Monday, April 16, 2012

Thieves, Giants and She-Devils [Mystery Men!]

In the last article in this series, I laid out the basics of using Mystery Men! for a Swords and Sorcery-style campaign, the likes of which you’ve probably read in Conan or Red Sonja comics.

This article continues this with some thoughts on the idea of thieves.

MM! uses three classes. The adventurer is your standard super hero type, with a set array of powers. The sorcerer can have some set powers, but also devotes their XP into a sorcery pool that allows them to use ad hoc powers during a game (i.e. cast spells). The third class, the scientist, puts XP into a science pool that allows them to invent devices (i.e. powers) at the beginning of a game session, making them more flexible than the adventurer, but less flexible than the sorcerer.

By all rights, sneaky thieves should be portrayed as adventurers in an MM!SS game. They probably won’t spend as many XP on boosting their ability scores as the typical barbarian, and therein lies the problem. Since barbarians and thieves are both adventurers, and thieves will probably be higher in level, it is likely that they’ll end up as better warriors than the barbarians. What to do?

How about we introduce a new class called ... The Thief!

The thief (or reaver, pirate, tomb robber, assassin ... whatever you like) uses the scientist’s hit dice and attack progression, and can put XP in a “thievery pool”. The thievery pool allows them to apply a +1 bonus to any of the traditional thief tasks (pick pockets, open locks, find/remove traps, climb walls, hear noises, move silently, hide in shadows) by spending 500 XP of their thief pool on the roll. Spend 1,000 XP, get a +2 bonus. Spend 3,000 XP, get a +6 bonus.

In addition, thieves can backstab (after successfully hiding in shadows), adding 1d6 to their damage for every 1,000 XP of their thief pool they spend (up to an extra 10d6, or 6d6 if they’re throwing the dagger into someone’s back). Finally, thieves can spend 5,000 XP to avoid certain death (i.e. no save required, automatically avoid a death trap or a killing blow).

It’s easy to forget that Red Sonja as we know her was an invention of Roy Thomas and, to a lesser extent, Esteban Maroto, rather than one of REH’s creations. With her chainmail (it always looked like scale mail to me) bikini and powers imbued on her by the goddess Scathach, she was a far cry from the 16th century pistol-packin’ mama REH called Red Sonya of Rogatino. It’s almost like the difference between an old school D&D character and a Mystery Men! Sword and Sorcery character. Thus …

RED SONJA, Adventurer 10 (She-Devil, Swordswoman)
STR 7 (+3) | DEX 11 (+5) | CON 5 (+2) | INT 3 (+1) | WIL 7 (+3) | CHA 12 (+6)
HP 73 | DC 23 | ATK +8 (+11 melee, +13 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 16,330

Ability Boosts: Str +4, Dex +8, Con +2, Will +4, Cha +9

Powers: Catfall, Invulnerability I, Weapon Master (Longsword)

Gear: Longsword (Potent Attack; 1d8+5, can hit ethereal and incorporeal creatures), chainmail bikini, dagger (1d4 +4)

I’ve decided to send a few of my regular players “Against the Giants” (i.e. through the classic series of AD&D modules of the same name) on Google+ to test out this little experiment in MM! fantasy gaming. Naturally, that means I need to apply some statistics to those giants.

LVL 12 (42 hp) | PH 8 (+4) | MN 3 (+2) | DC 20 | SPD 2 | XP 1200
ATK Club (3d8) or fists (2d4) or rock (3d6)

LVL 15 (53 hp) | PH 9 (+5) | MN 4 (+2) | DC 23 | SPD 2 | XP 1800
ATK Greatsword (4d6) or fists (2d4) or flaming rock (3d6 + 2d6 fire)
POW Darkvision, immune to fire, vulnerable to cold

LVL 14 (49 hp) | PH 8 (+4) | MN 4 (+2) | DC 21 | SPD 2 | XP 1700
ATK Greataxe (4d6) or fists (2d4) or rock (3d6)
POW Darkvision, immune to cold, vulnerable to fire

LVL 4 (14 hp) | PH 5 (+3) | MN 2 (+1) | DC 16 | SPD 2 | XP 700
ATK Club (2d8) or javelin (1d8)
POW Darkvision

LVL 6 (21 hp) | PH 7 (+4) | MN 2 (+1) | DC 16 | SPD 2 | XP 1500
ATK Claws (2d6) and bite (1d6)
POW Darkvision, regenerate


  1. Sounds like a great set of additions.

    Couple questions about how thieves would operate (as someone possibly interested in giving thieves a try):

    How long would the bonus to thieving skills or backstab damage bonus last when the XP from the Thieving Pool was spent? Would it be for a single use of the skill/single backstab attempt, or would it last longer (a scene/encounter, a battle, etc.)?

  2. Just for the one roll. The character would still be able to attempt the tasks, the spending of the XP in the pool would just provide a boost when they really think they need it.

  3. Any thoughts on typical magic items (the most appropriate kinds for a setting like this, suggestions on the best way to build them, etc.)? I assume they would probably be rarer and maybe more unique/interesting/useful than in standard D&D.

    Sorry for the pestering questions, but I'm thinking about potential PCs! :)

  4. In Mystery Men!, you build technology or magic items the same way - you "buy an item", and then imbue it with powers. Any power nested in an object costs half the normal amount, mainly because that power can be taken away by the item being destroyed or stolen.

  5. Very cool. This showcases the versatility of the Mystery Men! engine has made me start thinking about other uses.

  6. I think it could be bent to just about anything cinematic (i.e. over the top fake action) with some work.


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