Conan himself was a thief: it's how he started out and he used the skills thus learned pretty much throughout his life. It's not surprising, then, that there's plenty of opportunities for light-fingered characters in this game. This book provides plenty of information and options for the ethically-challenged... and for the Game Masters who will shepherd them through their adventures.
Firstly, Chapter 1: Thief Characters expands on the information in the core rules, with additional material to help you create, improve and equip thief characters. The character creation process is run through with notes at each stage as to either the most appropriate choices you can make from the core rules or giving new options - so there is a new Caste - the Outlaw - with associated detail, new Archetypes and much more. Perhaps you'd like to be an assassin or a relic-hunter or a spy... the skills of a thief can be turned to all of these and more. And those skills are many and varied, as the Education section proves when it looks at the training that can be acquired by apprenticing to various types of thief (or just hanging around, seeing as a formal apprenticeship doesn't quite go with the territory). When it comes to War Stories, thieves may substitute tall tales of memorable heists instead. There are new talents, equipment and the tricks of using them and more to bring a thief character to life.
Next, Chapter 2: Gazetteer explores the highways, byways, and underbellies of the kingdoms of Zamora, Nemedia, Corinthia, and Brythunia: places where thievery thrives, indeed becomes almost an artform. History and background, maps, descriptions... all manner of information to provide a backdrop to your exploits. There are notable places to explore, gate guards to negotiate (or sneak) your way past, rumours to hear, and much more. Everything is detailed with an eye to its usefulness or interest to a thief, and it all makes interesting reading, and will probably spawn an adventure idea or two in the mind of a suitably-devious GM.
Whilst a well-informed thief might know at least his own hometown in the sort of detail described in the previous chapter, the rest of the book wanders into GM territory, with chapters on Events, Myth and Magic, and Encounters; which are all designed to provide 'building blocks' and background to help you create meaningful episodes in your party's lives. Events may be for individual thieves, or they may be city-wide or even kingdom-wide events in which the whole party is swept up. You can read about appropriate deities for thieves, and the legends and myths commonly told in thievish circles. The Ecounters chapter contains a vast array of people and monsters that can be met, fought, befriended or indeed robbed...
And there's more. Hither Came Conan recounts exploits from Conan's experience as a thief, and even provides a character sheet for the young Conan. Then Chapter 7: The Way of Thieves is replete with material to aid you in running a campaign based around thievery. Ideas galore including thieves' guilds and the fine art of thievery; and then there's a whole chapter on setting up and running heists... which as any film-watcher knows, make for the most entertaining of light-fingered exploits. Finally, there are three fully-developed legendary thieves, the people your PC thieves want to emulate. Weave them in as something aspirational.
This work really captures the essence of the early Conan books, when Conan was living by his wits and thieving his way across the land. It also makes for interesting and unusual role-play, plenty of excitement but relying on skill and knowledge and planning rather than brute force, yet there are opportunities for combat - especially when that heist goes wrong. Definitely worth adding to your bookshelf or hard drive.
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Reviewed: 5 June 2018