All work and no play makes Santicore want to slay!!!
OH GREAT POWERFUL AND AMAZING SANTICORE! PLEASE GRANT ME:
“Some notes for running, or an adventure outline for, a heist scenario. Could be in a medieval fantasy world, modern-day, or far future space — your choice. Thanks!”
Dave W. delivered some good advice for something that he hasn’t ever considered doing before. Well done!
(VAGUE) HEIST SCENARIO GUIDELINES
Let me first begin by stating that I’ve never before contemplated a heist scenario, so the advice below should be taken as highly speculative.
As no details were given as to the genre of the heist, I will assume a classic bank robbery. The bank would be protected by passive security systems (electronic, mechanical, or magical depending on the setting) and by armed guards in any case. Bank employees would be schooled in how to react to robbery attempts. These things should be assumed, and as they are predictable and mundane, should largely remain in the background of the scenario, unless the characters deliberately interact with them.
Based upon examples of heist films I have seen, a heist doesn’t become interesting until something goes terribly wrong. Given this fact, elaborate plans by the players should be mildly discouraged, as those plans are destined by the fail by the requirements of the plot. If everything goes as planned, the heist is successful, but the game is boring. So, the first thing to consider is what will go wrong. In lieu of having the characters script their heist plans, ask the players the following questions:
(1) What props are required for the successful heist? Perhaps, they plan on tunneling in from the basement of an adjacent building, and consequently require digging equipment.
(2) Who do they have on the inside (past or present) who might have provided insight into the inner workings of the bank? Perhaps the lover of one of the characters is a bank teller.
(3) What NPCs outside the stable group of player characters are required to make their plan work? Perhaps, they need to hire a safecracker, or a skilled getaway driver.
(4) What is going on outside the bank at the planned time of the heist? Perhaps it’s Christmas time, and carolers abound. Perhaps a nearby building site is swarming with construction workers.
Choose which of the elements above will complicate the lives of the characters. As they’ve helped construct the scenario, they can’t strongly object to the logical consequences of their choices. Perhaps
(1) The required props fail at a critical time, requiring the characters to improvise;
(2) That lover has been cheating on the pc all along, and has his/her own plans for the heist, getting away with the money and laying the blame fully on the pc;
(3) Those NPCs are disloyal (cliché) or become injured or sick. Perhaps they encounter a loved in in the bank during the heist, and are conflicted as to how they should proceed;
(4) A holiday means drunks, and drunks attract cops. There might be an accident at the construction site that attracts an ambulance. While these forces might be entirely ignorant of the heist, their proximity will heighten tension.
Another common theme of the heist genre is the twist. Heist films often portray a dire situation, only to reveal that the characters have had an ace in the hole all along. Things may have looked bleak, but everything was going according to plan all along. When things look most bleak, allow the players to suggest how it’s all actually going according to plan. For every fact they introduce, introduce an additional complication they must overcome. This should lead to an escalation of revelations and complications until the final reveal is sufficiently satisfying.