We touched a little on thieves in the entry about Rogues, however before we begin I want to make something clear. In this entry I am not talking about a thief, I am talking about a Thief. The capitalization of the T makes a huge difference to me, after all any punk can go and rob someone and be called a thief. It takes a true master, an artist, to be a true Thief.
A Capital T
So, lets start off right there, the capital T that I am applying to a Thief. As I said, a Thief is an artist, stealing is their art form, and however they do it they are a master of their trade. Now, there are as many different ways of being a Thief as there are of being a more traditional artist. Con Artists can be Thieves, as can Smooth Talkers, Hackers, and Acrobats. Hollywood seems to have a love affair with that most nimble of Thieves called the Cat Burglar. An acrobatic and highly athletic thief that specializes in infiltrating higher up locations and slipping back out without anyone knowing they were there...that is until they notice all of their money is gone.
The fact of the matter though is that there are as many ways of being a Thief as you can probably think of. What makes the difference between a thief and a Thief is the approach. For the first one, stealing is simply a means of making money, of getting what you want. The method is unimportant, all that matters is the cash. For the second, well sure the money is still important (you won't find many people willing to risk life and limb for no reward after all), but the job itself is also important. Who is being screwed over, how they are being screwed over, the challenge involved, the story, the fame from it, all of these are important to the Thief. It is about money yes, but it is also about so much more.
So to recap shortly, if you just want the $5 and don't care how you get it. Probably a thief. If you want people admiring how you got the $5 as much as you want the $5. You just may be a Thief.
Kinds of Thieves
As said above, there are multiple kinds of Thieves out there in the world of stories and games. So lets look at a couple of the more common.
The Cat Burglar
The Cat Burglar is something of an acrobat. Their body is a finely trained, honed, and refined tool that is able to over come any barrier that you put in their way. Able to perform stunts that would leave people gaping in awe, that is if anyone was able to see them. This is one of the kinds of thieves that Hollywood is absolutely fascinated by, as are a number of other story telling mediums, and why shouldn't they be? The flash and display of skill are something that is just impressive to watch.
The key strength of a cat burglar is their agility. Specializing in high altitude insertions, this is the kind of thief who is more likely to tight-rope walk between two 40 story buildings to make an infiltration than they are to use a doorway. The kind of Thief who evades a laser grid, not by anything so mundane as turning it off or taking out the guards, but by manipulating and contorting their body to go up, over, and around each beam without ever setting off even one.
Cat Burglars are the kind of thieves who are most likely to get upset at being compared to a robber or a common thief. There is, afterall, nothing common about them. They do not use brute force, many (particularly when they are the main character) hold it as a point of pride that they don't carry any weapons at all. They simply slip in, take what they want, and slip out. Leaving everyone baffled at how it was done, especially considering where the apparent infiltration point is.
For examples of Cat Burglars, and Cat Burglar type thieves, you can look at the opposition from Ocean's 12, or to the female in the movie Entrapment. The chinese member of the Ocean's 11 crew could also count as a Cat Burglar, if looking to do a solo career anyhow. Parker from Leverage is also an example of a Cat Burglar.
The other most common kind of thief that is shown is The Charmer. This person is often a Con-Artist of some sort, and where the Cat Burglar uses physical prowess to open doors, the Charmer turns on the charm. A convincing liar, able to make you believe almost anything they want. They earn your trust, work their way into position, and then take everything and leave.
There often is more to it than just that, unless the character in question is simply a con artist. The charmer usually also plays some sort of a Master Mind role as well, using strategy and running plans within plans to help keep things moving. Constantly staying one step ahead of those who are trying to stop them. The thrill of a Master Mind is used for drama, while the primary tool used as a Thief is the character's charm or ability to play a role and convince you of things.
Charmers generally don't seem as bothered by what they are called. Then again, due to their high social ability trying to find out what they actually feel about things is damn near impossible anyhow. They also are more involved int he personal aspect and the money than a Cat Burglar for the most part. There is less pride in the "no weapons" ideology, though many will still stick to it. After all, Thieving is a 'gentleman's game' and there is no need to bring such violence into the picture.
Almost everyone in the Ocean's 11 movie counts as a Charmer, particularly Matt Damon, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt as well as Saul. Ford from Leverage would also count as a Charmer in a sense, though he is more a full Mastermind with the Grifter being the 'Charmer'.
There are many more kinds of Thieves than just those two, however these 2 are the most common that I've seen in my (not very in depth) looking. They also both get the main point along, particularly the lack of a need for violence when it comes to thievery. Thieves are many things, but brutes and muggers are not among those things.
So, keep this in mind next time you want to make a thief. Maybe go for more the professional with an artist's sense of pride than just someone who is able to make a quick buck and get to places they ought not to go. Have fun with it.