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  • Rediscover Amun-Re, Santa's Workshop, and Reiner Knizia's Odd Socks

    by W. Eric Martin

    • One of the first games I played when I dove deep into hobby games in 2003 was Reiner Knizia's Amun-Re. I was already familiar with Lost Cities, but like many people I connected that game more with the publisher (Rio Grande Games) than the designer. Despite being someone who scoured used book stores to find every title from an author I admired, at that time I hadn't yet grasped the concept of game designers being akin to book authors and having a catalog of works to explore.

    No matter — Amun-Re opened my eyes, and the Guy Stuff Gamers group I played with then introduced me to many other Knizia designs, such as Ra, Circus Flohcati, Trendy, Money!, and Stephenson's Rocket, hooking me for good.

    Non-final front cover
    With the 20th anniversary of that design on the horizon, UK publisher Alley Cat Games plans to use crowdfunding to release the appropriately named Amun-Re: 20th Anniversary Edition, with this edition featuring new art by Vincent Dutrait, a player count of 2-5 instead of 3-5, and four expansions for which Alley Cat's Caezar Al-Jassar has passed along summaries:

    Statues: In each of the first three rounds, grand statues are added to certain provinces. These statues each grant unique powers to the player who controls the province in which they are built. This expansion adds extra interest to the auction phase and gives players their own player powers that may vary each time. The statues will be miniatures representing Egyptian gods.

    Afterlife: A fourth purchasable item is added to the market phase: afterlife tiles. These tiles are then placed using the rewards granted to players in the offerings phase or by discarding unwanted cards and tiles. Players place the tiles into their own personal pyramid shape, starting with a base of up to five tiles. Each placed tile gives the player a bonus, and this bonus is multiplied if the tile is placed on top of matching tiles within the pyramid. At the end of the game, each completed row of tiles is worth points.

    Pharaoh: This mini expansion adds tension to the auction phase by rewarding players for overbidding other players. The Pharaoh moves to each province that is overbid, and at the conclusion of the auctions the player who wins the province with the Pharaoh receives a token that grants extra rewards in the subsequent offerings phase.

    Viziers: Viziers are added to the auction phase. Each player now bids on both a province and a vizier using the same bidding mechanisms. With 3-5 players, these viziers are placed off the main board, and a player must work out which combination they want to pursue. A variant allows two or three players to place viziers in the provinces themselves, bidding for two provinces but choosing only one province and one vizier. Each vizier grants an instant bonus, and combining these with your provinces becomes a key to success.

    • An even older Knizia title that acquired a new edition in 2021 is the card game Relationship Tightrope, which was first released in 1999 as Drahtseilakt. In the game, players each contribute one card to the table — either simultaneously or turn-by-turn — with the player of the highest card winning tokens of one color and the player of the lowest card winning tokens of another color. Your goal is to balance the two colors and have a score as close to 0 as possible.

    Japanese publisher Korokorodou has released the game as Odd Socks, with the gameplay being the same and players now attempting to balance blue and red socks so that they can cover their feet evenly.

    • Korokorodou has also released a new edition of a minimalist design from Taiki Shinzawa, a game first released in 2013 as バベルの塔 ("Tower of Babel"), but now titled TOPPEN. Here's an overview of this two-player game:
    TOPPEN is played with ten tiles — five of one pattern and five of another — with each player owning one set of tiles. During set-up, the second player places the ten tiles face down randomly in a square grid so as to form a continuous shape of their choice. The tiles are flipped color-side up, then the game begins. Taking turns, players take one of their tiles and place it on top of a neighboring tile/stack. The following restrictions apply:

    —You can take only one tile, the topmost of a stack.
    —You cannot split the tiles into two separate groups.
    —You cannot move a tile to an empty space.

    If you cannot make a legal move, you must pass until a legal move is available to you again. You cannot pass if a move is available. The goal is to have your own tile at the top of the last pile remaining when the game ends.

    • Yet another title getting a fresh look is Keith Ferguson's 2017 game Santa's Workshop, which first appeared from Rio Grande Games. Here's an overview of this 2-5 player game:
    Santa's Workshop is a worker-placement game, taking place over nine rounds, in which players use their elves to collect materials in order to build gifts, and tend to the reindeer. Players may customize their workforce by sending elves to be trained in certain aspects of the game, which provide a benefit for the rest of the game. For some gifts, plastic may be substituted for the standard materials of fabric, wood or metal. This will cause those gifts to score fewer "Christmas Cookies", but may allow a player to build more gifts in a shorter amount of time. This can be helpful when Santa comes around three times during the game for an inspection to see which team has made the most gifts.

    Players will have to decide when to visit the mail room in order to pick which gifts to build, and when to tend to the reindeer. The reindeer accumulate points the longer they go untended — and each of the eight reindeer provides a unique bonus to the player.

    U.S. publisher Elf Creek Games is overhauling the look of the game thanks to Andrew Bosley and Jacqui Davis, and the new Santa's Workshop will include two game modes: a standard game for players as young as 7 and an advanced game for players aged 10 and up. Elf Creek Games anticipates releasing this edition of Santa's Workshop in November 2022.

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  • Can You Remain Undaunted by What You'll Face in Stalingrad?

    by W. Eric Martin

    UK publisher Osprey Games has announced a new title in its Undaunted series of games from designers Trevor Benjamin and David ThompsonUndaunted: Stalingrad, with this game taking place on a scale unlike the first two standalone games.

    Here's a blurb about the game from the designers:
    We're digging deep into the storied Battle of Stalingrad, a key battle not only for the Eastern Front but the entire Second World War, and we're doing it with a massive box full of content unlike anything Undaunted fans have seen before. We're introducing new units, actions, and ways to interact with the environment. What we're most excited about, though, is that we've created an integrated campaign where the results of each scenario impact the rest of the campaign's rich narrative and will set the stage for scenarios to come.

    And here's a bit more about the game, which is due out in the latter half of 2022:
    Stalingrad, 1942. Before you awaits a grueling conflict in this cornerstone battleground. As the bullets and bombs tear the city asunder, only through wits and valor can you seize the cornerstone of the entire Eastern Front and change the course of history.

    A heavy burden rests on your shoulders. Every casualty suffered in battle will weaken your forces for the entire campaign. Every bomb blast and mortar shell leaves the very ground for which you are fighting in further ruin. Every inch lost to the enemy brings you closer to the jaws of defeat. Over the course of up to fifteen branching scenarios, you will decide the fate of Stalingrad and, perhaps, the war itself. Even though the consequences of your actions will persist, the game itself can be fully reset and replayed, allowing you to explore every potential outcome.

    Undaunted: Stalingrad is a monumental, platoon-level, standalone game that expands the series' scope and challenge beyond anything that's come before. Featuring more than 300 unique illustrations by Roland MacDonald and 150 evocative mission briefings written by acclaimed author Robbie MacNiven, immerse yourself in this campaign at the heart of the war.
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    - Newest Items

  • VTT Battle Maps - Fantasy Town: Brewery & Wineyard - 40x30, 3 Levels
    Publisher: PenguinComics


    A 40x30, three level, VTT Map with brewery, bar, winery and sampling area.

    A three level beer brewery and wineyard. Harvest the barley and wine, brew it to beer and sample it in the wine-cellar - or why not at the bar? Large dining room and bedroom, plus a library for studies on the top floor.

    This is a highly detailed map for any fantasy, or 1920/1930's-styled, tabletop games.

    This is a 40x30 inch battle map for "any" system.

    Included in this set:

    • 300 DPI printable MAPS with and without GRID.
    • 72 DPI MAPS with and without GRID, for use in your favourite online system.
    • PDF-files with printable parts - 20 totally for each map - to layout on a huge table!
    • TWO JPG-files (2x 72DPI and 2x 300DPI) included with each map - 12 totally!

    • Totally 3 PDF files and 12 JPG images = Over 440Mb of material!
    • This is part of the "Fantasy Town"-series of VTT Maps.




    Check out all the other VTT Battle Maps here.


    VTT Battle Maps - Fantasy Town: Brewery & Wineyard - 40x30, 3 LevelsPrice: $1.95 Read more »
  • The Spinward Extents
    Publisher: Mongoose

    The Spinward Extents are the border between the familiar and the unknown. Pioneering and adventurous Imperials, Zhodani, Aslan, even Vargr, have reached the Extents; some have dwelt there for centuries or millennia, but they are far from their ancestral homes. Native races have forged their own empires across these stars. In the Extents the daring can make their fortunes, gain fame or infamy, and influence the course of events for entire worlds or distant governments. Alien races, forgotten mysteries, bitter rivalries and great opportunities await under the light of inconstant, giant, and dead stars.

    Spinward Extents presents two complete sectors near the edge of Charted Space: The Beyond and the Vanguard Reaches. The Beyond is a borderland between Aslan expansion and human pocket empires, both ancient and new. At the end of Imperial courier routes, it is home to the alien Sred*Ni, isolated worlds, and mysterious entities. The Storm Knights hold the line in an uneasy truce with Aslan clans, but other dangers and many opportunities await.

    The Vanguard Reaches is the spinward edge of settled space, a sector of proxy states for the distant Third Imperium and Zhodani Consulate. The sector is home to the warlike-Eslyat and peaceful Murians, dying red giant stars and the Helix Nebula. Warfare, politics, piracy, and sparse starscapes challenge Travellers who live and work in this distant sector.

    Includes two huge colour poster maps of The Beyond and Vanguard Reaches sectors.

    The Spinward ExtentsPrice: $34.99 Read more »

    Gnome Stew

  • mp3VideoGnomecast #132 – NPC Variety

    Gnome Stew's Gnomecast

    Join Ang, John, and Senda for a discussion about tips and tricks for keeping your NPCs varied and interesting. Can these gnomes come up with enough interesting NPCs to avoid the stew?

    Download: Gnomecast #132 – NPC Variety

    Follow John…wait, no. Don’t follow John.

    Follow Senda at @IdellaMithlynnd on Twitter and @IdellaMithlynnd on TikTok, and check out her other podcast Panda’s Talking Games.

    Follow Ang at @orikes13 on Twitter and see pictures of her cats at @orikes13 on Instagram.

    Keep up with all the gnomes by visiting, following @gnomestew on Twitter, or visiting the Gnome Stew Facebook Page. Subscribe to the Gnome Stew Twitch channel, check out Gnome Stew Merch, catch the Gnome Stew YouTube channel, and support Gnome Stew on Patreon!

    For another great show on the Misdirected Mark network, check out Panda’s Talking Games!

    Read more »
  • VideoTroy’s Crock Pot. New to the hobby? Interested in painting your own fig?

    Since late summer, I have devoted a great deal of craft time to painting miniatures for fantasy roleplaying — getting back one of the hobby’s crafting aspects I so much enjoy.

    It’s a subject I’ve touched on before. But with new people entering the hobby all the time, I thought it might be nice to share some info for beginners — whether they are players looking for a fig to represent their character or gamemasters building collections for their own games.

    In this installment, we’ll provide some tips on buying and painting that first mini.

    In an article coming next month, we’ll consider strategies gamemasters might take in assembling a useful stable of adversaries and monsters.

    (Reaper’s “Anirion the Elf Wizard” is a robed figure that can stand for any gender, race or class and is a great fig to learn painting technique on).

    Buying that first fig

    This one is easy: Acquire the fig that most interests you, the one that best represents your player character. 

    Metal or plastic? Personally, I prefer painting on primed metal over resin. It’s how I got my start, one $4 fig at a time. But the fact is pewter figs today are far more costly than that. The quality of resin figs has blossomed in the last decade. Rather than make a huge investment in metal, I’d say start with resin.  

    But from whom do you buy? When it comes to affordable resin minis in the fantasy sphere, figs from Reaper and WizKids are market leaders in the United States. Reaper produces several lines of pewter and plastic figs, but I think the resin Bones, Bones Black or Bones USA are great places to start with. WizKids produces excellent unpainted figs for Wizards of the Coast (Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures), Paizo Publishing (Pathfinder Battles Deep Cuts), Critical Role (Wildmount) and its generic in-house line (Deep Cuts).

    There are other fine mini makers out there — some with amazing sculpts — so I wouldn’t want to limit anyone’s selection. But I think you’ll find the availability and affordability of Reaper or WizKids good places to start. 

    First fig? I’d suggest that a novice painter might lean toward simpler sculpts, such as robed figures. (Reaper’s “Anirion the Elf Wizard” is a robed figure that can stand for any gender, race or class and is a great fig to learn painting technique on).  Intricate details can be cool, but a simple fig that’s well-painted is nice too.

    Reaper’s Learn to Paint Kit will allow a novice painter to get started for $40, and includes flow acrylics and a few simply sculpted minifies to get started on.

    Assemble a painting kit

    For myself, I got started in this hobby by going to the craft store and snagging some crafting paint brushes (sizes 1 and 3/0 are recommended, though I prefer having a 5/0 or 10/0 in the collection, too) and about a dozen acrylic craft paints across the color spectrum. Some big box retailers and general stores also carry craft paint now.

    This is the most inexpensive route — just be sure to apply thinner medium or water to craft acrylic craft paints. Craft paints have a thicker consistency than required for 28 mm figs.  

    A lot of resin miniatures today don’t require priming. But, if you start with pewter miniatures, you will need primer for that initial layer.

    I’m a big fan of Reaper’s Learn to Paint kits and its Starter Paint Set. Each usually sells for about $40. 

    Firstly, they include enough quality “flow” acrylic paints you’ll need to get rolling. Flow acrylics are a finer quality and better suited to miniature application than ordinary crafting paint. The Learn to Paint kits usually include a pair of  brushes, a few minis, and “how to paint” instructions. Your local game store can help with ordering those if they don’t have them in stock. For the price of a rpg game book, you can get your feet wet in the hobby.


    Painting advice

    There are lots of good crafting videos for painters right now.  Here are just a few:

    I think Lyla Mev – The Mini Witch, is a fun site, and worth checking out. She offers tips across a range of skill levels.

    Black Craft Magic is mostly devoted to crafting terrain, which is interesting in its own right, but his advice on mini selection and painting is solid.

    Reaper, maker of both unpainted minis and a series of paints, has a huge selection of tutorials.

    I truly believe color selection for painting figs is a personal choice — and there are no “wrong” colors. (Goblins don’t have to be green.) But when painting any given fig, I’d suggest trying a limited palette, of five or fewer colors, to start with.

    That said, here are two tips: 

    1. Looking for  flesh tones? Match your acrylics to Crayola’s Colors of the World.
    2. Color-coordinated outfits? I used to rely upon retail fashion catalogs when I needed color guides for painting clothing on figs. Well, print catalogs have gone away, but  Elle, Vogue and Cosmopolitan are still around online. Check there for inspiration.



    There is a whole glossary of painting terms to go with a variety of techniques: Layering, washes, base coats, glazing, lining, dry brushing, mixing and shadowing. The above online instruction can help in this regard.

    The important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is to take the leap into painting. Dip that brush in a dab of paint and cover your fig. Skill will come with time and practice. 

    Right now, just have fun putting some color to your little plastic person. 


    Read more »

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous - The Search for the Main Theme
    Owlcat Games explains the process of creating a musical theme. The Search for the Main Theme Of all the elements that make up Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, music holds a special place — it is something that kindles the players' interest and sparks passionate discussions.... Read more »
  • General News - New Tactics Studio Bit Reactor
    IGN reports on a new tactics studio called Bit Reactor; composed of Civilization and XCOM veterans. A group of Firaxis Games veterans has announced a brand new Maryland-based studio called Bit Reactor which will be focused on turn-based strategy games.... Read more »

    Sly Flourish

  • VideoFrostmaiden Chapter 5: Auril's Abode

    New to Sly Flourish? Start Here!

    This is one of a series of articles covering the Wizards of the Coast hardcover D&D adventure Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. The other articles include:

    You can also watch my YouTube playlist of Frostmaiden Lazy DM Prep videos.

    This article contains spoilers for Rime of the Frostmaiden.

    A Conclusion in the Middle of the Adventure

    Rime of the Frostmaiden has a problem with closure. It's an adventure with two separate and independent "final areas", Grimskalle and Ythrin, and it isn't clear why you should care about the latter if the characters' goal becomes ending the endless night.

    Luckily we can make a few changes to tie these two locations together and build a conclusion supporting both areas. We'll talk about these changes here and in the writeup for chapter 7.

    Summary of Potential Changes

    Here's a quick summary of the changes we can make to chapter 5.

    • Build a pointcrawl for Solstice. Let the characters learn more about the island as they explore interesting locations before reaching Grimskalle.
    • Tie the endless night to two objects: the Codicil of the White in Grimskalle and the power of the mythallar held within the city of Ythrin in chapter 7. Both must be dealt with to end the Endless Night.
    • Ignore the idea that Auril needs Iskra the roc to cast her spell. The characters shouldn't be able to end the entire endless night by killing a big bird.
    • Replace the Tests of the Frostmaiden with tests tailored to the individual characters based on their own backgrounds and own fears.
    • Choose when Auril attacks and tweak her stat blocks.

    Exploring the Pointcrawl of Solstice

    When the characters arrive on Solstice, we can offer a number of locations and interconnected paths to take them from the docks to Grimskalle. Here's one example pointcrawl we can run but I encourage you to build your own.

    For more on pointcrawls, see Pointcrawls for Overland Travel.

    This pointcrawl can contain a number of interesting locations including:

    • Pirate shipwrecks crawling with ghoulish cannibal sailors.
    • A druid's circle with frozen dead druids.
    • A series of hot springs that lure would-be acolytes to their boiling deaths.
    • A cave containing the frozen bones of an ancient dragon entombed by the frost giants.
    • The hidden effigy of an elder evil feared even more than Auril.
    • The frozen tombs of frost giant heroes.
    • Auril's garden of ice sculptures.
    • The lair of the abominable yeti and its offspring.

    These locations can be connected with a range of natural pathways:

    • Narrow hidden ice tunnels.
    • Cracked walkways along a deep rift.
    • Icy switchback paths.
    • Natural game trails.
    • Underground rivers.

    Such locations and pathways offer some fun exploration to the otherwise relatively barren island of Solstice.

    Tie the Fates of Ythrin and Grimskalle Together

    Instead of keeping Grimskalle and Ythrin separated in the story, connect the two together by tying the endless night to both locations. One cannot simply kill Iskra the roc to stop Auril's spell. One cannot even stop it if they have the Codicil of the White in hand. The spell is required, yes, but so is containing the power that fuels it — power from the Netherese city of Ythrin. This gives the characters reasons to go to both locations to stop the endless night. This power can come from the mythallar contained in Ythryn or to something else of your choosing.

    In my own game, this was a powerful elder evil named Thruun based on Father Llymic from the older D&D book Elder Evils. In my game, elves drew the elder evil into the world thousands of years ago and then Netherese wizards encased it in a huge sarcophagus in the bottom of Ythryn so the Netherese wizards could harness its power. With the city collapsed, Thruun's essence has leaked from its sarcophagus and caused all sorts of problems.

    You can, of course, choose your own source of power in Ythryn based on the characters' story and the story that evolves at the table. If nothing else comes to mind, the mythallar described in the book may be just the thing.

    Replace the Tests with Character-Focused Hard Choices

    If you're not feeling the tests as written in Rime of the Frostmaiden, here's an alternative.

    Instead of the existing tests, we can replace them with tests of the actual characters. How far will they go when facing Auril's tests — tests intended to show the loyalty of would-be anointed druids in Auril's service?

    Before the characters get to the tests, or even to Grimskalle, make sure you pay particular attention to the character's backgrounds. What do they want? What are they almost completely unwilling to give up? What do they fear? What will happen to them if they become lost?

    Then we have the tests themselves. Tests that focus on isolation, cruelty, endurance, and preservation.

    When the characters enter area G10 they see the four doors. When one of them touches a door, they are tested. They find themselves put in a position where they must make a hard choice, an impossible choice, and one that proves to Auril that they are willing to give up everything to join with her. Will they let loved ones freeze to death? Will they give up their family name and dynasty? Will they let their body become destroyed by a parasite living within them? Will they turn their back on the people of Ten Towns?

    This is where we grab those knives the players have been giving us and stab them in the heart (with careful reason and clear safety tools in place). The idea here is that they prove their willingness to give up everything they love to join Auril's anointed. Even if the choice wasn't real, the characters will be forever changed by their choices. They know, deep down, what they are willing to give up.

    Or maybe they don't. Maybe when facing the tests they give the finger to Auril and show they will not give up who they are. If the characters fail these tests, the third form of Auril arrives and gives them what-for. When they defeat the form, the Codicil is unprotected and they can grab it up and go.

    This can be a real fun series of roleplay scenes to see how the characters act given the tests in front of them. Some may accept the test. Some may reject it. Regardless, they will be forever changed by facing them and learn who they really are.

    Choose when Auril Attacks

    You choose when, how, and with which form Auril attacks the characters. Perhaps her third form guards the Codicil of the White itself. Perhaps when they take the Codicil they find her first form in the chamber behind them or face her outside of Grimskalle.

    We can test our boss here by letting them face the one to three forms of Auril before we unleash all of them on the characters at once in a final multi-phase boss fight if we choose.

    You may need to tweak the stat blocks of Auril's forms. The crystalline form, for example, is seriously hindered by having only ranged attacks and no good way to escape from being pinned down. Instead, give it a legendary action to misty step. The other forms too need some work. Give them access to spells like Cone of Cold and make her ice darts more like ice lances, throwing around 36 cold damage a shot instead of 3.

    One of Two End-Zones for Frostmaiden

    With some tweaking, the island of Solstice and Grimskalle can be excellent end-game location worthy locations for our characters to explore. Use these tips and your own ideas to customize the island to suit you and your group.

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    Article copyright 2021 by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish.

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  • VideoRunning Heists in D&D

    New to Sly Flourish? Start Here!

    Previous articles describe troublesome quest models and how the Seven Samurai quest model fits well into our D&D games. The heist is another useful quest model fitting well with the style of our D&D games. Today we're going to look at running great heists.

    Patrons of Sly Flourish can watch a video in which Johnn Four and I talk about running great heists in D&D as well as three other videos on running situations and the five room dungeon, running mysteries, and thoughts on RPG map designs. Find out more at the Mike Shea and Johnn Four video collaboration page.

    Great Situational D&D

    Heists follow a general model of D&D that often works very well — building situations. Instead of building adventures room by room and encounter by encounter, we consider a whole location with multiple entrances, multiple paths, and multiple ways to engage with the location and the inhabitants moving within it.

    The heist is one such situation built from a number of components:

    • The target. What are the characters trying to acquire or accomplish at the location?
    • The location. Where is the target held? What surrounds it?
    • The inhabitants. Who guards the target? What bystanders happen to inhabit the area?
    • Complications. What complications might occur in the situation? These might be planned or improvised.

    Heists also work well by running our game in two phases: the plan and the execution.

    The Target

    The target can be just about anything in our heist scenario. It might be a physical object. It might be a piece of information. It might be a person, willing or unwilling. It might be a dream or a memory. The movie Inception is an example of a heist involving dreams.

    When running heists, it's important to declare what the characters seek up front and not to change it during the execution or it can feel frustrating. No, Mario, your princess is not in another castle.

    The Location

    The target sits in a location and certain locations lend themselves to great heist adventures. Locations work best for heists when they have the following criteria:

    • They have multiple potential entrances.
    • They have multiple paths within the location.
    • They have secret paths and shortcuts to discover.

    Justin Alexander's descriptions of Jaquay-style locations often work well for heists and many of Dyson Logos's maps fit this style.

    In particular, manors, keeps, and castles work well for heists, especially those with underground tunnels, cellars, and other interesting ways in. The haunted manor in Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh from Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a good example of a great heist location, as is Vanthampur Manor in chapter 1 of Descent into Avernus and Gralhund Villa from chapter 3 of Waterdeep Dragon Heist.


    Instead of populating locations room by room, consider the total force that occupies the location. Who are the guards? How many are there? What is their typical behavior? What monsters guard the secret locations or underground passageways? When we think about the overall force protecting the target at the location we can recognize how they act and react as the characters infiltrate the location.

    We can also populate our location with non-combatants. Who populates the location that isn't really involved with protecting the target? They can add fun complications and roleplay opportunities while the characters move through the location. This is a great tip I picked up from Johnn Four at Roleplaying Tips.

    Phases of Play

    When running a heist, consider breaking down gameplay into two phases: the plan and the execution.

    We want to give the players ample time to look at the situation, maybe even giving them a copy of the map of the location if it makes sense that they'd have it or give them a mixture of reliable and unreliable information. They might spend time reconnoitering the location, learning what they can and using this to aid in their plans.

    We likely want to limit how much time the players spend on this or they'll get caught in decision cycles that go on forever. Limit the amount of time they spend on it to 30 minutes or so. It's an out-of-game limitation but one that helps move the game forward.

    The second phase is execution in which the characters conduct their heist. This plays out like a traditional situational D&D game. The characters do what they do and the world reacts.

    Avoiding Single-Roll Failures

    When running heists, we don't want the whole heist to rely on a single roll for success or failure. Instead, each roll moves the situation forward either positively or negatively. Complications can still occur even if every ability check succeeds and success can still occur even if every ability check fails.

    The excellent RPG Blades in the Dark is built around running heists and uses "progress clocks" to manage multiple successes and failures as situations evolve. A progress clock might require a number of successes before a full success occurs or might create two opposing clocks, one for the characters and one for those guarding the target. Instead of establishing progress clocks ahead of time, we can improvise progress clocks as we think about the approach the characters are taking and as the situation evolves.

    Here's a YouTube Video on using progress clocks in D&D.


    Complications are a fun way to change up the nature of a heist as it's happening. We don't want to drop in too many complications or include complications so big that the entire plan falls apart. Here are some example complications that might occur during the heist:

    • The target is moved within the location.
    • A powerful enemy arrives at the location.
    • Another group tries to steal the target.
    • An external event changes up the situation.
    • War erupts around the location.
    • Extra non-combatants arrive at the location.
    • The guardians of the target change their behavior.
    • The target changes in some way. An egg hatches, a magic item wakes up.
    • An accident or disaster occurs at the location.
    • A dark force at the location wakes up.

    A Powerful and Flexible Quest Model

    Heists are an excellent and flexible quest model for our D&D games. By changing up targets, locations, and inhabitants we can re-use this quest model for many different games, each resulting in a unique story we can share with our players. Add the heist model to your bag of tricks and you have a flexible model for some awesome D&D games.

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    Article copyright 2021 by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish.

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