Monday, April 11, 2011

A Taste of Gaming

This weekend was A Taste Of Leverage at Labyrinth Games in Washington, DC, and it was pretty awesome.

Labyrinth regularly runs "Taste of..." events where they dedicate an afternoon to running several tables of the game in question. They recently did Fiasco, for example, and in the near future will be doing the Founding Fathers boardgame (May first) and Savage Worlds (May 21st). For Leverage, there were four tables running, each with 4-5 players and a GM, running a game over the course of 3 or four hours. I was envious of the tables I wasn't at, since each of them sounded great, including the Pigskin Job (where I'm pretty sure the team stole the Redskins-with-serial-numbers-filed-off), the Tween Dream Job (which is what it sounds like, except withthe extra villainy of dog fighting) and a job who's name I never caught revolving around evil pharmaceuticals, a cruise ship and, by my understanding, no small amount of Halo.

As is my wont, I went in pretty much unprepared and we generated a scenario from scratch at the table. It ended up being a tricky one because the mark had a tricky strength - attractiveness. Wasn't 100% sure how to use that, especially with a team that was basically Charlie's Angels (Three Hot Chick badasses, a Grifter face man and an enigmatic Hacker who didn't like to show his face in public), until we got a nice dovetail between the twist (it's personal) and the background detail that one of the team members was a single mom. Turns out the mark had basically taken all the money from the day care that served as the after-school program for her kid, which lead to her needing to take him to the "office". After two days of his enthusiastic interest, the team decided that this job should move to the top of the list, and thus, The Latchkey Kid Job wads born (though by the end, the alternate title was probably "The El Gigante Action Hour Job").

The mark, a soap opera star, had used the money (plus a loan from the mob) to fund a new project which he would write, direct, executive produce and, of course, star in. The job ended up revolving around filming different scripts, convincing the mark that the show was going to be a loss and the real money was in his clothing line (which had some enthusiastic buyers, strange that) and getting him and the mob to sign off rights to the show while also stealing the Mark's secret reserve of cash. There was also a mexican wrestler (Luchador d12!), a team member with a fake leg, an L.A. Douchebag disguise, a fight scene on a sound stage, scriptwriting collaboration between the hacker and the twelve year old and the quick application of an allergen to keep the mark from playing through the love scene with one of the team members that he'd hastily written into the script the night before.

It was insane, and I loved it. I think everyone had fun too.

I did up handouts and cheatsheets beforehand, but as I did them very hastily, they're error-ridden, and I need to clean them up to re-post them. I also didn't hand out as many plot points as I should have (I often forget to do so when players roll 1's) so i did a cheat at the end that basically gave them the benefits of a coordinating flashback without needing to pay for it. It also reinforced my fondness for making Fixer created assets free for d6. And speaking of assets, it was wonderful when we reached the point where the table realized all the assets in play could potentially be leveraged. They totally took that ball and ran with it.

First experiment in emphasizing the mastermind's out-of-crime specialty was a bit bumpy. "The Captain" was ex military, and while that was a great mastermind model, it was a little bit of a mismatch with t he job the dice created. The player did a great job with it, and I think the idea is still a solid one, just trickier in a one-shot with an improv'd scenario.

I am also started to get tempted to just give all Masterminds the Archangel talent for free. It let's the team spend points on each others, which benefits everyone, without much special coolness for the Mastermind. Just a random thought.

Anyway, it was a fantastic time, and i want to give a special thank you to Labyrinth Games. For those unfamiliar with the DC area, it has a serious shortage of game stores. Since the Game Keeper chain shut down, there hasn't been a game store in DC proper - everything is out in the suburbs - so when Labyrinth opened up in DC and just off the Metro, I was excited but wary. It's not hard for a game store to be enthusiastic, well intentioned and totally suck. Thankfully, I had nothing to fear.

Labyrinth is a genuinely lovely store, clean and well lit with an array of lovely wooden puzzles and games up near the front, and a deep selection as you go towards the back. It is definitely more of a boardgame than RPG shop, but the RPG selection is diverse and thoughtfully selected, which counts for a lot. The boardgame selection is fantastic, and the staff is friendly, enthusiastic. It's basically the antithesis of every bad stereotype of a game store. I ended up leaving with one game I knew about, one I'd never heard of, and a carved wooden puzzle box for my wife. I hadn't _planned_ on picking anything up, I just couldn't help myself.

What's more, it's also in one of the neat areas of DC, between the Eastern Market Metro and capitol hill. Lots of other neat shops and excellent food. As the weather gets nicer, if you find yourself considering a trip into town, it's totally worth stopping by Labyrinth.


  1. The title was "The Lido Deck Job" :) Which I gotta remember next time I run it to put in my notes to have the climax actually take place on the Lido Deck instead of the dining area.

    Still fond of the fight scene with the hitter and three Russian mercs in an elevator. After successfully removing the gun from the situation, the hitter was then knocked out just as the elevator door opened in front of a pool-bound family. The response from the Russians? "No tickets."

  2. My better half an I have decided that our next cat will be named Sterling.

  3. By everyone's count, all the games were awesome, and I certainly enjoyed being the Hitter in Dave's game. Failure/losing a fight is always interesting... ;)

    And yes, Labyrinth is my A-1 favorite place to hang out. Kathleen, the owner, and her staff are truly nonpareil, and I look forward to playing in many many more events there in the future.

  4. I love that Indiana Jones moment.

    Game stores like Labyrinth make me wish I lived locally.

  5. I posted the setup for The Tween Dream Job to RPG.Net, including discussion on how the Situation-Generator results became concrete.

  6. The Latchkey Kid Job was an absolute blast and a great introduction to the Leverage system. Our table had good chemistry, and the way the plan fell into place felt natural. Plus I'm fond of any game where I get to use "Batman" as a verb.

    I'd suggest making the Archangel effect automatic, and even remove the restriction on being in voice contact with the Mastermind. Spending plot points for each other was a great way for players to contribute to a scene even when their characters were absent, and the "who wants to throw in a point to make that one permanent" dynamic helped me feel like part of a team from the very beginning.

    Also let me emphasize again how wonderful a space Labyrinth is. I've been to four or five events there, and the staff has always gone out of their way to make us feel comfortable.

  7. Regarding Archangel, if you're looking for an alternative to making it a free talent for all Masterminds, consider making it play out like some variation of the Hacker's "Do You Have That Thing I Gave You?" talent. That had to be my favorite talent from Sunday's game -- I was particularly impressed by the creation of a hacked IMDb page with doctored photos of the job's villain and the Grifter-Disguised-As-Producer partying backstage during the daytime emmy's to support the Grifter's cover story. I really enjoyed how much creativity that talent in particular demanded explicitly of the player wielding it, and I gather the Hacker really enjoyed it, too.


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