Urchin: Shiny Things

Yesterday, I introduced Urchin, my idea for a spiritual successor to Thief, The Dark Project since Thief 2014 isn’t really cutting it.

Thief (any of them) is about finding the shiny things and taking them for yourself. At one point I noted it was a less abstract variant of Pac-Man or Spyro. I also hypothesized that the developers for Thief 2014 didn’t like making a game about stealing, though in retrospect, some of my evidence pointing toward that notion (e.g. the plague) was more likely just inspiration from Dishonored.

Thief never shifted from the dynamic of stealing all the sparklies. It felt less conspicuous in the earlier titles than it did in Thief 2014. I suspect that part of Looking Glass’ intent in the original two titles was to illustrate that even though Garrett was a master Thief and robbing houses clean he was never able to rise much beyond paying rent and bills. Though this was fabricated: your crown jewels were only Ǥ500g – Ǥ1000* compared to Ǥ20 bottles of wine or Ǥ5 gold goblets. The take would average about Ǥ2500 and considering that elemental and specialty arrows are Ǥ150 to Ǥ1000 you quickly ran out of money for supplies. (And you had to buy up from scratch every level. Unused gear from prior levels didn’t transfer.)

On the other hand, it’s sometimes fun grabbing all the shinies. Shing! Shing! Shing!

In Urchin you move up in the world depending on what what you can bring home. Once you’re cracking safes, you can choose to steal the silver, but proportionately, it’s less efficient work than just getting out.

Here’s the progress of your livelihood and lifestyle:

Pocket Trappings: Pickpocketing was the player’s occupation before the game. Earnings would sometimes include purse coin, which you keep and stash at a secret location for emergencies.** Everything else — usually kerchiefs and wallets — goes to the patron (and fence)
Work Schedule: Every day.
Take: Less than 1% of ~£2, you’ve saved ~£1 over a year of work
Dress: Rags
Bedding: Safehouse corner (susceptable to occasional impropriety from the other boys)
Board: One meal a day (stew with real meat). You have to find the rest of your fare elsewhere.
Gear: Slingshot, Stolen knife (for removing embroidery)
Slingshot Fodder: Pebbles from the street.
Access to: The Patron. On his good days, when he isn’t drunk.

Swag: Basic second-story work. You gather items from around the house, typically household silver. The wealthier the house, the better the silver (Sterling rather than Sheffield plate). Also the better the guards, locks and mantraps (read that again: mantraps which are still legal in homes from sunset to sunrise. Some are deadly.)
Work Schedule: One heist roughly every ten days. Additional outings as needed to scout sites, run personal errands, scavenge gear, etc.
Take: About 5% of ~£50
Dress: Patches
Lodging: Favorites loft with straw!
Board: Two meals a day. You have to snack on the field if you want more.
Gear: Slingshot, Stolen knife. The Artisan will sell a grapple, an iron crow and lockpicks
The importer sells Jacky-Jumpers from China
Slingshot Fodder: Steel shot
Access to: The Patron, The Artisan, The Importer

Lucre: The big leagues. Lucre is large sums of liquid assets (paper money, bonds, occasionally bullion) typically stashed into strongboxes and strongrooms sealed with sophisticated locks and well guarded. Early opportunities will include safe combinations, or likely locations of keys or passcodes. Later heists will require a means to crack the safe, probably by lock manipulation.

Work Schedule: One heist roughly every ten days. Additional outings as needed to scout sites and run personal errands
Take: About 10% of ~£1000
Dress: New clothes. Warm winter digs. With school or apprentice uniform disguises (sold by the Taylor), you can actually buy things at the market without people trying to rob you, kidnap you or turn you in to Scotland Yard as an escapee.
Lodging: Your own room! Straw bed!
Board: Three squares a day. Food that isn’t stew or hard bread.
Gear: Full loadout of gear above. The Photographer will sell smoke and flash bombs.
Slingshot Fodder: Precision steel ball bearings.
Access to: The Patron, The Artisan, The Importer, The Photographer, the Taylor

Prizes: Usually the purview of sportsmen and women in cat-suits: Crown Jewels. Massive Gems. Treasured family heirlooms. Sometimes they’re on display, and sometimes they’re sealed away in vaults, but always they’re well protected.

Work Schedule: As opportunity presents itself. These items are only nabbed if discovered accidentally or if a snatch is commissioned.
Take: About 20% or more of ~£10000
Dress: Fancy attire.
Lodging: Your room now has a feather bed.
Board: Three fancy squares a day as prepared by a hired housekeeper.
Gear: Full loadout of gear from The Artisan, The Importer, The photographer and the Taylor.
Slingshot Fodder: Precision steel ball bearings (still)
Access to: The Patron, The Artisan, The Importer, The Photographer, the Taylor, The Broker, Spies

Information: A plot to murder / defraud / embarrass the Royal family will unfold via overheard conversations. At some point the player will hear enough to work out who is doing what and when. Special missions to uncover intelligence (instead of loot) will become available, and the player gets to decide who to tell. Playing his cards right, he may save the Queen, arrange for the rescue and release of his siblings and pick up a cushy job as a spy for Great Britain. Rule Britannia!

The game starts with looting all the sparklies, but it doesn’t end there. As the player you get to choose to continue to grab everything, or you can just crack safes and steel prize gems and reminisce on once having to loot, all the while enjoy that you’ve moved beyond household silver to bigger, grander hauls.

* Thief dealt in the classic fantasy currency of gold coins (in this case Ǥ, not to be confused with the ₲ which is the GuaranĂ­ from Paraguay) The proper British / Roman equivalent is the Librum or £. The £ is a gold coin, about the size of an American dime. It’s worth a pound of sterling silver (hence why a pound weight is expressed in lbs and not pds). Needless to say, the British pound, now fiat money, is no longer worth an actual pound weight of Sterling silver, but the London of Urchin is still on the gold standard, so save those pence!

** I haven’t thought too much about plot in this case, but a sibling stuck in the workhouses and a promise to rescue him / her would make savings significantly more important, especially if there’s a goal to reach (say to purchase the sibling’s freedom). Of course, once the information-and-intrigue plot is resolved, the Queen will probably order the release and recovery of the sibling for a proper Dickensian happy ending.

Incidentally, even if you have plenty of coin, the Patron still has you by the family jewels. Most market workers will presume a child in rags only has stolen money. Less savory sorts will kidnap and rob an impoverished street child and then use him as forced labor. Others will just try to hand you off to Scotland Yard, either to be imprisoned and hanged or sent to a workhouse. As a result, only friends will sell to you. Victorian London is not a good place for orphaned children.

As safe-cracking during this era was an artform that involved synchronizing the timing of fuses and unstable liquid explosives trickling into the works, it’s tempting to suggest this element should be added as a mini-game, but kabooming the lock causes other problems not conducive to a stealth. Still, skilled safe-crackers were given a full cut of the take even if they did no other work than to come in, blast the lock and leave.

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