Before we get too far into the Thief let’s talk about Skills, since he’s the only Red Box class that has what is a “modern” conception of skills. Whereas the other classes’ attempts to do things are governed by a variety of rules: the surprise rules covers hiding and sneaking, door opening is covered by the open doors rules, finding pit traps can be covered by the “trap goes off on a 1-2” rule, and of course there’s Moldvay’s offhand remark about rolling under a stat.
For our d20 conversion, I’m going to use stat checks in lieu of skills, modified by various situational bonuses (ie Elves get a bonus when searching for secret doors, but not when searching for treasure in a pile of garbage). Thieves are going to work the same way, which means that stats are going to be even more important for Thieves than for any other class. And it also means, given the difficulty of rolling decent stats using Red Box’s 3d6 in order method, that Thieves get completely screwed by this system.
Both seem faithful to the original text.
So here are the Thief’s saves, with the Fighter in parentheses:
Death Ray or Poison (Fort) 13 (12)
Magic Wands (Will) 14 (13)
Paralysis or Turn to Stone (Fort) 13 (14)
Dragon Breath (Ref) 16 (15)
Rods, Staves or Spells (Will) 15 (16)
Virtually identical. Fort 13, Ref 16, Will 14.5.
BAB HD Fort Ref Will +1 1d8 +2 +0 +0 +1 2d8 +2 +0 +0 +1 3d8 +2 +0 +0
It’s weird to think of the Thief as bad at Ref saves. I’m actually starting to wonder if Dragon Breath maps well to a Reflex save, considering that the Fighter is better at it than a Thief. It makes you wonder: how did the designers imagine the Fighter surviving a blast of fire from a Dragon? Hunkering down behind a shield and gritting his teeth, or diving out of the way? Likely neither–it was a simple calculation of: Fighters are tougher than thieves.
Next let’s have a look at the Thief skills:
Level Open Locks F/R Traps PP MS Climb HS Hear Noise 1 15% 10% 20% 20% 87% 10% 32% 2 20 15 25 25 88 15 32 3 25 20 30 30 89 20 50
Man, this is a weird class. Thieves are actually not the stealthy, skilled burglars they’re cracked up to be. If anything, they are amazingly nimble climbers and desperate pickpockets who likely live short, brutish lives. I wouldn’t hire these guys for anything except climbing impassable walls and other underground barriers in order to place ropes for the rest of the party.
I’ll give Thieves the following bonuses:
Level Open Locks F/R Traps PP MS Climb HS Hear Noise 1 +3 +2 +4 +4 +16 +4 +1 2 +4 +3 +5 +5 +17 +5 +3 3 +5 +4 +6 +6 +18 +6 +5
It’s a little weird, I’ll admit it. I’ve made him a worse climber at 1st level, in order that he can get a small bump at 2nd & 3rd. I’m comfortable giving him the same percentages in d20 for Open Lock, because even the simplest lock is a DC 20 in the d20 system. Ditto for Finding and Disabling Traps, which although they are separate skills in d20, don’t need to be here. Same with Pickpocket (Sleight of Hand in d20).
The Listen skill specifically says a 1st level Rogue using MS to sneak past you is DC 15. The +4 seems reasonable enough. Climbing a typical dungeon wall is DC20, so our +16 is actually a bit low to map to the Basic numbers, but the d20 system isn’t granular enough to do 1% bumps, so I’m going to keep it, if only so we can end up with a number near 89% at 3rd level.
Hide is tricky, so I’m going to use the same reasoning that I used for Move Silently and move on (silently). Hear Noise jumps from 32% to 50% at 3rd level, so I’m going to do what I did with Climb and back into the higher number, giving Thieves a nice +2 bump per level.
So not terribly faithful, but approximate.
This exercise in converting the Red Box classes to some sort of d20 approximation has been interesting. I never realized how underpowered they are compared to their d20 counterparts, never mind the stat bonuses.
I also never realized how concepts like niche protection and class balance were really just hand-waved until 3e D&D. Regardless of how you feel about 3e and later versions, you can’t make the argument that they didn’t at least consider how the classes stacked up with each other. Seeing these classes translated into the d20 “lingua franca”, I really understand why only a masochist would play a Thief. I also see that the Fighter, long held to be the workhorse of the Red Box, is actually really a tough row to hoe.
The other thing this has shown to me is that a d20 conversion would be a lot more faithful if, rather than trying to port Red Box classes over, I’d worked on some brand new, 3 level d20 classes.
I’m not going to continue with the experiment any further, but hopefully someone (other than me) found it interesting.