Internet blogs, website message boards, and FRPG fanzines have all been buzzing with some fairly harsh criticism of this venerable class.
The thief, it is said, is simply a bad fit with the rest of the game. Critics claim that making activities like picking pockets and hiding in shadows dedicated thief class abilities creates awkward situations where fighting men, clerics, and magic-users are de facto prohibited (or at least strongly discouraged) from attempting to perform the same feats. My first submission to Fight On!, "The Thief Skill As Saving Throw", was an effort to address just this mechanical dilemma.
That aside, the arguments of the anti-thief camp are quite compelling. It’s the proposed solutions that leave me cold. The most common prescription is either radical re-design of the entire class from the ground up or elimination of the thief class altogether.
What’s the problem with these options?
Well, you see, I like the standard thief. Lots of us do. This is because the class as written presents a unique challenge. A fighter that fails to sneak past an orc sentry can fall back on his considerable martial prowess to save his bacon. The magic-user has even more options due to his repertoire of spells, from the subtle (Charm the orc) to the simplistic (blast him with Magic Missiles). The potent cleric can draw on both brute force and arcane might!
The thief has no fallback options. He gets by with his wits and larcenous expertise or not at all. This unique approach (and challenge, as the thief is arguably the most difficult class to find success with) makes the thief a favorite of many, and it's precisely what I think a lot of the class' critics fail to appreciate. I, for one, am at a loss to explain how eliminating this singular way of confronting (A)D&D's many challenges could possibly benefit the game.
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