The Small-Time Crook

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The small-time crook is a person who relies on illegal activities to make a living, but doesn’t have the abilities, resources, or imagination to pull off a big score. Some small-time crooks specialize in a particular brand of illicit activity—for example, drug dealing or stealing cars—but most will take any opportunity to make a quick buck if they think they can make a clean getaway. Small-time crooks often act as footsoldiers for mafia families, street gangs, and other criminal organizations.

Likely Stories

Small-time crooks are most frequently found in crime and action movies, but since every society includes people who prey off of others, they can be found in any type of game.

The Name Game

Many criminal gangs recruit most of their members from a particular ethnic group, so small-time crooks who work for a gang may have appropriately ethnic-sounding names. Like most underworld types, small-time crooks frequently have colorful nicknames that describe their personality, abilities, physical traits, or criminal history.

The Numbers

A small-time crook’s Numbers will depend on the types of criminal activities he usually gets involved in. Those whose work relies on stealth or physical force (muggers, burglars, etc.) will need a high Body Number. Criminals whose income depends on effectively dealing with people (con men and drug dealers, for example) will need to focus more on Nerve. Small-time crooks are not criminal masterminds (if they were, they’d be big-time crooks) and usually have average or lower Brain Numbers.

Suggested Jobs: Associate, Bandit, Blackmailer, Bookie, Bootlegger, Car Thief, Career Criminal, Counterfeiter, Coyote, Delinquent, Dirty Cop, Drug Dealer, Drug Mule, Drugstore Cowboy, Enforcer, Fence, Gang Banger, Getaway Driver, Gun Runner, Hatchet Man, Henchman, Hell’s Angel, Hoodlum, Hustler, Junkie, Kidnapper, Loan Shark, Mugger, Pickpocket, Pimp, Pot Farmer, Prostitute, Prowler, Robber, Ruffian, Safecracker, Shoplifter, Smuggler, Snake Oil Salesman, Sneak Thief, Swindler, Thief, Thug

Gimmicks: Car-Fu, Clean Record, Connected, Friends in Low Places, Good Lawyer, Gun-Fu, Hard Boiled, Hard to Kill, Hide in Plain Sight, Knows a Guy, Ladies’ Man, Smooth Talker, Stand-Up Guy

Weaknesses: Addiction, After-School Special Waiting to Happen, Bad Reputation, Bad Luck, Can’t Win for Losing, Cop Magnet, Cowardly, Criminal Record, Debt, Enemies, Getting Too Old For This Shit, On Parole, Publik Sculed, Rat, Robin Hood Complex, Superstitious, Victim of the Past, Wanted Man

Skills: ATM Scamming, Brawling, Breaking & Entering, Contacts, Drive-By, Drug Lore, Evade Pursuit, Fast Talk, Firearms, Forgery, Gambling, Graffiti Art, Intimidation, Knife Fighting, Lockpicking, Make Meth, Money Laundering, Pop Culture Trivia, Poker, Police Procedure, Pool, Racketeering, Rap Music, Security Systems, Stealth, Street Cred, Stunt Driving

WWPHITM? Danny Aiello, Rosanna Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Nicholas Cage, Helena Bonham Carter, Ice Cube, John Cusack, Benicio del Toro, Robert DeNiro, Johnny Depp, Laura Dern, Angie Dickenson, Mattt Dillon, Robert Downey Jr., Mike Epps, Vivica A. Fox, Gina Gershon, John Goodman, Pam Grier, Woody Harrelson, Emile Hirsch, Dennis Hopper, Vinnie Jones, Johnny Knoxville, Denis Leary, Jason Lee, John Leguizamo, Juliette Lewis, Ray Liotta, Kelly Lynch, William H. Macy, Michael Madsen, Edward Norton, Gary Oldman, Timothy Olyphant, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Jeremy Piven, Amanda Plummer, Kevin Pollak, Sarah Polley, Christina Ricci, Chris Rock, Sam Rockwell, Michelle Rodriquez, Tim Roth, Mickey Rourke, Tom Sizemore, Jason Statham, Ethan Suplee, Billy Bob Thornton, Justin Timberlake, Marisa Tomei, Danny Trejo, Liv Tyler, Melvin Van Peebles, Chrisopher Waulken, Chow Yun-Fat

Tag Line: “I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash ya got.”—H.I. McDunnough, Raising Arizona

Tools of the Trade: The equipment needed by a small-time crook will depend on what sorts of criminal activities he involves himself in. Regardless of the job, however, small-time criminals usually have to make due with common, easily-attainable equipment. They simply can’t afford the high-tech, fancy stuff that cat burglars and other big-time crooks use. Small-time crooks are usually armed.

Where You’ll Find Him: The wrong side of the tracks: trailer parks, slums, dive bars, strip clubs. If the average person rolls up the windows and locks the doors when driving through, the small-time crook probably considers it home.

Social Circle: Mostly other crooks and lowlifes. Repeat offenders will also know local beat cops, judges, and parole officers, but it is unlikely they will be on the best of terms with any of these.

Sample Character


Body: 12

Brain: 14

Nerve: 13

Job: Drug Dealer (14)

Gimmick: The Dude Abides (11)

Weakness: Dazed & Confused (11)

Skills: Pop Culture Trivia +3; Contacts +2; First Aid +1

WWPHITM? Eric Stoltz

Dumb Fact: Eats Fruit Brute cereal

Tag Line: “Look, you brought her here, and that means that you’re giving her the shot. The day that I bring an OD-ing bitch over to your house, then I’ll give her the shot. Give her the shot.”

HP: 12

YY: 2

Inspirational Material


Brian Michael Bendis

Raymond Chandler

Max Allan Collins

Kinky Friedman

Dashiell Hammett

Elmore Leonard

Mario Puzo

Mickey Spillane

Books and Comics

Big Trouble by Dave Barry

Crime SuspenStories by EC Comics

The Damned by Cullen Bunn

Gangland by Garth Ennis

Hitman series by Garth Ennis

Lankhmar series by Fritz Lieber

Shock SuspenStories by EC Comics

Sin City by Frank Miller

Thieves World series

Movies & TV

Alpha Dog


Big Trouble (Snake Dupree and Eddie Leadbetter)

Dog Day Afternoon

Drugstore Cowboy

Fargo (Carl and Gaear)



Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Harry Lockheart)

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (especially Garry and Dean)

The Long Kiss Goodnight (Mitch Henessey)

Menace II Society

My Name Is Earl

Next Day Air

Pulp Fiction

Raising Arizona (H.I., The Snoats Brothers)

Reservoir Dogs

Sin City


The Sopranos

The Usual Suspects

Way of the Gun

Wild Things

The Wire



The Clash

Johnny Cash

Steve Earle

Robert Earl Keen


The Refreshments

Bruce Springsteen

Hank Williams III

Warren Zevon