The Thief. Why do I feel like this class is sort of lackluster in light of the others? Help me change my mind. I want to love it. I guess I don’t see a lot of appeal. Some of the moves seem to be things any other character could do anyway (to do it, do it) like throwing a weapon (Strong Arm, True Aim).
Alternately, I would love to see Thief Variants: What are your favorites? I have seen the City Thief. Are there others out there you recommend looking at? Compendium classes etc?
38 thoughts on “The Thief.”
Have you taken a look at #thiefweek yet?
Trap expert is amazing, and poisons are great.
Giovanni Lanza Thank you! Yes I have looked that is actually where I found the City Thief. I found a lot of discussion on how to handle stealth, and a few custom poisons and items. I still did not see much that led me to love the base class itself. Perhaps I am missing some interesting fictional combo from the moves or something. It seems to me that the Thief is just a trap disarming poisoner.
Matthew Seagle Poisons are interesting, but significantly less powerful/interesting to me than most other class starting abilities. And trap disarming is rather situational. Maybe I am missing the appeal in some way? Most of our games aren’t dungeon crawls through trap filled rooms, so perhaps that is one of the reasons its not so great to me. And poisons are something any class could buy and use (granted, its dangerous) so that doesn’t seem terribly special.
In response to the poisons, you’ve got to really play up the dangers on them, especially if there’s a thief in the party. If the fighter attempts to poison someone make him defy danger, and if he gets a 6-, make him really wish he hadn’t.
Giovanni Lanza Well yeah of course, but its not so dangerous nobody else could use it. It just seems really lackluster for a core ability since everyone else could use it all day as long as they don’t roll a 6-
I have had 3 groups comment that the Thief seems not nearly as good/interesting as the other classes, and no one has played it yet (and I have always reserved my opinions until after their choices, I would actually like to see one in play as a GM and even played one myself in a game recently).
I suppose it gives the impression that the Thief can’t really do anything special that other classes can’t do, they can just do those things better. I want to be wrong about it, but the only thing they can do that others can’t is deal a lot of damage with weapons. Everyone else has some unique power that makes them seem more appealing. The Thief also has no multiclass move, which means if you DO happen to like a Thief move, you would almost certainly just be a different class and take that move as a multiclass move. So you like doing damage with weapons but want to be a Poisoner? Be a Fighter and multiclass poisoner.
I rarely let another class do anything that is on a specific playbook. If a fighter tried to use posion he would “look to the GM to see what happens” because he doesn’t have access to the move and I would make a GM Move on the fighter. Those abilities represent specific training and application of skill. Same with Bend Bars, Lift Gates. If anyone other that the fighter attempts it, they’re not rolling and I’m making a move.
Saying that anyone can do what the thief does, just the thief does it better is obtuse. You can use the same logic for the ranger. Yeah, anyone can shoot a bow and arrow, but the ranger just does it awesome. That’s what makes the thief good. Every class has their expertise.
I have made a “Pilferer” for my group, wich is a different take on the city thief, but I have not yet translated it to english (I’m brazillian)
Matthew Seagle I’m not trying to be obtuse. I really want to like the Thief, but I just don’t see what it has going for it. The advanced moves aren’t great either. now that you bring it up, the Ranger is a great comparison. The Ranger has a lot more unique abilities (a melee version of Called Shot would be awesome for a Thief) The ability Camouflage actually makes the Ranger better at being stealthy than any Thief move. They can dual wield weapons to do Thief like damage without needing to backstab. Other unique moves include able to speak with anything that isn’t an extraplanar creature, and can gain a monster as a pet. Other than thematic reasons, there just isn’t a solid awesome reason to pick the core Thief in my opinion.
John Lewis Yeah, I can see barring some things from other classes. What about Strong Arm, True Aim (Thief advanced move) are you not going to let the fighter throw a weapon? Edit: AND that move has to be picked at 6th level or higher! Who in their right mind would ever pick it? They have probably been throwing weapons around their entire adventuring career already up to that point!
Uh, Backstab is a melee version of Called Shot, essentially. In fact, I’d argue it’s better.
I think the issue is that the Thief has no magical fictional counterparts; they’re low-magic. Even the Fighter is higher-magic than the Thief, potentially.
And for Strong Arm, True Aim, I have two words: throwing greataxes.
I feel like the Thief really shines in two settings more than any others (but if anyone can think of more, I’m very interested): dungeon crawls, and densely populated civilized areas.
POISONS: I think it bears mentioning that just because the list of poisons a Thief can start the game with is limited, that doesn’t mean there aren’t WAY more interesting poisons out there in the world. As a GM, let your player know that if they do some investigating there’s a good chance they can find a poison to do just about anything! You’ll get to decide what it takes to acquire them, and what their actual effects are, OR the player can go for broke and pick up the Alchemist move, which effectively allows them to make just about any poison they can dream up (within the constraints the GM sets for them).
Poisons get more deadly in the Thief’s hands if they take the Poisoner and Envenom moves; the ability to confidently use more and more poisons, as well as the opportunity to 1) find a blowgun and darts, 2) poison those darts, and 3) apply poisons from a hiding place some distance away.
STEALTH: It’s true that there’s not really a mechanical solution for stealth on the Thief’s character sheet; there are moves like Disguise and Escape Route that refer to specific applications or situations, but there’s no “roll to be stealthy” move. What does that mean for stealth, then? Short answer: I think there’s no mechanical stealth move for the Thief because it should just a given that the Thief is REALLY good at passing unseen and unnoticed.
The player wants to sneak down a hallway patrolled by guards? Unless these guards are elite counter-theft specialists, ask the Thief how they do it and just let them have it. (“You pose in front of a statue/painting as they walk by? That is amazing. One of them pauses, then turns back to look at you, but you’re already gone. Where are you headed now?”) Another class might need to roll+DEX or CHA to move quickly and quietly through an estate, or avoid notice in a crowd, but the Thief can just do it – he’s spent his whole life doing it! Basically, any time the Thief wants to do something sneaky, set the threshold of Danger wayyyy higher than you would for any of the other players. He can avoid the guards with ease – until they start patrolling with dogs, and carrying hooded lanterns, and having the local magic-user cast Alarm on all the lockboxes and valuables.
Mike Wice a melee version of Called Shot.The Thief has Backstab.
Called Shot: When you attack a defenseless or surprised enemy at range, you can choose to deal your damage or name your target and roll+DEX.
Backstab: When you attack a surprised or defenseless enemy with a melee weapon, you can choose to deal your damage or roll+DEX.
Giovanni Lanza what is the advantage of throwing a great axe, and waiting to 6th level to do so?
Matthew Seagle I suppose you are right about Backstab. Duly noted.
Traveling Haberdasher The stealth thing is probably how I would house rule it as well, but then why not give them a move like that which simply states it? The Ranger gets one after all.
Having a huge variety of poisons would certainly make them more enticing. None of the players in my 3 play groups have ever picked the Thief, despite playing Thief type characters regularly in almost every other RPG we have played together. I guess I want to see the archetype more in the games I run and I am looking for ways to make them more appealing to my players.
Traveling Haberdasher About the stealth part, couldn’t/wouldn’t that be represented in a move?
Like I said before, there are plenty of things “anyone” can do, but when other people do it the GM simply makes a move (When the players look to the GM to see what happens). Depending on the circumstances, and the GM, this could have any number of “interesting” consequences but the equvilent of rolling a 10+ isn’t likely one of them (at least not in my game).
There was a discussion about this at some point, and the reason there isn’t a stealth move is because you can’t just say “roll +Dex” or whatever. For example, staying motionless for a long while, waiting for someone to enter a room would be Con. Suspending yourself on the ceiling would be Str. Anticipating someone’s movements and countering before they even move that way is Int. It’s just defy danger.
Mike Wice I don’t know if it’s entirely a house rule, even; one of the GM’s principles is “begin and end with the fiction”, but the argument could be made that a rule would make it easier or more clear. I understand why it could be confusing for there to not be something that says “The Thief is really good at being stealthy!”
Raul Fontoura It could, sure! I don’t claim to know what Adam and Sage intended when they didn’t include a move for stealth; I’m just describing how I’d handle it, given the principles of the game (and that there isn’t a specific rule for stealth).
Traveling Haberdasher I definitely think there should be a move on the class that specifically says this. Assuming that they just succeed at stealth because they are The Thief is like assuming the Fighter always hits with weapons because he is The Fighter. The City Thief variant actually includes a move like this.
OK, here I go again. You asked for thief variants, so I will shamelessly plug mine here:
His stealth move depends somewhat on the giants on whose shoulders I stood when I wrote it.
*◊Blend in *
When you stand still in a shadow you will not be noticed at all.
When you move stealthily, roll+Dex
On 10+ you are not noticed.
On 7-9 you attract some attention but probably still get away with it.
When you attract unwanted attention in a public place, roll+Int
On 10+: You disappear in the crowd.
On 7-9: You disappear for a minute or so.
Incidentally, I love the City Thief because I am a Thief The Dark Project fan!
Wynand Louw Oh, I will be picking this up. Thanks for the plug, it is most welcome here.
Mike Wice Looking back at what I wrote, I see now that I could have said it better, but I didn’t mean that the Thief should ALWAYS succeed at being stealty. The point I was trying to make is that, fictionally, a Thief is probably going to have an easier time being sneaky than the other classes. Unless the stakes were high, I’d let them be stealthy without a roll. When the situation became more dangerous, I’d have them Defy Danger with whatever stat made the most sense for the actions they described.
If you don’t want to give them that much narrative control without a move to back it up, that’s okay too!
Flexible morals and Connections are two of my favourite moves in the game. Depends on how much attention you pay to alignment and all it represents in your Dungeon World, but all the thieves we have produced have been masters of both the ‘con’ and high stakes heists. Thieves are all about the social seedy underbelly. Picking pockets is just a ‘trick of the trade’ that only the thief can do unhindered by their ethics.
I play a thief in my game and I love it. I use connections and evade a lot. When I can I use backstab if I can position myself. I also posion monsters so that my party can take them down faster. Its a fun class to play if you like being sneeky and decieving. Other people can do the same moves technically but in general they dont. I played a cleric before this and i never felt the need to pickpocket or locks. But the thiefs moves make it easy so the player is much more inclined to do fun stuff like pick locks and pockets.
I agree the advanced moves arent all amazing but connections and evade are def some fun ones.
Theres a lot of magic our world so my gm let me pick up some custom spell thief moves. Those make playing a thief really unique.
Traps are not situational. When there is a Thief in the game there should be traps all over the place.
Maybe this can also help:
In DW the thief doesn’t have to be just this guy:
or this one:
He can be
There is her
and other options
Tim Franzke Inspiring!
atom weis thank you. I wish someone would play one in my games! Do you think the custom moves your GM added make it a lot more fun over the base class? Do they fill something the base class feels it has missing?
Tim Deschene I agree. I believe that my players and I have perceived The Thief in a way that is not fair to the class. That is the main reason I posted in the first place. I want to hear how it can be played. Experiences people have with it, and so on. I still think some of the moves are lackluster (especially the throwing move) but thanks to the comments from several folks, I am starting to see there is a lot more to like than I previously considered.
Mike Wice Speaking of Strong Arm, True Aim: the move says “you can throw any melee weapon, using it to volley”. Swords, daggers, axes, maces, spears, etc. are all melee weapons, but so is a wooden chair in the right hands! Or a heavy pewter mug, or a rock, or basically anything the character could conceivably lift and throw. I feel like this is the move you take when you want your character to be as deadly as Jackie Chan in a cluttered warehouse.
Tim Deschene I agree. My group has the fighters-are-boring-itis. Not altogether healthy.
On boring fighters:
Yesterday i played a half-demon halfling fighter. He was a viscious little thing with demonforged knifes that could turn into a spiked chain if needed.
It was a lot of fun.
I was able to just focus on the basic moves and narration and therefore on doing cool things with my weapons.
I didn’t need to go over my spelllist to choose the best thing to do i just went and did, relying on my knowledge of basic moves. I rolled all of them but volley (no range weapon) and defend (i wanted at one point but it didn’t work out in the fiction).
Highlights include spinning the spiked chain over his head to attack two demonmutantthings at once for 14 damage (threatening the druid by accident), nailing a demons hands to the wall so that the beardruid could crush it. Getting jumped into the air with help of the bear. Brutally murdering another demon after it Baldwin a brother and generally beeing a mean little halfling.
More nuanced mechanics weren’t needed for that.
Was his mother the demon and his father the ling or the other way round?
It’s not that easy with demons.
Mike Wice so I play the sneeky type char very often in games. So I think the thief can be really fun as is. but I wanted to try something totally different with this thief. I think the custom moves make it so I can play a really unique thief.
Also There are a lot of advanced moves geared toward poisons and that wasnt something I wanted to do with this thief. So my choices were really limited at first on what I wanted to take. So by tossing in a couple unique moves it really opened up the options for me. So I think it filled a gap I felt was missing but like Tim Franzke posted theres a bunch of versions of the thief you could play.
Strong Arm, True Aim is indeed bad. I let my players throw anything they want, whenever they want. My own thief hack removed it.
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