Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sneaky the Thief (DF Thief, Modified)

A number* of GURPS bloggers have been talking about the Dungeon Fantasy Thief template recently. In a couple cases, trying to make it a little bit more useful and less replaceable. The issue really is that, in GURPS, anyone can try the thief's skills, many of them are easily replaced with other means, and some professions do much of the same things almost as well as the thief and many things better. Making them a bit better would make them a bit more fun, which is the real thing I'm after.

After reading Patrick Halter's latest proposal, I decided I'd try to make one up using a mix of my suggestions and his. Here is my result.

The Changes

I went with Patrick Halter's suggestion to simply cut the skills I wasn't using anyway - Filch, Shadowing, and Smuggling - instead of merging the points spent.

I also went with dropping Urban Survival down a point, from 2 to 1. I think that's fine, but I'd rather not make it optional.

I left Sleight of Hand alone for now.

Together those net back 7 points, of which I'm putting 5 into discretionary advantages and 2 into Background skills. I didn't put more into Lockpicking, since putting them into Background still allows for that but doesn't lock me in to improving something that's already good.

I'm also allowing free purchase of any Power-Ups right from the start.

Just for grins, even though I personally think Perfect Balance is really useful, I've made a thief without it.

I didn't buy any gear for this guy, or write up his quirks. I'd play him though, he seems like a fun guy. I went with "make him good but fun" so if he seems like he's less than utterly munchkinned or min-maxed, well, I find that usually reduces the fun of the guy.

Sneaky the Thief II

Race: Human

Attributes [180]
ST 11 [10]
DX 15 [100]
IQ 13 [60]
HT 11 [10]

HP 11
Will 13
Per 14 [5]
FP 11

Basic Lift 24
Damage 1d-1/1d+1

Basic Speed 6 [-10]
Basic Move 7 [5]

Ground Move 7
Water Move 1

Social Background
TL: 3 [0]
Cultural Familiarities:
Languages: Common (Native) [0].

Advantages [59]

Flexibility [5]
High Manual Dexterity (2) [10]
Luck [15]
Night Vision (9) [9]
Sensitive Touch [10]
Silence (2) [10]

Perks [1]
Honest Face [1]

Disadvantages [-40]
Code of Honor (Pirate's) [-5]
Compulsive Gambling (12 or less) [-5]
Cowardice (12 or less) [-10]
Greed (12 or less) [-15]
Sense of Duty (Adventuring companions) [-5]

Quirks [-5]
_Unused Quirk 1 [-1]
_Unused Quirk 2 [-1]
_Unused Quirk 3 [-1]
_Unused Quirk 4 [-1]
_Unused Quirk 5 [-1]

Packages [0]

Thief (Dungeon Fantasy) [0]

Skills [55]
Acrobatics DX/H - DX-2 13 [1]
Brawling DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]
Carousing HT/E - HT+0 11 [1]
Cartography/TL3 IQ/A - IQ-1 12 [1]
Climbing DX/A - DX+2 17 [1]
     includes: +3 from 'Flexibility'
Connoisseur (Wine) IQ/A - IQ-1 12 [1]
Crossbow DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]
Escape DX/H - DX+1 16 [1]
     includes: +3 from 'Flexibility'
Fast-Draw (Knife) DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]
Fast-Draw (Sword) DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]
Forced Entry DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]
Gambling IQ/A - IQ-1 12 [1]
Gesture IQ/E - IQ+0 13 [1]
Holdout IQ/A - IQ+0 13 [2]
Knife DX/E - DX+0 15 [1]
Lockpicking/TL3 IQ/A - IQ+1 14 [4]
     DX-based roll is 18 (including +2 from High Manual Dexterity)
Merchant IQ/A - IQ-1 12 [1]
Observation Per/A - Per-1 13 [1]
Pickpocket DX/H - DX-1 14 [2]
Poisons/TL3 IQ/H - IQ+0 13 [4]
Saber DX/A - DX-1 14 [1]
Search Per/A - Per+0 14 [2]
     18 by touch including +4 from Sensitive Touch
Sleight of Hand DX/H - DX-2 13 [1]
Stealth DX/A - DX+3 18 [12]
      20 vs. hearing, 22 vs. hearing when motionless
Streetwise IQ/A - IQ+0 13 [2]
Swimming HT/A - HT-1 11 [1]
Traps/TL3 IQ/A - IQ+2 15 [8]
     DX-based roll is 19 (including +2 from High Manual Dexterity)
     Per-based roll is 16 (20 by touch with +4 from Sensitive Touch)
Urban Survival Per/A - Per-1 13 [1]

Stats [180] Ads [59] Disads [-40] Quirks [-5] Skills [55] = Total [250]

As you can see:

- Why II? Because Sneaky the Thief was the NPC thief I had accompany the party in our playtest of DFA1. He was meant as a PC, but no one picked him. In any case, I already had a file for "Sneaky the Thief."

- I upped Traps a little with my discretionary points. He's one level away from qualifying for Trap Sense.

- Made him capable of mapping.

- I put 4 points in Poisons, because that'll let him quadruple up on cheap poisons for backstabs, and I make people roll Poisons sometimes in conjunction with trap disarmament.

- Those 9 points in Night Vision? Yeah, I'm still not sure that is a good idea, since it's not enough to see in the dark. I might have gone for 3 points in Night Vision (enough to eliminate the penalties out to the limits of torchlight) and used the other 6 points for another level of Perception with change left over, or perhaps a third level of High Manual Dexterity.

- Luck is something all my guys have. Face it. I don't like to play without a do-over and I'm willing to pay for the privilege.

- Honest Face? I love that one. I had to take it.

- I made him able to swim, because I don't like falling for my own pranks.

- He's only a short 8 point hop away from Nondectection, if magic detection is common, and 1 point away from Sure Grasp, if it turns out climbing is important.

All in all, he looks pretty fun. He's still no fighter, but he's not pretending to be. I do think he's a pretty good sneak-ahead-and-look guy this way. He won't sneak-and-kill, just sneak-and-report or sneak-and-steal. Given actual need in play for non-magical, quiet lockpicking and trap removal (not just "Dispel Magic or the barbarian just sets it off"), he's going to be handy at those, too. I'd give him a spin in play to see how he does.

In any case, this is one way a thief from such a modified template might look.

* Which would be three. Mark Langsdorf, Patrick Halter, and myself.


  1. I think that since GURPS has such detailed combat it is better to have a theif be a fighter with some thief skills. He should have shortsword at a very Hugh skill level so he can parry and attack, otherwise he has to wait around until there is a magic resistant lock in order have something to do. The same can be said for the wizard who would be a fighter with the abilityto cast spells. He sbould be highly trained with staff skill so he can do some fighting otherwise he is sort of left out as well because wizards in GURPS do not have AD&D power level.

    1. To be honest, that doesn't work well in play. The "thief" would then be a worse fighter than the fighter-types, but not much better at "thief* stuff. The "wizard" would have a few spells known poorly, and not fight as well as the fighter. May as well be a fighter. Otherwise you're just a second-rate fighter and at best third-rate at the other things you do.

      The thief above should be good at scouting, sneaking, picking locks, detecting traps, and otherwise be a solid utility character. He's crap at combat and he's meant to be crap at combat, to discourage him from running into combat to die. Poisoned knives and poisoned crossbow bolts will provide a nice edge to a fight sometimes, but that's not his role.

      And yeah, he needs bash-proof stuff and Lockmaster-proof stuff to deal with - but all the templates need the GM to provide challenges that aren't just "Hack it to death and then hack it open" or no one except fighter-types are useful, really.

    2. My observation is that if the goal is to hang back in combat, you had best have either magical or non-magical ways to keep other nasties, like invisible demon bird-ninjas, for example, from springing out and impaling him from behind in the vitals.

      Getting a Per roll against that sort of thing -maybe via Danger Sense - might be a good play here?

    3. Vibration Sense (Air) would work too. So would being careful, keeping an eye in all directions, and listening.

      If the GM springs invisible no-smell silent ninjas on you, yeah, you'll need magic for that. Or Danger Sense, which is on the template as an optional advantage. I prefer Luck.

    4. Oh, and nothing is a substitute for a well-rounded group using magic, skills, and advantages in conjunction to help each other.

    5. That might be a side effect of our "every man for himself" gaming group, then. :-)

    6. Yeah, that's not the best idea. "I need to be good at spotting hidden danger, avoiding danger, fighting, healing, and magic, because my allies leave me out to dry" is a tough basis for any character.

    7. Maybe a wizard can use magic to control his magic staff? That way he could have high skill for attacking and defence but only if he uses his staff and there is mana present? Maybe the staff could do extra damage too? The wizard in AD&D had a lot of combat fun but with GURPS he tends to sit on the sidelines.

    8. I suppose you could make a spell to make a weapon temporarily "Dancing."

      But mages already have a really high defense ability - Blocking spells. And mages really do get a lot to do in combat, they just don't get to blow up groups of enemies a couple times a session. But "buff" spells, area attack spells, missile spells, and such can be total fight-changers. Many of the fights in my current game were decided by a timely (and powerful) spell. Many were not, but them's the breaks.

      So I kind of reject the whole "AD&D mages got to do stuff, GURPS wizards don't" idea because it's strongly counter to years of wizards making or breaking fight after fight in my GURPS games.

    9. A thief needs the equivalent of buffing etc so they have something to do other than attack or defend.

      Not sure what that is but sneak backstabbing would get old fast.

      Shouting encouragement? :)

    10. I think the thief with swashbuckler skills might be fun for players because they can fight and pick locks that are magic resistant.

    11. @Unachimba - Sneak Backstabbing is actually potentially really effective - you just need to make a Stealth roll at -5. That's not too hard for this guy.

      If it gets boring, and you want to fight, that's what ranged weapons are for. Getting in with magical buffs is possible, but really, it's better for everyone if they spend the buffs on the better fighters in the first place.

      @b-dog - I said as much in my other post, that many "thief" fictional types are Swashbucklers with a Thief lens (Grey Mouser, say). If you don't want to be a utility guy and you want to fight, that's what you need to do. But this whole post is an example of "how would a utility guy come out done with some variant rules?"

    12. I think the people I have played with are different than most GURPS DF players. I have found that none want to be utility players and they all want to take a whack at monsters when there is combat. Sure a thief will be less than the knight at combat but people who have played thieves still want to be part of the combat. Combat seems to be an exciting part of the advenures while detecting traps and picking locks seems less exciting for the people I have played with.

  2. The thing I find is in combat when someone can't do the typical things like attack defend, heal etc because their absolute advantage isn't there then the thing for them to do is to do things that they have a comparative advantage in ie something that the other pcs can't do cause they are too busy attacking defending or healing etc

    There are a lot if examples of this in modern or supers games. Things like reloading guns, pulling leavers, getting help, locking unlocking doors etc.

    Not sure about DF but if a player wanted to try the thief I would try to put at least one comparative advantage option into each fight so they could say ' well I don't want to hit him... But I will snatch the ruby off the altar that is powering his spells etc etc

    1. That's a good idea, too - you want to make sure that there are plenty of opportunities for thieves to shine. Or other role-players aka utility characters. You don't need to build them into every fight, but you do need to have things that leverage non-combat skills both in and out of fights.

  3. Replies
    1. Yeah, isn't it? You just don't look like the guy who did it. ;)

  4. Are you using this modified template in Felltower? I noticed that none of the PCs that your group have rolled have been thieves. I generally love thieves but have never played GURPS before so I'm not sure really what their niche is. I am a huge fan of utility characters but it seems like you'd get wrecked in a DF game. Are poison crossbow bolts effective enough? Would it be better to just make a Scout with some trap skills?

    1. We had a thief for a while - Fuma - but he died trying to act like a fighter back in Session 13.

      Poison will help, but it's not cheap. You'll always be a second-ranker although Weapon Master (Large Knife) can help coupled with enough Stealth to backstab effectively.

      Still, if all you care about is Traps, Scouts are pretty good at that stuff already.

      In my game, the players have come up with thief-less alternatives to delving problems. Doors are bashed down by the strong guys or Lockmaster'ed open by the wizard, traps are disarmed by the Scout if they can't simply be sprung until harmless by Created Servants. Still, there are things that, with a thief, would have been trivial, and which instead have been impossible. They don't seem to mind.

    2. Oh, I forgot to say - yes, I'd allow this template in Felltower. I came up with it after Fuma died, though.

    3. Oh right, I forgot about Fuma. And since I don't know enough about how GURPS (or DF) works I don't know if all one would care about is traps, but that seemed like the niche that the thief would maybe fit in to. Or quietly doing things, since from other posts it sounds like Lockmaster makes the normal amount of noise.


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