A Scholar’s Advice for the Thief

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A Scholars advice to the thief

Logo by Bill Austin

You’ve decided to be a thief. Congratulations. You have just upped your chance of not getting skewered while out adventuring, and you may end up filthy rich as well. There are just a few things you should keep in mind while you work.

1. Never rob a dragon. It will notice the missing item and it will not be happy. You’ll be left hoping that there is a dragon slayer nearby and that he or she will reach the dragon in time to keep you from becoming a crispy critter. Your odds are slightly better if you’re traveling with a bonafide hero, but if that’s the case, let them do the killing before you go in. It’s true that the result (if all goes well) is technically looting rather than stealing, but there are times when discretion is the better part of valor–and when did you claim valor anyway? This is about wealth, not glory.
2. Learn to cook and learn to cook well. If you’re traveling on your own, you want good food. If you’re traveling with a group, you’ll still want good food, and if you decide you need to eliminate them, you have an easy way to do it. They’ll be so used to you cooking, they won’t question your decision to make a celebratory meal with all their favorite foods.
3. Don’t kill your companions lightly. The barbarian may be irritating, but he or she is still your best defense against wild animals and hoards of goodness-knows-what that are out to kill you. The wizard may be stuck up, but he or she is still a going to be able to tell you whether or not the ring you just acquired is cursed. Also, people are bound to start talking if you persist in being the only one of your party to return from the wilderness, and talk is trouble: You’re a thief. How do you expect to pick pockets if everyone is pointing at you and whispering?
4. Get to know your poisons. You’re not a fighter, but you still might have to kill someone. A deadly herb or a tasteless powder are better bets than a knife—and if you must use a knife, it will be more effective with poison on it. Also, you will stand a better chance of knowing if someone is trying to poison you and of having the necessary antidote on hand.
5. Resist the urge to brag. I know it’s hard, but you’re a thief. You rely on stealth. Telling everyone how amazing you are is just asking for trouble. Remember, this is about wealth, not glory.
6. If you are in a town where someone else is bragging about their thieving abilities, leave. The guards may be looking for the braggart, but that doesn’t mean they won’t catch you. If you can’t leave for some reason, find some way (permanent or otherwise) to shut the loudmouth up.
7. Practice, practice, practice. You need to keep those reflexes honed and your skills sharp. Also, you never know which ragged peasant or overdressed merchant is actually carrying a useful magical ring, belt, or potion.
8. When your reflexes start to slow down and you find yourself having to run from the guard more often than not, it’s time to retire and enjoy your ill-gotten gains. You have invested them somewhere wise, right?
9. Resist the urge to perform “one last” grand theft. It might give you a glorious death and a memorable sendoff, but you’re a thief. Once again, remember this is about wealth, not glory.
10. All right, it is a little bit about glory. Write a memoir after you retire and arrange to have it published after you are dead–which hopefully will be in a good, old age after a retirement spent in comfort. If you cannot resist publishing it while you’re alive, be prepared to leave whatever kingdom you live in. No matter how carefully you have hidden your tracks, someone will recognize you. It is just the way things are.
11. Always have a bolt hole ready and be prepared to use it.

Good luck on your endeavors! Stay safe and always carry an umbrella (it’s a useful place to hid trinkets, and the point can be used as a weapon if needed).

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