Should Thieves tools be able to defeat ANY type of barrier?


Rules Questions and Gameplay Discussion

The Exchange

As I understand Thieves Tools (and Masterworked tools), you can either gain a bonus to a disable check or you can automatically defeat any barrier. Not just a barrier you could have used disabled to defeat, but ANY.

Is this really the right understanding? I mean not only is it extremely counterintuitive and fluff-breaking that you can use a tool-kit to overcome stuff like an Ambush or a Goblin raid. But it also means it is THE item to have to overcome barriers. At least in our games it has meant that items like Mattock, Crowbar, all the items that boost Acrobatics aren't used. One player even banished the Chime of Unlocking because he would rather keep his masterworked tools.

Especially the Masterworkd tools are a problem as it can supposedly defeat ANY barrier with up to Difficulty 14. So far this has meant an auto-defeat for any barrier (we are in adventure 4).

When an item or feature becomes so good that everyone wants it, it's a balance problem (especially when 4 players want the MW tools and there are only 2 in the game). So I hope we have missed an update that errata the tools to only be able to defeat certain barriers. For instance only barriers with the Lock or Trap trait.

If there are no errata we have missed. What do you think the consequence would be of changing the tools to defeat only barriers with Lock or Trap?

Grand Lodge

The Thieves' Tools are "Discard this card to defeat a barrier whose highest difficulty to defeat is 11 or lower." So that is any barrier.

Masterwork Tools are "Recharge this card to defeat a barrier whose highest difficulty to defeat is 14 or lower." So that is also any barrier.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Just because everyone in your group wants the card does not mean that everyone wants it. Which adventure path are you playing - Rise of the Runelords or Skull & Shackles?

It sounds like, whichever path you're playing, you haven't gotten too far (I may be wrong), as the masterwork tools prove themselves relatively under-powered around Adventure Deck 3 or 4. The card really isn't as über as you're making it sound...as you will soon discover.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Also there are barriers in the very beginning, such as the Skeleton Horde, where it is useless. And there are only 2 Masterworks Tools in the game and since they are a recharge to use they won't be in your hand every time you need them.


Part of the balance solution is to LIMIT the number of cards available. If everyone in a 4-6 player party wanted it AND could get it, THEN it would be a bit overpowered and unbalanced. Limiting the amount of them available for the party to have is part of that balancing solution.

Also, make sure you aren't using them to defeat a barrier that the character playing the Tools isn't encountering. The Tools can only be used to defeat a barrier that that character is encountering; it can't be used to defeat a barrier that someone else is encountering.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

A friend of mine has the same issue with Thieves Tools, but I always have a counter for it with pretty much any barrier. Mainly that the tools don't include just what is shown in the picture. They are kits that include many tools for just about any job imaginable.

Thieves Tools vs. Ambush: A small set of binoculars let you notice the ambush.

Thieves Tools vs. Man Overboard!: There is a rope, cord, or net to catch the person being thrown overboard.

Sometimes you have to expand what you think about with the cards or just deal with unrealistic cases. The thing that I personally have a problem with is that Inflict can be used against Undead monsters when they should be healed by negative energy instead of damaged.

So yeah, I don't think the Tools need to be changed. If they were changed to only work on Lock or Trap barriers, they would be far less useful, especially in Skull & Shackles where there are so many other types of barriers.


Well, I always found it hilarous that a set of Thieves Tools can solve any problem from actual traps to Ambush, Man Overboard, Goose in the Riggings and even the Shopkeepers's Daughter (the list goes on).

Truly, the greatest invention since the wheel! ;)

But on a serious note : I doubt they will ever get an errata to have a less useful/broad power.

The noumber of th tem is not really a limitng factor, since we get more and more class decks.


It's no more silly than that you can kill skeletons with caltrops. :D

And yes, even Masterwork Tools will begin to fail you at some point. One of the reaons I'm such a huge fan of Blessings of Abadar.


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

There are some other limiting factors to it as well, some of which have been mentioned before.

1. Some barriers have "None" as their check to defeat. Tools won't help you there.

2. In Skull and Shackles, if someone else fails to defeat a barrier it can get stuck on you, and the check to banish it isn't a check to defeat it, so no help from the Tools there either. (See Man Overboard.)

3. You are using an item slot for it that you could use for something else. Granted, this is true of every card, but while powerful for anyone not having disable the tools aren't versatile. I've seen them get stuck in a hand for a while due to not encountering a barrier or to encountering a barrier but deciding to save them for a more difficult barrier which never comes.


To expand on Hawkmoon's thoughts, I find deciding between items incredibly difficult in S&S. The set has a ton of good items and as wonderful as Thieves tools can be, I find myself tossing them aside to make room for all of the other goodies S&S has to offer.


Sure masterworks tools are strong against a variety of barriers, but there are other items that can provide you with almost as much anti barrier strength but are still versatile to help you with other types of checks. My ranzak just got rid of his tools to grab a gem of constitution. No I can roll a D12 for any non combat check, which should allow me to beat most barriers, but can help me close locations, face weird monsters with say diplomacy checks etc.

The Exchange

We are only playing RotR, not S&S, but I'm glad to hear there are better choices in S&S.

Hawkmoon, you mention you can't use it to defeat barriers with the "none" for a check. where does it say so in the rule? As that would indeed fix at least some of the problems I have with the card.


MazVN wrote:

We are only playing RotR, not S&S, but I'm glad to hear there are better choices in S&S.

Hawkmoon, you mention you can't use it to defeat barriers with the "none" for a check. where does it say so in the rule? As that would indeed fix at least some of the problems I have with the card.

If the check is "none," then it is not 11 or lower.

Also, if you weren't aware, player "A" cannot use tools to defeat a barrier encountered by player "B."


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Well, two things. First "None" is not less than any number. None is a word, so you can't compare it to a number.

Second, when would you play the card? Against a barrier with a check to defeat, you would play the card during the check you were attempting. But with a None barrier you don't attempt the check.

Attempting a Check
Determine which die you’re using.
Determine the difficulty.
Play cards and use powers that affect the check (optional).<---Play Thieves' Tools here.
Assemble your dice.
Attempt the roll.
Take damage if you fail a check to defeat a monster.

For example, lets say you get Goblin Raid. So you are going through the encounter.

Encountering a Card
Evade the card (optional).
Apply any effects that happen before the encounter, if needed.
Attempt the check.
Attempt the next check, if needed.
Apply any effects that happen after the encounter, if needed.
Resolve the encounter.

And you get to "Attempt the check" But...

"RotR Rulebook p10 wrote:
Attempt the Check... If a card’s check section says “None,” look at the card’s powers, and immediately do whatever it says there.

So instead of attempting a check, you immediately summon a Goblin Raider. And now you are attempting to defeat a monster, not a barrier, so you can't play the tools during the check to defeat the Goblin Raider. And when you go back to the encounter with the Goblin Raid, you are at the "after the encounter" step.

So basically, there is no opportunity to play them when the check is "None".


As for shopkeeper's daughter, all thieves tools come with a pair of synthetic narcolipsies. Narcolipsies slide over the user's lips, and when used in kissing, cause the victim to sleep for hours. This is convenient for times when it might be otherwise difficult to leave.

Sovereign Court

MazVN wrote:

We are only playing RotR, not S&S, but I'm glad to hear there are better choices in S&S.

Hawkmoon, you mention you can't use it to defeat barriers with the "none" for a check. where does it say so in the rule? As that would indeed fix at least some of the problems I have with the card.

It's not in the rules specifically, but the tools require a Check to Defeat less than X. There is no check to defeat on those cards. Non-existant != 0

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