a last-minute no-prep game to keep in your pocket
a last-minute no-prep game to keep in your pocket
Tonight our DM didn’t show up for our weekly Pathfinder game. (Edit: He’s fine. Fell asleep and his phone died and he napped all afternoon and all evening. Poor little guy was plumb tuckered out!) We waited around a few minutes, and it sounded like everybody was about to bail, but I didn’t want to have to cancel if we didn’t have to. I have a pretty big collection of small games, so I pitched a couple, and we agreed to play Honey Heist by Grant Howitt, which may just be the perfect no-prep, one-page rpg.
I had never actually played it before, but I’ve always wanted to because it looks cute and clever, and I feel like reddit ttrpg always raves about it for quick, spontaneous play. I remember for example that one school teacher runs a session during lunch for their kids.
The premise is this: it’s Honey Con. You have a plan to swipe the honey that requires careful, precise execution. And you are a goddamn bear.
Character creation is a cinch: you roll on three 1d6 tables to determine your personality, your bear type, and your role. And optionally 1d8 hats.
I rolled on some d6 tables to determine that the con is being held in a busy convention center, run by an inept and manipulatable organizer. The big payoff, aside from all the honey, is some rare black orchid honey that turns anybody who eats it into a goth. Little do they know, the cops are already on their way! And the security includes closed circuit TV cameras, and automatic magnetic door locks.
That’s the whole setup.
There are two stats (BEAR and CRIMINAL) and a single mechanic: you start with three points in BEAR and three in CRIMINAL. Every time you attempt to do something risky that might fail, you need to roll BEAR (fight, maul, frighten, terrorize, growl, etc) or CRIMINAL (anything else). Roll 1d6 and get your number or lower, and you succeed.
Every time you succeed at a task, you experience GREED, and move a point from BEAR to CRIMINAL. Every time you fail at a task, you experience FRUSTRATION and move a point from CRIMINAL to BEAR.
If you max out either stat, your character is done: you either become a criminal mastermind, or you turn feral. Either way, you abandon the group.
There’s little chance of this happening unless you want it to though, because you can balance your stats if you want to: at any point you can move a point from CRIMINAL to BEAR by calming yourself with a serving of honey. (Provided you have found some honey.) And at any point you can move a point from BEAR to CRIMINAL by playing out a flashback in which you do some cunning planning or something criminal.
There are two ways to get “advantage” on a roll: Each each character has a role, like hacker, driver, thief, etc. And each bear species has a special skill. Honey bear = carnage. Polar bear = swimming. Black bear = climbing. Etc. If you’re using your role or your special bear skill for a check, you can roll two d6 and choose the lower roll.
That’s pretty much it.
Oh, and we played with the optional Hat Rule where if you’re wearing your hat, you can more of less pass as human by grunting and gesturing and walking on your hind legs. But if your hat comes off, the gig is up. Everybody knows your a damn bear.
Our bears started out in a state park outside of Portland. They decided to head over to the ranger station/welcome center to get started. The honey badger tested out their hat trick and terrorized a small family. Bob found a brochure for the annual Honey Con that had some info, including the prices for a day pass vs a three-day weekend pass. So they knew they needed to sneak in somehow, or get some cash.
Then they headed to the parking lot by the trail head and found a large pickup truck that seemed well suited to stealing large amounts of honey.
I had Bearoness roll CRIMINAL as a kind of “luck check” and she found that the door was open and the key was in the glove box, along with a map of the area. They all piled inside and the honey badger somehow managed to work the pedals, the shifter, and the steering wheel, and drove them all out of there.
They decided the best way to infiltrate the convention was to pose as judges for the tasting contest. Judges who were also monks. Who had taken a vow of silence.
So they headed on down to the Buddhist meditation center to steal some robes.
Inside, they met a helpful young man named Jeff who showed them around, and then left them alone. They searched the changing room and found a bunch of robes that they managed to wrap themselves up in. And then the bears succumbed to their primal instincts and smashed the locker room to pieces looking for wallets and stuff.
They managed to loot a couple hundred dollars and a switch blade, which went to the unhinged, carnage bent honey badger, before Jeff came in to see what was the ruckus. They urged Jeff to crawl inside a locker and stay there until they left, which he did obligingly.
Then they decided to take a detour to Whole Foods to get some honey to tide them over until they get to actual Honey Con. There was a huge honey dispenser in the bulk aisle. Marcus laid down on the floor on his back and Bearoness turned on the tap and he guzzled as much honey as he could.
They drew a crowd of cheering kids and disapproving parents, and the thief polar bear worked the crowd, picking pockets. He got another hundred dollars or so.
Bob grabbed a couple gallons of honey, and Bearoness grabbed one glass bottle of fancy artisan honey, and Marcus clutched his distended belly full of honey, and they all barreled through the crowd and ran away.
Back in the truck, Bob suppressed his GREED by having a couple helpings of honey. And they all headed over to the convention center.
They bought some weekend passes at the ticket counter and made it up to the front of the line, where they had to go through security. Rather than give up his new switchblade, Marcus tried to swallow it. He succeeded, but started gagging on it, which prompted a bystander to try to perform the Heimlich maneuver on him, which knocked his crown off, revealing him as a honey badger. Bearoness quickly wrapped him up in her robes, shielding him from view, and avoiding even more of a commotion. They righted his crown, calmed him down, and went through security.
Inside, Wade Appletree, the organizer, was quickly convinced that they were in fact the judges–who were running quite late!–and took them back to the judges panel in the tasting room.
The bears delighted for a while in being spoon fed so many different types of honey like it was they job.
The black bear hacker managed to get her hands on one of the iPads being carried around by the convention staff, and got clued in to the building’s security while also noticing some agitated security staff, and also was able to look up the personal information of the person who submitted the exquisite black orchid honey.
They left to go see what was up with the security guards, and learned that one of the guards had seen them on the cctv, and had pieced together that they might be the same yahoos who tore apart the meditation center and caused a scene at the Whole Foods, and he had called the police, who should be here any minute.
Marcus, the unhinged carnage honey badger, had been really itching for a stabbing this whole time, so he walked in and unleashed some carnage and some stabbings.
As the police came in the front, they all ran out the back. Steeling his nerves with a flashback of his criminal underground mentor, Marcus successfully drove the getaway car and they all retreated up to the hilltop estate of Mortimer Johnson, who develops his own private breeds of black orchids and black honey bees in parrallel, producing the famous and rare black orchid honey.
Johnson and his staff are at the convention, so they have their run of the place. They steal some orchids from the greenhouses and some hives from the apiary and load up the truck so they can have their own permanent supply of the black honey.
Then they gorge themselves on the honey and all turn into goths.
In the weeks and months that followed, Marcus fell further into a life of crime, Bob opened up a hipster brewery and made mead, and Bearoness because a sign language interpreter for a heavy metal band.
Solid game! 10/10, would play again.
Quick and easy to pick up and start playing almost immediately with no prior prep or planning.