Monday, November 15, 2021

ACKS Session 34: The Wild Horse Rustlers [Why the Thief Class is Powerful]


ACKS author Alexander Macris is among many folks who claim the old school thief is underpowered. Macris, as is his way, proved it with maths. Others claiming as such tend to be guys who rarely DM and only PC; essentially they're begging for their class to be buffed. 

It is my contention that the Thief class is perfectly balanced and powerful. One of the few classes that makes it to level 2 and 3 on a regular basis as compared to the other classes. 

Can I prove the Thief Class is "balanced" with maths? No bc I'm not a nerd. I'll prove it with this session report!

Session Report   

Players wanted to get their clutch of Team B PCs from  Turos Spen, a borderlands fort, and back to the city Cyfaraun. I assume this is so these PCs would have access to the city's much bigger market and be able to do adventure sessions with the Team A PCs, going forward. 

Do you know how bad DND players/DMs believe you must start a new campaign every time you want to explore a new theme etc? "How about we play a campaign with all Rogues! We could rob stuff and be Neutral or Chaotic. That would be so funny!" Yet they never actually do it. Why? Because every time you start a new campaign you lose player engagement. Players who enjoy Thief type classes want to run around and cause mischief in a campaign world that matters, not the new one you keep relaunching every 3 months.

Real DND,  BROSR DND... it allows you to have some "rogue only" sessions here and there. With the combination of real time play and a stable of players, rather than 4 special snowflake PCs/Players, new themes and schemes will come into the campaign off and on as players become bored with the old themes ("save the empire!") and want to work on lower stakes ("rob the merchant!").

That's what happened this session.

Due to Real Time play and some players taking the session off, the senior PCs in this session were two thieves. Two. Thieves. Things got shady FAST.

Rat Face (PC Thief Level 2) and Laru (PC Thief Level 3) were hanging with the other PCs at the Travelers Inn in Turos Spen. Other players were discussing what the Big Goal should be for tonight's session when Rat Face starting eyeing up the tavern for who might be a good mark for Pickpocketing.

Turns out there were a couple of big time merchants drinking wine and making tasteful banter with one another. Rat Face sidled up to group and was able to cop a small pouch of 25 gp from the one of two merchants I never named.

As is Rat Face's way, he decided to push his luck. He rolled a 1. He was caught trying to pick pocket a merchant named Regularicus. The merchant's guards began to bow up and were looking to apprehend Rat Face to report him to the local authorities and a funny thing happened. 

Players were very concerned about Legate Drakon (the ruler of the town) finding out about all this. Because Legate Drakon is a Patron player. And one who has shown to be quite serious about keeping crime down in his Legature. Players began to scramble to find any possible way to keep this foolishness under wraps so it would never get to Drakon's ears. Players will NOT do this to keep regular NPC Rulers in the dark. Get Patrons in your Campaign ASAP.

Bribes were tossed out. "Don't bring the authorities into this, Regularicus. We can pay you back two-fold!" etc. I don't recall who exactly achieved the good Reaction Roll but the Merchant decided not to report Rat Face to the authorities once Rat Face paid a 25 gp bribe. Essentially the thief robbed Peter to pay Paul. The player himself was lolling about the whole thing.

I hear the math nerds out there! "But this means a level 2 thief only has a 50/50 chance to pick pockets. How weak!" Ok, Pythagoras, calm down. Maybe that's true. But he survived didn't he? And would any other of the standard classes even attempt something so readily?

It's my contention just giving the class the name "thief" is like a superpower. The player is immediately thrust into the mindset of Cugel the Clever or Gray Mouser. The term "Rogue" is more bleh and doesn't inspire such boldness and cleverness, imo. As such, the thief's power comes partially from the shared Appendix N fiction that Elite dnd tables have as their primary inspiration.

And that's not all that happened. Because Cugel (thus Laru) are unforgiving jerks, Laru deemed it an offense that Regularicus didn't want to barter with him. This can not stand! He and Rat Face also agreed that Regularicus must have some bigger prize nearby than his simple purse.

Upon Regularicus leaving the Inn they decided to trail him. Turns out he is a local to Spen. They followed him back to his Manse and made note of its location. Casing the joint began but they called off any heisting this evening. I can't recall why.

The next day the party wanted to travel north about a day to Turos Morn to check out its market. Except the two thieves: they wanted to check out if there were any soft heist targets. The players were spending their travel time trying to buy horses and having very little luck.

So Laru and Rat Face decided they'd just steal some horses. A few random rolls later I confirmed they did find a small stable at a nearby farm which appeared to have no night guard. For some reason Smarticus (PC Mage Level 1) accompanied them on the horse rustling. Perhaps that player was bored of watching the Thieves have all the fun. 

It turned out to be a good call. While the thieves were grabbing up and leading all the horses out of town the farmer from the nearby home must have heard and came out with a pitchfork to look around. Smarticus cast a sleep spell on the farmer from hiding. The crew of misfits made off with 5 horses and stayed in the woods outside of town that night. The PCs who didn't participate enjoyed a warm bed at the Inn.

The rest of the session was primarily travel to the city of Cyfaraun which went MUCH faster thanks to the burgled horses all the PCs could ride on. Back in the city some horses were sold but most were disbursed around to PCs in the group(s) who didn't have any. Well played.

At this point we were wrapping up session play since rolling random farms, stables, pick pocket victims had used up enough time to encompass a short session. Daria's (PC Bladedancer Level 5) player wanted to switch over to her to wrap up an old hook with an evil sword. She wished to cleanse the evil sword found some sessions back, "The Kinslayer", so she took it the Occulus Lawful Temple of Ammonar near the center of the big city. Spent about 10 minutes in prayer... and the goddess Istreus didn't answer her prayers. Sad.

Richelieu (PC Cleric Level 1) was a brand new PC who had travelled with and rolled his eyes at the thief PCs all session. He stepped up to the altar, took the evil sword in hand, and exorcised it of it's evil easily. The blade disintegrated into dust and Richie took claim of some of the XP for the success. 

I'm not sure Level 5 Daria can ever live this down... 


All in all this was a slower paced and lower stakes session. Which is great. Players got to mess around a bit in urban environments during session time and focus in on some heists and burglaries. Fill out the underworld part of the game world a bit and get some travel done.

Real BROSR DND allows all sorts of session styles and themes to be played in the same campaign. There is no need for us to have a "thief only campaign lmao" when we can slip sessions in like this whenever it makes sense. 

Do NOT start a new campaign every time you want to try a new campaign idea. Simply drop the new idea into the game world and let the party find it. Urban sessions come and go, np. No need for a full urban campaign. If players WANT a full urban campaign they'll just choose to find and never leave your nearest city.

Weird campaign themes can be dropped into the game world just as easily. Want to have space travel in your campaign? Drop a UFO somewhere and drop rumors to the PCs about it. Want to have vampire themes in your campaign? Make Dracula a Patron. Want to send your PCs to Las Vegas? Well.. I did that next session. Stay tuned for the session report!

There's also no need to buff the Thief class itself when good players, like these two, can run the show now and then to acquire five-finger-discount horses when the party truly needs them.

Keep in mind Rat Face was the exact same PC who burgled Turos Tem whilst the Patron Legate Valerian was out fighting (and losing) an existential threat to his domain during the Desolation of Turos Tem. Rat Face has garbage stats yet is making a major impact on the game world. Elite Player is about the Player, not the class. 

Surviving PCs Present

Laru (5% XP Bonus): Level 3 Thief. 34 XP gained. Total: 3,093

Proteus (5% XP bonus): Level 2 Cleric. 454 xp gained. Total: 2,292

Ratface (0% XP bonus): Level 2 Thief. 57 xp gained. Total: 1,577

Richelieu (10% XP Bonus): Level 1 Cleric. 476 xp gained. Total: 476

Smarticus (10% XP Bonus): Level 1 Mage. 36 xp gained. Total: 36

Surviving Henchmen

Dolores (Laru), Maro (Laru), Zaidu (Laru), Yuno (Proteus).


Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Broll Wolf-Eater (L1 Barbarian). Current total XP: 1079. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Brother Franklin (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Decapitated by a mad cultist of a Lovecraftian slime thing in Session 19.

Felix the Elder (L1 Bard). Total XP 825. DECEASED. Captured by mad cultists and fed to a Lovecraftian slime monster in Session 19.

Templar Flavius Africanus (L1 Cleric). Total XP 7. Killed by the claws and beak of mad harpies in Session 19.

Xendi (L1 Explorer). Total XP 6. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Yllmeeton (L3 Shaman). Total XP 4,563. Bludgeoned by the corpse of a bowmen by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Longinus (L2 Assassin). Total XP 2,036. Had his face ripped off by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Mandonio (L3 Fighter). Total XP 4,779. Charred to a leprous crisp by diseased Dragon breath in Session 22.

Corydon (L1 Joker). Total XP: 0. Burnt to a crisp by chimera breath so thoroughly his corpse wasn't even fit for the crows. Died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. that's life and as funny as it seems... some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream... In Session 25.

Donny Keebler (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP 2,238. Had his legs burned completely off by chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Marina (L2 Fighter). Total XP: 2,204. Burnt into ash by a chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Gundro (L2 Gnomish Trickster). Total XP: 2,575. Had his mouth and tongue bitten off by a lizardman ambusher in the dank sewers below Cyfaraun in Session 26.

Polydoros (L1 Fighter). Total XP: 0. Had his legs ripped off and eaten by Akira monsters in the dark canopy of the Viaspen Forest in Session 28.

Odrum (L1 Explorer). Total XP: 287. Javelin to the heart from the hands of weird vine goblins hidden in the walls of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Garvin the Nutless Wonder (L1 Mage). Total XP: 0. Fell off the side of Ferigno's lair 20 feet to his death in Session 30.

Blackmoon (L1 Assassin). Total XP: 768. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while stealing treasure from Ferigno's dragon horde in Session 30.

Xanthus (L2 Cleric). Total XP: 2,364. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while hanging out on the roof of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Turin (L1 Cleric). Total XP: 0. Eaten by Wargs in Session 32.

Alexa this is so sad play "Bury Me" by the Smashing Pumpkins


  1. I have a simple tweak to the ACKs thief clases. Simply make all thief rolls equal to 15-lvl. So 1st lvl thief rolls 14+ and a 5th lvl thief rolls 10+. It is easy to remember on the fly and the tiny boost goes a long way towards making thieves feel useful. That plus properly using the sneak and surprise RAW, make thieves rock. Good play trumps all of course.

  2. caveat - climb walls equal to 7-lvl/2 and I make pick pockets -2 per lvl after 8.


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