RPG Games: It Takes a Thief
by Ryan Richardson
There you are, minding your own business, reading your text game messages while you idle away some time fishing or working on guild requirements. Suddenly he's there, the one everyone's warned you about since you left newbiehood: the thief. In an instant, whether it's from a spell or a snap or a blade at your throat, you find him ruthlessly liberating your hard earned possessions before vanishing without the slightest hint of remorse.
We've all been there, at one time or another. We've all seen the antitheft seminars, and had the term selfishness drilled into our heads. However, we tend to neglect the other side of things; roleplaying a good guy is easy, but how do you do a good job of roleplaying a thief?
In the world of online roleplaying games, thieves are considered the lowest of the low, the guys (and girls) who take what others have spent countless hours working for. But anyone who's played a thief will tell you that it's not always as easy as it looks from the receiving end. Aside from the obvious moral dilemma for the player, to which not everyone is as suited as others, there's the simple question all thieves must eventually answer: what kind of thief are you? It is in light of this that I am pleased to present the (not quite comprehensive) list of thief archetypes!
The Guy We Love to Hate
Every story needs a good villain, and some online RPG players have taken it upon themselves to see to it that all you good guys have one. These are those characters that everyone hates with a passion, the ones citymates even look at and think 'Why can't you just LEAVE so I can KILL you?' They're the ones that take what they can, and tend to lord it over you once they have it. Now, this isn't to say they're an unreasonable lot; a good guy we love to hate will listen to someone in distress, because none of us want to see people leaving the text game over being robbed, and often work out a deal for the return of important possessions. When asked why he steals, a guy we love to hate will probably answer, "Because it pisses people off."
The Good Guy Gone Wrong
Just like their players, every thief goes through a moral dilemma as well. While some ignore it through various means, these are the guys who take it the worst. Arguably the softest of the archetypes, the good guy gone wrong will often find himself returning stolen goods out of guilt, or finding other ways to make amends. These are the characters who will try to justify their thefts through any of several reasons, just trying to find a way to ease their conscience. When asked why he steals, a good guy gone wrong will probably mumble something inaudible and walk away. If you do get a straight answer out of him, though, it's likely something such as "We all need to make a living..."
The Robin Hood
On a few occasions, you'll find the thief who uses his abilities to help others. "Rob from the rich and give to the poor" is the philosophy for which this archetype is named, and it is the one these characters follow. They justify their thieving, and ease their own conscience, by taking the moral high road, at least in their own eyes. Many a Robin Hood is, in fact, a false Robin Hood in the eyes of his peers, but he feels he is doing right, and will have at least a few people on his side. When asked why he steals, a Robin Hood will probably tell you, "I'm helping people; he deserved what he got!"
The Dashing Rogue
Everyone has, at one point or another, wanted to be this guy. He has the looks, the moves, and the gold, and everyone loves him for it. His marks hand things over happily as often as not, and while "you really shouldn't have," he's more than happy to accept gifts, and if his fingers slip into a few pockets on the way, well, who's going to mind, really? When asked why he steals, a dashing rogue will probably just flash his award-winning smile and ask, "How am I stealing what people are willing to give?"
The Greedy Bastard
As much as it pains me to admit it, this guy exists. In fact, he might be the majority of thieves in online roleplaying games. To him, it's not about any moral standing, or significant need; this guy wants money and he wants it the easy way. The main difference between a greedy bastard and a guy we love to hate is that this archetype will rob you blind and leave you sitting naked in the forest, coming back for seconds if he thinks he might have missed something. While a valid roleplaying standpoint, this type of thief is more often simply the result of a player who doesn't care about the others who enjoy his text game, and wants nothing more than to stockpile all the gold and artifacts he can. When asked why he steals, a greedy bastard will smirk at you and say, "If you can't hold onto it, you don't deserve to," before snapping his fingers in your face.
The key to being a thief is that it's not for everyone. If it were, there'd be no reason to populate the rpg game with denizens to kill or quests to complete or items to make and sell in the first place. However, for anyone who's ever wanted to roleplay a thief, the best advice I can give is to try it! This is by no means the complete resource for all your thief roleplay needs; if you think you have something different in mind, play it out! No one likes being robbed, but sometimes a well written and thought-out character can make the experience worth it, and earn you respect as a player even if you do play a thieving bastard.
Ryan Richardson is a text game enthusiasts who plays online roleplaying games at Iron Realms!