Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tommy's Take on Leverage Companions 4, 5 and 6

The Leverage RPG by Margaret Weis Productions is one I certainly enjoyed, having reviewed all three of the books in the line. They have also released a series of short Companion PDFs, and I've reviewed the first three in the past. Here's my reviews of 4, 5 and 6, covering Hacking, Tropes and Government Espionage.

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 Leverage Companion 4: Hollywood Hacking

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: You can either get the PDF for $2.99, or you can get the compilation of ALL the Companions in a print or PDF compilation at RPGNow. The Hollywood Hacking Companion mostly covers the artistic license that TV and movies tends to take with Hacking (like people blowing up stoplights by hacking into them, or the antiquated idea that you have to keep someone talking on a phone in order to trace them). It does a pretty good job of straddling the line between "Don't do what they do on TV because it's silly" and "we're just giving you information so someone a bit more knowledgeable than you can't just call your bluff". A handful of Hacking related Talents are included, but they aren't limited entirely to Hackers. One Talent, for instance, is Mastermind-based and allows you to exploit people who are working off of Hollywood Hacking assumptions. Another one is nice, arrogant trick a Hacker can pull out at the last second. Why didn't they do it earlier? Duh, they were dumbing it down for the rest of the crew.

WHAT WORKS: The extra Talents are always fun. The writing is nice and breezy without turning into a technical lecture.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The Companions are all fairly "niche", with this one being especially so.

CONCLUSION: With the Companions now collected into Companion Volume 2, it's worth reading the material as part of the larger compilation if nothing else. As a standalone PDF? Not the first purchase I would recommend...but the Talents alone make a nice addition to a larger product.

Leverage Companion 5: Tropes vs Leverage

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: As above, you can get it as a single PDF or part of the Companion Volume 2. The purpose of this Companion is help out a bit with defining a character by making use of different archetypes. About 15 archetypes are provided, with descriptions and advice on combining each archetype with each of the five Roles, as well as a Talent that fits each Archetype. Maybe your Hitter is a Mama Bear (or Papa Wolf), maybe your Hacker is a Romantic, maybe your Thief is an Artist, maybe your Grifter is a Rebel and maybe your Mastermind is an Architect who has built each of their plans off of the backs of their last ones.

WHAT WORKS: A real simple way to get a starting point for your Leverage characters, using common archetypes as the core concept (combined with the Roles, obviously). Some of them are truly inspired, as are their related Talents (like an Architect getting a bigger Asset die when using a Callback, since they are building to these moments).

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Some of the combinations don't fit so well, and at times the writing seemed to struggle to define the Archetype/Role relationships without repeating the same ground. Several of the pages carry the footers from the Hollywood Hacking Companion, which presumably got brought over in formatting but never changed.

CONCLUSION: A very useful Companion for those struggling with character creation, or for those who are maybe looking for inspiration for a unique spin for their next character. I also appreciate the fact that there's an attempt at backing these decisions up mechanically, with the inclusion of Talents. A good, well written companion piece to the Leverage rulebooks and supplements.

Leverage Companion 6: KRYPTOS

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Available in the same formats as above, Companion 6 takes your Leverage game from the Populist Revenge business and into the realm of Espionage (and Counter-Espionage). This includes advice on changing up the roles (Hitter to Wetworks, Thief to Acquisitions, Mastermind to Handler, etc). This is even a recommended mode of play for Single Player games (James Bond or Jason Bourne, anyone?) While these Companions commonly offer new Talents, this one also offers new rules, such as resisting Interrogations, handling "Gadgets", and even an "Enhanced Flashback" mechanic that allows the Agents to throw the trust of each other into question.There's even a few campaign set-ups, including an amusing one set in a retirement home for secret agents. An Instant Mission Generator replaces the Job Generator from the Leverage core rules, so you can generate spy-appropriate missions on the fly.

WHAT WORKS: Well, I love random generators, so that's a win right there. There's lots of good information in a small package to tweak Leverage from its default mode of play and into spy games.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: A few spy-related Talents would have been great. Mentioning the Trust mechanic before the section that actually introduced it was a little counterintuitive, but not a huge problem given the size of the product.

CONCLUSION: If you're going to write a niche product like this, present the information as usefully and as compelling as you can. This book totally hit the mark in that regard, giving you the necessary tools to turn Leverage into a spy game with a small package. I always like extra options for Talents, so the book lacking those is disappointing. That said, it's a well-written, micro supplement that was released with a very clear goal that it accomplishes admirably. A great pick-up if you want to diversify your Leverage campaign options.