Thieves come in all sizes and shapes, ready to live off the fat of the land by the easiest means possible. In some ways they are the epitome of roguishness. The profession of thief is not honorable, yet it is not entirely dishonorable, either. At his best, the thief is a romantic hero fired by noble purpose but a little wanting in strength of character. Such a person may truly strive for good but continually run afoul of temptation.

Base Class Statistics:

  • Ability Requirements: None
    • Anyone desperate enough can become a Thief. Humans who wish to dual-class as thieves must have scores of 14 or better in both Aim and Balance.
  • Alignments: Any save Lawful Good (LN, LE, NG, TN, NE, CG, CN, CE)
  • Experience Chart: Rogue
  • Hit Dice: d6
    • Maximum Hit Dice: 10d6
    • Additional Hit Points: +2 per level beyond 10th
  • Attack: Rogue
  • Saves:
    • Paralyzation/Poison/Death: as Rogue
    • Rods/Staves/Wands: as Rogue
    • Petrification/Polymorph: as Rogue
    • Breath Weapon: as Rogue
    • Spell: as Rogue
  • Proficiencies:
    • Weapons, Initial: 2
    • Weapons, Advancement: +1 per 4 levels
    • Non-Weapon, Initial: 8
    • Non-Weapons, Advancement: +1 per 2 levels
    • Non-weapon Proficiency Groups: Detection, Larceny, and Social
    • Bonus Proficiencies: Secret language (thieves’ cant)
  • Allowed Weapons: club, dagger, dart, hand crossbow, knife, lasso, pistol, quarterstaff, short bow, sling, or any one-handed sword
  • Allowed Armor: Leather, Padded, Studded Leather, or Elven Chain

Class Features:

Though all thieves share a tendency towards larceny, each thief has their own methods for obtaining their ill-gotten gains—from cutting purses, to charming locks, to confidence games, to strait-forwarding tomb robbing. Thieves gain a larger number of non-weapon proficiencies than other classes in order to customize their larcenous skill set.

All Thieves are exceptional climbers. They do not suffer the normal penalty for free climbing (climing without tools), and gain a bonus to Climbing checks equal to their AC bonus from Balance if any.

All Thieves gain a bonus to surprise opponents, but only if the cleric is not in metal armor. Even then, the thief must either be alone or 90 feet or more away from his party to gain this bonus. If he fulfills these conditions, he moves so silently that opponents suffer a -4 penalty to their surprise die rolls. If the thief must open a door or screen to attack, this penalty is reduced to -2. If the thief gains similar abilities from another source, such as being an Elf, the penalty is increased by 2.

Backstab: Thieves are weak in toe-to-toe hacking matches, but they are masters of the knife in the back. When attacking someone by surprise and from behind, a thief can improve his chance to successfully hit (+4 modifier for rear attack and negate the target’s shield and Balance bonuses) and greatly increase the amount of damage his blow causes.

To use this ability, the thief must be behind his victim and the victim must be unaware that the thief intends to attack him. If an enemy sees the thief, hears him approach from a blind side, or is warned by another, he is not caught unaware, and the backstab is handled like a normal attack (although bonuses for a rear attack still apply). Opponents in battle will often notice a thief trying to maneuver behind them—the first rule of fighting is to never turn your back on an enemy! However, someone who isn’t expecting to be attacked (a friend or ally, perhaps) can be caught unaware even if he knows the thief is behind him.

The multiplier given in the Table applies only to the base damage of the weapon before modifiers for Muscle or magical bonuses are added. The weapon’s standard damage is multiplied. Then Muscle and magical weapon bonuses are added.

When multiplying damage, roll the base weapon damage die that many times. Thus a weapon that normally deals 1d8 damage, instead deals 2d8 damage on a successful backstab by a 1st-level Thief. As with all instances of multiplying damage, the increased damage for Backstabbing is additive with other damage multipliers. Thus if a Thief backstabbing for x3 damage (2 extra dice) also scores a Critical Hit (1 extra die), the net result is 4x damage (4 dice), not 6×.

Level Backstab Damage
1-4 x2
5-8 x3
9-12 x4
13+ x5

Backstabbing does have limitations. First, the damage multiplier applies only to the first attack made by the thief, even if multiple attacks are possible. Once a blow is struck, the initial surprise effect is lost. Second, the thief cannot use it on every creature. The victim must be generally humanoid. Part of the skill comes from knowing just where to strike. A thief could backstab an ogre, but he wouldn’t be able to do the same to a beholder. The victim must also have a definable back (which leaves out most slimes, jellies, oozes, and the like). Finally, the thief has to be able to reach a significant target area. To backstab a giant, the thief would have to be standing on a ledge or window balcony. Backstabbing him in the ankle just isn’t going to be as effective.

Thieves’ Cant: Thieves’ cant is a special form of communication known by all thieves and their associates. It is not a distinct language; it consists of slang words and implied meanings that can be worked into any language. The vocabulary of thieves’ cant limits its use to discussing things that interest thieves: stolen loot, easy marks, breaking and entering, mugging, confidence games, and the like. It is not a language, however. Two thieves cannot communicate via thieves’ cant unless they know a common language. The cant is useful, however, for identifying fellow cads and bounders by slipping a few tidbits of lingo into a normal conversation.

The concept of thieves’ cant is historical (the cant probably is still used today in one form or another), although in the AD&D game it has an ahistorically broad base. A few hours of research at a large library should turn up actual examples of old thieves’ cant for those who want to learn more about the subject.

Use Scrolls: Starting at 10th level, any Thief with the Literacy proficiency may attempt to use both Wizardly and Priestly magical scrolls by making a successful Literacy check. On a failed check, the scroll backfires in some way. This sort of malfunction is almost always detrimental to the thief and his party. It could be as simple as accidentally casting the reverse of the given spell or as complex as a foul-up on a fireball scroll, causing the ball of flame to be centered on the thief instead of its intended target.

Followers: Thieves do not build castles or fortresses in the usual sense. Instead, they favor small, fortified dwellings, especially if the true purpose of the buildings can easily be disguised. A thief might, for example, construct a well-protected den in a large city behind the facade of a seedy tavern or old warehouse. Naturally, the true nature of the place will be a closely guarded secret! Thieves almost always build their strongholds in or near cities, since that is where they ply their trades most lucratively. This, of course, assumes that the thief is interested in operating a band of thieves out of his stronghold. Not all thieves have larceny in their hearts, however. If a character devoted his life to those aspects of thieving that focus on scouting, stealth, and the intricacies of locks and traps, he could build an entirely different sort of stronghold—one filled with the unusual and intriguing objects he has collected during his adventurous life. Like any thief’s home, it should blend in with its surroundings; after all, a scout never advertises his whereabouts. It might be a formidable maze of rooms, secret passages, sliding panels, and mysterious paraphernalia from across the world.

Once a thief reaches 10th level, his reputation is such that he can attract followers — either a gang of scoundrels and scalawags or a group of scouts eager to learn from a reputed master. The thief attracts 4d6 of these fellows. They are generally loyal to him, but a wise thief is always suspicious of his comrades. The Table below can be used to determine the type and level of followers, or the DM can choose followers appropriate to his campaign. All such followers will be members of the Thief class (though this may be combined with other classes appropriate to the follower’s race).

d100 Roll Follower Level
01-03 Dwarf multi-class 1d4
04-08 Dwarf thief 1d6
09-13 Elf thief 1d6
14-15 Elf thief/fighter/mage 1d3
16-18 Elf multi-class 1d4
19-24 Gnome thief 1d6
25-27 Gnome multi-class 1d4
28-30 Half-Orc multi-class 1d4
31-35 Half-elf thief 1d6
36-38 Half-elf multi-class 1d4
39-41 Half-elf thief/fighter/mage 1d3
42-46 Halfling thief 1d8
47-50 Halfling multi-class 1d6
51-98 Human thief 1d8
99 Human dual-class thief/? 1d8 / 1d4
00 Other (DM selection)

Thieves tend to be very jealous of their territory. If more than one thief starts a gang in the same area, the result is usually a war. The feud continues until one side or the other is totally eliminated or forced to move its operation elsewhere. In some rare cases, an accord can be reached and the gangs will merge to form a larger thieves’ guild or similar organization.


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