Last night my roommate popped The Scorpion King into the DVD player. I love it and think it’s one of the best movies to watch as inspiration for old school gaming. When I watch it I want to play some classic D&D right after. Most of the characters are warriors, Cassandra is a magic user as is Philos essentially (or a cleric) even if he uses items not spells, but how do you representArpid the Horse Thief.
The obvious answer is thief. Lots of old schoolers don’t want to use the thief. I get why. It is the first of the narrow classes instead of a broad archetype. I think Arpid is a perfect example of that. While he is a horse thief that’s profession not avocation. A warrior could be a horse thief. Nor do his skills match those of the D&D thief. He doesn’t hide in shadows or move quietly (Mathias, clearly a fighter, does those more) . He doesn’t pick pockets or scale walls. He does do one escape trick but the D&D thief doesn’t have “Houdini escape abilities”.
I think OD&D is missing a classic archetype that the thief was aiming at and that, in title at least the thief evolved into: the rogue. The rogue is the clever guy. He can fight, might know a spell in worlds that have them, and probably prays a bit but he lives by his wits. He usually has a trick or two unique to him. Arpid’s ability to get out of the ground seemingly by magic and he use of reverse fire eating are grand examples.
The 3.x rouge is the closest D&D has come to this fellow but by concentrating on using skill to represent him instead of unique feats I think they missed.
How would I do him in OD&D? First, I’d use saving rolls a la T&T (see my earlier post
) or the unified saving throw of Swords and Wizardry
. Then, I’d give the rogue a selection of talents. A talent is an open ended descriptor and a plus value. If he is doing something that fits the descriptor he can use the plus on the saving roll. T&T 7 introduces them in a way that kinda works, but needs testing.
In fact, these talents might be open to every class but limited either in scope or number for ones other than rogues. My complaint about the C&C SIEGE system is not that everyone can try anything but that everyone is equally good at everything not a class ability. While I don’t want the modern idea of “if you lack the skill or feat you can’t do it” I contend that old school characters are made of what they are good at. The rogue is the ultimate version of this: he’s good at things very few other people even consider and, using his wits, lives on those tricks.
And be honest, isn’t a fire-breathing escape artist more fun than someone hiding in shadows any day of the week.