People have been talking about ways to hack Leverage to play games of a similar style in different settings. There are a lot of possibilities for this – there are very few genres which can’t support a good caper (or at least a team of awesome folks executing on plans) so there’s a lot of potential different places to take it. This introduces a lot of questions for how to support these other genres, especially when they don’t quite match up with the roles of the core game.
Four of the roles are pretty portable – Hitter, Thief, Grifters and Masterminds are pretty universal. You might want to change the names for tone – Soldier, Burglar, Charmer and Leader – but the basic functionality is just about the same. The problem comes in the form of how you handle the Hacker.
Now, yes, some Hacker skills, such as forgery, are nicely portable, the thematic core of the role revolves around computers, networks and such fun things. That demands a fairly narrow band of time, either the reasonably recent past (say, post War Games) to the near future (think Cyberpunk) with brief side jaunts into alt-history where the goggles and gears annoy Charles Stross. So when you step outside of that sphere, what do you do with the hacker?
The first option is to see if there’s a setting equivalent for technology. This may take the form of magic, but only if the magic is fairly low key. For example, Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora has magic, but it’s so powerful that making hacker into mage would be simply overwhelming. However, the setting has very interesting Alchemy, and that would probably be a much better match. It makes a good match for some of the sort of things the hacker does, especially producing gadgetry.
Similarly, you could easily enough use a kind of “low magic” stand in for hacking (in my mind, I’m imagining Egg Chen from Big Trouble in Little China as an example of this). In some ways it’s an almost perfect match. You can produce little relics, scry for information and so on. This is just one way to handle magic in the Leverage system, but that’s a topic I’ll get into more some other time.
The other possible approach is to treat hacking as a signature of the genre. That is to say, hacking is a signifier for a certain time-range and style of play, and in other genres, the signifier might be something else. Consider, for example, the Pilot in a game based loosely off Firefly – it’s a role that is very important to that sort of group, and while it may not have any similarities to the hacker in terms of what the character _does_, but it’s similar in term of how it fits into the group. Of course, the one problem with using Pilot as an example is that you need to make sure that it comes up as often as the other roles do in play. Pilot tends to be a little bit rough in actual play because the ship just sort of goes most of the time.
This approach takes a little more work (especially because it means rewriting the talents rather than simply reskinning them) but it’s the sharp point for how to start making a more drastic change to the system to capture other genres and ideas. And that’s almost certainly where the path leads next.
1 – As contrasted with the Fireball tossing magic of the usual D&D mage.