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Thieves' World

Thieves' World is a shared world fantasy series created by Robert Lynn Asprin in 1978. The original series comprised twelve anthologies, including stories by such science fiction authors as Poul Anderson, John Brunner, Andrew J. Offutt, C. J. Cherryh, Janet Morris and more. Marion Zimmer Bradley was an early contributor, but spun off her main character in the novel Lythande (1986) and did not return for later volumes. The series went on hiatus after the twelfth anthology. In addition to the official anthologies, several authors published novels set in the milieu of Thieves World and published short stories in a variety of places.

Thieves' World is set in the city of Sanctuary, located at the edge of the Rankan Empire. The city was depicted as a place where many were downtrodden and where the invading Rankan gods and the Ilsigi gods they had ousted begin a struggle for primacy. As the series continued, additional invasions occurred and the city was taken over by the snake-worshipping Beysib as the Rankan empire collapsed. Over time, a number of the characters in the series are revealed either to be the offspring of or otherwise blessed by various figures in the pantheons of the competing cultures, and discover or develop various powers as the series progresses. A unifying framework for the second half of the series implied that the city of Sanctuary was about to become the kernel of a new empire with a new and syncretic pantheon; however, the series was abandoned before this came to fruition.

In 2002, Lynn Abbey, who co-edited several of the original anthologies, revitalized the series with the novel Sanctuary. It was followed by the anthologies Turning Points and Enemies of Fortune, which contain some returning authors and several new ones. Abbey also oversaw the republication of the original anthologies in omnibus editions and has plans for future anthologies.

As of 2006, Scot Barbour (director of Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story) has begun development of feature films and video games based on the Thieves' World series.

Original anthologies

  • Thieves' World (1979)
  • Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn (1980)
  • Shadows of Sanctuary (1981)
  • Storm Season (1982)
  • The Face of Chaos (1983)
  • Wings of Omen (1984)
  • The Dead of Winter (1985)
  • Soul of the City (1986)
  • Blood Ties (1986)
  • Aftermath (1987)
  • Uneasy Alliances (1988)
  • Stealers' Sky (1989)

New anthologies

  • Turning Points (2002)
  • Enemies of Fortune (2004)

Novels and collections

There are seven official novels, several unofficial novels and various collections and short stories outside the official anthologies.

The official novels are:

The first six novels were published in paperback by Ace Books. The novel Beyond Sanctuary is a collection of two stories from the anthologies plus two additional stories. The first part of the novel Dagger appeared in the anthology Aftermath.

Other novels/collections include:

Short stories


  • Sanctuary 1982. Book Club hardcover omnibus collecting Thieves’ World, Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, and Shadows of Sanctuary.
  • Cross-Currents 1984. Book Club Hardcover omnibus collecting: "Storm Season", “The Face of Chaos”, and "Wings of Omen".
  • The Shattered Sphere 1986. Book Club Hardcover omnibus collecting: “The Dead of Winter”, “Soul of the City”, and “Blood Ties”.
  • The Price of Victory 1989. Book Club Hardcover omnibus collecting: "Aftermath", "Uneasy Alliances", and "Stealers’ Sky".
  • First Blood 2003. Tor Paperback omnibus collecting Thieves’ World, Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, and The Lady of the Winds.


Starblaze Graphics 1985. Illustrated by Tim Sale. The original series was all black and white except for the covers.

  • Thieves World 1. Containing: 1) Introduction; 2) Someone is always awake in Sanctuary... (original); 3) Sentences of Death; 4) Myrtis; 5) The Price of Doing Business.
  • Thieves World 2. Containing: 1) Blood Brothers; 2) The Face of Chaos; 3) Gaeta (original); 4) Shadowspawn.
  • Thieves World 3. Containing: 1) The Dream of the Sorceress; The Blue Camel (original); 3) Vashanka's Minion.
  • Thieves World 4. Containing: 1) Shadow's Pawn; 2) Runcigor and Alminda (original); 3) To Guard the Guardians.
  • Thieves World 5. Containing: 1) Looking for Satan; 2) Ischade; 3) A Gift in Parting.
  • Thieves World 6. Containing: 1) The Vivisectionist; 2) The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn; 3) Arvo the Nose (original).

Thieves World Graphics collects volumes 1 to 3 above, colorised and with a new cover by David A. Cherry

Role Playing Games

  • Thieves' World Complete Sanctuary Adventure Pack (Chaosium Box Set, 1981). Containing: 1) The Player's Guide to Sanctuary; 2) The Gamemaster's Guide to Sanctuary; 3) Personalities of Sanctuary; 4) Map of Sanctuary; 5) Map of the Maze; 6) Map of the Maze Underground.
  • The Blue Camel (mini-adventure; FASA, 1982)
  • T1 - Traitor (FASA, 1982)
  • T2 - Spirit Stones (FASA, 1982)
  • T3 - Dark Assassin (FASA, 1982)
  • T4 - Vengeance (FASA, 198?)
  • Sanctuary Under the Beysibs (Chaosium Companion, 1986)
  • Thieves' World Player's Manual (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Thieves' World Gazetteer (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Murder at the Vulgar Unicorn (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Black Snake Dawn (Green Ronin, 2007)
  • Thieves' World MUD - Online Text-Based Game based on the Thieves' World novels, and approved by Lynn Abbey (



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