Thief-Acrobat

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Thief-Acrobat

Postby Havard » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:21 pm

The thief-acrobat was introduced by Gary Gygax in Dragon #69 (January 1983). The thief-acrobat later appears in Unearthed Arcana in 1985. In that book, thief-acrobat is a subclass of thief.

What are your experiences with this class? Was it ever popular in your games? Are there any problems with the class?

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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby genghisdon » Mon Aug 07, 2017 1:05 am

major problems: the distances for jumps, etc. Low level T-A's are worse than we were as grade school athletes

they were fairly popular for a time(the time we played 1.5e), typically as multi-class, as all thief classes/sub-classes were in that period (they all stunk without something tacked on). fighter/thieves (& fighter/mu/thieves) often became fighter/thief-acrobats, as they already had good STR & DEX scores. I even saw a couple bards do so with their thief levels (same reason, a minor gain for no real loss).

What effectively makes the class is the tumbling: evasion ability/%. The rest is occasionally, even rarely, useful extras.

The loss of scroll use at L10 ought be ignored/scrapped. The freezing of certain thief abilities probably should be ignored as well, but if not, at least apply the UA expansion/errata from dragon 103.

"First of all, every thief-acrobat can and does achieve 6th-level skill (not just 5th) in pick pockets, open locks, and find/remove traps. Second, a thief-acrobat does gain the ability to decipher magical writings and utilize scrolls at 10th level, just as regular thieves do (see Players Handbook, p. 27). And for virtually every thief-acrobat, advancement in the above mentioned thieving skills does not stop when they split away from the main profession to become thief-acrobats. A thief-acrobat with 17 dexterity acquires 7th-level ability in pick pockets, open locks, and find/remove traps when he reaches 7th level as a thief-acrobat; one with 18 dexterity can gain 8th level ability in these skills at 8th level, and a 19 dexterity allows 9th-level ability when the character reaches 9th level. (Since the minimum dexterity for a thief-acrobat is 16, these benefits apply to the majority of all characters who could qualify for the class.)

"All combinations including the thief class also apply to the thief-acrobat split class, so that an elf (for instance) could begin as a cleric/fighter/thief and later become a cleric/ fighter/thief-acrobat."
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby Havard » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:01 pm

Very interesting Genghisdon!

Thanks for pointing out the problems with the class and what ways it was used as well as the fixes.

The name of this class is a bit odd, but I always associated it with Diana from the D&D Cartoon, so that made me forgive the name:

Image

Is the Thief-Acrobat unique to 1st Edition? I dont think I have seen it elsewhere.

Could Demihumans advance unlimited as Thief-Acrobats, same as Thieves?

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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby Harbinger-of-Doom » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:32 pm

There's a Thief-Acrobat kit in 2e, and a Thief-Acrobat prestige class in 3.x (first appearing in Song and Silence).

Just in case you're interested in the rest of my hot take on stuff published a few decades back... this article has a directory of the whole series that I wrote on rogues in D&D.
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby timemrick » Tue Aug 08, 2017 5:44 am

There is also an Acrobat archetype for rogues in Pathfinder, which trades trapfinding and trap sense for improvements to mobility skills.

In 5E, the Thief archetype for rogues gives some improvements to acrobatic ability, but it's not really the focus of the subclass the way it was for the thief-acrobat.
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby Big Mac » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:11 am

Havard wrote:The thief-acrobat was introduced by Gary Gygax in Dragon #69 (January 1983). The thief-acrobat later appears in Unearthed Arcana in 1985. In that book, thief-acrobat is a subclass of thief.


Does anyone know why TSR dropped the Thief-Acrobat from 2nd Edition?

Was there anything about the class that they decided they no longer liked? Or was it just a "Gary Gygax owns that" thing?

EDIT: Never mind. I just saw Harbinger-of-Doom's post where he said it got converted into a Kit and a Prestige Class.
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby genghisdon » Tue Aug 08, 2017 4:35 pm

Havard wrote:Very interesting Genghisdon!

Thanks for pointing out the problems with the class and what ways it was used as well as the fixes.


You are welcome!

Havard wrote:Could Demihumans advance unlimited as Thief-Acrobats, same as Thieves?


Yep

Most of it is quite easy to see/use (jump X far is jump X far). Evasion, as I mentioned, is the part to study. Odd as it might be (to some), it is of no use/benefit vs (most) AOE spells or attacks, like a lightning bolt or dragon's breath. It can/does apply vs all ranged weapon attacks & small scale spell attacks (darts, arrows, bolts, bullets, Melf's acid arrow, Melf's minute meteors, chromatic orb, etc). The initiative bit only applies to melee, so unless a surprise attack, all of the ranged stuff can be evaded (well, rolled to be evaded). This is a useful combat ability thus far.

Then comes evasion vs melee attacks. This is potentially very potent as well, although as noted, it only applies if the character wins initiative. Thus a character can attack & if they make the rolls, avoid counter-strikes. Since this leaves the combat system of THACO & AC behind, it can be spectacular in effect, by comparison (evading blows from a titian or cleric with girdle/gauntlets/hammer as easily as those of a kobold or L1 thief). While I'm often shocked how others handle initiative in 1e, specifically ignoring that multiple attack routines go first & last (especially for HL fighters, ignored less often for haste or slow); with winning initiative being key for evasion in melee, it bears scrutiny. Certainly, clever players will see how valuable it is for their thief acrobat & thus a +2 short sword of quickness, say, will be prized. Combining the class with fighter so as to gain multiple attack routines to auto win, or not auto loose, initiative, is also extremely effective/synergistic.

I would suggest DMs also allow melee evasion without initiative concerns IF (& only if) the character makes no attacks (ie is wholly defensive for the round). As an option. It's not a good option, generally, but it seems likely (at least in 1e, where actions are called out before initiative is rolled).

It remains strange that the class has no advantage at all vs things like fireball or cone of cold. It might be worth considering giving them a monk type (or d20 evasion type-ironic!) save for no damage ability. Perhaps at L10+?

This brings me round to the long term impact of the class. It is somewhat folded into the base class in d20 on. It is true there was a kit in 2e as well(a good kit as kits went, too). d20 evasion is taken from the 1e monk (as is improved evasion) & not the thief acrobat, but it was probably a nod to the old T-A that the rogue ALSO got evasion as a class ability in d20.
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby Dread Delgath » Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:42 pm

Diana, Eric, & Bobby character's classes were all rooted in the original Unearthed Arcana classes of Thief Acrobat, Cavalier and Barbarian, the series ran 1983 to 1985 - but Unearthed Arcana was published in 1985. A wiki article says: Unearthed Arcana includes the barbarian (found in Dragon #63[13]), cavalier (found in Dragon #72[14]), and thief-acrobat (found in Dragon #69[15]), and of those magazines...

Dragon #69: Gygax, Gary (January 1983). "A "split class" for nimble characters: the Thief-Acrobat". Dragon. TSR (69): 20–23. contrasted against the original air date of the first D&D cartoon series at imdb means that the Thief Acrobat was a D&D thing before a cartoon character.

My guess is that, since Gygax had creative voice in the cartoon series, he wanted to showcase the latest & greatest in the AD&D game - namely the character types that the cartoon industry of the 1980's would most likely be willing to promote as 'healthy' for young viewers.

The wiki article for the cartoon goes on to say that it was rated as the most violent cartoon show of the era, but it also spawned over 200 marketing licences! (Not a major or minor in marketing, I assume this is a LOT for the mid 80's.)

Slightly back on-topic, I never ran a T/A, although there was a Monk-Acrobat character class that I was interested in testing, until the author pulled all mention of it out of forums several years back. [/sarcasm] :lol:

However, bitd, another player whom I gamed with a few times ran a T/A, and he liked the character, although this group loved the UA in general for all the double weapon specializations that made Drizz't the Slicey-Dicey Ranger Legend he is today.

It was this type of power-gaming that turned me away from many aspects of gaming with large groups outside of the friends and other players that I spent considerable time vetting before gaming with.

...and Power Gaming also inevitably led to further editions that supposedly "fixed" those problems. :?
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby Illuminatus » Mon Aug 28, 2017 1:15 am

While the 2E acrobat kit is mentioned above, I wanted to add that virtually every T/A ability from 1e is approximated in the 2e PHB as a non-weapon proficiency, so even before any kits came out it was possible for any 2e thief to more or less replicate the T/A just by taking the proper NWPs.

IMHO converting the T/A skills to NWPs was an appropriate treatment. As Genghisdon notes above, most of the T/A skills were rarely used, and not as mission-critical as the basic thief skills they replaced. I had a pretty low opinion of the T/A for this reason. After Unearthed Arcana came out I imagine that DMs around the world were being plagued by players asking “are there any tightropes here? How about here? How about here?”

That having been said, one of the most memorable characters I ever DM’d for was a homebrew swashbuckler class largely based on the T/A. As a hybrid class with some melee skills (d8 HD, Priest Thac0) and some acrobat skills, I didn’t expect much from her (not as good at fighting as a fighter, not as good at thieving as a thief.) Still, the character was involved in an inordinate number of those great gaming moments that etch themselves in your brain and make you remember why you love this game. I recall once the party was pinned down by archers shooting from behind a low wall. She tumbled toward the archers, evading arrows (successful rolls), leaped over the wall (successful roll), slaying one of the archers with her rapier in mid-somersault (more successful rolls, drawing ever louder cheers from the players), then landed on her feet behind the archers, forcing them to draw their melee weapons and allowing the rest of the party to safely swarm forward. You just can’t put a value on moments like that.
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby Blackleaf » Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:46 am

The 1e version seemed odd and random like much of UA. The 2e kit made more sense with the background associated with it.
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Re: Thief-Acrobat

Postby genghisdon » Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:15 pm

Illuminatus wrote:While the 2E acrobat kit is mentioned above, I wanted to add that virtually every T/A ability from 1e is approximated in the 2e PHB as a non-weapon proficiency, so even before any kits came out it was possible for any 2e thief to more or less replicate the T/A just by taking the proper NWPs.

IMHO converting the T/A skills to NWPs was an appropriate treatment. As Genghisdon notes above, most of the T/A skills were rarely used, and not as mission-critical as the basic thief skills they replaced. I had a pretty low opinion of the T/A for this reason. After Unearthed Arcana came out I imagine that DMs around the world were being plagued by players asking “are there any tightropes here? How about here? How about here?”

That having been said, one of the most memorable characters I ever DM’d for was a homebrew swashbuckler class largely based on the T/A. As a hybrid class with some melee skills (d8 HD, Priest Thac0) and some acrobat skills, I didn’t expect much from her (not as good at fighting as a fighter, not as good at thieving as a thief.) Still, the character was involved in an inordinate number of those great gaming moments that etch themselves in your brain and make you remember why you love this game. I recall once the party was pinned down by archers shooting from behind a low wall. She tumbled toward the archers, evading arrows (successful rolls), leaped over the wall (successful roll), slaying one of the archers with her rapier in mid-somersault (more successful rolls, drawing ever louder cheers from the players), then landed on her feet behind the archers, forcing them to draw their melee weapons and allowing the rest of the party to safely swarm forward. You just can’t put a value on moments like that.



They were...although jumping to get over or up to things always was something people naturally would try to do (& lacked any rules for), and aside from ropes (which one could supply themselves, or with grapnel or bolt), tightrope walk is useful for any balance type test like beams, narrow ledges, etc.

Indeed, the class could be fun though, and evasion is actually powerful. My advice to fix it completely is to simply allow FULL thief ability as well (I feel the UA errata to extend the levels for OL, F/RT, etc didn't go far enough). The T-A has high ability score reqs, and require more XP per level, it is just fine as ADDITIONAL thief ability. On that note, one can throw aside Gygax's experiment (the split class at mid level, a form of proto-prestige class later adopted) entirely, and make the T-A start at L1 (although xp tables will need a little tweak). For abilities just move them 5 levels ahead (L1 gets L6 line, L18+ gets L23+ line)
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