With the coming release of the Honor Among Thieves D&D movie (can’t wait to see it), and the launch of the Keys from the Golden Vault D&D adventure (can’t wait to DM it), I’ve been reminded of the thrill of heists. What makes them so great and how can I as a DM make them even better?
Excuse me while I share a few thoughts:
- High stakes. Let me repeat that. HIGH STAKES. The core of every great story. Make it personal. Published adventures aren’t going to be tailored to your specific party, so you need to do it. Are they stealing a statue? Make it a statue that was robbed from a character’s family. Pilfering from a wizard? Make that wizard a past enemy, a character’s brother, or a romantic interest. I guarantee the crew in Honor Among Thieves needs to save the world in one way or another. Stakes high enough?
- Players love to outwit the adventure (some may enjoy claiming they’re outwitting the DM, but really, it’s the adventure). Reward them for a great plan or idea! Sometimes a plan going off without a hitch is more surprising than the complication. (“Really, that’s it? It just worked?”)
- Create a villain you love to hate. Someone the PCs are itching to steal from. Someone who can come back for revenge…. Mwah-ha-hah.
- Maps! Whether fully, partly, or not-at-all reliable, players love getting a fun in-world map to help plan their attack. This is the part of the B&G DM Vault for Keys to the Golden Vault that I fell in love with. That big honking stack of in-world maps. Believe me, my players (Bill, Charlie, Matthew, and Paul) will pore over those maps for HOURS formulating a plan. There’s even a map for Revel’s End in there, which is featured in Honor Among Thieves (did I mention I can’t wait to see it?)
- Complex traps and puzzles. Let’s face it. That McGuffin is gonna be hidden. And it’s gonna be trapped. Use traps within traps to make them challenging even for the rogue with the super-maxed thieves’ tools modifier. Give fun clues that will help uncover the vault, or that secret door.
- Consider handouts. One pretty cool part of the B&G DM Vault for Keys from the Golden Vault is that every heist adventure comes with a written in-world letter from the patron, or the NPC hiring the party, that you can hand to your players. Sometimes my players go weeks between sessions, and it really helps to have that paper handout that has the Call to Action to keep referring back to, particularly when they come back from a long layoff.
And to planning movie night with my daughter. I’m telling you right now she’s going to love that druid in Honor Among Thieves. Did I mention I’m excited about it?