"It's not an easy thing to see a Keeper, especially one who does not wish to be seen."
Thief is a three-game series of first-person sneak-em-ups starring an Anti-Hero named Garrett as he goes about stealing stuff in an ancient, noirish and unnamed medieval-esque/Steampunk city. Each game consists of a series of missions that begin with little or no connection to each other but eventually become part of an over-arching plot-line concerning Garrett saving the world from a great evil.
The series is especially notable for the relatively free exploration allowed within the boundaries of each scenario and the many ways the player can approach the given objectives. Self Imposed Challenges, such as completing objectives in as short time as possible or completely avoiding detection and confrontation, are popular among the more devoted fans. The games are loved for the convincing and engrossing atmosphere they create by taking usually Victorian Steampunk and giving it a dash of medieval flavor, making for a truly unique and interesting setting. The Thief series has a strong following and many elaborate fan-made scenarios have been created, some arguably surpassing the quality of the original ones.
The installments in the series so far:
- Thief: The Dark Project (1998)
- Thief Gold (1999), given an Updated Rerelease, adding 3 new missions and lots of bugfixes and additional goodies
- Thief II : The Metal Age (2000)
- Thief II Gold, Cancelled after Looking Glass Studios went under. Would have been in the same vein as TG
- Thief: Deadly Shadows (2004)
- Thief: Deadly Shadows Mobile
All games can be found on GOG and Steam, so you don't have to fret about finding physical copies anymore.
- Abandoned Hospital/Bedlam House : The Thief: Deadly Shadows level "The Cradle".
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The Downwind Thieves' Guild is headquartered in the sewers beneath the Overlord's Fancy tavern and illegal casino.
- Adjective Animal Alehouse : "The Crippled Burrick Inn" from the second game. (Burricks are the appropriately down-to-earth version of dragons in the game's universe.)
- Advancing Wall of Doom: A Keeper outpost in the first game has one as a booby trap.
- Adventurer Archaeologist: The elder civilizations aren't going to need those shiny things any more, are they?
- Affably Evil: The Big Bad of the first game - especially until the dramatic reveal of his true self.
- The Alcoholic: A grumpy, naive and overall hilarious guard nicknamed Benny (a.k.a. "Dumb guard") in practically all his incarnations. Played for laughs.
- All in a Row: A few groups of police and guards act this way in the second game, e.g. Cavador's bodyguards follow Cavador.
- All Webbed Up: One type of the big arachnid enemies in the first game has this as his special power. It's better not to even get too close into his firing range and snipe him with the bow from a safe distance.
- Ancient Tomb: "Down in the Bonehoard" and "The Lost City".
- Anti-Hero: Garrett claims to be simply looking out for himself, but it is always up to him to save the day. Granted, revenge also has something to do with it.
- The Archer: The bow is one of the most useful and important pieces of equipment in the game. It's often more of a tool than a weapon, especially while using the more special, stealth-related trick arrows. If a player's good at estimating distance and arrow arcs, he can even achieve a clean One-Hit Kill by shooting guards in the head or upper part of their body.
- Atlantis: Two visits to a long-lost underground city that used to be inhabited by Precursors.
- Artifact of Doom: The Eye.
- Artificial Brilliance: The series is well known and highly respected for the impressive AI of its NPCs.
- Artificial Stupidity: But on the other hand you can play some mean tricks in the first game. They won't notice torches that have been put out, the sudden appearance of moss on the floor or loot disappearing right under their noses. They are also more alerted by someone stepping on metal while not being alerted by sounds of their fellow guards getting knocked out. In addition, the majority of the guards seem to have night blindness and surprisingly cannot spot the player if he's in the dark even if light backgrounds are behind him. The second game fixed some of the more obvious AI bugs, but most of them were fully dealt with only in the third game (where guards can even notice suspiciously opened doors, suddenly disappeared loot and other strange changes to the environment). Still, the AI is appropriately curious and unforgiving in all three games.
- Awesome Yet Practical: Sneaking past various threats undetected and non-lethally dispatching enemies with a single blow to the head from your trusty blackjack.
- Back Stab: Mooks tend to react negatively to corpses they find, though. It should be pointed out that this game series does not encourage backstabbing, sometimes to the point of initiating a Nonstandard Game Over for killing of any kind, unlike pretty much any other Stealth Based Game. Usually that's only if you're playing on the highest difficulty setting -- although there are some levels where you auto-fail the mission if you're detected even once, or leave behind any trace of your having been there. And dead bodies count as traces.
- Badass Bookworm/Minored in Asskicking : The Keepers.
- Badass Normal: Garrett. Gods, monsters, and many far more heavily-armed and better trained soldiers fall prey to his razor-sharp cunning.
- Bad Moon Rising: The second-to-last mission in The Metal Age has a red full moon in the night sky.
- Bag of Spilling: In the first two games, Garrett loses whatever consumable resources he has when finishing a level, and any gold he fails to spend when starting one.
- This was a deliberate decision made by the designers in order to encourage players to buy lots of equipment and then go ahead and use it during missions instead of hoarding it for later, or alternatively having such a large stockpile that they never need to fear running out. No justification given, just an attempt to invoke Rule of Fun.
- Beastly Bloodsports: You can eavesdrop on a conversation between two guards discussing bear fighting; one will lament that he remembers fighting bears being more savage when he was younger, and the pit owners didn't need to give the bears paw hooks or razor collars to keep the fights interesting.
- Beast Man: Quite literally - the animal-descended fantasy humanoids in the game's universe are referred to as "beastmen". Most of them are in allegiance with the Pagans and often even live amongst them and serve in the Trickster's army.
- Berserk Button: Though Garrett is the epitome of a cynical and seemingly self-centered Deadpan Snarker Anti-Hero, he often displays shock and outrage when confronted with violence against innocents or the helpless. Cue Tranquil Fury.
- Bittersweet Ending: These seem to be the standard. But then again, Garrett apparently earns his happy ending at the end of the third installment. Sort of.
- Bizarrchitecture. Constantine's mansion in the first game (the level is called "The Sword). The first floor and forward area of the mansion appears normal but the further you go, the more weird it gets. Some examples:
- In the Gold version, the Brobdignag section. (There is a Lilliputian section as well.)
- Large sections of the upper floors are rotated so that, e.g. the ceiling looks like a floor and vice-versa, including having upside-down or sideways furniture.
- In the greenhouses, search the ceilings until you find the section that is actually water; you can climb up through it into a tub of water in the room above.
- In the deepest part of the mansion, weird twisting tile hallways and perspective-warped corridors are interwoven with mossy green tunnels going straight through the structure. At this point, the thought may strike that the architect is just screwing with you. And he is - it's all a test.
- The Blank: The Shalebridge Cradle in Deadly Shadows has the staff of the orphanage-turned-asylum, shadowy silhouettes created from the memory of the Cradle, representing the faceless adults keeping order between the children.
- Blood Oath: When Viktoria and Garrett forge a truce in Thief II, they seal it with this. It's more of a "Sap Oath" in Viktoria's case, since she's a dryad and bleeds sticky green fluid.
- Body Horror: There are the zombies, in all three games.
- The Servants in the second game. Being made into one of these is so horrific, some will thank you for killing them.
- The Necrotic Mutox. You never actually see it used on a person, but you hear it. The person it is being demonstrated for reacts with both horror and fascination.
- Pretty much anything to do with The Hag in Deadly Shadows. She does much worse than eat children alive. In fact, eating a child alive would be kind compared to what she does to at least one. Then there's her body, which is a vaguely humanoid mass of flesh studded with eyes and mouths, most of which do not appear to be under her control.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: In the first game, Garrett is left injured and trapped just before the mission "Escape". He tied Garrett up as live prey for...something - his rescue came at the hands of two Keepers, however, something not even Garrett himself anticipated.
- Bookcase Passage: Lots of these.
- Book Ends: The beginning of the first game and the end of Deadly Shadows.
- Bop On The Bonce : With a blackjack.
- Canis Latinicus : The Hammers have their "ye olde" style of speech, the Pagans talk in a childish pidgin and the Keepers (during the events of the third game) revel in some sort of faux-Latin while reading the ancient scrolls and textbooks from their library.
- The Caper: Some levels (or groups of levels) are definitely full-fledged capers. Others are simple "pick the lock and loot what you find inside" missions.
- Cherry Tapping: On the score screen of each mission in the first two games, you receive separate bonus points for blackjacking people while in mid air. It's actually easier to achieve than it sounds. Just prepare your blackjack for a swing and leap towards your unsuspecting victim from behind.
- The Chosen One: A large number of Keeper prophecies revolve around Garrett, and at the end of Deadly Shadows, we discover why.
- Note that this doesn't mean he had or has supernatural powers. Garrett only acts, in the end, as the ultimate balancing agent. Whenever any one faction gains too much power, he topples it.
- Garrett may be The Chosen One according to others, but he certainly acts and thinks of himself as the opposite.
- City Guards: The ubiquitous City Watch.
- City of Adventure: Hoo boy. Lots of interesting and varied areas to visit, including the region surrounding the city. The third game even had a sandbox game feel to it - you could walk around a few select streets in the core quarters of the City, loot various establishments and bypassers, or sell your loot and purchase new equipment in hidden thievery shops.
- City with No Name: The aptly named "The City" (as in, that seems to be its actual name). However, the City definitely has named boroughs (Shalebridge, Auldale, Old Quarter, etc.).
- Clingy MacGuffin: Once again, The Eye (especially after it reappears in the third game). Are you seeing a pattern here?
- Convection, Schmonvection: Garrett has no trouble delving in caves half-filled with lava as long as he remains on solid ground. But should even his little toe actually touch lava, he drops dead instantly.
- Conveniently an Orphan : Garrett. We know nothing of his earliest past or who his parents were. Nor does he. When we first see him, he's already a ten or twelve year old street urchin.
I was a kid. No parents, no home. Running messages and picking pockets to keep my ribs from meeting my spine.
- Conspicuously Selective Perception: The entire game mechanic is built around NPCs failing to notice the player character if he is in shadow, while being extraordinarily sensitive to noises he makes himself and oblivious to noises made by machines set in motion by the protagonist. Garrett, as an ex-Keeper, may or may not have quasi-mystical ninja powers (it's never made absolutely clear whether they're actually mystical or simply stealth experts).
- The Keepers have a special power given to them by the glyphs. In the first game, a young Garrett noticed that no one could see Artemus walking through a crowd in broad daylight, and the Keeper Tower itself was invisible to the city until it lost its glyph protection.
- Continuity Nod: Lots within the entire series, often with a Mythology Gag or two. They're a common part of the series - so much, that the fans were actually pretty annoyed when the third installment didn't reference some major aspects of the second one (i.e. the Mechanists) as much as they were expecting.
- Cool but Inefficient: The grenade-launching robots seen in the second game can be tricked into destroying themselves by firing their grenades into the wall they are pressed against. Also, they can be disabled by water arrows in the open boiler on their back.
- This weakness is mentioned within the game; apparently the smith just never got around to fixing it.
- What's more strange is that those big ugly death machines can be broken easily by Stuff Blowing Up (if you have enough), but the annoying "steel cherubs" cannot.
- Corridor Cubbyhole Run: When faced with corridors in indoor environments, Garrett has to hide from patrolling guards/monsters/zombies/etc. by dodging in and out of rooms, into alcoves, and so on.
- Crapsack World: "Noir Fantasy" describes it well. Everyone has an agenda, they conflict constantly, and even just living day-to-day is perilous. The nobles play games and see the poor as little more than animals, it's hard to distinguish between the keepers of the law and the actual criminals, and things live in the shadows and beyond the City's borders that you're better off not meeting...unless they decide to come to you. Then there's no 'better off' at all.
- Crazy Prepared: The Keepers in the first two games. The third... not so much. Kind of justified by the fact that it was their turn to undergo a major crisis, just like the Pagans in the first game and the Hammerites in the second.
- Creepy Child/Emotionless Girl: Gamall, the Keeper Translator, a 10-year-old girl, from the second and third game. She gets a pretty shocking Reveal during the course of the third game.
- Crush! Kill! Destroy!: In Deadly Shadows:
Stone Guardian: A noise... and find and crush and KILL AND CRUSH AND KILL!!!
- Crystal Dragon Jesus : The Hammerites are essentially your typical medieval Christian church Expys, but with a few twists on their mythology: The belief that the Builder (the one god) led humanity out of savagery by the gift of fire and more advanced tools like the first hammer, slightly mirrors the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus. It's also the reason why Hammerite rituals and worship are centered around human work, handicrafts and industry... And a possible explanation for the whole steampunk feel of the world.
- It's pretty obvious that the Hammerites are primarily based on the conservative Catholic church of medieval times, whilst the Mechanists seem to be more or less the Protestant equivalent, with Karras being a sort of steampunk Martin Luther or John Calvin.
- Cthulhu Mythos: The "Lost City" level in the first game contains a statue that looks very like Cthulhu, and reference to a god "N'lahotep". It's strongly hinted that angering these gods is what caused the city to be buried under lava.
- Cult: The Pagan faction, which shuns advanced technology and the society of the City. They worship nature and its incarnate deity - the legendary and powerful, but chaotic Trickster, who despises industry and the working of steel. Needless to say, Pagans don't get along very well with Hammerites and the feeling is mutual (despite some rare instances of Worthy Opponent between the two factions).
- The Mechanists in the second game. Essentially a much darker and even more self-righteous version of the Hammers (of whom they are an offshoot). The Mechs are partly based on some of the progressive, yet at the same time dogmatic Calvinist sects of Protestantism. Mechanist worship of technology and the leader figure of the church (Karras) borders the fanatical, and gradually goes off the rails... On the other hand, they seem to be progressive in things like gender equality (owing to their quasi-Protestant nature) and "donate" their technology to a number of major institutions and noble families in exchange for favor, including the Watch which is all part of the plan.
- Cute Ghost Girl: Lauryl from the infamously haunted Shalebridge Cradle isn't all that scary once you get to know her in Thief: Deadly Shadows. She's a subversion of sorts, since she appears as a ghostly blob of light with the shadow of a small girl. She's helpful and kindly, showing Garrett various clues about the Cradle's dark past and guiding him out. After both of them leave the Cradle and enter the alleys of Old Quarter, the guards start fleeing in terror at the sight of Lauryl's ghostly appearance. For once, Garrett can take it easy with stealth in the City's streets. Funny stuff.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Gray and Grey Morality. Light's just not any better.
- Dead Man's Chest
- Deadpan Snarker: Garrett, who is known for his cynical, sarcastic view on life among over-serious and righteous people.
- Deconstruction: Of several fantasy tropes.
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In some levels, you can steal every key from a guard, have them chase you into a locked room, then quickly leave and close the door. Doing so will lock the guards into the room so they can't leave, giving you free reign over the house.
- Did You Just Rob Cthulhu.
Garrett: I've never robbed a god before. It'll be a challenge.
- Also a more straightforward Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? for the BigBads of the first and third game. Garrett being a stealthy bastard, he achieves victory not by brute force, but through cunning and preparation.
- Difficult but Awesome: The gameplay of the series in general, particularly if you choose to play all three games in a Stealth Run style as much as possible (to the extent of not even knocking out enemies even if you would have the opportunity). If you beat a tough mission on Expert level without getting caught and stealing all the loot or getting all the needed information/macguffins, you can congratulate yourself - you'll pretty much be ready to handle most stealth games in existence (at least the more flexible ones, without Useless Useful Stealth and Fake Difficulty).
- Difficulty Levels: Higher difficulty levels not only increase the amount of loot that must the gained but also restrict the use of deadly force. In Deadly Shadows, it also affects how much hostile guards react to noises (which was used to discover that difficulty levels get reset when saving and reloading.)
- Disposable Vagrant
- Double Caper
- Dungeon Crawling: The subterranean and outside-the-City missions in general. Sometimes in actual catacombs and tombs, sometimes in various caves and caverns. In a subversion, only some of them are actually haunted. This trope also applies literally, since this is a stealth game where you'll mostly be crawling around and/or skulking in the shadows.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The Dark Project. After going through some of the scariest and most intense scenes in first person game history, you finally have a moment to breathe at the end. Until the Sequel Hook.
- Easter Egg : The basketball court hidden in the training level of the first game. Only accessible if you select Expert difficulty. It doubles as a Developer's Room thanks to a scroll containing the dev team's quotes.
- This was a common Easter egg in games developed by Looking Glass Studios. For instance, it also appeared in System Shock.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Markham's Isle complex in the mission "Precious Cargo".
- Eldritch Location: The walled-off bits of the old city and the Precursor's Lost City are unsettling, but Shalebridge Cradle is this trope personified. It's implied that the building itself has its own malevolent consciousness.
- Elves Versus Dwarves: The rivalry between the Pagans and the Hammerites has elements of this, including The Magic Versus Technology War.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The Big Bads of the series love to wipe out civilization. Go figure.
- Enemy Chatter: Particularly memorable: the bear pits conversation in "Lord Bafford's Manor"; and a Genre Savvy guard asking a Mechanist how the cameras know to sound the alarm when they see a thief, but not when they see a guard. (His response? The Mechanists' version of the MST3K Mantra, of course.)
- Enemy Mine: Garrett teams up briefly with the Hammerites and Pagans in the first and second game respectively (and has the option to do so in the third game). He does it more out of necessity than sympathy.
- Everything's Worse With Zombies: One of the few bigger criticisms of the first game was the fact that it had too many levels populated by various undead creatures and monsters. Zombies were chiefly removed from The Metal Age along with burricks and most other monsters because players preferred to concentrate on, you know, pure thievery. The third game generally took the middle route, with mostly realistic missions interspersed by more supernatural and undead/monster-heavy ones.
- Exploding Barrels: They're red and marked with a flame logo on them.
- Eye Scream: Garrett gets his eye plucked out by one of the bad guys during the first game. We later see a brief, detailed close-up of the shriveled, bloody gap in his face.
- Faking the Dead: Garrett does this in the third game in order to escape Shalebridge Cradle.
- Famed in Story/Shrouded in Myth: By the third game, Garrett's name is pretty famous in the city as the preeminent thief -- you can listen in on snippets of gossip (both accurate and exaggerated) about his exploits, and other lower-caliber criminals bragging about being as good as him or out-and-out claiming to be him to bolster their own reputations.
- Fantasy Gun Control: The world of Thief has scientific advances such as electricity, steam engines, clockwork robots, surveillance devices and even stun grenades (flashbombs and gas grenades), but there are no gunpowder firearms to be seen (which amusingly contrasts the otherwise accurate Late Medieval-like setting). Even the City Watch and Mechanists are armed with swords, maces, bows, and crossbows at best.
- The cannons require gunpowder, and they can be seen on ships and, of course, the Children of Karras. The cannonballs also have fuses that are lit. And they act more like cluster grenades after landing on the ground and lying still for about a second or two.
- Film Noir/City Noir/Fantastic Noir
- First-Person Smartass: It's a first person game and Garrett is a smartass. His opening narration for each mission especially falls into this a lot.
- Fish People: The Kurshok from the third game. Surprisingly, they're not in allegiance with the Pagans like most of the other non-human races - it's subtly hinted that the Trickster cast them below the earth.
- Five-Finger Discount: As a child, Garrett came to the attention of the Keepers when he tried to pickpocket one on the street, because "it's not an easy thing to see a Keeper, especially one who does not wish to be seen." In the game, there are frequent opportunities to filch bags of gold, keys, potions, and arrows from the unsuspecting, with a "pockets picked" counter on the score page after the mission.
- Foreshadowing: The intro cutscene of each game drops hints about the main plot and Garrett's enemies. The third one's is more ambiguous than those of the first two games, but it features a major Continuity Nod towards them (with two brief rapid montages referencing their events).
- Friendly Enemy: Garrett and Viktoria in The Metal Age. They plot devious things together. It's simultaneously both disturbing and a little cute.
- Game Mod: Several. Most notable is Shadows of the Metal Age, a full-length, fan-made expansion for Thief II, with a new main character, weapons and items, and a story of Revenge and manipulation.
- Genius Loci: As Garrett describes the Cradle:
Garrett: "This feels like a house with bad dreams."
Not a house that GIVES you bad dreams, but the house is the one who dreams. And invites all within to STAY in those bad dreams...
- Genre Busting/Genre Popularizer: Game critics had a hard time pigeon-holing the first Thief into any recognizable genre when it came out in November 1998. It played from a first person perspective, yet wasn't an FPS (nor did it reward killing everything in sight). It featured lots of various puzzles, yet wasn't an Adventure Game. It had vaguely RPG elements, yet wasn't an RPG at all. Along with Metal Gear Solid, Thief practically defined the stealth game genre as we know it today.
- Gentleman Snarker: First Keeper Orland and some of the other Keepers, to a degree.
- Gentleman Thief: Garrett is the ultimate subversion of this trope. He's a gentleman on the inside, with a rough and snarky outward shell, but he'd really rather it not get out.
- Ghost Ship: The "Abysmal Gale" from Deadly Shadows, owned and commanded by the wealthy naval merchant Robert Moira. It sailed back into harbor, but the crew didn't come out or attempt any communication with the outside world. Since the ship becomes relevant to the main plot, Garrett has to sneak aboard, search for the ship's log and investigate what happened to Moira and his sailors.
- Giant Spider.
- These appear occasionally in the first game.
- And more rarely and with less variety in the second one.
- Even the "small" spider is as big as your foot. Sometimes they spit.
- Good Is Not Nice: Garrett usually acts ignorant or dismissive of the evils threatening his world, but his Jerkass Facade hides a character with strict personal standards, who dislikes seeing pain inflicted those already given a bad hand by life.
- Grappling Hook Pistol: The (slightly magical) rope arrows in the first and second game are essentially a medieval version of this. They can stick into any wooden or earthy materials and provide new routes to otherwise inaccessible areas. The vine arrows from the second game are a full-blown magic version of the ordinary ones and can also stick into surfaces with metal grating. Garrett obtains them after teaming up with the Pagans.
- Grey and Grey Morality: Everyone in the setting, including the forever-locked-in-conflict Hammerites and Pagans. Each faction and character have their moments of nobility and humanity, as well as Kick the Dog ones. The only apparent exception to this trope would be the major villains, and even then, they may simply have taken their faction's dogma too far or have sympathetic motives buried somewhere deep in the past.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy:
It was probably just the wind...
- Also, it's one thing to go after a Noisemaker arrow; another is to pretend the freaky crystal lying on the floor under a doused lamp is invisible.
- Hannibal Lecture: The villains of the series, mostly towards Garrett. He doesn't give a damn. But they usually don't know of his exact location when he's hidden, so they just keep on ranting, hoping to unsettle him...
- The Big Bad of the first game managed to "lecture" Garrett face-to-face.
- Harmony Versus Discipline: Played very straight with the Pagans and the Order of the Hammer, respectively.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Played straight in the first two games. Averted in Deadly Shadows, however, as there Garrett trades his longsword for a more concealable dagger.
- The engine was first developed for an Arthurian-themed game which never saw the light of day because the swordplay was far too complex, so they gave the complex swordplay to a character who wasn't meant to be good at sword fighting. They made Thief and the rest is history. Thief: Deadly Shadows used the Unreal Engine, so they finally replaced the sword.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Viktoria explodes herself into a torrent of trees and plant matter to set up Soul Forge for Garrett to wipe it out with the rust gas.
- Highly-Visible Ninja : The Keeper Assassins from the third game were criticized for their unstealthiness while dealing with other random NPCs
- Hyperactive Metabolism: Food is edible and heals in the first two games, particularly the second. All games also have healing potions.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: Massively averted all the way by all normal sword-wielders. The Hammer Haunts and other monsters don't count. Particularly important in Garrett's case, since his creators made him a deliberately average/weak swordsman to prove a point - he's a thief, not a warrior. The sword (and later dagger) is for self-defense only and always a last resort (if you want to undergo the tiring process of fighting off a guard or creature instead of just reloading your save and not alerting them the second time you sneak across that location).
- The Infiltration: The Dark Project mission "Undercover".
- Ink Suit Actor: Viktoria's face is rather similar to that of her voice actress, isn't it?
- Insecurity Camera: The Mechanist surveillance cameras can be shut down easily by finding their fuse boxes and pulling a lever or two. However, if there's one central generator room for all of them, then it's usually well guarded or pretty hard to sneak into. An alternative, much noisier way of disabling the cameras, is to simply blow the cameras up with your fire arrows or by placing an explosive mine under them and triggering it with your broadhead arrows.
- The Wieldstrom Museum's security systems from Deadly Shadows can also be disabled this way, though only for a minute or two. Furthermore, the Tesla-coil-like electrical fence protecting the two most valuable exhibits can be disabled by shooting a water arrow into one of the coils, shutting it down for about 5-7 seconds - enough time to grab the loot and run back for cover to the nearest dark corner.
- Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Averted; while some keys do open multiple doors, they don't open every door, and often you'll have to go hunting to find the right key. They also stay with you, and you can even end up with multiple copies of the same key since several guards will have them in a single stage.
- In the Hood: Garrett and most of the Keepers.
- Invisible to Normals/Jedi Mind Trick : The Keepers, thanks to their mastery of stealth and espionage and their unique Glyph Magic.
- Ironic Echo: When Garrett tried to pickpocket Artemus in his youth, Artemus caught him and told him he had talent for being able to see a Keeper, especially when he doesn't want to be seen. At the end of the third game, when a little girl tries to pickpocket Garrett, he says the same thing and smiles at the memory.
- Island Base: The Markham's Isle complex in "Precious Cargo" (which is also an Elaborate Underground Base).
- It's Probably Nothing: No, guards. It's a thief about to blackjack you.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold/Loveable Rogue : Garrett.
- Knight Templar: The Mechanists in the second game, and the Hammerites in the first to a degree.
- Knockout Gas: Shooting a mook with Gas Arrows will knock him out even if he's fully aware of your presence (and thus would only get annoyed by the Blackjack). Shooting the ground has an area effect, knocking out everyone within a meter or so.
- Land of One City
- Large Ham: The voicework for the shopkeepers in Deadly Shadows is either good or just ok, but all of them are appropriate-sounding. Except for one. You probably know exactly which one.
- Loads and Loads of Characters : Though most of them are just a supporting one-shot cast.
- Lost Technology: The cultivators in the second game.
- Low Fantasy: Definitely. Humans are the dominant species and there are no Tolkien-esque races, the overall moral alignment of characters often gets very fuzzy, everything has a down-to-earth feel to it, there's no explicit Medieval Stasis, magic - whether good or bad - is not seen as something magnificent and cosmic, the fight between good and evil is a more internal than physical affair, everyone has an agenda and few can be trusted, etc.
- Light Is Not Good: Of the literal variety - brightly lit spaces and loud floors are Garrett's greatest enemies (as far as thieving goes). Using water arrows to douse out torches and gaslamps and moss arrows to muffle otherwise loud surfaces (like metal floors) is one of the basic parts of gameplay in all three games. Still, nearly all levels can be passed without using a single piece of thieving gear.
- Limited Sound Effects: Averted big time. Nearly every type of surface imaginable has an expansive and context-sensitive set of sound effects. Listening to your surroundings is even part of the gameplay (you can guess the distance between you and any NPC and also the direction from which the sound is coming). Thief was probably the first game to use the concept of sound FX being more than just a background decoration to its full degree.
- Mad Scientist: Karras, the founder and leader of the Mechanists. He seems to have a Freudian Excuse, but yikes.
- Magitech: Some of the technology in the game's universe seems to be of this variety. Sometimes, it's clearly related to the Lost Technology trope above.
- The Masquerade: The Keepers. There is no mysterious, conspiratorial group with near-mystical stealth skills in hoods watching and nudging events from the shadows, and if you disagree, you might receive a visit from a mysterious assassin with near-mystical stealth skills in a hood to shut you up.
- Master of Unlocking: Garrett. The start of the Assassins mission from the first game even shows Garrett visiting one of the City's fences and buying a new pair of trusty lockpicks (that come packed with a short manual for newbie thieves).
- Meaningful Name: The word "Gamall" is Scandinavian (and Tolkien-talk) for "old".
- Melee a Trois: The climax of the third and final game, Thief: Deadly Shadows, is a massive melee throughout the city streets between the City Watch, Hammerites, Pagans, and the Big Bad's animated statues. The more factions that are friendly or at least neutral towards Garrett, the easier it is to make it through alive.
- Mistaken for Granite: In the late levels of the third game.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The "necrotic mutox", a.k.a. "rust gas" - a Steampunk biochemical weapon of mass destruction created by the Mechanists. It wipes out biological matter. Take three guesses on what they wanted to use it for.
- Subverted with Cetus Amicus, which means "Friendly Whale". Keep in mind, the thing is a deadly submarine.
- Nature Spirit: Viktoria. Green Skinned Wood Nymph, natch.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero. Unsealing Sealed Evil in a Can is bad. Who knew?
- No-Gear Level: In The Dark Project, Garrett has his gear taken away after the Big Bad has his eye plucked out and leaves him for dead. Garrett starts the level with no gear at all, but if you have the presence of mind to search the room you start in you'll easily find his bow and some other useful items.
- In Deadly Shadows, the trope is played straight in case the City Guards capture you. They will toss Garrett into one of the local prisons and you have to break out weapon-less.
- This trope is also popular in fan-made missions. The difficulty depends on whether you've been depending on your weapons to get by, or if you've properly honed your stealth skills.
- In Deadly Shadows, the trope is played straight in case the City Guards capture you. They will toss Garrett into one of the local prisons and you have to break out weapon-less.
- No Arc in Archery: Mostly averted. Nearly all arrows arc. The broadhead, rope, water and moss arrows follow the laws of physics, while the elemental arrows of Air (sleeping gas) and Fire (rocket launcher stand-in) fly straight and fast.
- Of course, elemental air would probably be considered to have its own personal updraft...and hot air rises.
- No OSHA Compliance: According to the briefing before the "Stopping Time" mission, more people have been killed by the gears of the city clocktower than the blade of the city guillotine.
- Nothing Is Scarier/Hell Is That Noise: Many of the creepiest levels use this to great effect, the first half of the Cradle mission being a textbook example. Granted, there may be some real threat lurking in the shadows or eerie spaces, too. Maybe.
- The Obi-Wan/Cool Old Guy: Artemus, the Keeper Elder who brought Garrett into the order and served the role of his teacher and father-like figure. Apparently the only Keeper who can still top Garrett in stealth. Overlaps a little with Mr. Exposition in nearly every cutscene or location he appears in.
- Oh Crap: This isn't an expression we see Garrett use very often, but it snuck its way, most memorably in TDP when Viktoria takes his eye and in DS when he spies Gamall animating statues in the Keeper compound. Just about every Keeper got this during Gamall's advancement ceremony when she revealed herself as the hag.
- Order Versus Chaos: The struggle between the orderly Hammerites and chaotic Pagans are a major plot point in all 3 games.
- Orphanage of Fear: Shalebridge Cradle used to be an insane asylum and an orphanage at the same time. The children and patients were supposed to be kept separate; it didn't always hold true.
- Our Dragons Are Different : Burricks - wingless reptiles with the size of a pony and the outward appearance of a chubby theropod dinosaur - are apparently the closest thing to a dragon in the Thiefverse. Expectable in such a down-to-earth Low Fantasy setting. Burricks aren't actually ferocious (being herbivores), but they can still be dangerous. No, they don't breathe fire - instead, they burp cloud after cloud of some sort of highly concentrated fumes created in their digestive system. The fumes are corrosive and you'll suffocate in them almost immediately. It's implied they have slightly explosive properties - Garrett makes a snappy remark in the second game about how "infiltrating Shoalsgate is like looking down a burrick's throat with a lit match". Burricks appear up-close-and-personal in several levels of the first game and in the form of hunting trophies and occasional references in the second and third game.
- Our Ghosts Are Different/Our Zombies Are Different: Where to begin? Hammer Haunts, Fire Shadows, Shalebridge Cradle inmates (a.k.a. "Puppets") and shadowy spirits of its former staff members... Then there are literal ghosts, both friendly and malicious, called Apparitions. Only the regular type of zombies has generic zombie appearance and behavior throughout the whole series.
- Pardon My Klingon/Unusual Euphemism : Taffer, to taff, taffing taff... The most standard curseword in the series' universe. The various guards are its most prominent users. "Taffin' cripes, I knew I smelt trouble! Where are you, you taffer? Aah, you're taffing me. Who's gonna clean up all this taff?" The word "taffer" seems to be a general term for a criminal, low-life or annoying person. And some other things. Other cursewords uttered by various characters are fairly standard or slightly archaic.
- Perpetual Poverty: Uh, Garrett? Over the course of three games you've stolen thousands and thousands of gold. Why do you still have trouble paying the rent? Are you throwing it all away between each caper? Ale and whores? Seriously, hire an accountant or something, man.
- Phantom Thief/Impossible Thief: Garrett, of course. While he steals for a living, he also turned to it to get out from under the self-imposed (and self-righteous) restrictions of the nigh-invisible Keepers. Many of his capers are clearly done as ars gratia artis. In one first-game mission Garrett decides that the best revenge against a crimelord's assassination attempt is, instead of killing him, to sneak in and remove every valuable object from said crimelord's house. Granted, you also have the option of doing that and (depending on difficulty level) killing him.
- Also subverted in that Garrett's single most frequent recurring complaint is 'I have to do this job because the rent is due'.
- Garrett has robbed from castles, mansions, patrician houses, taverns, shops, museums, city guard stations, abandoned haunted parts of the city, ancient ruins, places defying the very laws of physics and the office of his landlord. Hell, he's even managed to snatch a few trinkets from the heart of the well-guarded and nearly impenetrable Keeper Compound. He's busted out the imprisoned fiancee of his old pal from a heavily guarded manor. He routinely stops by to rob banks and establishments clean, while en route to fulfill a more crucial mission objective.
- Of course, all of his incredible exploits heavily depend on the skill and patience of the player. There are really few things as satisfying as being able to sneak through an entire mission stealthily, grabbing all the visible and hidden loot, and not getting seen or otherwise detected by anyone.
- Plot Coupons: The first game has Garrett find the four keys to a locked cathedral.
- Pluralses: In the first game, the Trickster talks this way.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: Servants in The Metal Age. In Deadly Shadows, Gamall's disguise is an orphan's stolen body. How do you reveal her? By giving it back.
- Precursors: The, uh, Precursors.
- Red Herring: In Deadly Shadows, Garrett is led to believe that First Keeper Orland is the traitor when the ruins of the collapsed city clocktower point to his office.
- Refusal of the Call: Garrett does not want to be a Keeper or to be involved in their plots. This doesn't stop The Keepers from seeking Garrett out.
Artemus: You cannot run from life as you did from us, Garrett. Life has a way of finding you, no matter how artistic a sneak you are.
- Garrett has other ideas.
Garrett: Tell my friends that I don't need their secret book, or their glyph warnings, or their messengers. Tell them I'm through. Tell them it's over. Tell them Garrett is done.
- And of course, this is followed by:
- And subverted at the end of the second game:
Garrett: All this...it was written?
- Remixed Level: The Lost City. Appears in two different versions in the first and second game.
- Retro Universe/Schizo-Tech : Seriously. A hodge-podge of medieval and Victorian society, architecture and tech.
- Ruins for Ruins Sake: Soundly averted. Many of the ancient ruins visited in the series will give you an almost dizzying sense of their long history, to the point where merely walking around them becomes genuinely unnerving.
- Rule of Symbolism: Quite a lot, especially in the cutscenes and the more dramatic moments.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Eye in the first game.
- Sequel Hook: " The Trickster is dead. Beware the dawn of the Metal Age."
- Shout-Out: A number of Easter Eggs and well-hidden pop-cultural references.
- Garrett in the first game : "Time to... raid some tombs." (Eidos published both Thief and Tomb Raider.)
- A deadly fireball-type projectile is called Tiltowait. But you will never find out unless you try the Level Editor.
- Here's a pretty detailed (though not definite) list of the various hidden references. (Of course, take caution while reading - there might be minor spoilers about the structure and content of the missions.)
- Sinister Minister: The Mechanist leader, Father Karras.
- Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: The visuals and atmosphere of the series literally bathe in grittiness - and unlike in many other games, it feels very believable, with only minor exaggerated stylization. Ironically, the shiniest places you see belong to either the City's mostly corrupt nobility or the Mechanist Order. Not even the Hammerites and Keepers have such lavishly decorated and polished interiors in their buildings.
- Slobs Versus Snobs: The two sets of guards arguing in Thief 2's Life of the Party, Lady Van Vernon's guards are far better spoken, coming up with some truly classy insults. However, when the arrows start flying it's Master Willy's slovenly-sounding guards that win.
- Soft Water
- Spider Drone: The second game has some.
- Spirit Advisor: Brother Murus sends Garrett on multiple Fetch Quests to help him resolve his Unfinished Business.
- Stalker with a Crush: Possibly Father Karras. Just listen to his endgame rambling at Garrett. "I'd have had thee under my control, else dead! Indeed, I'd have had both..." What the hell's he on about? Well, consider those masks, and then twitch! Garrett, amusingly, shrugs off hearing this recorded Yandere-fest. "Yeah, keep talkin'..."
- Stalking Mission: Unsurprising in a stealth game. They're actually pretty entertaining. Some examples include The "Assassins" mission in the first game, the "Trace the Courier" mission in the second one and (partly) the Forbidden Library of the Keepers in the third one (after Garrett teams up with them once again).
- Stealth Based Game: The series is effectively impossible to complete without either stealth or cheating. The main character simply isn't formidable enough to actually fight all the guards one at a time, let alone in groups, and in Thief 2 there was at least one mission where remaining undetected was a required victory condition. Although lone guards are easy to dispatch if you could get a clear shot at their back while they were unaware of your presence, even then, some missions stipulate that you cannot disable any guards or civilians.
- It should be noted that circle-strafing and having lots of room to back up can help take out several guards at once. Most die after 2 or 3 overhead swings. The trick is just making sure they don't hit you.
- Stealth Hi Bye: Garrett loves these. He does this to half the people he meets in the third game of the trilogy, including the Big Bad. His mentor manages to pull the same over on him once, amusingly.
- Stealth Pun: In Deadly Shadows, you have to break into a clocktower operated by the Hammerites and sabotage the mechanism, causing the clock to stop. In other words, you have to Stop Hammer Time.
- Steampunk: Or maybe Steam Gothic. Styles of dress and architecture are mostly late medieval, but there are electric lights on the street, Garrett gains a mechanical eye, and gauges with no discernible purpose are everywhere. In the second game, there are even clockwork surveillance cameras and steam-powered robots. And those... servants.
- Given the quasi-medievalness of the setting and the abundance of ever-present cogs and gears, it qualifies nicely as Clock Punk too.
- The Stoic: Garrett is always calm and collected, even in The Cradle. He will only occasionally express surprise, but he's only been scared shitless once, and the first time he ever smiles or even resembles being happy is at the very end of Deadly Shadows.
- Strange Bedfellows: The second game has Garrett team up with the survivors of the group he defeated in the first.
- Late in the first game, he teams up with the Hammerites against a common enemy, an 'eye for an eye', if you will. Fittingly enough, the level in which the event takes place is called Strange Bedfellows.
- In Deadly Shadows, Garrett can team-up with these groups despite his history in targeting both of them and killing the Pagans' god while he was trying to destroy the City they hate. Hell, it happens right after he's robbed both of them of some pretty valuable loot. It's possible they've realized he's a dangerous enemy to have.
- Stupidity Is the Only Option: The entire plot of the first game is driven by this. What idiot would possibly think that unsealing the ancient Hammerite Cathedral and freeing the Eye from its confinement would be a good idea, after the Eye talks to him in his head and visibly manifests its obvious evil on several occasions? For that matter, what idiot would think that Constantine had any intention of actually paying him that ridiculously oversized a fee for delivering the Eye, when he could simply mug Garrett and take it from him? Garrett didn't even get half the money up front. Apparently his streetwise instincts and common sense completely evaporate if you wave a bag of gold under his nose... which is in character for Garrett, at least.
- This is especially true considering the cathedral is in a part of the City that was walled off. Garrett's tone in describing the abandoned part of city seemed fairly skeptical of the actual danger. If the Hammerites were comfortable with leaving such an important artifact in a sealed cathedral in a sealed part of the City, it's fairly safe to assume the Hammers know something Garrett doesn't.
- Super Drowning Skills: In the first two games Garrett can swim, but in the third one he drowns instantly upon contact with nose-deep water.
- In the third game, guards take pratfalls on oil slicks, and it's even more funny when they slip right off a dock. Thanks to their Super Drowning Skills, it's a useful tactic, too.
- Technical Pacifist: Garrett, surprisingly enough. He's a thief, not a murderer.
- Thank the Maker: The Mechanist robots reeeally love this trope : "Praise Karras", "All should fear the word of Karras, the word of Karras...", etc. Needless to say, it can get annoying. A full list of the phrases can be seen here. This trope is slightly played with though - every robot uses a voice track recorded by Karras himself. It can become creepy hearing him speak from all of their mouths, even after you work out their limited speech patterns.
- Thieves' Guild: Garrett's not interested in sharing his profits. The local guild bosses are less than pleased. One baron gives him trouble and giving it right back is the object of a mission in the first game.
- Those Two Bad Guys: See Vitriolic Best Buds below. There are two guards in every game who change employers often, and for some reason anyone who hires them soon gets a visit from Garrett. And they still haven't learned not to talk loudly about where the keys are hidden and the secret doors are...
- Too Awesome to Use: Averted by Bag of Spilling: Not only can't you keep items you don't use, you can't even keep the extra cash if you don't buy them.
- Too Dumb to Live: In the third game, you can listen to two nobles talking about how they found the secret tunnel two thieves used to try to rob the museum, and plan to use it to break in for a lark. Said nobles seem to be forgetting that the reason the thieves failed was because the museum has lethal security precautions in place. But it would be such fun!
- Trick Arrow: Gas arrows, moss arrows, explosive fire arrows, distracting noise arrows and the ever-handy water arrows. They're versatile and can be used for a number of very different tasks (e.g. water arrows can douse torches and gas lamps, but also kill undead creatures if filled with holy water, etc.).
- Troperiffic: Seriously, just look at this page. Deconstructions are like that.
- Turned Against Their Masters: How Garrett beats Karras in Thief 2: The Metal Age.
- Underground Level: The Dark Project: "Escape from Cragscleft Prison", "Down in the Bonehoard", "Thieves' Guild", "The Lost City", part of "Song of the Caverns", "Strange Bedfellows", "The Maw of Chaos". The Metal Age: part of "Trail of Blood", part of "Precious Cargo", "Kidnap". Deadly Shadows: part of "Into the Pagan Sanctuary", "The Sunken Citadel". It's a thing.
- Unnecessarily Large Interior: The Halls of Echoing Repose, from the first game's "Down in the Bonehoard", as well as the Brobdignagian area in Constantine's Mansion in the Gold version.
- Useless Useful Stealth: Nicely averted (unsurprisingly, since proper stealth is the meat and potatoes of the whole series). Sure, you can still cut or blast your way through most enemies if needed, but it's not as fun or effective and you'll be scorned by both the game and the fans for it.
- The Verse: Thiefverse
- Video Game Caring Potential: Adorable drunk guards and any other innocents you can't convince yourself to kill or harm. And for some, in the first game, burricks.
- Many players even have a pointless, yet heartwarming habit of leaving the knocked-out NPCs on softer surfaces (beds, carpets, sofas), as a sort of compensation for the inconvenience of being unconscious.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Play the games the way they're meant to be played and you'll avoid it. But still, you can pickpocket virtually anyone (given the right circumstances), backstab anyone not aware of your presence from behind, snipe people and various fauna in the head with a broadhead arrow, blow up or gas people and creatures with fire arrows and bombs/mines, blackjack everyone in the city quarter and hide them in bushes or ignite puddles of oil and throw the unsuspecting innocents in there, blind people with flashbombs, blow zombies to chunky bits or dust with holy water arrows, etc., etc. And best of all, if you kill any normal living being, you can clean up the puddle of blood by shooting a water arrow into it. Of course, you should steer away from any open violence, since in the end, the guards or creatures will probably catch you and arrest or kill you.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: "Dumb Guard" (a.k.a. Benny) and "Smart Guard" (a.k.a. Nick or Jored). As different as night and day, but good pals and co-workers. A lot of their conversations turn into pure Crowning Moment of Funny.
- The Watcher: The entire faction of the Keepers is this trope incarnate, secretly struggling since ancient times to preserve the balance between good and evil in the world and peace between the various factions (especially the Hammerites and Pagans). But even though the members of this monastic and scholarly secret society try their best, they're not always as True Neutral as they claim, or perhaps wish, they could be.
- Weak but Skilled: Garrett, despite being far from a physical powerhouse, is able to regularly outwit and outmaneuver burly guards and superhuman monsters through a combination of smarts and stealth.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After the second mission of the third game, the nearest fence is roughed up by the fiancee of the man you rob trying to reclaim the Bloodline Opal (which she apparently had been planning to poison her betrothed for), forcing you to go to another district, through a gated that is blocked by men under her employ. Later on, you hear that the lady has sworn revenge for your theft. She doesn't appear again.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: On Expert difficulty, killing human civilians and guards is an automatic mission failure. This doesn't apply to animals, monsters, machines, undead or humanoid beasts. One exception is the Servants, who are people who've been kidnapped, vivisected and turned into cyborgs/living weapons. Killing them on Expert difficulty also grants you a mission failure. A notable exception occurs in the last mission of The Metal Age. The Masked Guards are apparently Mechanists who started questioning Karras' increasingly unstable behavior and methods, earning them a hasty conversion into Servants (as evidenced by the blood on their chestplates). They'll actually beg you to kill them and thank you if you do.
- X Meets Y: Garrett himself. Part Phil Marlowe, part Arsène Lupin, a pinch of Robin Hood, some nods to Batman, and all awesome.
- The series' setting itself could be described as a Darker and Edgier version of Discworld on drugs + a somewhat deconstructed take on the Low Fantasy and Medieval European Fantasy tropes + heavy doses of Steampunk and Clock Punk aesthetic + Chandlerian Film Noir.
- The overall stylistic tone is often pretty similar to the "new weird" fantasy work of China Mieville (the games predate them though).
- Also, the creators of the series acknowledged taking inspiration from authors and works as varied as Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Umberto Eco and Lupin III. German expressionist and classic Film Noir movies (like the The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Third Man) were also a large influence.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The Hammerites speak like this to a hilarious degree.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the most terrifying way.
- You No Take Candle: Pagans, on the other hand, have a unique tribal-ish dialect to their speech, using "bes" for "is" and other "to be" permutations and frequently attaching the suffix "-sy" to the end of words.
In addition, the Game Mods mentioned above contain tropes not seen or as prevalent as in the main games. These include:
- Adaptation Distillation: Or something close to it. A fair number of fan missions take creative liberties or outright ignore canon.
- Art Evolution: Many FMs use custom resources for object, items and textures, making a fan-mission look like a completely different game!
- Creepy Child: And their toys, too.
- Guide Dang It: Fan missions tend to be harder, with trickier clues, better hidden keys and switches, almost to the point of absurdity, leading to multi-page threads on the official forums asking for assistance.
- Kill Screen: The default number of polygons that the first two Thief games can render on screen at any given time is 1024. Any higher than that and you get a "hall of mirrors" effect, and then the game crashes. Several ambitious fan missions skirt carefully close to this number at all times due to level of detail! Some even come with warnings saying "Don't look here or there at this point" to avoid a crash.
- Shout-Out: To many other games, tv shows, movies, and even other mission authors
- Wide Open Sandbox: The individual levels are very conducive to wasting time playing around and trying to find routes into every nook and cranny, and have plenty of rewards (both treasure and interesting Easter eggs such as hidden dialogues) for doing so. Officially invoked in the third game, where the city itself is a Hub Level that you can sneak around exploring and robbing people between missions.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: While in the main game this only applies on "hard" or "expert", many fan missions make you auto fail if you kill an unarmed NPC by default.
- Only known as "The City"
- Albeit before he reviewed Batman: Arkham Asylum