‘Grifters & Masterminds’ is really a sourcebook which does what is says on the tin. In many ways, combining the two roles (a trend continued in ‘Hitters, Hackers & Thieves’) into one sourcebook keeps the material focused, rather than writing unnecessary content to spin out a splat book for each role.
The book is divided into three sections, as such:
‘Grifters’ covers all of the basics of what the role should achieve in any story and the basic emotional and psychological traits of those who are involved in this trade. It offers twelve new talents (with no dead wood – I can find a use for all of them), descriptions of long and short cons and a host of cover identities. Whilst everyone playing this role will find something useful, I think that those trying out the system for the first time will be especially pleased. The nature the Leverage RPG (from a mechanical and conceptual viewpoint) is quite divergent from how most mainstream RPG experiences work. Having some articulated tools and ideas to fall back on will be greatly appreciated by both players and Fixers alike.
‘Masterminds’ is a smaller chapter but no less useful. It gives an overview of the role again, and provides some very practical tools such as the ‘Plan Framework’, a section about when the job goes horribly wrong and a range of new talents (again no wasted space here). As with the ‘Grifters’ chapter, this is doubly useful for the Fixer and the player. The ‘Mastermind’ is – in my opinion – the hardest role to play in the game and this goes a long way to equipping players of all ability types to undertake the role.
‘Fixers’ is the tail-end chapter and ties everything together nicely. The authors tackle plot twists, designing long-running games (‘season by season’ as they name it) and even a quirky section on running Leverage in other settings (such as medieval England, in Victorian Steampunk or even a sci-fi setting). This was tucked away in the chapter and I feel a great little gem for the sourcebook. The alternative settings even went so far as to create concise alternate-Leverage crews to showcase each genre. It concludes with a section on Fixer-less games – which are actually achievable, though not for the faint-hearted.
The only criticism of the book was the sample NPCs. There are twelve per role, each taking a full page. I think that twenty-four pages (one quarter of the book) could have been used far better, and the photography chosen for these section clashes very badly with the aesthetic of the rest of the book. All was not lost in these sections, however, as you could mine them for the Assets described in each write-up and import those into your game.
Overall, I think that this book (NPCs aside) is an essential addition to the Leverage RPG and the wealth of practical advice it offers pitches the product to both the Fixer and players.
[4 of 5 Stars!]