You’re Out of your FAQing Element

Parker hiding near the ceiling Ryan Macklin wrote a blog post about problems he sees with “use-whenever” stats in RPGs, using my FAQ hack for Leverage as an example. There are somegood ideas in there, and I encourage reading it. When it comes to the FAQ hack, though, I think it’s missing the point. I’m fine with Ryan using it as an example, to illustrate the problem, but I think it’s suggesting that the FAQ system isn’t doing what it should in the system.

I don’t think that’s true. Maybe it will help if I explain the intent of the system. So here’s my mission statement for the FAQ system:

The purpose of the FAQ system is to change attributes into an easy decision that gets out of the way of the more interesting ones.

I found that, when using attributes, it took a while to figure out which one would apply to each roll. Each GM picked differently, and for the player it didn’t always make sense. And in the end, it was just a die, nothing more. Too much time spent on an uninteresting decision. I wanted that part of the game to step aside, to stop hogging the spotlight with I had distinctions to apply and plot points to spend!

With attributes or FAQ approaches, a Leverage game will be interesting. FAQs aren’t meant to add another decision point: They’re meant to be damn fast. They’re meant to give a character something to default to. When Ryan says that he could come up with justifications for using the same approach in a bunch of situations without putting much time into it, that’s great. That’s the whole point!

I’m a big believer that not all rules need to be created equal. They don’t all need to have knobs to turn. Sure, there are ways to encourage changing up approaches (hell, just making the lowest one a d4 would do that on a small scale). But I think Ryan’s character will be more memorable because he tries to solve everything with aggression first. Let him use his big ol’ d10 if it encourages him to use a distinction against himself at the same time. He’s doing what a Leverage character ought to be doing.

FAQing Expectations

I also wanted to work with FAQs as a DM tip-off, much like Roles do. If you find out most of your characters have d8 Grifter, that tells you a lot about what sort of game they want to play. It’s much tricker to do the same thing with the original attributes. Using FAQs makes it easier to tailor your session. If you get a bunch of Analytical players, it gives you a good sense of the types of obstacles they’d like to deal with. It also lets you know that situations that are more easily solved using Forceful or Quick are going to give them some trouble, whether that’s using a lower die or coming up with something truly ostentatious in order to use the better stats.

A FAQed Up Play Style

I also think Ryan likes a different style of Leverage game than I do. I like to run one-shots, so I use FAQs. I also have players put a d4 in only one role, which I know Ryan isn’t a fan of. For me, this makes it easier as the DM to put that character in tricky situations. (I realize this is counter-intuitive, since having more d4s would seem to make it easier. This is definitely a YMMV situation, but I prefer having a clear “this is my Achilles heel.” I think it makes the flaw more iconic.)

I think Ryan prefers a longer-term campaign or mini-campaign with more subtleties. My house rules are absolutely pointed at running the kind of game I want. I’d love to see the hacks Ryan would make to get the kind he’s into.


  1. Logan,

    I’ll probably comment more later, but…

    I think Ryan prefers a longer-term campaign or mini-campaign with more subtleties.

    I wish you asked, because then I would have told you that’s an incorrect assumption. 🙂

    – Ryan

  2. “I’m a big believer that not all rules need to be created equal. They don’t all need to have knobs to turn.”

    This is a fairly big point that I agree with. It’s certainly cool to see players with multi-faceted characters who can approach events in different ways, but I don’t think there’s any harm in a player with a good attribute utilizing it as much as possible. I find it just as rewarding that “all you have is a hammer” but you find different whens, whys and hows of using your hammer in the game.

  3. Logan,

    Looking at this more, I see the reasons against Attributes, and buy some of them (even if I helped design the game). But I don’t see FAQ as more than a whitewash. It’s replace six choices with three, each with the same issue around dice, and with vaguer wording.

    I’ll issue a challenge: next time you or I run Leverage, ask people if they were happy when they had to use a d8 or d6 one. Were they happy when other people did? Seriously. Rather than only guess, let’s do a little research.

    But since that’s not right now, let’s move on. I see your mandate. I dig it. Pushing forward…Want to get to more interesting decisions? Remove this one. *poof* No more attributes. Entirely remove an uninteresting decision. (Or replace with an interesting one, but I already talked about that on my blog. No need to rehash. New ideas abound!)

    Still need a die there. What about a flat d8? That way, your d10 is coming from your Role. There’s no decision there.

    Or what about having Roles in terms of two dice? But that makes strong ones way strong and weak ones way weak.

    Or…let’s go for a little variance. You have your Role die, your Distinction if you can work it in, and…the Job die. How well you have a handle on the Job is its own die, and it always starts with a d6.

    It becomes a d8 when the GM either introduces the twist or when there are a certain number of Complications in play — like, say, five. The Crew’s in deep water, but now they _know_ more about what’s in that water. 🙂

    Promote to a d10 when you’re at the ending Flashback. Because, *boom* that’s when we see the unleashed awesome that makes the Crew who they are.

    When you have a point that can be called an “easy, uninteresting decision,” remove the “uninteresting” or remove the “decision.” (Is that a step too far? Maybe. I think there’s enough merit in the idea of FAQ where I’d rather remove the “uninteresting” rather than the “decision,” though.)

    – Ryan

  4. Logan Bonner says:

    I think your Job die suggestion presents a better argument for removing the decision. I could see having the one set die that rises with the tension level, as you suggest. I’d want it to be a little more nuanced than that, but that sort of pacing determined by the GM could be interesting. Maybe it’s a set die, but raises by a size for any PC who’s in hot water. The stakes of the job are a d6 at the early stages, but the thief who’s in danger of being caught by the guards is rolling a d8.
    For me, the most important thing is making the game play quickly. Since it’s really easy in Leverage to end up with the team spread out and having spotlight scenes with one or two characters in them, I’m loath to do anything that would make decisions take longer.
    I would regret the “Here’s a quick guide to how I face situations” of having FAQ approaches, but I’d prefer to run with a job die than complicate the attributes/approaches side of things.
    And I think we need to play a couple games of Leverage together, one with each of us running. 😉

  5. Logan,

    We totally do.

    Also, I wouldn’t have brainstormed this Job die idea if not for FAQ in the first place and your reply to my post, etc. So; rock on. *fist bump*

    Man, now I want to chew on that idea more. Maybe a post for next week… Since I’m clearly a man of copious free time and all. 🙂

    – Ryan