How to Run A Heist – Running RPGs

Stealthy heist games are a lot of fun, but can present their own challenges to run. Here’s some tips and ideas on how to create a heist game and avoid some of the common mistakes that Game Masters can make.

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Guest starring The Gang.

00:00 Intro
01:46 The Artifact
02:37 The Fortress
07:22 The Dragon
08:54 The Setup
16:22 The Job
16:56 The Kink
20:25 The Escape
20:55 The Tradeoff
21:21 Closing


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29 thoughts on “How to Run A Heist – Running RPGs

  1. I finally found some time to come back to this video after having watched the "What bug" war story. When you described the roof scene in this video (and especially after you talked to the GM afterwards about "where we got caught"), my first thought was essentially, "Damn. He DOES go bombshell all the time." xD

  2. Players: There is no way this plan can fail, we got this!
    The GM 5 minutes later: πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€/// POLICE ASSAULT IN PROGRESS///πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€

  3. What's your opinion on using flashbacks in lieu of extensive planning (like in Blades in the Dark)? If the GM is not supposed to be an expert fortress owner/protector, then the players need not be expert heist planners.

  4. Oner mechanic for heists I really like is giving the players "heist points" that they can use in response to either kinks or other unexpected circumstances to explain, in hindsight, how they actually DID think about and plan for a circumstance. It works like a flashback in a movie where the player describes a previously unmentioned detail.

    Some examples:

    1) Say the vault they are stealing from has an emergency lockdown if the artifact is ever moved and the players didn't consider it, by spending a heist point, the player can rewind and flashback to his holding the door open a crack by dropping a wedge in it as he entered.

    2) If the PCs are being chased, a heist point can be used to say they stashed bags of ball-bearings or placed tripwires or bear traps along the escape route (if that would otherwise make sense in the game world). Since they placed them, they can easily avoid them, but they will slow down pursuers.

    3) Or, say that the client hiring the party specifies that no one in the Fortress can be killed, but a crazed (and cursed) PC panics and fells a museum curator with his axe when he's discovered (this really happened in a game), then one of the PCs (even the offending PC) can spend a heist point to flashback to a scene of him grinding away and dulling the edge of that axe…so that the blunt axe may injure – but won't kill – anyone.

    How many heist points people get vary depending on how many kinks the GM is throwing in or expects they will face. I think one or two per player as a base. The more PCs there are, the fewer heist points they should get. Too many heist points can make the heist too easy, but having them as a resource also helps diffuse "planning paralysis" if the PCs are just afraid to get the actual heist started.

    Players seem to enjoy basically being able to co-create the story in an imaginative, but plausible, way.

  5. Ran a heist in modern day COC … For reasons beyond common sence… they got zero dollars, …2 got killed outright ….1 was in a coma for life… and 2 will be released in 2052 let them get caught

  6. I'll never forget the time I set up a great heist for my players to break into a temple to kidnap a powerful priest…and they riled up a mob and accidentally burned the temple to the ground with the priest in it. Good times.

  7. Seth Skorkowsky kid is sick any he goes to bring them home early from school.
    Teacher does not know and simply asks: why do you want to get them home early?
    Seth Skorkowsky: BOMBSHELL!!!

  8. I like to just come clean when I mess up as a GM!
    I find it really helps my players understand that we are all playing a game together not them against me.
    Thanks for the great video! Lots of awesome tips! πŸ˜€

  9. Something I like to do is after the guards and protections are in place, I allow the players to make their set up plans. One may flirt with the secretary. Another may carouse with the guards at the local tavern. The key to the "research phase" is that if they fail, the protectors are alerted that "something is up". The more they fail the greater the chance of getting caught. Contrariwise, if they do exceptionally well, they may get some bonus information.

    At any event it sure beats: "I make my Steal Things roll."

  10. I like to prevent "Analysis Paralysis" by offering each PC a flashback. The flashback is used to put in place a plan they would have done, if only they realized an issue. This eliminates the issues of forgetting equipment, bribing someone, getting info, etc. It makes the game move along too.

  11. Time limit for characters is far better idea. You have to get it before it's used or put into a vault. Or you have to get it before … or you(or someone important)'ll die/be killed. And just make real time translate easily to ingame time like 1h=1day or 15min=1h.

  12. I would do the hacking for the file in a way that the character can still use his feat.

    Like for example the players know that the files are stored in the building owned by company X. So the
    hacker of the group suggests breaking into the system. I would let him do that and if he can hack
    into it I reward XP or whatever for that later on. However by searching the system he does not find the
    files since they are stored on a external drive for highly sensitive data and that drive is kept in the
    secure data storage that can't be accessed online but thanks to his hacking they now know where
    exactly they are located in the building.

    Or he manages to get the files but they are encrypted and they still have to get into the building to get
    their hands on the encryption-keys since they are stored independently from the compute system for
    exactly that reason.

    By that the heist is still on but the player has actively contributed to its success.

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