Thieves are perhaps some of the most clever and capable people throughout the realms, but not without help. Even the best of the best in the darkest of alleys or those at the highest of the assassin orders require the use of tools to achieve their goals. Although some items are common to thieves and their ilk, as we see with daggers and lockpicks, the items contained herein can be found only in the darkest corners of the world. These items are technologically advanced, inconspicuous, and curious, and they might even seem useless to those who aren’t in the know regarding their capabilities.
System Neutral Guidelines
The following items are aimed at fitting into any fantasy campaign setting, and they could turn up anywhere, for any reason, at any time, and at any price. If an item seems too powerful or out of place for you and you still want to use it, remember that payment doesn’t always come in the form of coin, and even the simplest of items might be a rarity.
Since no two games are alike, please feel free to adjust the items accordingly and keep in mind that though each item has an intended purpose with a few guidelines, they are yours to run wild with. These items are aimed at a wide array of rogues, thieves, cutpurses, assassins, and other shady types, and the word ‘rogue’ and ‘thief’ is used interchangeably throughout this series. Each item has some grounding in rules as far as how long they last or how they activate but you’ll not find any mention of bonuses or penalties to Armor Class or ability scores—that stuff is up to you and your GM!
There are many ways to deal with problems as a rogue, and the solutions for those problems usually call for a few good items or tools. Everyone has their own preferred method and style of accomplishing their goals. As one who skulks in the shadows knows, there are typically four main categories in which the tools you use fall under. Those items classifications are avoidance, deterrent, elimination, and subterfuge. Of course, brute force is also an option, but any silver-tongued sneak who wants to live to fight another day knows this is often a last resort.
An avoidance item’s main purpose is to entirely escape whatever threat or factor might get in the way of a one’s goals. Deterrents are mostly used as distractions and other ways to manipulate, slow, or re-route targets. Elimination items aim to entirely do away with problems, be it items, ideas, or interlopers. Elements of subterfuge are used to deceive or go unnoticed so that the item’s user can gain the upper hand.
This collection of items is labeled accordingly for quick reference: (A)voidance, (D)eterrent, (E)limination, or (S)ubterfuge.
Rarity, Locales, and Cost
A good fence, a guild vault, a gifted heirloom, a gold-toothed grafter—all are places where these mundane and marvelously complex trinkets and treasures can be found. Listed are some of the locales you’ll often find them in, their availability (common, uncommon, rare), and their average cost (cheap, moderate, expensive, priceless).
Common items can be found via your average fence or perhaps even some of the shadier general goods vendors. Uncommon items typically only show up in larger cities or places of frequent trade in locales where crime syndicates operate. Rare items can be found only through highly sought-after fences, guild vaults, dungeons, and noted heirs of particular assassin orders.
An item’s rarity does not mean it is necessarily costly, though this is often the case. Items listed as cheap are often 2 or 3 times the cost of an average meal each, whereas moderately priced items are going to cost about double what you’d pay for a more mundane solution. Expensive items are going to require quite a haul in whatever valuables you can cough up alongside coin, and priceless items cannot be obtained with mere wealth—you’ll have to do something special to obtain them. In fact, priceless items are often given in exchange for quests, favors, or debts measurable only in blood.
Weapons, Ammunition, and Explosives
These weapons are ones that deceive, confuse, and act contrary to their more mundane counterparts. They may not be dripping in magic, but you can cherish them like a long-lost artifact because they may make a world of difference when achieving your questionable pursuits.
Liquid Arrows (D,E,S): Liquid arrowheads are crafted from an alchemically manipulated steel that will instantly fall apart on impact. The arrowheads can be filled with several ounces of water, oil, acid, or other substance the creator desires. These arrows must be properly stored to avoid breakage and aimed carefully. Due to the added weight on the end of the arrow, the trajectory and arc at which they travel is changed significantly, so practice with water-filled arrows is typically advised. Liquid arrows filled with water are also commonly used among many thieves’ guilds: Members douse torches from long distances to provide added cover of night or they are used as simple distractions.
Vanishing Munitions (A,S): Arrows, bullets, bolts, and any other projectiles can be crafted from vanishing dust. Sometimes simply called dust shot, the substance used to create vanishing munitions is harvested from tombs and other long-abandoned places, then it is packed tightly into the shape of arrowheads or sling bullets. Vanishing munitions deal no damage but instead burst into a cloud of thick and chalky smoke in a 5-ft. x 5-ft. area that provides concealment to those within and blocks view to those behind it. Best fired at the ground and used for making surprise entrances and exits, they also cover nearby objects in an extremely fine slate gray dust. Vanishing munitions can also be used to gag and choke foes if shot directly at them.
Bedlam Arrows (D): Outfitted with what are typically regarded as celebration explosives that whirr, spin, pop, and crackle, these arrows make for a great diversion. Small packets containing bits of dried parchment and alchemical reductions are affixed to the shaft of an arrow or bolt. A small pull string on each one must be torn off to activate it, and within 20 seconds they begin to burn in bright color patterns, shooting sparks and making loud popping noises that last for 1 minute. Perfect for distracting guard dogs, drunkards, and other easily amused creatures from afar.