The Con Man

Category: Archetype of the Week
Created on Thursday, 10 December 2009 Written by Steve

The Con Man specializes in finding people who want something for nothing and giving them nothing for something. When most people think of a con man, they imagine a ruthless criminal who steals money from little old ladies. While this is sometimes the case, the little old ladies aren't always blameless. In addition to exploiting the mark's trust, most cons also exploit their greed. Some con artists specialize in "short cons"--simple jobs that don't require much investment but also don't have high returns. Others prefer the "long con," which can require weeks or months of elaborate set-up, dozens of accomplices, and considerable working capital.

Likely Stories
Like most other criminal archetypes, con men have been around for as long as the concept of ownership and can therefore be found in nearly any type of setting. Also like most other criminal types, they are most commonly found in action and crime stories.

The Name Game
In addition to new aliases for nearly every job, most con men maintain several false identities. One of these will be the name that they use when dealing with other con men and, in some cases, the name they are known by among the law enforcement community. This "working name" is often a nickname and is very rarely the grifter's real name. The only con artists who user their real names are those who engage in white collar crime or semi-legal business deals.

The Numbers
Con artists rely heavily on social skills, so Nerve will be their most important Number. Since a good Brain is needed to plan out the con, it's Number will be a close second to Nerve, especially for those who prefer to focus on long cons. Body is the leas important Word, but can come in very handy if a scheme goes wrong.

Suggested Jobs: Accountant, Beggar, Broker, Card Sharp, Con Artist, Counterfeiter, Developer, Embezzler, Extortionist, Fixer, Grifter, Hustler, Inside Man, Investment Banker, Lawyer, Politician, Psychic Surgeon, Ringer, Roper, Scammer, Self-Help Guru, Snake Oil Salesman, Spy, Swindler, Televangelist, White Collar Criminal

Suggested Gimmicks: Citizen of the World, Contacts, Deep Pockets, Fake ID Collection, Friends in High Places, Friends in Low Places, Grift Sense, Honest Face, Knows a Guy, Ladies' Man, Photographic Memory, Reputation, Smooth Talker

Suggested Weaknesses: Addiction, Bad Luck, Cop Magnet, Easy Come Easy Go, Enemies, Getting Too Old For This Shit, Grifter's Code, Hubris, OCD, Supersitious, Victim of the Past, Wanted Man,

Suggested Skills: Acting, Appraise, Blackmail, Business, Change Raising, Counterfeiting, Disguise, Eavesdropping, Expense Report Padding, Fast Talking, Firearms, Forgery, Gambling, Insurance Fraud, Internet Scams, Panhandling, Phishing, Pickpocket, Real Estate Scams, Secret Agent, Seduction, Self-Defense, Sleight of Hand, Tax Fraud

WWPHITM? Dirk Benedict, Annette Bening, Adrien Brody, Edward Burns, Michael Caine, Nicholas Cage, Robbie Coltraine, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Danny DeVito, Leonardo DiCaprio, Minnie Driver, Stephen Fry, Paul Giomatti, Robert Glenister, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman, Josh Harnett, Dustin Hoffman, Angelica Huston, Eddie Izzard, Adrian Lester, Alison Lohman, Rinko Kikuchi, Steve Martin, Jay Mohr, Bill Murray, Jaime Murray, Paul Newman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Pollack, Robert Redford, Carl Reiner, Christina Ricci, Sam Rockwell, Tim Roth, Alan Rickman, Mark Ruffallo, Maximillian Schell, Kevin Spacey, Robert Vaughn, Marc Warren, Sigourney Weaver, Rachel Weisz

Tag Line: "Mickey: You see, the first rule of the con…
Stacie: …is you can’t cheat an honest man.
Danny: It’s never been done.
Albert: Can’t happen.
Ash: Impossible."--Hustle

Tools of the Trade: Simple cons can be pulled without any special equipment, but some scams will require special props, forged papers or identification, and other items to add veracity to the story. Particularly elaborate long cons are sort of like making a movie, requiring locations, set dressing, costumes, props, and even extras.

Where You'll Find Him: Unless they're engaging in quasi-legal forms of fraud, most con men move from town to town to avoid being caught or running out of potential marks. If a con man does have a permanent residence, he will not use it as a base of operations and may not even live there when actively working as doing so could reveal his true identity. When they're working, the con artists first order of business is finding a mark, which means spending time in places where people who can be exploited are likely to be found. Whether marks are recruited at shady bars or posh country clubs depends on the individual con man's style and means. Once a mark is found, the con man will establish whatever locations are necessary to pull off the job.

Social Circle: Other con men. While some cons can be pulled off by a single person, most require accomplices. Additionally, some con men cultivate a network of informants who can point them to likely marks.

Sample Character
James Bolivar "Slippery Jim" diGriz
Body:
13
Brain: 14
Nerve: 15
Job: Stainless Steel Rat (16)
Gimmick: Resourceful (13)
Weakness: Code of Honor (Hates to kill; Only steals from those who deserve it or are insured) (13)
Skills: Disguise +3; Martial Arts +2; Stealth +1
WWPHITM? George Clooney
Dumb Fact: Speaks Esperanto
Tag Line: "We must be as stealthy as rats in the wainscoting of their society. It was easier in the old days, of course, and society had more rats when the rules were looser, just as old wooden buildings have more rats than concrete buildings. But there are rats in the building now as well. Now that society is all ferrocrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps in the joints. It takes a very smart rat indeed to find these openings. Only a stainless steel rat can be at home in this environment."
HP: 13
YY: 4

Inspirational Materials
Books
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (The Duke and the Dauphin)
American Gods (Neil Gaiman) (Odin and Loki)
The Stainless Steel Rat series, Harry Harrison
Movies & TV
The A-Team (Face)
The Brothers Bloom
Catch Me If You Can
Confidence
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Heartbreakers
Hustle
The Grifters
Lucky Number Slevin
Matchstick Men
The Riches
The Sting
The Usual Suspects (Verbal Kent)
Music
"Big Hat, No Cattle," Randy Newman
"Jesus He Knows Me," Genesis
"Miracle Man," Ozzy Osbourne
"Mr. Bad Example," Warren Zevon
"Seminole Bingo," Warren Zevon
"Snake Oil,' Steve Earle & The Dukes
People
Frank Abagnale, Jr.
Bernie Madoff
George C. Parker
Charles Ponzi

 

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The Con Man.
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