Law Enforcement Archetypes

Bad Cop

The Bad Cop isn’t bad at their job. They get results at least as efficiently as anybody else in the Unit, but they have a dark side that ultimately defines them. Maybe they cross the line into outright criminality on a fairly regular basis, or maybe they’re just teetering on the edge and will cause havoc when they finally tip over it, but one way or another they lack the moral fiber necessary to carry a gun and a badge. They tend not to show up as much among FBI agents in TV shows, but VASCU is a bit of a special case, and an agent who’s on the take, or steals, or even commits outright murder might be able to get away with it, at least for a little while. Unlike the Loose Cannon, Bad Cops don’t necessarily routinely get into to trouble with their superiors the way Loose Cannons do, because their problem isn’t impulse control, it’s active criminality. The boundary can be porous, and it only takes one suspect gunned down in cold blood to turn a Loose Cannon into a Bad Cop.

The fundamental defining characteristic of the Bad Cop is a Secret. That Secret is the crime, or crimes, that they’ve committed, and they’ll likely have other disadvantages stemming from it, like Enemies who know (or at least are pretty sure) what they did. They may also have advantages that come from the same source—-nothing gives you access to a wide range of Contacts among the criminal underground than being a crook yourself. There’s a tendency for Bad Cops to be more physical, and less intellectual, than most of their colleagues, and they often get results through physical intimidation and violence instead of investigative technique and skillful interrogation.

Examples: Mike Kellerman (later seasons of Homicide), Vic Mackey (The Shield)


Crusaders aren’t driven by rage or ego, the way the Loose Cannons are; instead, they’re driven by their sense of morality. There’s some room for variation here, because in some instances they are more motivated by a desire to see wrongdoers punished, and in others the empathy they feel for their victims is paramount, but one way or another they’re primarily interested in doing what they think is right, with limited concern for the consequences. Generally, their conception of what’s right is constrained by the law, and they’ll rarely cross the line into performing illegal searches or violating the rights of suspects.

Crusaders tend to focus on the human aspects of investigation, relying on their understanding of human nature, and their compelling personalities, to get the information they need to serve justice. Charisma is a good advantage. They’ll make Enemies by being so uncompromising, but their clear moral center prevents that from spilling over into a Bad Reputation; indeed, many Crusaders benefit from Good Reputations. The major Disadvantages are likes to be the “good” ones, like Code of Honor, Honesty (though being too honest is tough—-most are happy to use “reasonable deception” to trap a suspect), or the less-extreme forms of Pacifism.

Examples: Olivia Benson (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Frank Pembleton (Homicide)


Eccentrics are more than just a weird cop, though they certainly are weird cops. They take their weirdness and turn it into a source of insight into the mysteries they have to solve, or use it as a weapon to unnerve suspects and shake the truth out of witnesses. Most Eccentrics had a pretty rough life prior to going into law enforcement, and those that didn’t probably went through hell early on in their career. It’s not uncommon for characters on cop shows to have tragic backstories, but what sets the Eccentric apart is the extent to which their backstories shape, and even warp, them.

Eccentrics are usually strong if erratic investigators, with peculiar insights into the psychological aspects of the crimes they must solve. Cops who have been driven to kick ass and take names are almost always Loose Cannons, not Eccentrics. High IQ or Perception are common, but so are low Charisma and Will. Common advantages include Intuition and Empathy, as well as unusual Contacts or Contact Groups acquired during their strange, sad journey into VASCU. Disadvantages mostly revolve around their strangeness, which may have saddled them with a Bad Reputation, or manifest itself in any number of Odious Personal Habits. They may suffer from mild Delusions, but with their keen, if fractured, awareness of human nature, they rarely suffer from disadvantages like Cluelessness.

Examples: Charlie Crews (Life), Bobby Goren (Law and Order: Criminal Intent), Fox Mulder (The X-Files)


Loose Cannon

If there’s any cop character which is a movie staple, it’s the Loose Cannon (Dirty Harry being the most iconic). Just because they got their start in the movies, though, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for them in a cop show. The Loose Cannon is the sort of character who deals out his (very occasionally “her”) own brand of justice in the ad copy, and is the character most likely to lose his temper and beat up a suspect, charge into a building without proper backup, or yell at a member of the brass. This puts the agent under a cloud, but never a dark enough one to get them booted out of the unit, and they’ve earned at least the grudging respect of their immediate superiors by consistently bringing in the bad guys.

Loose Cannons are usually decent investigators, but on a show without other heavily combat-oriented characters, they’ll likely fill that roll with high DX and ST, a higher than usual skill with their sidearms, and (especially) a good skill in Brawling or some other hand-to-hand skill. Advantages like Combat Reflexes work particularly well. Loose Cannons are often the top-billed star, so notable levels in Good Looks are appropriate, as is Sex Appeal. Having either the Bad Temper disadvantage or Overconfidence is obligatory Enemies and Bad Reputation are common due to their antics, but the don’t overlook the possibility of a family full of Dependents. More than any other TV Land cop, the Loose Cannon is likely fueled by a desire to shield their own family from the evils they face on the street every day, and that can cause them to repeatedly lose perspective.

Examples: Elliot Stabler (Law and Order: SVU_), Raylan Givens (_Justified), Mike Kellerman (early seasons of Homicide)


Rookies are not only new to law enforcement, everything about them is defined in terms of their newness. Their abilities, their desire for justice, their troubled or privileged backgrounds all fade next to the fact that they’re just starting out. They need to prove to themselves and to everybody else that they have what it takes to do the job.

In some ways, the most striking thing about Rookies is what they lack: they’re unlikely to have Contacts, or Reputations that are good or bad. They’re unseasoned, and may suffer from Phobias or Combat Paralysis. They’re also frequently na├»ve, so Honesty is a natural fit, and even Clueless isn’t out of the question. Their inexperience will manifest itself with relatively limited skills outside one or two specialties. On the other hand, they’re usually bright, talented investigators in their physical prime, so high IQ, DX, ST and HT are all common, as are physical advantages like Fit. They often have Patrons who have particular faith in their abilities and may be largely responsible for their presence in the FBI.

Examples: Tim Baylis (Homicide), Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs)

Screw Up

Some people just never catch a break, and you’re one of them. Things go wrong all the time in the course of investigations—Bureau vehicles get wrecked during chases, suspects evade capture or escape custody, and routine interviews with prominent political figures turn into fist fights, and somehow, whenever one of these mishaps occurs, you’re involved. It would be nice if you could write off the string of minor disasters that follow in your wake as pure bad fortune, but in your heart you know that most of these things are your fault, because you’re too absentminded, too lazy, too trusting, or maybe just too goddamned clumsy. Worse, it seems like your colleagues know it too, and while they’re always there to pull your ass out of the fire, you can’t shake the feeling they resent it.

Screw-Ups are all about their disadvantages. Whether they’re good in a fight, or an interview room, or a lab, they’re probably pretty bad everywhere else. Perfect Disadvantages include Unluck, Combat Paralysis, Cluelessness and Weirdness Magnet, and if that weren’t bad enough, they usually end up dogged by a Bad Reputation for their inability to do anything without creating a mess. They’re still around for a reason, though, and that reason might include a Patron or just general likeability in the form of Charisma or Sex Appeal. Of course, given the way VASCU works, you might also just be an unusually powerful psychic.

Examples: Meldrick (Homicide)


This isn’t an agent who used to be in the military—-see “Ex-Soldier” for that—-this is an agent who’s been with the FBI, or at least law enforcement, throughout a very long career, and is just a few years away from retirement. Hell, they may already be so old that they should have retired already, but they haven’t. The FBI in general wouldn’t make an exception for a field agent, but VASCU gets special latitude here, as it does everywhere. Maybe that’s why they’re in this dead-end assignment first place. In general, you’ll need some explanation why they haven’t risen higher in the organization, and the obvious reasons involve past wrongdoing, superiors with a grudges, or (most commonly in TV Land) a mixture of the two. A lot of Veterans are former Loose Cannons or Crusaders, but they tend to be just a bit too tired for that now.

Veterans will be highly skilled due to their many years of experience, often with extensive networks of contacts. High IQ, Perception and Charisma are all reasonable, and so are high IQ-based police skills. Physical attributes should be average. In addition to physical disadvantages related to their age, they may have bad reputations and enemies from long years with the agency. Dependents are possible but unlikely, because if they have kids they’re probably already grown. A history of Addiction or Alcoholism in their past may explain why they’re where they are now, but most Veterans will be recovering.

Examples: Lenny Briscoe (Law and Order), Lester Freamon (The Wire), David Rossi (Criminal Minds)

Outsider Archetypes

It can be hard to scrape up enough people who have both psychic abilities and law enforcement backgrounds to staff even a small department like VASCU, and given VASCU’s mission, it’s the psychic abilities that are non-negotiable.

Average Jane (or Joe)

Before the folks in the black suits and sunglasses showed up on your doorstep, you lived a pretty ordinary life. If you had a military background, it involved four years fixing HMMVs for the motor pool, not dropping out of helicopters on zip lines and shooting terrorists with silenced MP5s. If you were an academic, you studied econometrics or Spanish literature, not forensic pathology or the occult traditions of Eastern Europe. Whether it was an ordinary life of 2.5 kids and picket fences, or an ordinary life of entry-level jobs and roommates, but it didn’t involve violent crime, and it sure as hell didn’t involve freaky mental powers. At least, you thought it didn’t involve freaky mental powers, but given how things turned out for you after all the tests and treatments, you really can’t be so sure anymore. Now, you’ve got a badge and a gun that you might even know how to use.

Obviously, you shouldn’t have exceptional combat skills or investigative abilities, but you may have high stats or impressive native abilities, because in TV Land, the Average Jane is rarely so average as all that. Being extremely smart or athletic is possible, but a bit less likely than having lots of Charisma, Sex Appeal and Luck isn’t. A high Will or HT is . An occasionally useful Contact or two is also reasonable. In terms of Disadvantages, you’re unusually likely to have Dependents, and it’s genre appropriate to have Combat Paralysis or Cowardice or particularly inconvenient levels of Honesty or Pacifism. On the other hand, it’s just as genre appropriate to have advantages like Unfazeable, Toughness and Hard to Kill, and Jane Average might even have True Faith.





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