The next D&D book, Keys from the Golden Vault, is all about clever heists, intricate maps, and grand crimes. It doesn’t launch until the end of February (according to our DnD 2023 release schedule), but there are plenty of ways to channel your inner burglar before then. Even if you’ve already played Blades in the Dark to death.
February also happens to be the time for Zine Quest, a month-long event showcasing short indie tabletop RPG projects that are looking for crowdfunding. We’ve gathered a gang together we’re keen to check out, each with an element of crime, heist, deception, and social intrigue. Put down the DnD character creator and DnD character sheets for now, and consider these RPGs.
Counterheist is all about getting into a heavily guarded area and getting out with the goods. It does a lot differently from the upcoming DnD book, though. Firstly, this is a GMless experience; nobody needs to be in the driving seat story-wise. It’s also a playing card game, using a classic deck (plus plenty of Jokers) rather than DnD dice. These cards help you create your character, overcome obstacles, and create problems for your opponents.
Counterheist is actually a competitive tabletop RPG. You’ll be playing criminals on two opposing sides, and you’ll be racing to nab the coveted prize first. Reaching the vaults first doesn’t guarantee victory though; the teams can trip each other up and steal the prize on the way out of the building, too. Heck, you don’t even know if you can trust your own teammates, as surprise plot twists might shuffle a few hands.
Technically, this RPG’s title is ‘Polite Society: the Zine for Thieves, Scoundrels, and Ne’er-Do-Wells’. Anybody who picks pockets is clearly welcome here. It puts the magazine back into zine, offering quarterly issues filled with rules and character options specifically tailored for a party of thieves. Every instalment introduces a new heist to pull off, as well as character details and worldbuilding to help you create a criminally good campaign.
Polite Society looks like a solid choice if you want to add heists to a system you already love rather than learn a whole new game. It converts easily into a DnD homebrew as it was designed with 5e in mind, but it also includes system-neutral content, so games like Pathfinder can get in on the big scores too.
Prisoners of the Elf King
The thing about doing crime is you often get caught. This means having an escape plan when times get sticky is an essential part of heisting. Prisoners of the Elf King is a standalone RPG that’s all about escaping. More specifically, you’ll play as a band of dwarves trying to find your way out of the Elf King’s palace.
Intended as a one-shot or mini-campaign, Prisoners of the Elf King has all the rules needed to generate a palace prime for breaking out of, as well as plenty of mishaps to encounter along the way.
Beneath Hallowed Halls
Beneath Hallowed Halls isn’t directly about stealing, but it does have deception, betrayal, and a harrowing murder. The Kickstarter describes Beneath Hallowed Halls as a social deception game (which doesn’t sound too far from social deduction games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf). Players take on the role of university students who must survive a semester without being arrested for murder.
Sure, one of you did do a little murdering. And yes, this largely cooperative experience may end with your clique turning on each other. But managing loyalty, suspicion, and tension are all part of the crime RPG recipe.