Original SA post
, a PBTA hack about pulling off heists in the style of Heat, The Town. This could have gone in the catpiss thread, but I wanted to write more about the design and the mechanics.
The game starts off with picking a heist target and a heist location. For our game, we chose kidnapping the teenage daughter of Colombian drug lord during an elegant party in the US embassy in Panama. The cast was Gillis "Basher" de Jaeger as The Muscle, Tanner Scott as The Brains, and Mr Black as the Charm.
The heist itself is broken up into three distinct phases: the Opening Gambit, the Thick of It, and End of the Line. One of the key concepts in the game is the Heat clock: whenever you do something that calls attention or escalates the situation, and specifically whenever you Miss a Move, you gain Heat. This determines how the heist is going and current response level of the authorities.
Much as in Payday, you can try stealthing your way through a heist, but since it only takes you three Heat to get to
"they know it's a heist and shit begins to hit the fan and the building goes into lockdown"
, it's likely that you're going to have to go loud at some point. Or you could even go loud as the opening salvo of the heist and begin the game at that level of heat right away.
As you fill up the heat clock/progress bar, you advance to the second and third phases of the heist. The other way that this influences the game is that you can only use Moves in that heist phase or lower, and that the effects of the Moves themselves change depending on which phase of the heist you're in.
For example, one of the Basic Moves is:
When you explain how you accounted for something in your plans, roll+sharp. On a 10+, you get to explain what you prepped to deal with this situation, and the MC explains why it’s not as simple as that. On a 7-9, you explain what you wanted to prep and how it went wrong, and the MC tells you what you have instead. On a miss, you explain what you wanted to prep, and the MC explains how it’s fucking you over right now.
But that's if you're using it during the Opening Gambit and The Thick of It. Once you get to End of the Line, it changes to:
When you explain how you accounted for something in your plans, roll+sharp. On a 12+, you prepped exactly for this shit, and it works out how you think it should. Better yet, you get something out of it: gear, a weapon, an ally, an opening, whatever.
So the Move is still introducing complications even when you roll a 10+ during the first two thirds of the game, but then gains a "works perfectly" clause on a 12+ when your back is to the wall.
Similarly, the Professional character can disable security systems during the Opening Gambit, and then can go down in a blaze of glory during the End of the Line.
The heist phase and the heat level also tie in closely to how the game handles health/injury: the game outright states that, being professional criminals, rent-a-cops and security guards cannot hurt you. The GM/narrator can introduce "one of you gets shot and it's bad" as a complication, but in general you won't get hurt up until
you get to the End of the Line and the heat level gets maxed out, at which point the SWAT team breaches the building and kills everyone, period.
As far as my experience running the game, the things that stood out to us, in no particular order:
* I was perhaps a bit too conservative adding Heat to the clock, and the team did a stealth approach, and the target wasn't exactly a tightly guarded safe, so we ended up not going much farther than the opening stages of The Thick of It, since the team only went loud as a final exclamation point to make their getaway from the embassy compound.
* The players felt like it should have been possible to immediately access the higher-phase moves. I guess you could do it by deliberately escalating the situation though.
* It wasn't always clear what the 6- / 7-9 / 10+ effects were for any given move. I get that some of it was done to conserve space and make it fit into the form factor, but the low word count and having to refer back to the general rules tripped us up a couple of times.
* The game kinda feels like it's too focused on that Payday-style rob-a-bank-and-kill-cops theme, and most of the issues we had with being able to stealth all the way through a mission were maybe derived from that.
It was, admittedly, my first time playing a PBTA game, and it's something I want to try again, probably with the "bank heist" scenario strictly enforced, now that I've done it once and picked up some experience.