Influencing the Story

Houserules for using Bennies during a mission

This is a draft for discussion and consideration only; it is not currently canon for my campaign. It may or may not be playable as-is. It probaby hasn't been playtested.

The purpose of these rules is bring the flavour of fast-paced heist movies to the table, empower the GM to move the plot along quickly, empower players to feel like they are not at a disadvantage when we jump into the action quickly, and reflect the fact that the characters are skilled professionals who are able to prepare for situations the players might not think of.

Legwork montage (optional rule)

When time is short or we just want to get into the action faster, we can replace a fully played out legwork phase with this compressed option.

  1. Each player describes how they are approaching doing legwork for this mission and rolls an appropriate skill. You can use any skill you can justify, but the classic choices include Persuasion, Intimidation, Hacking, Research, Common Knowledge, Astral, or specialist knowledge skills like Arcana or Science.
  2. If it seems fun to do so, we may play out the short scene.
  3. Across the group, the highest single roll is kept.
  4. Each success and raise on that highest roll earns a “Legwork Bennie.” These can be spent in place of normal Bennies, but only to Influence The Story (see the next section.) They are shared amongst all players.

Note that legwork takes a significant amount of in-game time, so the players may choose to skip this step and go in blind if time is of the essence.

Influencing the Story

These rules provide more structure on how Bennies may be spent to influence the story in the player’s favour (see SWADE pg 90.)

During play (either normal play or during a dramatic task (see below), a player may choose to spend a Bennie to Influence the Story in the following ways. (Note that this is how Legwork Bennies may be spent.)

  1. Unused LPs can be spent to retroactively purchase gear that can be useful in the current situation. Note that this must be gear that makes sense in the story, eg. if the players have already sneaked in then the gear must be concealable.
  2. Declare a flashback scene to bypass some obstacle via preparation that was done beforehand. Describe the flashback, and then instead of rolling to overcome the obstacle directly, substitute in a different skill used inside the flashback, and roll that instead. If the substituted skill roll succeeds, the obstacle is bypassed.
Flashback example: faced with a tough security door and no Thievery skill to attempt a lockpick, Muscles the Muscle spends a Bennie to invoked a Flashback. In the flashback, Muscles’ player describes how the night before the break-in, Muscles tracked down someone with a keycard, and threatened them into giving up the goods. The player rolls Intimidation, scoring a raise. Grunting, Muscles reaches into an inside pocket, pulls out the keycard, swipes it, and proceeds through the door.

Heists as Dramatic Tasks

When the plot demands it, we can resolve an entire heist quickly using a lightly modified version of the Dramatic Task framework from SWADE (see pg 122).

  1. Each step of the task will require a different skill, as per the usual Multiple Skills rule. These will all be declared upfront by the GM and will be determined by the overall approach the player’s want to take (stealthy, disguised infiltration, force, etc.) There will usually be the same number of rolls as there are PCs.
  2. The skill may be substituted for another by using a Bennie, as described above. But note that any given character can only roll any given skill once during the whole heist.
  3. Depending on how tight the security is, these rolls will all be made at somewhere between -1 (a small business, lightly guarded facility) and -4 (a corp high-security R&D facility with elite guards.)
  4. Each step of the task will have a different character making the roll. Players can choose who freely. One other character may choose to Support the roll, as usual – but see the next point.
  5. Each character can only roll any given skill once during the Heist. This means they cannot Support using a skill that they are going to roll in a later step. Skills substituted in via a Flashback (see above) do not count towards this rule
  6. Each success and raise contributes a Task Token. The required total of tokens across the rolls will be set by the GM, and will vary with the difficulty of the heist. The usual target will be a total of six tokens across four rolls. A Critical Failure on any roll subtracts one Task Token.

Failure to complete the task may result in a partial success, a complication, the players being discovered and having to fight their way out, or any other outcome as fits the narrative being played out.


The above rules are adapted from those contained in Wiseguys by Eric Lamoureux / Just Insert Imagination.