GM: “So are you sneaking in or are you going full bear?”
A few weeks back, one of our regular group members had to miss RPG night. Rather than cancel, I whipped out my go-to RPG for casual sessions: Honey Heist. Written by Grant Howitt, Honey Heist is a One Page RPG initially released via an image posted on Reddit. The premise is as enticing as it is simple: You’ve got to execute a complex heist to steal rare honey, and you are a “GODDAMN BEAR”.
Armed with only two stats (Bear and Criminal), you’ll set off to pull the caper of the century. Setting up a game is as simple as rolling a few D6. Most of the scant rules are dedicated to tables; there’s one for your bear species, your skill, and a favorite hat. The GM has a few available to help set up the scenario. I’ve run heists everywhere from a creepy Icelandic fishing village to a Snowpiercer-style train convoy.
Now, before I continue with a full-throated recommendation for Honey Heist, I do want to mention how initially intimidating a One-Page RPG can feel. For those of us who grew up with 300+ page Player Manuals and scenario modules crafted by entire teams of creatives, sitting down to play an RPG where the entirety of character creation is 3 rolls per player can be a bit scary. Same goes for the GM. 7 rolls of a six-side die and now you’re supposed to run a whole adventure?!
I hope, however, that I can convince you to embrace this challenge. See, something magical happens when you play a game that’s this rules-light. With so few rules at the table, the mechanisms quickly begin to evaporate into the space between the players. Everyone’s focus is the story and everyone takes an equal role in telling it.
While the lack of structure is initially both difficult and scary, it can be quite freeing once you embrace it. Playing reminds me of the old improv rule: “Instead of no, say ‘yes, and?”. Is the honey in a vault? Yes, and it’s behind a digital lock! Do we have a way to hack the keypad? Absolutely, and you better hurry up because the very human guards are coming around the corner and I doubt they’re going to fall for your trench coat disguise.
Embracing this game on the extreme end of the narrative scale has—I think—made me a better player and GM of all kinds of games. We tend to bring expectations to the table when we play a game. D&D is going to be influenced by Lord of the Rings or any fantasy novel we’ve read. Alien RPG will naturally draw on its source materials. Expectations bring pressure. Honey Heist has helped me shrug those off.
Every night, I tell my 3 year old a story. Telling stories to 3 year olds is great because there are no expectations. As long as Little Rawr (the young dragon stand-in for my son) learns an important lesson and gets to eat waffles by the end of the story, my kid is happy. Playing RPGs can be like this too.
As long as we have some fun together and the bears get the honey in the end, we can be happy telling stories together. It doesn’t really matter that I forgot that Jammy the grizzled grizzly going “full bear” should have made it harder to sneak into the protected compound, or that pretending to be a “Bear-ber Shop Quartet” is farcical absurdism. What matters is that we rolled some dice and laughed together.
While short, my games of Honey Heist cast long shadows. They’re often a refreshing mid-campaign break that reminds us why these RPGs are so fun in the first place.