Dealing with a thief (in game)

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I have a rule at my table, heroic (good) characters only.  I don't mean lawful good paladins, but no one is allowed to go out and destroy the world, good NPC's and the like.  Yes, that is quite restricting in many ways, but the players all know that going in and agreed to it, plus it makes my life a whole lot easier as a DM.

I have a homebrew, but one of my players (a very argumentative one) wanted to play his halfling rogue like a kender and I said that was okay.  I understand kender have a tendency to "acquire" items, which I believed could create some problems with our heroes, but it could still be role played well and not be too detrimental.  Again, I don't want them to be lawful good paladins, just not evil.  Tasslehoff from the Dragonlance series came to mind, occasionally a nuisance with his acquisition of items, but didn’t outright hurt the group.

The problem I am having is his character is actively trying to steal everything, from NPC’s to the other players.  He hands me a sheet of paper with his thievery checks, and if he rolls what he considers too low, a bluff check to bluff his way out of it.  He runs off to find creatures or other great dangers that the group is not capable of handling (they are level 3).  Hey, if he kills himself, that is his problem, except it interferes with the group, splits the party, puts them in danger as they are now missing their striker, and in general causes problems, especially in a story heavy campaign.  I want to be clear that the rest of the group (the other five players) are completely on board with the story heavy aspects of the game and understand the importance of certain actions and their repercussions.

I already have the rule in place about playing heroic, but I try to let my players do what they want and not railroad them too much, and I fear that taking dice rolls away or not letting him wander off as his character would do would be too control on my part.  I already plan to do away with his bluff checks next to his low thievery rolls as that is blatant meta-gaming, but what can I do to reel him in so he doesn't hurt the group while not killing his fun in RP just because it doesn't mesh with the rest of our play style?  I never go out of my way to punish a player for having a different play style, but I do not want to let it become a further problem for the group, who are showing some frustration.


Sorry for the long windedness of my post.

In the hands of most players, Kender do not "have a tendency to acquire items." They "always steal everything, all the time." Whether or not this is the intent of the race, I don't know, but this is how I've ALWAYS seen them played, and how they're played in every story about them I've ever heard.

If I were in your shoes, I would ask the player to change characters, because this character is being disruptive to the story, the game, and the enjoyment of the other players. I've already done that with one of my players (who agreed with me) in my game.

And as future warning, when a player mentions "kender" as a character archetype, it's time to break out the hammer-gun and ask, "Is that your final answer?" 
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And as future warning, when a player mentions "kender" as a character archetype, it's time to break out the hammer-gun and ask, "Is that your final answer?"

Yeah, lesson learned there.  I know my campaigns come with a lot of ground rules, which are put in there for specific reasons, but I hate to shut down players and ideas even further than necessary.

Last session was a travel session (mentioned in a previous thread) and they had to stop in town to get supplies without trying to draw too much attention to themselves as they are wanted.  He handed me a sheet of paper with seven thievry checks and the one bluff for his lower thievry score.  He passed most but was caught twice.  His first his bluff check got him out of it, but the second landed him in jail and created a massive scene.  The group RPed it well and were able to get out, but I know there was a lot of frustration from my players, this was further exasperated as they were trying to avoid a lich as they had a destination close to his lair, and as soon as the kender heard about the lich, he ran off to find it because he thought it would be cool.  Again, there was a lot of frustration from the rest of the group.  That is my biggest concern.  It frustrates me too, but I can roll with the punches, though it does make it more time consuming, both out of game and in game, which also became a problem.

I am not scared to confront him about a change, but I just hate the idea of asking a player to do something he doesn't want to.  It all comes down to fun, and if someone is not having fun, it isn't worth playing.  Trying to accomodate everyone is always a big job.
When it comes to other players, don't let him just get away with hidden rolls, or any rolls at all. No rolls when it comes to fellow players. If the player wants his rogue to steal something, he asks the other player if that would be cool and the player agrees or not. If not, the thievery just doesn't come off.

NPCs and other situations don't necessarily just get Thievery and Bluff rolls either. You're within your rights to call for different rolls, such as Streetwise even to know who has what, or Arcana to get past magical senses and wards, or Nature to know how to distract or trick certain creatures. Heck, just attempting Thievery on its own might be an automatic failure, though you probably want to make that clear.

His system of just writing down the checks is a time saver, but you should tell him that it's not always that easy.

As for him bringing in other monsters, as with stealing from the other players, he should ask the other players if they're fine with it. If they're not unanimous, then something needs to happen other than the halfling's death or the monster attacking. Maybe the halfling is just pinned into a hiding place for a little while, until the PCs can come to his aid, though that's not much fun if the player has to wait out a long combat or other scene before he can do anything.

For the missing striker problem, focus on encounters in which failure doesn't mean death for the PCs. Instead of "because you weren't there, the fighter was killed," try to make it "because you weren't there, the foes got away, we failed, and we got fewer spoils which, by the way, you don't get any."

Let the halfling's curiosity pay off for him and the party sometimes, such as maybe the extra monster confronting the one they were fighting in the first place. Let it cause (non-lethal) trouble for him and the party sometimes. Don't let him just get away with rolling Thievery and Bluff.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Every person sitting at the table has a shared responsibility for making the game fun for everyone else.  If you're a player, that means not playing your character in a way that is detrimental to the other players' or the DM's fun.  It's that simple.

That doesn't mean that you can't play an evil or selfish character; and/or a character whose motivations run counter to the group as a whole.  But if you choose to do so, you have a responsibility to ensure that it doesn't detract from everyone else's enjoyment of the game.

I'd suggest that you take your player aside and explain this to him.  If he disagrees, it's time for him to find another group.
Yeah, lesson learned there.  I know my campaigns come with a lot of ground rules, which are put in there for specific reasons, but I hate to shut down players and ideas even further than necessary.



Rules, even with specific reasons, are usually reactionary. (I wonder if you're planning on having a "No Kender" rule next game?) A rule only instructs a clever player on how to get around something. I prefer to come at it from a different angle. The best way to approach problems like the kender/klepto are to be as proactive as possible.

While I would have started a conversation long before the game to assess expectations for the campaign and established the flavor and purpose of their adventuring party (from which everyone could build characters appropriate to it), even now you can work with the player to correct this. Ask him how the character can use his innate abilities and curiosity to help the story. Ask whether he sees his character as heroic (or not) and what helpful role he hopes to play in the group. Ask how you can best work together to make sure his concept is not only valid, but is interesting for everyone and helps move the plot forward rather than derail it in unfun ways. I bet the player has plenty of ideas you can use. Just be flexible on your end.

As for the pilfering of other players, I'd go with what Centauri suggested. The target player can choose whether it works or not.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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A lot of the rules have more to do with story and the home brew itself than much else.  The world was initially created at the release of 3.0 with established races, history and other properties which made it difficult to allow all of the new races to be included. Originally there were only eight playable races, but I did some reworking of the history to create dragonborn and tieflings.  Still, that only makes 10, which itself is a restriction.  The heroic only is probably the only play style restriction. 

There are no kender as it is, he just wanted to play his halfling like a kender.  Banning kender, or the actions of a kender, does not make a lot of sense, honestly a fighter could try the exact same tactics.  It would have to ban certain game play rather than a race, and that is why I am posting, I don't wish to ban game play, just make sure everyone is having fun while keeping the story moving forward.

We did have a large discussion of purpose and flavor of the adventure, and I even went out of my way explaining why certain aspects, such as heroic only, were in place for a story based game.  I felt it was only fair for the players to know what was ahead so they could decide if they were interested or not.

I agree with you though, it would be best to sit down with the player and discuss his character ideas to see how we can make it work within the group, while still allowing him to enjoy his character.  I also like Centauri's idea of making theft more than just a thievery check in certain situations.  My comment about him killing himself wasn't meant as a 'screw him for looking for a big baddie,' even though it probably came out that way.  In fact, I have even worked in a way for him to save the group two sessions down the road due to him not currently being with the group.

Some of these ideas seem to be no brainers, but as a DM still learning varying nuances of party control and encounter building, they are quite helpful, especially since I did not think of them before (skill checks other than thievery for example).  Thank you.
We did have a large discussion of purpose and flavor of the adventure, and I even went out of my way explaining why certain aspects, such as heroic only, were in place for a story based game.  I felt it was only fair for the players to know what was ahead so they could decide if they were interested or not.



Good on you - a shocking number of people don't do this and then wonder why and where it all went wrong.

Some of these ideas seem to be no brainers, but as a DM still learning varying nuances of party control and encounter building, they are quite helpful, especially since I did not think of them before (skill checks other than thievery for example).  Thank you.



Yep, narrowly defining skills is a good way to trip yourself up, both as a player and a DM. As far as party control goes, the best you can do is have that discussion at the outset and then make sure every session is jam packed with things to do that all sound much more interesting than pilfering. After that, you have no control though a lot of DMs like to think they do and agonize over what happened when it becomes clear they don't. Done right, the outcomes in D&D should be as surprising to the DM as they are to the players. And if you subscribe to that philosophy, then players like the one who is playing the halfling will suddenly become a boon and not a problem. It's all a matter of perspective and how you roll with it.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

What probably should have already happened is that the rest of the party tells the klepto to shape up or ship out.  He's proven to be an irritant and a liability, and the rest of the party should damn well lay down the law and tell him to stop being both or he's welcome to hit the road.

You also specified heroic characters.  Kleptomania isn't really a heroic trait.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This is character-to-character, not player-to-player.  The klepto's player is not being told to take a hike, his character is.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
The only thing I'd put a stop to would be the pre-rolled thievry & bluff checks. (or any other check/roll)

He'd roll those when I informed him that such a roll was called for.  If he insisted on trying to do it otherwise?  Then the DC he'd need to succeed would automagically be "one higher than what you rolled".
Infact, to discourage some of this kleptomania a few of those DC might become that anyways.

As for the split party thing?  That wouldn't be an issue with the groups I play with.  We've got years of practice running split up parties.  Heck, recently we were split between planes & centuries - within the same session!
It's pretty simple.  You just run one group for x amount of time, then cut back to the other group.  We tend to use 15 minute intervals.
Or, if you want to discourage this, you run the annoying group for shorter periods of time than you do the other.  You gently make them want to stick together so as to get more action/spotlight time.


Now I know, someone here will start going on about one group of players being bored when they're not involved in the other groups action.
Once again, not a problem in my circles.  We're having fun BSing & socializing over pizza & drinks anyways.  This doesn't stop based upon whether or not we happen to be rolling dice for a few moments....  But that's my group of friends.

That boredom though?  In other groups it can be used as a tool.  Like I said, you make it so the players see a reason for their characters to stick together.
A) The group getting the shorter allotment of time wants to stick where the action is & thus returns to the fold/doesn't wander off as much.
B) One group of players or another gets fed up with this & exerts some peer preasure on the other group.


About the Kendering of other PCs items:
Go ahead, let them try.  Of course the DC is set so high (one more than can be scored) that they'll fail.  
Why's it so high?  Because the Kenders traveling companions know ALL about their little friend & are thus keenly aware of him of course!
   
Forgive me, but I'm not that big on the Dragonlance setting where Kender came from, but aren't Kender supposed to be kleptos because they have no real concept of property, and therefor don't even conceive of what they're doing as stealing? Why would that type of character be making bluff checks? In fact, most of its thievery should be completely blatant with no attempt at a skill check at all to keep it under wraps.

Because he isn't roleplaying a Kender, I would have put the boot down.
In my games when PCs would try to something that the rest of the party find annoying I just don't let them do it. Don't care how much they cry about the railroads, if it just plain annoying don't let it be.

Example:
PC: I roll to pickpocket the guard that is trying to explain the plot.
DM: Suddenly you realize you are being a complete tool, and decide not too.
PCs: Awkward silence.
DM: The guard continues...

They get the point after a few DMslaps, and if that doesn't drive the point I will give them a private chat, and if annoyingness persists - there is the door. 
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There are a few character concepts that routinely get banned from role-playing games because they are so routinely played so badly.

Kender is one of them.

Kender happen to be one of the few things in Dragonlance novels that didn't make me want to throw the books into a bonfire. I like kender. They are tremendously implausible, but fun.

They are NOT kleptomaniacs. In fact, lacking a concept of property, they tend to assume that ordinary needful things will be available, so there's no point in taking them. Sure, one will swipe your ale mug and drain it, but then he'll put the mug down and wander off. Unless there's something exceptionally interesting about the mug, lifting it out of the realm of "ordinary".

Example:
PC: I roll to pickpocket the guard that is trying to explain the plot.

What was it about the guard's pocket that caused the kender to suddenly become interested in its contents? It's an ordinary unremarkable pocket on an ordinary unremarkable guardsman's uniform. It doesnt bulge oddly. Nothing strange is hanging out of it. There's nothing to attract a kender's attention.

Also, smarter kender might realize that other people have some strange notions about objects, and learn to at least somewhat anticipate how those notions might lead people to behave if you, say, drink the ale in this mug someone left here. Kender are short on fear, but they still might prefer to avoid being killed because that just sounds dull.

Kender, and all the other routinely-banned concepts, CAN be played well. But the idjits who use them as an excuse to be completely antisocial, get the concepts banned. Which doesn't really work because the idjits will find some other way to be completely antisocial.
"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
Agree with Warrl, kenders can be a blast to have in the group for simple trouble and a laugh if played by the right person. But they often go along the lines of the players that play the good old CN alingment. Totally wrong and an excuse to be an ass.

I had a kender and the whole group loved him, yes I got in trouble in various points but never screwed over the other players or the plot ever. Then we had another one try a kender and needless to say it got banned right after he played it as an excuse to steal everything of any remote vaule from PCs and NPCs alike. And your friend is sounding like, mind the pun, but a big number two of the choices.
I think firstly you should try for an easier solution like advising the player he may want to reel in his "Kender" approach to his character a tad as its quickly going to go down hill.  As you've made a point of outlining the campaign concepts if he's a reasonable person he should be able to abide by the gentle reminder that the game was going to be heroic.  If he puts up a todo about character autonomy and such, pleasantly but firmly remind him that you had discussed these things on the outset of the game.

Its been my experience that pretty much every person I've run accross who initially wanted to play a Kender failed miserably at doing so.  Nearly universally they want to steal everything that isn't nailed down and because they've got a "Kender" they expect there should be no repurcussions.  They generally expect that because they have a hilarious excuse to behave like a klepto dork.  They are less interested in the quirky kender behaviour than they are interested in having as much money and goodies as they can get away with.  To top that off most people who want to play kender don't handle the adversity of their Kender being taken to task for stealing everyones stuff.

All you can do is politely try and steer him back to a bit better behaviour.  I concur with everyone else who said skill checks get made at the time the dm requests them, not prerolled and submitted on paper.  I think everyone shold know thats common sense unless a dm states it otherwise.
Kender. Just like the LG Paladin, people have a hard time playing`em 'correctly.'

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