I know I have weird titles, but I mean it. I started playing PayDay 2 recently on Steam and the VERY first thing that hit me was, I'm playing Shadowrun. Or more correctly, I'm playing a game that tells you what Shadowrun is minus the cyber and magic. I swear, give this team the Shadowrun license and ask them to do a first person, team based game where all you do is heists and extractions. We would be in heaven.
Remember my series of posts about my Big 4 of Gaming? Talking, Fighting, Making, and Taking. The Heist, or Heist games are the core of Take gaming. The very core.
Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2020, Leverage, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, you name the system and I'll point out they all want to do Ocean's Eleven. But Heists games take a bit of special GM mentality so I'm going to talk about them.
A good heist is broken up into elements that GMs need to pay attention to:
1. The Loot. Money, information (paydata), people, it doesn't matter what it is. What matters is it's precious to someone and you have to claim it. Coming up with Loot is job one. Mind you, it can be a set up and there is NO loot, but don't do that too often. Odds are the Players will want to see the Loot (legally) or do some level of recon to confirm their target is in range.
2. The Assets. These are a list of things the players can turn to their advantage. Rooftop access, bribable guards, sewer access, older security system, inside man who gives intel. Make sure you sit down and write up a list of assets. The player may not find all of them, but they should be there and give situational bonuses if/when the players use them. It doesn't matter what the setting. Modern guards, fantasy guardsmen, a dungeon sewer, a city public works vent. It all amounts to the same. Just keep in mind things like Magic/ultratech add new layers of asset options.
3. The Hazards. This is what the players fixate on first. Good Guards, security systems, dogs, traps, puzzles, or "time till police" counts. All the negative things that work against the players. If you are writing up your heist situation do one list of assets and one of hazards. The ratio of risk/reward determines the difficulty of the heist. If the Risk is too high, up the Look reward to make it worth it to the players. Otherwise, they'll walk away from it.
4. The Team. This is mostly players and their characters, but sometimes it is not! NPCs play a big roll in getting a Heist to work. Contacts are A#1 here. Make sure that some form of contact, info broker, or ally on the inside is present. Sure the intel may be sketch, but it's more useful to have an NPC give them aid than just handing them things. Hirelings factor in too! Hiring a good team of support cast is a BIG boost to OD&D to early 2nd Edition AD&D days. OSR players know this as gospel.
5. The Plan. Welcome to the brass tacks folks. This is the make it or break it. Once the PC's have the intel, the gear, the objective and the time to pull of the heist mission. They plan...and plan, and plan, and plan. Player planning sessions have eaten whole gaming sessions. And you know what? This. Is. Fine. Let the players plan. While they do this take notes. Write down a list of things that might cause them to change the plan. And if they are planning correctly they'll have Plan B's and fall back points if tings don't go quite as planed. Speaking of problems.
6. The Randomness. A very important factor. A good heist has randomness to it. Guard shifts his patrol at the last minute. A NPC kid spots the gear the team is sneaking. Or maybe the pass code for the safe got changed. Think up a half a dozen of potential problems, or go crazy with "wondering heist problem" table and roll up weird events at critical junctures. Just don't over do it. Randomness is great once or twice during a mission. But if EVERYTHING goes wrong no matter how good the planning, well that's just a GM being mean! Allow the player's Plan B's to work.
So my fellow crooks and conspirators. Let's make some bank. The heist is tonight at midnight. You all know your places? Good, lets do this.