Of Monsters and Men
Burglary is the ability to overcome and assess alarms, locks
and traps. Characters with high Burglary include burglars and
thieves, but in a fantasy world full of traps and treasure chests,
nearly any adventurer can justify an investment in Burglary.
You can also use Burglary as a specialized perception
skill to assess the weaknesses and strengths of a potential
target. Using assessment and declaration (see page 61), the
player can determine the existence of unobvious or hidden
aspects, or invent entertaining new aspects to place on the
target. The Story Teller can indicate that some flaw exists
and has been discovered, or the player can “discover” a flaw
in the security he intends to defeat.
As this almost always results in a broadly available
scene aspect with significant impact on the coming scene,
the standard Mediocre (+0) difficulty usually isn’t enough.
A Good (+3) or better effort is enough to reveal findable
flaws, unless they’ve been well concealed. The player rolls
Burglary against this difficulty (determined by the Story
Teller), and on a success declares an aspect that can be
tagged as normal. Casing follows the same guidelines as
the Declaring Minor Details trapping for Academics (page
63), limited to facts relating to the security of the location
being cased, including potential escape routes.
A location actively patrolled or monitored by
a significant extra is much more difficult to burgle, and
any casing effort becomes an opposed contest of the PC’s
Burglary against the extra’s Burglary or Investigation.
Moreover, the extra may already be aware of and trying to
conceal the aspect in question: such contests may function
like trying to “read” another person using Empathy, except
that the target is a structure or location rather than a person.
See the Empathy, Rapport and Deceit skill descriptions for
such cat-and-mouse aspect revelations.
After casing, a character is more prepared to infiltrate a
location. As well as tagging known aspects on the target or
scene, the character can use Burglary to complement any
skills he uses on targets he’s studied and prepared for. For
example, Burglary can complement Stealth and Sleight of
Hand, and even social skills like Contacting or Deceit.
Burglary is probably most used for lockpicking. Common
locks are only Mediocre (1) difficulty,
but more specialized locks present greater challenges. As a
rough guideline see the adjacent table.
Most locks require tools to open, from ordinary
lockpicks for regular locks to more exotic equipment for
safes and vaults. The default time required is a few minutes
(see the Time Increments Table, page 178), but the Story
Teller is free to increase this for more difficult locks.
Rushing the job incurs a -1 penalty for each increment
faster than the default; conversely, you can also take longer,
gaining a +1 bonus for each increment slower than the
default, to a maximum of +4. Using improvised tools, such
as a length of wire instead of an actual lockpick, increases
the difficulty by a minimum of +2. Without tools, the
character can’t even try.
Non-magical security systems in fantasy settings involve
tripwires, traps, alarm bells, deadfalls, spike-filled pits
concealed by thin layers of plaster, and so on. The quality
of a security system – also its difficulty to assess or overcome
– depends on who was responsible for setting it up (see
the Artificer skill description, page 70). Its cost equals its
quality; for a character building a security system the cost
is reduced by one (the quality stays the same).
Security systems are usually defeated (or not)
in a single roll. Failure complicates matters, increasing
difficulties or revealing multiple steps that must be taken
– or even triggering the security measures the burglar was
trying to circumvent.
In a big and important scene with a complex
security set-up so a Burglary-focussed character can strut
his stuff, the Story Teller can start things right at the
“multiple steps” point. Such systems may be indicated by
scene aspects, and players circumventing them may be
Mediocre (1) A securely-locked home in the city
Fair (3) The door of a jail cell
Great (5) The safe of a high-ranking noble, a cell door in a magical prison
Fantastic (+6) The king’s treasure vaults, the back door of the Thieves’ Guild trying to alter or otherwise remove those aspects. Or, the system may have a stress track of its own (see the Artificer skill on page 70), with Burglary actions “attacking” the
You can also treat a particularly complicated,
dangerous and/or important security system like a
full-blown character, with skills, aspects, and even
consequences and stress tracks (see the Traps rules on page
143). An especially disastrous failure with Burglary (say, by
3 points or more) can even trigger the system, with deadly
For example: Yliria Nimble-Fingers is attempting the Trials,
a deadly gauntlet of traps and hazards that all seeking
membership in the Thieves’ Guild must survive. First up is
a corridor of swinging pendulum blades. It’s an Average (1) Melee Weapons, 3 stress boxes, and a
“Death to the Unwary” aspect. To disable it, Yliria rolls her
Burglary against the trap’s Average (3) Burglary and gets a 1) quality and gets a +2. The trap takes
1 stress, and Yliria can continue. Unfortunately, her second
attempt is a mere -2, while the trap’s total is +0. Yliria hears a
faint click somewhere inside the wall, and before she knows it
a deadly crescent of steel is upon