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Stealing SEVEN is a BLACK SEVEN genre pack for emulating the fast-paced fiction of heist shows and movies. In Part one we looked at the larger structure, and started to drill down into changing up the traits. I said we’d be taking a look at Actions, but things will make more sense if I’ve walked through Masterminding first.
Actions are a response to the events that happen in the game, and a means of progressing towards the goals of a given Scene. It thus really helps to know what’s changed in a Scene.
What BLACK SEVEN calls the Mission, we call the Heist. This is the ultimate goal. Every Heist has a Mark, the
money-grubbing bastard victim. Throughout a number of Scenes, the Crew work on conning, defrauding, stealing, or otherwise getting their hands on what the Mark has got.
The first rule of the con: Find someone who wants something for nothing, and give him nothing for something.
As such, the Mastermind (or another player) should come up with the Mark. Who is he? What’s he done to annoy people? Do the Crew want to take his money, or are they after something else (jewelery, artworks, data)? What’s the Mark’s weakness? That weakness gives the Crew a way in, and the Mastermind some inspiration for planning scenes.
Scenes work a bit differently from Facilities. Each contains at least one Objective (like an area), but different members of the Crew work on different Objectives in parallel. That is to say, Tara and Mickey work try to get the Mark to buy their cover story while Ash and Hardison break into his secure computer system.
Compared to vanilla BLACK SEVEN, the Mastermind has less emphasis on adding Features. While they do exist, Features are a bit more high-level, like an overall Time Limit, rather than a spectacular security system. I’m toying with removing a codified list of Features and instead having a short list of effects and a longer list of examples that can apply those effects, but we’ll see.
I’d like to give each Objective a type, either one to represent the overall nature of the Objective: Hitter’s violence and physical threats, Thief involves acrobatics, searching, and safecracking, Fixer involves creating fake websites and arranging outlandish displays, while Grifter involves face-time with the Mark. This system’s one that I’ll have to come back to; for now, it acts as a shorthand for each Objective.
Rather than guards, each Objective has Resistance. This works pretty much the same: when things get hairy, the Resistance causes physical or mental stress (represented by Hits), but the Crew can use Deceit or Force to lower the overall Resistance. Depending on the type of scene, the Hits caused by Resistance could represent physical trauma, a forgery not passing muster, or a contradiction about the cover story.
Note that in Hitter-type scenes, the Resistance may well be armed guards, and reducing the Resistance is beating the shit out of those guards. Hey, Elliot has to have something to keep him busy 😉
That will get covered in Actions, in the next part, but for now remember that Resistance is abstract, and represents the chance of being caught and suffering negative consequences.
Replacing Threat is Suspicion. Suspicion is tracked on a per-Objective basis, and starts at 1 for Grifter and Fixer scenes, 3 for Thief and Hitter scenes. The Mastermind can increase the Suspicion by 1 by reducing the Resistance by 2. Note that the Hitter often wants high Suspicion, since it lets her bust out Force actions without negative consequences.
Each Objective has a single Goal, replacing the Static Targets of BLACK SEVEN. The nature of the Goal is informed by the type of scene, as is the action required to activate it. If at least half of the Goals are achieved, the Scene is a success.
Work out how many Goals the Crew have achieved. In the final Scene, the Mastermind can explain how that Goal helped the Crew to con the Mark. When she does so, she can pick from a list of Resolution Effects—things like giving the other Crew-members extra dice, or adding or removing Aspects, or moving a Crew member from one Objective to another.
The Crew as a whole pick the Mark, and work out who he is and how to get an in. The Mastermind then creates the plan, which includes a number of Scenes, each with some Objectives. Each Objective has a type, picked from [Hitter, Thief, Fixer, Grifter], which indicates what kind of challenges it will contain, the initial Suspicion, what the Resistance is likely to look like, and what a Crew-member who takes Hits will have to deal with. In the end-game, the Mastermind can use successful Objectives to assist other members of the crew.
Playing the Mastermind
Unlike the default BLACK SEVEN game, the Mastermind also controls one member of the Crew. This is possible because once the heist is on, the rules of what happens when are sufficiently abstract to run on their own.
The Mastermind creates a character, but when rating Attributes (which are Hitter, Thief, Fixer, Grifter in this variant), pick one to be exceptional but two to be merely average.
In play, the Mastermind first takes action with his character. Only once he’s done does he apply the results of the crew’s actions to the Scene. Things that would trigger on the “Control Action” trigger after the Mastermind’s character has taken action.
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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