Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Leverage RPG Rocks!

Leverage was a cool TV show about a bunch of thieves of various types - Mastermind, Grifter, Hacker, Hitter, and Thief - who joined up to use their skill-sets to do a little good for those who needed help and to bring some justice to those in power who had wronged them.  It was a fun show interspersed with humor and wit...and was canceled at the end of 2012.  As much as I'd wanted to see more, the series probably ran its course and it was given the opportunity for closure with an epic ending.

I was glad to see it made into an RPG by Margaret Weis Productions, using their Cortex system (in the case of this game, Cortex Lite, if you will).  It's a pretty simple and straightforward system that has enough structure to it to make sessions run well and make them interesting, while at the same time giving some serious leeway and generality to make the game what you need it to be.

Instead of highlighting the minute details of the system, I'm going to share with you my favorite parts of it - the things that make it unique and fun to me.

First, is the fact that in this game when you start off gaming you're already at pretty much the top of your profession.  Instead of the challenge in other RPGs of starting at level 1 and working your way up, the challenge of this game is how to best use the awesome skills that you do have to be a part of the team and make the jobs happen.  It's a completely different feel than you may be used to and I think it's a refreshing one.

Even when you roll 1s on your rolls - complications - while you may not succeed at what you were doing and give an extra die to the bad guys to roll at some point, you are still rewarded.  What?  Yes, really.  Whenever you roll a complication you are rewarded with a Plot Point...and Plot Points make the world go around!

So Plot Points (PP).  They're used for everything cool that your character can do in the game, from creating assets to flashbacks.

An asset is simply an "I need an edge here" moment.  In a fight it could be a Lead Pipe or even Extra Stretches before you're going to do some gymnastic moves to get you over a flood of laser sensors in a vault.  Spend your PP and when using that thing for the moment, you get to add a d6 to your roll.  Boom!

Flashbacks are just like you've seen in the series.  As normal people, you and I don't necessarily have the level of forethought of Masterminds and others to think three steps ahead of our opponents.  Surely in other RPGs that you've played, there came a point where the bad guy outsmarted you or your group and you never saw it coming.  Flashbacks give you that retroactive foresight, if you will.  "Any last words?" the bad guy asks as he moves his hand toward a button on his desk and you realize that you're on a trap door.  This could be your last moment.  You spend a PP and explain to the Fixer (aka GM), "When I was in the room alone before, I found the button and traced it and cut the wires - I knew this moment could happen!"  You now have a d6 to add to your next action, since you have the advantage and you've now added to the story in an unexpected way, Leverage-style.

The last thing that I wanted to bring up was how Jobs are your XP for advancement and more.  When you complete a Job, you list it on your character sheet.  From then on you can spend them to advance your traits or create more permanent assets OR you can save them and use Callbacks.  Callbacks are, basically, opportunities to reference other Jobs in-play and benefit from experiences that you'd had in those Jobs and gain the same benefit as spending a PP from that experience.  So, for example, if your character "borrowed" a set of skis to make an escape in a former Job, you reference that Job directly or indirectly and then have an extra d6 to use when you're posing as a ski instructor during your present Job.  But spend that Job on a trait advancement and it's gone forever.

So without getting too terribly long-winded about what I like about the system, the only negative that I can see about the game is that it can be hard to dream up cons and how they'll work in a given Job.  In reality, we're not criminal masterminds (at least I'm not) so coming up with something as intriguing and complex as some of the shows can be daunting...but not impossible.

I say give the Leverage RPG (and TV series!) a shot.  I think that you'll like it.  If you have played, I'd be interested to hear about some of the Jobs that you've pulled.  Let a guy know!

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