How to Create a Criminal

December 27, 2018 rpgs heist playtesting downloads character_sheets game_design

Awhile back, I wrote up a Rap Sheet system for character creation in Heist (and called it the lifepath system, which I think sounds lame and kinda like a fantasy game — so let’s try out Rap Sheet” and see if that sticks) and I broke it out to tinker with today. The idea comes from the Traveller system, where you can actually die in character creation (which is the case here as well).

Typically, I value a super fast character creation system (which Heist also has), but while Heist is high-lethality, its campaign frame is more of a series of one shots played between your regular games, and a Rap Sheet system can help build up some interest and buy-in for your character. Are you a young crook, or a hardened felon who’s been in and out of the system a couple times? Are you a suburbanite whose cracked under pressure and turned to a life of crime, or is this everything you’ve ever known?

Here’s the current version:

Creating a Rap Sheet for your Heist Character

You start out as a 14 year old kid. Through circumstance, you may become a criminal, convict, or even be killed, so be careful. Every turn adds 4 years1 onto your life and improves some of your stats and skills, but as you get older, some of your stats may also decline. It’s up to you to decide when you eventually decide to take up life as a heister and then roll to see what your rewards are from your first real job. Please feel free to download the character sheet and try this out. Shoot me a picture of the character you come up with and let me know how it worked out.

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).

Heist Character Sheet v3Heist Character Sheet v3

1. Starting Background: Roll 1d6

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 stats are as below.

Roll Path Toughness Reflex Stealth Expertise Appeal Perception Heat
1-3 Citizen 1 1 1 2 2 1 0
4-5 Criminal 2 1 2 1 1 2 1
6 Convict 3 2 1 1 1 1 2

All players start with 2 Wounds, 1 Contact, and 0 Stash.

After you take this step, skip Step 2 and go immediately to Step 3 - Hard Knocks.

2. Major Life Changes (Roll 2d6 twice)

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 to see if you survived. If you roll equal to or higher than the number on the chart on 2d6, then you survived and can move on to step 3 - Hard Knocks. If you roll lower than that number, however, your character made an unfortunate turn and has died2. You’ll need to start over with a new character.

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 5+ to stay alive.

Background 2d6 Survive?
Citizen 8+ 3+
Criminal 7+ 5+
Convict 9+ 4+

3. Hard Knocks (Roll 2d6)

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 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.

Backround 2d6 2d6 Stat Bonus
Citizen 6+ 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 Acquire
8 +1 Perception -1 Heat, +1 Organization
9 +1 Perception -1 Heat, +1 Cars
10 +1 Expertise -1 Heat, +1 Contact (1d6):
1: Bartender
2: Stripper
3: Lawyer
4: Bureaucrat
5: Veterinarian
6: Bookie
11 +1 Expertise -1 Heat, +1 Read Person
12 +1 Any Stat -2 Heat, +1 Contact (1d6):
1: Pilot
2: Hacker
3: Doctor
4: Banker
5: Reporter
6: Politician
Backround 2d6 2d6 Stat Bonus
Criminal 7+ 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
2: Fence
3: Dock Worker
4: Getaway Driver
5: Slumlord
6: Weapons Dealer
5 +1 Toughness +1 Heat, +1 Petty 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
3: Celebrity
4: Mobster
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
Backround 2d6 2d6 Stat Bonus
Convict 8+ 2 -1 Appeal +1 Heat, +1 Computers
3 No Change +1 Heat, +1 Acquire
4 +1 Perception +1 Move Silently
5 +1 Perception +1 Lie
6 +1 Toughness +1 Contact (1d6):
1: Junkie
2: Drug Mule
3: Pimp
4: Prostitute
5: Forger
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):
1: Ex-Soldier
2: Getaway Driver
3: Heavy Muscle
4: Hacker
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.

4. Aging (Roll 2d6)

Starting at age 38 your characters starts to see the 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
35-50 8+ -1 Toughness +1 Expertise
52-60 7+ -1 Toughness -1 Reflex +1 Expertise -1 Survival Rolls
62-70 6+ -1 Toughness -1 Reflex -1 Perception -2 Survival Rolls
82 6+ *

*You must roll a 6 or higher to survive. If you survive, end character creation and move on to step 5.

5. Special Abilities

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.

Toughness

  1. Bruiser: Your unarmed attacks now deal 2 damage instead of 1.
  2. Hard Headed: When not wearing body armor, your armor save is a 5+.
  3. Die Hard: When making a death save roll you are alive on a 4+ and you wake up in d6-1 hours (on a roll of 1 you wake up in 10 minutes).
  4. Tough As Nails: You ignore damage dice up to your level.
  5. Bullet Proof: Whenever you would take damage, make a Toughness check, you can ignore damage equal to the number of successes. You can never take less than 1 damage.
  6. Bury Me Twice: The first time you would be killed, if the circumstances could possibly allow (i.e. you weren’t pulped in a wood chipper), you are instead knocked unconscious and wake up hours later.

Reflex

  1. Quick Reload: You can reload weapons as a free action.
  2. Gone In 60: You gain no Heat from stealing cars and can always find one to steal within half an hour.
  3. Ramming Speed: When you use your car to deal damage to another car, your car takes 1 less damage.
  4. Never Surprise: You are never have to roll for surprise and can always act during surprise rounds.
  5. Hard to Catch: In footchases, whenever you tie, you still increase your distance by 1 step.
  6. Crash Test Dummy: Whenever your car breaks down and you roll for consequences, roll twice and take the best result.

Stealth

  1. One of Those Faces: You don’t gain Heat from being caught on camera and witnesses who see your face can only recall distinguishing features on a roll of 5+.
  2. Frugal: Your lifestyle is 1 less than your level.
  3. We Can Work It Out: When you roll on the bankruptcy table, don’t add the amount you’re short by.
  4. Leave no trace: Unless egregious errors are made, you are assumed not to leave petty or minute evidence behind (fingerprints, hair, dna, etc.).
  5. In Another Life: You have a backup Passport and alternate identity. One time, you can totally wipe all your heat, bankruptcy, and any other lingering conditions and assume your new identity.
  6. Ghost: If you have 4 or less Heat, you don’t make Heat checks.

Expertise

  1. Fast Leaner: Gain 2 skill points to spend at the time of your choosing.
  2. El Cheapo: Your lifestyle is 2 less than your level.
  3. Retirement: The next PC you roll gets 2 points to spend on attributes and 1 extra point to spend on skills at character creation.
  4. Computer Whiz: Your ability to research things on the internet is unparalleled. It’s assumed you can find out at least one useful thing out about any person, place, or thing if you spend time looking it up.
  5. Shell Company: You can ignore 1 bankruptcy roll.
  6. Hidden Stash: Whenever you gain stash points gain +1 extra Stash, track this number separately. You may withdraw all the stash from this account once, after which you no longer gain extra stash points.

Appeal

  1. I Know a Guy: Add +2 to your Contacts.
  2. Good Reputation: When making a reaction roll for new contacts, you succeed on a 4+.
  3. Cover Identity: Your heat reduces by 2 every six months instead of 1.
  4. I’ll Get In Touch: You don’t have to make heat checks when laying low if your heat is 9 or less.
  5. Undying Loyalty: Your associates can add your appeal to their loyalty rolls.
  6. Get Out of Jail Free Card: One time use.

Perception

  1. Student of the Human Condition: After talking to someone for five minutes, you can tell what their strong and weak points are socially (Charm, Con, Lie, Intimidate, etc.)
  2. Side Hustle: You gain 1 stash every six months no matter what.
  3. Double-Tap: If you kill someone with a gun you may immediately make another shooting attack.
  4. Eagle Eye: You can always spot cameras and hidden cameras.
  5. Favorite Weapon: Once you have killed 3 people with a weapon, you permanently have +1 to hit with that weapon.
  6. Acquisition Expert: You can always get access to a map of a place within 24 hours.

Example 1 - Parker

Heist Character Creation Example - ParkerHeist Character Creation Example - Parker

Here’s Parker, a character I just rolled up. Let’s go through his rap sheet real quick.

And that’s about how it works. I’ll be tweaking probably the Wounds number (maybe starting with 2 wounds), because while the game is meant to be deadly, we don’t want it to end immediately as soon as combat starts. But the history above I came up with on the fly as I was rolling Parker up. He feels like a pretty real person to me, which I like. And I also like that you could end up playing a pretty wide spectrum of people from different ages and backgrounds.

Example 2 - Crissa

Heist Character Creation Example - CrissaHeist Character Creation Example - Crissa

Here’s a second character, Crissa. This time I playtested using a variable age (1d6+2) as opposed to the straight 4 years. Characters age a lot quicker (which is nice sometimes, but I think 1d6+1 is probably better). Overall though, this was a fun character to roll up.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a pretty involved process for creating a heister, but it’s a fun one that helps you inject some life into your character. In Heist, there are a few assumptions about how players play that inform this:

We have a much, much quicker way to generate PCs on the fly if you get capped at the beginning of a four hour session, but for between games, this should work just fine. If you try this out, let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.


  1. After some feedback, I’m thinking of making this 1d6+2 years (so 3-8 years) or something similar (2d6 seems too long), which will give more variable ages and also put some pressure on the player to make a decision (maybe it’s been 14 years after two rolls and you’ve been in prison the whole time, or maybe it’s been 4 years after four rolls and you’re ready to get out, that kind of thing).

  2. Another thing to do here would be to give two shots at dying and then give a bonus on your special ability roll depending on how many shots you have left. Basically, if you get hit” once, you’re fine. Hit twice, you die. This would mean I could make the survival roll harder. But if you have 2 hits remaining at the end you could spend them on skills or stat points just like a point buy, or you could spend them to increase your chance of getting a special ability (giving you a bonus on your roll). Additionally, This roll used to be hurt by Heat, which we could maybe bring back. Right now Heat is functionally useless in the chargen minigame except as a starting proposition.



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