Skill Challenge #14: Give it Back!

Skill Challenge #14: Give it Back!

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Merchants in ruffled silk bark over each other while mothers cluck after their children. Guardsmen walk two abreast in worn mail, leaning into each stall in search of improprieties. The market smells of bread, sweat, the forge, and perfumes all at once.

You push your way shoulder-first through the packed cobblestone streets, your minds and mouths a touch weary from haggling. It’s been a successful venture, and it’s time to make your way back to the inn. The crowd parts suddenly in front of you, and a man crashes into one of your party. Both tumble to the ground, but the entanglement is brief. The man leaps up, bows his apology, and continues to run. As your party member dusts himself off, he realizes that he is a bit lighter than before.

And here you thought you were only to be robbed by the merchants!

The thief leaves a wake of staggering people as he makes his retreat. Act quickly or say farewell to the item he stole.

Synopsis: The PCs must chase a cutpurse through the streets and over the roofs of the city in order to recover their possessions.  This requires street savvy as well as physical skill to keep up with the thief and spot their belongings.

Goal: Make your way to the thief through the crowded winding streets of the city before he can get away, retrieving your stolen items in the process.

Complexity: 2 (6 successes before 3 failures).

Level: 3 (This skill challenge is meant for PCs of level 1-3).

That’s Mine!

Determine exactly what the thief stole. This is an art in and of itself –you don’t want to steal something that the PC really needs, like his trusty sword, or magic wand. At the same time, you want the item to have enough value that the PCs will give chase. Non-essential magic items or simple gold-purse snatching should be enough that the PCs will give chase without being punished too harshly if they fail the skill challenge.

Spread out!

The crowded streets make it easy for the party to lose the thief. The throngs of market-going citizens also make it hard to communicate or keep track of each other. Players may not use Aid Another for this skill challenge unless they have some creative way of circumventing this chaotic aspect of the encounter. Otherwise, let their pleas be lost in the crowd. (A clever paladin, for example, could successfully use “One Heart, One Mind” to telepathically communicate with his comrades. A warlock could send an ambassador imp to carry his observations to a companion.)

Skills Used:

Acrobatics (DC 15, maximum one success, counts as two successes): You can go through the crowd — or you can go over it. A deft maneuver sends you over a cart, onto a roof, then tumbling into an alley, closing the distance greatly in one acrobatic series.

Athletics (DC 15, maximum four successes): The easiest way to keep the thief in sight is to stay close. You press and slip through the city’s citizens, through and past each one before he or she can even begin to complain. This thief is clever to move amongst the people, but you are determined and fast. If you fail an Athletics check, you can only make another one after you or a party member makes a successful Streetwise check.
Diplomacy (DC 10, only after a failed Streetwise check): “Excuse me..have you seen a man about yea tall? Yes, he probably would be running. Over there you say? Thank you sir, you’ve been a great help!” You follow where you have been directed, hoping the gap has not opened too widely between you and the thief. +2 to the next Athletics or Streetwise check.
Intimidate (DC 10, maximum one success): “Out of the way people!” You brawl, and snarl and growl your way through the streets. Unsure of what unpleasantness you will bring, the market-goers make sure to clear a path. +2 to your next Athletics check.
Streetwise (DC 15, maximum three successes): The thief picked a great place for a pickpocket. The market is so dense that it’s hard to see him. If you don’t navigate the streets cleverly, the thief will lose you in the maze.
Thievery or Insight (DC 10, maximum one success): The thief is most likely making his way through the back alleys of the city where he can duck into a tavern or hiding spot where he can blend in even further. You direct your party to give these places a high priority. +2 to the next Streetwise check.

Perception (DC 15, does not count for success or failure): This knave believes he can escape your keen vision? How unfortunate for him. Regardless of his belief system, you are able to track his movements. +2 to the next check.

Success: You corner the thief and convince him that what is in his possession would be much better off in yours.

Failure: The thief and your item are lost to you. Tie all belongings to your person next time you’re at this market.

Wrapping up

On success, you could extend the encounter. The party catches up to the thief but finds he was actually luring them into a trap. The PCs find themselves surrounded by a pack of rogues bent on robbing the entire party.

Failure in this skill challenge could lead to the party having the stolen item placed at the scene of a crime. They might also see the item in the employ of one of their enemies…

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About the Author

A Jack of All Trades ,or if you prefer, an extreme example of multi-classing, Gamefiend, a.k.a Quinn Murphy has been discussing, playing and designing games straight out of the womb. He is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of this site in addition to being an aspiring game designer. As you would assume, he is a huge fan of 4e. By day he is a technologist. Follow gamefiend on Twitter