I’ve been toying with an idea for a late ’40s/early ’50s spy game of late, and have been trying to decide if i want to do the heavy lifting to write up cars, etc. for the James Bond: 007 RPG, or try something with a different flavor, like Ubiquity (Hollow Earth Expedition). I opened up the Leverage RPG — Cortex Plus — and had a shufty around the rules.

At their heart, con/thief settings are very comparable to the espionage genre. There are certain archetypes that are used that cross the two genres — the thief, the “face” or grifter, the assassin or thug. The hacker is present in the new spy-fi, but prior to the 1980s, it’s more likely they would be some sort of tech.

The main thing to do to turn Leverage into a spy-fi game is sort the “roles.” In the game, these are Grifter, Hacker, Hitter, Mastermind, and Thief. But these don’t quite match a classical espionage setting, so here are the ones I propose:

ANALYST: This is sort of the hacker of the pre-computer age. They know how to look up and find information, analyze it, and aid the team with the information.

HITTER: Pretty much the same as Leverage, this is the two-fisted man of action or the cold shooter.

RECRUITER: This is the “face” — part grifter, part diplomat, part “mastermind” from the game. They known how to manage assets, bureaucracies, and how to get people to do what they want.

TECH: This is the gadgeteer or the “McGuiver” trope — the guy that knows how to build/destroy things with Science!

THIEF: the classic second-story man (or woman).

WHEELMAN: This is another classic trope from spy-fi — the guy that can drive like the devil (The Transporter), the race car driver turned operative, the “guy who can drive/fly anything.”

To reflect the wider skill set usually given superspies in this genre, you might want to account for the extra role by having characters take the usual primary role at a d10, secondary at d8, but increase the tertiary from one to two d6s, with the rest being d4. A more realistic campaign might stick to the d10/d8/d6’everything else d4 of Leverage. 

One of the reasons I’ve been considering Leverage is to increase the speed of play — combat is resolved like any other action, instead of a series of action rounds. The other is laziness — I can run a game in the system without having to stat out the Ferarri barchetta the character happens across, or figure out the specs on a particular airplane. The issue I could see is you lose that “brand name” quality that the Bond movies brought with them and James Bond: 007 captured so well — the specific gin, the Aston Martin, the Walther, the Beechcraft airplane, the Brioni suits and Omega watches, etc.