Monday, February 13, 2017

The Mystical Arts.. of Thievery

"Out of years-long habit, the cloaked figure of Shadowfriend slipped unnoticed into the dark shadows of the alleyway, alert for signs that he might be followed.The streets of Warrensfell were dangerous enough for the initiated, but more so when one had bounties on one's head. Professional thief-takers were generally unwelcome in the dingy city, but more than a few denizens of questionable moral fortitude cared to resist the lure of a weighted purse. Satisfied, he slipped further into the deep shadows along the wall, back facing the brick and timber structure, practiced fingers deftly searching for telltales of the secret door he'd been told of. The secret of the location's whereabouts had cost him dearly in silver, but it was a necessary expense to bear for the knowledge he sought.

Fully halfway down the shadow enshrouded alley, already darkened by the lateness of the hour, the limitations of human sight failed him. Only his fingers along the wall, and the slow purposeful searching sweeps of his feet were his guides now. His ears straining vainly in the night for signs of danger. His fingertips brushed along a seemingly imperceptible crack in the brick wall's mortar. Quickly he stopped and explored more intently, finding the crack meeting with others to form what he believed to be the hidden entrance. Carefully he turned to face the wall and began a painstakingly deliberate search for mechanical traps he prudently assumed might be placed to deter the uninvited. Under his breath he uttered incantations and prayers in several languages long since dead, calling upon protection from and detection of any magical wards or precautions that may have been added to the portal. No mechanical triggers were found, but his mystical intonations revealed the faintly outlined presence of magical energies.

He smiled to himself. So, it was true that the man he sought was a master thief, not a common run-of-the-mill swagsman. This doorway wasn't just a precaution against unwanted visitors, but also a test for those wishing to prove themselves worthy enough for his instruction. Taking a deep breath, the rogue turned his concentration forward, his fingers lacing and intertwining in complicated patterns as he breathlessly chanted ancient counter-spells and invocations of negation in the hopes of defusing the traps laid before him. His preparations done, he moved forward to test the doorway, confident that his knowledge hadn't failed him. A hidden latch clicked and the wall pushed in silently. The inner sanctum of the Master Thief of Warrensfell await beyond."

For years, the semi-mystical spell-like abilities of thieves (or rogues if you prefer), have been often misunderstood, discounted, or even ignored. In some campaigns, game masters have even eliminated the abilities of thieves to detect magical traps, and de-activate them, simply because they didn't understand the reasoning behind the inclusion of such abilities. Hopefully this article will help clarify the subject.

Thieves, in the game, are not your ordinary cat burglars. They don't just deal with normal mundane locks and mechanisms, but also study precautions of a magical nature. Any thief worth their salt will be aware that not everything that can cut their profession (aka their life) short, is discernible to the naked senses. A jack of all trades, master of none, thieves pick up a mishmash of counter-spells, invocations, charms, prayers, and even superstitious nonsense, in the hopes of detecting and possibly countering magical protections.

These magical studies aren't just limited to detecting and disarming traps either. Experienced thieves have a limited ability to use magic items, or even cast spells from scrolls, both arcane and mundane. But, of course, their studies are incompletely understood at best, and fraught with the perils of trial and error, sometimes unleashing a backlash instead of the initially desired results.

Other uses of lore and counter protection spells and prayers are evident in the abilities of the best thieves to wholly or partially avoid damage from harmful spells and circumstances that would leave other characters a scattering of giblets or crispy husks.

These facts seem to elude the understanding of some game masters and inexperienced players. Often misunderstood, these abilities to accomplish the seemingly impossible, cause a great deal of disbelief to those who fail to account for the secretive nature of proper thieve's training and trade secrets. Sometimes, even the players of thief characters, do not understand just what their character's abilities fully involve.. which is a shame really, because of all the missed opportunities for role-playing and more meaningful immersion into their characters.

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