Pumping Vice Dens to Reduce Heat?

My crew has the vice den claim.

VICE DEN: Any time during downtime, roll dice equal to your Tier. You earn Coin equal to the highest result, minus your Heat.

This motivates them to spend all of their coin every downtime to reduce heat before making the vice den roll.

REDUCE HEAT: Say what your character does to reduce the heat level of the crew and make an action roll. Maybe you Consort with your friend who’s a officer and she arranges for a few incriminating Watch reports to disappear. Or maybe you Command the fear of the local citizens so they’re afraid to snitch.
Reduce heat according to the result: 1-3: one, 4/5: two, 6: three, critical: five.

The negative sign on heat in the vice den payout and the minimum one heat reduction in the reduce heat downtime activity guarantee the marginal coin they spend is paid back. They have to spend it down to 6 before this kicks in, but they usually roll better than 1–3 for reducing heat, so the payout is usually a net positive in coin in addition to reducing all of their heat.

There are plenty of ways they’ve raised heat and thus plenty of ways in the fiction they’ve gone about reducing heat (everything from tinkering for community rebuildingafter particularly big wreckage to consorting with alchemy students to spread rumors about rival factions to bringing sacks of coin every score to Sgt. Laroze and Lt. Leclerc. Last time, my co-GM had Sgt. Laroze came to the scene of the wreckage and demanded an extra coin beyond the downtime activity for getting him off of his barstool. But still, the result is that they’re at Tier I, strong hold, have a zero wanted level and start every score with zero heat.

Any ideas on how to stop this or should I just go with a crew obsessed on keeping the heat down and call it a wash? I’ll need to introduce pushback from the Spirit Wardens, Inspectors, or Harbor Patrol even without a wanted level. Maybe they can run out of ways to reduce heat. Maybe Sgt. Laroze keeps upping the price. What have others tried in this situation?

Your crew is being careful, and is killing it. That’s fine – it’s their job! I don’t think there’s any issue with it. (A group I run for has two such claims, and they play a similar game of keeping heat down as much as they can to keep the money pouring in).

I’d steer away from looking at it as a problem and trying to fix it. They can always reduce heat - it’s a core downtime action. If Laroze doesn’t want to take small bribes anymore, someone else will.

I think your thoughts on upping the fictional ante (pushback/attacks from antagonistic factions, their cozy relationship with Laroze changing for any number of reasons, etc) is the way to go. Give them something else they need/want to spend money on. Let their actions drive their faction standing with a rival group to -3, and let the difficulties of being at war manifest (fewer free downtime actions, less coin, more heat, etc).

Remember the idea that someone owns everything in Duskvol – so for your crew to get to Tier 1 Strong, someone else had to lose. They won’t be happy about it. Maybe someone else (an enemy? an ally?) sees how well the vice den is doing and decides they want it for themselves. Maybe the vice den manager decides they’re tired of working for someone else. Let the story come to life and bring trouble!

One last thought - don’t shy away from bringing in heat in other ways. Devil’s Bargains can be about heat, as can consequences. If a crew is obsessed with keeping a squeaky clean image, threatening that can be more compelling than giving harm.

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This is exactly what’s driving our wanting to throw more “heat” at the characters outside of entanglements.

Right—that’s why I wasn’t trying to block them from reducing heat as a downtime activity. They have found lots of ways to do it. I’m not worried about that so much as the game economy of it being free.

That’s a great in-game way to do that. But no, they don’t have a squeaky clean image with the other gangs—all of the gangs of Crow’s Nest have lost something to our gang, which is why I want to figure out how to have them exact some retribution.

That will also hit them where it hurts. Perhaps even more so than heat.

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In the game I’ve been running that involves coin-generating claims, they’ve been a lot of fun, helping the crew maintain their sanity and status and helping me generate twists. The crew having an income stream has been a great addition to their story, making tier changes feel more real, and anchoring their place in the world. It gives them strength, but also obligations.
Remember that the claim isn’t free – they had to take it, and there’s always a threat they’ll lose it. If they choose to use its coin in a circular pattern with their heat, that’s their choice, and it’s a smart one.
Keeping heat and wanted level low will keep their entanglements small and easier to deal with, but it won’t stop the trouble caused by their exploits and the enemies they make along the way. (A mafia family can keep day-to-day trouble small by paying off the neighborhood cops, sponsoring the local festival, and keeping their front businesses happy, but that won’t stop the feds or the rival clan from raiding them.) Heat/entanglements and faction status are two different elements in the game, and I find their varied pressures bounce off each other interestingly. When big trouble hits, and they need to put all their coin into that pot, suddenly Heat may become an issue again.

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I wouldn’t worry about it too much. There’s a pretty solid cap on how much wealth they can hold, so okay, they will rapidly get to that. That can then inspire them to pushing for avenues of spending it, and you’re off to the races again.