House Rules for Thief Skills

This thread happened a year ago on the subject of thief skills:

I found the thread fascinating and made some contributions to it at the time. My thoughts and house rules on the matter have changed a bit since then and I’d like to share them with the community.

Goals I had in mind when tweaking my house rules:

  1. to keep the existing thief skills table intact
  2. to keep all my house rules for thief skills on one, easy to read page
  3. to keep any changes as simple and minimal as possible
  4. to improve the chance of success for low-level thieves to the point that it is in the general range of other class’s abilities (ex: 1st level fighters hit orcs on a 13+, 1st level clerics turn skeletons on a 10+, etc.)

Open Locks
Codify the complexity of a lock and assume that the number on the thieves’ skill chart is applied against a high quality lock.
Common lock: +8
Good quality lock: +4
High quality lock: +0

Find Traps
Make this skill operate passively. If actively searching, the character gains a +6 bonus (this is modeled after the keen eyes ability of elves). Essentially, a thief gets up to two chances to find a trap… a passive chance (rolled by the Judge) and an active chance (if the player declares a search).

Remove Traps
Codify the complexity of the trap and assume that the number on the thieves’ skill chart is applied against a very complex trap.
Basic Trap: +8
Tricky Trap: +4
Difficult Trap: +0

Pick Pockets
Allow a thief the option to attempt to snatch an object out of another’s possession without regard to being noticed (i.e. the lowly act of grabbing an old lady’s purse) at a +4 bonus.

Move Silently, Climb Walls
If a thief keeps his encumbrance low – 3 stones or less – he gains a +4 and +2 bonus on these proficiency throws respectively.

Hide in Shadows
If the thief’s clothing blends in with his environment (most common = dark clothes when in dark or shadowy conditions), he gets a +4 bonus to Hide in Shadows.

Hear Noise
No change.

If you have any thoughts, please share.

I like the Find Traps passive roll.

I’ve been tumbling around some vague concept of a “Notice” roll somewhere around Find Traps/Hear Noise - just some passive chance the thief “has a bad feeling about this” to notify the player that it’s time to worry (more). Haven’t tried anything yet.

We used Find Traps as a “danger sense” save rather than active skill as well, in part because I do not use enough traps for players to ever want to search actively.

I think these are great house rules - they give the thief additional agency, which I feel they need, without re-writing the class or the rules. Really cool!

In that vein, you could use the Find Traps ‘Notice’ roll as a passive way to detect secret doors as well, which would make a thief-type invaluable in a dungeon setting.

I like that idea Moorcrys. I might try that.

Danger sense - that’s the phrase I was searching for.

What all have you used it for?

Pretty much “if you, the thief, are personally about to stumble into a trap, I secretly roll your Find Traps. On a success, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you freeze.”

In the past, I’d cogitated on using Surprise vs the environment for things like that; letting the classes/characters who have a bonus in Surprise to also get in on the action. Didn’t go much farther than cogitation though.