How to run a heist adventure
Heist movies are the essence of cool. Cool characters, intriguing situations, mind-boggling puzzles. A D&D heist adventure has tremendous potential since the campaign already has cool characters and a unique and rich setting – especially if you read the Instant World Builder and Instant Campaign Builder.
Tim, a Dungeon Mastering reader, recently e-mailed me:
I want to design a part of a campaign where the group will need to pull off a heist, similar to say an Ocean’s Eleven or The Sting. […] I was curious as to your thoughts about its feasibility, and whether or not it could be worked out based on DnD restrictions.
I decided I would share my thoughts here and hopefully you can all add your comments and ideas too and make this heist project work.
1 – Determine why it’s impossible for the PCs to pull off the heist.
I would start by deciding how the target is guarded and protected and making sure it is completely utterly definitely impossible to pull off the heist. The target must be well guarded by multiple layers of protection. It must be beyond anyone’s reach. That’s what makes the heist special – it cannot, should not be achieved.
2 – Add cracks in the protection
Once it is clear that the target is perfectly unattainable I’d add some cracks in the protection. Not big cracks though. The challenge has to be daunting.
- Information. Is there available information that would allow the PCs to bypass one of the layers of protection of the target?
- Allies. Does anyone have an agenda similar to the PCs’ who could help with the heist?
- Traitors. Would anyone with inside access or information be ready to help the PCs?
- Magic. Is there a magic item or spell that could breach the magical protection of the target?
3 – Plant information
Once I know of some ways the PCs could pull of the heist I’d start planting the information over time. If you plant the information over a long period of time the heist becomes harder to pull off because it’s harder for the PCs to meta-game and figure out which clues are relevant.
4 – The Exposé
Now the fun part! Who’s briefing the PCs on the heist? That character will tell the PCs how impossible the heist is. He knows all the reasons why it’s unrealistic to try the heist. That speech should make for a great scene.
Share your thoughts and experience on heist-style scenes!