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A Tool for Leverage Masterminds

I’ve run Leverage RPG a couple times since PDF release[1], and I’ve run into a bit of slowness when it comes to people deciding what to do next. So I made this framing device for the game I ran last Sunday, and it worked well. But I’m looking to flesh it out a bit more.

A Tool for Leverage Masterminds

So you’re planning for things to happen during the job, Mastermind? After all, that’s what you do. But you got to think on your feet and come up with loose, flexible plans — you never know what Assets will come into play, what Complications will arise, or what Opportunities will present themselves. And you don’t want to bog down play by coming up with a detailed plan that’ll go to hell in 30 seconds. So when you’re not sure what to do next, here’s a formula:

“Let’s go [Action] [Action or Condition] [Condition]!

Actions

  • Steal _____________
  • Pose as _____________
  • Convince ______________
  • Access ______________
  • Get ______________
  • Plant _____________
  • Gather ______________
  • Track ______________

Conditions

  • At ____________
  • Before ___________
  • While __________
  • Without Alerting ___________

Combine two Actions and a Condition or an Action and two Conditions. That’s it. Then go. With that, you have all you need to move onto the next part of your Job. You’ll do this a few times during the game, as you gain more intel and see the results of your labors. This may seem over-simplistic, but it’s not — it’s TV logic, and while people in real-life heists need to meticulously plan, watching the plan unfold is far more interesting for playing and watching.

What I need from you

So, this list is woefully incomplete. If you have more ideas for Actions or Conditions, I would love to hear them! Or other thoughts as well, but I’m really keen to flesh this out, because it’s working as a pretty useful framing device.

– Ryan

[1] Disclosure: I was on the design team for Leverage RPG, and am on the editing team for the supplements. Which is to say, I’m disclosing being involved in something totally awesome.

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8 Responses to A Tool for Leverage Masterminds

  1. I think missing in there, as a condition, is “So that _______”

    Sometimes it won’t be obvious by just saying “Do X in or around Y.”

    Find Out is, I guess, a variant of Get, but it might be worth calling out on its own.

    While and While You/They may carry different implications.

    During ____

    In Order To ____

    I liked how this worked on Sunday. As a “If you’re thinking about it too hard, consult this list to get unstuck” kind of tool, you may find a certain point where if the list is too long, it’s making it worse.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Duane,

      As a “If you’re thinking about it too hard, consult this list to get unstuck” kind of tool, you may find a certain point where if the list is too long, it’s making it worse.

      I’m keeping that in mind. But for now, I want to be seeded with ideas before trimming them down to something useful.

      – Ryan

    • Steven Grady says:

      I like “So that”, but I don’t think it’s a new condition — it should always be part of the template, the Goal. That way, the Crew and the Fixer both know what the goal is, which could avoid some confusion.

      It also seems like an Action could be the Goal of another plan. I.e. the overall plan might be “Steal the statue and plant incriminating evidence before Sunday, So that the Mark goes to jail”. That could lead to: “Pose as a guard At the museum Without alerting the Mark, So that we can steal the statue.”

      Not to suggest that the Mastermind should spend a lot of time coming up with a complicated recursive structure, but at any given time, if you know what your next Action should be, you could come up with a Plan as above to achieve it.

  2. msilver says:

    Having not read or played the game yet (it’s on my list!)… I’m guessing that because you didn’t cover it, “kill” or “kidnap” is out of the action list?

    Conditions:

    * in case____
    * when____
    * if____

  3. Mike H says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Per your tweet, here’s the sort of similar thing I did for an AmberConNW game me and my friend Ben ran.

    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1dDDwis0ay0W3QMTlrutKY0ZyM8B_neOb6oqydcNEWbQ

    Obviously a lot more specific, and the context was a bit different. In this case, the premise of the game was that the characters were trying to make their ally Emperor of Chaos. I handed this sheet out at the beginning. It does double duty: one nice thing is it introduces a lot of details about the politics of Chaos, which is well known to the characters but unknown to the players. But by far the more useful thing it does is (as your list) sort of start the characters thinking about a variety of strategies they could pursue. Without the list, its my experience that the players will:

    1. Attack somebody with an army or
    2. Start assassinating people who disagree with them or
    3. Dive onto the first GM plothook like starving hyenas or
    4. Argue endlessly about which of 1-3 is right, until one of the players gets bored and does 1 or 2

    My list is maybe a little heavy handed…I like the expectation that your list sets up, making the players more active drivers of who/what is interesting. My list has a “classic” feel…giving the players a good bit of agency, but still exercising a firm GMly influence.

  4. Jon Edwards says:

    My experience playing a Mastermind is brief and not entirely successful since other players wanted to spend forever talking about elaborate schemes. What Mike H describes sounds a little familiar.

    I like the basic formula you propose. It would take me awhile to flesh out/refine your list with more things you might see in Leverage plots. Two thoughts from playing:

    1. When trying to do the 2-second plan using your plan “formula” I didn’t think to start our plotting by finding out the Mark’s weaknesses. I imagine your formula could be used to formulate actions to do so.

    If I were to play the Mastermind again, I think my first plan(s) would be to discover the Mark’s weaknesses with hopes of later taking actions to exploit them. I’ve read AP reports without any discovering of “weaknesses,” but that recommendation in the book seemed like an excellent idea.

    2. In our game, I remember beating up and interrogating someone, trying to blackmail someone, trying to lure someone into a deal, going somewhere and searching for something, trying to win’s someone’s confidence, faking a contest to award a prize to get someone out of a house, trying to track down someone (me after I was kidnapped), and calling in the police when we had the bad guy in a place with incriminating evidence. [Our game was confusing and didn’t quite come together at the end]

    I also thought about “tailing” as a action, although I suppose that’s just a form of tracking.

  5. Jon Edwards says:

    Note that,as Mastermind, I did use your formula to construct quick plans that I proposed. They were quickly lost in a flurry of debate at the table. My attitude was, “Hey I don’t have a complete plan for how to get from where we are now to accomplish our goal at the , but let’s start with .” I remember the debate being how to get from to , discarding , and coming up with other candidates and trying to link them to .

    I really am in favor of adding some mechanical weight behind the Mastermind’s proposals, e.g., bonuses when acting upon the Mastermind’s plan.

    • Jon Edwards says:

      I see it’s really a bad idea to use brackets. Let me rephrase that:

      My attitude was, “Hey I don’t have a complete plan for how to get from where we are now to accomplish our goal at the [end], but let’s start with [plan].” I remember the debate being how to get from [plan] to [end], discarding [plan], and coming up with other [plan] candidates and trying to link them to [end].