Here’s something that has been coming up pretty frequently in our gaming group: thieves are crappy at scouting in dungeons.  Well, human thieves…which are the only kind in B/X anyway.

In theory, the guy who can move silently, hide in shadows, find traps, and hear noise sounds like the guy you want to scout ahead in enemy/dangerous territory.

But he needs a light source.  And that’s a monster magnet.  So you’re better off sending the halfling, the dwarf, the elf … anyone who won’t be stumbling around blind and attracting all kinds of moth-monsters to his torch or lantern.

I suppose there is something gritty and challenging about furtively dashing through the darkness, occasionally opening the lantern hood to take a look-see, maybe wearing an eyepatch or something to save your feeble human nightvision…  so I should be OK with thieves needing to work around darkness issue, but honestly it hasn’t been fun to do that; not for me as DM, not for the players.

So the alternatives are:

  • silly magical items that provide some limited form of nightvision/infravision/faint light (screw that…you need them most at the low levels before you can afford fancy equipment or have found much magic)
  • using ‘Hear noise’ more explicitly as a substitute for seeing (no thanks to more pointless rolling though)
  • giving thieves nightvision/infravision as a class ability (what?)

I’m actually thinking 2&3 make the perfect combination.  Thieves have acute senses, which can substitute for vision under the right circumstances.  The rule would be:

If a thief is at least 40′ away from distracting noise (allies in mail or plate armor, etc.), and at least 20′ away from distracting smells (dwarves, barbarians, unshod halflings, etc.), he operates as if he has torch light (up to 40′ visibility), using his other senses to compensate for the lack of real light.  He will not be able to discern colors unless some minimal, ambient light is available.  But he can notice movement or the presence of monsters, make out most details of a room, and even search for traps or secret doors, as if he could see.

This would allow a thief to sneak up ahead in the dark and poke around without automatically notifying every monster within 120 feet that outsiders are about.   But he is going to have to be alone, or with other thieves to pull it off.  Maybe he could string along a magic user, or another character in no armor or leather armor, but no knights or smelly rangers.  I like it because it gives thieves a very nice but mostly non-combat ability, and encourages them to go ahead and get into deep doodoo on their own, as Gary intended.

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 8:54 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. I don’t know, “dungeoneer’s goggles” has something of a quirky steampunk charm to it. Perhaps they can only be used for a limited amount of time before they run out of juice.

    I “fixed” this problem by removing infravision from the demi-humans.

    Actually, I’m sort of on the fence regarding the scouting activities. Sometimes, scouting can turn into a one-player mini-game where the other party members have nothing to do for a while. It’s kind of a problem in general with stealth abilities like move silently and hide in shadows.

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