Swindler, Con Artist, Grifter, Forger…
Fast talking, personable, clever, shifty…. These are all terms that come to mind when describing a Rogue of this ilk. In addition to the glib confidence man with his well practiced stories and rigged games, this class of Rogues also includes Forgers, Counterfeiters, Cardsharks and Pick Pockets. In short all individuals who earn a dishonest shilling without (usually) resorting to violence or burglary.
Note to the Players: When playing a Swindler character, especially a con artist type, be prepared to create a convincing story to present to the GM. While the dice rolls will ultimately decide success or failure it isn’t role playing unless you put some effort into it! (And a good story might get you a bonus from the GM!)
Most Swindlers tend to specialize in particular fields, though they may be proficient in many aspects of the Grift.
The Grift. This is the con or the ‘flimflam.’ What ever the particular act of the moment is. It may be ‘Short’ or it may be ‘Long’ (see below for details) but whatever the details, it is ‘The Plan.’
Forgers are generally specialist and work more or less exclusively in one of several fields.
Financial Forgers create replicas of cheques, contracts, letters of credit and similar financial and business documents. Often the Forger works for a Conman or other Rogue who utilizes the documents to bilk the Mark of money, goods or services.
Art Forgers are the cream of the crop in the world of Forgers! They are themselves talented artists but with a bent towards criminality. They are masters at duplicating, in almost perfect detail, the works of the Great Masters in oil or water colors. Most Art Forgers specialize in one or two famous artists and practice their technique till it is perfect. Creating a perfect forgery takes time, sometimes months of work for a single piece, and the Forger usually works with another Rogue, a con artist, who serves as the agent and go between to ‘sell’ the work to an unwary buyer.
Held in much the same regard as the Art Forger is the Counterfeiter. The Counterfeiter is a specialist Forger who is an expert engraver and uses his or her skills to make counterfeit bank notes. These are generally passed or sold to other Rogues, known as “Smashers” to be distributed and spent, an act known as “Snide Pitching.” A “Bit Faker” is a counterfeiter that specializes in coins rather then bills. Like the Art Forger, the Counterfeiter can spend months preparing and engraving the plates used to print the phony bills or cast the coins and even a small error can render the work useless. Poorly made bills are called “Flash Notes.”
Pickpockets are masters of sleight of hand, some even have a side business as stage magicians, and are at their best in crowded streets, theater lobbies, train terminals and the Underground. Sometimes they work in pairs with one lifting the wallet then passing it to the other in the off chance that they were spotted during the initial lift. In the underworld pickpockets are called “dippers.” They are also known as “mutchers,” or “drunkenrollers,” if they specialize in drunks. Or “mobsmen” (if they worked with a mob) or, if especially adept at their trade, “toolers.”
A Broadsman is a cardsharp. Someone who cheats at cards for profit.
Readers are the marked cards used by card cheats
A Gagger is con man specializing in hard-luck stories.
A Magsman is a cheat or trickster operating in the street doing mostly ‘short cons.’ For example, “Three Card Monte”
Macer is another term for a cheater or grifter.
Tiddlywinker, another term for a cheat.
The “Under and Over” a term referring to the details of the grift or con.
Swindlers are masters of sleight-of-hand, which they can use to perform card tricks and other similar bits of “stage” magic, as well as to pocket or switch small items (of the size that can fit in the palm of one hand). The Swindler has the same chance to successfully perform such a trick as a thief of the same level does to pick pockets, including adjustments for dexterity, if any. However, someone observing the trick has a chance of spotting it, based on their level and intelligence, using their chance to detect invisibility (per the DMG) shifted up 6 levels (so that a 1st level character has the same chance to detect a sleight-of-hand trick as a 7th level character has to detect invisibility). Thus, a 7th level character with an intelligence score of 14 has a 45% chance of spotting a Swindlerʼs sleight-of-hand maneuver. Unlike with pocket-picking, this percentage is not subtracted from the Swindlerʼs chance of success but is made as a separate roll, i.e. the Swindler may successfully pull off the trick, but the observant would-be mark will have seen it occur and will not be fooled. Swindlersmay reduce their chance of being spotted through successful Grift (see below.)
The Swindlerʼs key to success will most often depend on being able to cozen, beguile, and hoodwink his or her prospective marks via fast-talk, hot air, and general verbal flimflam or Grifting. In order to employ this skill the Swindler must have the Fast Talk Skill and be able to speak and be heard in a language that the target(s) of the grift understand. There are few hard limits to what a sufficiently silver- tongued Swindler can pull off via this function, but several of the most common effects are described below:
a. Amuse: success gives the Swindler a +15% on Reaction rolls for 1-6 rounds
b. Confuse: target(s) of a successful attempt will stand uncertain and take no other action for 1-3 rounds
c. Convince: target(s) who have been successfully convinced will comply with reasonable-seeming requests and instructions from the Swindler for 1-4 rounds
d. Distract: target(s) of a successful distraction are 20% less likely to notice some other action occurring simultaneously (within the same or following round)
e. Enrage: this effect gives a -15% on Reaction rolls, with the added side-effect that targets who have been enraged are goaded into rash action – they will immediately Charge if possible and even if they canʼt move will suffer the defensive penalty (i.e. loss of Dexterity AC bonus or +1 AC) for 1-4 rounds
f. Humiliate: targets of a successful humiliation have a -15% penalty to their Morale rating for 1-6 rounds
Each grift attempt requires 1-3 minutes of talking to create its effect. A successful Fast Talk Skill roll is needed to gain the target(s) attention to listen/participate in the Grift. Gaining the Mark’s attention does not guarantee success! That is determined on the table below.
A Swindler who is not engaged in any other action may attempt to simultaneously grift as many listeners within hearing range as he or she has levels. Grift attempts may be combined with other actions (including sleight-of-hand, escape, and even melee) but in such case the attempt is made at -10% if directed at a single target with an additional cumulative -5% for each target beyond the first. Note that a single target may be subjected to multiple types of grift, and that repeated uses of the same technique upon the same target are cumulative within the limitations of the effect duration and the time required for each attempt.
The bread and butter of the Swindlerʼs livelihood is employing all these functions, (fast talk, sleight of hand, pick pocket, etc) individually or in combination, to perform any number of scams, swindles, gaffles, and rackets designed to bamboozle gullible Marks out of their money. While many enjoyable adventures can arise out of planning and executing such bunco schemes in detail, involving other characters as shills and accomplices, so much granularity and detail will not always be desired and in those cases the process can be abstracted into a single die roll as follows:
A Short Con typically relies on sleight-of-hand and visual distraction in order to hustle one or several marks out of a small amount of cash before the deception is spotted.
Examples of short cons include shell games, card-sharping, pigs in a poke, and other similar bait-and-switch tricks. An abstracted short con takes an additional 1-10 minutes to pull off and requires a successful sleight-of-hand roll.
A Long Con, on the contrary, is a much more complex and elaborate caper, usually requiring significant planning and preparation, and possibly the participation of several accomplices, but with much greater likely returns.
Examples of long cons include badger games, pigeon drops, clip joints, false injuries, romance scams, rainmaking, salting, forgery, pyramid schemes – indeed, the possibilities for grift and fraud are nearly limitless for a sufficiently devious criminal! An abstracted long con usually requires 1-6 weeks to execute and requires a successful flimflam roll in order to bring in the amount indicated on the Swindlers Function Table.
In both cases a successful roll indicates that the Swindler has pulled off the trick with the mark(s) being none the wiser, but any attempt to execute another con of the same type (i.e. a short con or a long con) in the same location (neighborhood for a short con, entire settlement for a long con) within the length of the scam multiplied by ten (i.e. 10-60 turns for a short con, 10-60 weeks for a long con) will raise suspicion, causing the chance of success for the second con to be reduced by half, and the chance for a catastrophic failure (as below) to be doubled.
A failed roll indicates the would-be mark became suspicious and avoided being taken. The Swindler suffers no other negative consequences, but may not attempt another con of the same type in the same location for the time interval indicated above. However, a roll that fails by 20% or more, or on a roll of 96-00 in any case, results in a catastrophic failure, with the following consequences (rolled on 1d20):
01-05 Authorities alerted – character must flee the location immediately
06-10 As above, but character is being pursued by [1-4: would-be marks, 5-7: local authorities, 8-10: hostile local criminal elements]
11-13 Tables turned – character loses 50-90% of his or her own money
14-16 Character is roughed up and rolled – loses all carried money and suffers 10-40% hit points damage
17-18 Character is tarred and feathered – loses all carried money and possessions
19 As above, but characterʼs home (along with any money or possessions stored therein) is also destroyed
20 Attempted lynching – as above, but character also suffers 10-60% hit points damage
The ‘Take’ from any kind of con is largely dependent on the social class of the ‘Mark’ and how much wealth he, or she, possesses. Of course, not all cons are about money.
Destitute individuals never have any money to be conned out of.
Lower Working Class usually only have a pence to be swindled out of, except on pay days. Six days of the week a member of the Lower Working Class will have 1d4 pennies on him or her. On pay days they will have 1d10 pennies.
Upper Working Class will usually have some small sum in their pockets. Six days of the week a member of the Upper Working Class will have 2d4 pennies on him or her. On pay days they will have 1d4 shillings.
Middle Class will usually have some money in their pockets.* Six days of the week a member of the Middle Class will have 2d4 shillings on him or her. On pay days they will have 2d10 shillings. (This represents the average ‘man in the street.’ Some Middle Class are much wealthier, but such an individual, and their money, is a specific target.)
Upper Class will always have some money in their pockets.* Typically a 1d4 half crowns and 1d8 shillings along with 1d2 sovereigns (This represents the average ‘walking about town’ Most Upper Class are much wealthier, but such an individual, and their money, is a specific target.)
* Caution is advised! While Lower Class Marks may retaliate with their fists, Middle and Upper Class Marks are more likely to involve the Law, and the Law is more likely to respond!
SWINDLER (ROGUE) FUNCTION TABLE
|Swindler Level||Pick Pocket or Sleight Success %||Grift Success %|
Rogue Hit Dice is a D8
|Class||Initial Number||Non-Proficient Penalty||Added Weapon Proficiency Per Level|
|Basic Con Artist Skills||Relevant Ability||Notes & Modifier Check|
|Fast Talk||CH||Gagger or Con Man|
|Sense Motive||WS-1||Gagger or Con Man|
* ALL Rogues have THESE skills to start with at NO COST. The Rogue has these skills at a skill equal to Ability Score. The Rogue may elect to improve these skills by spending additional points.
|Advanced Con Artist Skills||Relevant Ability||Notes & Modifier Check|
|Artist||IQ||Art Forger, typically painting|
|Fast Talk||CH||Gagger or Con Man|
|Lip Reading||IQ-1||Pick Pocket or Gagger or Con Man|
|Pick Pockets||DX-2 (CH)||Pick Pocket Charisma reaction adjustment adds to attempt|
|Prestidigitation/Sleight of Hand||IQ-1||Pick Pocket or Magsman, some Broadsmen|
|Sense Motive||WS-1||Gagger or Con Man|
|Voice Mimicry||CH-2||Gagger or Con Man|
These Skills must be ‘bought’ by the Character using skill points