I'm designing a Leverage one-shot using Robin Hood's Merry Men, and I've got pretty much everything figured out but the Hacker. I'm trying to define exactly what a Hacker can do in a medieval setting, in a way that lets the Hacker contribute consistently to the group without making them overpowered.

Ideas I've considered:

1) The rulebook suggests re-skinning Hackers as forgers in lower-tech settings, but there doesn't seem to be too much for a Hacker to forge in a medieval setting.

2) Hackers can also be gadgeteers, but without any kind of electonics available, most gadgets are likely to be large and unwieldy, hardly appropriate for a sneaky crew. Also, neither of these first two options helps the Hacker fulfill their traditional role as information-gatherer.

3) I could re-skin Hacker entirely and turn it into Wizard, but Leverage doesn't seem to have a system built in for limiting what a Wizard could do. I'm worried magic would make the rest of the party irrelevant.

So my question boils down to, based on your knowledge of medieval history and/or previous play experience with Leverage, how can I balance the Hacker with the rest of the crew?

(Bonus question: which of the Merry Men would you cast as the Hacker?)

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's lots to forge in a medieval setting. Decrees of law, lineage evidence, land title, promissory notes (money!), letters of introduction, military/clerical orders, bills of lading, any note declaring the bearer has special powers, etc., etc. In a time when you could not independently verify anything quickly, being able to forge a seal, signature, document styles and so on is power. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2015 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. You could always go alchemist or something if you wanted it to be more fantasy, but in terms of realistic medieval, forging papers and documents is totally powerful. People don't understand how much bureaucracy has run our lives since ancient times. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 13, 2015 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Look at Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight's Tale. Patents, lineage, etc was visited in that particular movie. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Jul 13, 2015 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ What medieval roles did you assign the other leverage roles? Just to see what medieval roles are left for the hacker. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2015 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pantalaimon Since the other Leverage roles aren't really technology dependent, I don't see them as needing any adjustment. Robin Hood is a Mastermind/Grifter. Little John is a Hitter/Thief, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tack
    Jul 13, 2015 at 19:49

3 Answers 3


A Hacker gathers and distributes information by illegitimately posing as an authorized source. This is all a hacker does. Sometimes the hacker impersonates a person of authority in a system, like an admin or a regular user or some such. Often a hacker impersonates routine parts of the system's own processes. Sometimes they do other things.

A society is an information system much like a computer, except that it runs on people, not software, and people are marvelously complex, free-willed, agents that throw all kinds of extra tools and obstacles to a potential Hacker. In a Medieval society, a hacker might impersonate a wide variety of people (via forged documents or otherwise) in order to get the group access to important locations. Alternatively forged order, clandestine communications, legal documents, and etc. can be used to manipulate the enemy into playing into the team's hand. A forger is an excellent medieval analog to the Hacker, especially if combined with disguise-related and other social distinctions.

As for which Merry Man best fits the role of the Hacker, that depends on which version of the tales you draw from. Friar Tuck is certainly a decent candidate, especially if portrayed more like in this show than this one. Some of the hybrid 'noblewoman, but also a badass' portrayals of Maid Marian would lend her this role, such as is done in this recent work. Really, she could fill pretty much any of the roles depending on which tale you use, though (c.f. Maid Marian and her Merry Men).

Post script:

What about the Grifter?

Well, there is some similarity, but really not much more than in the normal setting. As SevenSidedDie succinctly explained, the Hacker manipulates information that people use; the Grifter manipulates emotions that people feel. Some examples follow:

Gaining the party entry to the castle on the date of a big party:

The Hacker: A forged invitation and uniforms appropriate to the attendees convinces the guards to let them in, or a requisition order (forged, of course) instructs the guard that they are here to deliver food to the kitchens.

The Grifter: Having started work a few days before, he's still 'the new guy' on the guard staff, and the other footmen are keeping an eye on him. Deliberately bumbling protocol on the party (perhaps dropping the 'invitation' in the mud or drunkenly propositioning a member of the party), the guards rush the rest of the party in to avoid an embarrassment. Alternatively, posing as a noble, he threatens to have the guard at the gate fired if the party isn't let in (despite lacking invitation) as he is a friend of King John's.

Getting a militarily superior force to back down, despite having captured the party

Hacker: This is Holy Ground! Anyone who engages in violence here or forces arrest upon another shall incur automatic excommunication from the Church! You will not violate God's Sanctuary! Stand down!

Grifter: I thought I knew you, once. We grew up together, we fought together, we took care of eachother. Well, you've got us. So are you going to strike down the last hope for a free England to escape being docked a few days wages, or are you still the honorable men I remember?

opening a door in a modern setting

Hacker: Provides fake credentials to the door, opening it.

Grifter: Provides fake credentials to the door, failing to open it. Makes a comment about how the bloody keycard never works. Asks the next guy through to open it for him. Essentially, provides fake credentials on a subconscious level to another person, who opens the door.

Calling off an ongoing manhunt in a modern setting

Hacker: Sends a series of emails to high ranking people get the hunt called off.

Grifter: Bribes the squad commander on the ground with sex to 'forget' to search a certain building.

Of course, all of these could have been done by the other roles as well. The important thing to remember about the roles is that it's more about how a character does something than what the character accomplishes. Computerized Information Technology Stuff makes it easy to see a distinction between Hacker and Grifter, but it isn't necessary for that distinction to be made.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that forgery is powerful, but a lot of the impersonation you're describing seems to fall squarely under Grifter, doesn't it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tack
    Jul 13, 2015 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Will update answer when I have a little more time. SHort answer is the way they accomplish it is different, but what they accomplish has a lot of overlap (but in different situations), just like in a modern setting (both open doors, change what the bad guys think, gather info). Make sure to focus on how the Hacker is interacting with a larger system and doesn't do so good at individuals while the Grifter does the reverse if you want to emphasis the difference in role, since they are both now kind of social. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2015 at 19:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tack The Hacker manipulates information that people use; the Grifter manipulates emotions that people feel. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2015 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Add something about medieval engineers/inventors and I think you've got the perfect answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2015 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ The hacker uses his skills and knowledge to provide the tokens of authenticity that enable others - letters of writ, signet rings, official seals, heraldic devices, etc.. He also makes devices that amplify the group's power - within the limits of credulity technology-wise. I would call him a tinker, myself. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Jul 13, 2015 at 22:11

A hacker works mainly uses (theoretic) knowledge in his role, so I would think of a learned character which would generally be clergy at medieval times, perhaps a specialist as a mason.

A for his role in the team.

  • He would probably be the only one who can read and write (which would make forgery perhaps also a possibility).
  • Might have knowledge about physics, maths, religion, law ...
  • Know about building castles, know secret entrances, be able to deduce where secret doors might be.
  • Might be able to figure out how traps (probably not completely historically acurate) work an disable them.

You would have to look how to translate this into talents. The Cortex Plus Hackers Guide suggests the roles 'Holy One' (Healing/Protection), 'Warrior', 'Mage' and 'Scoundrel' in a translation of the Leverage roles to fantasy ones. He has a talent:

Reality if for those who can't bend the rules

There is nothing wrong with reaching your goal faster by ripping just a tiny hole in reality.

Activation: Mage is one of the dice in your roll.

Effect: Add an additional Intelligence dice to your roll however, you also must roll an additional d4.

This talent could be used for the hacker described above. Except translate the title to something like 'I read about this somewhere...'

As for which merry man would fit this role best, I don't know. Most learned men were clergy so this would suggest Friar Tuck. However, what I remember from the movie I've seen. He isn't really the learned type.


well the hacker on leverage often was responsible for foreknowledge, as much as actively bypassing things, maybe a spy type or something similar. someone who would be able to get the plans and be helpful in knowing what is to be expected. The real problem is that translating most of the tech skills to on the spot abilities overlaps with the other characters either makes him a straight up thief, or a phreaker(grifter). In d&d i would say he would be a bard. basic thief skills, but more importantly they always are able to find out what they are up against.

Bonus answer (will scarlet the man behind enemy lines)


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