Pickpocketing in 4e

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One of my players plays a 'dumb thief', i.e. someone who just can't help himself and tries to pickpocket just about anyone, even if the situation might be dangerous. I have two questions for this situation.

Firstly, how do you deal with pick pocketing? Do you simply do a single Thievery check, or do you make it some sort of skill challenge? Also, what is a reasonable price if the character succeeds. For example, the player in my campaign joined another player to the stables. The other player bought a riding horse. When she was done with the transaction (75g), the thief decided to pickpocket the stable owner. Should I give him the full 75g if he succeeds?

Secondly, what do you do when the thief gets caught in the act (when the player fails by at least 5 on a check, for example)? I was thinking of several possible actions:
- The NPC is angered and doesn't want to deal with the party anymore. This can be troublesome if the adventure revolves around the NPC.
- The thieving player is arrested by local guard(s). He might be put in jail or worse. The problem here is that the party gets split. I'm not sure how to handle that situation.
- The NPC attacks the thieving player. Usually this would result in the NPC getting killed, since I like to make my NPC's weaker than the PC's.
The thief in my campaign has not yet failed, but if he does, I'm not sure what to do. Any of the above actions have some downsides, and I'm not sure what's the best option.

Cheers,
Firstly, how do you deal with pick pocketing? Do you simply do a single Thievery check, or do you make it some sort of skill challenge? Also, what is a reasonable price if the character succeeds. For example, the player in my campaign joined another player to the stables. The other player bought a riding horse. When she was done with the transaction (75g), the thief decided to pickpocket the stable owner. Should I give him the full 75g if he succeeds?



Thievery check vs. Hard DC of target's level. Fail by 5 or more, you fail and and you're caught. This doesn't call for a skill challenge. For a skill challenge, think more Oceans Eleven planning and execution.

The reasonable price if a character succeeds depends on the level at which you as the DM want to reward his actions. If you don't think it's contributing to the fun of the game, then he gets a few coins for his trouble and some pocket lint. If it's fun for you and the players, he finds all manner of things - cash, gems, hooks to other adventures, etc.

As for the riding horse, yes, you should give him the 75 gp if he succeeds, presuming he literally stole it from the guy's pocket after the sale. Except next time they need a horse, the stable is closed down. It seems the owner lost some money recently and had to close up shop. Now he and his family are out on the streets. Actions have consequences.

Secondly, what do you do when the thief gets caught in the act (when the player fails by at least 5 on a check, for example)? I was thinking of several possible actions:
- The NPC is angered and doesn't want to deal with the party anymore. This can be troublesome if the adventure revolves around the NPC.
- The thieving player is arrested by local guard(s). He might be put in jail or worse. The problem here is that the party gets split. I'm not sure how to handle that situation.
- The NPC attacks the thieving player. Usually this would result in the NPC getting killed, since I like to make my NPC's weaker than the PC's.
The thief in my campaign has not yet failed, but if he does, I'm not sure what to do. Any of the above actions have some downsides, and I'm not sure what's the best option.



What's best in this situation is whatever is the most interesting at the time of the occurrence. All of them are valid as long as they're fun.

There's a greater issue at work, however. This player sounds like an instigator and what he's probably telling you is that he's bored. So, all those scenes of the PCs doing mundane things like buying horses and wandering around town? Get rid of them. Spend your time running a game with an emphasis on action and I bet he doesn't continue to do this anymore.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Firstly, how do you deal with pick pocketing? Do you simply do a single Thievery check, or do you make it some sort of skill challenge?

Either. If it's just a nobody NPC, probably just a single check. Also, you have to imagine what about it would require more than one check.

Also, what is a reasonable price if the character succeeds. For example, the player in my campaign joined another player to the stables. The other player bought a riding horse. When she was done with the transaction (75g), the thief decided to pickpocket the stable owner. Should I give him the full 75g if he succeeds?

Sure, that's pretty minor. Not going to tip the balance of the game.

Secondly, what do you do when the thief gets caught in the act (when the player fails by at least 5 on a check, for example)? I was thinking of several possible actions:
- The NPC is angered and doesn't want to deal with the party anymore. This can be troublesome if the adventure revolves around the NPC.

That's the most I'd do.

- The thieving player is arrested by local guard(s). He might be put in jail or worse. The problem here is that the party gets split. I'm not sure how to handle that situation.

Yeah. It could be interesting, but it would probably be excruciating.

- The NPC attacks the thieving player. Usually this would result in the NPC getting killed, since I like to make my NPC's weaker than the PC's.

Again, could be interesting, probably isn't.

The thief in my campaign has not yet failed, but if he does, I'm not sure what to do. Any of the above actions have some downsides, and I'm not sure what's the best option.

Frankly, I wouldn't have him ever fail. Failure's only interesting when it's interesting, and none of the options you're looking at are that interesting. The numbers you're talking about right now are small, so it makes little difference and it's him acting in character.

When he goes after something important and failure is potentially interesting, that's when you get a skill challenge going for him (and hopefully the other party members, in the same or a parallel challenge).

EDIT: iserith's advice is good. I'll add that if he tries to pick pocket from the party members you should let the victim determine the outcome. Apply this to every player-on-player action and things will never get more out of control than the players want.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Centauriis on the money (so to speak) in his suggestions.  Keep in mind that the characters are Heroes and not just run of the mill folk.  So a hero theif should be able to pull off this kind of activity without too much trouble.  If he's just robbing townsfolk for kicks let him.  Treat it like working as a farm hand.  If your PCs decided they were going to go out and find work as farm hands how would you handle it?  I'd ask them to roll a check for how many hours they were planning to work and then reward them so monitary coin for the work.  That's what your theif is doing, basically his job.

Also success doesn't always mean he gets something useful, in the old PC game DaggerFall (woah, just dated myself) you could pickpocket NPCs, they rarely had anything of use, usually just a few coppers, maybe a silver, if you were lucky a gold.  You get far more from selling trash loot than pickpocketing.  More often then not you'd find things like a greasy comb, a torn dolly, a crumpled up note etc.  Basically trash.

This is basically letting the player know that you'll allow this kind of thing in game, but he's wasting his time, much like the PCs working as farm hands, robbing peasants isn't really something that will challenge a heroic theif and isn't where the real gold is.

If/when he does fail I'd have the town watch demand a fine of some sort, I shy away from using the 'Town Watch' under all circumstances because PCs tend to eventually end up in combat with them and then jail and then your campaign is basically shot.  But failing will cause that shop keeper to not do business with you or charge you 200% item value.  It may also get you a reputation that spreads and suddenly people in the next town aren't trusting of you either and may request you do XYZ quest to put yourselves in good standing with them again.

Alternativly you can use this as an opportunity to pass the theif a questline.  If the thief pickpockets an assassination notice or intercepts some secret message meant for someone else you could have some fun, or he could manage to steal a locket that belongs to someone's sweetheart or a broach that signifies the wearer as part of an underground network of some kind.

Up to you how you want to deal with the activity, either by dropping it to the sideline or letting it play a central role, but the last thing you want to do is outright disallow it or have him end up in jail.
Tolkein was a jerk. Seriously, what DM sends 9 Wraith Lords at a Lvl 2 party of Halflings. The only 'correct' way to play D&D is by whatever method is making the group you have at that session, have the most fun.
Firstly, how do you deal with pick pocketing? Do you simply do a single Thievery check, or do you make it some sort of skill challenge? Also, what is a reasonable price if the character succeeds. For example, the player in my campaign joined another player to the stables. The other player bought a riding horse. When she was done with the transaction (75g), the thief decided to pickpocket the stable owner. Should I give him the full 75g if he succeeds?


A pick pocketing attempt is a single skill check usually, but it could be a skill challenge if the situation has to be setup with other skills. If the thief knows that a particular person has a particular amount of money on them, then yes, they should generally get it most or all. In general, it won't turn up much money though, as most people will just have small change in their pocket, even the wealthy will rarely have more then a few gp in their pocket.

Also, with picking pocket it's important to remember that the person who was picked will eventually notice the loss. In many cases, even if the attempt succeeds at the time, the victim will later work out who the thief was. In the example you give, if the stable owner then goes to put the cash in his lock box after the party leaves, he will instantly realize that the thief was the only one who could have taken the money.

If/when he does fail or get caught, a good option is to ruin his and the rest of the party's reputation. The party might realize that picking pockets is a high risk/low reward situation for adventurers when the price of everything goes up by 50% as the party's reputation gets around. Throwing him in jail, or having a fight with the local guards can also work. If you do go that way, cut down the XP they get for the fights/escape also. Otherwise you end up rewarding the players for their bad actions.

Jay

Wait...does 50 coins = 1 pound still?

How would anyone hide the fact they just pocketed 75 quarters from a dudes pocket? 
Repalce it with a bag of rocks. He is a really pickpocket. Just because you can't figure out, doesn't mean he can't. That's his job and all. It's generally better to let people attempt thing you can't see happening and assume the character knows better then the player then to stifle people whenever they come up with something that makes no sense to you.

(Especially considering that anything that has the explanation of "it's magic" is generally exempt from it. If it were a magic spell to steal the gold, would you have made a fuss?)
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Repalce it with a bag of rocks. He is a really pickpocket. Just because you can't figure out, doesn't mean he can't. That's his job and all. It's generally better to let people attempt thing you can't see happening and assume the character knows better then the player then to stifle people whenever they come up with something that makes no sense to you.

(Especially considering that anything that has the explanation of "it's magic" is generally exempt from it. If it were a magic spell to steal the gold, would you have made a fuss?)




The ability to stick your hand ina  dudes pocket and fish out 75 quarters is not the same as casting a magic spell that teleports 75 quarters from his pocket to yours.

Let me explain it this way.

Party is level 2.  They have 300 gold to spend as a group.  They use this gold to buy a horse and steal said gold back.
They buy another horse, stealing the gold back.  And, another and another.  

Then they sell the two dozen riding horses to someone for 20% of the cost. 15 gold per horse x 12. Making 180 gold.

Now they take the 480 Gold and buy something that costs 400 gold.  Stealing the gold back.  The rogue doing the stealing has a 20 dex +5, a racial bonus +2 trained +5, skill focus feat +3 (or +5 now?) +1 for level.  +16 at level 2.  

They buy 10 things worth 400 gold stealing the gold back each time.  And then move on selling the ten things for 20%.  Gaining 800 gold.  To add to the 400 they had.

Now they take the 1200 gold and start buying things that cost 1000 gold.  Stealing the money back each time until they have 10 of them to sell somewhere else they now have 2200 gold.  And start buying things that cost 2000 gold, stealing the gold back each time...

In a large city like Waterdeep this could be done without repricusions dozens of times.  But hey it's cool it won't break the game. 
Repalce it with a bag of rocks. He is a really pickpocket. Just because you can't figure out, doesn't mean he can't. That's his job and all. It's generally better to let people attempt thing you can't see happening and assume the character knows better then the player then to stifle people whenever they come up with something that makes no sense to you.

(Especially considering that anything that has the explanation of "it's magic" is generally exempt from it. If it were a magic spell to steal the gold, would you have made a fuss?)




The ability to stick your hand ina  dudes pocket and fish out 75 quarters is not the same as casting a magic spell that teleports 75 quarters from his pocket to yours.

Let me explain it this way.

Party is level 2.  They have 300 gold to spend as a group.  They use this gold to buy a horse and steal said gold back.
They buy another horse, stealing the gold back.  And, another and another.  

Then they sell the two dozen riding horses to someone for 20% of the cost. 15 gold per horse x 12. Making 180 gold.

Now they take the 480 Gold and buy something that costs 400 gold.  Stealing the gold back.  The rogue doing the stealing has a 20 dex +5, a racial bonus +2 trained +5, skill focus feat +3 (or +5 now?) +1 for level.  +16 at level 2.  

They buy 10 things worth 400 gold stealing the gold back each time.  And then move on selling the ten things for 20%.  Gaining 800 gold.  To add to the 400 they had.

Now they take the 1200 gold and start buying things that cost 1000 gold.  Stealing the money back each time until they have 10 of them to sell somewhere else they now have 2200 gold.  And start buying things that cost 2000 gold, stealing the gold back each time...

In a large city like Waterdeep this could be done without repricusions dozens of times.  But hey it's cool it won't break the game. 



"Pickpocketing" is not really limited to literally taking something out of someone's pocket. The pouch of gold could just as easily been lifted from the cash register or from the counter. You're looking at things too literally. Skills in 4e should be looked at broadly and in an abstract fashion so that the players can get the most advantage from them to make the story interesting. 

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Maybe this will help.

Check the margin of a successful roll(M). Set the Top Money Value on how much the NPC has on him(X). Say that a margin of Ten is the maximum margin to steal all the money.

Equation:

( X /10) * M = Money stolen

Example:

NPC has 100 gold()

The rogue can  take 10 gold with a margin of 1 (X/10)

Rogue rolls 20 on a DC 15, then he takes 50g.

Note if you do it again use the same X value.

Rogue rolls 21 on a DC of 15 again.

He takes 50g. Because there is only 50g in the NPC's pocket.  
Ant Farm
The ability to stick your hand ina  dudes pocket and fish out 75 quarters is not the same as casting a magic spell that teleports 75 quarters from his pocket to yours.



It's not the same, but in 4e both of these things work in the same way, so yes he can indeed do that. Just like the Wizard can... if he makes a Thievery check.

The rest of your post is just pointless hyperbole. It won't take more then a few hours for someone to find out, even in a city like Waterdeep. And then you suddenly have an interesting story, which, if I'm not mistaken, is kinda the whole goal of the game, so the Thievery rules are actually helping you.
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And then you suddenly have an interesting story, which, if I'm not mistaken, is kinda the whole goal of the game, so the Thievery rules are actually helping you.



Exactly. Which is why I suggested in my original reply that this isn't a problem with Thievery. It's a problem with a player being bored, looking at his sheet, and coming up with stuff to do. In that sense, Thievery is helping. In the absence of dramatic action or plausible hook coming from the DM, the players will do what they will do.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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It's also worth noting that the vast majority of actual pockets should contain copper & silver - no gold.

In most games, they players are so flush with cash after a couple levels that the cost of munane items is trivial. I usually just hand wave most of it. Personally, that is the way I would handle pickpocketing for fun. Perhaps even have the player come up with an explanation of where he spends the extra money: wine, women and song? give to the poor? invested in a gnomish hair tonic pyramid scheme?

If the player is just looking to game the system, then no formulas or in-game threats are going to fix that. You should just go straight to a one-on-one OOC conversation. Or maybe talk with the players, if the theif PC is willing to share the loot in exchange for their cooperation you can feed them money that way and deduct it from the normal treasure parcels they get.

In most circumstances, the players are going to be far more wealthy than the local townfolks. 75 gold might be a bonus to the players, but it might be life or death for the merchant.  It could also be a great plot hook. They see the merchant the next day and he is distraught. He was supposed to pay off some kidnappers who were holding his child/grandmother/favorite hamster, but when he didn't pay, they sent him a toe -- with nail polish.

By the same token, anyone who is more weathy than the PCs are likely to have magical protections, traps and bodyguards. If you and the players are up for it, you can even have an adventure centered around burglarizing the mansion of a wealthy BBEG.

A kleptomaniac theif can actually be a great way to give the players plot hooks. They can pick up an unusual item. Or maybe they notice a sudden influx of foriegn coin.
Thanks for the excellent replies. The player in question in fact wasn't bored, but decided beforehand that this constant thieving would be part of his character. You've given some excellent suggestions to deal with it.

At first I thought it might derail the flow of the game, but it could actually enhance the game by giving new hooks, as suggested. It's a nice challenge for a first-time DM, but more exciting, I guess, than a bunch of goodie-two-shoes.
Some portions of this discussion would have benefitted from awareness of a couple synonyms for "pickpocket". Specifically "pickpurse" and "cutpurse".
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
Like the other guys have said let him, just don't give him a lot, even turn it into a short skill challenge (maybe Stealth, Bluff(disguise), and then Thievery.
This act of thievery will take a number of hours from which the PC gets only a few silver and a couple of dozen copper. Very few people carry much in the way of real money.

A charge for getting caught is a good idea, or as suggested an unexpected quest for the state for which the group will get no pay from the city.

If he wants to steal from someone and not get caught, he has to steal an amount that won't be missed until he's gotten away, right?  If he just paid 75g for a horse, then that amount will probably be a small fraction of 75g if he's hanging it all on one Thievery check for picking a pocket.  If he wants all his money back, that's going to take something more elaborate than just slipping it right back out the horse trader's pocket unless he paid in some other form of currency than gold coins.

If he just tossed out after the purchase that he wanted to steal his money back, let him have five or ten gold on a success and then explain that to him.  Assuming his character is a clever person who has made a career of stealing from people, it's reasonable that the character will have worked out the details himself at some point, so I don't see a problem with talking it out.

To succeed at that sort of thing, he needs to go in disguise.  Horse trading is big business, and in anything but the most bustling, crowded population centers the traders aren't going to sell enough units in a day's business not to remember the guy.  If the gold count comes up short on the same day the new guy in town bought a horse, they're going to go looking for the new guy.  Best not be recognized as that guy.  Bluff check for the disguise, maybe?

He's also going to want to pay with something that's more portable than 75 coins.  Smaller towns won't have many portable items in them that are worth that much individually, and even in a town of decent size an item that's worth as much as a good horse might be memorable.  Knowing what to use for barter and where to get it would take a Streetwise check with the difficulty being inversely proportional to the size of the settlement, don't you think?

If your rogue can't pull at least that much together, he'll have to resort to a method of theft that's less immediate than walking out of the same meeting with the horse and the money.  That'll be a burglary or a robbery or something which is a skill challenge unto itself.

No matter how he does it, there should be consequences.  If it's a small settlement and the horse trader has few horses to trade, the price of one head might ruin him, but it's more likely that the trader has enough stock to survive the loss.  That means he's also got enough wealth to investigate and recover the loss - there's more at stake to the trader than 75g, and even if he's not willing to take a loss on the individual transaction, half that much still buys enough of a task force to turn evading discovery and capture into some sort of encounter (be it a social challenge, an urban chase scene or a combat encounter).  If the settlement is big enough for the thief to go to ground, someone who's made a living trading horseflesh in that environment will have access to the resources to dig him out.

It would be useful to figure out how interested your group is in this sort of gameplay before going forward, though.  Some groups really enjoy this sort of player driven misadventure, but for players who prefer more story driven heroic gameplay, it might be better to just discourage this kind of activity or limit its profitability to a degree that it doesn't threaten to pull the story off track.  If that's the case, tell your thief that stealing during a group session will yield pocket change, and if he dislikes that answer enough you might offer him the chance to do some solo sessions to conduct a more elaborate heist.

"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider

Pickpocketing could make a really fun skill challenge, but it would need to be a "mini adventure". Perhaps the PCs could research the targets movements, arrange a diversion, and have a "chase scene" escape! You could easily get 8-10 actions out of that including the actual pickpocket itself :-)

it has not oftin come up in my games, but its somthing that usually i require a stealth and theivery,

stealth is simple, if they miss the mid DC then the person can see them plain as day, so doing a theivery check wont get your hands in that persons pocket unnoticed.

if you make the mid DC, no issues, make your theivery check at the hard DC

if you hit the Hard DC stealth the person does not realize that you are close enough to them or invading their personal space in any way, so you make your theivery check at the normal DC

money is oftin stored in diffrent objects then gold, like platnum 100 gold is 1 platinum, so you could be stealing 5 or 6 qurter sized objects on a major heist. so i generally dont take that into account. when doing this kind of thing. 

 
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