One of the most common and popular character types in fantasy is the thief. Now, you normally see these as comic relief, the betrayer, the criminal with a heart of gold, and other roles. Honestly, it’s difficult to make a thief still be a criminal while being a true hero. So, they stumble and fall in the moral department rather often. All that being said, I’m here to mention something else.
Many times you see a generic thief. They have no specialties and seem to be masters of every aspect of the trade. There’s no favorite crime or skill weakness for these guys. Other times they’re a pickpocket and that’s just about it. Picking a lock always falls in there too. Yet, what if you want to make a specialized thief for your story? Here are a few ideas:
- Pickpocket– Let’s get this guy out of the way. These thieves are snatchers who can take items off a person with ease. It doesn’t have to be out of a pocket, but they use crowds and diversions to help get their goal. They can also run and hide very well.
- Trap Master– One thing I always found strange was when a thief with a lifelong history of robbing people in a city has in-depth trap knowledge. Why? I can understand a hobby, but if they’ve never focused on finding and disarming traps then they shouldn’t be able to handle this. A mistake carried over from D&D games? So, use this type of character as an adventurer and make sure he or she has experience with traps instead of merely reading a book on them. Unless you want them to fail a lot, which can be done.
- Burglar– This isn’t just for sneaking into a dragon’s treasure horde. Burglars are useful in breaking in and out of places. They can get away with a variety of skills because they work with planned heists instead of spontaneous crimes. Disguises, stealth, lock picking, expert climbing, trap knowledge, and other skills are great for these well-rounded thieves. Still, they’re typically not much use in a fight, so making them expert swordsmen might be pushing it for some people.
- Goon– Not used very often outside of the minion category, but the leg breaker thug of a crime syndicate is a type of thief. They do have their uses, so don’t discount them. You’re looking at brute force and intimidation here along with a possible knowledge of how to cause pain without death. These thieves can evolve into fighters, but you might have fun using such an overlooked thief type.
- Disguised Grifter– While having basic thief skills, the ability to merge into a situation and manipulate others is the specialty here. When using this type, it’s all about their confidence and the alterations to their persona. You can have this character act out any personality to pull off a scam. The trick here is to develop a believably charming character and keep their fake identities different from their true one. Otherwise, you have a grifter who isn’t really fooling anyone.
- Charmer– Basically, a grifter who utilizes his or her true persona to commit crimes instead of false identities. You have to be careful with this because too many failed crimes means their true identity is boned.
- Information Gatherer– These would be your hackers in tech-using stories and street smart info gatherers in non-tech stories. Rarely a main character, these thieves tend to be approached by heroes and villains for plot-essential information. Again, this is a type that is not combat oriented and will be more stealthy than aggressive. Guild bosses fall into this category too and they’ll have muscle to protect them. I’d say this also covers thieves who can get you things ‘for a price’. This type is typically a plot device more than a main character.
- Assassin– A thief who specializes in killing people. Stealth, combat, disguise, poisons, and any nasty skills you can think of.
- Blackmailer– Slightly related to the information gatherer, this type of thief will use the information to get money or favors. I have seen one or two people play out this type on a hero team and it gets iffy. They’re the worst people to hold secrets because you don’t know if you can really trust them. Personally, I find these better in the secondary or villain arenas.
- Pirate– Do I really need to explain a pirate?