TTRPG Stock Sessions — The Heist
Salutations, nerds! I’m back with another tabletop roleplaying game stock session to dissect and analyze. Today I’m taking a closer look at one of my personal favorites — the heist. There’s something valuable held behind closed doors in a secure facility. Something TTRPG characters need, want very badly or have been hired to retrieve. This archetype is part of the reason why I love Shadowrun so much as a setting. The game is 80% heist jobs, which by the way are great because they leave plenty of opportunity to tackle the adventure from whatever direction the players approach. A heist can be done via a lot of roleplaying, lying to people to get into position or purely through stealth. Characters can go loud and blast their way in or save this option for a last resort.
Cue the TTRPG heist session sequence
I you’re looking for good book inspiration for the Heist as an archetypical plotline and TTRPG stock session look no further than Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I can’t suggest this book enough. It’s got everything. So what choices go into planning a heist session? As before I’ll cover some of the decisions to make before running the Heist TTRPG stock session. You need three things.
What’s being stolen?
Pick a MacGuffin. This object might be something expensive but it could also be something useful too. If it is something useful the adventurers may be tempted to keep it instead of giving it to the person who hired them to take it in the first place. This opens them up to the risk of being chased by their employer.
Of course the party could always be stealing it for themselves to begin with. Or the object of the heist might be a person. Breaking someone out of jail is still a heist — one where considering what the person breaking out of jail will do on their way out is a factor but the same questions all apply.
Where is it and who has it?
This is where maps come into play. Who has the item or the target in question? How is it protected?
If the goal is for adventurers to ninja their way through a complicated labyrinth of arcane lasers this is the spot to do so. Adventurers may be required to Indiana Jones an object off a pressure plate and replace it with another object and similar contrivances and these obstacles go here.
When setting out a scenario full of traps and potential combat encounters consider the intended mark and the kinds of deterrents they would have in place. A wizard probably has a lot of arcane security for example and characters might have a golem or two with which to contend. If the party delves into a dwarven fortress this provides a good excuse to get into some classic dungeoneering.
How Your Players tend to Play
It’s also worth considering how individual players typically handle situations. A Game Master knows if their group tends towards the beat stick, if they’re more into NPC interactions or if they’re going to take a stealthy approach. My home group (may we get back to playing in person someday) really likes getting into their elaborate plans so for me maps and details are helpful because the players take every bit of info as an opportunity.
For a group with a bunch of talkative and interactive roleplayers plenty of opportunities to lie their way past security checks, steal uniforms and hide in plain sight ought to be welcome aspects of the heist. Heck, blending the heist with the fancy party stock session can work wonders. For a kick in the door style party combat encounters should fuel their fire. Parties going whole hog into the stealth aspect of the heist out to appreciate plenty of traps for them to disarm.
What’s the twist at the end?
There’s always a complication. Maybe the item is broken. Maybe it wasn’t there in the first place. Maybe the employer lied to the party and the person they’re snatching the MacGuffin from is actually the brother of the person who hired them in the first place or the item has a curse on it for whoever steals it. The more of a pain in the butt the twist is the more the party might want to take out their frustration on the employer however — definitely something to take into consideration. For an employer to be likable it’s wise to avoid them screwing the party over on purpose.
Have your TTRPG experiences ever included a heist? Please tell me all about it in the comments below and of course stay nerdy!
*Featured image — In a hidden library miles below the ground a librarian collects books slated for burning — missives never meant to see the light of day and perfect for the object of a heist in Forbidden Library. [Illustration by Ashkan Ghanbari]