The Missing Archetype…

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.

8 thoughts on “The Missing Archetype…

  1. am i remembering wrong, or is this similar to how White Wolf handled certain activities?
    you basically filled in bubbles to create a modifier against a throw, which was a set, standard throw.

  2. Nope, WW uses a dice pool. You used your stat plus your skill dots as the number of d10 to throw. Each die over a certain value was a success and you needed so many successes to complete a task. 10 always succeeded and rerolled. 1 always failed and canceled a success.

    So, you had three variables:

    1. The size of the dice pool
    2. The target number
    3. The number of successes

    Later versions of WW simplified this by setting the target number fixed at 7 and eliminating the “1 cancels a success” rule.

  3. ah yeah. more complex than i remember. i like your idea a lot, and i think you’re onto something key in the abstract. weapon skills, non-weapon skills, and “talents” as a third potential pool of stuff rather than the set short list of “thief” skills. much more modular that way.

  4. If you can, get a copy of T&T 5th or 5.5th edition (easy to find on eBay or other online source fair and foul) and take a week off from the D&D game to play it.

    You will learn more about the breadth of the hobby from just that than almost anything else given it dates from one year after D&D.

  5. may well do. in the short term, though, i have inexperienced players i am having to hand-hold just to get used to mechanics in general, without system hopping.

  6. You should look into it has an evolved system like the talents you describe.

    “C&C SIEGE system is not that everyone can try anything but that everyone is equally good at everything not a class ability.”

    I've not played but my understanding is what you pick as primary stats determines characters flavor.

    fg ST DX IN -> horse thief/conan type

    fg ST WI CH -> knight/paladin/leader

    fg ST CN ?? -> standard tank

    The leader will be much better at social and perception tasks. We as searches, traps, and Erol Flynn maneuvers will come naturally to the thief.

  7. Yes, but all horse thieves will be the same.

    I understand what SIEGE is designed to avoid: the idea that if I don’t have a skill I can’t do it. Where I think it fails is all ST DX IN fighters are the same. This may not bother you. That’s fine with me.

    However, and I think the thief is where this shines through more than any other class, the ability to say I’m better than most at swinging on a line or climbing or breathing fire with pure grain alcohol should be allowed for somewhere.

  8. Sorry njharman, I accidently killed your comment.

    That said, I don't think you're hearing what I'm saying. I understand C&C's intent very clearly, especially in contrast to something like 3.x's feat system.

    My explicit point was that such a system inherently dismisses a degree of granularity and trying to paper over that by repeating “you can try anything” mantra is missing the point.

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