All PCs are Thieves

Over the past five months I've drawn over 144 wizards, thieves and fighters. Characters, vignettes and accompanying texts. A number I've also published here.

The Wizards were easy. They're madmen, plumbing the depths of creation, seeking knowledge humanity was not meant to know, bringing magic, science and weirdness into the fantasy rpg. A wizard as an opponent in a game of D&D is the perfect opponent. It takes so little to make them wrong. The corruption of magic can make dispatching a wizard, even one who is good at heart, an act of mercy. No hero needs feel bad about dispatching a wizard.

The Fighters were also easy. They represent power, hierarchy, strength, domination. A wizard breaks the rules of reality to get to the top, a fighter is the top. Two heroes walk into a ring, one comes out. That is the fighter. A fighter represents the Man and it is so easy for the power of the fighter to corrupt. After all, there can be only one.

But Thieves. Making thief-type opponents is hard, because by their nature they are not the opponents of PCs. They are not kshatriyas or brahmins, they are not in positions of power, they do not seek to spit in the eyes of gods and demons with their magics. They are the underdogs. Ordinary folks getting by on guts and guile.

Thieves are essentially all adventurers. At best, they are competitors, but not opponents.

Prometheus. Heinrich Füger 1817
Prometheus. Anansi. Loki. Robin Hood. Reynard the Fox. Bilbo. Aladdin. Sinbad. Odysseus. Theseus. Conan. Brier Rabbit. Coyote. Bart Simpson. The Doctor. Bugs Bunny. Benjamin. All of them are "Thieves" and "Upstarts" against the order. Against the Man. Sneaking into the Scary Wizard's Temple to steal a ruby. Overthrowing a tyrant king. Going against the giants. Assassinating a hobgoblin holy man to prevent the downtrodden goblinoid masses rising up against the rightful elven aristocracy.

The only thieves are the ones who overthrow the tyrant and then put themselves in his place, becoming the Man, the Wizard, the Priest.

At the core of the D&D adventure is a group of down-on-their-lucks making it in the big world. Rising up, against all odds. To do this they use guile, trickery, guts and if they don't die, they achieve glory. In essence, it doesn't matter if a 1st level character is a barbarian or a bard or a warlord (terrible class name, by the way), they're all thieves.

And that's why setting thieves as opponents is kind of crappy. They're thieves because they're the underdogs and have to fight a sneaky battle against those in power. And that's why following Elminster the All-powerful's instructions is kind of lame, because it's just doing what the authority tells you.

The PCs are in a fantasy world where they can overturn everything at no cost. And now, they're going to follow orders from the Man to keep things the way they are. How boring!

Subvert the order! Bring down the Fighters and the Wizards that keep the common goblin down!

d12 Table: As you leave the Popular Noble King Wizard's Audience Chamber

  1. a maiden slips you a discrete silk purse that holds a crystal rose and a scented letter alleging that the king has had six secret sons imprisoned in a crypt beneath the citadel of City Over.
  2. a group of petitioners with magic cabbage growing from their ears are beaten away from the doors by the NKW Police.
  3. an NKW security wagon rumbles by, three captured goblins inside, destined for the NKW processing facility five.
  4. a merchant comes to you, offering to pay for goblin futures on scalps you'll collect cleaning the New Expanse of their troublesome hides. He'll give you 50% on the rate, so you can armour before you go to the New Expanse.
  5. a group of peasants with placards protesting the price freeze on turnips imposed by the NKW to fight speculators and kulaks. A group of Official Trading House accountants laughs at them from their coach and throw turnip pies at them.
  6. a nobly accoutred knight pulls you aside and mentions that if you do well in clearing out the Marble Quarries of Marmarra of the filthy kobold raiders, he may have a job protecting the tax collectors in the Western Ranch Reach.
  7. an astrologer attorney offers additional money if you also bring her any patent amulets on farms and mines that the goblins might have stolen in their raids. The goblins don't realize that these trinkets are valuable, if properly argued in the NKW property protection courts.
  8. a preacher stands on a box ranting about the inhumanity of the filthy hobgoblins in the New Expanse, who continue to pollute the Good Folk with their robbery and brigandage and breeding like rabbits and bringing sexual diseases and corrupting young folk with filthy notions and stealing young men for their lust matriarchs. The ranting goes on. And on.
  9. a noble scribe comes to mention that he knows a specialist interested in live goblins as test subjects (for a spell that will allow for the more effective fumigation of the New Expanses) and will pay 'andsomely for them. He passes an address in the Fine Warehouse Quarter of City Magnificence.
  10. a woman in a great dun coat whispers if you want any illegal goblin tech to help you out, maybe some of their cryptic mesomorphic keys to help you out in the Rainbow Ruins?
  11. a troop of proud young recruits, chests puffed and wearing the silver and red livery of the Righteous Fighters of the NKW march back and forth in the parade square, groups of young fine women swoon delicately, peddlers offer snacks, shoe shining and grooming for pennies.
  12. a number of drunken NKW university students accost several half-goblin slaves and beat them with smelly salamis while onlookers cheer and wager.

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