Most fantasy adventures are about seeking treasure. Commonly, fantasy RPG characters do it the old fashioned way by raiding dungeons and slaying dragons. But there’s another genre that’s about getting the big score while defeating clever traps. Heist films like Ocean’s Eleven and Sneakers have cool protagonists that come up with clever plans to end up with a pile of cash. Lords of Waterdeep designer Rodney Thompson, whose name has been on RPGs from Star Wars Saga Edition to Dungeons & Dragons, is currently Kickstarting a game that blends a world of fantasy and magic with a world of crime and clever plans. Dusk City Outlaws allows players to plan a big heist, overcome the twists and turns of the plot and be home in time to go out to dinner using some ill-gotten gains.
“I wanted a game that had a strong call to action,” said Thompson, “with a really clear goal that the players could drive toward. The heist genre lends itself very well to that, because there’s always a target that the crew is striving for. At the same time, the genre also lends itself well to a lot of different approaches to that goal, and that meant that players would have a lot of freedom to choose what their plan would be. It’s a genre that combines lots of different ways of tackling the situation with some clear limitations that keeps that level of freedom from being overwhelming.”
The game is set in New Dunhaven, a huge urban sprawl not unlike a fantasy New York City. The criminal activity in the city is split between several gangs called Cartels. The Cartels each have a certain style of dress, manner and an expertise in a type of crime. The Mummers, for example, run the theaters and vice houses in the city. The Red Lotus Society has the market on firearms cornered. The Vespers bilk the nobility through con games and grifts. The Cartels come together to pull a job, then disappear hopefully before the Heat comes down and the City Watch busts some heads.
“The most fun I’ve had with a character, personally, is with the Forgotten boss,” said Thompson. “The Forgotten have a lot of street gangs among their members, and the boss gets several minions to help out with every Job, so that character combo makes me feel like I’m the leader of a gang like the Warriors. It’s just a nice blending of worldbuilding and mechanics that I really enjoy.”
Thompson’s goal was to create a game that requires little prep looking to hook people who love board games but find character creation of other RPG intimidating. Making a character for Dusk City Outlaws keeps it simple. Players choose a Cartel, then a Specialty. The Cartel talks about where the player has Influence and where they might look conspicuous. The Specialty gives the player special abilities and lays out their skills. Once everyone has made their selections, the GM, called the Judge, lays out the job and gives the players 15 minutes to start pulling together their plan. The game is percentile-based, but it adds a wrinkle through the application of Advantage Dice and Challenge Dice. These dice reflect the twists and turns of a heist story. Advantage Dice provide opportunities outside of success or failure. As an example, perhaps the bank president owes some money to a Cartel and can be persuaded to part with the vault key long enough to make a copy. Challenge Dice reflect the unforeseen twists that make a job more complicated. These dice generate Heat points, which the GM can spend to throw a monkey wrench in the players’ plans. Maybe the gold in the vault has been secretly treated with a potion that causes it to melt on contact with sunlight. Time is also an enemy of the players: the longer players spend plotting their break-in, the more Heat piles up to reflect word of their pending crime getting out to rivals and the authorities.
The main types of stretch goals that are a part of this game are extra jobs ready to go out of the box and more content for the boxed set. The higher the amount raised, the more content for the box. The more backers on the project, the more jobs will be unlocked for all. Thompson already has a pair of writers unlocked ready to bring more opportunities to the Right Kind of People: author Saladin Ahmed and John Rogers, creator of the Leverage TV show.
The Kickstarter runs until February 28th. Dusk City Outlaws is an excellent choice for fans of Lords of Waterdeep, Leverage and for people looking to turn their board game group into an RPG group.
What is your favorite heist movie? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Scratchpad Publishing
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.