Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Scoundrel, Part 3

I know last time I said that I'd post about skill systems, but I'm still cold-addled and don't think I can give that topic the clear thinking it deserves. It will have to wait, but I wanted to get this post out, partly because I'm curious what others will say on this particular issue and if I take advantage of the spike in attention I got today, I may get more answers to my question.

I've read about this objection multiple times:
Thieves encourage conflict within the party by stealing from other PCs.
This is the objection, in contrast to my last post, that I understand the least. As a player, if a thief steals from my PC, my PC will retaliate, and I assume that the rest of the party will back me up. As a referee, I don't see any reason why I should stop that. If the thief's player pulls some "that's what my PC would do" spiel, well, that's also exactly what the other PCs would do too, now isn't it? The thief is outnumbered and out-matched in combat, if not against the fighter, then definitely against the wizard. The player, and the PC, are going to learn a quick, hard lesson about stealing from the other PCs. If the party turns the thief over to one or the other elements I control as a referee, I would probably make sure the book got thrown at the thief PC. If the thief's player wants to bring that kind of thing into my game, they should know that there are consequences.

Now, call me naive, but, so far as inter-party conflict goes, this seems pretty cut-and-dry. I'm personally more concerned with the way a party splits up loot (do magic items count as a part of the pot that we split or do we just give them to a PC that can use them since they help all of us? do we give loot to a PC that wasn't there when the loot was looted?), as that's what I've actually seen cause inter-party conflict. (The best answer for the loot, by the way, seems to be having the party decide the answers before there is actually any loot to fight over.) Of course, I've never actually seen a party member steal from another party member, so I might somehow be wildly underestimating this.

Have you ever seen this in a game you played in or refereed? How did it get resolved? Was it that big of a deal?


  1. It tends to ruin the fun of the game. There are two ways this happens:
    1. The thief gets away with it. Either he does this via secret notes to the Ref, which slows things down for everybody else or he announces what he's doing at the table and every one else is forced to separate player knowledge from character knowledge. Either way, the trust factor at the table is shot. As a Ref, I hate having to defend the successful thief from being slapped around by everybody else because their characters don't know about the theft. It gets tired, old and the fun is sucked out of the game.
    2. The thief is caught, meaning player vs. player in combat (I have never seen a party turn the thief over to the authorities). Not only does this tend to be more vicious (because it is personal), but it is against one of your friends (or, at least a fellow gamer) and against a character you made some effort to fleshing out a relationship with beyond "it's an orc, kill it!" It isn't fun to watch, it isn't fun to Ref, it isn't fun to pick up the pieces afterwards.

    I've seen both happen and it killed campaigns.

  2. Karma's a bitch. I posted a little story about just such an event here:

    However, it didn't kill the campaign. The offending player rolled up a new guy and the game went on.

  3. I wonder what it is about thieves, and paladins, that makes their players turn on their friends. You don't hear a lot of stories of fighters attacking party members because "that's what my character would do", but paladins seem more than willing to claim the moral high ground (and thieves the immoral low ground) to give them license to do something nasty.

    I'm normally a pretty laid-back, let-me-open-that-suspicious-door-for-you player, but when as a young player the DM said to me, "You're a red dragon," I was pretty awful. It was only a one-shot session, and I got back to playing Bruce III or whatever afterwards. I was much happier playing the game instead of playing a character.