Dusk City Outlaws, the fantasy heist RPG from Scratchpad Publishing about criminal cartels in the sprawling metropolis of New Dunhaven. Inspired by books, TV shows, and movies like The Lies of Locke Lamora, Leverage, and Ocean's Eleven, Dusk City Outlaws casts players as a crew of thieves, con artists, and assassins, drawn from the eight colorful cartels that rule over the city's criminal underworld, take on a Job, a task brokered to them by one of the cartels. The players devise a plan, do the legwork, pull off the job, and then survive long enough to get paid. There is no "right" way to handle the Job. Each cartel gets a cut of the take, and the crew gains wealth, prestige, and influence.
The streamlined DCO rules use a sleek narrative dice system that makes the game easy to start playing on a moment's notice. Everything the players need to know stays on the table in front of them. Rob Wieland summarized the system in his Geek & Sundry article, "Dusk City Outlaws Will Steal the Hearts of New Players and GMs" (21 June 2018): "Character creation features three choices for the players to make; the cartel the player belongs to, the role the player serves on the team, and a quirk that gives the character a little bit of personality. The system is a roll-under percentile system with a slight twist. A player's chances of doing something generally stays the same, but can be modified by boost or obstacle dice in the roll. Rolling boosts gives the players little extra advantages on future rolls, such as inside info or a little extra damage on their attack. Obstacles provide the opposite by showing the things that don't quite go as planned as things often do in these stories. Players use their Luck to push their rolls to success or reflect avoiding problems they might cause. When they start getting hurt, it's because their characters have literally run out of luck. [...]
"Each job is split into a series of day and night segments. Players can use a segment either planning their next move or executing their plans. As more and more segments pile up, the crew acquires Heat, which reflects all the small imperfections of their plan drawing the attention of the authorities. The Judge can spend these points of Heat to increase the difficulty of the legwork the players do by throwing more obstacles in their way. The Judge can also save that heat to pull off a Plot Twist, where something completely unexpected happens during the final heist."
Rob Donoghue (Twitter, 27 Feb 2021) said of Dusk City Outlaws, "Theme-wise, it's like a more brightly lit Blades in the Dark, but in terms of play style it's fast, episodic, flexible, and just has COOL BITS -- a whole box of them. The rules lean into spending physical tokens, and using combinative elements and cards to do chargen and drive plots. It's a genuine delight."
DCO designer Rodney Thompson worked with the Wizards of the Coast design team on both the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga Edition (as lead designer) and D&D 5E. He co-designed several board games, including Lords of Waterdeep. Leaving Wizards after a decade, he freelanced for Green Ronin, Paizo, AEG, West End, and others. In January 2017 Rodney funded Dusk City Outlaws in a smash Kickstarter campaign that drew two thousand backers and US$154K. Nowadays Rodney works at Bungie on the Destiny video game series.
This new offer includes the beautiful full-color DCO Core Game, its campaign expansion, and a slew of Jobs -- everything you need to make your mark with the cartels of New Dunhaven -- or maybe become a smear at the foot of the 13 sky-scraping towers of the Tines. We provide each ebook complete in .PDF (Portable Document Format). Like all Bundle of Holding titles, these books have NO DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), and our customers are entitled to move them freely among all their devices.
Ten percent of each purchase (after gateway fees) goes to this Dusk City Outlaws offer's pandemic-related charity, Direct Relief. Direct Relief gets protective gear and critical care medications to health workers, with emergency deliveries to medical facilities across the US and to regional response agencies across the world.
The total retail value of the titles in this offer is US$87. Customers who pay just US$7.95 get all five titles in our Starter Collection (retail value $35) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks, including the complete 362-page full-color Dusk City Outlaws Core Game (previously in the Indie Cornucopia 6, Nov 2018, retail price $20) and four Jobs: The Canal Job (Pay What You Want), The Gunpowder Job, The Stonesetter Job, and The Masquerade Job (retail $5 apiece).
Those who pay more than the threshold (average) price, which is set at $17.95 to start, also get our entire Bonus Collection with ten more titles worth an additional $53, including the Turf Wars campaign expansion (retail $8); no less than eight more Jobs ($5 apiece) -- Jailbreak, Ledger, Wolf, Museum, Portrait, Rat, Magistrate, and Ruin; and an offbeat horror-themed heist, The Zombie Job (retail $5).
This seems a little like a fantasy equivalent of a cyberpunk campaign, with the players acting as contract thieves / con men / whatever rather than hackers etc. Generally the rules seem to emphasize drama and story telling rather than precise mechanics, and it seems to be possible to pick up the game and start playing without a huge time investment. On a less positive note, there do seem to be a lot of game components which you can print yourself but are probably better if you buy them ready made - special playing cards and dice, for example - so this could get to be quite expensive. The actual word count seems to be fairly low, which may explain the comparatively low price - the largest document is only a couple of megabytes, and jobs (adventures) only run to a few pages.
Given the low price and slightly different approach it looks like a worthwhile buy, especially if you want to run this sort of campaign and don't have a suitable system. But as as always I have to point out that I get this stuff free, your mileage may differ.
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