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Advice on playing a Thief

Hey everyone, hope you are well.

I'm thinking of starting through a new game as a Thief fairly soon and would like some additional advice. Although I am quite a seasoned player I have never used a thief before and any thieves in my party are usually, sadly delegated to just finding traps and occasionally backstapping the odd lone enemy.

So I suppose my question is, how do you get the most out of a thief?

- Race?
- Subclass?
- Stats?

I am currently running through as a paladin with a troupe of six so I thought it might be a nice change of pace to be either evil, have fewer companions or a mixture of the two. Any ideas would be great?

Thanks in advance!

Aerakar

Comments

  • DaevelonDaevelon Member Posts: 541
    It depends... a single-classed Thief, in my opinion, is a waste. If you don't want to wait too much i advise to biclass from fighter at level 7, then thief.
    So, this option involves:
    Race -> Human
    Class -> Fighter (pure or kit, it depends on you, i like kensai/thieves)
    Stats -> 18/91+,18,18,x,x,x

    So, without mods or level cap removers, you'll get in BG a level 7 fighter, level 8 thief; this character is quite strong and versatile.

    If you want to wait you could biclass at level 9 or even 13 (for maximizing fighter class bonuses), but like this you will play all bg like a fighter and wait till bg2 before dual.

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,063
    For a pure thief of thief kit I suggest proficiency in short bows and ample use of elemental arrows, otherwise you might feel a bit useless in combat causing 1d6 damage per hit. Luckily there are tons of fire arrows in BG1.

    Quartz
  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 246
    A dwarf fighter/thief is great, excellent saves and very flexible. Nice to have extra melee attacks from fighter. It is also a fun option for a half orc

    Aerakartbone1Quartz
  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 589
    Deciding to multiclass is the main and very nearly only thing that matters when rolling a thief. Thief/mage has great synergies because you can use the invisibility spell as a substitute for 200 points in stealth skills and mirror image/stoneskin to stay alive once a backstab is completed. Fighter/thief has great synergies too because you'll attack much faster and can start out with 18/9X strength. And fighter/mage/thief has all these synergies and more, making it a solid option for CHARNAME as long as you have someone else in the party to cast higher-level mage spells.

    Quartz
  • smyth25smyth25 Member Posts: 164
    The shadowdancer can be a fun single thief class, since being able to hide in plain sight makes using their backstab far more desirable due to reduced micromanagement. Probably one of my more cheesy (but fun!) moments was soloing the entire SCS bandit camp with just a shadowdancer by using the infinite stealth trick. I suppose the potential disadvantage is not having traps assuming you also want to set traps.

    However something you can do is dual into a mage and that can make for a very powerful and flexible class. Being able to turn invisible at will without using up your action is nothing to sniff at, especially for a mage who could be prone to getting caught out.

    tbone1
  • Permidion_StarkPermidion_Stark Member Posts: 4,206
    My favourite way to do a thief is to do one level as a fighter first and then dual. This enables you to get exceptional strength (I keep rolling until I get at least STR 18/90) and you can also wear a helmet and so avoid critical hits. As a fighter I specialise in quarterstaves and two-handed weapon style and when I dual to thief I put pips in daggers and single weapon style. I then put all my points in hiding in the shadows and moving silently and go round backstabbing everything to oblivion. And when I can't backstab I use throwing daggers for ranged attacks.

    DaevelonAerakar
  • DaevelonDaevelon Member Posts: 541
    My favourite way to do a thief is to do one level as a fighter first and then dual. This enables you to get exceptional strength (I keep rolling until I get at least STR 18/90) and you can also wear a helmet and so avoid critical hits. As a fighter I specialise in quarterstaves and two-handed weapon style and when I dual to thief I put pips in daggers and single weapon style. I then put all my points in hiding in the shadows and moving silently and go round backstabbing everything to oblivion. And when I can't backstab I use throwing daggers for ranged attacks.
    i really like your way, actually has great advances without penalties... One thing, for the last tier of exceptional strenght (not considering 18/00) 91+ is needed, otherwise 18/90 is the same as 18/76

    Permidion_Stark
  • Permidion_StarkPermidion_Stark Member Posts: 4,206
    edited August 30
    Daevelon wrote: »
    i really like your way, actually has great advances without penalties... One thing, for the last tier of exceptional strenght (not considering 18/00) 91+ is needed, otherwise 18/90 is the same as 18/76

    I find with dual-classing it is best to do it as early as possible otherwise when you start your new class it feels like you are playing a completely different character. Loads of times in the past I have started characters intending to dual them at the optimum point (9th level or 13th level or whatever) and when the time has come I haven't wanted to change anymore - or worse I have dualed and instantly regretted it and given up on the character completely.

    DaevelonDJKajuruAerakarQuartz
  • ChroniclerChronicler Member Posts: 976
    A mage that immediately duals to fighter is surprisingly powerful. Gives up 2 levels worth of hitpoints, but gains a familiar that makes some of that back. In return they get the ability to use wands and cast from scrolls.

    Quartz
  • ZaxaresZaxares Member Posts: 472
    I would say that, aside from Mages and other spellcasters, Thieves are the class that most shine under micromanagement. Whether it's skulking through a dungeon ahead of the party, or stealthing up and maneuvering into place for a backstab, getting the most out of a Thief requires a fair bit of attention and positioning. Depending on your play style, you might like to play your Thief as somebody who roams far ahead of the party, sets traps using Snares and trap spells like Skull Trap (via scrolls) and then lures enemies back into their prepared kill zones (the Bounty Hunter kit works best for this), the classic backstabber who just stealths up in fights and then goes around sticking blades in kidneys (Assassin will deal the top backstab damage, but a Shadowdancer will let you backstab early and often thanks to their Hide in Plain Sight ability), or you could just use your Thief as a trap monkey who otherwise stays back and contributes with a ranged weapon (Halfling slingers, especially once beefed up with Gauntlets of Ogre Power or a Girdle of Giant Strength, hit pretty dang hard). If you don't like doing too much micromanagement, you can also just roll a Swashbuckler and wind up with a pretty good melee combatant who can still pull off all the usual Thief-ly duties.

    Aerakar
  • Batdragon123Batdragon123 Member Posts: 13
    Thanks for the great feedback so far folks!

    So after reading through this its apparent I should have clarified something initially. I am not too interested in power gaming and I'm more of a roleplayer. Getting into the mind of my character is paramount!

    I've had a couple of ideas

    - Human Assassin, sounds kind of fun but I always get the impression assassins to have to act all..... dark all time? If that makes?
    - Half-Elf Swashbuckler, I've always loved the idea of a character who had a way with words and a sort of duelist but perhaps his singing voice was not quite up to scratch to be a bard, hence the swashbuckler. This, however, is a more a class issue for me..... I can't help but feel a swashbuckler is just like playing a sort of weakened fighter due to no backstab? Therefore I may not get the best experience out of being a thief...
    - Half-Orc Bounty Hunter, something I have also always found intriguing.

    AerakarQuartz
  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,063
    Thanks for the great feedback so far folks!

    So after reading through this its apparent I should have clarified something initially. I am not too interested in power gaming and I'm more of a roleplayer. Getting into the mind of my character is paramount!

    I've had a couple of ideas

    - Human Assassin, sounds kind of fun but I always get the impression assassins to have to act all..... dark all time? If that makes?
    - Half-Elf Swashbuckler, I've always loved the idea of a character who had a way with words and a sort of duelist but perhaps his singing voice was not quite up to scratch to be a bard, hence the swashbuckler. This, however, is a more a class issue for me..... I can't help but feel a swashbuckler is just like playing a sort of weakened fighter due to no backstab? Therefore I may not get the best experience out of being a thief...
    - Half-Orc Bounty Hunter, something I have also always found intriguing.

    Assassins don't necessarily need to be dark all the time. A femme fatale or a james bond kind of guy are a fun type of assassin, for instance.

    Swashbucklers are a great class to RP and are mechanically consistent throughout the whole series , go for it if you feel like it!

  • ElysianEchoesElysianEchoes Member Posts: 475
    edited August 31
    So, a 20 thief with x5 backstab using a longsword can do 5-40 + str damage once per round under certain conditions, assuming it hits.

    A 20 swashbuckler does 7-14 + str per attack per round. Dual wield with haste, that's 21-42 + str * 3 damage per round. He would have +5 to hit from swash bonus to hit and specialization, and can still get a +4 from attacking from stealth, too, for the first attack.

    I don't consider the swashie gimped because of no backstab.

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 262
    (Personal disclaimer: I like playing backstabbers. I've completed one run all the way through to the end of ToB, and that was a Fighter/Assassin dual.)

    Oh, that is barely scratching the surface of what backstab can do. It doesn't just multiply the weapon's base damage - it also multiplies anything you gain from enchantment, proficiency bonuses, class abilities, or basically anything that increases physical damage except strength. If you start optimizing for backstab... let's make that a fighter-thief dual, wielding a +3 longsword with grandmastery, with weapon expertise gauntlets. Now that sword is dealing 1d8 + 10 + strength, for (5x) backstabs of 55-90 + strength. That can be increased further with fighter kits, particularly Kensai. An optimized backstabber will often be able to kill enemies in one hit, and not just the low-level minions. I've gotten one-hit kills on Fire Giants before.

    Also, "once per round" isn't the limit you're making it out to be. With a well-made backstabber, you hit the enemy and run away, then repeat. You don't have your party enter general combat, and you don't give the enemy a real chance to hit you back. It's a very different style, and comparing with simple damage rates just doesn't work. On that note, the single most important piece of equipment for a backstabber? Boots of speed. Being able to retreat and come back later outshines every other improvement to your offense or defense.

    When you can't avoid the fight anymore and the party enters general combat, that's the time for the swashbuckler to shine. The damage bonus is enough to keep them relevant even without warrior bonus attacks, and the AC bonus is something truly unique.

    Now, I will say that removing backstabs from the swashbuckler is absolutely necessary for any semblance of balance. If the kit could backstab at all, it would be far too good at it.

    AerakarDaevelonQuartz
  • ChroniclerChronicler Member Posts: 976
    jmerry wrote: »
    (Personal disclaimer: I like playing backstabbers. I've completed one run all the way through to the end of ToB, and that was a Fighter/Assassin dual.)

    Oh, that is barely scratching the surface of what backstab can do. It doesn't just multiply the weapon's base damage - it also multiplies anything you gain from enchantment, proficiency bonuses, class abilities, or basically anything that increases physical damage except strength. If you start optimizing for backstab... let's make that a fighter-thief dual, wielding a +3 longsword with grandmastery, with weapon expertise gauntlets. Now that sword is dealing 1d8 + 10 + strength, for (5x) backstabs of 55-90 + strength. That can be increased further with fighter kits, particularly Kensai. An optimized backstabber will often be able to kill enemies in one hit, and not just the low-level minions. I've gotten one-hit kills on Fire Giants before.

    Also, "once per round" isn't the limit you're making it out to be. With a well-made backstabber, you hit the enemy and run away, then repeat. You don't have your party enter general combat, and you don't give the enemy a real chance to hit you back. It's a very different style, and comparing with simple damage rates just doesn't work. On that note, the single most important piece of equipment for a backstabber? Boots of speed. Being able to retreat and come back later outshines every other improvement to your offense or defense.

    When you can't avoid the fight anymore and the party enters general combat, that's the time for the swashbuckler to shine. The damage bonus is enough to keep them relevant even without warrior bonus attacks, and the AC bonus is something truly unique.

    Now, I will say that removing backstabs from the swashbuckler is absolutely necessary for any semblance of balance. If the kit could backstab at all, it would be far too good at it.

    Swashbuckler also benefits from all those damage boosts, up to ten times per round once they get HLA's.

  • NeverusedNeverused Member Posts: 671
    Swashbucklers haven’t suffered as much from lack of offense as lack of defense. Having only d6+2 HP per level and no critical immunity make them incredibly vulnerable to dying really, really fast in prolonged melee fights, especially when stronger bruisers like trolls, golems, and dragons come into play. Ilbratha helps, but that’s only 1/day and not exactly foolproof.

    In general, if you don’t want to micromanage too much, have your thief start off a fight by backstabbing and hopefully killing a mage, and then get out of dodge while the rest of your party closing in. Or make a series of traps and kill your opponents that way. Or if you don’t care about a bit if cheese, get your mage to cast Blindness on your thief, and set traps in the middle of your opponents during the fight for massive area of effect damage.

    Quartz
  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 589
    edited September 1
    Many players start out thinking it would be great to play a singleclass thief because they want to scout and they'd like to handle locks. However both of those roles can be filled just as well if not better by a mage through invisibility (or simply summoning a monster and manually moving it into the area to be scouted) and knock. Others start out thinking how great it would be to have a dexterous character darting around the battlefield striking foes without taking damage. However thieves aren't nearly dexterous enough to avoid a quick death in melee unless buffed by protective spells like mirror image and stoneskin, nor do they have enough DPS to make a meaningful melee contribution without a much higher APR.

    The one area where singleclass thieves do bring something genuinely unique to the table is their backstab. Even there though, I'd argue you'd generally be better off as a mage/thief because that way you could backstab at will through the invisibility spell and better off still as a fighter/mage/thief for the extra weapon pips and APR. Though @Neverused is certainly right that you can go part of the way in this direction by having your party's mage buff the singleclass thief as needed.

    Post edited by jsaving on
  • DanacmDanacm Member Posts: 666
    Single class thief is a waste. Not boring, not bad, just a fighter/thief or mage/thief loose nothing as thief just gain.
    My favourite thief ability in the long run is detect illusion, which is superb against mages, combined with backstab can deal easily with mages.

    Permidion_StarkDaevelon
  • tbone1tbone1 Member Posts: 1,983
    I have to put in an endorsement for cleric/thief. You need to be a gnome or half-orc, but it checks two boxes and your spells, creatively used, will allow you some impressive backstab damage.

  • ChroniclerChronicler Member Posts: 976
    Cleric/thief is kind of the ultimate support unit. Take care of those nasty traps and locks, buff and heal your party, and in a pinch, yes, you can backstab like a motherlover.

    Having both the cleric and the thief in one character allows you to fit more warriors and wizards in the group.

    ElysianEchoesilduderinoDJKajuruGusinda
  • ElysianEchoesElysianEchoes Member Posts: 475
    Chronicler wrote: »
    Cleric/thief is kind of the ultimate support unit. Take care of those nasty traps and locks, buff and heal your party, and in a pinch, yes, you can backstab like a motherlover.

    Having both the cleric and the thief in one character allows you to fit more warriors and wizards in the group.

    Not to mention the usefulness of Sanctuary spell when doing thief stuff. Disarm traps, open locks, steal stuff all right in front of enemies/victims.

  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 246
    I increasingly like the idea of a cleric/thief for the flexibility, due to the lack of a good aligned cleric until halfway through BG, because BG2 has no non dualled good aligned thieves and I find both good aligned clerics in BG2 irritating. A thief/mage means you can actually use whoever you like as a character.

    In BG I like using Aura the mod NPC in this role and then I can dual Imoen when I like.

    The downside is that you will not dish out the serious pain of certain classes with min/maxes stats (kensai/thief, kensai/mage, fighter/mage multi etc).

    If there were some way to increase the apr of a cleric/thief they would be much more attractive.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,850
    Thief is a very enjoyable solo, but evil has access to great NPCs, so a small party is nice.

    Elf is very good btw, getting a bonus with certain swords and bows, 2 conveniently very strong picks. Elf also starts with 19 dex, so they are exceedingly good archers.

    I found solo swashbuckler was pretty strong, especially once you get 19 str. I would concentrate mostly on using a shortbow early, when you have only 2 pips and few abilities, so start with longsword and shortbow. Feel free to wear the stealth boots and armour, even not being able to backstab you can use stealth for short scouting missions, and benefit from a free first attack. Traps are a good choice for a swashie, who should be able to get 95 in disarm/open, which is good enough, and still be good at setting traps. Traps with careful use of the Necklace of Missiles and possibly Arrows of Detonation can massacre most threats, and Acid Arrows work pretty dang good too. I took spec in longswords before DWing, as thief THAC0 is poor, especially early.

    A BH has even better traps, and with a final 20 dex, you should again be pretty self-sufficient. You are a bit worse as an archer, but not wildly worse. Consider stockpiling invisibilty sources to backstab Sarevok to death. Remember that staffs are a very good backstab choice, and since you lack combat bonuses, you might really want a +3 backstabbing weapon that gets an extra +1 damage. Staff of Striking is a good tool too, but harder to get to. Note, if you do this, wait a full round to try and backstab, as you need to be able to go invisible very, very quickly. Boots and Oil of Speed very strongly encouraged, and use a strong area attack vs the final party to open, with traps set to kill Semaj. I think you can still throw BH traps, so these are like very OP fireballs, but I think they mostly deal missile damage, so Battle Horrors will laugh these off.

    Assassin should decide if you how you intend to play. If solo, will you do Durlags? If not, the only important difficult locked containers are Candlekeep, and you can easily use potions to open them, but clear the whole map before drinking potions, because those spiders might force a rest. Iirc, you can very happily get by with surprisingly low disarm/open if you skip the expansion, and a pure solo assassin will get nearly nothing worth bothering with. Assassin should definitely be elf, and again, consider LS and SB, but take SWS perhaps for 3rd pip, for better backstabbing. If your assassin has a party, hooray! You can concentrate on stealth, and ignore OL/DT completely, and deliver very nasty backstabs. A solo assassin's poison is pretty useful, so use it for hard fights. Consider poisoning from ranged, retreating after it runs out, then hiding and BSing the weakened enemy. Big trick that used to work was Poison and Arrows of Detonation, which incidently deals the missile damage to each target blasted, and thus poisons them. Ver evil!

    A Halfer Assassin using darts can be nice, but iirc, you can't stack poison, so you could poison 3 targets in a round. I prefer elf though, starting at 18 str is wildly better than 17 with the manual.

    Aerakar
  • DhariusDharius Member Posts: 331
    A thief with a high strength should consider using slings, because of the potential bonuses, over the other missile weapon types.

    DJKajuruAerakar
  • Very_BigSwordVery_BigSword Member Posts: 128
    Dharius wrote: »
    A thief with a high strength should consider using slings, because of the potential bonuses, over the other missile weapon types.

    Don't forget that throwing daggers have Str bonus as well as +1 APR. One proficiency slot in Dagger gives you a missile attack and a melee attack on demand. Very strong for warriors with their extra APR. The trade off is that you can't carry them in quiver slots and stack size is only 40 so it will clutter your inventory a bit.

    AerakarDaevelonQuartzBalrog99
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