Ah, another question from Tracy Barnett! What’s my favorite magic or high-tech item in a roleplaying game? My twitter answer: The Wand of Wonder. Point it at a target and who knows what’s going to happen? Maybe you’ll cast a fireball. Maybe you shoot a lightning bold from the wand. Maybe six hundred large butterflies pour forth from and flutter around, blinding everybody.

Let’s roll and find out! 88? Okay then! 10-40 gems of 1 gp base value shoot forth in a 3″ long stream[1], each causing 1 hp of damage to any creature in path — roll 5d4 for number of hits.

It should be pointed out that I did have a character with a wand of wonder. It was a grommam (an orangutan-like race from Spelljammer) with Boots of Striding and Springing. Battle cry: “Eat randomness!”


My “let us give this some thought” answer: the earbud radios in Leverage.

A few days ago I wrote a few lines about roleplaying games about spies. The big problem with a game about secret agents — especially in the 1980s — is the paradigm for RPGs is “everyone travels in a group”. This isn’t how spy fiction works. However, in the spy games I’ve encountered from that time period, there really weren’t games that had a solution for this problem. Surely the safecracker would be alone in the ambassador’s office while the face was mingling in the party distracting the ambassador and the hacker was outside, spliced into the network, looping the security feed in the embassy’s hallway. They’re not all in a clump of tuxedoes.

Leverage solves that issue by adding in the solution the television show used to get around the same problem: How do we get the crew to interact with each other when they’re physically separate?

Now we’ve got a mainstream[2] roleplaying game that explicitly tells players that it’s okay to Split the Party — you’ll still be able to be involved in the scene.[3]

“Explicitly” might not be the best word. There’s an assumption that you’ve seen the show. There are only two actual references to these devices in the Leverage RPG main book. One in the Mastermind role description, where you get this: “Most Crews have reliable communication devices so the members can talk to one another…” And once in an example for a Notice action where PC Nate “spots the man, and using his earbud radio, directs Eliot.” In other RPGs, there would have been a sidebar about communicating or how it’s okay to not be physically present in a scene because you’ve got these earbuds. Not here. But because these aren’t actually called out in the main rulebook, nor are they even mentioned in The Quickstart Job, I wonder: if this game was a straight-forward criminals/spy game without the Leverage IP, would these bits of always-on technology — these things that keep all the players interacting a scene where only one protagonist is present — would these have been in the final product?[4]

So the Leverage earbud radios, invented by the writers of the television show, incorporated into the game, is what really moves the spy game forward, solving that problem of why secret agent roleplaying games don’t feel like the source material.

One year ago: Favorite Media You Wish Was an RPG

A year ago, I wanted someone to go back in time to 2010 and license Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century novels for a roleplaying game. She’s moved on to other books, leaving that series behind, so doing a licensed game for that series now wouldn’t make financial sense.

Today, I’m drawn to Fantasy Flight Games’ Android setting, but not all that strongly. Android’s setting[5] is simply a generic cyberpunk setting. There are so many other games — a lot of indie games, now that I think about it — that cover that genre. Granted, a lot of those games are hot messes and I really like how FFG did their Star Wars series of games,[6] so I’d be interested to see their take on the cyberpunk genre.

Two years ago: Your favorite die or dice set.

I liked Ghostbuster’s Ghost Die, then I played FFG’s Star Wars game and I really liked their Boost and Setback Dice. I’m playing D&D5 and while I like the advantage/disadvantage system, I’m still drawn to the Boost and Setback dice. So no, it hasn’t changed since last year.

  1. Something like 30 feet in game terms. []
  2. Several other indie RPGs were perfectly fine with having only one or two PCs be in a scene at a time. I’m also using “mainstream” to indicate a game that physical stores would have a good number of copies and that the game could be found in non-game stores, like Barnes & Noble. []
  3. Leverage is also the first “spy” game I can think of that said there were scenes. While other games went from an ongoing exploratory minute-by-minute narrative to scene framing, I don’t recall any other game in that genre that did this. []
  4. Games like WEG’s Star Wars and various cyberpunk games from the 80s had things like commlinks, but using those in-fiction were obvious uses of technology. They were basically walkie-talkies, which would have been difficult to conceal when schmoozing at that party at the embassy. []
  5. Where the boardgames Android, Infiltration, and New Angeles are set, along with the Netrunner card game. []
  6. Especially with the custom dice for those games. See the Two Years Ago answer, immediately following. []

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