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Thiefin' illustration by Jeff Dee, copyright TSR

Thiefin' illustration by Jeff Dee, copyright TSR

While I am a fan of the B/X D&D Thief, I am not as enamoured with the percentile skill system. In general I dislike percentile systems because the granularity is just too fine. I also tend to prefer die rolls with curved results. Finally, many players of thieves tend to have this idea that a high Dexterity (or Intelligence in some cases) should be beneficial to the thief for more than just XP.

So, inspired in part by the series of B/X Thief posts this week over at B/X Blackrazor, in this article I tackle two alternates to the thiefing system in the Moldvay basic rules (not the Mentzer / BECMI version where skill percentages have been significantly ramped down with the addition of the Companion level set). One uses 1d6 instead of the 1d100, and the other uses 2d6.

1d6 Thief Skills

This system replaces the 1d100 roll with a 1d6 roll. Just roll 1d6 and roll the numbers indicated on the table for success. It also allows, at the highest levels, for a zero chance of failure. If you still want to allow for failure, whenever a 6 is rolled when a 1-6 is required, roll again and if the second roll is a 4+, then the thief has failed. You can really see the massive improvement thieves get just before and after name level in this chart.

This table is a nearly direct switch from the B/X table to the 1d6 method.

Thief   Open   Find/Remove   Pick     Move    Climb   Hide in  Hear
Level   Locks    Traps     Pockets  Silently  Walls   Shadows  Noise
  1       1        1          1        1       1-5       1      1-2
  2       1        1          1        1       1-5       1      1-2
  3       1        1         1-2      1-2      1-5       1      1-3
  4      1-2       1         1-2      1-2      1-5       1      1-3
  5      1-2      1-2        1-2      1-2      1-5       1      1-3
  6      1-3      1-2        1-3      1-3      1-5      1-2     1-3
  7      1-3      1-3        1-3      1-3      1-5      1-2     1-4
  8      1-4      1-3        1-4      1-4      1-5      1-3     1-4
  9      1-4      1-4        1-4      1-4      1-5      1-4     1-4
 10      1-5      1-4        1-5      1-5      1-6      1-4     1-4
 11      1-5      1-5        1-5      1-5      1-6      1-5     1-5
 12      1-6      1-5        1-6      1-6      1-6      1-5     1-5
 13      1-6      1-6        1-7      1-6      1-6      1-5     1-5
 14      1-6      1-6        1-7      1-6      1-6      1-6     1-5

2d6 Thief Skills

This system replaces all the skills with 2d6 rolls. The benefit of the 2d6 curvature is that a bonus with a very low target number is a huge bonus, but getting a bonus when your target number is above 7 is a minor bonus – this makes it so adding a bonus to the thief’s skills based on his Dex stat will help a low level thief, but not make a high level thief too out of line with the game assumptions. When using this chart, the goal is to roll the number on the chart or higher on 2d6.

Every attempt has been made on this table to make it identical to the thief skill levels from the Moldvay / Cook Expert set. It really emphasizes the advantage of Name level. Because other characters use the hear noise rules (and the oddities of the 2d6 system when looking for an even 50% chance of success), I  recommend using the standard hear noise table.

Thief   Open   Find/Remove   Pick     Move    Climb   Hide in  Hear
Level   Locks    Traps     Pockets  Silently  Walls   Shadows  Noise
  1      10+      11+        10+      10+       5+      11+     1-2
  2      10+      10+         9+       9+       5+      10+     1-2
  3       9+      10+         9+       9+       5+      10+     1-3
  4       9+       9+         9+       9+       5+      10+     1-3
  5       9+       9+         8+       8+       5+       9+     1-3
  6       8+       8+         8+       8+       4+       9+     1-3
  7       7+       8+         7+       7+       4+       8+     1-4
  8       7+       7+         7+       7+       4+       7+     1-4
  9       6+       6+         6+       6+       4+       7+     1-4
 10       5+       5+         5+       5+       4+       6+     1-4
 11       4+       4+         4+       4+       3+       5+     1-5
 12       4+       4+         3+       4+       3+       4+     1-5
 13       3+       3+         2+       3+       3+       4+     1-5
 14       3+       3+         1+       3+       3+       3+     1-5

Ability Score Modifiers

One of the benefits of the 2d6 system is it handles D&D’s ability score modifers better than the percentile charts do. You can add a thief’s Dex bonus to his Open Locks, Pick Pockets, Move Silently and Hide in Shadows rolls, and his Intelligence bonus to Find & Remove traps. Personally, I use the thief’s Dexterity bonus to Initiative instead of his full Dexterity bonus.

House Rules 2d6 Edition

Because of the very slow initial thief progression, the class only really “hits it’s stride” in the mid-high levels, at which point the odds of success increase rapidly at each level. To give starting thieves a bit more of a chance and to spread around the wealth a bit, here are the 2d6 Thief Skill rules I’ve been using for my old B/X Adventures in the New Kingdoms campaign for the past few years.

Each thief picks one of the standard skills (Open Locks, Find Traps, Remove Traps, Pick Pockets, Move Silently or Hide in Shadows) as his favoured skill. Other skills except for Climb Walls and Hear Noise use the “Other Skills” column. Because of the “dead level” at level 5, the thief ability to read languages has been moved there from level 4.

Thief  Favoured  Other    Climb   Hear
Level    Skill   Skills   Walls   Noise
  1      10+      11+       5+     1-2
  2      10+      10+       5+     1-2
  3       9+      10+       5+     1-3
  4       9+       9+       5+     1-3
  5       9+       9+       5+     1-3
  6       8+       9+       4+     1-3
  7       8+       8+       4+     1-4
  8       7+       8+       4+     1-4
  9       6+       7+       4+     1-4
 10       5+       6+       4+     1-4
 11       4+       5+       3+     1-5
 12       4+       4+       3+     1-5
 13       3+       4+       3+     1-5
 14       2+       3+       3+     1-5
      1-5
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