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All Rules in Heists

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Example Heist

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 126
The following example illustrates the step-by-step process of building a heist, and how a group might tackle the heist during a game session.

The GM decides she wants the next big encounter in her campaign to be a heist, in order to add some new intrigue elements to the table. The PCs have been enjoying their ongoing struggles against a rival merchant lord who has been making life difficult for them. The GM plans out a quick encounter with an NPC who suggests that the best way to get leverage on the merchant lord is to steal the records of his illicit dealings with the local thieves’ guild that he keeps in a locked safe in his workshop.

The goal is “Steal an Item,” and the GM decides she wants a heist of moderate scope, so each character should have three mandatory obstacles to overcome in order to pull it off. She begins to compile a list of each character’s strengths. The four characters are Valeros the fighter, Ezren the wizard, Merisiel the rogue, and Kyra the cleric.

Valeros is, of course, very good at fighting and breaking things, but also happens to be good at carousing. Ezren likes to fling powerful magic around every chance he gets. Merisiel is great at skulking about, and she makes a good flanking partner for Valeros. Finally, Kyra is wise and observant and somewhat skilled at interpersonal tasks. The GM chooses a variety of obstacles that she thinks will be fun for these characters to overcome by using their strong suits.

The GM decides to include several guardians that block the path and will likely need to be defeated by force, including front-gate guards and a guardian gargoyle that Valeros and Merisiel might be able to fight together. Figuring the party will gather information before the heist, she seeds information on the tavern where the guards like to carouse, expecting Valeros might join them for a drink and try something there before the main heist, potentially asking to join as a new guard. She also includes information about an old priest who used to serve the merchant lord for many years and knows the full layout of the manor house, unlike most guards who don’t have access to the inner areas; the GM thinks Kyra might want to use her status as a fellow cleric to convince the priest to help the PCs in some way.

Anticipating that Ezren might enjoy doing something flashy, she decides that the final obstacle of escaping with their prize will involve a rival gang of thieves disguised as manor house servants, giving Ezren a chance to make a distraction so the others can slip away. She continues setting these obstacles and opportunities for the PCs, filled with chances for the PCs to use abilities, character personalities, and background tidbits the players would likely enjoy.

When the group decides in the course of the game that they want to break into the merchant’s manor and steal his ledgers, they begin gathering information just as the GM planned. However, there’s a slight alteration to the GM’s plans because, instead of having Valeros join the guards, they decide that a careful application of magic could take out the guards quietly. Also, playing slightly differently from normal, the group decides to use Ezren as an observer, drawing on his little-used scrying magic to assist in penetrating the grounds with little notice, leaving Kyra to put on a light show with her sun magic and make the final distraction to aid the escape.

And so it goes, as the Game Master reveals the manor’s defenses and the players figure out their way of dealing with them. The heist that the group plans and executes is different from what the GM guessed it might be. However, the whole group still has a good time pulling off the heist and the players all get a chance for their characters to shine.