Flat Thief Abilities

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Alex
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Flat Thief Abilities

One of the legacies of ACKS is that thief abilities use a per-level throw value while other proficiencies have throw values that are flat and increase by +4 when additional ranks are taken.

The result of this legacy rule is that thief abilities are notoriously unreliable at early levels; and by the time their abilities become reliable, thieves find themselves lackluster in comparison to spellcasters who can cast Find Traps, Knock, and Telekinesis.

In creating the Player's Companion, I worked out a series of constants representing what the effective value of an ability at a particular level of experience is. This is how the trade-offs for class powers are calculated. For example, a power at 7th level is worth about half a power at 1st level. This same math allowed me to work out the following flat target values for thief skills:

Open Locks 12+
Find and Remove Traps 13+
Pick Pockets 11+
Move Silently 12+
Climb Walls 4+
Hide in Shadows 14+
Hear Noise 10+

As an optional rule, instead of having a variable target value with level, give the thief (or other class) these flat target values when he selects the class power.

A thief who selects the same power again (or spends a proficiency rank) gains +4 on his throw.

I'm contemplating including this as a rule in the "Hero Conqueror King" supplement. As a player, would you choose the traditional ability progression or would you choose the flat values?

Alternatively, what about a system with slightly higher target values and a minor but still credible advancement per level progression?

NOTE: Hijinks would not a second look, I know.

Jard
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I've already had players complain of the unreliableness/riskiness of thieves. I'm not sure I'd want them to get all their effectiveness up-front, so I think I would favor slightly higher target values with more minor advancement.

nDervish
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Definitely an interesting idea, at the very least. My one potential concern with using it is that I like to run high-lethality games, which tends to mean a preponderance of low-level characters, so front-loading abilities is proportionately more beneficial. That said, I'm not convinced that front-loading thief abilities in particular would be game-breakingly powerful.

At the very least, I'll probably try this out at some point and see how it goes.

Alex
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Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Here is one other alternative way to do it.

1. Thief abilites may be purchased as a bundle of 8 abilities which begin at the following target values: open locks 21+, find traps 18+, remove traps 21+, pick pockets 21+, move silently 21+, hide in shadows 21+, climb walls 12+, hear noise 18+.

2. At first level, a thief has 22 points he can spend to reduce these target values.

3. Each level thereafter, the thief gains 8 additional points.

This would allow a first level thief to specialize a bit.

Another option would be to allow the thief to pick one of four or five pre-generated templates at 1st level. For example:

Mechanist: Open Locks 12+, Find Traps 13+, Remove Traps 13+, Pick Pockets 21+, Move Silently 21+, Hide in Shadows 21+, Climb Walls 12+, Hear Noise 18+

Stalker: Open Locks 21+, Find Traps 18+, Remove Traps 21+, Pick Pockets 21+, Move Silently 10+, Hide in Shadows 10+, Climb Walls 12+, Hear Noise 18+

Cat Burglar: Open Locks 16+, Find Traps 18+, Remove Traps 21+, Pick Pockets 21+, Move Silently 16+, Hide in Shadows 16+, Climb Walls 5+, Hear Noise 18+

jedavis
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Hey, I worked up something similar to this at http://wanderinggamist.blogspot.com/2013/06/acks-thief-variant.html ! I started skills off at 22+ (except Hear Noises, which started at 18+ as for everyone else), and then you got a number of 4-point increases at a rate depending on class Thief Value. I think my way would produce a little less decision paralysis on levelling, but at the expense of granularity in specialization.

In any case, I think the ideas discussed in this thread are marvelous. My players avoided thieves religiously because they were so unreliable; I would like to see that change.

Alex
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I hadn't read this section before, but it's quite fascinating! Your thoughts are very much along the same lines as mine. The mathematics you noted to calculate of two advances per level at +4 each works out very closely to my calculated 8 points per level. Going with 22 instead of 21 does have the virtue of matching the typical 4-point spread used in ACKS proficiences. So I salute you!

Both of our systems run into problems when correlating into the class-building system in a way that reflects the ability to do trade-offs by level and so on.

koewn
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Hm.

First method:

Open Locks 12+ (Level 6) +30%
Find and Remove Traps 13+ (Level 6) +25%
Pick Pockets 11+ (Level 6/7) +30%
Move Silently 12+ (Level 6) +30%
Climb Walls 4+ (Level 4-6) +10%
Hide in Shadows 14+ (Level 6) +25%
Hear Noise 10+ (Level 5) +20%

So, in general, you're starting off with the abilities of a ~6th level standard thief, and you're getting an extra 25-30% success rate. I'm sure I'm wrong by a point here and there.

By the time a thief gets to 6th level, he's had the ability to choose 4 proficiencies, plus INT bonus, if any. A proficiency spent on a skill more-or-less equates you to an 8th level standard thief.

Powergamer hat says that's a hard choice, and I think it's really one that depends on the game itself, and the DM. A DM that applies bonuses/penalties for lock or trap complexity, for example, would lean towards the standard method. A game where you're not expecting to go into domain play favors the new method.

A slower progression that tops out after another 35% or so (say at the 10th/11th level numbers) would be an easier sell. Actually, if you had them all stop around the 3+ mark, that would match up with the guaranteed Magical Research failure throw.

And building a class that gains a power at a later level would be less of an issue.

---------

Second Method:

126 points to spend over a 14th level career, and taking everything to 1+ costs....145 points. That leaves a 19 point hole, spread over 7 skills means you'll have...5 at 4+ and 2 at 3+, at 14th?

That's not bad. I favor this just because I like the occasional point-buy.

Class-build wise, lower Thievery values would just get less points at start and per level?

------

If the first method included a slower progression, I think I'd like it better. I already apply bonuses/penalties to Open Lock and Traps, just because of the failure rate (I do a sliding time scale, lower roll it takes longer and longer to fiddle with the lock) and I could eliminate a lot of that sort of thing.

If not, then the second method, as I'd rather be bad at things by choice than by fiat. (and the occasional, "Well f*ck, does it look like I climb walls?" sort of interaction) and I like the idea of including those builds in the templates.

Jard
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Not that there's anything wrong with this, but that's getting pretty close to a skill-point system. Also it would have to be limited to PCs only, or there would be a strong incentive to hire multiple thief henchmen, each with all 22 points dumped into a particular skill. Then again, I suppose that's a more accurate model of a "heist" where you have several specialists instead of a couple generalists.

Alex
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Indeed. I've toyed with the idea of building a skill point system for ACKS at some point. But that will have to await another day.

koewn
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I support anything that enables heist movies, in general.

~ Why can't we pick our own names?

- No way, no way. Tried it once, doesn't work. You got four guys all fighting over who's gonna be Mr. Dragon, but they don't know each other, so nobody wants to back down. No way. I pick. You're Mr. Goblin. Be thankful you're not Mr. Kobold.

jedavis
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You do suffer significant opportunity cost in number of henchmen, though.

golan2072
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I'd say that flat thief skills do intrigue me a lot: after all, otherwise 1st level thieves are pretty weak, at least without bonuses for easier-than-usual tasks (e.g. simpler-than-usual locks). On the other hand, they do need to improve with level, to allow a 14th level thief to be a true Master Thief. So maybe start higher than in core ACKS, BUT progress more slowly afterwards? Also, don't fighters start with a passable chance of success in attacks, and then improve every two levels? Why not do the same with thieves? And maybe vary locks/traps by the "AC" needed to beat in order to crack them open?

Another possibility is specialization - i.e. choose between several thief templates at chargen, each starting "high" in certain skills, and normal in others...

koewn
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Lock/Trap "AC" gets back to the core d20 mechanic, actually - if they'd skipped the skill system entirely and made the progression of skills tied to level.

Take Base Attack Bonus, call it Base Stealth Bonus, Base Device Bonus, etc. etc.

It could probably work in something like ACKS/BX since there's more of a "cap" on things - you won't get to the madness of a +34 Device check versus a DC 45 lock, for example.

So Attack Throw, Stealth Throw, Device Throw, Climb Throw, etc.

What's the highest AC in ACKS? 12-ish for the eldest dragons? Looking at the Magic Item Creation table, things seem to max (by default) at +3? So Plate +3 plus a shield +3 gets you what, AC 13+DEX?

Maybe cap Difficulty Class of objects at 15 or so?

Then you could let proficiencies give you another descending throw value - so Beast Friendship goes from 15+ to 5+, going from a DC 0 for "It's a kitty!" to DC 15 for "Southeastern tropical crenelated drop bear"

That way probably lies madness, though....actually, wait, that's true. DCC RPG does that with the mostly-capped Difficulty Classes. The skill progression varies but it goes from around +0-+3 to around +9+15-ish over ten levels.

And a ST (skill throw?) of 5+ equates to d20+15 for a DC20 task.

Alex
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I believe the theoretical highest AC in ACKS is a paladin with Weapon & Shield Proficiency and Aura of Protection, at DEX 18, equipped with Plate +3, Shield +3, Ring of Protection +3, Cloak of Displacement, for a retarded (1+3+6+3+1+3+3+2+1) AC 23.

koewn
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There we go. And that's close enough to DC 20 (or DC 25 for truly supernatural/exceptional circumstances in DCC).

Tywyll
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Wouldn't the high level Dwarves Fury have a higher AC?
Fleshrunes, +3 shield, ring, cloak, braces AC 7, and Dex 18 for a sick:
6+4+3+3+3+7+3=29

Alex
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Nicely done!

Aryxymaraki
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It's my understanding that flesh runes do not stack with armor or things that count as armor, and that Bracers of Armor count as armor ("grant the user an AC as though he were wearing armor", "no other armor may be worn with the bracers" emphasis on "other").

Alex
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I think I am just going to sit quietly and work on Dwimmermount because clearly I'm so knee deep in dungeon design I don't remember my own rules as clearly as you guys do.

If anybody needs me, I'm over on the Kickstarter page.

golan2072
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koewn
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That was discussed here, if anyone wants to see what's already been talked about:

http://www.autarch.co/forums/house-rules/thief-fixes

And here's another conversation about spending skill points:

http://new.autarch.co/forums/house-rules/potential-thief-houserule

CharlesDM
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I like alternatives, and of Alex's alternatives I like the second alternative best. However, any alternative that doesn't work with the class construction system and any other class with thieving skills is a nonstarter for me. But I would think the alternatives could be extended beyond the Thief? The system already has both proficiencies with throws that advance with level and with throws that only advance with another proficiency choice.

Alex
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Yes, part of my reason for seeing what "flat" thief skills would be was to find out how closely the mathematics resembled the typical 11+ you get with a flat proficiency. It would make for much easier conversion to and fro between proficiencies that advance with level and those which don't.

Essentially there is an asymmetry in the game right now. If you take Magic Engineering at level 1, and Loremastery at level 5, you are nerfed vis a vis someone who tooke Loremastery at Level 1 and Magical Engineering at Level 5. Or any other example of flat base versus variable.

CharlesDM
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I know unified systems have appeal, but what if we remove the "nerf" rather than unify proficiencies/skills' throw advancement?

Some proficiencies simply require an investment over time to improve, while others improve based on the prowess of the hero (irrespective of when they learn the proficiency).

nDervish
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Essentially there is an asymmetry in the game right now. If you take Magic Engineering at level 1, and Loremastery at level 5, you are nerfed vis a vis someone who tooke Loremastery at Level 1 and Magical Engineering at Level 5. Or any other example of flat base versus variable.


-archon

Is it actually stated in the book that for the variable proficiencies (like Loremastery), you only benefit from the number of levels that you've had the proficiency rather than your total level? Because I totally missed that and have interpreted it the other way around - i.e., that there's no discrepancy and both of those characters would throw 14+ (18+ at level 1, reduced by 1 per level) for Loremastery at 5th level, regardless of one having taken it at level 1 and the other at level 5.

Alex
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No, I don't think there is a rule like that. Just an unspoken (and uncalculated) assumption on my part.

jedavis
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I, um... we've been doing it the opposite way, with scaling profs based solely on current character level. As a result, in our experience flat profs are stronger when taken at low levels, while scaling profs are better taken at the mid- or high-levels when you actually have a shot at succeeding with them. I think even if scaling profs were modified to grow based on levels since taken, I would prefer to ignore such a rule on bookkeeping and easy NPC creation grounds.

Aryxymaraki
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That rule is in the Player's Companion page 92, discussing level lock tradeoffs.

I don't believe it's in ACKS Core, so a strict reading of the rules would say that it applies to proficiencies purchased with custom powers but not to proficiencies purchased through level advancement.

Jard
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whatever the rules as written or intended may be, to me it seems a bad distinction considering most spells don't work that way. When you learn fireball at level 3 it doesn't do "1d6 per level since you've known fireball", and one is clearly a lot more powerful.

Alex
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That's a really good point.

wmarshal
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I like the idea of flat values with modifications for using proficiency slots to improve on a Thief ability. I'm not too keen on winding up with a skill point system. For a game based on B/X that seems a bit too much of "micro designing" a character l, but tastes vary.

For proficiencies like Climbing and Eavesdropping would they be changed to grant the flat ability rather than the by level ability?

Should there be a new proficiency called improve Thief Ability that player's could take? Would this be a class proficiency? Would another possibilty be to make a general proficiency called Thief Ability that grants the flat ability to one ability, and that can be taken again to improve it by +4 each time it is repeated? Just throwing some spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks.

A downside of having the thief use proficiencies to advance theif abilities is that it may mean he rarely uses proficiencies outside of these increases. Perhaps somewhat related, I thought that the number of starting proficiencies is kind of low. A house rule I'm considering is to have the base starting number of general proficiencies be 4 instead of 1. This number of starting general proficiencies can be modified by the Intelligence bonus OR penalty.

nDervish
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In principle, using proficiency slots to improve thief abilities sounds good, I agree, but, in practice, I think proficiencies are gained too slowly for that to be a practical solution - as it stands now, a thief only gets four class proficiencies total for his entire lifetime, even if he makes it all the way to level 14. So which four thief skills does he choose to improve? Or does he skip improving them to gain other proficiencies instead?

The system which seems most sensible to me would be to give thieves a certain number of points to use at initial character creation to set their base throws for all their abilities and then get a bonus equal to level (or half level?) on all thief ability throws. This allows for custom specialization (based on how you allocate your initial points) with steady progression (so it's not completely front-loaded), while avoiding issues with turning into a fiddly skill point system (you don't allocate points when you level up, just gain another +1 to the throws) or causing problems with custom class creation (you need to scale the starting points based on the number of abilities you have, but, after that, having one thief ability or all of them doesn't affect how it works).

wmarshal
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For me, I don't mind a Thief class that can only truly master 1 or 2 abilities. With the flat abilities alternative the thief is ahead of the curve for about half of his career, and when he falls behind after level 7 is when what proficiencies he spends determines his specialization.

Maybe your concerns can be mitigated by allowing both General and Class proficiency slots to be used to increase a Thief ability?

Alex
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Here is another variant. This has the same mathematical value as the standard thief progression, but it offers better scores upfront with slower progress overtime. It's better for levels 1-5, worse for levels 7+. 

LevelOpen LocksFind and Remove TrapsPick Pockets*Move SilentlyClimb WallsHide in ShadowsHear Noise
11414131461414
21414131351413
31313121351412
41313121241611
51212111241510
6121211114149
7111110113128
8111110103107
91010910386
10101099265
119989244
129988233
138878122
148877111

ALSO, many of the house rules linked above were excellent - thank you of reminding me of them. I will read them closely as I work on ACKS Heroic Fantasy...

 

bobloblah
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I'm going to chime in here with something I posted elsewhere recently in response to the notion that BECMI Thieves suck (which they do, to an extent). I think a significant part of what makes Thieves suck are factors outside the Class abilities. Anyway, on to what I was saying...

Agreed. Just using the B/X progression is the easiest fix. It's also important to keep in mind what Thief skills are, and aren't. For example, Move Silently isn't your chance of quietly getting close to someone (that would be a Surprise roll), it's the chance of being completely silent. Similarly, a Climb Walls check isn't for climbing a tree, rope, or sloped rock face, it's for climbing sheer surfaces. Open Locks is for when you don't want to bash through a door, or smash open a chest. Find Traps is for the stuff you didn't or can't find through player interaction, making it like an extra saving throw. Keeping this in perspective helps ameliorate the pressure on the Thief who is probably only going to make ~20% of their low-level checks. You can also grant bonuses to the chances for some tasks that are particularly easy, but still within the purview of only the Thief.

The other thing that helps a low-level Thief is avoiding catastrophic consequences for routine checks. For some checks this is unavoidable (e.g. Climb Walls), and others have specific stipulations (e.g. Pick Pockets and the victim's level/chance to notice), but not every failed check should end in disaster (e.g. failing Find Traps doesn't trigger the trap). Also try to avoid stacking multiple checks into a single operation just because; the worst offender for this, in my experience, is Move Silently and Hide in Shadows to surprise or Backstab someone, leaving a 1st level Thief a 2% total chance of success. That's just bad DMing, as most circumstances aren't going to require both (or possibly either; for example, a previously hidden Thief attacking from the rear against an opponent engaged with the rest of the party).

The last important piece of the puzzle is making sure the Thief player understands the capabilities and limitations of their character. Trying to Hide in Shadows to surprise and Backstab an Ogre when scouting alone is a foolish proposition. Climbing a 40' wall is risking certain death. Choose options that have reasonable chances for success and consequences for failure that you can live with. And, above all, get support from the rest of the party.

Thief abilities are "I win" buttons. Treating them as such puts the low starting chances in perspective.

koewn
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Indeed. I've seen this same reasoning elsewhere, and it makes complete sense. I'd been doing that so far in some manner or form.

Open Locks/Traps, if the roll is made, opens the lock/trap immediately, no matter what. If the roll is missed, it takes some (random roll) of rounds to fiddle with depending on the complexity of the lock.

I don't necessarily care if the lock always eventually gets opened; I want the chance for random happenstance to make it have been a bad idea to sit there and wait for the thief to get done.

Movie-drama, as it were.

I've been offhandedly considering (if the environment allows for it) to let Hide In Shadows double up as a "save" for gaining another backstab opportunity against an opponent engaged with someone else in melee; somehwat like Swords & Wizardry does. (i.e., a weaker Acrobatics)

moorcrys
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I love ACKS. But thieves in pretty much all old school D&D-type systems are irritating to me. They really are. Their abilities are so lackluster at low-to-mid levels that players are typically afraid to use them. I've been tempted to just give them a high chance of success off-the-bat and then attempt to codify some modifiers for situation or environment for each skill. Then I'd increase that already high chance of success every couple of levels until they had a base 5% chance of failure (before modifiers) by the time they were around name level. Why not? Is a thief that can hide in shadows and move silently reliably right off the bat *that* much of a powerhouse? They still have a d4 hit die, light armor, and a mediocre attack throw. I don't mind if they start off with a good shot at getting a x2 backstab in during a combat, or think they can pick a pocket at first level without a 45% chance of alerting their mark. I know it's anti-old school, but there. I said it. Let the thief be thiefy right off the bat.

Why not give them a flat 75% chance (a throw of 6 or better) at 1st level to succeed at their skills in a favorable environment/situation. Then give them a bonus to succeed if the situation is optimal and a penalty if it is less-than-favorable. A "1" is always a failure and a "20" is always a success. That gets the thief engaged in using their environment or weighing a situation to see how they can make the most out of it. They *know* it will affect their chances to succeed, which in my opinion is exactly what a thief should be doing - taking it all in to see how to stack the deck in their favor, and making the most out of a situation that they can. Currently a low level thief is reduced to gulping and rolling the dice to see if they get an 18 or better. And climbing walls with some confidence. Otherwise they hide in the back and siphon xp, or no one wants to play one unless you start the game at 5th level. I see a lot of thief henchmen and very few thief PCs, particularly in OSR games with no multiclassing. Ahem. I know there are folks out there that *love* thieves and love the insane challenge of them and what I'm saying is blasphemy - all I can say is that I read their messages on boards all the time but I don't think I've ever actually seen an enthusiastic, risk-taking, low-level thief in a game unless they were playing a multiclassed thief/something-or-other or were in a 1-shot.

Move silently would be modified by the surface they're walking on and ambient noise, open locks and find/remove traps by the complexity of the lock/trap and/or the speed at which they attempt to open/find/remove, hear noise modified by obstacles, ambient noise, and the sound itself.

Ultimately, I'd rather hear a PC thief say "Yeah, of *course* I can open this lock, but it's going to take some time. Watch my back and look out for trouble." instead of "I only have a 15% chance to open this lock... where's the mage and does he have knock?" Let the risky rolls come when the situation demands it and the thief is trying to work their trade in a less-than-optimal situation, like when an ogre with a big club is trying to squish them flat.

Jard
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I don't think what you're saying is blasphemy, and I've certainly heard that complaint from my players. Even one who was an assassin, which is ostensibly a multi-classed fighter/thief, was disappointed at how difficult it is to reliably move silently. It doesn't help that a player just reading the move silently/hide in shadows rolls doesn't realize that there are also surprise rolls and hear noise throws that amp up their odds.

The more I read this thread, the more I'm convinced thieves need an overhaul. Even with the lower XP threshold, it's not enough to make people want to be PCs, and in ACKs especially one has to be careful about classes getting divided into "PC worthy" classes and "Henchman" classes *coughventurercough* *coughpriestesscough*

jedavis
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I think the common thread with venturer, priestess, and thief is "d4 HD and can't blow stuff up / drop encounter-win spells". Nobody likes that degree of frailty without getting some serious power back out of the bargain. Venturer would be competitive with bard as a henchman-leader class if they swapped the casting at high levels for more HP, I think, but venturer is also hurt by the fact that they're very frontloaded ability-wise. This makes them great henchmen, since a first-level henchurer is about as good at the mercantile support stuff as a higher-level PC venturer. If the market-boosting was spread out a little more over levels, this would be less of a problem.

I have yet to see priestess in play except for one time when I played one briefly (one of my players attempted to co-DM one dungeon), and it seemed OK but they're hurt by levelling more slowly than clerics. You end up with more spells than a cleric of your same XP, but not typically better spells, and you can't fight for crap...

Jard
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makes the priestess ideal for heal-botting or for being a plentiful source of spells when it comes time to try and rack up divine power.

Dave
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Joined: 2013-03-17 15:23

I'll likely pull either the flat values or the better start, slow progressing option for my forthcoming ACKS game. I'm having some difficulty choosing between the two.

I can't see myself using any kind of point buy. I know a certain type of player would really like it, but the time at level up or character creation is a deal-breaker for me. It'd end up screening other players out of the class.

Thieves being strictly better in a game stuck at low levels is pretty okay with me; they're challenging enough as is you shouldn't be breaking anything.

In general I'm in Bobloblah's camp re thief skills: nigh-mystical, essentially a "second bite at the apple" alongside surprise rolls, figuring out the trap as a player, etc. My one reservation would be the effect of keeping that going alongside the better chances, especially the flat ones. The answer may be its just fine, no different from running for mid level thieves. But I'm not sure if there's something I'm missing.

Beragon
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Joined: 2012-02-26 22:57

I haven't had the chance to read the entire thread yet, but fascinating stuff. Just throwing this into the ring in the meantime:

Reduce all the Thief skill throws by 6. Then introduce a difficulty scale:

0 = easy
2 = moderate
4 = hard
6 = very hard

The above values work just like AC (in fact they're modeled exactly after the classic armor types). I don't know exactly what you do with the climbing skill though, since it starts out so low to begin with. Overall, it would help low-level thieves without impacting higher-level ones very much and it give the GM a gauge to give the player a clue as to how hard a given attempt would be.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

After reviewing the discussion and the various house-rules linked above, I think I am going to test the following in my next game(s).

UPDATED RULES
Encumbrance and Thievery: Thieves benefit from being light on their feet. If the character’s encumbrance is 5 stones or less, he gains a +2 bonus on throws to hide in shadows and move silently. If the character’s encumbrance is 2 stones or less, the bonus is increased to +4. The bonuses do not apply to hijinks.

Open Locks: Each attempt to pick a lock requires 10 minutes. A thief may try again if he fails to pick a lock. However, if a thief rolls a natural 1 while attempting to pick a lock, he has broken his thieves' tools.

Remove Traps: Each attempt to disarm a trap requires 10 minutes. A thief may try again if he fails to disarm a trap. However, if a thief rolls a natural 1 while attempting to disarm a trap, he has set off the trap.

NEW EQUIPMENT:
Armor oil: Lubricating oil which quiets the creaking and squeaking of leather armor. The encumbrance of oiled armor can be ignored when moving silently for the purposes of the encumbrance and thievery rules. A pint of armor oil will keep a suit of armor oiled for one week. Cost: 2gp.

Cloak, camouflage: A cloak woven with a colored pattern that makes its wearer harder to see. Camouflaged cloaks are available in a variety of colors and patterns for various environments. If the cloak’s camouflage is appropriate to the environment, the cloak adds a +2 bonus to any proficiency throws to hide in shadows, avoid being spotted, and evade in the wilderness. Characters wearing appropriate camouflage cloaks can always hide in shadows or avoid being spotted with a throw of at least 18+. It imposes a -2 penalty if the camouflage is inappropriate to the environment. The bonus and penalty do not apply to hijinks. Cost: 15gp.

Ear Trumpet: A funnel-shaped tube of silver, wood, shell, or horn that, when placed in its wearer’s ear canal, raises the apparent volume of sound. A character using an ear trumpet gains a +2 bonus to proficiency throws to hear noise. The bonus does not apply to hijinks. Cost: 15gp.

Padded Rigging: A series of belts, straps, pads, and harnesses designed to keep items securely fastened and protectively enclosed. A character wearing padded rigging can ignore up to 1 stone worth of equipment for purposes of the encumbrance and thievery rules. Cost: 5gp.

Padded Shoes: A pair of padded shoes with soft heels that grant a +2 bonus to proficiency throws to move silently. Padded shoes are ruined if worn in badlands, hills, mountains, swamps, or woods, or in water. Cost: 15gp.

Rope, Knotted Climbing: A rope of silk or hemp, carefully knotted at arm length intervals to aid in easy climbing. Any character may climb a knotted climbing rope with a proficiency throw of 2+, adjusted by the better of the character’s Strength or Dexterity modifier. Cost: 2gp.

Thieves' Tools, Superior: Superior thieves’ tools grant a +1 bonus to proficiency throws to open locks and remove traps. If the thief rolls a natural 1 while attempting to pick a lock, the tools may make a saving throw versus Death (at 1/2 thief’s level of experience) to resist breaking. The bonus does not apply to hijinks. Cost: 200gp.

Thieves’ Tools, Masterwork: Masterwork thieves' tools grant a +2 to proficiency throws to open locks and remove traps. If the thief rolls a natural 1 while attempting to pick a lock, the tools may make a saving throw versus Death (at the thief’s level) to resist breaking. The bonus does not apply to hijinks. Cost: 1,600gp.

Weapon Blackener: A sealing caulk which, when applied to weapons, permanently darkens their material. The encumbrance of blackened weapons can be ignored when hiding in shadows for purposes of the encumbrance and thievery rules. A pint of weapon blackener will suffice for one two-handed weapon, two one-handed weapons, or twenty arrows or quarrels. Cost: 10gp.

DESIGNER'S NOTES
First, since these rules don't alter the throw values for the thief skills, they don't require any changes to the proficiency or class-build system. They also don't require adjusting the hijinks mathematics, which would be a complex endeavor.
Second, they reduce the frustration resulting from a single point of failure. A thief can now attempt to pick a lock or remove a trap repeatedly, with only time and the risk of damage to the thief or his tools serve as obstacles to repeated attempts.
Third, they introduce relatively low-cost equipment that offers thieves an improved chance of success in their core tasks - picking locks, removing traps, hiding in shadows, and moving silently. However, the equipment does not stack with common magic items (such as wands of knock, rings of invisibility, ropes of climbing or elven cloaks) so it does not increase late-game power very much.
Fourth, they reward thieves for staying light and nimble and differentiate between thieves laden with shiny weapons, loose coin, and creaky armor, and stealthier types.

EXAMPLE in PLAY:
Rollo, a 2nd level thief, wears oiled leather armor, padded shoes (+2 to move silently), and a dark grey camouflaged cloak (+2 to hide in shadows); he wields a blackened long sword and blackened dagger; and he carries masterwork thieves' tools (+2), grappling hook, and 50' knotted rope in padded rigging. His encumbrance is 4 3/6. Padded rigging reduces this to 3 3/6. For purposes of moving silently, his encumbrance is 1 3/6 (+4 bonus), for purposes of hiding in shadows it is 3 1/6 (+2 bonus).

Open Locks 15+ (30% success instead of 20% - 1.5x and see below)
Find Traps 17+
Remove Traps 15+ (30% success instead of 20% - 1.5x and see below)
Pick Pockets 16+
Move Silently 10+ (55% success instead of 20% - almost 3x)
Hide in Shadows 14+ (35% success instead of 15% - more than 2x)
Climb Walls 6+

At 1 in 6 every 2 turns, a wandering monster typically results every 12 turns. Let's use 6 and 12 turns as the number of turns a thief can attempt to open a lock or remove a trap. With 6 tries at 30% success, the thief has an 89% chance of success. With 12 tries at 30% success, the thief has a 99% chance of success. (I have disregard the chance of breakage/setting off the trap).

Jard
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Joined: 2012-07-11 23:23

Very solid, and akin to things I have toyed with doing myself for a while. Glad someone else did the heavy lifting. :-P

After having used "doing things the safe way takes more time and thus more wandering monster rolls" several times in my own campaign, I like where this is going. The only extra tweak I might propose is that if there's anyone on the other side of the locked door, they should get the chance to hear noise on a failed lockpick attempt.

Overall though this is absolutely a step in the right direction.

moorcrys
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Joined: 2012-02-22 22:34

Looking good Alex! I like how you're handling it. I'm a softie, so I'll probably try this out and also houserule adding Ability bonuses to thief skills and that should bring their skill chances up to where I want them. Plus the equipment is cool!

I think this is an unintended consequence (I like it but you may not): When they come into play, Lockpicking and Trap Finding proficiencies get *a lot* more useful using these rules.

I'm amazed at how smart the folks are on the ACKS forums, and how dedicated you are to weighing input mixed with your own design skills to improve the game. I'm typically intimidated to post on some of these threads for fear of dumbing down the conversation. You guys see things to a depth that I rarely can follow. Smart smart smart. Such inspirational reading. :-)

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Thanks for the kind words! I think ACKS attracts GMs and Players who like tinkering with game mechanics (as compared to flavor or story or setting). As result these forums are a treasure trove of insight into the game.

As for me, I view the rules like a body of common law rather than a mandate of statutory law. Each gamemaster is his own district court. When inconsistencies arise, then the appeals court will, of necessity, hand down a judgment. But the appeals court also learns from the rulings of the other courts and can adjust the common law when needed. The ACKS rulebook is the Restatement of the Common Law. (And now you know why ACKS calls you all Judges...)

Jard
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Joined: 2012-07-11 23:23

Since I've started running ACKs, I have made "Each Campaign is a Law Unto Itself" my mantra.

golan2072
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Joined: 2012-01-14 14:14

I *LOVE* these rules! Definitely would be put into my ACKS game.

Kamard
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Joined: 2013-05-15 20:31

Oh, SNAP. How did I miss this entire thread?

Beragon
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Joined: 2012-02-26 22:57

"Padded Rigging" actually sounds like a very nice piece of adventuring equipment for any character! Consider the following change:

Gear Rigging – A series of belts, straps, pads, and harnesses, designed to keep items securely fastened and protectively enclosed. A character wearing gear rigging can ignore 1 stone worth of equipment for the purposes of encumbrance affecting movement. Gear rigging counts as clothing. Cost: 5 gp.

Malo Monkey
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Joined: 2012-06-24 16:54

Good stuff, Alex. I love risk/reward being inherent in the rules. I've been trying to post my own thief rules, which use a +2 per turn spent system. Unfortunately, I seem to have a problem posting from home.

Anyway, thanks for the new house-rules!

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