Thieves

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Thieves
Thief
Thief from Ultima I manual
Also known as: Brigands, Cutpurses, Rogues
First appearance: Ultima I
Last appearance: Ultima IX

Thieves are those who make their way in the world through stealing or robbing valuables from others. Whether called cutpurses, brigands, rogues, bandits or highwaymen, these criminals have long stalked the cities and roads of Sosaria, Britannia, Earth and the Serpent Isle - seeking out their fellow man that they might prey upon him. Various iterations of these scoundrels appear throughout the Ultima series, both as enemies and as allies.

History[edit]

A snappily dressed thief from the FM-Towns port of Ultima I.

Age of Darkness[edit]

In the wilder days of Sosaria, before the foundation of the Eight Virtues, thievery was not uncommon, and bore less of the stigma it would come to carry in later ages. During the events of Ultima I and III, thieves featured as a playable class, and the possibility exists that the Stranger who later became the Avatar once numbered among these rogues.

Some number of murderous thieves did, however, scout the wilderness and the dungeons of the land at this time, content to take both the equipment and the lives of those whom they encountered. During this dark time, an adventurer traveling the ancient world had to take care when engaging these cut-throats, as they were quick to rob men of their unattended arms and armour - even in the heat of battle.

Towards the end of this age, by the time of the incursions of Exodus, thievery became a widespread enough trade to warrant the formation of a guild, and several shops catering to such illicit practices emerged throughout the land.

Age of Enlightenment[edit]

After Lord British's founding of Britannia and the renaissance of virtue, art and learning which followed, thievery naturally fell into disrepute, and as such was no longer a playable class. The Stranger, whatever sins they committed in the past, set on the road to Avatarhood, and the Guild of Thieves withdrew from most major cities, driven to such shores as those of Buccaneer's Den by the force of law.[1]

Over the years, however, the guild continued to grow in secrecy, weathering Lord Blackthorn's Oppression and the wars with the gargoyles. By the time of Ultima VI, a number of guilded thieves operated throughout Britannia in secrecy. So far was their reach that the Avatar eventually came to join their number, needing the aid of certain seedy characters that the quest to bring peace to the realm might be fulfilled.

Age of Armageddon[edit]

Over the next two centuries of relative peace, however, the guild once more appeared to fall into obscurity, although this by no means signaled the end of the profession. With most commonplace provisioner's now offering lockpicks and similar tools on the open market, the demand for guild shops faded, and a great deal of organized crime came to fall under the auspices of the Fellowship. While highwaymen still prowled the major roads of the land, the "thieves" of this era proved more often than not to be corrupt officials and practiced mountebanks, rather than common pickpockets.

After the fall of the Fellowship, however, traditional thievery became a rapidly reinvigorated trade. Within a year of the beginning of the Reconstruction, a thief even had managed to loot Castle Britannia via a secret tunnel from Buccaneer's Den, and over the next several decades the guild returned in force, taking its place as the public governing body of the piracy-filled isle by the time of Ultima IX. During this late era, bandits, thieves and pirates were near as thick as they had been in the days of Mondain, with the corrupting influence of the Guardian's columns paving the way for this spike in criminality.

Thieves on Earth[edit]

In the alternate time stream of Earth's history which was produced by the intervention of Minax, thieves were a common sight, and could be frequently found prowling the cities and wildernesses of the Stranger's homeworld. During this bizarre period, such cutpurses were known to frequently abscond with a number of useful artifacts of the age, such as blue tassles, strange coins, mapping helms, various magical repellents and keys.

Within this version of Earth, a Thieves Guild could be found within the castle Shadowguard in the Time of Legends, implying that the enchantress herself was in some way responsible for proliferating this criminal profession.

Lore[edit]

Whilst not a profession held in the highest esteem among those charged with maintaining the public order, thieving is a trade that often serves the adventurer well. Many of the explorer’s finds are guarded by clever and devious traps that require nimble fingers and a dexterous hand. Larceny and the opening of locks comes much easier for the thief than for other mortals, for they who follow this occupation are endowed with exceptional agility.
Long before the coming of Mondain, the common cutpurse was a plague to travelers in Sosaria. Lurking in alleyways, poised behind trees, and skulking in dungeon corridors, these villains are always ready to relieve innocent citizens of their valuables and their lives. 'Tis a service to your fellow Sosarian to exterminate a Thief whenever possible.
Thief2.gif
An ordinary human pickpocket, the thief would rather snitch than fight. He may take something very important from you. Always check your inventory [Z] after being confronted by a thief.
These are the worst of the human trash that pollute the countryside. Thieves can steal any weapon or armour that thou hadst, except for those with which though art equipped.
A stealth assassin common to the lands of the east, the thief has spread his skills and discipline to other parts of Britannia. He is rarely seen and never heard, for he keeps his identity a mystery. He may be your neighbor, your barber, or your innkeeper. The thief strikes only with the intention of infliction a mortal blow. Although favoring the shadows, thieves do not shy from direct combat and can do great damage with staves of various sort.
This thief of the highways fleeces the unsuspecting at sword point, and dispatches them to hide the evidence. Seek to avoid bandits where possible, yet do not fear the repercussions of combat. For, Lord British himself has written an edict against banditry. The deaths of known bandits shall go unpunished.

Notable examples[edit]

See Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Albert, David. The History of Britannia (Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1985. Page 13.