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This article is about an older version of DF.

In Fortress mode, a thief is a disgusting dishonorable creature that can skulk around the map unseen until detected. When a thief is detected, the game pauses with an identifying announcement and moves the game view to include the threat (This can be modified in init/announcements.txt).

(A full military response is both complex and slow. If you are new to version 0.34, and simply want to send your nearest dwarves after a thief, see Attack.)

There are two types of intelligent thieves: kobold thieves and goblin snatchers:

Kobold thieves can start appearing quite early (first year) and will sneak right past all of your traps, only triggering them if they are injured during their escape attempt and happen to fall unconscious on one. They are detected when they move adjacent to a dwarf, guard dog or other tame animal. Armed with only a large dagger, they often offer little threat to anyone - an armed dwarf or dog should be able to take them down, but extreme bad luck is always a possibility in any combat situation. While they sometimes steal low value items left outside (intentionally or not), there seems to be a mechanism that makes them target other, higher value items inside instead, too. (aka completely random)[Verify]
The announcement for a kobold thief is...
Thief! Protect the hoard from skulking filth!
...and the game will zoom to a section of your fortress with a small grey "k" visible - that's your intruder.

Unlike kobolds, Goblin snatchers happily run into any kind of trap. They aren't after your trade goods; they're after your children. They are detected the same way kobolds are, plus cage traps trigger the announcement. They should be approached with a little bit more caution, but any average soldier should take them down unharmed. A normal thief will carry a large copper dagger, but a master thief is known to carry an iron one. If the dwarf who discovers (moves next to) the thief is a military personnel, the thief will usually attack the dwarf once before trying to escape. When they get their hands on one of your beloved(?) children, they will stuff them in a bag they carry with them for that purpose. The child is considered part of the snatcher's inventory -- in particular, if the goblin is caught in a cage trap, the child will be caught with him. Left in this condition for too long, the child may go insane or die from hunger or thirst.
The announcement for a goblin child-snatcher is...
Snatcher! Protect the children!
...and the game will zoom to a section of your fortress with a small grey "g" - if you use v or u, these will be listed as "goblin thief" but they're cut from the same stuff and should be terminated with equally extreme prejudice.
If caged by a trap, the zooming may only reveal a flashing "".

Both kinds will usually come in small groups of about 1 to 4 individuals. They try to escape once detected and only fight when cornered. Their ability to sneak into your fortress is not to be underestimated; locked doors do not slow them down, although doors that are linked to a lever (and are closed) will. They can lurk around the map for quite some time and wait for their opportunity, even when they are already inside your fortress. They may arrive more or less simultaneously with sieges or ambushes, distraction and general turmoil working in their favor. Guarding any entrance with guard animals is a wise countermeasure, though. A successful theft of item or child will be announced once the thief leaves the map.

Spotting the thief is half the battle, but catching and killing them is not always easy. A thief can typically outrun an armored recruit, but a highly trained military dwarf will often be able to catch up. (Thieves can't outrun crossbow bolts, either.)

Certain "playful" creatures will also try to steal items from your hoard, if left open to more general traffic. These include raccoons, which tend to be solitary, groups of keas (which are harmless but annoying), rhesus macaques and mandrills (which aren't just playful, but downright dangerous) and finally the most threatening animal thief, the dreaded giant kea. In addition, hungry and thirsty critters will try to steal your food and booze respectively, if they can get to it. None of these animals has any special ability to avoid standard traps or bypass locked doors.

A thief announcement can appear while mass-designating dumping or forbidding. (Seen in .31.12.)

Note that thieves can steal items from all over the map, i.e. weapons of dead fighters (these items, even if forbidden, behave as if you already posess them - you can i.e. see them in the stocks menu and toggle their "forbid" flag on and off). This can be quite irritating.

Beware that if thieves successfully steal enough items from your fort, their civilization will (if it has the [SKULKING] entity token) become bold enough to send their military to ambush your dwarves. Thus, it is important to neutralize any thieves early.

Military and defense
Managing soldiers
Design tips