The Complete Thief’s Handbook (1989)

Gods below, I love this book. This is The Complete Thief’s Handbook (1989). I love playing thieves, so of course I love this book. Thieves already, on the baseline, have a bit more mechanical complexity than the fighter, so a lot of this book goes to building the criminal world thieves live in. This is established primarily by character kits. Again, I favor thieves, so these kits seem, more than other class kits, to work better, but I honestly can’t tell if that is because of the way the base thief mechanics work (and thus the ways in which they are modified) or if it is just good old fashioned bias.

Kits are just the start. There are over 30 pages dedicated to creating and running thieves’ guilds, a topic of no small fascination in my middle and high school days. There is plenty of guidance here for a thief-centric campaign, but I have never been blessed with the opportunity to run or play such a thing. The thief seems uniquely suited to this, though — as evidence, check out the delightful Thieves’ Guild RPG from Gamelords in the early 80s.

Finally, there is a lot of space dedicated to the trade of thievery (and their tools). This stuff — rules for ropes, grappling hooks, a page dedicated to the application of different poles and sticks — expands not just how thief players play, but also add to the language of how GMs define game spaces to allow for that play. And a lot of this stuff is codified and re-codified in future editions (and hacks). It’s an important book (and free of the balance issues later installments in the series introduce).

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