jon Snow, who refused to have sex because he was uncomfortable about possible conception and the life of the subsequent child as a bastard.)
Thanks, Crowqueen. Your advice was really helpful.

In this story, I actually decided to do something different as I'd used euphemisms and substitutions for the term prostitute throughout the book while letting it be known the term I used ("like Ed Greenwood's Festhall") related to something bad. At the end, however, I actually reveal it's NOT prostitution but acting--which is a shameful disgusting profession in the pseudo-Victorian society.

Which actually did a decent job of making the point I was trying to make (that condemnation of specific professions and people is arbitrary in this society) while also making a good job for adults reading the book. I enjoy having moments of serendipity like this.

Crowqueen said:
Or other marauders from the underdark. I quite like the idea of mentality about crime; perhaps dwarves heavily discourage it through other means, and have a cultural taboo against it; it doesn't have to be innate, rather the product of close-knit living. Reading around the subject of dwarves, they take casting someone out as serious business, and adaptation to survive in a hostile environment means that there will be less of the chaotic urbanisation of humankind and more of the rigid fossilisation of society into situations where thievery is catastrophic for social order. This also fits, not with an Always Good race, but a Mostly Lawful one.
I actually made use of Dragonlance's Gully Dwarves for this sort of thing, actually. Instead of just using casteless, I made it so that dwarves really did have an ethnic system of oppression going on. I never much cared for their treatment in the Dragonlance books (which came off as too much as playing off stereotypes of mental conditions) but the idea there's this entire subrace of Dwarves treated like garbage appealed to me.

Which is why, for 4E Dragonlance, my next character is the Gully Dwarf wizard!

Crowqueen said:
Renegades (see above). When someone does go rogue, they need to be tracked down. Also, adventuring dwarves might offer their services in a productive manner to humankind or other communities.
Lord Soth was meant to be Dragonlance's version of Darth Vader per Margeret Weiss, so it's funny to imagine him looking down at a armor-covered Dwarf who stands there unterrified.

"I want Tanis Half-Elven alive, NO INCINERATIONS."

"As you wish."

Crowqueen said:
That particular quote strikes me as more descriptive of what happens when you raise someone in different circumstances to those that they experience in their homelands.

I've been an expat who went 'native' rather than living in a specific enclave - and the first few months adjusting to the new expectations of the people around me were very difficult. People from urban environments find it difficult to adjust to living in the country (they have the theme park version in their heads and object to being woken by a cockerel at 5 am, for instance; it's happened here more than once with a neighbour's birds). So what this is saying is that a city-born elf would find it rather hard visiting Evermeet and fitting in with their urban attitudes - I don't think that's a terribly inappropriate idea.
Good point.
 
Last edited:

DoctorDogGirl

New member
Banned
Code of the Professional

Do you think that a city, an army, or bandits, or thieves, or any other group that
attempted any action in common, could accomplish anything if they wronged one
another?

--Plato's Republic, Book I
I remember when I thought White Wolf doing random quotes from literature was sophisticated. Now, seeing a quote from Plato in a leather-bound D&D volume is kind of just crass. Still, it nicely summarizes why I've never quite liked the "Evil people constantly betray each other" matter. I mean, it works sometimes--the mafia is more or less one long string of betrayals from start to finish.

Still, I've always liked the 2E Player's Handbook that said (and I paraphrase), nothing keeps the LG innkeeper from being an asshole and the CE Necromancer at the fireplace from being friendly. It's part of what I liked about Dragonlance's Towers of High Sorcery because they subvert that by making it so the three gods of magic were more loyal to each other than Good/Neutral/Evil and their followers reflected that.

Sadly, I think Thieves being the exemplars of non-betrayal is kind of wrong-headed. As the old Carmen Sandiego gameshow (on PBS) used to always have the Thieves say some variant of when they revealed Carmen's location: "Honor amongst thieves? Surely, you jest. If I'm going down, I'm taking Carmen with me."

The only people my thieves robbed more often than their fellow thieves was Evil Noblemen.

One of the things that distinguishes a "professional" thief from the more common, vulgar variety is his understanding, like Plato's, of the delicate balance of justice that even thieves must maintain among themselves to be successful.

Many thieves wish to be regarded as professionals. It is a privileged status, indicating success and the respect of the underworld. It can be an asset for business, bringing more and more lucrative jobs. Even in places not claimed as territory by guilds, there are circles of professional thieves, form the elite of the underworld.
I actually had a good deal of fun with this when I played Iron Kingdoms and my character of Whisper. Whisper was a thief who spent years studying how to crack safes, pick-pockets, follow people without being seen, disguises, and generally devoted himself to thievery like one might treat oneself to being a master painter.

And other Thieves thought he was insane.

The most basic qualification of a professional is that he is recognized as such by other professionals. This recognition is not easy to gain. A thief must build a reputation for excellence, reliability, and honor among his business partners. A would-be professional also needs to hang out in the "right spots", taverns and such establishments, particular places where the professional clique gathers. There they relax, share information, and make contacts and arrangements for professional cooperation with other thieves.
Who knew the Thieves had cliques.

Attitude is the first element to be adopted by the aspiring professional. The professional attitude says thieving is a business, and should be conducted as neither more nor less than one. The professional is not contemptuous of his victims; they simply failed to protect their property adequately, and suffered the economic consequences. Professionals develop an unwritten code of conduct, guidelines for behavior. Its exact contents vary from place to place; the only universal rule seems to be the prohibition of "squealing." A typical "code" is as follows, with its elements listed in order of importance:
This is an interesting attitude to adopt and reminds me, again, of Layer Cake where this entire idea was deconstructed. However, another conversation it reminds me of was some "Real life Yakuza play Yakuza." Basically, they talking about how low-level enforcers stayed that way forever (and the Protagonist looked like one while acting like an executive) while executives cultivated an air of sophistication despite being in the exact same business.

1. A professional thief does not "squeal": If captures by authorities in the course or as a consequence of a job, he must not reveal the identities of his partners, fences, informants, or other professional contacts.

2. A professional thief will honestly report how much money or valuables are taken in
a job; he will not "burn" his partners.

3. A mob of professional thieves will share their score equally among themselves, or
according to the contribution of each to the job, arranged and agreed upon beforehand.
Note, so far, how the Code of the Professional benefits the thieves on top.

4. A professional thief will share some of his earnings with other professional thieves who have been incarcerated (to help pay fines, bribe officials, etc.).

5. If a professional thief has valuable information (e.g., attractive targets, location of
traps, and the activities of the town watch), he will share it with other professionals.


6. Professional thieves will help one another, even in spite of personal differences or
enmity between them.
I'm calling BS on 5 and think this entire code is probably something older thieves look down on. Then again, much like the Pirates Code, I imagine they're more like guidelines.

In the worst situation—say, a thief burns his partners, squeals on them, and then skips town for some foreign port—the offending thief could not only be expect his professional reputation to be ruined, but he had better keep an eye over his shoulder, watching for assassins and bounty hunters hired by his former associates, or by their friends or families.

On the other hand, there are considerable benefits for the thief who adheres to the code. He will gain the respect and trust of his associates. He is not immune from dishonorable thieves, who may try to burn him or squeal on him; but he will have the support and approval of others in exacting revenge on those who wrong him. Also, if he is captured and imprisoned by authorities, he can expect the privilege of the fix; the guild contacts (or less formal contacts) may arrange his release through bribes or favors. Even if the professional does not have access to the money needed, other thieves, knowing that he'd do the same for them, will pitch in until the necessary amount has been gathered.
Ah, the joys of the Mob.
 
Top Bottom