Following hot on the heels of last week’s post, which featured best-selling author Jeff C. Stevens introducing his Encounters in the Savage Cities (perfect if you’re about to run Dragon Heist!), is the second post in what I hope will be a regular series of articles.

This time I’ve invited DMs Guild newbie Jimmy Meritt onto the blog, to talk about his tantalisingly-titled new book Here’s To Crime: A Guide to Capers and Heists… another perfect publication for those about to enter the cosmopolitan, crime-rich environs of Waterdeep.

Within two weeks of publication it’s already become a Platinum best seller, so let’s stop beating around the block and lend our ears to its devious mastermind.

Dear Jimmy…

Tell us about your book: Here’s To Crime: A Guide to Capers and Heists

We all love watching caper films, but it can be hard to capture that same excitement at the gaming table. We want the characters to be pulling off clockwork cons, but in practice the sessions devolve into dull planning session, and a heist that doesn’t feel too different than the
average dungeon crawl.

“Here’s to Crime” introduces a variant rule hack (influenced by the brilliant game “Blades in the Dark”) that captures the energy and mood of films like “Ocean’s 11”, to let DMs and players have high energy, slick, and fast heist sessions.

Buy Here’s to Crime on the DMs Guild

Why did you write it?

I actually wrote this for my home game! I love heists and capers, so I was originally working on this as a house rule system for my players. I posted an early version of this to Facebook and Reddit, and instantly received feedback that it was cool enough that people were willing to pay for it. So, I finessed it and tossed it up on the guild!

I think this is especially helpful right now, as many tables are getting to run the new “Dragon Heist” campaign. This rules supplement will really give “Dragon Heist” games a shot in the arm, and help it feel REALLY different from previous campaigns.

How about a little taster then?

I break a “Heist” into essentially a three phase mini-game.

Phase One, the Plan, walks you through how to run a short, crisp planning session. It gets enough information to let players influence the narrative, but also stays loose enough to keep room for surprises during the heist itself. A “Character First” focus keeps players involved, even
if they don’t have a lot of interest in tactics.

Phase Two, the Heist, has players overcome obstacles using skill checks, combat, and a special “Flashback” mechanic that lets the characters be one step ahead of the game.

Then, in Phase Three, a narrative heavy skill challenge lets it all come together.

Who the hell are you by the way?

My first game of D&D was played at my best friends sleepover – his dad insisted that he run a game for us [ed. the tyrannical power of fatherhood being put to great use!]. And I’m still playing with the same group, 26 years later!

When I’m not playing Dungeons and Dragons, I make my living as a raconteur. I’ve lived on the road as a touring stand-up comedian, I’ve starred in low budget horror films, I’ve run Dungeons and Dragons campaigns for middle schoolers at a summer camp, I’ve performed and written for a medieval dinner theater, I’ve slogged through performing in store live infomercials… now my
focus is on stand-up comedy, and Ghost Story telling.

What else have you written?

“Here’s to Crime” is my first piece for the DMs Guild, but I’ve got more on the way! I’m hard at work on my second piece, which will be a collection of short heists and cons set in the city of Waterdeep. Stay tuned to my author page.

And just for fun…

Please answer the following questions, with as much or little detail as you wish…

Your current PC
I’m the DM! Right now I’m running a Viking themed game, where my players are questing to kill the Norns to break a cycle of predestination and fate, so they can stop Ragnarok.

Your favourite character class
I play super rarely, but whenever I’m at the table I tend to lean towards a bard.

Your favourite monster

The Mind Flayer! One of my favorite things about D&D is that it’s not just a generic fantasy setting, there’s all these weird elements around the edges. Mind Flayers really hit that home by bringing in a 50s pulp/horror feel.

Your favourite official D&D adventure
Curse of Strahd! Reading the second edition “Ravenloft” stuff was a huge influence on me – it’s “Horror” tone showed that you can tell a lot of different kind of stories within a D&D context. Trying to capture different feels/genres is part of what lead to “Here’s to Crime”.

Your favourite unofficial D&D adventure
Enworld publishing put out a work called “To Slay a Dragon”, which they also converted for 5e with “The Holdenshire Chronicles”. I often like stories that sort of change the genre of what you can do with D&D, but this is a work that’s exactly what it says on the box – a party is assembled
to go to a mountain and slay a dragon! It’s incredibly well executed, and just has a classic feeling to it- I feel you could run it for any table and they’d have a blast.

Your D&D alter ego
I’m the tavern bard giving out quest hooks with stories of ancient lore.

Thanks Jimmy, it was great getting to know you. Where can we stay in touch on the multiwebs?

I’m a man of mystery! But you’ll often find me chatting on D&D forums.