The rich and powerful, they take what they want. You steal it back. You and your crew used to be the bad guys, but there are worse people out there. The weak and the helpless need you. You provide… Leverage.
Over the last few years, I’ve had the chance of playing a few sessions of Leverage :RPG as well as some other Leverage-inspired concoctions from a few friends.
Even though I had never seen the show (we don’t get TNT in Quebec if we don’t sprain an extra monthly fee) I’ve always had a blast and the engine really has me intrigued – it was rather simple and barely comprehensible.
It had little crunch, yet added lots of flavor. It felt chaotic but provided great fuel for imagination and creativity.
In fact, the more I struggled to grasp the rules and its mechanics, the more it eluded me – like the clever metaphor I intented to place right here.
Demurely, I engaged myself on a mystical quest of discovery to learn how to run a Leverage game.
First step, acquiring the book – ChattyDM was nice enough to lend me his copy, but I also I got a PDF copy from RPGDriveThru (15$ – http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/85727/Leverage-Roleplaying-Game).
The book is very well written – in the sense that it is an entertaining read. But, to my meta-oriented mind, the structure was a complete mess; concepts are splashed here and there, burried within paragraphs. References to concepts were made and the description are not rapidly found.
However, after a first read, I’m left with a global comprehension of how things work, a feel that preparing a game should be rather simple and that running a game should also run equally well, provided the fixer (the GM) knows how to leverage (ha!) his player’s creativity.
Where Leverage RPG shines
The Leverage RPG does an amazing job at recreating an episode of the show.
For those who are not familiar with the show itself, it is a lightweight, amusing, formulaic spy-like show. The protagonists are a bunch of highly efficient thieves who are set upon the task of helping the helpless. Think of it as if Robin Hood had its own Mission :Impossible crew (like in the old shows, no Tom Cruise). While there are touches of drama, it is overall very tongue-in-cheek and does not take itself too seriously.
Once you know the recipe of a show, you only need three (deceptively simple-sounding) elements to prepare a game:
- A client (that is, someone that has been wronged, and can only find help outside of the law)
- A mark (an evildoer that needs to be conned and his image thoroughly trashed by your team of good bad guys)
- A problem (something that needs to be fixed)
The crew (the players) then set-up a plan – a con to get some poetic vengance against the mark, oten quite aligned with the problem.
Playing the game then becomes a series of skills test where you try to wreak havok into the player’s plans, force them to come up with alternative plans.
Your team is a team of professionnals – they never actually fail. The fun of the game comes from twisting the situations – turning advantages into disatadvantages and vice-versa and end-up building a cool story with twists and turns.
The game provides many mechanics for that.
Of course, you need players that are creative and that can riff one another, and a good fixers should be able to stimulate these ideas as well.
My interpretation of the game makes it some sort of cooperative story-building game.
However, I find the book difficult to use as a reference, and it makes it hard to get a concise idea of how the meachanics actually work without readind through most of the material.
I’m working on wrapping up the game concepts into a series of simple charts and lists, with references to the manual. Hopefully I’ll be able to share this soon.
I’ll also plan to try and get a few players together and run an introduction game, see if it runs as I expect it too.