Monday, 12 December 2011

Like A (Stumbling) Thief in the Dark

So this weekend I kicked off a new campaign using Matt Finch's Tomb of the Iron God as the starting adventure. Last year it was recommended to me and it definitely delivered on the old school funhouse-plus-meaningful exploration front. My players are fellow psychology students and researchers, seasoned online gamers all.

No wall sconces down here...
Because of the tactical mindset, one issue came up during play that I'd like some feedback on. My wife played a rogue character, as she'd been wanting to do ever since the RPG bug hit our household. But in practice, a rogue/thief/whatever under the Basic D&D or OD&D dispensation is very limited as a dungeon scout explorer. With race-as-class, a human thief can have no infravision, and sneaking around a dungeon with a shiny light is not very practical.

Of course, in race-plus-class systems like AD&D this is one big reason to take a nonhuman thief (plus all the racial skill bonuses) and in thiefless systems like true OD&D it's a non-issue.

So, have any players or DMs come up with creative solutions to let the thief-type take point in a dark, dark dungeon?

10 comments:

  1. Man, I thought I'd heard every argument for what's wrong with the B/X thief in the last year and half. I've never really thought about it in our current campaign, but we always keep our thief/assassin in the back ranks anyway, rarely on point, and pull them forward when we need a specific thieving task done (pick locks, remove traps,etc.).

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  2. personally, I figure any dungeon region inhabited by humanoid monsters is lit up. Sure, goblins can see in the dark... but they prefer to have actual light sources if they can. Ergo, thieves can sneak around areas inhabited by fellow humanoids, allowing them to engage in actual thievery!

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  3. I too never considered the thief as a scout, more of a specialist, and a fragile one at that. Recon was left to the elves (in woods) and dwarves (in tunnels). Good observation though, I just had never thought about why we did so. Perhaps subconsciously, it was because of this very reasoning?

    Thanks for pointing this out,
    TB

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  4. I've always used illumination where the "dungeon" is a habitation. I like to use different types of light sources to give character to different areas. & over the last 10 years I've been using light gradients/overlap to modify HiSM rolls... ala Thief: Dark Project.

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  5. I think race-as-class is the #1 reason that people who wanted to switch to AD&D, did.

    If you want a recon scout, B/X thieves are simply not well-suited. I prefer not to use the "always lit" idea, although some dungeons will be so if inhabited by normal humans for some reason.

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  6. You could always switch in some sort of night vision for one of the other thief skills. If it disturbs you to allow this for humans, it could be rationalised as the thief training themselves to depend less on sight and more on their other senses, like the clich├ęd blind kung fu master.

    Using something like the customisable thief in Lamentations of the Flame Princess allows this kind of thing.

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  7. re blind thieves: bldgblog had a great post a year ago or more about how, in the nights before widespread artificial light, whole villages would run "games" of running around in the dark, partly for disaster preparation. You don't have to go all wuxia on it, just let the thief operate normally in low light and at a much reduced penalty in total darkness. Could be a great roleplaying session too - describing what the PCs can hear and feel, not see.

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  9. You could use the "hear noises" thief ability as his capacity to use his other senses in lieu of sight. Of course, he still would need a light source to open locks/remove traps, but so would a non-human : infravision won't help him here either if you play infravision "by the book" (it detects body-heat, not the tiny details of a mechanism...)

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  10. Thanks everyone for your ideas! I'll have to think them over and see which ones I want to incorporate into my game.

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