every book’s a sourcebook: Thieves’ World

Thieves World ed. by Robert Asprin

Thieves' World ed. by Robert Asprin

Reading Thieves’ World for the first time makes me want to run a picaresque city campaign (which I always want to do anyway). Andrew Offutt’s story “Shadowspawn” hits both the heist and the double-dealing aspects you’d want to highlight in such a campaign. It also gets the economy right.

The ultimate prize of the heist is enough coins to fill two saddlebags – silver coins, not gold, which would be too noticeable. The amount of money isn’t given, but the bags are heavy enough to slightly slow the main character, who is specifically described as having bulging calf muscles and biceps. It’s also mentioned that it’s more money than an elite king’s guard will ever earn. I’m guessing it’s at most 100 pounds of silver coins – in 3e+ D&D terms, that’s worth 500 GP. This is enough money to murder or risk your own life for, even if you’re one of the highest-level characters in the city. (Of course, for picaresque characters, copper is enough to murder for.)

A picaresque campaign has to be on the silver standard, at the highest. Anyone throwing gold around is either a mark, or a con man pretending to be a mark. And that might not be real gold anyway. Remember that in literature, whenever anyone gets a gold coin, they bite it. There must be a reason for that. At least a quarter of gold is probably counterfeit.


6 Responses to “every book’s a sourcebook: Thieves’ World”

  1. katre says:

    Oh, man, Thieves’ World. There was a GURPS-based rpg published at one point, I think, but I never played it.

    I have the whole 12-book series if you’re interested, but I advise everyone to stop at about 5 or 6.

    In pulp fantasy news, I’ve just acquired a stack of 8 Conan books, and man is this good stuff for running a D&D campaign. Really gets into the roots of the entire barbarian thing.

  2. paul says:

    I’d definitely play in a Conan-inspired campaign, either the d20 Conan game or any other version. Robert E Howard conan books or other authors?

  3. katre says:

    Most of the stories are Howard but there seem to be a few de Camps and others.

  4. anarkeith says:

    I still have my copy of the Chaosium Thieves’ World adventure pack box (“designed for use with 9 role-playing systems”), from 1981. It’s a great resource. The books started strong, IMO, with later installments lacking a bit. But all in all, this is a great setting, and the books have many wonderful bits that could be pilfered for hours of fun in your own fantasy RPG. Well worth the time to poke through for inspiration!

  5. Sean Holland says:

    The Chaosium boxed set was quite fun and we used it as out stomping ground for many a game back in the day. (You can see what it included here: http://www.thievesworld.info/roleplay/rpg-original.htm ) Green Ronin did a D20 version a few years ago too.

  6. paul paul says:

    Although I mostly play recent RPGs, I prefer to read older RPGs. I might have to look for the Chaosium set online.

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