Taffer Style

This is a relatively self-indulgent post, but hey– blog!

I was once, and remain, a rabid fan of the gaming franchise that began with Thief: The Dark Project, continued with Thief II: The Metal Age and Thief: Deadly Shadows, and will soon resume with 2014's Thief. These are the high water mark in first-person, hybrid, potentially non-violent, stealth-based, story-rich games.

A recent discussion of satire, parody, and pastiche in the comment section of another thread here reminded me that I wrote a handful of Thief-themed pastiches back in the early aughties. To share them with others who might like them, to store them in our database, and to revisit them with wistful nostalgia, I reproduce them below. Each is set to the theme of a pop song. Note well: these are only meaningful if you've played the games, and they're best read with the corresponding tunes playing in the background. 🙂 The songs are Barbie Girl, All Star, Mickey, We Didn't Start The Fire, Uptown Girl, Cheers, and U Can't Touch This.

In one sense, the message of this post in a nutshell is "Ain't I a clever chap!" But if you, too, love the Thief games, then in joining the nostalgia perhaps you'll revisit some fond memories of your own.

The first, from 17th Apr 2001 15:42, is based on All Star by Smash Mouth:

Thief now

Some Keeper once told me the City's gonna roll me,
There ain't a patient thought in my head.
He was lookin' kinda creepy and actin' really sneaky,
Writin' glyphs on the wall over my bed.

Well the guards start comin' and they don't stop comin'.
I mantle to the roof and I hit the ground runnin'.
Didn't make sense not to live for wealth.
You're silent but it's a waste of stealth.
So much to steal, to take away,
So why not fly by the thieves' highway.
You'll never win if you don't play.
You'll never learn if you don't stray.

Hey now, you're a thief now, nock an arrow, go steal!
Hey now, straight and narrow, go and borrow what's real!
Can't spend what's already spent —
Only legal tender pays the rent.

It's a cruel world but they say you need balance,
You're walking the line, charity or malice.
But the Hammers and Pagans are crazy.
Keepin' to the side seems so stupid, so lazy.
Detachment mode is gettin' pretty stale.
The Trainer's standin' still so you might as well bail.
A world of shadows, unlocked doors —
That's the way I like it and I'll never get bored

Hey now, you're a thief now, nock a crystal and shoot!
Hey now, take a fistful, go and pilfer some loot!
Can't live on leather and steel —
Only filthy lucre buys a meal.

Hey now, you're a thief now, nock an arrow, go steal!
Hey now, straight and narrow, go and borrow what's real!
Can't spend what's already spent —
Only legal tender…

Some taffer took a notion to overdose on potion,
Steal away from this cruel City of tears.
I said, "Man!
What a great plan!
Take a little something for myself,
And we could all use a little change."

Well the guards start comin' and they don't stop comin'.
I mantle to the roof and I hit the ground runnin'.
Didn't make sense not to live for wealth.
You're silent but it's a waste of stealth.
So much to steal, to take away,
So why not fly by the thieves' highway.
You'll never win if you don't play.
You'll never learn if you don't stray.

Hey now, you're a thief now, nock an arrow, go steal!
Hey now, straight and narrow, go and borrow what's real!
Can't spend what's already spent —
Only legal tender pays the rent.
Can't spend what's already spent —
Only legal tender pays the rent.

The second, from 19th Apr 2001 11:11, is based on the regrettable Mickey by Toni Basil. It addresses (with SPOILERS) the complicated relationship between the anti-heroic protagonist, Garrett, and his main squeeze, Viktoria.

Hey Vikki

Oh Vikki, you're a vine!
You're a vine, you grow and wind!
Hey Vikki, hey Vikki!

Oh Vikki, you're a vine!
You're a vine, you grow and wind!
Hey Vikki, hey Vikki!

Oh Vikki, you're a vine!
You're a vine, you grow and wind!
Hey Vikki!

Hey Vikki!

Your arm is like a branch and that's a little long,
Your skin is dry and blanched, and your hairdo is all wrong.
Your bark is gonna bite, so can't you take me home, Vikki?

When you were lookin' fine, I offered you the Eye.
You wanted one of mine, baby please, baby why?
Makin' me half blind, leavin' me to die, Vikki?

Oh Vikki, what a pity that you're made of wood!
You take me by the heart when you fence a stolen good.
Oh Vikki, you're so naughty 'cause you're made of wood.
It's gals like you, Vikki….
Oh, stop and mull, Vikki, mull Vikki!
Don't raid my skull, Vikki!

Hey Vikki!

Now when you plant one on me I discover that you're mean.
Every time you pry I feel a little more green.
You're twiggin' out my orb for Constantine, Vikki!

I never liked horticulture, never cared for rape.
I'm just a Thief for hire, Vikki — You leave me no escape!
Oh please, baby, please! Don't make me fight an ape, Vikki!

Oh Vikki, what a City! I have you to thank….
You welcome me on board, then you make me walk the plank.
Oh Vikki, nitty gritty, shoulda robbed a bank.
A souvenir, Vikki?
Don't rob my socket, Vikki, socket Vikki!
How 'bout a locket, Vikki?

Oh Vikki, you're a vine!
You're a vine, you grow and wind!
Hey Vikki, hey Vikki!

Oh Vikki, you're a vine!
You're a vine, you grow and wind!
Hey Vikki, hey Vikki!

Oh Vikki, you're a vine!
You're a vine, you grow and wind!
Hey Vikki!

Oh Vikki, what a pity that you're made of wood!
You take me by the heart when you fence a stolen good.
Oh Vikki, you're so naughty 'cause you're made of wood.
It's gals like you, Vikki….
Oh, stop and mull, Vikki, mull Vikki!
Don't raid my skull, Vikki! (x3)

The third, from 12th May 2001 20:06, I based on Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire. It's densely packed with references from the gameworld of the Thief franchise. I wrote it in response to a post from a hardcore fan of the game who had recounted an incident in which he ignored a fire alarm in his dorm (in view of recent false alarms) in order to continue playing Thief and was later interrupted by an angry evacuation enforcer.

I Didn't Start The Fire

Gorman Truart, Constantine, Stonemarket, Karath-Din
Keepers' Grotto, Cid Capezza, Crippled Burrick Pub
Master Willey, Lord Ramirez, Builder's Chisel, Horn of Quintus
Old Cathedral, Hammer Temple, Friendly Cetus Sub

Bumblesons, Sunburst, Squire Shaunus, Cutting Purse
Fendon and Sunnyfair, Dreckboun and the Downwind Lair
Ravencourt, de Perrin, City's got a Baron
Venik Kilgor, Silver Poker, Selentura, Gilver

I didn't start the fire
It's already flaming
And I'm busy gaming
I didn't start the fire
And I'm never leaving
Cuz I'm busy thieving

Alexandra Kurenov, Robilard and Shemenov
Bram Gervaisius, Crom, McCrellis, Serpentyle Torc
Fuquan, Va-Toran, Secretary Weitan
Issyt, Watchman, Edine and Marad

Andrus, Azaran, Reggie and Conandra
Pennybuckle, Auldale, Yora, Tennor, Jenel, Vale
Lady Rumford, Mynell, Porter's Tarts and Art for Sale
Whipple Street, Northcrest Road, Trouble in the Bonehoard

I didn't start the fire
It's already flaming
And I'm busy gaming
I didn't start the fire
And I'm never leaving
Cuz I'm busy thieving

Thistlewell, Brandyridge, Cragscleft Prison, Shalebridge
Soulforge, Noah Jerm, Goodfellow, Rakel's Tome
Wayside Docks, Magekeep, Temple of N'Lahotep
Grandmauden, Swarm of Flies, Children are the Builder's Eyes

Kahmin Ramin, Mailu, Mage Verlin, Al Haroud
Book of Paths, Kreos, and the Maw of Chaos
Old Gate, Magic Sword, Blackjack, Benny, Woodsie Lord
Cather, Sutter, Dranko, Felix and Adolpho

I didn't start the fire
It's already flaming
And I'm busy gaming
I didn't start the fire
And I'm never leaving
Cuz I'm busy thieving

Rubin Street, Bafford's Well, Book of Coral and Scale
Dayport, Eastport, Bearpits and Bloodsports
Hammerite Compendium, Thistlewell's Terrarium
Downtowne, Hightowne, Heavy Head that Wears a Crown

High Priest, Arch Mage, Keeper, Trickster, Metal Age
Father K, Cultivator, What else do I have to say?

I didn't start the fire
It's already flaming
And I'm busy gaming
I didn't start the fire
And I'm never leaving
Cuz I'm busy thieving

Mystic's Heart, Burringden, Lord Ramirez back again
Markham, Farkus, Beck o' Wills, Carcass
Lord Whitsimmon, Iendros, Fire, Water, Gas, Moss
First City Bank and Trust, Colliard and Valerius

Book of Tenets, Book of Ash, Inner Circle, Herbal Stash
Bursting Frog, Walking Log, Rat, Eye, Rain and Fog
Gold and Trinkets, Vintage Wine, Rope, Noisemaker, Broadhead, Vine
Jewelry, Artifacts, and Lore, I can take it all and more

I didn't start the fire
It's already flaming
And I'm busy gaming
I didn't start the fire
And when you are gone
I'll can still play on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on

Fourth, from 12th May 2001 23:13, is another riff on Billy Joel inspired by events in Thief II: The Metal Age, in which a policewoman and a pagan outsider exchange notes on the down low as part of a larger conspiracy:

Shoalsgate girl

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

Shoalsgate girl
She's been working in her Shoalsgate world
I'll bet she never nabbed a Pagan guy
I'll bet she never told the Sheriff why
I'm gonna spy for a Shoalsgate girl
She's been working in her bluecoat world
As long as anyone with green thumbs can
And now she's scheming with a Pagan man
That's what I am

And when we transfer our notes right on ti-i-ime
Her signal's peony, and sage branch is mi-i-ine
She'll see my prose ain't much
Just because I'm in touch with a Shoalsgate girl
You know I've seen her in her Shoalsgate world
She's getting tired of the human loss
And all the orders from her Shoalsgate boss
She'll doublecross

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

Shoalsgate girl
You know I can't afford to know her name
But maybe someday when the bulls are tamed
She'll bring an end to my clandestine task
And then I'll ask

And when she's walking she's looking behi-i-ind
Our swap's organic, no panic, it's double-blind
She'll say my prose ain't much
Just because I'm in touch with a Shoalsgate girl
She's been working in her bluecoat world
As long as anyone with green thumbs can
And now she's scheming with a Pagan man
That's what I am

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

{Repeat and Fade}
Shoalsgate girl
She's my Shoalsgate girl
Don't you know I'm in touch with a

Fifth, from 16th May 2001 03:19, is an adaptation of the theme from the sitcom Cheers by Gary Portnoy and Judith Hart-Angelo. It evokes a guild war in Thief II.

Breakin' my way in the Guild today…
Take everything they've got!
Sapphire loot they stole from Randall
Sure is worth a lot!
Wouldn't I like to get a vase?

Sometimes I wanna steal
Where everybody knows my name,
But they never know I came.

I wanna sneak where I can seek
A bracelet beneath a flame.
I wanna steal where Thom and Magrin know my name.

Overlord's Fancy? Not a chance!
I know a better game….
I'm gonna steal where Don and Reuben know my name.

Sixth, from 16th May 2001 06:33, I rework that classic by MC Hammer for use by the Hammerite Order, enforcers of law and order in the Thief games.

U can't touch this (x2)
U can't touch this (oh-oh oh oh oh-oh-oh) (x2)

My-my-my-my hammer hits thee
with ease
makes you say "Builder, please!
Help me!
He's crushing me
with a swing and creed that make me bleed!"
And that's good,
and you're going down,
You superslow tafferboy from the Downtowne!
And your jack
ain't much,
And this is some loot uh u can't touch.

I told thee, tafferboy! (u can't touch this)
Yeah, that holy symbol! And you know (u can't touch this)
What's with thine eye, man? (u can't touch this)
You know, let me bust the funky Burricks! (u can't touch this)

Flesh through books
and chants
With vigilance can overcome the squalid past.
So we're
Walkin' our beat.
We're gonna try early to catch this thief.
While he's sprawlin'
swing that
tool a little bit and let 'im know he's gettin' flat.
Like that!
Like that!
Builder's permission to break his back,
let him know
that we're too much
and this is some loot uh he can't touch.

Yo I told thee! (u can't touch this)
Why thou sneakin' there man? (u can't touch this)
Yo pound the nails. Rules are in, taffer! (u can't touch this)

Give me a tome
or parchment!
Knowledge our weapon, our enlargement,
carves
our path.
You're forgin' a hammer, you're channeling wrath
that's hot
and bright.
Swingers are smithin' surpassingly tight
hammerheads,
die-cast.
Whatcha gonna make and is it gonna last?
The shaft
must fit.
Bigger the hammer, the harder you'll hit.

I heard because, you know,
U can't touch this (oh-oh oh oh-oh-oh) (x2)
Break 'im down
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh oh-oh) (x2)
Stop! Hammer time!

So, infidel,
go ahead!
If you try takin' this then you're gonna be dead.
Your grave
shall bind you below.
Grab for a sword, nock an arrow on your bow.
This is it.
You're a sinner!
I swing this and you're gonna get thinner.
Thou
art the nail.
This is a mallet and you're gonna wail!
Wail, wail, wail, yeah!

U can't touch this
Look man (u can't touch this)
The Builder will smite, boy,
'Cause you know you can't (u can't touch this)
Ping the nail! Fools break in. Break 'im down!
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh) (x2)
Stop! Hammer time!
(Oh-oh oh oh oh-oh-oh) (x2)
(Oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh)
(Oh-oh oh oh oh-oh-oh) U can't touch this (x3)
(Oh-oh oh oh oh-oh-oh) Break 'im down
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh) (x2)
Stop! Hammer time!

Every time we see thee
we brothers call a Priest.
A dope's on the floor so his magic is released.
Now why would you ever
try stealin' this
from huge red-suited wreckers that love to hit?
I heard a sound – what stirred?
Is someone making noise?
So Hammer, go hammer with a hammer, O Hammer!
and you will regret your choice!

U can't touch this (oh-oh oh oh oh-oh-oh) (x2)
U can't touch this (oh-oh oh-oh-oh)
Yeah (u can't touch this)
I told thee (u can't touch this) (oh-oh oh-oh-oh)
You swipe! (u can't touch this)
Builder, guide my hand! (u can't touch this)
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)

Finally, the earliest of all, from 14th Feb 2001 12:21, is a non-gameworld reference to Looking Glass Studio's game modeling tool, DromEd, which was used to build the gameworld and to manipulate in-game object and figures. The lyrics use some game-editing jargon such as "portalization", "brush", "stim", and "cow" & "mis" files. They're set to the tune of Barbie Girl by Aqua.

DromEd Girl

– Hello? Is anyone there?

– It's a long way down….
– I'll get you, you taffer!
– Creepy!
– Just the wind, I guess….

I'm a DromEd girl in a DromEd world
Life in pixels kinda tickles
You can brush some air, stick textures everywhere
Portalization, cows are your creation

The guide I've read it. Let's go edit!

I'm a DromEd girl in a DromEd world
Life in pixels kinda tickles
You can brush some air, stick textures everywhere
Dromeditation, mis files at your station

I'm a designer's girl in a virtual world
Dress me up, make me fight, I'm your AI

I'm your mesh, stim my flesh, send me wandering by
Spawn me here, skin me there, frobby hobby

You can save, you can play
If you say "please snap to grid", oo-ooh-oo

I'm a DromEd girl in a DromEd world
Life in pixels kinda tickles
You can brush some air, stick textures everywhere
Portalization, cows are your creation

Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
Ah ah ah yeah
Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
oo-ooh-oo oo-ooh-oo
Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
Ah ah ah yeah
Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
oo-ooh-oo oo-ooh-oo

Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please
I can act like a guard, I can sneak on my knees

Press Alt-G, come and see, then Alt-E me again
One more poly for gold hammer credit

You can save, you can play
If you say "please snap to grid"
You can save, you can play
If you say "please snap to grid"

Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
Ah ah ah yeah
Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
oo-ooh-oo oo-ooh-oo
Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
Ah ah ah yeah
Come DromEd it! Let's go edit!
oo-ooh-oo oo-ooh-oo

I'm a DromEd girl in a DromEd world
Life in pixels kinda tickles
You can brush some air, stick textures everywhere
Dromeditation, mis files at your station

I'm a DromEd girl in a DromEd world
Life in pixels kinda tickles
You can brush some air, stick textures everywhere
Portalization, cows are your creation

The guide I've read it! Let's go edit!
Ah ah ah yeah
The guide I've read it! Let's go edit!
oo-ooh-oo oo-ooh-oo
The guide I've read it! Let's go edit!
Ah ah ah yeah
The guide I've read it! Let's go edit!
oo-ooh-oo oo-ooh-oo

– Why do I have to be all alone down here?
– It ain't lost no more!
– Must've been rats….

The essence of balance is detachment. And the balance of pastiche is the detachment of essence!

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