Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 3

Con Jobs: Part 3Having recently talked about mysteries in games and fiction, I now expand on the related genre of spy missions, heists, capers, and con jobs.  In Part 1, I briefly looked at some staples of the genre in books, television and movies, then I examined a handful of game systems that attempt to bring the heist structure to role-playing.  In Part 2, I drew elements from these sources to discuss more generally what game masters can do to prepare this kind of adventure in any system and provided links to online resources for the genre.

In Part 3, I talk about running the adventure per se, and trouble-shooting typical problems.

Running the Game

As discussed in the first two parts of this series, stories in this genre typically unfold in three acts: Planning the Job, Executing the Mission, and Wrap-Up.

Shiny KeyPlanning Phase

The planning or preparation phase typically include getting the job or the mission, and meeting the client if there is one; investigating to get more information to work with; and planning the operation.  Future complications may be foreshadowed.

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Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 2

Con Jobs: Part 2Having recently talked about mysteries in games and fiction, I now expand on the related genre of spy missions, heists, capers, and con jobs.  In Part 1, I briefly looked at some staples of the genre in books, television and movies, then I examined a handful of game systems that attempt to bring the heist structure to role-playing.

In Part 2, I draw elements from these sources to discuss more generally what game masters can do to prepare this kind of adventure in any system.  I’ll round this up by providing links to some nifty online resources for the genre.

In Part 3, I will talk about running the adventure per se, and trouble-shooting typical problems.

The Game Master’s Toolbox

Although in Part 1 we looked at five heist-specific games, what if you don’t want to switch to a different system but you want to run a caper or con job to your game?  Here are some tools for the GM, which I gathered from the sources discussed in Part 1 and many more.

Continue reading “Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 2”

Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 1

Con Jobs: Part 1Having recently talked about mysteries in games and fiction, I will now expand on the related genre of spy missions, heists, capers, and con jobs.  In Part 1, I’ll briefly look at some staples of the genre in books, television and movies, then examine a handful of game systems that attempt to bring the heist structure to role-playing.

In Part 2 and Part 3, I will draw elements from these sources to discuss more generally what game masters can do to run this kind of adventure in any system.  I’ll round this up by providing links to some nifty online resources for the genre.

Genre Essentials

What I’m talking about here is the kind of fiction — book, movie, television show, or game — where a team of highly skilled pros take on a seemingly impossible job using criminal means (electronic surveillance, breaking-and-entry, theft, swindles, etc.) in full view of the audience or reader.

The genre is characterized by suspense, action, misdirection, the boldness of the plan, the high level of competence of the crew, the relationships and interplay of trust and betrayal between characters, and often a mix of humour and drama.  The crew usually cover distinctive roles, each with their area of expertise such as mastermind, technical whiz, explosives expert, master of disguise, etc.  In addition, the team is often working with limited resources, at least once the plan is under way.

The genre covers an array of gamer favourites.  Surprisingly, it can be found in just about any era or fictional setting  from fantasy to science fiction.  There are several sub-genres (some even classify them as different but related genres):

Continue reading “Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 1”

Mysteries in games and fiction

Photo: Agatha ChristieI was recently reading through a mystery novel and developing a bit of impatience, trying to see how long the author would take to develop the story to a point where I would care about this investigation.  (Answer: looks like page 95, which is definitely too long.)

Since then, I’ve been thinking about this topic in the context of games, as well as fiction.  When do we get interested enough to actually want to go along with a mystery story?  How do I get my players to jump in, rather than feel like rats going through a laboratory maze?  I identified the following components as essential to my own interest.

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Full Steam Ahead for 2008…

We had a pleasant holiday season. Technically, it’s not over until Sunday if you celebrate Twelfth Night / Epiphany. We used to in my family, but with just the two of us here, I think and I will pass on finding out who gets to be king. 🙂

On Monday, we got together with seven of our friends and played games. In the afternoon, Edmund ran a nifty game of Bloodshadows, a role-playing game that uses the Masterbook system. I played a cat… I’ve never been very fond of that particular setting, but Edmund had done a great job creating characters, and the game was a lot of fun. And I really, really love the Torg/Masterbook/Shatterzone system; yes, it has a bunch of little crunchy bits, but unlike most crunchy games, they feel like they are there to accomplish a purpose, not just because someone else had a similar bit in his game 30 years ago. They work, they provide value. Also, my cat character stood up to a God. ^_^

We had a gamer potluck dinner: Peter and Cindy brought a couple of large (and tasty!) Hogswatch pies they had made, and a bunch of vegetables, satsuma mandarins, cookies, crackers, and drinks the rest of us had brought. Then I ran Spirit of the Season in the Truth & Justice system. It was not as good as Edmund’s game because I was very tired by the time it ended at 11pm. Then most of us stayed on to play board games and toast the New Year in with bubbles (cider!)

Yesterday, we kind of vegetated: did a couple of loads of laundry, ordered Chinese food for dinner(!), and I finished a couple of things I’d let go for the last few weeks: the proposed front and back layouts for the Indie Tour 2008 t-shirt; and a draft poster for ConQuest NW’s role-playing section. I confess, after having had a very pleasant few days, I was feeling a lot more moody yesterday when thinking about a new year. Starting it with the blood bath in Kenya, and bad or lukewarm health news from several people I love, left me feeling sober.