I started working on my next one shot game! Right now I’m calling it Cyberpunk Heist because it’s got a cyberpunk theme and it’s going to be a heist game. I really hope I can come up with a better name by the end of the development process, but “Apprentice Quest” was also the early prototype name and it stuck, for better or worse
tl;dr is at the bottom
Cyberpunk Heist will use the same system as Apprentice Quest (a d6 system, with three stats, Morale, and rolling dice pools), but I’m trying to make sure it isn’t a reskin of my last game.
I just started sketching out the new mechanics and how the game flows and works, and haven’t given too much thought about the setting, other than doing something non-magical. I want something that’s still unique and fun like freshman wizards with shit spells. I want to maybe have the characters in this game feel more experienced, and the fun and lightheartedness comes from the heist and how things can go wrong. I think it might be funny if every character is a veteran coming back for one last job and really play that up, or the exact opposite and the whole crew has been preparing for months and this is their first job and they can easily crack under pressure.
Right now though, I’m focusing on what makes this unique to my last game, but still familiar and easy to run. The first thing I’m trying new is playing around with giving players “roles.” Or at least alluding to roles. Roles can be seen as an equivalent to classes from other games (fighter, wizard, gunner, pilot, etc), but more akin to a cyberpunk setting and classic heist roles. The current problem with the formula I’ve set up, and the system I have made, is that having multiple classes requires much more room than basically 3/4 of a page, as well as a lot more tweaking and balancing and development. Apprentice Quest worked because all the players were Wizard Apprentices, that was the whole game, so I could focus on making each player feel unique without bogging down the character creation with what everyone’s role is or what they want to play. It also added a fun challenge that isn’t normally seen in roleplaying games, having a party of all the same class.
But a heist requires a few different roles. If everyone is charming and a great talker (the Face), has the strength to fight off guards or rip open doors (the Muscle), and is a tech genius who can take out the security systems from a terminal (the Hacker), then it’d be a pretty boring heist. Or at least I wouldn’t watch that movie. A staple of heist movies is building the team, there’s always a montage of recruiting the team, and then during the actual heist they do what they do best and then something goes wrong and everyone does what they do best again but in a high pressure situation and in the end it works out. So having each player feel like they’re essential to the team and unique in some way or another is an important goal for me. I’ve been brainstorming and sketching out different ways that these roles can be assigned outside of just rolling on a list that says “You’re the Thief!” But really that is the first, and simplest way of doing this.
One other way this can be accomplished is a player character’s toolkit, the stuff that they bring and know how to use. I think giving the players items and gadgets will 1) Make that cyberpunk genre come alive and 2) allow for the DM and Players to interact and discuss what they do as well as come to interesting and fun creative solutions. Things like a Static Smoke Cigarette or a Neural Interfacing Augmentation seem like fun things to use during a heist, and everyone playing will help shape what the item can and can’t do. These toolkits could also be used to help define a person’s role without outwardly assigning one, making randomly rolling your toolkit similar to generating your spell in Apprentice Quest.
The last idea for getting people to be assigned a role but without defining it exactly is to have the player roll randomly to see which stat (Body, Mind, or Wits) will be designated with a + (meaning that’s their above average stat). This, again, alludes to your role without straight up telling the player “You’re the Face” or “You’re the Stealthy Rogue.” This will also, hopefully, guide the player into their role and be creative with how they play. One thing people said they liked about Apprentice Quest was having to use what they were given, even if they didn’t like it at first. I’m hoping that same mentality will come through. If people don’t like having what they’re good at be determined randomly, I might change it to what they’re bad at (designated with a -), but that’s at least a play test away. Alongside your toolkit, players can define each other’s strengths and weaknesses and form their own ideas of who they are and what their role is on the team (hopefully).
That’s really all I have right now. That and a bunch of scribbles and test tables for the character creation. I have ideas for the DM sheet, and I’m actually very excited about writing that. Without getting too into it, the DM sheet will help you craft the heist stage by stage (probably a 3 stage heist system), and then also a table of “what can go wrong” and “what they didn’t plan for.” I have a soft spot for heist missions.
TL;DR The next one shot game I’ll be making is a cyberpunk heist game, and I’m still working on how character creation is unique but similar to Apprentice Quest. Playing around with how to have people feel like they’re a unique member of the team with a fun role, but doing it so that the quick randomness of the character generation is still fun. Lots of ideas, I just need to get it on paper and play test. Also I talked about how my system is limiting for a second there.
Discussion: Have any thoughts on anything I’ve proposed? What’s something you’d like to see in a heist style game? Also what’s your favorite heist movie! I have a soft spot for the Italian Job, but it’s been years since I’ve seen it.
One thought on “Next Game – A Cyberpunk Heist, and Working Around a Flaw in My System”
What can “muscle” characters do if the party is using stealth? It sounds like they specialize in combat and aren’t particularly useful outside of it. Since the ideal heist is one where you’re never detected, combat characters might feel useless if the other roles are doing well. Conversely, forcing fights so that combat characters have something to do could disappoint other roles when their best is never enough.