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darjr

I crit!
Fun fact- the original thief concept (that Gygax, um, borrowed) was from Gary Switzer & Aero Games. In that version, the thief was based off of the Magic User, and had abilities based on a modified spell system that could be "used" without fail instead of spells.

Gygax took the concept and published the thief with percentile abilities in Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9. Because of the whole leveling thing, and, arguably, the eternal hatred of Gygax*, the thief's abilities have been terrible in all the TSR versions of D&D.


*It is so weird to me that after destroying the class repeatedly at all opportunities, Gygax chose to write about ... Gord, the Rogue.
Where would one find this initial version of the Thief by Gary Switzer?
 

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TiQuinn

Registered User
Gygax took the concept and published the thief with percentile abilities in Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9. Because of the whole leveling thing, and, arguably, the eternal hatred of Gygax*, the thief's abilities have been terrible in all the TSR versions of D&D.
I know people are beating up on rogues in that other thread because of reasons but I’ve never NOT enjoyed playing a thief or a rogue in D&D. Easily my favorite class to play. Yes, you fail often at 1st level in 1e or 2e but you’re also the only one with a chance of sneaking past a guard to get into position to do a backstab, and that whole little part of the game has always enthralled me.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I know people are beating up on rogues in that other thread because of reasons but I’ve never NOT enjoyed playing a thief or a rogue in D&D. Easily my favorite class to play. Yes, you fail often at 1st level in 1e or 2e but you’re also the only one with a chance of sneaking past a guard to get into position to do a backstab, and that whole little part of the game has always enthralled me.
And that is the problem with the thief as written: it seems to deny other players options that should not be prescribed. Anyone can hang out quietly in an.alcove waiting for the guard to walk by and then gank him.
 


B/X is my favorite version of official D&D.
The first game I played was a mad B, B/X, AD&D hybrid that the 'big kids' were playing. First game I owned was a first printing Mentzer Basic set. Throughout my initial run with TSR D&D, we hewed much closer to basic-classic than to advanced. Even today, I champ at the bit to get a game going (although these days it is mostly Worlds Without Number or Beyond the Wall). *probably 10-11 year-olds.
I often wonder if people actually play the various B/X games as intended (dungeon and hex crawling) or if people use them more broadly for "fantasy adventures." I know when I was a young BECMI player and DM, we did a whole lot more wilderness exploration than dungeon crawling, largely driven by us getting the Basic and Expert sets nearly simultaneously. The Isle of Dread taught us what real.D&D adventures were and that's what we stuck with mostly.
I think a lot of people played a bunch of dungeon-crawling, often well into the expert set levels. It was mentioned in the books consistently, and many of the rules* were very focused on it -- your miscellaneous survival gear was a fixed weight, defending magic users was massively easier in 10' corridors than elsewhere, etc. It also was a convenient avenue of funneling the PCs towards the monsters and treasure. *including expert set rules, or at least many were not updated when the supposed gameplay loop changed

I do suspect that, once people left the formulaic confines of the dungeons, they did not often jump to the formulaic wilderness of hex-crawls. Like ignoring the reaction charts* and morale checks* to instead have the DM decide when creatures were friendly or when they would run, I think a lot of us populated the wilderness as we saw fit*. Likewise, we certainly did start of "fantasy adventures" well before Dragonlance and the like. I don't remember what we always did with the whole not-treasure-hunting-->huge xp drop issue. Probably just had lots of combat and convenient-to-find treasure just as if it were a dungeon.
*along with all the variation in how the game played out this entails.

Gygax took the concept and published the thief with percentile abilities in Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9. Because of the whole leveling thing, and, arguably, the eternal hatred of Gygax*, the thief's abilities have been terrible in all the TSR versions of D&D.
*It is so weird to me that after destroying the class repeatedly at all opportunities, Gygax chose to write about ... Gord, the Rogue.
I do wonder if Gord was (in Gary's mind) a pre-thief class Rogue -- i. e. a Fighting Man who happened to spend a lot of time doing universally-available-ability climbing, sneaking, and trap-finding.
That is so bad!
In the old days we just knew they sucked but played anyway because we thought they were cool.
But really it was only after playing other games did it stick out as quite as absurd as it is..
IME, and IMO, what eventually happens is that thieves just don't use some of their abilities.
I think we played thieves because it was an appealing archetype and concept. Also because, Holmes-onward, the game implied that you needed a thief to do the thieving things (even if they were bad at it and had a low life-expectancy). I suspect a lot of games quickly morphed into what I will call 'Playing the thief by playing the DM' -- trying your best to never end up with your DM actually making you pick up the percentile dice.

Even then, I wondered why they weren't at least (effectively, in exchange for their abilities) Fighters with lighter armor instead of Magic Users without spells. The d4 hp and lackluster saves did not make sense for someone who might spring the traps or fall while climbing*. *and the 'can use all weapons' quality seemed wasted with their to-hit chart and poor combat survivability.

A large part of me thinks he didn't like them and was just putting a perfunctory version out there for those who did (like weapon-vs-armor or psionics). Another part thinks this was another of his over-valuing a quality/over-fearing its abuse*. I think being able to use most magic items (both Magic User gear, and the Fighter's possibly intelligent/spell-granting magic swords) was considered a big deal -- bigger than many of us found it to matter in-actual-play*. Overall, though, I think Gary worried that letting people use dice rolls to circumvent obstacles in the game would run counter to players actually describing looking for the traps, thinking their way through challenge scenarios, etc.**
*kinda like just how awful mystics/monks always had to be, since being able to perform without weapons and armor was so beneficial (in that one adventure per campaign where everyone else was without their gear).
**'yay, I get to use the crystal ball instead of the MU next to me'. Also, this spell-granting sword wants me to kill clerics, grants Detect Sloping Passages, and tries to take control of me.'
***never mind how spells do much the same. Nor how often that devolved into "I have a list of keywords I shout, 'I check the _____' at the DM as we approach every new room.'

Which ... yeah. The thief is definitely the worst designed class of the TSR era, and I don't think it's close.
Did... did you just pass up an opportunity to denigrate the Bard?
 
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TiQuinn

Registered User
And that is the problem with the thief as written: it seems to deny other players options that should not be prescribed. Anyone can hang out quietly in an.alcove waiting for the guard to walk by and then gank him.
Sure, but that’s not quite the same thing in my mind. At least I’ve always ruled that if a fighter or cleric is already positioned in an alley or behind some cover, and an enemy walks by, they can ambush them and at least get surprise.

(Edited for clarity)
 
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And that is the problem with the thief as written: it seems to deny other players options that should not be prescribed.
This is why my favorite way to run the thief is that their skills are Supernaturally Beyond what anyone can attempt.

Anyone can hide, a thief can hide in shadows - in plain sight, no cover.

Anyone can climb a wall - a thief can climb a sheer surface. A thief can climb a perfectly smooth, sheer glass wall with no handholds and no tools.

And so on and so forth.

Any time a thief tries to do the mundane version of those actions - such as climbing a wall with handholds and gear, they automatically succeed.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
This is why my favorite way to run the thief is that their skills are Supernaturally Beyond what anyone can attempt.

Anyone can hide, a thief can hide in shadows - in plain sight, no cover.

Anyone can climb a wall - a thief can climb a sheer surface. A thief can climb a perfectly smooth, sheer glass wall with no handholds and no tools.

And so on and so forth.

Any time a thief tries to do the mundane version of those actions - such as climbing a wall with handholds and gear, they automatically succeed.
This is a fine solution as long as you are okay with a world in which this kind of power is available. Some people would balk, I think, because they prefer a more grounded approach.
 

For clarity, I was wondering what people do with B/X stuff now, not what they did then.
Take a look at the popular, modern OSR modules written for Old School Essentials. Its lots of small, self-contained dungeon crawls, smaller-scale sandbox hexcrawls, and a handful of Megadungeons, mostly all lower level. Nobody really writes anything for Domain Level play, and Mid/High level stuff is rare.

Examples: Wyvern Songs, Ardun Vur, Nightmare over Ragged Hollow, Tomb Robbers of the Crystal Frontier, In the Shadow of Tower Silveraxe
 

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