How were these "rules" supposed to work, anyways???

vivsavage

Explorer
Pre 3.x, many rules and procedures are vague at best. A basic check to spot something, move stealthily, and so on, are essentially not addressed. Sure, the thief has move silently/hide in shadows, but any such attempts by non-thieves aren't covered. There is mention of using ability checks in place of some saving throws, which could be implemented for things not detailed... but this method clashes with thief abilities. In other words, if you use a dexterity check to move silently, you're supplanting the thief's ability (which is probably inferior to boot).

My question is: how have you filled in these proverbial holes? When a thief has a 15% chance to hide in shadows, s/he's going to fail 85% of the time, discouraging the player from attempting the ability. Does the DM in your campaign say that a failure means that any NPCs must still make a roll to see the thief? Do you borrow surprise rules in some fashion?

I last played AD&D about 25 years ago and can't remember how we adjudicated this stuff.
 

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Nagol

Unimportant
It varies dramatically from table to table because there are no RAW to rely on. Typically, DMs adopt systems they've seen in modules/other RPGs/feel work well enough/proposed by the players/on a whim.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
We always played if you failed your hide in shadows check..well you didn't hide and were visible. There were no perception checks for the people you were sneaking on, if you were in their field of vision you were spotted. And a lot of time you had to rule things on they fly if it wasn't specifically covered.
 

Pre 3.x, many rules and procedures are vague at best. A basic check to spot something, move stealthily, and so on, are essentially not addressed.
There was no check to spot, there were checks to hide in shadows and move silently (very often both, good luck with that), and there were checks for surprise. As far as spotting, if you said you looked where something was, you found it.
There is mention of using ability checks , which could be implemented for things not detailed... but this method clashes with thief abilities.
One variation on ability checks I recall was rolling under the ability on a d20. I used it in 1st ed Gamma World games I ran more recently (like, in the past 10 years), and refined it to 'roll as high as possible without going over' to get a relative sense of how well you did. I also used a percentile system back in the day, based on ability and level.

In other words, if you use a dexterity check to move silently, you're supplanting the thief's ability (which is probably inferior to boot).
That was an issue with 2e NWPs, IIRC.


I last played AD&D about 25 years ago and can't remember how we adjudicated this stuff.
I vaguely recall arguments. Very long, but not very vitriolic, arguments.
 
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Pre 3.x, many rules and procedures are vague at best. A basic check to spot something, move stealthily, and so on, are essentially not addressed. Sure, the thief has move silently/hide in shadows, but any such attempts by non-thieves aren't covered.
Short answer: Because non-thieves aren't SUPPOSED to be acting like thieves. If you're a fighter you're not supposed to be sneaking up on people, you're supposed to be charging them with sword high and bloodcurdling scream (sort of thing).

There is mention of using ability checks in place of some saving throws, which could be implemented for things not detailed... but this method clashes with thief abilities. In other words, if you use a dexterity check to move silently, you're supplanting the thief's ability (which is probably inferior to boot).
In fact, the opposite tends to happen. Thief abilities are CRAP percentages at low levels. Cleric Magoo decides HE wants to sneak up on someone, so, not having an obvious mechanic for it the DM says, "Roll your dex," or somesuch. And then the thief player looks at the 15% chance of success to do that for his 1st level PC who's supposedly GOOD at such things and rightfully wonders why he's being screwed so royally.

My question is: how have you filled in these proverbial holes?
Firstly, players are discouraged from treading into areas where other PC's are supposed to be taking the spotlight. THIEVES are the ones who sneak, backstab, and hide in shadows. If that's what you want your PC to do - PLAY THAT CLASS which supports it directly and don't give me any arguments about how logical it is that everybody should be able to do it. By definition everyone is NOT able to do it because it has been given as a SPECIAL CLASS ABILITY to one class. Choose something else to do that is more in line with your CHOSEN class abilities or else expect to have a VERY slim chance to succeed.

Secondly, I bumped thief abilities HUGELY. At 1st level, just about all their abilities begin with at least a 50/50 chance of success. And they do not have to roll to succeed if there isn't a significant reason they might fail. Need to sneak past a guard? Well, unless there's peanut shells all over the ground or the guard is especially wary - the thief succeeds. The game is BETTER for it when the thief is not required to face a RELENTLESS series of checks to do the things he's SUPPOSED to be good at. If he's hiding in shadows, then unless the PC chooses a really bad, well-lit place to hide then... he successfully hides. When a thief wants to climb a wall, unless it is DELIBERATELY meant to be a wall that is a deadly danger to attempt to climb, then even if the thief fails the check it does not mean he falls to his death - it means he reaches a certain point and merely can't proceed any further.

I last played AD&D about 25 years ago and can't remember how we adjudicated this stuff.
It's usually been adjudicated by whatever means the DM finds convenient and reasonable. Note well that prior to 3.x it wasn't exactly a game-ending problem to NOT have carefully detailed rules for anyone and everyone to move silently, hide, fail to notice things, convince NPC's of some lie to accomplish a goal, etc. Often, if the player could simply give a sufficient justification for why he should succeed then the DM allowed them to succeed. If the DM wanted the PC's to find something - they found it. Or at the very least, it was a matter of the description the players gave of what they were searching FOR, where they were looking, etc.; if the DM thought it was close enough to succeed - it succeeded. No special rolls of dice against intricately detailed chances of success or failure. INTERACTION WITH THE DM determined success or failure.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Pre 3.x, many rules and procedures are vague at best. A basic check to spot something, move stealthily, and so on, are essentially not addressed. Sure, the thief has move silently/hide in shadows, but any such attempts by non-thieves aren't covered.
Well, that's because in most cases non-Thieves aren't intended to be able to use sneakery skills; and for "spot" (not an actual thing in 1e) you'd just say you are looking for something and the DM would quickly determine odds of success (whether existent or not), roll some dice, and tell you what you found or didn't find.

Often what I'll do is if it's known there's something there I'll give a roll-under check to the character to see how much detail they can pull. An example might go:
DM: As you approach the door you hear some noises behind it.
Fighter: I stop and listen closer.
DM: OK, roll under {usually intelligence, sometimes wisdom, depending}. [roll is 19, way over Int] Yeah, just some indistinct sounds.
MagicUser: As I don't have all that clunky armour, I move a bit closer and listen. [roll is 2, where lower is better]
DM: You hear large things being moved, and a few voices; quite possibly speaking Orcish.

Now were it a Thief listening they'd use their "hear noise" d% roll instead, and even if that failed they'd still get a d20 roll like everyone else.

There is mention of using ability checks in place of some saving throws, which could be implemented for things not detailed... but this method clashes with thief abilities. In other words, if you use a dexterity check to move silently, you're supplanting the thief's ability (which is probably inferior to boot).
Well, not necessarily. I'd rule it that even if a non-Thief rolls as well as possible for this their sneaking still wouldn't be as quiet as a trained professional Thief who had passed a move-silently check...but possibly quiet enough, depending on circumstances. (also don't forget some other classes do get some overlap skills with Thief - Monk and Ranger come quickly to mind)

I mean, think about it - real-life me or you could try moving quietly down a hallway and might even succeed; we just wouldn't be nearly as good at it (or nearly as quiet even on success) as a trained Ninja.

My question is: how have you filled in these proverbial holes? When a thief has a 15% chance to hide in shadows, s/he's going to fail 85% of the time, discouraging the player from attempting the ability.
Most things attempted at very low level fail most of the time - nothing new there. :)

Does the DM in your campaign say that a failure means that any NPCs must still make a roll to see the thief?
Entirely depends on circumstances. Failing the roll just means the Thief has reduced herself to the same status as any other character, thus if the Thief is in a position unlikely to be seen anyway then I-as-DM do some random rolling to determine if she's seen or not; and if the Thief is in a position where she can't help but be seen then yeah, she's gonna be seen.

Lan-"these sort of things are why DM screens exist"-efan
 

Dorian_Grey

First Post
This came up many times with my group and I had a very specific rule set I followed. If you wanted to do something that was a thief ability - you rolled like a thief. But I treated you like a thief who didn't have points to spend on abilities. Let's take your example, someone wants to hide in shadows or find/remove traps. Let's just say a first level Halfling fighter is scouting ahead, because the thief is injured or some such. So we have our fighter, in studded leather, scouting. What does that look like:

1. Base chance to hide in shadows is 5% (PHB, Table 26, on page 54).
2. Halflings get a bonus of 15% (PHB, Table 27, on page 54).
3. Now our halfling fighter is pretty dexterous, and has a 17 dexterity, so gets an additional 5% to hide in shadows (PHB, Table 28, on page 54).
4. Studded leather reduces hide in shadows by 20%.

When you add it all together you get:

5% + 15% + 5% - 20% = 5%

The halfling fighter does not get points like the thief does to improve the skill, so it's a base 5%. Further, you could argue that without training, the halfling might take an additional penalty. This might knock him down to 0% or 2%. That's up to you. Or maybe the wounded thief offers to blacken some of his armor, giving him a bonus. Again, it is entirely up to the DM. Whatever you do to modify the final score, don't tell the PC. And either roll for them, or let them roll and then just make a note. The halfling can then either proceed forward, confident, or not. Player's choice.

As a note, the initial thirty points you can use to max out skills at first level makes your thief a specialist. You can be a housebreaker, or a pick pocket, or a spy - but not all of the above. I've played thieves, and enjoyed them even at first level. The big thing is not to play by RAW. The DM is encouraged to modify success above and beyond what the player can do. Is the hallway especially dark or are the guards drunk? Then it is easier. Is the hallway brightly lit with torches and candles? Then it is harder.

Anyway, that's how I handle it :)

Edit to Add: As a note, my last 2nd Edition thief was a gnome named Cornelius (I love that name). I saw him very much as a scout type. My highest roll was a 14 (Stats were: Str 10, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 15 (+1 Gnome Racial Bonus), Wis 9 (-1 gnome Racial Penalty), and Chr 9). I had leather armor, a short bow, and a club. My thief skills were as follows:

PP: 15%
OL: 30%
FRT: 30%
MS: 30%
HS: 25%
DN: 25%
CW: 45%
RL: 0%

Without armor, his MS and HS go up by 10% and 5% respectively. Pretty good chance to do something before any modifiers in place.
 
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dagger

Explorer
I think 1e also gave additional +/- based on the race you chose, and I think we use to use that as well.
 
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Igwilly

First Post
Well, not wanting to bring in RPG philosophy, but I think the question “What happens when non-thieves try to use thief’s skills” says a lot about the class Thief/Rogue itself and how it has changed through the years. I don’t know, but I often feel like the Thief has lost its essence and now it’s just a variant dirty-fighting-Fighter. But that’s just me.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
what I liked about 1e a bit more than detailed skill systems with things like "Search" is the DM expected the player to kind of play though what is PC was doing. If you wanted to fip over the mattress of the bed, run your hands along the bottom of the drawer you pulled out, etc you had to tell the DM that instead of just saying "I search....I got a 19 on my check" and that is really the limit of the interaction with the environment.
 

If I recall correctly, the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide had rules for non-Thieves attempting some thief skills, like Climb Walls.

I think that 1e classes can generally be classified into three categories: classes that start off very weak but come into their own later (Magic-Users and Thieves); classes that front-load, but take forever to level up (Barbarian); and finally, classes that are pretty good throughout, like the Fighter and Cleric.
 

dagger

Explorer
We did not bump up the skill percentages, they just had to suck it up. Also, most of the thieves people played where some kind of multi-class, many being fighter/thief and even one magic-user/thief.

A few times we allowed the thief characters to use the 2e Method if they wanted to allocate skill points themselves.

I still run a AD&D 1e game btw, but no player has a thief at the moment. We don't play very often because the main game is a 5e game, but occasionally we run AD&D.
 

Gentlegamer

First Post
Good descriptive action/favorable circumstances pre-empts move silently/hide in shadows, for all characters.

A thief can roll as bonus to the normal surprise checks, given the circumstances.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
If I recall correctly it was a Problem we learned to live with, back in the days.

Pre 3.x, many rules and procedures are vague at best. A basic check to spot something, move stealthily, and so on, are essentially not addressed. Sure, the thief has move silently/hide in shadows, but any such attempts by non-thieves aren't covered. There is mention of using ability checks in place of some saving throws, which could be implemented for things not detailed... but this method clashes with thief abilities. In other words, if you use a dexterity check to move silently, you're supplanting the thief's ability (which is probably inferior to boot).

My question is: how have you filled in these proverbial holes? When a thief has a 15% chance to hide in shadows, s/he's going to fail 85% of the time, discouraging the player from attempting the ability. Does the DM in your campaign say that a failure means that any NPCs must still make a roll to see the thief? Do you borrow surprise rules in some fashion?

Nowadays I'd make a clear distinction between something every character might do and something only a thief might achieve. If there is some shadow to hide in and the hidee has a Chance to get there unnoticed, I'd have a non-thief character roll for it (Dex or maybe Wis) while a thief would get there automatically without rolling. But if there's next to no shadow and/or a guard watches pretty closely, the non-thief would have no chance at all, while the thief could roll his hide-in-shadows check. So while he's got only a chance of 10% (1e for 1st Level thief), he actually has one.

Climbing up a tree or easy cliff? Non-thieves roll an Attribute check while the thief's already up there without a Chance of failure. Climbing up a brick wall? Well, only the thief might even try it.
 

was

Adventurer
...We usually just rolled an ability check (roll under your ability on a d20) in such situations. So, for example, if a wizard wanted to stealth he/she would roll a d20 and try to roll under their Dexterity stat.
 

fuindordm

Explorer
I forget how 2nd edition handled it.

But in AD&D, your average PC schmuck sneaking up on some orcs had a base 33% chance to surprise (1-2 on a d6). Some classes had a bonus penalty to the surprise chance. If you manage to surprise your opponent you get the concrete benefit of a partial round lasting 1-2 segments before the orcs can act.

So what does that pitiful 15% roll do for the thief? Well, it takes some digging in the DMG to work it out, but let's say a thief is sneaking up on the same orcs.

If they succeed at one of Move Silently/Hide in Shadows, then their chance to surprise goes up to 1-4 on a d6.

If they succeed at both rolls, then their chance of surprise goes to 1-6 on a d6.

So the thief has a chance to surprise BETTER than other classes, gaining more time to act in the surprise round (up to 6 segements!), and that's what the rolls are for.

As for the backstab, I was pretty liberal as a DM and allowed it in combat with only a move silently roll provided the target's attention was occupied elsewhere by an allied opponent. Backstab just needs inattention and facing, not surprise.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But in AD&D, your average PC schmuck sneaking up on some orcs had a base 33% chance to surprise (1-2 on a d6). Some classes had a bonus penalty to the surprise chance. If you manage to surprise your opponent you get the concrete benefit of a partial round lasting 1-2 segments before the orcs can act.
With various exceptions, this is pretty much it.

So what does that pitiful 15% roll do for the thief? Well, it takes some digging in the DMG to work it out, but let's say a thief is sneaking up on the same orcs.

If they succeed at one of Move Silently/Hide in Shadows, then their chance to surprise goes up to 1-4 on a d6.

If they succeed at both rolls, then their chance of surprise goes to 1-6 on a d6.

So the thief has a chance to surprise BETTER than other classes, gaining more time to act in the surprise round (up to 6 segements!), and that's what the rolls are for.
By the book, all true. I've modified this all to hell, but the general idea is the same.

As for the backstab, I was pretty liberal as a DM and allowed it in combat with only a move silently roll provided the target's attention was occupied elsewhere by an allied opponent. Backstab just needs inattention and facing, not surprise.
To me, inattention and facing gives surprise...but only for one segment. Otherwise, this is what I also do.

Lan-"and backstrike can only be done with handheld weapons, not ranged"-efan
 


Gentlegamer

First Post
As for the backstab, I was pretty liberal as a DM and allowed it in combat with only a move silently roll provided the target's attention was occupied elsewhere by an allied opponent. Backstab just needs inattention and facing, not surprise.

AD&D combat isn't tactical, and facing isn't a consideration in a 1 minute combat round, save when a combatant is surrounded.
 


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