The A-Team: A model for RPG campaigns?

The A-Team Yesterday while watching  an episode of The A-Team on TV, it struck me. Wouldn’t The A-Team make a perfect model for a RPG campaign?  Let’s look at the basic premise, which is summed up pretty good by the voiceover during the opening credits:

”Ten years ago , a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.”

So you have a team of military specialists (the leader, the face, the mechanic and the mad pilot), doing good deeds while hunted by the law. And when I think about it, that does sound like a cool premise for a roleplaying campaign set into almost any genre. I can easily imagine an A-Team in the time after the Thirty Years’ War, in the far future or in most fantasy settings without changing the basic premise too much. Of course you won’t have a pilot in most fantasy settings, but perhaps you can replace that position by a sailor or even a cleric.

The main problem with that kind of campaign is character motivation. What is the reason the A-Team helps people on a regular basis while being hunted by the military police? It’s definitely not the money they’re after, because in most cases they don’t even take the money offered. In my experience players usually need more motivation than just doing “the right thing”, so you probably have to think about what motivates “your” A-Team.

Another recurring element of the series is that the A-Team often creates custom vehicles to overcome their foes in a final fight. Some game systems support doing something like that. When I remember correctly Shadowrun had extensive rules for customizing vehicles for example. This aspect of the series could pose a problem especially when set into the fantasy genre especially when the technology level of the campaign is pretty low.

There’s one fantasy campaign, which suits that campaign model perfectly: Eberron. The basic Eberron campaign is set only a couple of years after the Last War and there’s a reasonably high tech level that allows the construction of weird devices and vehicles. A party could consists of veterans from the Last War, like a human warlord (as leader), an elven bard (as face), a warforged artificer (as mechanic) and perhaps a gnome wizard with some ties to House Lyrandar or Orien (for transportation). They could have been made responsible in parts for what has happened on the Day of Mourning and are now hunted. So they fled to the Sharn underground.

Of course you can’t copy the series completely. Doing basically the same story over and over again may work for a television series, but it will probably get boring for your players pretty fast. But I think the basic premise could help to create an interesting RPG campaign.

What are your thoughts? Do you think running a campaign inspired by The A-Team might work? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

6 thoughts on “The A-Team: A model for RPG campaigns?”

  1. Some very good points. I'm working on a selection of sample groups for an RPG and this template is perfect as a way to bring a diversely skilled group of characters together and keep them in the action.
    .-= SuperSooga´s last blog ..Xenofringe Free Preview =-.

  2. I also think that Stargate (which I have seen only two or three shows) could be a nice show to imitate.

    I like your eberron adaptation.

  3. The A-Team was one of the primary inspirations for the original Spycraft rules. Seriously, check out how trivially easy it is to stat out the team. The whole "fire a couple hundred rounds of ammo and hit nothing" is also one of the explanations for how vitality damage works.

    (And, Guillaume, the same guys did a Stargate RPG using the Spycraft system. It's pretty sweet.)

    The primary advantage that A-Team has over a number of similar shows is that it is a *team*. If you try to replicate Knight Rider, you have to figure out that could work with four players. If you try to replicate Buffy, you have to figure out how to make people want to play something other than the Slayer. But, the A-Team just perfectly fits the kind of dynamics you see in an actual RPG group.

    The CAPTCHA is reminding me that I have a friend who once ran an A-Team campaign in RIFTS.
    .-= Lugh´s last blog ..How fragile we are =-.

  4. I GM'd a 3.5 Eberron game for a group that modeled their party on the A-Team. We had a half-orc fighter-type (BA), a shifter ranger (Murdock), a changeling bard (Face), and a cleric-wizard (Hannibal).

  5. Good post. It's inspirational, but you make a good point. It's kinda hard to do in a typical "D&D" setting.

    (I don't play in Eberron)

    Although, instead of technology, Murrdock could be a beast master/sailor combo to handle all types of transportation.

    @ Lugh; your primary advantage point works quite well with the Stargate idea. I've often contemplated doing just that.

    @ Granger44; That party sound cool, but a half-orc fighter? What happened to the nightelf mohawk?

    (oh sorry, that's WoW. My bad. 😉 )
    .-= Rook´s last blog ..Where do you game at? =-.

  6. The Classic Anime ‘Five Man Band’.

    The group traditionally includes:

    The Leader — (lead singer) The leader of the group. Can be a mastermind, charismatic, levelheaded, headstrong, or some combination of the four. Often also The Hero.
    The Lancer — (lead guitar) Usually a contrast to The Leader. If the Leader is clean-cut and/or uptight, the Lancer is a grizzled Anti-Hero or Deadpan Snarker; if the Leader is driven and somewhat amoral, the Lancer is more relaxed and level-headed.
    The Smart Guy — (keyboardist) The physically weak, but intelligent or clever member. Often nerdy and awkwardly played for comic relief. Sometimes unconventionally young (early- to mid-teens). Sometimes a Trickster and a buddy of the Big Guy.
    The Big Guy — (drummer) The strongman of the team. May be dumb. Or mute.
    The Chick — (vocal effects, tambourine) A peacekeeping role to balance out the other members’ aggression, bringing them to a nice or at least manageable medium. The Chick is often considered the heart of the group. This role is played by a woman or girl. Someone female. Otherwise, it is not a Five-Man Band.

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