"[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a detterant [punishment] from Allah.
And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise."
- Quran/5/38


  • Must have a min. DEX of 9
  • If DEX is greater than 15, +10% XP
  • Must be neutral || evil; rarely NG
  • Can wear leather armor at most
  • Can pick pockets
  • Can open locks
  • Can find and remove traps
  • Can move silently
  • Can hide in shadows
  • Can listen at portals
  • Can climb sheer surfaces
  • Can backstab
  • All thieves speak Thieves' Cant
  • Upon becoming 4th level, can read languages 20%, +5% per level until 80% is reached
  • Upon becoming 10th level, can decipher all magical scrolls except for clerical scrolls with 25% chance for a mistake to occur
  • Can construct strongholds only in or near cities
  • 10th level and higher can USE strongholds as headquarters for thieves



    The profession of thief is not dishonorable, albeit is neither honorable nor highly respected in some quarters.
    The major ability for a thief is DEX,
    and a character must have not less than a 9 to become a thief.
    High<gif.mj> intel is also desirable.
    Any thief character with a DEX greater than 15 gains the benefit of being able to add a bonus of 10% to XP awarded to him or her by the referee.
    A glance at the CHARACTER ABILITY section preceding this will reveal that high DEX also benefits thieves in the performance of their class functions.
    These functions are detailed a bit later.
    Thief Function Table
    Thieves' Table I
    Thieves' Statblock
    Thieves' Abilities (DMG)
    Thieves Setting Traps
    Followers For Upper Level Thieves
    Hermes (god of thieves)
    Ratri (god of thieves)
    Erevan Ilesere (god of thieves)
    Brandobaris (god of thieves)
    Baervan Wildwanderer (god of thieves)
    Shargaas (god of thieves)
    Kurell (goddess of thievery)
    No Cha (god of thieving)

    All thieves are neutral || evil, although they can be neutral good (rarely),
    and of lawful || chaotic nature. Most thieves tend towards evil.

    1. A large number of gamers prefer to use the
    earlier ruling, established in the PH
    (page 27), that thieves may start the game
    as NG. Granted, UA has
    changed this rule so that thieves may only be
    non-good (UA, page 7), but Kim
    Mohan's "Arcana update, part 1" (DRAGON®
    Magazine issue #103, page 12) modified this
    ruling to mean that, though they must start as
    non-good, thieves may become good later in
    their careers. This article even noted that assassins
    could change alignment to neutral or even
    good status, given time. Furthermore, Zeb noted in OA (page 26)
    that a yakuza, an urban underworld character
    class, may be of the LG AL
    (presumably starting the game this way). Being
    good, then, is no problem.

    Given the explosion of new class combinations
    possible for AD&D characters with the UA and "Arcana update" rules
    (particularly the surprising neutral good ranger/druid
    combination for certain elves, elaborated
    upon by Frank Mentzer in DRAGON issue #100,
    page 9), a ranger-thief is not unthinkable. It
    even sounds workable and reasonable.
    Consider a ranger-thief's abilities and outlook.
    Here is a powerful scout, one equipped to
    infiltrate enemy positions, commit sabotage and
    theft, and rescue kidnapped victims of humanoid
    armies. He or she is the best alternative to
    using an assassin when one needs a spy. The
    ranger-thief is an espionage agent and commando
    warrior with ties to both wilderness and
    urban areas. If he or she does not belong to a
    thieves guild, then the necessary training is
    gamed through a military or paramilitary force
    controlled or aided by rangers.

    Why did I place it in your article? This is
    harder to answer. I fear that on occasions I may
    tinker with certain articles, adding new material
    that seems appropriate to the nature of the
    topic and, in my feeling, that makes the articles
    more complete and enhances their usefulness.
    For example, I added half-(aquatic) elves to the
    mariner NPC class (DRAGON issue #107) and
    additional info on "broken arrows" to
    the "Agents and A-Bombs" article in issue #108. I
    try to avoid gilding the lily, so to speak, and I
    confine my tinkering to minor additions.
    Given the nature of half-satyrs and half-dryads
    as outlined in your article, the ranger/thief
    combination seemed very reasonable for
    them -- which it does (to my way of thinking)
    for elves && half-elves as well.

    Question: Can Thieves be CG? <>
    I have three players who are, and we are wondering if they will have to make an alignment change.
    We are also wondering whether or not this alignment change is considered voluntary on their part?
    If it is, will I have to make them drop a level?

    Answer: Thieves can be neutral or evil, but not good. In this situa-
    tion, I don’t think you should force them to make an alignment change.
    Just have them become their new alignments as if they have always
    been of that alignment This way they won’t be penalized for not reading
    their PH, but the next time they don’t read the book,
    don’t show them any mercy—unless,of course, you goofed too.
    (Update: Thieves can be NG, but cannot start as NG).

    Question: According to the PH (page 27)
    thieves can be NG, but Sage Advice (TD #35) says
    that thieves cannot be good. Which is correct?

    Answer: The PH — but remember, good thieves
    should be very rare. — W. Niebling, J. Ward
    (Update: Thieves can be NG, but cannot start as NG).

    Thieves are principally meant to take by cunning and stealth. Thieves have
    six-sided HD (d6). They are, however, able to wear light (leather)
    armor and use a fair # of weapons. Although they fight only slightly
    more effectively than do M-Us, they are able to use stealth in
    combat most effectively by back stabbing. This ability is xplained

    The primary functions of a thief are:
        1) picking pockets,
        2) opening locks,
        3) finding/removing traps,
        4) moving silently, and
        5) hiding in shadows.
    These functions are basically self-explanatory. The chance for success of
    any performance is based on the ability level of the thief performing it.

    This is modified with respect to picking pockets by the experience level of
    his or her victim and by the powers of the observer with respect to hiding
    in shadows.


    Secondary functions of a thief are:
    1) listening at doors to detect sounds behind them,
    2) ascending and descending vertical surfaces such as walls, and
    3) back stabbing those who happen upon the thief in the performance of his or her profession.


    Additional abilities which accrue to thieves are:

    1. Thieves' Cant: All thieves, regardless of alignment, have their own language,
    the "Thieves' Cant". This language is known in addition to
    others which may be learned because of race and/or

    2. Read Languages:

    3. Read Scrolls:

    At 10th Level (Master Thief), thieves are able to decipher magickal writings and utilize scrolls of all sorts, excluding those of clerical, but not druidic, Nature.
    However, the fact that thieves do not fully comprehend magick means that there is a 25% chance that writings will be misunderstood.
    Furthermore, magic spells from scrolls can be mispronounced when uttered, so that there is an increasing chance per level of the spell that it will be the esrever of its intent.


    Perhaps a table such as this:

    Spell Level
    1st or Protection: 5%
    2nd: 10%
    3rd: 10%
    4th: 15%
    5th: 15%
    6th: 20%
    7th: 20%
    8th: 25%
    9th: 25%
    Reduce each category by 5% per level of thief above 12th, but there is always a 5% chance of mis-speaking any scroll's spell.
    - Gary Gygax

    Richard wrote:
    Gary, there seems to be a confusion about the TSR Hobbies, 1st Edition ADandD rpg thief class using magic scrolls.
    Look here: ... 996#398996

    The answer to your first query is there on the thread:

    "So the thief can read clerical scrolls ONLY if they are druidic in nature, not purely clerical."

    These primary, secondary, and tertiary functions are displayed on a table

    Thieves' Guilds: Thieves cannot build strongholds as some other classes of characters do.
    They can, however, build a tower or fortified building of the small castle type (q.v.) for their own safety;
    but this construction must be within, or not
    more than a mile distant from, a town or city.

    Any thief character of 10th or greater level may use his small castle type
    building to set up a headquarters for a gang of thieves, and he or she will
    accordingly attract from 4-24 other thieves. However, this will bring the
    enmity of the local Thieves Guild, and they will struggle to do away with
    the rival organization. Once begun, warfare will end only when and if all
    the Master Thieves on either or both sides are dead, or if the thief
    character removes to another locale.

    Experience Points Experience Level 6-Sided Dice 
    Experience Points
    Level Title THACO
    Saves Proficiencies NPC XP Value
     ---- - - - - - - -
    - - - - - - - -
    0 ---- 1,250 1 1 Rogue (Apprentice) 20 (n), x2 d13, p12, r14, b16, s15 2/3 -
    1,251 ---- 2,500 2 2 Footpad 20 (n), x2 d13, p12, r14, b16, s15 ^ -
    2,501 ---- 5,000 3 3 Cutpurse 20 (n), x2 d13, p12, r14, b16, s15 ^ 89 (T2), 116 (T1)
    5,001 ---- 10,000 4 4 Robber 20 (n), x2 d13, p12, r14, b16, s15 ^ 207 (T1)
    10,001 ---- 20,000 5 5 Burglar 19, x3 d12, p11, r12, b15, s13 ^ -
    20,001 ---- 42,500 6 6 Filcher 19, x3 d12, p11, r12, b15, s13 3/4 -
    42,501 ---- 70,000 7 7 Sharper 19, x3 d12, p11, r12, b15, s13 ^ 989 (T3)
    70,001 ---- 110,000 8 8 Magsman 19, x3 d12, p11, r12, b15, s13 ^ -
    101,001 ---- 160,000 9 9 Thief 16, x4 d11, p10, r10, b14, s11 ^ -
    160,001 ---- 220,000 10 10 Master Thief 16, x4 d11, p10, r10, b14, s11 ^ 3522 (T1)
    220,001 ---- 440,000 11 10+2 Master Thief (11th level) 16, x4 d11, p10, r10, b14, s11 4/5 -
    440,001 ---- 660,000 12 10+4 Master Thief (12th level) 16, x4 d11, p10, r10, b14, s11 ^ -
    660,001 ---- 880,000 13 10+6 Master Thief (13th level) 14, x5 d10, p9, r8, b13, s9 ^ -
    880,001 ---- 1,100,000 14 10+8 Master Thief (14th level) 14, x5 d10, p9, r8, b13, s9 ^ -

    220,00 XP per level for each additional level beyond the 12th. <1> <2>

    Thieves gain 2 h.p. per level after the 10th.
    CON-based HP adjustments no longer apply after the 10th level. - OSRIC

    <(PLUS DEX ADJUSTMENTS) (Consult DEX TABLE II. if DEX is 12 or less)>

    Base Chance to
    of the
    Pick Pockets
    [17: 05, 18: 10]
    [16: 5, 17: 10, 18: 15]
    [18: 5]
    [17: 05, 18: 10]
    Hide in
    [17: 5, 18: 10]
    1 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 10% 85% -
    2 35% 29% 25% 21% 15% 10% 86% -
    3 40% 33% 30% 27% 20% 15% 87% -
    4 45% 37% 35% 33% 25% 15% 88% 20%
    5 50% 42% 40% 40% 31% 20% 90% 25%
    6 55% 47% 45% 47% 37% 20% 92% 30%
    7 60% 52% 50% 55% 43% 25% 94% 35%
    8 65% 57% 55% 62% 49% 25% 96% 40%
    9 70% 62% 60% 70% 56% 30% 98% 45%
    10 80% 67% 65% 78% 63% 30% 99% 50%
    11 90% 72% 70% 86% 70% 35% 99.1% 55%
    12 100% 77% 75% 94% 77% 35% 99.2% 60%
    13 105% 82% 80% 99% 85% 40% 99.3% 65%
    14 110% 87% 85% 99% 93% 40% 99.4% 70%
    15 115% 92% 90% 99% 99% 50% 99.5% 75%
    16 125% 97% 95% 99% 99% 50% 99.6% 80%
    17 125% 99% 99% 99% 99% 55% 99.7% 80%
    - - - - - - - - -
    Race of
    the Thief
    - - - - - - - -
    Dwarf - +10% +15% - - - -10% -5%
    Elf +5% -5% - +5% +10% +5% - -
    Gnome - +5% +10% +5% +5% +10% -15% -
    Half-Elf +10% - - - +5% - - -
    Halfling +5% +5% +5% +10% +15% +5% -15% -5%
    Half-Orc -5% +5% +5% - - +5% +5% -10%

    Notes Regarding Thief Function Table

    Percentile dice are rolled to determine whether the thief is successful or
    not. Any score equal to or less than the percentage shown for the
    appropriate level of thief performing the designated function will indicate

    - original idea by Gary Schweitzer (Grognardia)

    Thieves and their Sub-Classes

    There are those whose abilities lie not with the sword or the Art, but with quiet motion, dexterous action, and stealth.
    Such talents often lead to thiefly endeavors, which plague most major cities, but are often placed to good use in dealing with dangerous monsters and lost treasure. <> <>

    As more people gather in large cities, more individuals who prey on large collections of mankind gather as well.
    Chief of those are human scavengers who seek their profession by stealing from others.
    In the wilds, such behavior is oftimes useful and beneficial to the group, but in larger cities, usually spells trouble, so that most lawful towns hae injunctions against such activities.

    Despite such laws, thieves and thievery are common.
    Most major cities have a number of "thieves' dens" competing in stealing and theft.
    A few cities (such as Zhentil Keep) have an organized group of rogies controlling all such activity, and can (in the Keep's case) operate from a building in broad daylight.
    Most "thieves' dens" are secret gathering spots, often beneath the city itself, and change as guards and lawful groups discover them.

    The city of Waterdeep had once been home to the most powerful guild of thieves in the North. <>
    The Lords of Waterdeep smashed that guild, forcing its leaders to flee the city (those leaders are now the Shadow Thieves of Amn).
    There are still thieves, thief-acrobats, and even assassins in Waterdeep, but they are broken into innumerable small groups, or operate alone.

    The most common respite for such robbers is what they themselves call "The Honest Trade" -- adventuring, where such abilities may be used and indeed lionized in song and legend, when what they are actually doign is fairly similar, the only difference being that instead of a lord's manor they are burglarizing a lich's tomb.
    Many thieves take to this life, adhering to a code that keeps them out of trouble in civilized areas but keeps them in gold.
    Some leaders of important organizations are of this type--their fellow membbers would trust the cash-box with such an individual in the city, but keep an eye on him in the wild for pocketed gems and magical items that had "found" their way into his high-topped boots.

    Thieves and their sub-classes have the abilities as given them in PH and UA.
    The would-be thief is encouraged to practice his trade for the benefit of others.

    <"Of the other portions of the AD&D game stemming from the writing of Jack Vance, the next most important one is the thief-class character.
    Using a blend of “Cugel the Clever” and Roger Zelazny’s “Shadowjack” for a benchmark, this archetype character class became what it was in original AD&D."
        - Gary Gygax, Jack Vance and the D&D game>


    Characters should have as much free will as possible in an RPG, don't you agree? The concept of the DM banning them from class-bestowed activity is odious.

    If the thieves expect to be protected by the other party members, healed by clerics, given a shgare of party treasure, their pilfering from their comrades should be greatly limited. It is up to the other PCs to lay it on the line to the rampant thieves. The majority of the party might well dictate death for theft from any party member, and carry out an execution of a guilty party without loss of ant Good and/or Lawful alignment.

    Of course, as a DM I encourage thieves who risk thier lives scouting and opening possibly trapped containers and all to filch a bit--say a few gems or a piece of jewelry. Reasonable PCs in a party can not seriously take offense at such relatively petty theft.

    On the otther hand, my PCS have attacked and killed a PC thief stealing party treasure for his own gain at the expense of the remainder of the party,


    dcas wrote:
    Just bumping an unanswered question of mine:


    Do you have a penchant for thief-type characters?

    No, I do not particularly like thief-type characters.

    To the best of my recollection...

    The only thief PCs I have played were demi-humans with that class as one of two or more possessed, like my gnome illusionist thief PC that is my most recent OAD&D character done up only about five years back.


    Hi Antonio,

    Have the chance for a thief character messing up a spell remain as noted, 25% regardless of the level of the Thief.
    If you don;t feel comforatble with that, then make up a house rule that you like--perhaps 25% at 12th, -5% per level thereafter, but always with a 5% chance of mis-speaking even at 17th level.


    rabindranath72 wrote:
    Thank you for the clarification! I was mislead by the subsequent "Furthermore..." sentence regarding the increasing chance of failure.
    With your suggestion the system is mechanically similar to Basic D&D.


    Perhaps a table such as this:
    Spell Level
    1st or Protection: 5%
    2nd: 10%
    3rd: 10%
    4th: 15%
    5th: 15%
    6th: 20%
    7th: 20%
    8th: 25%
    9th: 25%

    Reduce each category by 5% per level of thief above 12th, but there is always a 5% chance of mis-speaking any scroll's spell.


    The Thief was based on Jack of Shadows (Zelazny) and Cugel (Vance) with a touch of REH's Conan, rather than solely on the Gray Mouser.
    Mouser was too good a swordsman to serve as the pure model.

    Originally Posted by Geoffrey
    Gary, back in my AD&D days my group liked to stick to the basics when creating PCs. Everybody tended to be human rather than demi-human, and we almost never used the sub-classes (which are noted as optional, anyway). Thus, everybody tended to be one of the following types of characters:

    human cleric
    human fighter
    human magic-user
    human thief

    However, of the four the thief always seemed to be the least popular and the least useful class. Maybe this was because of our gaming style, or perhaps because we seldom had city-based adventures. My question is this: How essential to a balanced AD&D party is the thief? While I don't see how a party could get by without clerics, fighters, and magic-users, I've long scratched my head on just how essential the thief is to a party's continued success. To us, the thief always seemed more non-essential (similar to a druid or a monk) than one would think since it's one of the four core classes.

    The thief is a strong archetype in fantasy and adventure stories in general.
    The main drawback to having one in the party was...theft!
    Otherwise, we always appreciated a thief PC being able to scout ahead, check for and remove traps, pick locks, cimb up where the rest of the PCs couldn't reach easily, and even pop out of shadows to strike a dangerous opponent for added damage.

    As encounters became more complex and dangerous, the party's thief became a lot more in demand.
    Just being able to have a member go ahead, see what was awaiting, and return to warn the other PCs was often the difference between success and failure.

    Thief characters that prospered understoon that their purloining had to be kept to a reasonably modest "extra share," or else the other PC would grab them, turn them upside hown, and shake them 
    Of course when I was DMing I did my best to encoutrage thieves to be greedy, so as to give the party problems from within, that seeming logical when they had a sneaky stealer of wealth along.

    When I played a multi-classed demi-human with that ability I made sure to keep on the good side of the non-thief PCs too.


    <note: get the Jeff Dee image for this one>



    1. SUBCLASS = n/a
        STRENGTH = 6 (6d6)
        INTELLIGENCE = 6 (5d6)
        WISDOM = 3 (3d6)
        * DEXTERITY = 9 (9d6)
        CONSTITUTION = 6 (7d6)
        CHARISMA = 6 (4d6)
        COMELINESS = 3 (8d6)
        PERCEPTION =
    5. MULTI-CLASS POSSIBILITIES = CT (dg, ed), DT (eg, eh, ev, ew, 1/2), FT (all), MT (ed, eg, eh, ev, ew), IT (gd, gs), CMT (ed, eg, eh, ev, ew), FMT (ed, eg, eh, ev, ew)
    6. HIT DIE TYPE = d6
    8. SPELL ABILITY = no (Thieves of 10th level or higher and assassins of 12th level or higher gain the ability to read M-U's (and illusionists') spells from scrolls). <>
    9. ARMOR PERMITTED = any
    10. SHIELD PERMITTED = none
    11. WEAPONS PERMITTED = bow (short), caltrop, club, crossbow (hand), dagger, dart, garrot, knife, sap, sling, sword (broad), sword (falchion), sword (long), sword (short)
    12. OIL PERMITTED = yes
    13. POISON PERMITTED = DM's option
    14. ALIGNMENT = LN, LE, NG (rarely), N, NE, CN, CE (Most thieves tend toward evil.)
    15. STARTING MONEY = 20-120 gp
    16. WEAPON PROFICIENCIES = 2, 1/4 levels (1st: 2, 5th: 3, 9th: 4, 13th: 5, 17th: 6)
    18. NON-WEAPON PROFICIENCIES = 3, 1/4 levels (1st: 3, 5th: 4, 9th: 5, 13th: 6, 17th: 7)
    19. STARTING AGE = human (18 + d4:  m21), dwarf (75 + 3d6), elf (50 + 5d6), gnome (80 + 5d4: m91), half-elf (22 + 3d8: m41), halfling (40 + 2d4: m), half-orc (20 + 2d4: m)
    20. COMBAT = T
    22. MAGIC ITEMS = T

    Q: Why are thieves restricted to short bows?
    Why can't they use long bows?

    A: There are two reasons for this: game
    logic and game balance.
    From the standpoint of game logic, a
    long bow is simply too large. A thief carrying
    such a weapon would have difficulty
    hiding or climbing. Therefore, the thief
    learns to use other, more easily concealed
    weapons. There are other logical considerations.
    A long bow requires more strength
    than the average thief has. Rather than
    writing a strength requirement for the
    long bow (and every other weapon on the
    list), we put a class restriction on it; only
    fighters who normally have high strength
    scores can use it.

    From the standpoint of game balance,
    only fighter-types have unlimited choices
    of weapons. In order to make thieves less
    effective than fighters in combat, they
    have fewer weapons to use. Thieves are
    not supposed to get into long-range firefights
    with opponents; they're supposed to
    be sneaky. This distinction between classes
    is very important for several reasons. It
    prevents a character with extremely good
    stats from totally dominating the game,
    since no character can do everything. It
    also promotes teamwork and gives everyone
    a chance to have some fun, again
    because no single character can do it all.
    A similar line of logic applies to all the
    other class distinctions. The AD&D game
    simply would lose its appeal if clerics
    could use edged weapons, if mages could
    wear armor, or if fighters could pick locks.