Picking Pockets: Is it an Automatic success?

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
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Mcgarnagle
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Picking Pockets: Is it an Automatic success?

Post by Mcgarnagle » Sun Oct 06, 2019 2:17 pm

If you read the rules of picking pockets as written, it sounds like it is an automatic success. Pg 161 of the Players guide reads:
The adept makes a Picking Pockets test, the result being the Difficulty Number for attempts made to notice the theft.

Anyone able to observe the adept’s action, including the target character, may make a Perception test to notice the action immediately after the act has occurred.
Was this the intention behind the talent? It seems really over powered in my opinion. Even if the pick pockets roll is low, the theft still occurs (ie. the thief is in possession of the item they are trying to steal) and the only recourse for the victim and any other witnesses is to roll Perception just to notice that the theft has occurred. A successful Perception test does not prevent or hinder the theft from happening, it just alerts them to the fact that it just occurred a moment before.

How do other people handle this? Do you use the rule as written? Do you assign a target number for the Picking Pockets attempt and failure means they don't gain possession of the item?

I suppose an alternative (and maybe more in spirit with the rule) is the thief's roll is the difficulty number to notice the attempt. If an observer rolls equal to or higher than the Picking Pockets test, they can take one action before the thief completes the lift of the item.

Thoughts?

Bonhumm
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Re: Picking Pockets: Is it an Automatic success?

Post by Bonhumm » Sun Oct 06, 2019 2:37 pm

In real life, pickpocket is also pretty much an automatic success.

If I know for sure in which pocket is the item I want to steal from ('outside' pockets that is) and I suddenly put my hand in it, I will take the item (or at least take AN item) out of the pocket.

Even if I'm standing in front of you, with you fully aware of my presence, you will not (normally) expect me to just plunge my hand in your pocket and will not be ready to 'intercept' me. You WILL, however notice me and then react accordingly.

So, personally, I'd see pickpocket as indeed being an automated success as long as:

- No rule of one.
- The thief knows the proper location (i.e. in which pocket) is located the item.
- The item is the only (or biggest) item present in said pocket (otherwise he still stole something, not just the 'correct' one).
- The target has no reason to suspect he in an immediate threat of being pickpocketed.

But I would rule that the 'clock' starts exactly at the moment the hand gets into the pocket; if the target (or witnesses) are successful on their Perception test, the 'initiative roll' would be set at the exact moment the hand enters the pocket, not when it goes out.

That's just my opinion of course.

Altanius
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Re: Picking Pockets: Is it an Automatic success?

Post by Altanius » Sun Oct 06, 2019 4:19 pm

Bonhumm wrote:
Sun Oct 06, 2019 2:37 pm
In real life, pickpocket is also pretty much an automatic success.
(snip)
But I would rule that the 'clock' starts exactly at the moment the hand gets into the pocket; if the target (or witnesses) are successful on their Perception test, the 'initiative roll' would be set at the exact moment the hand enters the pocket, not when it goes out.

That's just my opinion of course.
I'd disagree. Pickpocketing in real life is far from a guaranteed success, particularly against a target who sees you coming. It's a skill like any other and failure is always possible. It's true they might not be expecting you to try to pick pocket them, but they can still react. If you walk up and suddenly tried to punch someone, they'd try to dodge. The same is true here, except you have a much smaller target, and you have to get both in and back out.

Personally ingame, if there were a case where I felt failure needed to be a concern, I'd compare the thief's pickpocket to the target's PD (with the blindsided modifier thrown in there if they don't notice the thief.) I'd also say that if the target sees you coming, they're well within their rights to use active defenses like avoid blow.

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