Leverage: the Roleplaying Game does so many things right. It’s quick, collaborative, easy to prep, iconic, and tethered to a great back-and-forth mechanic and play style. But still, every plan has room for improvement.
The first two times I played Leverage, and the first time I ran it, I noticed the same thing: Attributes were difficult to apply consistently, and there was frequent confusion between the Fixer and the players about what attributes should be called for on each check. This isn’t to say there was argument (everybody was too polite), but an experienced gamer knows the look of “Oh, I thought this type of check would use a different attribute, so that’s my high one.”
When I played with Dave the Game running, he called for Willpower checks pretty often. When Rob Donoghue ran, he asked us to roll Strength, sometimes for the same type of roll Dave would have wanted Willpower for. All the attributes are meant to be used sometimes for mental checks and sometimes for physical checks. In theory, this is a way to make sure all the stats matter for all situations. In practice, it’s more confusing than helpful.
So What’s the Hack?
It didn’t take me long to figure out how I wanted to hack the rules. (To paraphrase Will Hindmarch, you “hack” games that are cool, and you “fix” games you think should have been cool. In a Hindmarchian milieu, I definitely hacked Leverage.) Instead of using typical RPG attributes, derived from your physical and mental qualities, I phrased them as “approaches.” These are adjectives that describe the action you’re undertaking, the attitude you’re assuming as you make your move. I boiled it down to three: Forceful, Analytical, or Quick (FAQ for short). At the right, you can see their short descriptions.
I avoided passive approaches. There’s no tough, for example. Leverage is a game about competent professionals. If they’re backed into a corner, they aren’t simply going to endure. They’re going to counter. They’re going to improvise. They’re going to escalate.
Selecting your approaches is pretty simple: Assign a d10, d8, and d6. A forceful hacker, an analytical hacker, and a quick hacker all take a different approach to hacking.
Did it Work?
I found the system did what I wanted it to do, making it more intuitive to determine what to call for when someone was making a check. And it’s fast. It’s very fast. I find when running Leverage, I call for very few checks. This makes it so when I do, it flows more smoothly into the rest of the game.
It’s also easier for a player to apply a strategy to a situation and add in a little more of a flourish to the action. Instead of trying to find a way to make a high Attribute come up in the checks within a scene, the player can decide how to approach a person or problem. Personality can drive the scene. Your high stat provides a handy hook when you’re in doubt about how to approach an obstacle. If you have a high Forceful die, you might be driving through that locked gate. With a high Analytical die, you could figure out the password. With a high Quick die, you might just scale the fence before the camera turns back your way.
Can I Give it a Shot?
I pestered John Harper for a copy of his excellent character sheet. (You can find the original here.) I modified it for the approaches hack, and added in numbers and instructions to help in character creation. You’ll want to look over the sheets before you use them. I made some other small tweaks, like removing specialties and changing the role dice to replace one of the d4 roles with a d6 (because I find it works better for the one-shots I usually run).
By all means, take it for a spin, kick the tires, and let me know what you think!
This includes a sheet for each class, along with a rap sheet page that also describes open talents.