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Stealing SEVEN is a BLACK SEVEN genre pack for emulating the fast-paced fiction of heist shows and movies. While I’m a big fan of both the Leverage TV show and the Leverage RPG, I’m aware that it’s a close-enough design space to BLACK SEVEN to make for an interesting genre hack.
In this series of blog posts, I’m going to break down my development process. While you could probably run Stealing SEVEN with these notes when I’m done, the full version will use these posts as an outline to make a full BLACK SEVEN genre pack. I actively want feedback, and while I can’t guarantee that I’ll agree with any given idea, I will read and consider each one.
The first thing to work out when hacking any game on a structural level is what does what. That requires a top-down, holistic approach. Once I’ve got this worked out, I can look at how to systematise the necessary changes.
BLACK SEVEN breaks down the stealth-action genre into a number of rounds of “break in to facility, neutralise guards, steal shit”, with the final round being a make-or-break affair. The con/heist type of story would instead be “identify weak point, work to exploit weak point, steal shit”, with the stolen shit informing how the denouement actually plays out.
Some initial theories:
- Facilities become Scenes. Individual stages of a con.
- Areas become Objectives. Unlike in normal BLACK SEVEN, the crew divide themselves between the Objectives in each Scene.
- Guards become Resistance. Could be actual guards, could be complicated locks, could be the mark’s suspicious nature.
- Threat becomes Suspicion. Raise it high enough and the mark pulls out.
Agents in BLACK SEVEN can do three types of thing: Mob, Force, and Infiltrate. They do those things using one of: Body, Speed, Mind, Communication.
- Body maps on to Hitter, the use of force and tactics.
- Speed maps on to Thief, the use of precision body control
- Mind maps on to Fixer1, the use of preparation
- Communication maps on to Grifter, the use of social cues and communication.
After some thinking, the best way to represent the Mastermind is by renaming Control. After all, it’s the Mastermind who comes up with the plans and reacts to the changes (both jobs that fall to Control in BLACK SEVEN). And while Control does describe the action and roll dice for guards et al, that’s just implementing and describing actions that happen based on a simple deterministic set of rules.
The Mastermind plans the job (comes up with the con using the mission creation system), deals with success and failure, and generally runs the con from behind the scenes. Unlike in normal BLACK SEVEN, the Mastermind also plays a member of the Crew, but we’ll get to that when we get to Masterminding in general.
So. We’ve redefined what skills our con-artists will use, but not what ends they’re trying to achieve with them.
- Force remains the same. If you’re Forcing a problem, you’re going all out to break through the resistance, but doing so will ratchet Suspicion right up.
- Mob becomes Deceit. If you’re using Deceit on a problem, you’re chipping away at its resistance subtly, in order to not raise Suspicion.
- Infiltrate, like Force, remains the same. Positioning actions are now Prep-work, and reflect work put in to bolster an alibi, steal a plausible ID, or slip a forged magazine into the mark’s reading pile.
You apply physical force to resolve the situation, beating the shit out of guards or taking an angle-grinder to a safe.
You ransack the area, taking what you need but leaving nobody in any doubt that it’s gone.
You get past a situation by using a device or forgery of your own devising.
You control people around you by raw force of personality, never mind how suspicious it looks.
You apply a calculated amount of physical force to overcome the obstacle.
Sleight of Hand (Thief)
Whether picking a lock or lifting an ID from someone’s pocket, you’re able to get items without being caught.
You use your smarts to hack a computer, put together a fake ID, or otherwise come up with just what the crew needs.
You achieve your goals by inspiring confidence in the mark so that he wants to agree with everything you say.
Going somewhere by remaining quiet about it.
Climbing, tumbling, and dancing through laser grids.
Changing how you look so nobody remembers who you are.
Changing how people think about you by pouring on the charm.
I’ve a few things that still need working out. Obviously, the Mastermind rules need a lot of fleshing out, but first we need to consider actions and conditions in a world where people aren’t (usually) looking to kill our Crew.
- “Fixer” is from the BBC programme Hustle, and covers all of what a good Leverage hacker does and more. It’s the fixer’s job to get whatever the con needs to work, whether that’s building a website with fake identities or forging a 500-year-old bottle of wine. ↩
Stew Wilson is a writer, game designer, computational demonologist, and mathematician.
This blog covers his professional writing and game design work.
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