Treatise on Being a Thieving Bastard
1. Familiar to most of you, but still broken by sneaky types more than any other group except gith hunters, I present this basic rule:
Do not treat NPC's as mindless automatons that carry gear.
While you are online IC, treat the world IC. This is not a suggestion, but a requirement. Let's start with an example.
OOC, a shopkeeper is a character without a player - a dull set of data that some bleary-eyed builder from several years ago wrote up in a few minutes and maybe didn't bother to clothe. IC, a shopkeeper is a living soul, breathing the same air you are, trying to scrape a profit and very likely watching you out of the corner of her eye even if busy with someone else. Expect her to react to you as a PC would. Expect any NPC to do so. With any NPC, as with PC's, you should therefore not:
Try to steal repeatedly from the same one after a failure.
Try to steal from any in the near vicinity of someone who has just shouted, "Thief! Thief!"
Try to sneak repeatedly past the same guard after a failure.
The reason why these three should not be practiced is the same: the NPC's are alerted to your presence and will not be made victims of distraction for a while. If you absolutely must have the shiny new obsidian knife on that half-giant's belt, leave and look for him later. Give him time to doze off again. Also:
Anyone, be it PC or NPC, deserves some reaction on your part if they start screaming thief. It doesn't matter if it means sneaking off quick and making tracks from your victim, or hanging round and trying to deflect suspicion - just do something other than standing there or walking two rooms away and resting/trying it on someone else.
Unless a house is described as abandoned, it is to be treated as if it were occupied. The residents might be sitting in the next room. If the house is empty, they might be returning at any moment.
NPC's are not limited to those that you, the player, can see. Virtual populations exist all over the world. Throngs of commoners, shady dealers lurking on street corners, the bustling patrons of a tavern - wherever you go, include these virtual NPC's in your roleplay. Reliable indications of virtually busy areas can be found in room names, descriptions, and the occasional dose of common sense.
Include NPC's, virtual or real, in friendly or neutral interactions. This piece of advice, like the last one, has applications far beyond this document, but thieves will find it useful to perform such actions as, for example, bribing an NPC to forget they saw something naughty you did. (And, if you don't, don't be surprised when word of it gets out.)
Do not, for whatever reason, target only PC's or NPC's to steal from. Apparent wealth can be a factor. Not whether it's a player.
2. Be inconspicuous.
Sounds great. Sure, I'll be inconspicuous. What does that mean?
To be inconspicuous, in thief jarg, means to avoid drawing attention to yourself that would interfere with your work. Whoa, hold on. Did you notice the second half of that sentence? Let's take some special notice of "that would interfere with your work" before we talk about the rest.
Item one. When you're not working, you don't have to worry about people noticing you. Cool, huh? Here's a hint: don't sneak/hide/sneak/hide when you're just heading to a bar for a drink. Either you're stalking someone, or you're not. Either you're avoiding someone, or you're not. If you're not doing either of these things, odds are real good that you have no reason to sneak. So don't. There is no point in risking looking suspicious unless you stand to gain loot (or lose it).
Two. No one works all the time. Even in Mudland. No matter how much of a busy bee you think your character is, there are going to be times when you relax and let your heels down. So do it, all the way.
Three. Not all attention interferes with your work. It is possible for a victim to be perfectly aware of your presence and never suspect you of mischief. Consider trying roleplayed ways to avoid suspicion, instead of hardcoded ways to avoid attention.
Four. If you resort to hiding by the skill, define to yourself - straight out - what you are using as cover. Watch your surroundings to determine this. If you are in a tavern, are you lingering in a dark corner with an averted face, or did you slip behind a high stack of kegs? If in an alley, did you duck inside the broken window of an abandoned building, or did you have time to vanish beneath a sewer grate? As always, knowing what your character is doing will allow you to roleplay it properly, and - yes - to be discovered if it becomes appropriate. Consider also what emoting is suitable, or unsuitable, while others can't see you.
Ok, enough about that. Setting the thief work ethic aside, here's a few possibilities for avoiding attention that should be common sense IC. Not mandatory, but common sense nonetheless.
Learn the laws of your native city. Your character may be naive about bending them, but natural-born rogues tend to pay attention to what is legal and what is not - at least, the parts that apply to them.
Invent a legal persona for yourself. If you are a woefully avaricious pick-pocket smuggling spice into Allanak, try showing the world a fastidious dandy who reminds everyone to pay their taxes. Get inventive.
Conversely, you can act the norm. I don't mean get boring, but it's a fair bet that if everyone else is suddenly scraping and bowing, you might want to also. If you go this route, follow trends. Even set them.
Hoods are a norm outside because of harsh weather conditions. They are not, however, the norm in public establishments, and are regarded as highly suspicious. Therefore, avoid wearing hoods in shops, taverns, and so on - unless you want people to think you're a damn hoodlum, and to watch you carefully.
We've already established that distracted victims are good victims. Encourage distraction.
Alright. Now that you've established your character's slick, seamless modus operandi, and have spent hours languishing in delicious reverie about your up-and-coming Hanse, it's time to turn the tables on yourself. Make mistakes.
Try to be that fastidious dandy, but risk giving yourself away with shaky hands resulting from the spice habit, or eyes that never leave others' beltlines in search of that elusive, jingling pouch. Alternatively, try so intently to go unnoticed that you manage, by the humor and creativity of your own errors, to draw every eye in a twenty foot radius. Choose quirks that will allow others to draw their own conclusions. Do not restrict yourself to roleplaying the success of your skills; roleplay your mistakes.
3. Go beyond the code.
The final point in this business of thieving is: it's more than seeing 'steal' in your skills list.
Stealing can be considered the act of acquiring something for nothing, or for very little. It has more forms than 'steal sword man'. It can also mean selling junk as gold, or selling that which is not lost when given, such as knowledge or entertainment. (Yes, patrons pay bards or sages for their practice or learning - but if you have no talent and know nothing, you've just gotten something for free, haven't you?)
Roleplayed scams are, in my opinion, some of the most entertaining time to be had online. If you rely solely on the code for theft, then you rob not only yourself but your intended victims (and sometimes, passive observers) of this entertainment. One more thing to bear in mind: scams that do not rely on code for success might not rely on code for punishment. If you would turn down the opportunity to roleplay your way out of being caught, you simply have no business playing a thief.
For those of you without my bias for this elven art, there are other forms of theft - raiding, mugging, extortion, obsequious tailcoating, and even begging - that are quite roleplayable. (Yes, raiding and mugging are roleplayable. If your victims refuse to play along, you have the coded skills to supplement your efforts.)
Remember that, unless a kleptomaniac, your character is stealing to gain more than s/he earns. Follow that definition and keep it IC, and you'll be surprised what goes.
Submitted by Nen.
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