Streamlining Thief Skills

Last week we started talking some about how Mazes & Perils Basic aims to streamline one of the crunchiest parts of the rules system — Saving Throws. There were a bunch of Saves, as you might recall from those early versions of D&D. Newer versions decided to smooth that rough edge over a bit and we decided that was a good idea.

But one of the unexpected benefits to simplifying the system was streamlining how the Thief worked, which was always a bit of a clunky spot for me.

Thief Skills (Old Way)

The Thief in Mazes & Perils Deluxe, had a set of skills that, always hit me a little bit like Liam Neeson in Taken. “But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you…” The YOU in this case being Dungeon Masters the world over wondering how to trip up the thief in the party. 🙂

These skills were:

  • Climb & Scale
  • Find/Disable Traps
  • Hide
  • Move Silently
  • Pick Locks
  • Pick Pockets

Each of these was a percentage-based skill where the odds went up from a minimal number at Level 1 to a 1 in 10 or 1 in 8 chance of failure at level 12.

Though I love having a nice set of dice handy, I always felt like rolling something other than the good old d20 was one more step to pull me out of the action in the game and make me think about how a particular mechanic worked again.

Thief Skills (New Way)

So… first thing you’ll notice is that there ARE NO THIEF SKILLS. The Thief uses Dexterity as his or her primary attribute, and that gets used to see if a particular action actually happens or not.

Let’s say we have a master Thief with a Dexterity of 18. That gives that character a +2 modifier. If the character tries to climb a wall, now it’s a Dex “stat check” or “ability check.” Roll 1d20, adding your bonus for the applicable stat (+2 in this case), and try to beat the difficulty. If it’s easy, it’s low like a 10 or 12. If it’s difficult, it’s 19 or 20 or higher.

Thankfully, our Thief has the class ability to roll such checks at an Advantage! So roll two times, take the higher roll, and then add the +2 bonus at the end. That makes it a bit easier.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This Thief has a Dex of 18 – what can he or she do to raise that at higher levels and improve the odds?

  • Every time the Thief levels up he can see if it goes up. Once again, the Thief is at an Advantage for that, so should the player roll a 19 or 20, it goes up by 1. An ability score of 19 grants a +3 and a 20 or greater grants a +4, so every little bit helps.
  • Thieves Tools will help with things like picking locks, where they grant a bonus of +1.
  • Ropes and climbing gear should help with treacherous climbs as well, granting the odd bonus.
  • And don’t overlook the application of potions, scrolls, or good old magic items.

There are plenty of ways as a character rises through the ranks to make their skills that much more formidable in the field.

Plus, a Dex of 18 right off the bat would be unusual! In my experience (and a dice curse), there’s usually a little more room for growth when creating characters. 🙂

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