Obligatory OSR blogger rite of passage: Thinking about thieves’ skills
Here’s a thought.
Some people dislike the percentile-based abilities for thieves in B/X. These same people often overlook the fact that one thief ability – Hear Noise – uses a d6 mechanic. The B/X thief gets 2 pips (on 1d6; that is, a 2 in 6 chance) to Hear Noise at 1st level, 3 pips at 3rd, 4 pips at 7th, and 5 pips at 11th. Why not use that progression for all of a thief’s skills? In fact, why not just call the skill Thieving (or Thievery, or Thievage, or whatever) and use that same progression? You’re a 1st-level thief? You have a 2 in 6 chance to do your thing, whatever it is. That’s 33.33%, which means your climbing ability isn’t what it was but everything else is looking a lot better than before. Because that’s another thing some people don’t like about thieves’ abilities in the old games: at low levels, your thief just isn’t very good at doing his thing. This actually never bothered me when I played thieves. I wouldn’t expect to be very good at low levels. If you start off very good, where do you go? 33.33% strikes me as a decent compromise, though. I mean, let’s take a 1st-level fighter doing his thing, i.e., hitting someone with a sword. If that someone is wearing “average” armour (let’s say chain mail, AC 5) then our fighter friend needs to roll 14 to hit him. That’s a 35% chance of doing some damage, which is a pretty close match to our thief’s chance of successful thievage.
Someone must have done this already, no?
Personally, I like the way Jim Raggi applies a neat d6 mechanic to all adventuring abilities in Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. In my next campaign (which I’m working on intermittently) I think I’ll use a version of that system, whether or not I use the specialist class. I’m thinking that (1) everyone gets 1 pip in each adventuring ability; (2) thieves get 1 bonus pip in each of Climb, Sleight of Hand (B/X’s Pick Pockets), Stealth (Hide in Shadows & Move Silently), and Tinkering (Open Locks & Remove Traps). Then they progress as per Hear Noise, described above, despite the fact that ironically Hear Noise is the one ability that LotFP completely does away with.