Note: I haven’t actually played the game yet. I’ve got people interested and I’m writing the campaign, but I noticed something and wanted some input on it.
I’m curious about the target numbers for thief skills. You have to be something like a 7th level thief before you can even succeed half the time on your average skill check. Now obviously only a master thief (14th level) could be expected to be amazing at absolutely everything, but most thieves in real life specialize: one is a lock smith, the other sneaks in, etc. The +2 bonus from taking a proficiency hardly seems adequate to reflect that.
I’m thinking of allowing players to assign their skill increases as they level. When the thief levels up, he could increase his 8 skills each by 1, or 1 skill by 8, or 2 skills by 4, etc. That way if he wants to be a specialist, he doesn’t have to wait until he’s in the moderate levels before he has a 50% chance of succeeding whenever he attempts his favorite skill.
Is this a good idea? Or would this be a horrible idea? How would this effect the rest of the game? (with such a well-crafted interplay of systems, I know this would drastically affect things like hiring experts for hijinks, etc.)
If it isn’t a good idea, how do other game tables get around the fact that a thief, at least to my reading, seems rather useless until the moderate-high levels?
Seriously, it was a poorly designed and poorly explained class. Their abilities are supposed to be semi-mystical (literally HIDING IN SHADOWS as opposed to hiding behind a pillar) but they always got used in a more mundane way.
You’ll see that post 3 basically recommends something like what you are proposing. AD&D 2nd Edition did exactly that (with a few caveats like no more than I think +30% to a single skill or something) so going with your idea won’t break anything. I think it is a great idea because thieves do really blow as written.
I would recommend being careful with how you handle climb, as that skill was made the easiest (again, check out my 3rd post for something that sticks close to 2nd Ed’s method of specialization).
Note: I also have not started my campaign yet, so take everything here with a grain of salt.
The thing I would be careful about is assuming that the thief needs to succeed on these reliably.
A thief who fails to open the lock with his skill may still be able to destroy the thing with an axe or crowbar (the penalty for failure is not “you can’t pass” but “you make noise”)
A thief who fails to move silently or hide in shadows still has the normal chance to surprise opponents. There’s no real penalty for failing at these.
Picking pockets is risky, but I feel like it should be most of the time. Have an escape plan handy because you will be noticed.
A thief’s climb walls and hear noise skills are good (at least compared to other characters).
If a thief fails to find or remove a trap, it still only goes off 2 in 6 by default.
I feel like the existing rules suggest certain styles of play for the thief - one will make huge, complex contingency plans for what to do when their skill rolls go awry; another will be constantly improvising, escaping from one fire into another. Both require a player who knows and accepts that the skills aren’t the end, but one of many means to achieve an end.
As for your house rules, the issue I see is that a character could become very good at certain kinds of hijinks, able to make a great deal of cash (and XP) significantly faster than the game expects. If you go through with this, you would probably want to make some corresponding modifications to that system.
Witness is right that if you adjust the target values of thief skills, you'll radically change the resuls of Hijinks. Low level thieves will be able to reliably perform high-level hijinks and score a lot of gold.
For what it's worth, I run the thief class "straight" in all of my ACKS campaigns. We have never had a shortage of players who want to play thieves. In the original Auran Empire campaign, we had a thief; in our Oriental ACKS, a ninja; and now in Opelenean Nights, a thief.
If you think low-level thieves need a boost, you might consider the following:
Crude locks are +4 to unlock. Master-crafted locks are -4 to unlock.
Crude traps are +4 to find and disarm. Master-crafted traps are -4.
Heavily shadowed areas give +4 to hide in shadows.
Loud, nosiy environments give +4 to move silently.
The thief then gains 12 points to spend to increase any of the skills by one per point. No more than 4 points may be spent on any one skill. Skills will then rise each level at the same rate as listed on the core rules. Only Pick Pockets may drop to lower than +1, all others will not be able to drop lower than this.
I also do as Alex suggested and modify due to conditions, though not necessarily to help the low level thief (it might help, but it also might hinder).
At one point I thought that thieves and their ilk had a bit of an advantage in some ways. Hijinks are an extra source of money (and xp) reserved for the sneaky. Since thieves also have about the fastest leveling in the game, they can level quicker. If you can get your hands on Elven boots, you’re a smuggling god (Elven cloak on an assassin/nightblade just rakes in gold).
Yeah… I kind of feel that thief is like wizard in ACKS - the hard part is getting to the level when you can pull of good hijinks with some degree of safety, similar to how making it to 3rd-level spells is a turning point for wizards.