Archive for March, 2022

Third-Party Support: Capers

March 29, 2022

It’s an open secret among fans of D&D 3.X/Pathfinder 1st Edition that the Wealth-By-Level guidelines for PCs are just that: guidelines. Overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean jokes that brings to mind, I doubt anyone would be too surprised to find that most GMs running campaigns using those systems don’t periodically audit the PCs to make sure their gear adheres to what it’s “supposed” to be for their level.

While that seems obvious, the idea that the WBL tables are carefully calibrated, and that deviating from them can bring a campaign crashing down, is one that still makes the rounds every so often. A particularly prominent example that I recall (for Pathfinder 1E) was that full plate armor was deliberately priced out of what a 1st-level character could afford (1,500 gp), since that would make their Armor Class too high for level-appropriate enemies to hit…which is a little awkward to consider when you realize you can just take the Rich Parents trait, buy half-plate (600 gp) and a tower shield (30 gp), and your AC is not only better than what full plate would give you, but you still have a few hundred gold pieces left over.

Plus that whole section in Ultimate Campaign which flat-out said that spellcasting characters with crafting feats can have +25%, or even +50%, of their WBL guidelines with regard to magic items that they can make.

If it’s okay for some of the most versatile classes in the game to earn bonus gold in exchange for some small character investments, then what about non-spellcasters? Particularly those who are known for having a lot of utility items, are often portrayed as being tricky and clever, and are classically depicted as having an acquisitive slant?

Which brings us to the subject of this post: Fat Goblin Games’ The Rogue’s Guide to Capers.

Originally put out by Tricky Owlbear Publishing, this book is based on two premises: the first is that the rogue class is underpowered compared to its counterparts (which it is); the second is, in the book’s own words, “The rogue class can be saved with gold.”

In only four pages, it sets out to do just that, but outlining what’s essentially a skill challenge (though it never uses that term) whereby rogues, when in a municipality of some sort, can pull off a caper to earn some extra cash.

The way capers are put forward here is simple, but still elegant in what it allows for. The potential gold earned depends on the size of the local settlement, and whether the rogue wants to pull off an easy, medium, or difficult job. They then make skill checks to determine the success of each of the caper’s three stages: planning (though this one can be skipped, which makes the subsequent checks harder), execution, and getaway.

I call this elegant because at no point does the system simply shut things down if a check is failed. A botched getaway check, for instance, doesn’t mean that your character is necessarily captured or killed. Rather, it means that you now have someone chasing you, which has its own rules. For that matter, the skills involved in each stage of the caper vary according to what kind of heist you’re pulling, so if one particular job doesn’t seem likely for you, the GM can simply lay down another. Right away, you can see a choice between “easy job, low payout” and “high risk, high reward” being laid out.

One thing to note here is that, while this is written for Pathfinder 1E, the actual caper rules themselves aren’t part of Pathfinder’s downtime system. That makes it especially easy to convert this over to rules such as D&D 5E; you’ll need to tweak the DCs, and the skills used will be different, but overall this borders on being system-agnostic in what it offers.

Of course, in Pathfinder the rogue can spend the ill-gotten gold their capers earn them on a plethora of magic potions, alchemical items, spell scrolls, and cheap wondrous items that most other characters overlook (feather tokens, anyone?), all the better to give them Batman-levels of magical problem-solving gizmos. If you port this system over to D&D 5E, you’ll need to figure out what they can put all of that money toward; getting rich through larceny is one thing, but not being able to buy anything with it? Now that’s a crime.