Dweezel's Guide for the Beginning Thief
The successful thief is usually the descendant of past
generations of dishonest, but less successful ancestors.
You may not be a successful thief, but if you are quiet,
observant, and clever, perhaps some day a niece or
grandson might distinguish him or herself. You may wish
to keep a secret journal of useful information to pass
down. This is my journal for those who may come after
me. Alas, I fear my line is lost, so I hope you will
consider me your adoptive ancestor.
Make your Mark's exctinct.
"Honor among thieves." Live by this principle, but never
expect your colleagues to do the same. Never betray a
fellow thief, even if they rob you blind. Consider it a
free lesson. Steal from them if you dare, but don't get
Deal not with thieves who are beholden to any house or
group, as their honor is most suspect. Don't put yourself
in that position unless it's the fastest way to gain
access to the treasure you're intending to steal.
Never admit to being a thief. Never be caught with the
tools of the trade. Do not frequent the halls of Thieves'
Guilds in population centers, or you might as well have
"kill me" tattooed on your forehead. Do not associate with
anyone foolish enough to do any of the above.
You don't need any of that fancy big city guildhall stuff to
perfect your skills. That sort of practice will only make
you lazy and careless.
Perpetuate the farce. Never admit knowing of the existence
of a guildhall. Never show anyone a thief hole. Keep watch,
when you can without drawing suspicion, and see whether your
thief holes are compromised, frequented by brethren, or in
fact the hunting ground of the enemies of thieves.
If you intend to succeed as a thief, be prepared to make
great sacrifices. Your friends will be few, your enemies
may be many.
The safest mark, of course, is the one who's not even there
when you're relieving him of his stuff. The poor, the young,
and the defenseless also make nice safe marks, as they are
accustomed to abuse as befits their station in life. But
you will not soon get rich if you base your career off
these folks. Better to use them for easy practice, and
return what you may take, so that someone poorer than you
and the mark both might have an opportunity to steal it.
The gambler is the mark of your dreams. If you find a gambler
on a winning streak, milk it for all it's worth. They're
so often drunk and confused that they'll never miss a few
chips. The croupiers are usually brethren, who'll
distract your mark if you give them the wink and treat them
to a shot at the tavern with your take.
Healers of the old school could easily be made to part with
their earnings, as they were slow and lazy, and often kept
plenty of cash on hand. Since they quit charging for healing,
it's hardly worth the risk, since they seem to subsist on
what farthings they find in the beanbags at the end of the
day. Better to stay in good graces with that Guild, and
smile nicely when they say, 'No charge.'
Nobles may have cash on hand if you catch them at the right
moment, or perhaps a bejewelled dagger could be coaxed from
its scabbard, but remember that they didn't get to be
nobles by being noble - so the tables may be turned if you
think they are your mark. Your best bet is to catch
the humble castellan at tax time. Weddings and such will
provide a target rich environment of castle dwellers who
know how to accessorize. Get yourself on the guest list.
Stealth is the most important trait of a thief, but it
must be used sparingly and wisely for best effect. Never
let the marks see you being stealthy. A furtive appearance
puts them on their guard. Sneaking for sneakings sake
brands you as a thief. Sneak and hide only when necessary.
You may depend on these skills for your life, so do not
waste them in frolic. Beware the lighted mage. Familiarize
yourself with the phases of the moons, and they will be
your best friends. If you are light of foot and agile,
in some towns you may traverse the rooftops and case your
intended mark from a position of safety.
Knowledge is power, and an overheard conversation may lead
you to riches, or save you from death, so make it a point
to overhear whatever you can. If you can do this without
benefit of your stealth, so much the better. Then the
blabbermouths will have no one to blame but themselves.
Sleight of Hand
It's not just for money bags anymore. You can probably sell
that nice dagger for a lot more than what the mark has in
loose change. That mage will have a hard time casting
fire bolts with a pack full of rocks. Don't forget the
famous rat trick.
Get yourself a cut purse and laugh all the way to the bank,
but don't leave it kicking around in an inn room with your
name on the register. If you are fortunate(?) enough to live
in a castle village... you know your landlord goes through
your stuff, right? If you were one, wouldn't you?
Again, avoid the population centers when practicing sleight
of hand. Start on yourself. You must be able to move
the largest object you can palm from pack to hand to floor
and back without being noticed before you attempt to filch
even a farthing from the hoku shi of a sleeping fuzzy.
Then, find some poor mark of one of the nearsighted races.
This will give you an added challenge without putting you
at risk. Work your way up until you can successfully
distract even the most alert dwarf mine guard.
Assassins and Killers
Some thieves find it useful or lucrative to be versed in
the arts of assassination. Be wary of these folks. As
peaceable as they may seem, they are always watching for a
target. If you choose this path, the caveats are the same.
If you intend to kill someone, never miss your first shot.
If you do miss, don't rest until you have tracked them down
and finished the job.
December 2001 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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