Saturday, May 10, 2008

Don't Touch Those Dice!

Not unless you absolutely have to.

Sham's got some very interesting thoughts about the thief over at his Grog 'n Blog, and the use of dice rolls to overcome obstacles:

Too many hidden traps which go off unerringly, damaging the characters and slowly (or instantly) whittling away at their hit points and resources become something other than traps. Such traps become abstract, losing their identity, reduced to mere collections of numbers.

The very notion of removing elements of deduction and logical thinking is the antithesis of the Empty Room Principle. Spot check? Not on your life, unless you either tell me you are specifically looking for something, or I, as referee, judge that your character might have a chance, not a static number, of noticing something based upon the prevailing circumstances.

I couldn't agree more. When the Trollwife picked a magic-user for her a solo character, and then had to negotiate traps by investigating them and finding logical ways to disable or avoid them, it created some of the best dungeon-delving I've ever run.

So the thief is on the chopping block for my Moldvay/Cook/LL hack. If somebody wants to play a stealthy fighter type badly enough, I'll make it happen for them. But I've got some ideas in mind for skills that might just make the thief obsolete anyway.


Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks! I'm glad my thoughts resonated with you, and I'm glad to hear the Trollwife enjoys real role-playing. Too bad Mrs. Grog 'n Blog thinks I'm out to get her when the dice aren't kind. Well, she tend to think that way all of the time, not just in D&D ;-)


RipperX said...


I suppose that I am what one would classify as a Professional Thief. When I just want to have some fun role-playing, I always go for the thief class.

Trap location and disarming is a talent, like hitting something with a sword. There are different degrees of traps, and each trap has a different kind of modifier.

The way that we always handled it was, first I actually have to check. Clearly I'm not going to check every room, or door knob in the place. I have to specify exactly what I'm checking, say a Chest . . . is it booby-trapped? I roll a standard check and pass, the DM tells me that it appears to be rigged up to do something if I open it up. I see if I can't disarm it, I roll the dice, but the DM silently applies his modifiers to it. I throw a 56, and he tells me that I found a tiny button on the side, and I press it. I honestly don't know if I defeated the trap or not! I pick the lock, and find that I had defeated it.

I've had a few DM's really make me sweat with that stuff! Some traps are impossible to defeat, but the thief wouldn't know that until he's set it off. Other traps, are designed to open secret doors, a thief can detect the presence of a mechanism, but has no idea how it works. It is pretty much a different system to search for an item. A thief is the most skilled at finding things that he's not suppose to, not because of magic, but because he is skilled in such things and knows what to look for.

Of all of the classes, I find thieves to be the most exciting, but that is probably just me.

trollsmyth said...

Of all of the classes, I find thieves to be the most exciting, but that is probably just me.

No, I know it's not just you. I have friends who play nothing else, even when we move to other genres and systems.

My problems with the thief, however, require the class be utterly transformed so that it is unrecognizable from its Moldvay/Cook form. Granted, I'm not sure the Moldvay/Cook thief looks much like his 2e descendant, either. I just don't want everyone sitting on their hands while the single thief does all the scouting or handles all the traps. I want the entire party as involved in every step of the adventure as possible. That means I need everyone to be able to sneak and hide, and be good enough at it that I can't protect the thief's niche in that regard.

That doesn't mean, however, that I can't create a new niche for a character who has a lot of the same appeal as a thief. I do want a dexterity-based class. We'll just have to see how successful I am at dreaming up something worthy.

- Brian

trollsmyth said...

Too bad Mrs. Grog 'n Blog thinks I'm out to get her when the dice aren't kind.

That's why the Trollwife will do anything possible to avoid rolling dice if she can avoid it. And she's not above trying to bribe the DM! Unfortunately, I'm susceptible to temptation by fresh-baked cookies. ;)

- Brian