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View Full Version : The Thief-Taker [3.5 Prestige Class, WIP / PEACH]



Palanan
2013-06-14, 01:22 PM
The Thief-Taker



....The thief-taker, whose name was Pratt, looked like a discreet tradesman of the middle sort, or possibly a lawyer's clerk; he was conscious of the general dislike of his calling, so close to that of the common informer, and he stood diffidently until he was asked to sit down.

...."...I was born in Newgate, do you see, where my father was a turnkey, so I grew up among thieves. Thieves and their children were my companions and playmates and I came to know them very well....

...."Then my father moved on to the Clink and after that the King's Bench, so I made a good many more friends among the thieves and such south of the river and the low attorneys and gaolers and constables and ward officers, and it all came in very useful after I set up on my own...."





Patrick O'Brian
The Reverse of the Medal




Often born and raised in slums, shantytowns, or the larger debtors' prisons, thief-takers are independent criminal investigators who have come to their calling by virtue of lifelong association with their typical prey.

Not infrequently former criminals themselves, thief-takers pursue the riffraff and common thugs who commit the majority of unremarkable crimes in the larger towns and cities--the sort of crimes to which sheriffs and constables often grow indifferent, or (for the more dedicated constabulary) simply may not have the manpower to address. For a fee, the thief-takers will pursue leads and witnesses through the back alleys, the warrens, and the docktowns in search of their mark--and if they're of the more high-minded variety, a threadbare sort of justice as well.

The best of the thief-takers (a vanishing few) are sometimes employed by insurance companies for investigating the more involved sorts of fraud, especially when there may be government connections which would tend to corrupt (or rather, further corrupt) any official gendarmerie. A thief-taker may himself have been a former constable, and will have extensive connections both with the official constabulary--if any--as well as the criminal underworld. In addition to pursuing and apprehending criminals, a thief-taker may serve as a mediator between thieves and their victims, negotiating the return of stolen goods for a moderate percentage.

Although often romanticized by broadsheets and bards, thief-takers have no code, no common principles, and often no principles at all. Many thief-takers inform on criminals solely to collect the reward--a practice for which they are widely despised--and others use their personal knowledge of the underworld to become extortionists, threatening to expose petty criminals unless they pay protection money. The worst of the thief-takers will manipulate naÔve or simple men to commit "harmless" crimes, then snatch up their pawns afterward for the reward and public acclaim. With so many thief-takers either marginally or entirely corrupt, anyone engaged in the trade will be seen as deeply suspect, even after they have proven themselves time and time again.

Hit Die: d6.

Requirements
To qualify for the dubious profession of thief-taker, an individual must fulfill the following criteria:
Skills: Bluff 5 ranks, Gather Information 5 ranks, Intimidate 5 ranks, Knowledge (local) 5 ranks, Sense Motive 5 ranks.
Feats: Either Skill Focus (Gather Information) or Skill Focus (Knowledge [local]).
Special: Must have lived in a large metropolis or heavily populated region for the majority of his or her life, including for the five years prior to taking the first level of thief-taker.

Class Skills:
The thief-taker's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Listen (Wis), Knowledge (local) (Int), Search (Int), Spot (Wis), and Sense Motive (Wis).
Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Table 1: The Thief-Taker

{table=head]Level|Base Attack Bonus|Fort Save|Ref Save|Will Save|Special

1st|
+0|
+0|
+0|
+2| Native Haunts, Local Color, Shady Connections, Nobody's Patsy

2nd|
+1|
+0|
+0|
+3| Sordid Associates, Patois

3rd|
+1|
+1|
+1|
+3| Nose for Truth, Shady Connections, Nobody's Patsy

4th|
+2|
+1|
+1|
+4| Go to Ground, Patois

5th|
+2|
+1|
+1|
+4| Folk Hero, Shady Connections, Nobody's Patsy, Nose for Truth[/table]

Class Features:
All of the following are class features of the thief-taker prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Thief-takers gain no proficiency with any weapon or armor.

Native Haunts: A thief-taker's innate understanding of criminal life, learned from an early age, is best applied to the urban community he came up in. Many of a thief-taker's chief talents rely on the deeply personal web of contacts and associates he has developed, and while he retains his instincts wherever he goes, he operates most effectively in his home region. This is typically a major city or other densely settled area, although in a truly immense metropolis of a million or more, the thief-taker's home region might only be a single district, borough or other division. A thief-taker may have only one home region.

Local Color: By virtue of his lifelong familiarity with the mannerisms of his home region, the thief-taker can instantly recognize a stranger to his native haunts, even if the stranger is fluent in the language and impeccably dressed in local attire. In addition, the thief-taker gains a +4 to Will saves to perceive illusions and magical disguises assumed by strangers in his home region.

Shady Connections: The thief-taker relies on his deep experience with the criminal element to make the connections essential to his work. At first level the thief-taker gains a +2 competence bonus on Diplomacy, Gather Information and Knowledge (local) checks in his home region. At third level he gains an additional +2 on these checks, and at fifth level he gains an additional +4, for a cumulative +8 bonus. These bonuses only apply within the thief-taker's home region; outside that area, each bonus is halved, for a progression of +1/+1/+2.

Although the thief-taker knows better than to top it the knob, higher society nonetheless disparages his work, his principles (such as they are) and his person. Any thief-taker, no matter how polite and deferential, always takes a -2 penalty on all Diplomacy and Gather Information checks when interacting with local aristocracy, minor nobles, wealthy merchants and the like, rather than the bonuses he enjoys when operating in the lower levels of his society. Outside of his home region, however, this penalty does not apply--unless he makes a deliberate point of his profession.

Nobody's Patsy: From childhood the thief-taker has lived in an environment of cunning and practiced manipulation, and at this point in his life there aren't many tricks he hasn't seen. At first level the thief-taker gains a +2 competence bonus on Sense Motive and Spot checks against Bluff and Disguise checks respectively, and on opposed Forgery checks. At third level he gains an additional +2 on these checks, and at fifth level he gains an additional +4 to each. Unlike his shady connections, these bonuses apply wherever the thief-taker's work may find him.

In addition, at third level he gains a +2 competence bonus on Will saves versus Enchantment effects, and at fifth level this bonus increases to +4.

Sordid Associates: Any man as thoroughly acquainted with the lowest strata of society as the thief-taker will never be at a loss for hired thuggery. At second level, a thief-taker may recruit one bruiser (a first-level rogue or unarmed fighter) for every character level he possesses. These congenial colleagues will remain on the job for one week per thief-taker level before their services will require renegotiation. These associates are most often recruited for the protection of a witness or client, or for the intimidation of someone else's witness or client, or for other simple tasks requiring an overabundance of brawn and a much less generous proportion of brains and conscience.

Bruisers tend not to work for free; but by various methods the thief-taker negotiates a 20% cumulative discount on their services for every level in the prestige class he possesses, until--at fifth level--his personal mental archive of incriminating information is such that the bruisers will grudgingly "donate" their time, as by far the lesser of two--if not evils, at least potentially uncomfortable outcomes.

None of these individuals has the slightest personal loyalty to the thief-taker; indeed, they are painfully aware he may denounce them to the authorities with real or fabricated evidence at any time. They should never be confused with followers granted by the Leadership feat, and recruited bruisers will never become followers.

Patois: At second level, the thief-taker learns a bonus language of his choice, as long as it is spoken by native-born residents (not strangers or travelers) within his home region. At fourth level the thief-taker may learn a second bonus language with the same precondition.

Nose for Truth: By third level, the thief-taker has heard enough protestations, denials and improbable explanations that he develops a keen sense for that rare flower known as truth. The thief-taker gains a +2 circumstance bonus on all opposed Sense Motive checks involving lies, distortions, half-truths and attempted misdirections. At fifth level this bonus increases by an additional +2, and as with his shady connections, each bonus is halved when the thief-taker is outside his home region.

In addition, once per day per thief-taker level, he is able to listen carefully to a single individual for one round and determine unequivocally if the speaker is lying. This effect otherwise operates as the spell Discern Lies, and operates equally well within or without his home region.

Go to Ground: At fourth level, a thief-taker knows enough about tracking fugitives that he can use the same methods to avoid capture himself. Whenever the thief-taker is being hunted in an urban environment--whether by criminals with a grudge or constables with a warrant--he can vanish into the back alleys, never to be found unless magical means are employed. This ability is effective in any large urban area, and is not limited to his home region.

Folk Hero: At fifth level, whether deservedly or not, the thief-taker is seen as a champion of justice for the common folk. Broadsheets print exaggerated accounts of his exploits, local bards feature him in their songs, and word of his achievements (and perhaps rumors of perfidy) will travel to other cities, and perhaps neighboring realms. This newfound status grants several benefits to his career:

Flash Lad: As a folk hero, the thief-taker gains a +4 competence bonus on Bluff and Intimidate checks against residents and natives of his home region--although the judicious thief-taker will take care not to abuse the very public that idolizes him and feeds his legend. (Thief-takers who let their notoriety go to their head often suffer a precipitous fall.) The thief-taker also receives a discount on nonmagical items and services which ranges from 25-50%, depending on circumstances, and in some cases an especially admiring adherent may offer minor items or services for free.

Moving Up: With a string of successes under his belt, and an appreciative following spreading word of his talents, the thief-taker finds himself in the novel position of attracting up-and-coming fellows in search of an experienced professional mentor. At fifth level the thief-taker acquires a junior partner, who must be at least three levels lower than the thief-taker himself. The thief-taker may acquire one additional partner for each point of Charisma he has above a base score of 10.

A thief-taker's junior partners may be thief-takers themselves, or they may be from any number of other professions--rogues and reformed criminals, low attorneys or ambitious constables, university students or retired soldiers, so long as they have the skills and interest to assist the thief-taker in his pursuit of criminals.

Despite his flash reputation, a thief-taker who is Moving Up may never acquire partners with levels in spellcasting classes.

Recruited: Although not every thief-taker strictly deserves the mantle of the folk hero, most governments are less interested in idealism than in reliable results. At fifth level, a thief-taker has attracted enough interest, both open and discreet, that he may be contacted by agents of one or more regional principalities with an eye towards availing themselves of his services--on a strictly confidential basis, of course.

A thief-taker with a reputation for honesty and a genuine commitment to justice may be contacted by certain services who find this useful, in its own way; but even a thief-taker privately known to be a scurrilous rascal may become a valued instrument, since most intelligence services use a thief-taker's own tricks on a far grander scale. The nature of his services and the compensation he receives will depend on his own negotiating skills, at least in part, as well as the particular interests and reach of the intelligence service that seeks to recruit him.

The thief-taker need not accept recruitment from any service, although should he decline an offer, the service may no longer be able to guarantee his personal safety. Conversely, a thief-taker known to have been recruited by more than one intelligence service may experience extreme setbacks to his career.



Sources

The thief-taker is based primarily on the character of Pratt in The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O'Brian, with additional information incorporated from the article on "Policing in London" from The Proceedings of the Old Bailey: London's Central Criminal Court, 1674 to 1913. (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org) I have no particular knowledge of the topic nor the period, and I welcome any corrections or suggestions for additional reading.

Notes

Pratt's character gave me the idea for this PrC, and I wrote up the class abilities from what was described of him in Reverse of the Medal, with a few extrapolations and additions where I thought they'd fit. Clearly the PrC is intended for city campaigns, although I tried to make it somewhat useful in other situations, and the folk-hero capstone is intended to give a thief-taker the opportunity to become a major player in his home city--or perhaps, through the intelligence connections, make the leap to a much broader stage.

Although rogue is the obvious entry to the PrC, I deliberately didn't include a way to advance sneak attack. The thief-taker isn't an ambush stabber; he's quite literally a poor man's detective, and isn't meant to be sneak-attacking anyone. For this reason I think the feat-rogue variant from Unearthed Arcana is a natural lead-in to the thief-taker, since it trades an ability the thief-taker doesn't advance for a great deal of flexibility with additional feats. --At least, that's how it seems to me, given that I'm a real fan of the feat rogue.

I've consciously left the class features unspecified as to whether they're Su or Ex, although I would assume they're all Extraordinary. The thief-taker is intended to be a class which operates effectively without magic, since most of the ordinary people who need a thief-taker's services could never pay for even the most trivial spellcasting.

It feels like a lot of class features packed into a five-level PrC, although many of them are fairly modest bonuses, and I wondered if this would be better expanded to a full ten-level prestige class, or maybe even to a base class. The five-level structure appeals to me, though, because it allows for a relatively low-level character to enter the PrC and rise to a position of some local power, without being too high-level to fit into his own society. That said, I'm open to comments and suggestions.

Mephibosheth
2013-06-15, 05:01 PM
I like it, a lot! I like that it comes from a mixture of historical and literary sources, so it has a ring of verisimilitude but also melds well with a more fantastic setting. It's very focused and has definitely sacrificed power and general utility in favor of remaining true to its source, but that's OK. That's what PrCs are for.

One general criticism is that a lot of the abilities are very similar. Mostly bonuses to the same general skill checks, but in slightly different situations. Since you mentioned in your notes that you're considering expanding the PrC to 10 levels because it gets so many abilities, it might behoove you to combine some of them. You might also think about expanding some of the abilities; give interesting new skill-based techniques and abilities instead of just bonuses. I'm with you on keeping it a 5 level class; it isn't powerful enough to merit 10 levels but works really well as one aspect of the right build.

Another thing to think about is that, even though this class is clearly designed for a niche, it might be more attractive to players if it granted some combat abilities. Obviously combat isnít its schtick and Iím not saying turn it into a melee monster. You donít even have to give sneak attack, which you say youíre opposed to doing. But maybe some abilities that make them good with garrotes (to render people unconscious) or manacling on the fly or something to give them some combat prowess. Thief-taking is a rough-and-tumble business!

The last overall thing is that a 3.5 character can enter this class at 3rd level. Maybe thatís what you intended, but itís still something to think about. Most PrCs are designed to be entered at 6th, or 11th level.


Native Haunts: A thief-taker's innate understanding of criminal life, learned from an early age, is best applied to the urban community he came up in. Many of a thief-taker's chief talents rely on the deeply personal web of contacts and associates he has developed, and while he retains his instincts wherever he goes, he operates most effectively in his home region. This is typically a major city or other densely settled area, although in a truly immense metropolis of a million or more, the thief-taker's home region might only be a single district, borough or other division. A thief-taker may have only one home region.
Nothing major here. In general, I find things like this a little difficult to adjudicate because the description is (perhaps intentionally) vague. It might be beneficial to put in a few guidelines about what can be considered a home region. Maybe base it on population, so that a more sparsely-populated region can make for a larger geographical spread. Fewer opportunities, but more area.


Local Color: By virtue of his lifelong familiarity with the mannerisms of his home region, the thief-taker can instantly recognize a stranger to his native haunts, even if the stranger is fluent in the language and impeccably dressed in local attire. In addition, the thief-taker gains a +4 to Will saves to perceive illusions and magical disguises assumed by strangers in his home region.
No real concerns about this, though I tend to dislike "you automatically..." abilities in general. I would suggest granting a bonus to skill checks to recognize a foreigner, but that really steps on the toes of your other abilities. So I don't know what I think about this.


Shady Connections: The thief-taker relies on his deep experience with the criminal element to make the connections essential to his work. At first level the thief-taker gains a +2 competence bonus on Diplomacy, Gather Information and Knowledge (local) checks in his home region. At third level he gains an additional +2 on these checks, and at fifth level he gains an additional +4, for a cumulative +8 bonus. These bonuses only apply within the thief-taker's home region; outside that area, each bonus is halved, for a progression of +1/+1/+2.

Although the thief-taker knows better than to top it the knob, higher society nonetheless disparages his work, his principles (such as they are) and his person. Any thief-taker, no matter how polite and deferential, always takes a -2 penalty on all Diplomacy and Gather Information checks when interacting with local aristocracy, minor nobles, wealthy merchants and the like, rather than the bonuses he enjoys when operating in the lower levels of his society. Outside of his home region, however, this penalty does not apply--unless he makes a deliberate point of his profession.
I like this. Helpful bonuses that are thoroughly grounded in the class' flavor. I like that it's linked to home region but not useless outside of it. No problems here.


Nobody's Patsy: From childhood the thief-taker has lived in an environment of cunning and practiced manipulation, and at this point in his life there aren't many tricks he hasn't seen. At first level the thief-taker gains a +2 competence bonus on Sense Motive and Spot checks against Bluff and Disguise checks respectively, and on opposed Forgery checks. At third level he gains an additional +2 on these checks, and at fifth level he gains an additional +4 to each. Unlike his shady connections, these bonuses apply wherever the thief-taker's work may find him.

In addition, at third level he gains a +2 competence bonus on Will saves versus Enchantment effects, and at fifth level this bonus increases to +4.
Again, nothing major here. Skill bonuses like this, unless they're completely ridiculous, are always pretty easy to throw into classes without overpowering them. Moving on!


Sordid Associates: Any man as thoroughly acquainted with the lowest strata of society as the thief-taker will never be at a loss for hired thuggery. At second level, a thief-taker may recruit one bruiser (a first-level rogue or unarmed fighter) for every character level he possesses. These congenial colleagues will remain on the job for one week per thief-taker level before their services will require renegotiation. These associates are most often recruited for the protection of a witness or client, or for the intimidation of someone else's witness or client, or for other simple tasks requiring an overabundance of brawn and a much less generous proportion of brains and conscience.

Bruisers tend not to work for free; but by various methods the thief-taker negotiates a 20% cumulative discount on their services for every level in the prestige class he possesses, until--at fifth level--his personal mental archive of incriminating information is such that the bruisers will grudgingly "donate" their time, as by far the lesser of two--if not evils, at least potentially uncomfortable outcomes.

None of these individuals has the slightest personal loyalty to the thief-taker; indeed, they are painfully aware he may denounce them to the authorities with real or fabricated evidence at any time. They should never be confused with followers granted by the Leadership feat, and recruited bruisers will never become followers.
This one is a little weird. At first, these guys sound like followers. Then you talk about reductions in hiring costs and how they're explicitly not followers. And they can only be bruisers. But why wouldn't a thief-taker potentially employ more specialized skills?

Here's my suggestion. Get rid of the language that makes the bruisers themselves look like a class feature. Also get rid of the bruiser-specific language. Just give the level-based reduction in hiring costs and say they can only apply the reduction to 1 hireling per level. That's basically what this does, but the language is confusing. Maybe look into UAís contacts (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/campaigns/contacts.htm ) mechanic as another way to work this. Like the reduction applies to all hirelings, but they can only have leverage over a limited number.


Patois: At second level, the thief-taker learns a bonus language of his choice, as long as it is spoken by native-born residents (not strangers or travelers) within his home region. At fourth level the thief-taker may learn a second bonus language with the same precondition.
Iím firmly of the opinion that a character can never know too many languages.


Nose for Truth: By third level, the thief-taker has heard enough protestations, denials and improbable explanations that he develops a keen sense for that rare flower known as truth. The thief-taker gains a +2 circumstance bonus on all opposed Sense Motive checks involving lies, distortions, half-truths and attempted misdirections. At fifth level this bonus increases by an additional +2, and as with his shady connections, each bonus is halved when the thief-taker is outside his home region.

In addition, once per day per thief-taker level, he is able to listen carefully to a single individual for one round and determine unequivocally if the speaker is lying. This effect otherwise operates as the spell Discern Lies, and operates equally well within or without his home region.
I love the Discern Lies effect. More stuff like this for the other abilities would make the class a lot hotter. Otherwise, this is basically the same as Nobodyís Patsy. They stack, so thatís something, but they could be folded into one ability. At least the skill bonus stuff.


Go to Ground: At fourth level, a thief-taker knows enough about tracking fugitives that he can use the same methods to avoid capture himself. Whenever the thief-taker is being hunted in an urban environment--whether by criminals with a grudge or constables with a warrant--he can vanish into the back alleys, never to be found unless magical means are employed. This ability is effective in any large urban area, and is not limited to his home region.
This is too vague, imo. And again, I donít typically like auto-win or auto-fail abilities except in certain circumstances. Iíd replace it with a sizeable bump to the DC needed to track the thief-taker or use Gather Information or other skills to find him. Something big enough that only the best trackers could find him, but still giving the chance for the odd natural 20.


Flash Lad: As a folk hero, the thief-taker gains a +4 competence bonus on Bluff and Intimidate checks against residents and natives of his home region--although the judicious thief-taker will take care not to abuse the very public that idolizes him and feeds his legend. (Thief-takers who let their notoriety go to their head often suffer a precipitous fall.) The thief-taker also receives a discount on nonmagical items and services which ranges from 25-50%, depending on circumstances, and in some cases an especially admiring adherent may offer minor items or services for free.
This is an interesting ability but feels poorly-defined and a bit underwhelming for a capstone. What sorts of things could cause a precipitous fall? When can they get stuff for free? What circumstances determine the reduction? Something cooler than another skill bonus would be nice for the capstone.


Moving Up: With a string of successes under his belt, and an appreciative following spreading word of his talents, the thief-taker finds himself in the novel position of attracting up-and-coming fellows in search of an experienced professional mentor. At fifth level the thief-taker acquires a junior partner, who must be at least three levels lower than the thief-taker himself. The thief-taker may acquire one additional partner for each point of Charisma he has above a base score of 10.

A thief-taker's junior partners may be thief-takers themselves, or they may be from any number of other professions--rogues and reformed criminals, low attorneys or ambitious constables, university students or retired soldiers, so long as they have the skills and interest to assist the thief-taker in his pursuit of criminals.

Despite his flash reputation, a thief-taker who is Moving Up may never acquire partners with levels in spellcasting classes.
Again, this should be better defined. What exactly is the relationship between the thief-taker and his partners? Are they like cohorts or like followers or like hirelings? How devoted are they to the thief-taker.


Recruited: Although not every thief-taker strictly deserves the mantle of the folk hero, most governments are less interested in idealism than in reliable results. At fifth level, a thief-taker has attracted enough interest, both open and discreet, that he may be contacted by agents of one or more regional principalities with an eye towards availing themselves of his services--on a strictly confidential basis, of course.

A thief-taker with a reputation for honesty and a genuine commitment to justice may be contacted by certain services who find this useful, in its own way; but even a thief-taker privately known to be a scurrilous rascal may become a valued instrument, since most intelligence services use a thief-taker's own tricks on a far grander scale. The nature of his services and the compensation he receives will depend on his own negotiating skills, at least in part, as well as the particular interests and reach of the intelligence service that seeks to recruit him.

The thief-taker need not accept recruitment from any service, although should he decline an offer, the service may no longer be able to guarantee his personal safety. Conversely, a thief-taker known to have been recruited by more than one intelligence service may experience extreme setbacks to his career.
Another ability that needs definition. This one seems to be all fluff and no crunch. Iím not saying that open-ended abilities are bad, but thisÖisnít really an ability. Itís just part of the classí flavor. Whether this is good or bad depends on the DM. A class ability should be a little more concrete than this. What benefits does the thief-taker gain? Are there any penalties? This is more of a plot point than a class ability.

Those are my thoughts. I love the class; the flavorís awesome and the abilities are well within the realm of reasonable. Probably a little underpowered. More EX effects like Discern Lies would be nice. Maybe a Bluff-based Mind Blank? A hiding or tracking ability that grants limited Invisibility/See Invisibility? Something along those lines to kick it up a notch.

Great work!

Palanan
2013-06-17, 04:00 PM
First off, thanks very much for your thoughtful and in-depth critique. I appreciate the time you took going through this, and for a beginning homebrewer it's invaluable to know exactly what works (and what doesn't) and why, from both the player's and the DM's perspective.

I'm glad you like the historical aspects here; I really enjoy that in general, and the intense detail and accuracy of the O'Brian novels in particular really helps to establish a mood. It's not quite the same cultural period that most 3.5 games use as their starting point, but to me it somehow feels much more real.

So, to start with some of your comments....

General Observations


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
One general criticism is that a lot of the abilities are very similar. Mostly bonuses to the same general skill checks, but in slightly different situations.

Indeed, and on this and everything below, I'm definitely open to suggestions. The thief-taker is extremely niche, and while I did try to add a few things that might be useful in a broader adventuring context, I wasn't sure what else to include without veering off in another direction entirely.


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
Another thing to think about is that, even though this class is clearly designed for a niche, it might be more attractive to players if it granted some combat abilities.... Thief-taking is a rough-and-tumble business!

Also agreed, although I'm not sure what to include here. I really don't want a generic +1d6 to Sneak Attack, since that's not what the thief-taker is about. I did look at PrCs like the Bloodhound and the Consecrated Harrier, but nothing there really seemed appropriate.


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
The last overall thing is that a 3.5 character can enter this class at 3rd level. Maybe thatís what you intended, but itís still something to think about. Most PrCs are designed to be entered at 6th, or 11th level.

Definitely intended, since I wanted the PrC to be available early on for both players and NPCs, representing the general lack of skill and experience necessary to enter the profession. I know this is much different than most PrCs, and that's what I was going for. Any old scruffy streetrunner can be a thief-taker, as long as he's maxed out the relevant skills.

Native Haunts


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
In general, I find things like this a little difficult to adjudicate because the description is (perhaps intentionally) vague. It might be beneficial to put in a few guidelines about what can be considered a home region.

More-or-less intentionally vague, since it will depend a great deal on the campaign, and I expect that most campaigns won't pay too much attention to details of population density. ...That said, there are guidelines in the DMG for population centers, so I probably should've looked at those first. :smallredface:

Pratt, the character this is largely based on, was working in London and its environs, and I generally had in mind that a thief-taker would be based in a large urban area, something like Waterdeep or Sharn. I've recently read The Alloy of Law (http://www.amazon.com/Alloy-Law-Mistborn-Novel/dp/B009D751U0), and for a city as large as Elendel--which Sanderson describes as a true metropolis--I could see thief-takers operating exclusively in a single octant.

The class could be adapted for regions with less organized law enforcement, but the original thief-takers operated more or less in parallel with the official constabulary, looking into specific cases on a contractual basis rather than taking on all the functions of a sheriff or the like.

Local Color


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
...I tend to dislike "you automatically..." abilities in general. ...So I don't know what I think about this.

It's an odd one, which I based on a brief passage in the novel, and it would probably only come in useful with counter-espionage work. I hear you about the automatic success (a concern you raise again later on) but in this case, I'd say it's reasonable for a dyed-in-the-wool local boy to be able to pick out an interloper. I'll agree it's rather peculiar and extremely situational...but I liked it.

Shady Connections


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
I like this. Helpful bonuses that are thoroughly grounded in the class' flavor. I like that it's linked to home region but not useless outside of it. No problems here.

Whoo hoo!!

:smalltongue:

Nobody's Patsy


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
Skill bonuses like this, unless they're completely ridiculous, are always pretty easy to throw into classes without overpowering them. Moving on!

The warm glow spreads.

Sordid Associates


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
This one is a little weird. At first, these guys sound like followers. Then you talk about reductions in hiring costs and how they're explicitly not followers. And they can only be bruisers. But why wouldn't a thief-taker potentially employ more specialized skills?

...ahh, it couldn't last.

For me, this one is vague, clunky and mechanically problematic. I didn't want to get into too much detail with a cost structure for hiring thugs, and I was also concerned that they not be confused with followers, which I suppose I didn't manage very well.

I also looked at the contacts class feature for the Sharn Inquisitive, but didn't want to step on the SI's toes. I've never liked the "hirelings" approach, and wanted to give the thief-taker a little flexibility in exerting control over individuals with actual PC classes.

I like your term "leverage," which is exactly the concept I was going for. Maybe this could be a separate class feature? I'm at a loss for how that would work mechanically, so very much open to suggestions here.

Nose for Truth


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
I love the Discern Lies effect. More stuff like this for the other abilities would make the class a lot hotter.

This is one of the core abilities of the PrC, and I would love to add in other things along the same progression. The natural next step would seem to be Zone of Truth, but I'm not sure how to apply that in a non-magical context.

I agree that more abilities like this would really give it something interesting to work with, and would make it both more appealing to players and much more of a challenge when wielded by a sharp DM. What else would you suggest?

Go to Ground


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
This is too vague, imo. And again, I donít typically like auto-win or auto-fail abilities except in certain circumstances.

Definitely vague in the description, and again I'm not sure how to work the mechanics of it.

The one thing that occurs to me is to retain the auto-success in his home region--after all, it's the one patch of earth he knows the best, and has the most pull within--and give him your skill bump when he's anywhere else. It does make sense that he'd be much less effective at hiding out in an urban area where he doesn't have the same network of contacts and sympathizers as where he came up.

This is where "leverage" could come in again--perhaps using his leverage to cover his tracks in his home region? I'm terrible with devising game mechanics to cover concepts like this, so ideas are welcome here.

Folk Hero

Urggle, the folk hero. I wanted a decent capstone and the basic concept occurred to me fairly quickly. But for some reason I had no idea what to do with this for several days, in part because this isn't an aspect of Pratt's character at all; his value lies in his discretion and near-anonymity to the populace as a whole. However, it seemed to flow naturally from the perspective of a character in the game...but alas, the particular abilities didn't.

Flash Lad


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
This is an interesting ability but feels poorly-defined and a bit underwhelming for a capstone.... Something cooler than another skill bonus would be nice for the capstone.

I know. Still stuck on that. Cool ideas welcome.

Moving Up


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
Again, this should be better defined. What exactly is the relationship between the thief-taker and his partners? Are they like cohorts or like followers or like hirelings?

Definitely quite vague, and in this case I was trying hard to avoid simply giving the thief-taker a free version of Leadership. Usually I don't like restricting myself based on the fringe possibilities of people abusing things...but since Leadership can indeed be taken too far, I wanted to err on the side of caution.

If anything, the junior partner would be like a cohort, since he's an admirer of the thief-taker and determined to learn from his example. In narrative terms the junior partner would be something of a devoted sidekick, but I couldn't come up with much in the way of mechanics.

Recruited


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
Another ability that needs definition. This one seems to be all fluff and no crunch. Iím not saying that open-ended abilities are bad, but thisÖisnít really an ability. Itís just part of the classí flavor. Whether this is good or bad depends on the DM. A class ability should be a little more concrete than this. What benefits does the thief-taker gain? Are there any penalties? This is more of a plot point than a class ability.

Indeed, I see where you're coming from, and can't really argue with any particular. I wanted this mainly to provide the thief-taker with a bridge to operating on a wider scope, as well as to suggest that once he reaches this degree of recognition, he's automatically stepped into a much more dangerous sphere.

I agree it's not really a conventional class ability...just not sure where else to put it.

Coda


Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
I love the class; the flavorís awesome and the abilities are well within the realm of reasonable. Probably a little underpowered. More EX effects like Discern Lies would be nice. Maybe a Bluff-based Mind Blank? A hiding or tracking ability that grants limited Invisibility/See Invisibility? Something along those lines to kick it up a notch.

Really glad you like the spirit of the class, and I agree that building on Discern Lies would improve it beyond the skill bonuses. I thought about See Invisibility, but again not sure how to incorporate that. I really like the Mind Blank idea, though, and I'm open to more improvements along those lines. Or anything else.

Thanks again for your careful critique, it's very much appreciated.

Steward
2013-06-17, 04:50 PM
I agree it's not really a conventional class ability...just not sure where else to put it.

In most of the 3.5 edition books, prestige classes usually have a section called something like "Thief-takers in the world" that talks about things like that -- how the character fits into the setting, how they are recruited and trained, what kind of organizations they have (if any), how they advance socially speaking, what kind of missions their organizations might ask them to take on, etc. For example, in "Complete Scoundrel" the Gray Guard prestige class has an entry called, "Gray Guards in the World" that talks about how they operate independently of the church's hierarchy of paladins and how the church officials who oversee their actions interact with them.

A section like this would be a great place to put world-building material like this. Your class is one that is heavily integrated into its home setting so you can really get away with putting as much or as little detail as you want.

Palanan
2013-06-17, 08:38 PM
Originally Posted by Steward
In most of the 3.5 edition books, prestige classes usually have a section called something like "Thief-takers in the world" that talks about things like that.... A section like this would be a great place to put world-building material like this.

That's a good idea, and it does make sense to put at least some of that information in a separate section. I'm very attached to the notion that once the thief-taker reaches folk-hero status, he's drawn into a wider world whether he wants to be or not. However, as Mephibosheth points out, that would be almost entirely dependent on an individual DM, and how he or she wants to progress the plot.

I'd still like something of this in the mechanics, but as written, it really does seem like it belongs in a separate section. Need to mull this over for a while.

--So, other ideas? Possible fixes or clarifications to my string of vague abilities? And most especially, any thoughts on how to add more abilities like Discern Lies?

Mephibosheth
2013-06-21, 07:47 PM
So...Sordid Associates:

I keep coming back to contacts (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/campaigns/contacts.htm). What if you say that, for each thief-taker level, the character can define one or two contacts, even someone who falls outside the normal bounds of the contacts rules set; bruisers and casters and whatnot. When attempting to hire someone he has defined as a contact, he gets a class level-based reduction in the price he has to pay for the specific service. The specificity gets at the leverage concept you wanted; he can only use this ability on someone he knows and has information about. Maybe DMs could even require the player to describe the type of leverage that gets him the discount. That's my thought. It's linked to the hireling mechanic rather than Leadership, but it's still limited.

Combat:

I still think that picking a limited, obscure combat style and giving fun abilities that develop it is the way to go. Again, garroting comes to mind as a great one. Or maybe use of boot knives or gnome quickrazors (easily-concealable weapons are a thief-taker's friends). Cloak fighting. Something niche to fit the niche PrC. Something more flavorful than sneak attack but still fun.

New Abilities:

I'd suggest you go through the spells/psionic powers/martial maneuvers list and pick a couple level-appropriate ones that he can use as Ex abilities with a successful skill check. So, for this class, mostly 0 and 1st level spells. Maybe some weak 2nd level ones. Maybe a 3rd level one as a capstone. I'm thinking, a successful Intimidate or Diplomacy check that replicates a Suggestion spell (maybe with a few limitations). Call it, A Matter of Leverage and make it only useful on people from his home region. Or the DC is higher for people from the home region. Maybe an ability that replicates Arcane Mark, like a calling card of some sort. Comprehend Languages? Maybe some urban-focused movement abilities, like Woodland Stride but for cities. Detect Thoughts with a successful Sense Motive check? Locate Object?