Thieves' Scores

It’s always been a bone of contention with me that thieves’ abilities are too low to begin with

Assuming you see this as a problem, how have you gone about changing the values?


The way I see it, in many cases there would be situational bonuses to the rolls based on circumstances, such as poor-quality locks (maybe even up to +4 to the roll), deep shadows, lower-grade traps and walls which are easy to climb. Low-level thieves should concentrate, IMHO, on lesser targets, leaving the well-defended mansions with their excellent locks and masterwork traps to the master thieves.

In upper (i.e. lower-level) dungeon levels, I would use lower-quality locks and traps as well, with bonuses to the rolls. Also, a lot of lower-quality monsters are not necessarily good guards (especially drunk goblins or orcs!), again with a bonus to move silently/hide in shadows.

Other than that, it’s a matter of picking a good target.

I’ll second what golan says. While I agree with you that thief skills are a bit too hard to pull off in the early levels, instead of altering the thief class, it’s easier to apply circumstantial modifiers to thief skill throws… the most common precedent throughout the rules tends to be -4, -2, +2, +4. If you alter the numbers themselves, it could throw off the hijinks rules if you plan on using them at higher levels.

I assume that the thief skill throws are to be used in extraordinary circumstances. For example, if a thief attempts to sneak past a pair of drunk, passed-out guards, then I’ll either rule that the attempt is automatic, or assign a trivial chance of failure.

Also, with regard to move silently/hide in shadows, review p.97-99 for insight on Surprise and Sneaking. Low level thieves are a bit better at doing this than their skill throws would otherwise seem.

Thanks all for the feedback


Thief skills go beyond the usual act of sneaking, which anyone can attempt. Instead, they represent sneaking while actively engaged in some kind of hostile activity against a specific target. Walking past a group of monsters that are deep in a conversation doesn’t require any special talent. Walking right up behind them to swipe a key off one of them does!

The idea that thief skills can always sit “on top” of the basic chance to sneak, representing a second chance to avoid trouble, still maintains the principle that thieves are superior at scouting to other classes even if other classes might sometimes attempt it. I like to visualize the thief getting some attention and then actively whisking up into the shadows in a case where an untrained fighter would just freeze, and converting a potential discovery by guards into “Oh, that’s just the cat”.

Of course. P. 97-99 affirm exactly what you’re describing.

So how would you replicate that during a game within the rules? Would you just say you can sneak automatically then roll for out of the ordinary circumstances? If that’s the case, you’re no better off because you’ve still got to roll against the odds. It seems here that the others are just as good as the thief in doing sneaky things and that the only difference is that the thief gets to roll to do amazing sneaky things - but fails more often than not due to the extreme odds

Under normal circumstances, use the rules on ACKS pp.97-99 under “Surprise and Sneaking”. These are used for everyone and sneaking is easy if the monster is passively watching, and, even better, distracted. Thieves roll Hide in Shadows and Move Silently to sneak on passively watching or even actively watching as if these monsters were distracted.

So, on low levels, the wise thief will find ways to distract the monsters in order to easily sneak around them.

To add to golan’s explanation and expand on what EHamilton describes according to the text:

The referenced pages explain that essentially, all characters can sneak.

  1. Sneaking against a passively alert creature calls for a Surprise Roll… normally a 33% chance of surprise. Everyone can try this.

  2. If the creature is not surprised, a thief may additionally make a Move Silently throw “on top” of that to try and succeed… 17+, or 20% chance of success.

All I was saying is that a thief’s chances are better than just the 17+ from the skill would indicate because he first gets the benefit of the Surprise roll (as all PCs would), and if that fails, he can then try his skill throw.

Huh! I had skimmed this section of the rules before, but we never used it in play. Part of that, I expect, is because my players were very focused on phalanx / shield-wall tactics; thieves were utilized pretty strictly as 3rd- or 4th-row archers rather than forward scouts. This shakes things up a bit.