Oops, I’ve Stolen Something

Last updated: 180808…,210211

PCs are left occasionally left with time on their hands. Mages & clerics research spells, fighters compete in the arena. The thief? Pick Pockets is a simple roll, but what would be the outcome? What if the thief wants to acquire more than a few coppers between adventures? Or the Guild makes a demand that can’t be refused? Theft within an “adventure” context requires one-on-one time with the player and DM, or extended downtime for other players while the thief role-plays the encounter that the DM had to create.

Borrowing from various resources, hewing close to 1st Edition rules, I present a system for Pick Pockets and Theft. Rules scattered far and wide are consolidated and streamlined, filling in gaps. Player decisions still affect outcomes. For critical life-or-death moments, tables provide granularity, but the generalities are treated, well, more generally.

Pick Pockets

Up to two pick pockets attempts can be made during a round. A successful Pick Pockets roll gains an item from the victim; the item is determined at random unless the exact location of a particular item is known by the thief.

The potential victim reduces the thief’s chances for success by 5% for every level of experience he or she is above the 3rd, i.e. –5% at 4th level, etc. Chances of success are also affected by the Category of the target: Simple (a lowly farmer), Difficult (a merchant, –10%), or Extraordinary (adventurer/nobility, –15%).

Pick Pockets fails if the player rolls above the chance to Pick Pockets. Undiscovered failures allow additional attempts (twice / round). If the roll fails by 21% or greater, the victim notices the thief’s attempt (note the victim might notice yet allow the thief to operate in order to track them back to headquarters).


Once a pocket is successfully picked, roll 2d10, modified by Category (Simple +0, Difficult +8, Extraordinary +12):

2d10 Result
2 Lint
3 Parchment with a mundane note
4 A key
5 Lower class personal item (rabbit’s foot, needle, dice, playing cards, small knife, etc.) of no value
6 A small vial or flask
7 Coins (2d6 cp)
8 Coins (2d6 sp)
9 Gem (10 gp)
10 Lint
11 Parchment with a business note
12 A key
13 Middle class small personal item (rabbit’s foot, needle, dice, playing cards, small knife, etc.) worth d4 gp
14 A small vial or flask (1% chance DMG Table III.A Potions)
15 Coins (2d6 sp)
16 Coins (2d6 gp)
17 Gem (50 gp)
18 Small jewelry (wrought gold, 2d20 gp)
19-20 Lint
21 Parchment with official communication
22 A key
23 Upper class small personal item (rabbit’s foot, needle, dice, playing cards, small knife, etc.) worth d8 gp
24 A small vial or flask (5% chance DMG Table III.A Potions)
25 Coins (2d6 gp)
26 Coins (2d6 pp)
27 Small jewelry (silver with gems, d100 gp)
28 Roll twice on this table, ignoring results after this.
29 Trap
30 Roll twice on this table, ignoring results after this.
Roll again on this table. Appears successful, but something important was stolen and the target really wants their loot back. Mercenaries are hired to track the thief down.
31 Roll on Gem table, DMG p. 25
32 Roll on Jewelry Table, DMG p. 26

Pick Pockets Failure

The result of a known failure is adjusted for the Category (Difficult+2, Extraordinary +4).

d10 Result
1 Chased. Lose d6 CON from exhaustion. Roll Evasion or lose d6 hp (cannot be fatal) and CON recovers one point per day of rest.
2 Beaten up—lose d6 hit points unless armored.
3 City Guard. Bribe way out with d100 gp or Arrested.
4 Chased. Lose d6 DEX. Roll Evasion or be injured for 2d6 hp (cannot be fatal). DEX recovers one point per day of rest.
5 Beaten up—lose 3d6 hit points unless armored.
6 Chased. Lose d6 STR. Roll Evasion or lose 3d6 hp (none in armor, non-fatal,). STR recovers one point per day of rest.
7 City Guard. Arrested. If a guild member, the Thieves’ Guild will arrange bail for 2d100 gp, expecting the money back at 100% interest.
8 Beaten up and robbed—lose 5d6 hit points (none in armor, non-fatal), plus anything vaguely useful or valuable is taken.
9 Grabbed by a crowd of locals and punished: 1. pilloried, 2. tarred and feathered, 3. stripped naked & chased.
10 Word of ineptitude reaches Thieves’ Guild. Lose guild membership. If not a member of the guild beaten for 2d6 damage, increasing d6 for each offense.
11 Trapped. Explosive dye, a man-trap just right for prying hands.
12 City Guard. Can kill guard to attempt Evasion.
13 Steal a cursed item.
14 Killed (Save vs. Death to escape).


A thief with access to civilization may perform solo burglary missions—the Heist!


Three different “By The Book” foundations exist for determining success of a heist:

  • Assassins’ Table for Assassinations (DMG, p. 75)
  • Assassin Spying Table (DMG, p. 18)
  • The Thief Functions (PHB, p. 28)

The Assassination Table relies on a single roll, but knowing the level of the victim, which could be used to determine reward vs. difficulty, but burglary is more like spying than assassination. A Spy succeeds based on two Spying Table rolls (counting Discovery). Thieves use different Thief Functions if performing a heist, which has a certain appeal, as they adjust based on character level, class, and Dexterity. The Thief Functions can also be modified by magical items (such as Boots of Elvenkind affecting Move Silently). However, exercising multiple thief functions during a typical heist, requiring individual rolls for each Thief Function almost guarantees failure. Perhaps an average of those combined values? Pick Pockets would be excluded, given its clear use for a different task. Hear Noise and Read Languages are outliers, leaving Open Locks, Finding Traps, Moving Silently, Hiding in Shadows, and Climbing Walls. That generates an Averaged Thief Function, which lends itself to a rounded/simplified composite of the thief and assassin abilities:

Thief Level Averaged Thief Functions (Rounded) Assassin Spying Table Averaged Composite
Simple Difficult Extraordinary
1 30% 50% 30% 10% 31%
2 35% 55% 35% 15% 35%
3 40% 60% 35% 15% 39%
4 45% 65% 40% 20% 44%
5 50% 70% 45% 25% 49%
6 55% 75% 50% 25% 54%
7 60% 80% 55% 30% 59%
8 65% 85% 60% 35% 64%
9 70% 85% 60% 40% 69%
10 75% 90% 65% 45% 74%

The averaged chance of success across all the Thief Functions are all similar to the Difficult Assassin Spying Table tasks and the Composites, varying no more than +10%. Using the existing Thief Functions table to determine success hews closer to 1e than directly using the Assassination Table or creating yet another table. Averaged Thief Functions are the baseline of Heist success.

The more difficult the job, the higher the reward for success but also the higher the penalty for failure? Incorporating the Assassin table, heists therefore can be separated into the Simple, Difficult, and Extraordinary.

How long does it take for a successful heist, when taking into account preparation and execution? Casing the joint is easier and shorter than a spying mission, and the odds of being discovered are less than a spying mission, so the difficulty categories should be adjusted downward from a time and discovery perspective.


What about the invisible PC? A halfling? Wearing Boots of Elvenkind? Using a Chime of Opening? With a high Dexterity? Flying? The composite score combines five different Thief Functions (Open Locks, Finding Traps, Moving Silently, Hiding in Shadows, and Climbing Walls), suggesting a methodology to modify the overall chance of success—adjust the base Thief Functions percentages to modify the overall chance of success. Determine any delta to the individual Thief Function, and adjust the overall chance of success by the delta divided by 5 (to represent the overall change across the five Functions). Using this general methodology, the DM can readily (and less arbitrarily) determine modifications to the chance of success based on player specifics. Two adjustments to the same Thief Function might or might not be considered additive. Any one Thief Function shouldn’t adjust over 95%. Let’s look at some examples:

  • A halfling is 10% better at Moving Silently, which would increase the overall chance of success by 2% (10%, divided by the five Thief Functions).
  • If a 5th level thief (Move Silently 40%) were wearing Boots of Elvenkind (95%), his ability to Move Silently is effectively 95% (a 55% increase), increasing his overall chance by 11% (55%, divided by the five thief functions).
  • If an 8th level Thief were invisible, his Hide in Shadows ability could increase from 49% to 95% (note the 95% maximum), an increase of 46% improvement in Hide in Shadows, or a 9% increase to his overall chance of success.
  • A Chime of Opening for a 5th level thief? 42% Open Locks to 95%, but –25% from Move Silently for the time(s) the Chime is used, so and 11% –5% modifier.

PC Characteristics

The effects of Race and Ability score modifiers can be pre-calculated using the existing tables for race and ability:

Race Heist Modifier
Dwarf +3% +10% Open Locks, +15% Find Traps, -10% Climb Walls
Elf +2% -5% Open Locks, +5% Move Silently, +10% Hide in Shadows,
Gnome +2% +5% Open Locks, +10% Find Traps, +5% Move Silently, +5% Hide in Shadows, -15% Climb Walls
Half-Elf +1% +5% Hide in Shadows
Halfling +4% +5% Open Locks, +5% Find Traps, +10% Move Silently, +15% Hide in Shadows, -15% Climb Walls
Half-Orc +4% +5% Open Locks, +5% Find Traps, +5% Climb Walls


Dexterity Score Heist Modifier No dexterity bonuses apply when wearing armor other than simple leather.
16 +1% +5% Open Locks
17 +4% +10% Open Locks, +5% Move Silently, +5% Hide in Shadows
18 +8% +15% Open Locks, +5% Find Traps, +10% Move Silently, +10% Hide in Shadows


A thief wearing no armor gains a +5% Heist Modifier (from the associated Unearthed Arcana: +10% Move Silently, +5% Hide in Shadows, +10% Climb Walls, which could affect adjustments from other sources). However, the thief is now at greater risk in any encounters if things go wrong, as they’re no longer wearing armor!

Thieves’ Guild

The thief can increase their chance of success, and make the fencing of stolen goods easier, as a member of the Thieves’ Guild, for a percentage to the Thieves’ Guild. The initiation fee for the Thieves’ Guild costs 1,000 gp (± 500 based on city size, ±500 based on approved theft difficulty). A Thieves’ Guild will require a 15% cut of any crimes committed. Membership in the Thieves’ Guild increases the chance of any success by 5d4%.

There is a 20% chance that the Thieves’ Guild will become aware of the crime if the thief is not a member.

The Attempt

  1. The thief decides the Heist Category: Simple, Difficult, Extraordinary
  2. Gear up! Calculate the modified Heist Chance of Success (based on stats, magic, race, etc.)
  3. Roll time required to execute the heist
  4. The DM determines the value of the loot, modified by the Heist Category
  5. The DM determines if thief is Discovered (If a thief is discovered, roll on the Theft Failure table)
  6. The PC rolls to determine their Heist Success or Failure
    1. The DM determines the results
  7. The PC decides on the disposition of goods acquired

Chance of Discovery

It takes time to execute a successful heist: making discreet inquiries; identifying a target; casing the joint; waiting for the right moment (moonless night, appropriate distraction, owner out of town); leaving no trace behind. The Base Chance to be Discovered is a cumulative 1% per day spent preparing (subject to a maximum of 10%), minus the level of the thief, to a minimum of 1%. The probability of discovery depends on the Category of the heist:

Heist Category Time to Prepare Probability of Discovery
Simple  1 to 8 days  1%, checked each week
Difficult  3 to 24 days  Base Chance%, checked each week
Extraordinary  5 to 40 days  Base Chance%, checked twice per week


Repeated heists in a short time will put town citizens on alert! Each successive heist attempted within an identical period (i.e., d8 days from the last Simple heist) will decrease the chance of success by d10%.

Chance of discovery will increase tenfold if a thief is discovered and another heist is attempted during a period of 20 to 50 days thereafter. If the heist is discovered, go to the Heist Failure Table below.


The Treasure Category Multiplier matches the crime: Simple (200 gp), Difficult (1,000 gp, +10% to roll), Extraordinary (5,000 gp, +20% to roll)

d100 Treasure Details
1-21 Nothing of Value
22-45 Coins d6 * Category Modifier gp in various coins.1 Note coin weight!
46-60 Gems d6 * Category Modifier gp in various gems. See DMG, p.25, Treasure Type Q (×[n])
61-70 Jewelry d6 * Category Modifier gp in various jewelry. See DMG, p. 26
71-80 Gems and Jewelry d6 * Category Modifier gp in gems and jewelry or Treasure Type R. See DMG, p. 26-27.
81-90 Rare Commodities d6 * Category Modifier gp. See DMG, p. 27.
91-95 Antiquities d6 * Category Modifier gp value.
96-98 Religious Icon d6 * Category Modifier gp value.
99-100 Potions Simple (1 potion), Difficult (d3 potions), Extraordinary (d6 potions) or Treasure Type S.
101-105 Scroll(s) Simple (1 spell, lvl 1-3), Difficult (d3 spells, lvl 2-5), Extraordinary (d6 spells, lvl 3-7) or Treasure Type T.
106-119 Roll Twice on this Table Can roll more this result than once, less than this.
120 The Motherload Treasure Type I (gems, jewelry, magic).
  1. Coin distribution varies on Category: Simple (20%sp/30%ep/50%gp), Difficult (30%ep/55%gp/15%pp), Extraordinary (80%gp/20%pp). Multiply % * (value in gp), then adjust for value of coins (i.e., gp value * 20 for # of silver).


Once all modifiers have been tabulated, the DM checks the Heist Chance for Success to determine Success or Failure. Success won’t always mean getting away scot-free!

Heist Results

Should the thief succeed, roll to determine the results. Success Modifiers:

Results Modifiers Results Roll Modifier
Difficult +10
Extraordinary +20


Heist Results Table
d100 Type of Result
≤01-10 Success
11-15 Wild success (roll again on the Treasure Table)
16-35 Partial success (Flight, acquiring only 10%-90% of the Treasure value)
36-65 Success
66-80 Quality success (+25% on Treasure Table)
81-85 Trapped (Walk Away or make Remove Traps check to succeed). See DMG Appendix G. (d6: 1-2 Damage, 3-4 Poison Type A-C, 5-6 Lethal)
86-90 Poisoned (requires Save vs. Poison): Type A 15 hp damage (Simple), Type B 25 hp damage (Difficult), Type C 35 hp damage (Extraordinary). Chance to notice poison: A:80%/B:65%/C:40%*
91-95 Poisoned (requires Save vs. Poison or die): Type D.  Chance to notice poison 15%*
96-100 D. False success: If Bribery was used during the heist, they squeal to the Watch after the heist. Arrested. Otherwise no effect.
101-105 D. False success: Thieves’ Guild discovers afterwards of unsanctioned heist (if not member of Thieves’ Guild). Check Encounter Reactions for their response. Hostile responses: Fine equal to 2x value of heist, Quest, Expulsion. Otherwise no effect.
106-110 D. False success: Your target wants their loot back. Mercenaries are hired to track thief down. Captain level 1-3 (Simple), 4-7 (Difficult), 9-12 (Extraordinary)
111-114 E. False success: Thieves’ Guild discovers afterwards of unsanctioned heist (if not member of Thieves’ Guild). Check Encounter Reactions for their response. Hostile responses: Fine equal to 2x value of heist, Quest, Expulsion, Death. Otherwise no effect.
115-117 E. False success: An Invisible Stalker is summoned to return the stolen goods.
≥117-120 E. False success: Precious item stolen, creating a powerful enemy who will pursue the PC.

*If the thief notices the poison, they can roll a Saving Throw or safely abandon the heist.

Heist Failure

Failure Modifiers:

Heist Category Failure Roll Modifier
Difficult -5
Extraordinary -10
Discovered +20


Heist Failure Table
d100   Failure Result
≤01 Killed (5%) 5. Killed (Save vs. Death if wearing armor).
02-06 Proof (15%) 4. Arrested with the Goods! See Crime and Punishment.
07-11 Proof (15%) 4. Arrested with the Goods! Kill City Guard to attempt Evasion.
12-16 Proof (15%) 4. Attacked with the Goods! 4d6 damage (halved in armor). Arrested or attempt Evasion.
17-21 Proof (15%) 4. Arrested with the Goods! (d4 × ½ Treasure Category Multiplier) gp to bribe way out of it.
22-41 Escape 25% 2. Barely Escaped. Further Attempts during Category Preparation Interval are 90% Likely to Fail.
42-46 5% Nighttime City Encounter (See DMG, Appendix C). Check Encounter Reaction when appropriate.
47-75 Failure (35%) 1. Failure. There are many possible causes for basic failure: a lock could not be picked, residents arrived home unexpectedly, left tools at home, etc.
76-80 Suspicious 20% 3. Tricked (see DMG, Appendix H).
81-85 Suspicious 20% 3. Caught during heist. Arrested for Trespass.
86-90 Suspicious 20% 3. Triggered alarm! Arrested for Trespass. Roll Evasion to Escape.
91-95 5% Underestimated Difficulty (and Reward). Roll entire Attempt again adjusting Category one step.
96-100 Suspicious 20% 3. Triggered alarm! Arrested for Trespass. Roll Evasion at -40% to Escape
101-104 Discovery > 100% 0. Discovered by City Watch entering building. Check Encounter Reaction to determine arrest for Trespassing.
105-108 Discovery> 100% 0. Thieves’ Guild learned of unsanctioned heist (if not member of Thieves’ Guild). Check Encounter Reaction for their response. Hostile responses: Fine equal to value of planned heist, Quest, Expulsion. Otherwise no effect.
109-112 Discovery> 100% 0. If Bribery was used during the heist, they squeal to the Watch before the Heist. Check Encounter Reaction to avoid Arrest.
113-116 Discovery> 100% 0. Queried by the City Watch. Check Encounter Reaction to avoid arrest for Trespass.
117-120 Discovery> 100% 0. Observed. Check Encounter Reaction for whether they report it. Successful Disguise prevents Arrest.

Encounter Reactions

Any intelligent creature conversed with will react in some way to the character that is speaking. Reaction is determined by rolling percentile dice, adjusting the score for the Charisma Reaction Adjustment, and comparing to the table below:

Charisma Reaction Adjustment
13 +5
14 +10
15 +15
16 +25
17 +30
18 +35


Adjusted Result (d100) Encounter Reaction
≤01-05 Violently hostile, immediate attack
06-36 Hostile, immediate action
37-64 Neutral—uninterested / uncertain
65-95 Friendly, immediate action
96-00 (or greater) Enthusiastically friendly, immediate acceptance

Disposition of Goods

Turning rare or unusual goods into cash creates its own problem. Anything besides coin requires a fence! Without specific proficiencies, the thief’s appraisal of goods can vary by 10%-200%. Finding a fence will take d4 * (1:Simple, 2:Difficult, 3:Extraordinary) days. When first meeting a fence, determine the Fence’s reaction:

Modifiers (cumulative):

Modifiers to Fence Reaction
+10 Thieves’ Guild Membership
-10 Difficult
-20 Extraordinary
+5 Charisma 13
+10 Charisma 14
+15 Charisma 15
+25 Charisma 16
+30 Charisma 17
+35 Charisma 18


Disposition of Goods Table
d100 Fence Reaction
<01-15 Double-cross (only if value > 5,000 gp). Steals item(s) and escapes (otherwise makes Initial Offer).
16-23 Outraged. Makes Initial Offer but contacts authorities unless member of Thieves’ Guild.
24-29 Fence refuses to deal in commodity. Arrested unless member of Thieves’ Guild.
30-35 Fearful. Fence refuses to deal in commodity.
36-41 Cannot afford goods at this time. Try again in d4 weeks.
42-47 Concerned. Offers reduced by ½.
48-59 Neutral. Makes Initial Offer. Will demand bribe (d6 × 100 gp) for silence if refused.
60-67 Intrigued. Raises maximum offer by (5 × d6)%.
68-83 Neutral. Makes Initial Offer.
84-100 Must Have It. Offers 75% of actual value.

The fence will start with the Initial Offer. The fence will increase the offer by d20% actual value until agreement or the maximum is reached. There is a 10% chance after each offer that the fence will refuse to do business further.

Initial offer: 10% + 5% × d4 of the actual value
Maximum Offer: 15% + 5% × d12 of the actual value


A thief receives XP equal to 1/10th the value of goods stolen. This is modified by multipliers for the degree of heist difficulty: Simple (× ½), Difficult (× 1), or Extraordinary (× 1½).

Crime and Punishment

A thief arrested will be charged and tried. Fines and jail time are cumulative. Repeat offenders receive stiffer sentences within the Punishment category. The third (and subsequent) conviction always results in the maximum sentence.


Crime Type  
Trespassing (Simple, Difficult) Class 1
Trespassing (Extraordinary) Class 2
Unarmed Assault Class 1 Fists or threatening harm
Armed Assault – Lesser Class 2 Improvised weapons (club, bar stool)
Armed Assault – Greater Class 4 Deadly weapons or magic
Theft of Goods ≤10 gp Class 1
Theft of Goods 11 gp to 100 gp Class 2
Theft of Goods 101 gp to 1,000 gp Class 3
Theft of Goods 1,001 gp to 10,000 gp Class 4
Theft of Goods > 10,000 gp Class 5
Using Magic ? An additional charge of the associated crime Type
Forgery ? An additional charge of the associated crime Type
Escape/Flight Class 3 Fleeing the Authorities to escape the consequences of a Crime


Once arrested, a trial takes place within d6 weeks. The Judge can be bribed with a successful Bribery check (and payment equal to half the fine). Membership in the Thieves Guild will increase the bribery chance by 25%. A failed Bribery check will negatively affect the outcome and always include jail time.

Trial Modifiers Trial Outcome Adjustment
Bribery ±10
Difficult Crime +10
Extraordinary Crime +20
Charisma 13 -5
Charisma 14 -10
Charisma 15 -15
Charisma 16 -25
Charisma 17 -30
Charisma 18 -35


d100 Trial Outcome
<1-30 Acquittal
31-50 Default Punishment (Fine if applicable)
51-65 Default Punishment (Prison if applicable)
66-75 Default Punishment (Both Fine and Prison if applicable)
76-95 Third conviction, or Class 4 and above: Mutilation. Otherwise Fine and Prison. Sentence carried out in d4 days.
96-100+ Third conviction for Class 4 and above: Death. Otherwise Fine and Prison. Sentence carried out in d6 days.


Type of Crime Punishment
Class 1 Fine: 1d6 gp OR Jail: 1 Day OR Both
Class 2 Fine: 10d6 gp OR Jail: d6 Weeks OR Both
Class 3 Fine: 100d6 gp OR Jail: d6 Months OR Both
Class 4 Fine: 1,000d6 gp OR Jail: 1 Year OR Both
Class 5 Fine: 5,000d6 gp OR Jail: d6 Years OR Both
Class 6 Fine: 10,000 d6 gp OR Jail: 5d6 Years OR Both OR Death
Class 7 Death


Crime and Punishment Tables can be adjusted based on the severity of punishment with a particular culture.


When spotted, the Thief can sometimes evade pursuit.

Base Chance for Evading Pursuit: 80% Modification
  Pursued is faster (thief unarmored) +10%
  Pursuer is faster -20%
  Solitary thief +10%
  City Watch -20%
  City Guard +0%
  Light equal to full daylight -30%
  Light equal to twilight -10%
  Light equal to bright moonlight 0%
  Light equal to starlight +20%
  Light equal to dark night +50%


Below are few examples of relevant proficiencies.


This skill allows the character to make generally accurate (±10%) assessments of common objects, including items made of precious metals and gemstones. The character can also assess, to ±25%, the value of objects of art, tapestries, furniture, weapons, etc., provided a variety of these items are present in the game world. These assessments require no proficiency checks and the DM can roll (d20 or d100) to determine the accuracy of the appraisal.

A character who passes a proficiency check will be able to identify a forgery of a valuable object, to make a very accurate assessment of the value of a common item (within 5%), or to make a general assessment of the worth of an uncommon item, including artifacts. The DM may wish to roll this check, and on a roll of 20 the character makes a wildly inaccurate assessment. Intelligence, 0 penalty.


Successful Bribery includes understanding the appropriate target, the timing of the offer, the amount most likely to generate the desired reaction, whether the one receiving the bribe will keep his side of the bargain, and the best way to avoid drawing attention from witnesses. Bribery allows the thief to judge (75%) how much of a bribe is required. A successful proficiency check (or rolling under half of their Charisma score) will increase one Thief Function by 25% (generally improving the chance of Heist success by 5%). Failure indicates the bribe is inadequate or refused and makes the chance for success correspondingly more difficult. The character may be reported to the Watch (depending on the Encounter Reaction). Charisma, 0 Penalty.

The cost of a Bribe will vary depending on the Heist: Simple (d10 gp), Difficult (d10 gp × 3), Extraordinary (d10 × 10 gp). More than one Bribe can be attempted.


Characters trained in Disguise can conceal their appearance through makeup and costuming. They can make themselves look like any general type of person of about the same height, age, weight, and race. A successful proficiency check indicates that the disguise is successful, while a failed roll means the attempt was too obvious in some way. If the task is more difficult—the character in disguise meets and talks with an acquaintance, for example—an additional proficiency check is required. A successful disguise will prevent follow-up from an Escape or being turned in.

Characters altering their sex, race, or size, must make successful proficiency checks with a –2 penalty for each category. Character may attempt to disguise themselves as a specific person, with a –10 penalty to the proficiency check. These modifiers are cumulative, thus, it is extremely difficult to disguise oneself as a specific person of another race or sex. Charisma, –6 penalty.


This proficiency indicates a skill at creating false documents, mimicking the handwriting of others, and detecting forgeries. To forge a document (military orders, local decrees, etc.) where the handwriting is not specific to a person, the character needs only to have seen a similar document before. To forge a name, an autograph of that person is needed, and a proficiency check with a –2 penalty must be successfully rolled. To forge a longer document written in the hand of some particular person, a large sample of his handwriting is needed, with a –3 penalty to the check.

If the check succeeds, the work will pass examination by all except those intimately familiar with that handwriting or by those with the Forgery proficiency who examine the document carefully. If the check is failed, the forgery is detectable to anyone familiar with the type of document or handwriting—if they examine the document closely. If the die roll is a 20, the forgery is immediately detectable to anyone who normally handles such documents without close examination. It is important to note that the forger always thinks he has been successful; the DM rolls the character’s proficiency check in secret and the forger does not learn of a failure until it is too late. Dexterity, –1 penalty.

PCs caught after using Forgery on Extraordinary crimes add Forgery to their charges.


Ruses are oddities to create distractions, such as hiring mourners to fake a funeral procession outside to benefit his Hide in Shadows Approach, or poisoning the guard dogs’ meat so their reactions are sluggish for the Move Silently check. Like Bribery, the player selects a specific Thief Function to improve. A failed Ruse puts the guards on alert instead, decreasing the Thief Function value by the same amount.

The cost of a Ruse will vary depending on the difficulty of the Heist: Simple (d10 gp), Difficult (d10 × 3 gp), Extraordinary (d10 × 10 gp). Only one Ruse may be attempted per Heist. Intelligence, –2 Penalty.


TSR 2010, Players Handbook [1e], 1978. [Pick Pockets]
TSR 2011, Dungeon Masters Guide [1e], 1979. [Spying, Pick Pockets]
Thieves’ Guild: The Fantasy System. Gamelords, Ltd. 1984. [legal system]
TSR 9193, GAZ 1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos [BECMI], 1987. [crime, Thieves’ Guild]
Dragon Magazine Issue 47, Leomund’s Tiny Hut: The Thief: A Special Look, March 1981.
Dragon Magazine Issue 104, Was it Worth the Risk: A DM’s Guide to Pick Pocketing Success, December 1985.
Polyhedron Issue 41, Arcana Academy: Adding to the Thief, May, 1988. [Infiltrate, Appraise, Streetwise, Ransack]
TSR 2114, The Castle Guide [2e], 1990. [bribery]
TSR 1071, Rules Cyclopedia [BECMI], 1991.
TSR 2010, Player’s Handbook [2e], 1995. [forgery, disguise]
TSR 2154, Player’s Option: Skills and Powers [2e], 1995. [forgery, appraisal, disguise]
TSR 2445, Defilers and Preservers: The Wizards of Athas [2e],  1996. [bribery]
Footprints Issue #2, What Have I Got in my Pocket? August 2004.

Appendix A: Converted Spy Failure Table (Reference Only)

Dice Score Result
01-35 Failure. There are many possible causes for basic failure: a lock could not be picked, residents arrived home unexpectedly, left tools at home, etc.
36-60 Alerted! Burglary attempt against same target will be 90% likely to result in failure, discovery, and imprisonment.
61-80 Arrested for trespassing.
81-95 Caught with the goods and arrested for burglary (and trespassing). Value of the goods determines punishment.
96-00 Arrested for evading capture and either destruction of property or resisting arrest (on top of burglary and trespassing). Value of goods determines punishment.



Author: Rick

A DM for *mumble* years, I've been playing AD&D since junior high. I've currently got two separate campaigns running, both in Mystara. I've been told when they handed out hobbies, I stood in the short lines. I actively cycle tour, kayak, play board games, read, develop home automation software, play Stars!, volunteer with the International and National American Red Cross, and work on a never-ending stream of home repairs. In my wake I've left paintball, medieval full-contact combat (SCA), computer gaming, Heroclix, and kite construction.

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