ARCANUM: OF STEAMWORKS AND MAGICK OBSCURA (Thief FAQ)
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Author Mochan (who may be reached via email at email@example.com) has created a detailed guide to living a rogue's life within the Arcanum universe. So all of you who have pick-pocketing tendencies may feel free to steal some juicy knowledge from below:
Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
"So You Want to be a Thief" FAQ v.02
last modified 7-7-2001
Best viewed on a text processor with a fixed size font, width of 79 characters.
"I want to be a thief."
(Say this out loud 10 times every morning)
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Playing the Thief Way
2. Building you Character
3. Thieving Technicalities
4. Thief Skill Trainers
5. Thieving Secrets
1. Playing the Thief Way
Playing a thief in Arcanum usually means tackling quests in a different
way from usual. There are basically 4 ways to play the game: as a brute
force fighter, a sly talker, a tech/mage warrior, or a thief. The
difference is mainly in the approach you take to solve a quest or
The most common type of problem is getting past a particular point. Many
quests require you to talk to person, who gives you a task to do, and
you'll only get past after that task is accomplished. Fighters or talkers
typically do this in the straightforward fashion by accomplishing the task
set out for them. Tech/Mage types typically use a combination of the
fight/talk method, the main difference being that instead of swinging
a weapon mindlessly they use their intellect skills to augment the fight
(such as by using guns or attack magic).
The thief, however, often takes a different approach. Usually being
weaker in terms of fighting, and not particularly good at speech, the
standard thief method of getting past a problem requires subterfuge.
This usually means bypassing the task altogether and finding another
For instance, take a door that is locked. The guard will open it only
once you accomplish some task, say killing a bunch of enemies. A
fighter will just kill the enemies, and the guard will open the door.
A talker might try to convince the guard to open it anyway, or get
the guard to give him another easier task. The thief, though, will
likely steal the key from the guard to open the door.
This is what I mean by the art of subterfuge. To get the best out of
your thieving character, you should strive to play the thieving way.
Arcanum is a "role playing" game after all, and I can assure you you will
be enjoying yourself more if you "play your role" correctly. As a thief,
your role is to use subterfuge; be elegant and precise where others would
be bungling and violent. You'll enjoy yourself more. Believe me.
2. Building your Character
Dexterity - this is your number one stat. Most of your thiefly activities
require this attribute. I suggest you start off with a dexterity of 10
or so. More is better.
Perception - You'll need this for sneaking around. Start off with at least 8.
Intelligence - thieves should be smart too, you know. I consider 5 to be
the absolute minimum for a thief's intelligence. You need at least that
much to get all the dialogue options needed for a fun thieving experience.
Prowl (Per) - for sneaking around leaving enemies unaware
Pick Locks (Dex) - for opening those locked doors and treasure chests
Pick Pockets (Dex) - for making other people's things your own
Make sure that you have lock picking skill at the start of the game. This is
because lock picking is easily the most vital skill for you to survive early
on. Since you'll be focusing on thief skills, your combat potential will be
far weaker, and as such you need to compensate by getting good items from the
shops early on. Lock picking is vital to getting these items.
Also, starting out with lockpicks gives you a free set of crude lockpicks at
the start. However, you can also either buy a lockpick from the starting
shop (not a good idea) or open the crate behind some tarpulin/wing wreckage
at the crash site directly to your right for some free lockpicks (better
Setting up your Character:
MAGIC OR TECHNOLOGY?
I'm not sure which path is the better one for a thief to take. I think the
beauty of being a thief is that you can be either magical or technological.
I'll just say this: there's a lot of magical stuff to steal in this game.
More on this later, when I've played more of the game.
Traditionally, the best thieves are halflings. They have bonuses for your
prime requisite -- dexterity -- and they are small and tiny, making
prowling and picking pockets easier. Myself, though, I didn't want to be
some half-pint so I decided to play a human. (I would have chosen elf, but
I was playing a techno-thief. In the future I'll choose elf for magic thief).
The best backgrounds for a Thief character would likely be Arsonist, Feral
Child, or maybe Pit Fighter. I think you can also be very effective as a
pretty or charismatic thief, in which case Model/Lady's Man or Charlatan
would be great choices. I was also planning to use Sold My Soul but that's
for magicians, and I wanted to be a techie.
HOW TO DISTRIBUTE POINTS
I would suggest putting points into your dexterity and perception, but not
too much. I think you should concentrate on the more important stats to make
your life easier: Pick Pockets and Lock Picking. Be sure to put maybe a point
or two into Melee -- the reason is that in combat experience is given
according to how much you hit your enemy, and if you don't have melee skill
it will be tough to hit enemies, thus giving you less experience points.
Invest in some fighting skills early so you can level up faster.
Alright, that should get you started off in the world of Arcanum. Now, I
will discuss some things about the thieving profession.
3. Thieving Technicalities
When you activate the prowling skill, all NPCs on the screen will have an
awareness level of your presence. The levels are: Safe, Risky, Dangerous,
Perilous, and Aware. You can basically get away with sneaking around a
person if it is Safe or Risky. If it becomes Dangerous, chances are the
person will shift to Aware in a few seconds, especially if your prowl skill
is low. Perilous, you should only get this close if the NPC is asleep.
If an NPC is sleeping, apparently the NPC will not wake-up unless you
try to do a pick pocket and fail. This is especially useful when sneaking
into shops at night to steal some goodies.
The higher your Prowl skill, the closer you can get to an NPC without
him becoming aware. Most NPCs also have less visibility in darkness,
so try to do your sneaking at night.
Q: How do I douse a torch or lantern?
A: Sorry, I don't know yet. I don't think it matters, though.
Also, what you wear has a big effect on your prowling percentage. Noise is
a factor in prowling, and most armors have an NP (Noise Penalty) rating
which impairs or aids your skulking around. For instance, Bronze Plate
has a NP of -50%, which really makes it unsuitable for thieves prowling
around. Leather Armor is only -10%. Some items actually help you sneak,
like the Elven Boots which give a +10% chance.
Take note that, depending on whether you are tech or magical, some items
may or may not give you their bonuses. For instance, if you are highly
technical, Elven Boots (which are magical) will not give you the sneak
Picking a lock can result in three things: you are successful, in which
case the lock will open, you fail, and the lock is as is, or you mess
up, in which case the lock is jammed and it cannot be opened. Also
attempting to pick locked objects under guard will result in the guard
getting angry at you. See Breaking In.
Q: If I jam a lock can I open it later?
A: I've tested it out, and it seems that if you jam a lock now, you can
come back later and it will revert to normal Locked status. I have
not determined whether this is true for all locks, though.
I define "breaking-in" as getting into a room that you're not supposed to
be in. This usually refers to locked houses or establishments at night,
the backroom of a merchant shop (where the goodies are usually kept), and
Now, as far as I can tell, there is no specific area designation for a
room that is off-limits. The only way NPCs check where you can or can't
go, is through the entrance to that room -- a door or window. If you
try to enter a backroom for instance, you will likely try to go through
the locked door. If you hack, fiddle, pick the lock, or otherwise try to
gain unlawful entry, anyone who sees you will get mad, and their reaction
towards you will go down (probably to Suspicious) and they will tell you
to leave it alone (or else).
If you are in Prowl mode, however, and the guard is not aware of you
(Safe or Risky or Perilous, but not AWARE!!) you can attempt to pick
the lock without them reprimanding you.
A weird thing, though: if you happen to have the key to the door, you
can open it and walk through without drawing the ire of the guards,
even if you do it right in their face, even though you're not supposed
to have access to that door! And of course, the best way to get the key
to someplace you're off-limits, is to steal it from the guard.
Like lock-picking, picking pockets can result in three things. You succeed,
in which case you are happy, you fail, in which case you try again, or you
bungle up, in which case whoever you were trying to steal from will have
noticed and will be so pissed-off that he wants to spill your guts. Exercise
Of course, the higher your pick pockets skill, the less likely you are to
fail or mess up. It also helps if you try to do the action from behind your
target, and it's easier to pick pocket someone who is bigger than you are
(inverse is true, it is harder to steal from small people). It also seems
to be easier to steal from someone if they are "unaware" of your presence
(i.e. -- you are in prowl mode and they are not AWARE!!! of you).
Note: you can also use this skill to "plant" items on a target, and not
just take things. I have not found an instance in the game where this can
be of use, though I suspect you can frame people with this ability in
Q: Can I plant lit dynamite onto a person and not have him notice?
A: I've tried this stunt and so far I haven't managed to succeed.
I'll keep trying, though!
4. Thief Skill Trainers
Here is a list of trainers for the thieving arts. As of the moment it's
still VERY incomplete, give me some time to find all the expert and master
trainers. Take note that this list is not and will never be definitive;
apprentice training is available practically anywhere. I'll only list the
easiest, most convenient apprentice trainers. Experts are harder to find,
though, typically there are only two or so areas to find expert training, and
there is only one master for all skills (to my knowledge).
Expert - Garret Almstead in Ashbury (Blacksmith)
Master - JT Morgan in Caladon (Prison)
Apprentice - most human guards anywhere
Apprentice - Magick Shop Clerk of Barach's Magerium in Tarant
*NOTE: Feel free to write in and contribute some of the harder to find
trainers. I'm still busy playing the game and enjoying, so sometimes I
forget some details. Anyway, I hope to fill out this list soon so don't
5. Thieving Secrets
Here is a bug in the game which you can exploit to be a "cheap-ass thief."
For a definition of "cheap ass," please refer to my Evil Summoner FAQ
(also available at GameFAQs!)
In the town of Tarant, go to Madam Lil's brothel (the one with four ladies
in their underwear). Ask her about a night with her girls, and she'll tell
you they cost 100 gold a pop. Ask her for less expensive options, and she'll
give you a quest to find a ruby necklace. It is with the maid at the house
she mentions. Finish the quest, and go back to Madam Lil for your reward
(ahem). Afterwards ask her for more work, and she'll tell you about Mr.
Langley, a patron with outstanding accounts. She'll ask you to collect 400
gold from him. He's the gnome doorman in front of the inn.
Now, follow these dialogue options: (I'll put in the exact wording later)
"Madam Lil sent me to speak with you."
"Yeah... I know what you mean. But she wants her 400 coin."
"[menacing] Listen mister... she wants what is due her... now!"
"I don't trust you, Langley."
"It will have to do. [You take the coin] I'll be back for the rest."
He'll offer to give you half the gold (200) and tell you to come back
five days later for the rest of it. After this series of dialogues,
you'll be 200 gold richer.
Now here's the fun part. Talk to him again and follow the same options.
He will give you 200 gold again, and tell you to wait five days again!
That liar, he's loaded! Do it again, and again, and again... and you'll
be a millionaire. The best part is, you can come back to him a month
later and he'll still say the same thing and you can still get 200 gold.
So effectively, you have unlimited gold forever! The only drawback I see
is that you can't complete this quest and get other jobs from Madam Lil.
But WHO CARES! You've got unlimited gold! That's way better than anything
Lil and her "customer service" workers can offer you!
Q: If I am a moron with less than 5 intelligence, will this work?
A: I do not know. Haven't tried it yet. It's possible that with
less intelligence the proper dialogue options won't be possible.
This is the initial version of this FAQ. Give me some weeks to flesh it out
thoroughly to be a complete thieving guide. This guide is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance to real events or people is purely coincidental. Do not
attempt to do these things in real life.
If you are constantly reading the legal information of FAQs looking for new
jokes, get a life! There's nothing to see here!
This FAQ is copyrighted by me. Whatever that means. I hold all rights to it.
But since I'm teaching you all to be thieves, I think it would be hypocritical
of me to say "don't rip me off." But I'll say it anyway. Please don't rip me
off. Thank you. You may display this FAQ on your website, refer to it in your
own work, you may even use it as a base to write your own FAQ. Go ahead. Just
give credit where it's due.
As far as I know, this is the first Arcanum FAQ to be posted. Since I still
have not played enough of the game to make a full-blown FAQ/walkthrough, I
will concentrate on my favorite kind of character -- the thief.
I've only been playing Arcanum for a couple of hours at the moment, and I
haven't gotten very far. But I've tried to explore as much about thieving
as I possibly can. Expect more updates to this document in the near future.
I'm aiming to complete all major portions of this FAQ before Arcanum is
even released in the US! ^_^
After I get more downtime with Arcanum, I might make a true FAQ/Walkthrough.
But I doubt that I will be able to do that before the game is released in
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