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Designing Hellion City Heists for PocketQuest 2024

Posted on April 15, 2024 by Flames

Hellion City Heists design essay written by Richard Lackinger

So, I finally did it. I made a game!

After thinking about it for many years, scribbling notes, compiling composition books, and virtually scrapbooking inspirational images, I decided to cast all of that aside and make something new and completely different. You might ask, “Why would you disregard years of work to just go rogue and do something unplanned, untested, and unhinged even?”

PocketQuest! PocketQuest 2024, more specifically, but that is the answer you seek. With its strict page limit and its dictated theme (Heists), PocketQuest convinced me to throw all caution to the wind and produce something new and shiny for the masses to (hopefully) enjoy. It gave me a reason to offload all the crunchy rule sets I had developed, and to cast aside any heavy-handed world building I had been hanging onto. With a 25-page limit, ain’t nobody got time for that!

Perhaps some introductions are in order first. My name is Richard, and you can find me online under the alias of Arcana Prime (@ArcanaPrime on most socials). I am a game geek, a self-labeled moniker whose definition has crossed the lines of TTRPGs, video games, board games and back again. I went to college (way back when) for Computer Art with a concentration in Game Design, and I currently work as a graphic designer and marketing specialist. The computer art aspect of my degree has helped me in my professional career, but the game design aspect has always been delegated to my hobbies.

But I digress. I am here to talk about my game. Hellion City Heists is a standalone TTRPG with a custom-made rule set. It is focused on skills and involves opposed die rolls, where the player rolls a die for their character’s skill and the Game Director rolls a die for the difficulty of what the player is trying to do. If the skill roll equals or is greater than the difficulty roll, then the character succeeds.

The higher the level of training a character has in a skill, the bigger the die is that the player gets to roll. The more difficult the task is, the bigger the die is that the Game Director gets to roll. Of course there are also ways to modify the results, by using special abilities, making skill combos, and other such mechanics.

I currently play D&D 3.5e (which features a heavier skill system) and Call of Cthulhu (which is almost all skill system), and I think the influence of these games can be seen in the system I developed. I also wanted to make something more streamlined and a little heavier on the roleplay aspects, which resulted in a lighter set of rules compared to these games.
The setting takes inspiration from old pulp genre crime tales and heroes. Think Dick Tracy, The Shadow, or Sin City for a more recent bit of inspiration. There are some light diesel punk trappings and hints at a darker gothic undertone, but for the most part it is straight 1930s-1940s era crime noir. I think this type of setting has a sense of nostalgia but also offers something slightly different and new.

Ultimately, I am very happy with what I was able to create, and I hope others enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed making it. I think the perfect PocketQuest storm of restricted page limit, impending deadline and focused theme was just the right mix to get me active on a project that was reasonable in size and manageable in effort.

Hellion City Heists is available now on, with a print-on-demand version coming soon!

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