Note: This document is a work in progress. As I make changes to the game, they’ll be reflected here (literally every time I save!). There will be disorganized and scattered notes and half-finished thoughts. Also, if you want to read more about Heist, you can find all my blog posts about it here.
Heist is a roleplaying game about a crew of ‘heisters,’ hardened criminals who rob banks, armored cars, casinos, or any other place where large cash deposits, or easily fenceable goods are stored or transported.
In Heist, you’ll work with other Player Characters (PCs) and Non-Player Characters (NPCs) to plan and execute the perfect robbery, before attempting to make a clean getaway, and get back to laying low in your normal life. However, your crimes leave a trail, and by acquiring Heat you may lead the cops right to your doorstep.
Before you start playing the game, you’ll need to create a character and fill out a Character Rap Sheet like the one below. Download the sheet here.
In order to fill this out, you’ll need two six-sided dice (2d6), a pencil, and a print-out of the Character Rap Sheet above.
First thing’s first, take a look at the right side of the sheet where it says Rap Sheet. Here you’ll record all the changes to your character as they happen in character creation (and beyond). You’ll start out at Age 14 and roll to see whether you start life out as a regular average joe citizen, a hardened criminal, or locked up as a convict. You’ll write down which in the space provided and follow the steps in order, which will track your characters life from age 14 onward until you’re ready to stop building your character and start playing. Be careful though, because as you accumulate Heat it becomes more dangerous to keep building your character, so dangerous that your character could even die during character creation, forcing you to start over with our fast-play rules instead.
When you’re done you’ll have something like this:
Sound good? Great. Let’s begin.
This roll will determine whether you start your 14th birthday as a regular citizen, a criminal, or already incarcerated. Depending on your roll, your starting Attributes are listed below.
Additionally, all characters start with:
Write all of this down and then go to Step Three - Hard Knocks (skipping Step Two).
Note: Your attributes will improve or decay, but remember that they can never go lower than 1 or higher than 6. Skills will improve, but remember that no one skill can ever have higher than a +3 (Master).
Note: Skip this roll on the very first turn.
Things change, sometimes for the better, often for the worse. In this step, you’ll make two rolls, the first is to see whether circumstances in your life caused a major change in your path. If you roll equal to or over the indicated number on 2d6, then your situation in life has changed. If you were a Citizen, you are now a Criminal. If you were a Criminal, you’re now a Convict. If you were a Convict, you’ve served your time, and you’re now a Citizen again. Add your Heat to this roll.
After you make your Change Path roll, roll 2d6 again and add your current Heat to see if you survived. If you roll equal to or higher than the number on the chart on 2d6, then your character has died, you’ll need to start over with a new character (or if people are waiting on you, move on to Fast Character Creation below). If you roll lower than the indicated number, however, your survive and can move on to Step Three. Hard Knocks.
Note: If you switch backgrounds (say from Citizen to Criminal, you roll to survive on the NEW background. So if you roll an 8 on Citizen, you become a Criminal and must now roll a 10 or lower to stay alive.
Now it’s time to find out what you learned during this phase of your life. Roll 2d6. If you roll equal to or higher than the Learn? number, then roll 2d6 on the Stat column and then roll 2d6 on the Bonus column. If you roll lower than the “Learn?” number just roll 2d6 on the Bonus column.
Note: For certain skills (like Organization or Building) you can either stack your bonuses or split them (learning about different Organizations, etc.), your call. Your GM may want you to pick the Organization or Building (or Vehicle) that you’re fluent in at character creation, or may allow you to leave it blank until it comes up in play.
|2||-1 Toughness||+1 Heat, +1 Athletics, +1 Wounds|
|3||No Change||+1 Forgery|
|4||+1 Reflex||+1 Grand Theft Auto|
|5||+1 Reflex||-1 Heat, +1 Computers|
|6||+1 Appeal||-1 Heat, +1 Charm|
|7||+1 Appeal||-1 Heat, +1 Contact (1d6):|
|8||+1 Perception||-1 Heat, +1 Organization|
|9||+1 Perception||-1 Heat, +1 Cars|
|10||+1 Expertise||-1 Heat, +1 Contacts|
|11||+1 Expertise||-1 Heat, +1 Read Person, +1 Stash|
|12||+1 Any Stat||-2 Heat, +1 Stash, +1 Contact (1d6):|
|2||-1 Expertise||+2 Heat, +1 Alarm Systems|
|3||+1 Reflex||+1 Heat, +1 Con|
|4||+1 Reflex||+1 Heat, +1 Contact (1d6):|
|1: Chop-Shop Mechanic|
|3: Dock Worker|
|4: Getaway Driver|
|6: Weapons Dealer|
|5||+1 Toughness||+1 Heat, +1 Larceny|
|6||+1 Stealth||+1 Heat, +1 Burglary, +1 Lock-picking|
|7||+1 Stealth||+1 Heat, +1 Shooting, +1 Wounds|
|8||+1 Perception||+1 Heat, +1 Safes & Vaults|
|9||+1 Expertise||+1 Heat, +1 Explosives|
|10||+1 Expertise||+1 Disguise, +1 Contact (1d6):|
|1: Nightclub Owner|
|2: Money Launderer|
|5: Drug Trafficker|
|6: Dirty Cop|
|11||+1 Expertise||+1 Paper Trail, +1 Drugs|
|12||+1 Any Stat||-1 Heat, +1 Any 2 Expertise Skills|
|2||-1 Appeal||+1 Heat, +1 Computers|
|3||No Change||+1 Heat, +1 Wound|
|4||+1 Perception||+1 Move Silently|
|5||+1 Perception||+1 Lie|
|6||+1 Toughness||+1 Contact (1d6):|
|2: Drug Mule|
|6: Cheap Thug|
|7||+1 Toughness||-1 Heat, +1 Intimidate|
|8||+1 Reflex||-1 Heat, +1 Assault & Battery|
|9||+1 Reflex||-1 Heat, +1 Wounds|
|10||+1 Stealth||-1 Heat, +1 Any Skill|
|11||+1 Expertse||-1 Heat, +1 Contact (1d6):|
|2: Getaway Driver|
|3: Heavy Muscle|
|5: Drug Dealer|
|6: Gang Enforcer|
|12||+1 Any Stat||-2 Heat, +2 Wounds|
Once you’ve marked your changes, move on to Step 4: Aging.
Every turn, your characters roll to see how they deal with effects of aging, some good, some bad. Roll 2d6 and consult the table below. If you roll equal to or higher than the number indicated, then you increase and or decrease the attributes indicated.
|Age||2d6||Effects of Aging|
|14-18||11+||+1 Wound +1 Toughness +1 Reflex|
|19-28||10+||+1 Wound +1 Reflex +1 Athletics|
|35-50||8+||-1 Toughness +1 Expertise +1 Contacts|
|52-60||7+||-1 Toughness -1 Reflex -1 Wound +1 Expertise|
|62-70||6+||-1 Toughness -1 Reflex -1 Perception -1 Wound -1 Expertise|
*You must roll a 4 or lower to survive. If you survive, end character creation and move on to step 5.
Once you have determined your aging effects, move on to Step Five: Special Abilities & Equipment.
The final step is to either quit creating your character, and roll for Special Abilities, or return to step 2 and start the process over again.
And finally, roll to see what gear you start the game with. Take your highest (again) primary attribute and roll 1d6, writing down whatever you get on your character sheet.
If this is your first time playing, we recommend you use the Rap Sheet System to create your character. However, if that sounds like a chore, or you want to get right into the action, just follow these steps.
Heist is about robbing people and getting away with it. It’s a challenging, lethal game, where things can quickly turn sideways and your characters can end up in prison, or worse. A huge emphasis is placed on planning ahead of time to make sure that you control every single variable you can control for, because once you start the job, there’s no telling what will happen.
You have six Primary Attributes, which determine your base level of competency in a given area.
Alongside your six primary attributes, you have six Secondary Attributes.
Skills show what your character has learned over their long (or short) criminal career. Skills are rated from 0 to +3:
Each skill is based on a Primary Attribute as follows:
In Heist, whenever you want to do something and the outcome is uncertain, the GM may ask you to make an Attribute Check against a Target Number or “TN.” This means you need to roll a number of dice equal to your Attribute and count all the 5’s or 6’s that you roll. Each of these is called a success and if you roll equal to or more success that your target number, your action succeeds. If not, it fails and something bad happens.
There are four basic Target Numbers (TNs):
This is a task that automatically succeeds and doesn’t require an Attribute Check to do. Shooting someone at point blank range, opening an unlocked door, driving a car, etc.
This is a task that under normal circumstances would not require an Attribute Check (putting keys in a car, climbing a ladder, opening a window, typing in a password), but due to time or pressure, circumstances require a Check. For example:
Note: this does not mean that time pressure must be seconds or minutes away, or that failure is imminent or close by.
For example: modifying a gun so that it fires silently may be an ordinary task for a technician, as long as they have a week’s time to do it. However, if you need the gun in less than a week, the technician need to make an Attribute Check against TN-1 to see if they can get it done in time. The results could vary: they could simply not get the job done in time, or they could get the gun modified, but without realizing that the silencers don’t work, or they could accidentally damage the guns beyond repair, so that now they won’t work, even without the silencers.
This is a task that even under normal circumstances would be a difficult thing to do. Perhaps with all the time in the world, or under perfect conditions, this task, while still difficult, would be possible. However, this is the kind of thing that even experts regularly screw up. Examples include:
This is the kind of task that experts regularly struggle with and often fail at even under normal circumstances. Or it is a task that would normally be incredibly hard, but circumstances have made that task near impossible. For example:
Additionally, a TN-3 can just be due to a combination of factors (or TNs). For example:
In general, TN-3 should be the hardest check available, but it’s possible that if circumstances pile up a task may be a TN-4 or TN-5. Additionally, a task might start at some impossible number (like a TN-6) which can then be reduced through hard work (For example: a vault that is too difficult to crack with one roll, but becomes possible once the electricity is turned off and the thumb scanner hacked).
To keep things simple, if the GM thinks that the PCs have an advantage in a given situation above and beyond their skills they may award them an extra die to roll when making a skill check, called a Bonus Die. Reasons for this could be (but are not limited to):
Additionally, if the situation seems particularly difficult, as opposed to raising the TN, the GM could assign you a Penalty Die. A Penalty Die is a d6 (usually of a different color) which you roll when you’re making a Check. If the Penalty Die rolls a 5 or 6 it cancels out another success.
Things like firing a gun during a chase scene, or jumping from rooftop to rooftop in the rain might affect the roll this way. A penalty die is a good way to bridge the gap between a TN-1 and a TN-2, or between a TN-2 and a TN-3. They represent particular disadvantages, not the base difficulty of a given task.
Example Attribute Check
Crissa is trying to lift a key card off of a pit boss in a crowded casino. The GM determines that this is a TN-2 Reflex Check, because while the casino is busy, the pit boss is used to people pawing at him. Crissa’s Reflex is 4 and she doesn’t like the odds. Hank agrees to start a fight at a nearby craps table, to cause a distraction. The GM awards Crissa a Bonus Die for her Attribute Check if she acts while the pit boss is trying to break up the fight. Crissa rolls 5d6: 3, 2, 6, 4, 5. Two successes. She’s able to snatch the key card from the pit boss. Now the question is, can she get it back to him before he notices its gone?
Attribute Checks cover most situations you’ll come across in Heist and are a good fallback plan if you’re not sure how to adjudicate a certain situation. However, this is one more element that can give you the upper hand in a situation: Skills.
If you have a Skill relevant to the Attribute Check, then you can add its bonus to each dice you roll. If the Skill is necessary to do the task at hand, then we call it a Skill Check.
This means that if a PC wants to slap a hostage around to keep them in a line and they have +1 Intimidate, then they get to add 1 to each of the dice rolled on their Toughness Check. If they have a +1 Intimidate though, they’d get to add that to each of their rolls. So now rolls of 4, 5, or 6 count as a successes.
Skills only apply to the Attribute that they are listed under on the character sheet. There is one exception however, and that’s Expertise Skills.
If you have an Expertise Skill that is relevant to your Attribute Check you can add a number of Bonus Dice equal to your Expertise Skill’s rank to your roll.
Only one expertise skill can assist an Attribute Check at a time and it should be the most relevant skill to the task at hand (cars have computers in them, but you shouldn’t get your Computer Expertise bonus to a Reflex (Grand Theft Auto) Check), with the final call being made by the GM.
When you make an attribute check you roll a number of dice equal to the attribute score (1D6, 2D6, etc.) and then add your skill bonus (+1, +2, etc.) to each individual die.
This means that skills make it more likely that any individual die roll will succeed, whereas having a high attribute increases the number of chances that you’ll get a successful roll.
Example Skill Check
Hank is disguised as a city inspector, and is trying to convince a bank manager to give him a tour of the vault. He has a +1 in Organization (City Hall), which means he can add 1 Bonus die to his Appeal (Lie) Check. If he had a higher Disguise Skill he may have wanted to do a Stealth (Disguise) Check. Or maybe a Forgery Check if the banker was looking mostly at his ID. It really depends on how you play it.
There are two kinds of fights in Heist, gun fights and fist fights. They are each handled a little differently. In general, gun fights uses a Shooting skill roll against a TN based on the target’s range, whereas fist fights uses an opposed skill roll of each character’s Assault & Battery skill.
Note: Car chases are another kind of fight that we’ll get into later.
Whenever a fight breaks out, make a Reflex Check to determine your turn order.
In a situation where you are trying to do something before another player (perhaps because they’ve double crossed you) you instead make an Opposed Roll.
When you want to shoot someone, you roll your Shooting skill against a TN based on the range of your target. If you roll equal to or higher than the required number of successes, then you hit your target and roll Damage.
Generally the TN will be like the table below, but each weapon has a separate table (For example: Sniper Rifles are a TN-1 at a long range, but a TN-3 at short range).
Note: Shooting a target at point blank range, or one who is restrained and has not ability to defend themselves is always a TN-0 and automatically succeeds.
If your target is in Cover of any kind (behind a car door, firing from behind a desk) you add 1 penalty die to your roll.
When you’re fighting against someone in hand-to-hand combat you make an Opposed Roll.
In an Opposed Roll both you and your opponent make a Skill Roll and whoever scores more successes wins the check. Ties mean that neither side has won and must roll again next turn.
The winner of the opposed roll can deal damage, restrain the loser, or break free from the combat and run away.
Note: Using an Opposed Roll in a fist fight means that you can take damage even when you are the attacker. Be careful.
Whenever you hit an enemy in a fight, you roll your weapon’s Damage and subtract it from your enemy’s Wounds. Additionally you deal 1 extra point of damage for every success over the required TN.
Most enemies have 3d6 (3-18) Wounds. If they take damage that takes them to 0 Wounds they die in 1d6 rounds. If they take damage that takes them to negative Wounds, then they die instantly.
When an enemy hits you in a fight, they roll their weapon’s Damage like normal, but from there its a little more complicated.
You have three Damage Tiers: Bruised, Bleeding, and Broken. Each tier has a number of wound points equal to your Wounds score. Based on what tier you’re in, you’ll have different penalties to your actions. It also takes a different amount of time to heal from one tier to the other.
<Injury table ideas: knocked down. Stunned. Staggered (bonus die for next attacker).>
To make an Armor Save roll equal to or higher the number listed below. If you make your save you can reduce the incoming damage by half, rounded up (minimum damage is always 1).
|TYPE-II||5+||1||Most pistol ammunition, specifically .9mm and .357 magnum bullets.|
|TYPE-IIIA||4+||2||Powerful pistol ammunition, like .357 Sig and .44 magnum.|
|TYPE-III||3+||3||Covers bullets from most rifles (and almost all pistols).|
If you have more damage than wounds, you pass out and the GM makes a death save. Here’s how I recommend doing it. Put a d6 in a small cup, shake the cup and then flip it upside down against the table so that no one (including you) knows what number is showing. When another character (PC or NPC) checks on the fallen character, reveal the die:
|1-3||They are dead.|
|4-5||They will die in 1d6+Toughness minutes|
|6||They have 1 wound and will be unconscious for 1d6+Toughness hours|
Note: Sometimes it makes sense to give enemies a Death Save. Victims and witnesses left alive, may rat the PCs out to the cops, or eventually want revenge for having been left for dead. You don’t have to make a big show of it like with a PC, just write down the number somewhere in case the players check.
Heat is one of the key mechanics in Heist. It’s basically a gauge of how much attention from the law and unwanted persons you’re drawing at any given point in time. Your heat determines how often you run into guards and what kind of trouble is likely to follow you home after a heist.
You can gain heat in a myriad of ways, but almost all of them have to do with being irresponsible or unprofessional on the job.
Here are some of the common ways heisters pick up heat:
Your GM may assign heat for any number of things, like ramming a truck into a building, or setting off explosives. In general, they should let you know if a particular action will give you heat or not (much like they would let you know if taking a particular action might cause you to take damage).
Once heat is gained, it’s hard to lose it. One of the surest ways to lose heat is just to wait.
If a PC chooses not to spend their time on anything else, they lose 1 heat every six months (see Leveling up).
Heist isn’t like other games where it’s important to keep track of what you’re doing on a day to day basis all the time. Most of the time you’ll do a job and then walk away for six months or a year before taking another job.
A few other things you can do to reduce your heat:
There are some situations that keep your heat from lowering beyond a certain number:
In general, the idea should be that heat is really easy to get and a little harder, but not impossible, to lose. Players should think when they act and only take on heat as a calculated risk.
The contacts attribute is used to determine whether you know someone who can help you out with a problem and how quickly you’re able to contact them on a given basis.
To see if you have a CONTACT roll 1d6. If you roll lower than your contact attribute, you know a person that can help you with your problem. Write the contact down on your character sheet and what their specialty is (fencing goods, acquiring weapons, crushing cars, etc.) and then reduce your contact attribute by -1.
Once you’ve established that you have a contact you can now visit them and ask them for favors or to do jobs for you. Successfully establishing a contact does not mean that they will do you a favor or do work for you for free, it just means that you know the person who has the ability to do the work. To find out how that contact responds to you, you’ll need to make a reaction roll.
As a GM it is important to think of the game as having basically four stages that you’ll move back and forth between. You’ll need to prep differently for each stage.
That’s the basic cycle of gameplay in Heist. To run a good session, you’ll want to prep each of these stages to be fun and exciting. Here’s some basic advice for prepping each stage.
One of the most fun parts of putting a job together is the planning stage. PCs let their imaginations run wild coming up with schemes to separate cash from their victims.
This can balloon up to an infinite amount of time if the GM allows it, but here are some suggestions for keeping the planning stage moving and interesting.
Set a hard deadline on when the opportunity will pass if the PCs dawdle too long. Let them know that the cash will be moved from bank to bank via armored car in two weeks exactly. Or that the jewels will be on display for only a certain amount of time. Be clear about this and let them know exactly how many days they have to plan the heist.
Deadlines allow the PCs to make decisions about whether they want to move on a job early, accepting less than the maximum amount of potential cash, but as a tradeoff for perhaps less security. They also promote a “good plan today is better than the perfect plan tomorrow” mindset, where the PCs often have to make do with what they have, or can acquire, in a short amount of time.
Calling on a contact or trying to acquire the perfect disguise should take time. Let the PCs know that their character will be taking care of that problem for a day or two. This keeps things moving along towards the deadline. Travel to the destination may be a problem, the job is in Chicago, but the vehicle the PCs need to pick up is in Des Moines. You don’t have to account for every hour, but in general it’s a good idea to think of every action as taking a day.
Create a random encounter table for the planning stage and roll for heat checks once per day or once per week, depending on how long PC’s actions are taking. The stakes could be pretty low here, maybe other criminals get word of the score and want to get a piece of the action. Maybe the inside man is getting squirrely and his wife has found out about the job and wants him out. Heat checks here should serve to give the PCs more problems to deal with if they want to move forward, but they shouldn’t necessarily stop the score from happening.
Try your best to tell the PCs how they can go about accomplishing a task, even if it seems strange. Remember that they are professional criminals with a network and a history of pulling jobs1. If they want to get a job at the security company that’s handling security for an illustrious event, that may only take a scene with a hacker contact and a successful Appeal (Lie) check.
If they have a plan you don’t think will work, or that isn’t taking something into account, remind them. You are there to have fun. Also, give them alternatives to get what they want.
Frank: How’d things go with Aimes?
Jenkins: You were right, he’s still mad. No dice on the equipment. And worse, we need a new weapons guy.
Frank: We’ve got no weapons and no disguises. How are we gonna hit this armored car without those?
GM: Frank, you’ve got an Expertise point in Explosives, right? And don’t you have a contact who’s in the mob?
Frank: Oh yeah, we haven’t used him yet.
GM: Maybe you could talk to those guys.
Frank: You think they’d help?
GM: They might. For a percentage.
Having the perfect plan is no guarantee of success in the execution stage. So let them make the perfect plan. Give them everything they need to succeed at the job… and then watch it turn sideways on them.
Once the PCs start robbing a place, it’s time to switch lenses, to zoom in a little bit. This stage involves a little more planning.
When the PCs are actually on the job, you should make a heat check once every 3 or 4 turns per group of PCs using whoever has the highest heat in that group. Meaning if one group of PCs is in the basement drilling through a vault, another one is upstairs collecting cash and valuables, and a third is standing guard over some rent-a-cops you’ve captured, each of those groups would get a heat check once every 3 or 4 turns.
Heat checks throw wrenches into the PCs’ plans, but they don’t all have to be combat related. A security guard or cop shouldn’t always show up. Maybe the lights to a dark warehouse suddenly turn on, or an employee shows up randomly to pick up something they forgot, maybe someone fell asleep in one of the bathrooms earlier and is just now waking up, or a camera that wasn’t on any of the PCs’ plans appears above the next door they enter. The heat checks should show that any scheme, no matter how perfectly its planned, has blind spots.
PCs should declare what they’re doing on a turn by turn basis. One may be intimidating a security guard into opening a locked door, while another guards hostages. A separate group of PCs may be drilling into a safe, and still a third might be pickpocketing guests at a gala above group. Every action counts.
They shouldn’t, however, all require rolls. It’s more about keeping track of what everyone is doing on a moment by moment basis, because time counts when you’re making a heat check every 3-4 rounds.
If the crew doesn’t have communications, like walkie-talkies, then have some of them leave the room while others take on part of the job. This can be a good way to give people some “screen time” if they want to check their phones, or to go get some snacks. Spend maybe 10-15 minutes on each group, cycling them in regularly until they’re in regular communication again.
Tell the PCs they have 20 turns until the cops arrive. Or that they have 30 turns until the home owner returns home. 60 turns until a business opens. Let the PCs know that taking another action here will eat up their time.
This won’t be necessary for every job, but on some it can be helpful. Set aside some events that will happen if the crews’ collective heat ever gets too high. The table below is an example of a Heat Index where the PCs are holding up a bank.
|10||One of the hostages’ phones goes off.|
|15||One of the hostages stands up and starts loudly complaining.|
|20||A customer comes up to the front door of the bank and tries to get in.|
|25||A group of hostages are gathering together and look like they might try something.|
|30||Someone with a concealed handgun starts firing.|
|35||”You’ve been surrounded!” blares loudly from a megaphone outside. The police have set up a perimeter around the building.|
Heat indexes can be helpful in really intense situations, or in heists that take a long time to execute.
How often you roll for heat checks is largely a matter of personal preference, but the major points where you should roll are based on what stage the crew is in:
To make a Heat Check roll 2d6. If the number rolled is lower than the target’s heat, then a RANDOM ENCOUNTER occurs.
Whenever the PCs fail a heat check, they’re going to have to deal with a random encounter. This is one of the most important things you can prep in a game. The heat checks and random encounter tables abstractly deal with all manner of patrols, guard searches, and wandering NPCs that could reasonably pop up in a job, without having to spend a lot of time prepping patrol routes and patterns of behavior for countless NPCs.
I recommend having one Random Encounter TABLE per stage. If a particular stage has a ton of variable locations that would reasonably have a bunch of different kinds of encounters, then feel free to add more in.
A good random encounter table should be scaled with some harmless stuff, some inconvenient stuff, and some truly awful things. The kind of things that make a whole job go sideways.
This table would be an okay representation for a Making the Score stage. In a getaway stage you may have a helicopter showing up or the SWAT team being called in. While Laying Low, the tables should reflect the kinds of situations a criminal is likely to deal with in their normal day-to-day life, detectives may shake them down. Former Contacts may need money. They might develop a drug habit. When they are simply Casing the Job PCs may run into other interested third parties who want a cut of the job. How will they handle that?
|5-7||Lights start turning on, someone is searching the location.|
|8-9||A citizen wanders in.|
|10-11||An asleep/distracted citizen/security guard.|
|12||The nearest door or obstacle is unlocked or unguarded apparently.|
Whenever the PCs run into an encounter that they were not expecting, whether that’s a planned one or a random one, it’s important to roll for surprise.
To make a Surprise Roll PCs should each try to roll under their Reflex attribute on a 1d6. Those who succeed are not surprised and can act as normal, those who fail cannot act for a round. Enemies who can roll their level or under on a 1d6 are not surprised.
Surprise rolls should only happen when there is a reasonable chance that the NPC or the players would be surprised. Most random encounter rolls should require a surprise roll. However, high level security may not be surprised to find a bunch of lowlifes lurking in their parking lot, or may treat every noise with the highest degree of safety, not taking any chances with being surprised.
Enemies who are surprised do not act for one round, giving non-surprised PCs a chance to act first, and vice versa. If both groups are surprised, neither moves for a full round.
Reaction rolls are made whenever a PC meets and NPC and there’s a question as to where they stand with each other.
To find out an NPC’s REACTION, roll your appeal and total up the number of successes.
|1||Takes the PC at face value.|
|2||Helpful, friendly. Works with the PC.|
|3||Incredibly helpful. Willing to do favors for the PC.|
|4||Enthusiastically helpful to the PC.|
There are certain bonuses or penalties that could apply to the reaction roll:
The results of these rolls don’t have to be immediate. An NPC may bide their time to backstab a PC, or may truly want to help a PC, but be tied up by circumstances beyond their control.
In most cases I recommend that GMs let PCs know that a specific action could result in them gaining heat. I’d even going so far as to let your PCs know that a door has an alarm on it (not ahead of time in the planning stage, but when they get down to it and approach that specific door).
Why? Letting the PCs know what the consequences of their actions might be results in better play. If you want your game to be endlessly checking each door or each hallway for cameras, that’s fine. But we think scenarios like this plays better:
GM: Okay, you approach the hallway, it looks like the door has an alarm on it. Worse, there’s a camera at the end of the hallway.
Frank: Damn it. Jenkins, I thought you said there weren’t any cameras in the building.
Jenkins: The records I got from City Hall are a few years old. They must’ve added them in. What about the alarms? I thought our inside guy said they hadn’t installed the alarms yet. What was his name again?
GM: Davies. He, uh, he looks a little shifty and says he doesn’t know why the alarms are here.
Frank: He’s setting us up. Jenkins?
Jenkins: On it. I want to intimidate this guy.
GM: Intimidate him how?
Jenkins: Grab him by his collar pull him up on his tip-toes and mutter real quiet under my breath “What the fuck else didn’t you tell us?”
GM: Okay, Davies isn’t a hardened criminal, so I would say under normal circumstances he’d fold quickly, but since you guys are exposed and time is ticking, I’m gonna rule that you need to beat a TN-1. I’m also going to make a heat check, you still want to go through with it?
Jenkins: Yeah, we need to know if we should walk away now or keep going.
GM: Alright, roll for it.
In this particular hypothetical, if the PCs hard just walked through the door, they’ll definitely have interesting consequences to deal with: they’ll set off an alarm and be caught on camera, resulting in +3 heat for everyone in the crew. Maybe the alarm keys the security guys to come down and check it out. Maybe they just decide to walk away right then and there. Those are definitely interesting situations.
But by letting the PCs know what they are up against, you give them a chance to creatively solve a series of problems, rather than just respond to every fire that pops up. In Heist, I think this leads to the kind of gameplay that is more in keeping with the desired tone of the game.
At some point, the job will probably turn sideways, maybe not if the PCs are extremely careful, thoughtful, and lucky, but probably things will turn to shit. PCs will overreach or run up a huge amount of heat debt and something terrible will happen as a result. A minor combat will go completely wrong and the PCs will now have to deal with an injured ally. Now the sirens are blaring and the PCs have to hustle if they’re going to make it out alive. Here’s what you need to prepare.
When running away from someone, first establish the two characters’ starting distance. This is the same as your range for shooting, so it’ll be either short, medium, or long.
Every round, in initiative order, make a Reflex (Running) check. If the fleeing person has more successes than the pursuer, they increase their distance one step (from short, to medium, from medium to long), if the pursuer has more successes, than they close the gap by one step (from medium to short). In a tie, they stay the same. If the fleeing person ever moves past long distance, then they get away.
If both runners are ever both in short range, then the pursuer can make an opposed Toughness (Athletics) check to tackle the fleeing person.
Every round, new obstacles should appear which alter the situation. The chase may run into a crowd, where a Stealth (Disguise) roll would be more appropriate, or they may have to make a Toughness (Athletics) check to jump a fence. Failure in any of these could allow the pursuer to close the distance a gap. Success might mean a clean getaway.
Shooting at each other while chasing should also be allowed, but incur a penalty die.
Car chases work very similarly to foot chases with regards to starting range and closing the distances.
However in car chases, the skill tested is the individual driver’s Reflex (Drive) skill. They also get to add additional dice based on the speed of the car.
Cars that are in the same range can attempt to ram the other car which requires beating it in a an opposed Reflex (Drive) check.
Additionally, passengers can fire weapons at the other vehicle, its passengers, or even its driver (who all generally count as having cover).
Cars who lose all their wounds break down and must roll on the chart below to see what happens.
|Roll||Effect on Vehicle|
|1||Car crashes and explodes. All PC passengers make death saves.|
|2||Car crashes. All PC passengers make Armor Saves or are reduced down to 1 wound. Driver can make a drive check to reduce everyone to half damage.|
|3||Car crashes. PC passengers all take 2 damage. Driver can make a drive check to reduce everyone to half damage.|
|4||Car crashes. PC passengers all take 1 wound. Driver can make a drive check to reduce everyone to no damage.|
|5||Car breaks down immediately where it is. Can be repaired with an Expertise (Cars) roll. TN-2.|
|6||Driver is able to navigate car to a safe halt.|
Cars that breakdown on a road with traffic may get hit by other cars. The GM should make drive checks for other drivers to see if they can successfully avoid the broken down vehicle. A multi-car pileup may easily kill an entire crew.
The Laying Low part of the game is more like an upkeep phase in a boardgame. There’s plenty of opportunity here to roleplay slice of life stuff if you’re interested, but if what you want to do is string a bunch of scores together, then it’s better to take a zoomed out view of things where PCs can level up, deal with their stash, lifestyle, and make bankruptcy and heat checks.
Whenever you earn cash from a job and then launder it successfully, you get EXPERIENCE POINTS (XP).
PCs get 1 XP for every dollar they successfully launder.
Meaning, it’s not enough to get away with the cash, they need to be able to use it. Sometimes, it’ll even be important to stash their score away for a while until the heat dies down before they can launder it.
Whenever a PC launders cash, they get back XP and then their cash gets turned into STASH points, which are an abstract way to deal with money at a higher level, so you don’t spend a lot of time accounting for every dollar spent in game.
For every $10,000 laundered, PCs add 1 point to their STASH.
A PC’s stash is used to buy various things when they’re laying low, or casing a job. It’s also spent on their lifestyle, basically it’s what they’re living on. If their stash gets too low, they have to roll on the BANKRUPTCY TABLE and bad things will happen to them.
If they have a fat stash, they can spend their extra points on improving their characters. Spending stash takes time, usually 1 turn (6 months) and they can only do one thing at a time, basically to represent that while they may be working on improving a skill, they also have a normal life to deal with.
|1||Skill: 0 » +1||6 months|
|10||Skill: +1 » +2||6 months|
|100||Skill: +2 » +3||6 months|
|1||Attribute: 1 » 2||1 year|
|3||Attribute: 2 » 3||1 year|
|9||Attribute: 3 » 4||1 year|
|27||Attribute: 4 » 5||1 year|
|81||Attribute: 5 » 6||1 year|
|5||Reduce Heat -1||6 months|
|10||Reduce Heat -2||6 months|
|15||Reduce Heat -3||6 months|
|20||Reduce Heat -4||6 months|
|25||Reduce Heat -5||6 months|
|30||Reduce Heat -6||6 months|
|2||Improve a Contact||6 months|
|2||Improve an Associate||6 months|
|1||Roll on the rumor table||1 month|
|X||Waste your cash and get XP||3 months|
PCs also have to spend money on their LIFESTYLE. Lifestyle is essentially their cost of living for one year. At the end of every six months, the GM asks players if they want to spend their stash on anything, and players will have a chance to do so. They can only do one of the things on the above list at a time.
A player’s LIFESTYLE is equal to their level and must be paid at the end of every year. If a player cannot pay in full, they must roll on the bankruptcy table.
When a player can’t afford their lifestyle anymore, they must roll on the bankruptcy table.
To roll for bankruptcy, roll 1d6 and add the amount of stash you are short.
|2||Scraping by. +1 heat.|
|3||In debt. Gain -1 stash for the next 3 years.|
|6||Lose a contact.|
|7||Lose 1 level.|
|8||Bad reputation. When laying low you make 2x the amount of heat checks you normally would.|
|9||Lose levels equal to the amount you owe.|
|10||They broke your legs. -1 Wound, permanently. (Minimum 1).|
|11||Lose all Contacts.|
|12||The mob is after you. Price on your head.|
|13||Go to jail for 1d6 years.|
|15||They had to make an example of you. Dead.|
When a PC loses a level due to bankruptcy, they don’t lose any of the special abilities or skills they’ve earned. They will however, have to level up again to their current level to keep progressing and gaining new special abilities.
GM: Okay, you guys have all gotten back to your respective homes and hideouts. Six months goes by. What’s everyone been doing?
Jenkins: I went to my doctor contact to get my wounds looked at.
GM: Okay, you guys have a good relationship. He’ll fix everything up for 1 stash.
GM: Frank? What about you? You took a lot of heat on that last run. Frank: Yeah, I’m just going to lay low this season.
GM: You want to spend any extra on lowering your heat even more?
Frank: No, I don’t want to go bankrupt.
GM: Okay no problem. Another six months passes. Everyone deduct your lifestyle from your stash.
Frank: That takes me low. I need to do another job. Jenkins, you in? I’ve got a contact that say she knows about some diamonds getting moved.
Jenkins: No, my guy is going to sit out this one and recover.
GM: Okay, you want to send one of your other guys on the job then?
Jenkins: Yeah, Hudson just got out of jail and needs cash pretty bad. He’s in.
GM: Alright, Hudson and Frank, you guys meet up in this seedy motel in Albuquerque. Frank, your contact Crissa said she’d be here by now, but it’s been two hours and she’s still not here…
The majority of NPCs the PCs deal with won’t need stats. For the most part you can use the below examples as a template for most people with minor adjustments. A few notes:
Wounds: 3 ARMOR: 6+
Assault: 2 Shooting: 1
Citizens are the majority of people heisters will come across. Athletic people or anyone trained in fighting may have Assault 3+1, or maybe someone with a Concealed Handgun License will have a 3+1 in shooting.
Wounds: 6 ARMOR: 5+
Assault: 3 Shooting: 2
Security guards are usually bored, dopey, and ineffective against master criminals, but they have some basic training, and every now and then one will surprise you.
Wounds: 9 ARMOR: 4+
Assault: 3 Shooting: 4 +1
Cops generally aren’t weak against any type of influence and will generally follow procedure, calling for backup, running IDs to check for warrants, or calling in air support. May be in plainclothes, or be undercover, posing as a citizen.
Wounds: 10 ARMOR: 5+
Assault: 4 +1 Shooting: 4
Criminals are dangerous mainly because they are willing to kill with little to no provocation. On the plus side, they typically don’t wait for backup to arrive before moving in.
Wounds: 15 ARMOR: 3+
Assault: 5 Shooting: 6 +1
A tactical officer (like a SWAT team member) has been called primarily to put down an armed combatant. Most heisters won’t even have the chance to converse with one, except under extreme circumstances. They’ll work in a group and have access to riot shields and flash bangs and a whole municipal arsenal.
Contacts belong to a specific PC and if that PC is not going on a particular job, then the contact cannot be used. If other PCs want to make use of that contact with or without their accomplice, they can gain the contact, after an introduction by their mutual friend, by reducing their contact attribute by -1.
<Note: Give every contact a breakdown over one or two sentences of who they are and what they do.>
Notes: An average night at a bar (a few drinks, tip, maybe some food) will cost each player ~$50.
|7.||Nothing to report.|
|2d6||Bartender Job Offer|
|7.||Nothing to report.|
|1||Slaughterhouse Dive||Vernons||Fat Barrel||Spinning Pint||Amsterdam||Tequila|
|2||Old Kinderhook||Daveys||Polished Lemon||Moonlit Jester||Franklins||Parkers|
|3||Clever Palm Hideout||Hop Wild||Lee Harveys||Sticky Foot||9-to-5||Wet Sailor|
|4||Meddlesome Moth||Ocean Club||Three Kings||Ye Old Hat||Pub Room||Rositas|
|5||The Old Monk||The Local||Bryan Street||Three Sheets||Private Game||The Spot|
|6||Spinning Dog Roadhouse||Dancing Lime||Telltales||Stays in Vegas||Bon Mots||The MBC|
<same table as nightclub owner, stripper>
|1||Bad Kids||Electric Soul||Exiled||Glitterati||Propaganda||Gatsby|
|2||SKNT||Soul City||Toxic Tuesday||Tropical Riot||Wanderlust||Aversions Crown|
|4||Solstice||Apogeé||La Note||Club Héritage||La Flamme||Atelier|
|5||Hysteria||Public Works||The Forum||Das||Foundation||Surrender|
|6||207||Heat Ultra||Side Bar||Dream Nightclub||Round-Up Saloon||Luxx|
Note: An average outing to the strip club with a few drinks and a dance or two plus tipping will cost each player ~$125.
|7.||Nothing to report.|
|1||Cotton Tail||Bunny Slope||Mile High Club||BOX Office||XTC||Swinging Richards|
|2||The Landing Strip||Catwalks||Club Paradise||Cheetahs||Dickies||Peaks & Valleys|
|3||Bounce House||Outskirts||Show n Tail||Members Only||Teasers||Bandaids|
|4||The Library||Bottoms Up||Dicks Cabaret||La Bare||Stag||Meathouse|
|5||Juicy Lucys||Goosers||No Cover Club||Dark Lounge||BJs||New Adult World|
|6||Chelseas Clubhouse||Treasures||Jumpin Jacks||Slick Willies||TNT||After Dark|
|Drug||Avg. Cost||Average Use||Slang|
|Cocaine||$100-$120 / gram||Line = 50mg||Coke, Powder, Blow, Rock, Yayo, Flake|
|Heroin||$15-$20 / dose (0.1g)||$200/day||H, Horse, Smack, Dope, Skag|
|Ketamine||$25/dose||1/day||Special K, K, Ket, Kit Kat|
|LSD||$5-$20 / hit||50-150mg||Acid, Lucy, Cid, Tabs, Doses|
|Marijuana||$15 / gram||1 gram / day||Weed, Bud, Grass, Pot, Kush, Chronic|
|MDMA||$15-$20/pill||2-3 pills/day||Ecstasy, Molly, X, E, Candy, Rolls|
|Methamphetamine||$80 / gram||$20 (.25g)||Meth, Crystal, Crank, Ice, Tweak|
|Mushrooms||$160 / ounce||1/8 ounce||Shrooms, Magic Mushrooms, Caps|
|PCP||$20-$30/gram||1-5mg/dose||Angel Dust, Rocket Fuel, Ozone, Hog|
<Might also want to include strain names.>
|Australia||$1495 - $2677|
|Belgium||$1981 - $3637|
|Canada||$1495 - $2677|
|Denmark||$1883 - $4017|
|Finland||$1495 - $1981|
|France||$1652 - $3490|
|Germany||$1495 - $2677|
|Lithuania||$1406 - $2964|
|Netherlands||$1883 - $3534|
|Norway||$1296 - $1850|
|Russia||$1359 - $3013|
|Spain||$1652 - $3490|
|UK||$1792 - $3490|
|United States||$938 - $2057|
List of day jobs (bouncer, bodyguard, etc.)
|7.||Nothing to report.|
|7.||Nothing to report.|
All items below are subject to 30-150% markup based on availability. Furthermore, most Weapons Dealers won’t have every item in stock.
|Glock 19||$599||Semi-Auto Pistol||12||1d3+1||0-25 yds.||26-50 yds.||51-100 yds.|
|S&W M&P 9 Shield||$279||Semi-Auto Pistol||12||1d3+1||0-25 yds.||26-50 yds.||51-100 yds.|
|Ruger LCP||$239||Semi-Auto Pistol||12||1d3+1||0-25 yds.||26-50 yds.||51-100 yds.|
|Taurus Protector||$461||Revolver||6||1d6||0-15 yds.||16-35 yds.||63-65 yds.|
|Ruger GP11||$899||Revolver||6||1d6||0-15 yds.||16-35 yds.||63-65 yds.|
|Rossi 352||$345||Revolver||6||1d6||0-15 yds.||16-35 yds.||63-65 yds.|
|Mossberg 500||$325||Shotgun||6||2d6||0-10 yds.||11-14 yds.||16-30 yds.|
|AK-47||$1,200||Assault Rifle||30||1d6-1||0-75 yds.||76-150 yds.||151-300 yds.|
|AR-15||$1,500||Semi-Auto Rifle||36||1d6+1||0-75 yds.||76-150 yds.||151-300 yds.|
|Flashbang Grenade||$50||1||Tough TN-3||-||-||-|
|Smoke Grenade||$40||1||Tough TN-3||-||-||-|
|Stun Gun||$289||2||Tough TN-3||0-1 yds.||1-2 yds.||3-4 yds.|
Most of the time just picking one of the base templates should be fine. In Heist you rarely have a “boss” character with special abilities, though perhaps a unique bad guy, like a mob boss who really has it in for the NPCs might call for special rules, or a vengeful former Contact might have some unique abilities. But for the most part all of the PCs are weak and even combat with an unarmed civilian can turn into a deadly confrontation if the PCs aren’t careful. The NPCs in this game that pose a danger to the PCs do so because they come in groups and there is a never ending supply of them. One police officer is generally not a problem for the PCs to handle if they’re smart. But killing a cop brings out a huge motivated and pissed off set of reinforcements, potentially locking a city down for weeks.
Time, money, personnel, none of them are on the PCs’ side. So don’t be worried about using these basic templates.
Also, not every NPC will bring their A-game against the heisters, and that’s okay too. Security guards should be asleep, cops should be lazy or afraid of a confrontation, citizens should stand up and work together against a common foe. Anything should be able to happen.
When the PCs try to lie, charm, intimidate or con one of your NPCs, roll on the table below to see what the NPC is made of. Sometimes it turns out a hardened criminal is the perfect mark, and the little old grandma is a Human Bullshit Detector. When a PC tries to use one of the skills below against the NPC, they make an opposed roll. If the PC rolls higher, then they’re successful. Otherwise, the NPC has figured out their scheme.
|ROLL||NPC SOCIAL ABILITIES|
|1||Perfect Mark: Charm 1, Con 1, Lie 1, Intimidate 1|
|2||Gullible Fool: Charm 2, Con 1, Lie 1, Intimidate 2|
|3||Optimist: Charm 1, Con 2, Lie 2, Intimidate 1|
|4||Honest Citizen: Charm 2, Con 3, Lie 2, Intimidate 2|
|5||Hardened Skeptic: Charm 1, Con 3, Lie 3, Intimidate 1|
|6||Human Bullshit Detector: Charm 4, Con 4, Lie 4, Intimidate 4|
When a Contact is first rolled up, the GM makes a secret Loyalty roll for them. This number is important for determining what the Contact will do in times of stress. Will they betray the PCs and try to take all the money? Will they agree to an even split? Are they wearing a wire? What happens if they get caught? Will they name names to reduce their sentence? This is what a loyalty roll is important for.
The GM should make a loyalty check for Contacts in these situations:
|2||Rat. Wearing a wire.|
|3-4||Shaky. They’re owe someone, maybe a cop, maybe a rival criminal.|
|5-7||Acts within their own self interest.|
|8-9||Acts like a professional.|
|10-11||Willing to do time for you.|
|12||Would rather die than be a rat.|
Assets are just weapons, vehicles, or other items that you may need at a moment’s notice without wanting to come up with something off the top of your head.
What weapon your heisters use will largely depend on availability and what they’ll need to be used for. They each have special rules concerning them listed below.
Damage: 1+1/2 Toughness
Damage: 1d3+1/2 Toughness
Illegal to carry.
Pipes, batons, billy clubs, wrenches, etc.
Damage: 1d6+1/2 Toughness
Broken bottles, any kind of bladed weapons.
Damage: 1d6+1/2 Reflex
Glock 19, Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield, Ruger LCP
Damage: 1d3+1 Holds: 12
|0-25 yd.||26-50 yd.||51-100 yd.|
Taurus Protector, Ruger GP11, Rossi 352
Damage: 1d6 Holds: 6
|0-15 yd.||16-35 yd.||36-65 yd.|
Revolvers are the most reliable sidearm.
Damage: 2d6 Holds: 6
|0-10 yd.||11-14 yd.||16-30 yd.|
Shotguns firing pellet fire in a cone-like spread and gain +1 Bonus Die when firing at close range.
<Note: Change this to slug shotgun and shot shotgun and come up with rules for spread>
Damage: 1d6+1 Holds: 36
|0-75 yds.||76-150 yds.||151-300 yds.|
The AR-15 can be converted to be fully automatic. It can fire up to three times in a single round, but add a disadvantage die for each shot fired.
In Heist the difference between having the right vehicle and the wrong vehicle for a particular job could be the difference between life and death, or at least life behind bars.
All vehicles have their own basic stats, which for the most part mirror NPC’s stats. They have, for example, WOUNDS, which is the amount of damage they can withstand before being destroyed, and they also have a DAMAGE score, which is how much damage they do to people or vehicles, and an Armor score, which is essentially their vehicle’s ability to withstand damage from guns only (not other vehicles). Damage is calculated a little differently, as vehicles have two values, like 1d6/1d3. The first number is how much damage they do to other cars when ramming or sideswiping them. The second number is how much damage they themselves take when they ram or sideswipe another vehicle.
Additionally, vehicles have a Speed rating which is the number of dice added to the driver’s driving check whenever they roll for special driving maneuvers.
Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3
Wounds: 15 Armor: 2
Speed: 1 Damage: 1d6-1/1d3
VW Passat, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu
Wounds: 18 Armor: 3
Speed: 2 Damage: 1d6-1/1d3
Chevy Impala, Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon
Wounds: 21 Armor: 3
Speed: 3 Damage: 1d6/1d3
Luxury models (Infinti, Lexus, Acura, etc.) all have +1 Speed.
Porsche Boxter, Meredes-Benz SLK, BMW Z4
Wounds: 15 Armor: 3
Speed: 4 Damage: 1d3+1/1d3+1
Chevy Camaro, BMW 6, Volva C70
Wounds: 12 Armor: 3
Speed: 3 Damage: 1d3+1/1d3+1
Chrysler Town & Country, Toyota Sienna
Wounds: 24 Armor: 5
Speed: 1 Damage: 1d6/1d3
Chevy Express, Ford Transit
Wounds: 30 Armor: 6
Speed: 1 Damage: 1d6+1/1d3
Range Rover, Cadillac Escalade
Wounds: 21 Armor: 5
Speed: 3 Damage: 1d6+1/1d3
Brinks, Garda, Loomis
Wounds: 90 Armor: 10
Speed: 4 Damage: 2d6/1
Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra
Wounds: 18 Armor: 5
Speed: 4 Damage: 1d6/1d3
Pickup trucks and SUVs do a good job at carrying a heavy load and several passengers.
Kawasaki Ninja, Yamaha YZF-R1
Wounds: 6 Armor: 1
Speed: 6 Damage: 1/1
Sport bikes and other motorcycles are fast and easily hidden, however they can’t take or dish out much damage, and can carry very little.
Heist is about creating that feeling you get reading crime fiction or watching caper flicks where a team sets up the perfect plan and then struggles as it all falls apart. These range from hilarious to downright nihilistic and your game of Heist should fall anywhere in between.
This isn’t so much about letting the players be super-powerful as it is about making sure there are interesting stakes when you roll the dice. But if you want to play a more fumbly/farcical game where players are tripping over their shoelaces, then feel free to roll as often as you want.↩
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