Crime Episode 2: The Con

The art of the “con” or confidence game has a long and storied history.  Con artists or “grifters” employed  many techniques to steal money from their victims or “marks.” Simple cons like marked cards, loaded dice or other rigged games of chance are common place. They can be fun for a quick encounter, but they lack the role-playing depth that the “long con” offers.

No, in a role-playing game, the “long con” is the best choice. A “long con” is still just a method to steal money, but it is far more complicated and requires real planning and social skills. Historical examples include these classics:

1. Selling counterfeit money

2. Pyramid schemes

3. Romance scams. Fall in love, get married and then run off with the joint bank account. This con is also known as  “divorce.” 😉

4.  Pump and dump stock schemes

5. Fake gold mine with planted gold.

6.  Fake jewels or gold

The reasons these take longer is the grifter must ingratiate themselves to the target. Someone on the street making a “too good to be true” offer is easily ignored. The same offer from a “reliable friend” suddenly seems interesting.  For gaming, I see the con comprising four distinct steps.

Step 1: The Introduction

PCs must spend days or weeks earning the trust of the target. This could be by performing tasks or by social interaction, depending on the nature of the campaign.  Also gives the bards a chance to shine.

Step 2: The Sell

Once the target trusts the PCs, a pitch must be made. Using the fake gold mine as an example, the PCs “find” it on an exploration mission and decide to sell it to someone who can “exploit” the find better than humble adventurers.

Step 3: The Exchange

Victim gives PCs money and takes possession of his prize.  Expect some “due diligence” the the target’s part. He is probably a smart man, so he will take precautions. Let the PCs work out how to get around them.

Step 4: PCs escape.

This is where it gets  interesting. If the PCs are clever, they find a way to escape that leaves them “innocent” in the eyes of the mark. See the movie “The Sting ” for a nice execution of this.  Otherwise, they just made an enemy for life. Which for the DM is just more campaign fodder. Wronged, powerful men tend to seek revenge in a most painful manner.

For further ideas, Wikipedia has a nice list of the common con games here .

One last piece of advice. Con games are complicated, so it might require either a very smart group of players or the DM might have to offer some suggestions. In either event, I think they will make a great addition to any campaign.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.