Sunday, 31 May 2015

Thieves are not mere thieves: on class and level

A few days ago, on Google+, Dominic Crouzet posted on what he felt was missing from Fantastic Heroes & Witchery - and explanation of what Thief skills actually are:

I think that this is very important. Obviously, it acts as a corrective to the 'underpowered and incompetent' interpretation of the Thief class without changing anything but the perspective of players and referees - those laughably low chances of success are in fact the chances of the Thief doing something remarkable. This is because classed and levelled characters are exceptional people. Not all thieves are Thieves. The proliferation of classed and levelled NPCs in D&D material was one of the big wrong turns, looking back at published D&D material. Even in the marvellous Night's Dark Terror, Threshold is home to an unnamed 7th Level Thief who, improbably, seems to make his or her living picking pockets. By understanding success at Thief skills as the achievement of something remarkable, the petty pickpockets can be 0-level humans performing mundane, rather than exceptional, acts, Any PC should have a crack at performing mundane acts, depending on circumstance. But only classed characters get to use class abilities in order to achieve the exceptional. And by considering Thief skills in this way, we effectively grant high-level Thieves the kind of superhuman abilities gained by the other classes at high level - there is no need to detail new abilities as promised by Cook and Marsh.

But, of course, not all thieves are Thieves, not all 'fighting men' are Fighters, not all priests are Clerics, and... not all students of magic are Magic Users? Yes, possibly even the last case should be true. There should be 0 level scholars, cunning men and wise women who can work some petty magical effects, at great expense, effort or sacrifice, but only classed and levelled Magic Users can work magic with true power. And once the players and referee start thinking about classed and levelled characters as exceptional within the game world, playing at low levels takes on a different flavour. 

1 comment:

  1. Better still, just ditch classes and use a skill system that allows anyone to try anything with various degrees of aptitude.