HEI$T_ACES - Power 19

This is another in a series of posts about my free RPG/Story Game - HEI$T_ACES (available now on the sidebar near you). This time we will look at Power 19 for the game. Power 19 is a series of questions meant to help guide game designers. I am using it for HEI$T_ACES to give more info about the game and focus the design for the upcoming expanded rulebook.

 As always, comments and questions are more then welcome.

1.) What is your game about?
It is a narrative heist simulator set in not so distant future. Game focuses on both planning and running aspects of a heist job.

2.) What do the characters do?
Characters are members of a team of specialists working for a shadowy organization. They plan and pull off elaborate heists for the organization in exchange for money and power.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
Players first research their job by drawing from a deck of cards and narrating their "findings" - basically collaborate within the game's mechanics to create the adventure/scenario outline. After that they follow standard RPG player roles. 
GM (called GM_OPERATOR) follows standard GM role.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The game has an implied setting of near future, but what the future holds is for each group to decide. The lack of setting was inspired by old school dungeon-crawls - near future can be as "magical" as a fantasy setting and can accommodate creative ideas (robot guards, spy drones etc.) better than a modern setting and by extent make the story more interesting

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Players choose 5 FATE-like aspects for their characters (one for each card suit and one random). This is supposed to show that all of the characters are specialists of more or less the same skill level.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
The fact that the game uses a single deck of cards, where outcome may be predicted to some extent, encourages some gamist behaviors and attempts to "game the system" are considered fair play. But the game is mainly narrative.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
Being a team player is rewarded by lowering the amount of cards the GM can play against you, but on the other hand, being selfish will improve your character.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Players have more narration rights than in a standard RPG formula. After a task is successfully resolved, they have the right to narrate the outcome. They also create the adventure outline in-game, taking it away from the GM.
GM is there mainly to narrate and oversee the game. He can introduce new obstacles, but only by playing a card from their hand. GM retains the rights to narrate outcomes of partial success and failure, as well as interprets and narrates, the player-created, obstacles

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
Apart from giving the players the tools to create a fun heist/caper story, players have the opportunity to improve their character after each job by adding new aspects.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Game uses a deck of cards as a resolution mechanic. Only the card suit is used in game, each suit has a narrative approach attached to it. 
Players draw amount of cards equal to the amount of aspects used in their narration and must match the suit to the obstacle's card suit. They can also use a card of the same color (red or black) for partial success. If they can't do any of the above, the task fails. 

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
The card suits have narrative approach attached to them, that limit players' way to narrate the outcomes of a task. Approaches are themed (ghost, fixer, mastermind, enforcer) which reinforces the heist atmosphere.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
While HEI$T_ACES is planned to be played as a single-session pick-up game, a simple advance system is provided for those who are interested in more campaign-style play.
During play, you can keep obstacle cards for scoring and after the heist, you can spend those cards to add new aspects to your character. You need 1 card per aspect in a suit, to create a new aspect (so if you have 2 aspects in Fixer, you need 2 Fixer cards to create a 3rd aspect).

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The focus of the game is a thrill of pulling of a heist, so character advancement is not too important, but scoring cards can represent extra in-game income, so players can compare who got the most "money" out of this heist.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
Heist games of any kind (RPGs, board or even video games) are too few and far in between, so this game aims to fill in a niche for those who want to experience planing and running a heist.
Also, it was designed as a small pick-up game, that can be played without any preparation when you can't run your planned game.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
Because of the limited space nature of the pocketmod a lot of attention has gone into graphic-design and wording used in the game. Both of those aim to highlight the theme of the game without stating it right out.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
Forced narration based on a theme/approach. I am a firm believer that constrains spark creativity and I would like others to experience it in practice.
Also, planning and running your own heist is a lot of fun for me.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
Heists - as mentioned before, very few game exist that focus on running heists. Anything from planned bank robbery, thru rescuing a target from a high security prison, to overthrowing distopian government can be planned and run as heist - and this is what this game can do that others can't.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
The first version of the pocketmod is already available for free on website, but I am planning on releasing free (or pay-what-you-want) bundle of updated pocketmod and expanded rulebook pdfs. I have no plans in producing a printed copy at this time, but I might self-produce some limited edition copies and donate it to some RPG themed contests in the future.

19.) Who is your target audience?
People who want to play a heist game are my target audience: fans of caper movies and people who enjoy planning missions in detail. 
So far, some prior knowledge of indie/story games terms is required, but this no longer should be true once the expanded rulebook is produced.

If anything of what you read sparked your interest in this game - check it out and tell me what you think, send me your ideas and I will try to incorporate them in the expanded rulebook.

HEI$T_ACES - a free narrative heist-crawl RPG

So... I wrote a game for the 's “Harder than Granite” 24 hour RPG competition and NaGaDeMon2013I started it on the evening of Nov 10 and finished on the afternoon of Nov 11. 

And that's a big thing for me, because this is the first game of any kind that I actually finished (even that I started more than a dozen of games) and motivated me enough to come back to blogging. So without further ado...

HEI$T_ACES takes place in near future, where a group of skilled agents plans and executes an elaborate heist. The game borrows heavily from both story games (narrative at the center of the game) and dungeon-crawls (resolving problems "room-by-room"), and is a low/no-prep game. All you need to play it is the rules, a deck of cards, some post-its, pens and the heist's target. 

If it sounds like something you might be interested in - get the rules from and tell me what you think - I plan on working on it a bit more and giving it an expanded (no-pocketmod) rulebook soon. 

Stay tuned for more posts about HEI$T_ACES.