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Author Topic: The Spy Who Summoned Me  (Read 11024 times)
jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« on: February 08, 2002, 02:12:39 PM »

So with the release of AEG's Spycraft just around the corner I've been thinking about Spy Thriller RPGs.  For a long while now I've been dying for a really good Spy Thriller RPG.  I'm particularly fond of the Over-The-Top larger than life stuff that specializes in very human but extraordinarly strange villains such as the James Bond films and the original Avengers TV Show.   When I look at the obvious love and care that has gone into Spycraft I weep that it's built on the d20 System and so will in all likelyhood completely exhaust and frustrate me to no end if I actually try to play it.

So naturally, I turned to the most flexible game I own.  Sorcerer.  But I haven't really had a lot of luck.  What would you make a demon?  How is Humanity defined?  For fun I doodled some neat vehicle chase mechanics but so far nothing with substance.  So I thought I'd turn to you guys.  

Has anyone thought of doing this?  Are the general themes of Spy Thrillers even compatible with those explored by Sorcerer?

Jesse
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2002, 02:31:33 PM »

Well I hope Ron will forgive me for plugging another game in his forum, but if you're looking for a somewhat left of center romp that has the flexibility of the Sorcerer game system you might want to check out Clinton's Donjon Krawl over in the design forum.  It uses the basic Sorcerer die mechanics to do traditional fantasy hack, but I can immediately see its applications to a Bond-esque game.
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erithromycin
Member

Posts: 159


« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2002, 03:26:30 PM »

Rather than fix the post, I'll tell the truth. I had an idea, and as I wrote it, I had more. This is just stuck here to ask you to gloss over any seeming inconsistencies.

--

I'd been thinking a little on these lines for a cyberpunk game, but hey, sharing's what we're on the electronical interweb for, non?

Daemons come in three flavours:

Networks [Inconspicuous], Agents [Passing] and Objects.

Networks are daemons, see? They have Needs [be it favours, money, information, protection, goodness only knows what], Power [a variety of Hint that I think should be called Provide], and tell-tales, be it a hand signal, or a frequency, or a particular letter-drop. There are even rituals around them. Desires are easy enough, really. Do this, do that, start WWIII, make money from Columbian Drug Deals.

When a Network goes Conspicuous [Inspiration! Overt and Covert] it can be anything from a girl on a scooter dropping off a parcel to a rack of guys in neat uniforms fastroping out of a helicopter.

Agents are spies, a bit like you, only they're in situations. One works in the enemy's communication centre, another is a mole in the premier's cabinet, others, perhaps, are double agents, bound to more than one sorceror [this is another design note]. Needs and Desires

Objects are just that. Sorry, a bit dull.

Other things:

Provide is how good a Network is at getting you what you need. I'm not sure how it'd work, but it's likely somewhere around Hint in terms of effect, but more often useful.

Agents can become Double, or Triple agents, by being 'bound' by more than one Sorcerous spy.

Thinking on it, perhaps there's an equivalent to Networks in the form of Situations? They're perhaps a sort of realpolitik possessor that causes badness. So you could actually go and deal with a Situation by Containing it. Just a thought. So, oops, four flavours. There you go. Unless you make Parasite daemons something like [Inspiration] Conditioning be it physical or mental.

So, your sorcerous spies are more akin to Handlers [there's your name Jesse, if you want it].

Think Smiley's People, or perhaps James Earl Jones' character in Patriot Games and, hell, every spy fixer ever. Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger, M, rather than James Bond, and so on. Damn. I want to play.

drew[/b]
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2002, 08:22:48 PM »

Before everyone goes bongo-overboard here with "Let's make demons and sorcerers into [insert idea here]," I hasten to point out that without the Humanity mechanic at the center of things, you aren't really playing Sorcerer anymore.

So, let's hear it...what are those Humanity ideas?  How does the moral struggle relate to being a spy (or whatnot), how do the mechanics of power work in this instance?  Which is, after all, what Sorcerer is founded on...heck, what it's all about.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Joe Murphy (Broin)
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Posts: 178


« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2002, 09:03:26 PM »

Good point, Raven.

How about the new 'Alias' show, where a character loses a loved one? Or the 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' where Bond marries, and then loses his wife (5 minutes later, ack, great scene)?

Humanity is, in a sense, Innocence. That's not quite the right word for it. It's the ability to do what you have to do without being falling apart. Without burning out. You lose points for the demands your Network makes on you, or when your life of espionage needs a sacrifice, eg, a death in the family. Or when you have to up and leave your wife of 20 years, who had no idea what you were.

Self-deception. That's it. It's the ability to be fine and dandy with multiple lives, and to lie to your girlfriend about your 'international sales' dayjob. When the lies start becoming glaringly obvious, your sense of self goes to shit.

Brr. I don't like Sorceror. Brr.

Joe.
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hardcoremoose
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 669


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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2002, 10:47:00 PM »

Eloran and I designed a game a few years back called The Keys of Solomon.  The premise was sort of "What if the Cold War wasn't about nuclear escalation?  What if the arms race had isntead been a race to see which global power could obtain the most occult power?"

All discussion about real Cold War politics should effectively end now; I couldn't possibly extend it beyond that basic statement.

But the idea still interests me, and I think it's an idea ripe for a Sorcerer game.  There's even a book out there with some of the same ideas; it's called The Beast That Was Max, and although I haven't read it yet, it seems to be very much in the Sorcerer vein.

- Scott
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erithromycin
Member

Posts: 159


« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2002, 07:21:03 AM »

I'm an idiot, greyorm. Oops. I was writing that, trying to figure out what I was forgetting, and it was, of course, Humanity.

Doh.

I like your suggestion Joe, using Humanity as a means of tracking self deception and the like. How about calling it self?

It's your ability to remain who you are. Bond's got it high, but Col. Kurtz loses it all. Neat. So you forget your wife's name. You forget who you are. Hell, it would make Face/Off work, in a way. Eeeh. Icky kicker.

Speaking of which, what kind of things would they be?

Kickers clearly can't be missions, because that's what the Needs of Networks and the like become. Nastier ones, I suppose.

Alias [which we don't yet have in this country] would be 'Your father is a double agent, and now, so are you', from what I gather.

24 [which we also don't have in blighty, yet] would be "A terrorist organisation has your daughter, and is planning something big."

Hmm. I'm noticing, from these two anyway, quite an aspect of family. So the real them may well be

How close are you willing to come to losing your loved ones to protect them?

That's just harsh.

I wanna play! I wanna play!

drew
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2002, 07:27:52 AM »

The spy idea is cool.

Make humanity TRUST

How much you trust your orgnaization... how much they trust you... how much you trust the ones you love... how much you trust how you percieve reality.


In other words...


Add in equal parts The Prisoner to your Bond and Averngers coctail.  If you want to be nasty, throw in some Naked Lunch

Play the paranoia up in spades, add surealistic element to the adventures (tap a bit of that wonky Aeon Flux animated series for loopy character convolutions and complications).

Can the characters trust their bosses?  Each other?  Their Demons?  Their idealogy?  Reality itself?  

Or do they end up living out their lives on a nice island somewhere, patrolled by wierd floating capture ballons...
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
Member

Posts: 178


« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2002, 07:30:35 AM »

Quote from: erithromycin

I like your suggestion Joe, using Humanity as a means of tracking self deception and the like. How about calling it self?

It's your ability to remain who you are. Bond's got it high, but Col. Kurtz loses it all. Neat. So you forget your wife's name. You forget who you are. Hell, it would make Face/Off work, in a way. Eeeh. Icky kicker.



Yup, it's quite like the madness track for 'Self' in Unknown Armies. You lose points when you realise that a lie you told yourself just isn't working anymore. 'True Lies' has a nice example of that too, though it's not exactly a keen pschologically observant movie.

(Humanity 0 - The Prisoner? Oooooh)

Quote

Speaking of which, what kind of things would they be?

How close are you willing to come to losing your loved ones to protect them?



Yup, it'd be good to ground Kickers in relatively everyday life. You just fell in love, you just got married, you just found out your wife is cheating on you, etc.  

Or... Kickers question loyalty. You just found out that your boss may work for Department 6. In a sense, there's no point in playing a completely loyal spy. Most tension in spy movies comes from the tension between loyalty/disloyalty.

Joe.
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erithromycin
Member

Posts: 159


« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2002, 08:10:33 AM »

If Humanity 0 was the prisoner then we'd all be in trouble.

Perhaps Trust isn't quite the right thing, but it's closer than Self.

[Inspiration! Ooh! Ron, can we have a lightbulb smiley?]

What's the opposite of Paranoia?

Security!

How safe you feel. Effectively, the smaller your Humanity, the more paranoid you are. It fits too. The more Networks you're involved in, the more likely you are to see things that are round the corner, people watching you, lose track of where you are in the world, get closer to retiring, or, more worryingly, retired. The smaller your security the more you attempt to shore it up, by dealing with situations that might come to involve you, by rolling up [banishing] rival networks, by destroying agents, by getting closer and closer to being a loose cannon.

Well, I like it.

The real doohickey though, is that there's another use for Security.

Would it be fair to render it almost as a stat, one which you used to cope with situations? The higher your Security, the more confident you are in your own abilities. Bond has it in spades [probably, to be honest in double figures]. The Prisoner has it at, ooh, one, two? George Smiley might not have any any more, and as he gets back into the game he regains it.

So there's a new idea.

I like the Kickers thing, but here's a suggestion.

Situations aren't Kickers [though I do like the idea of making them daemons, because it amuses me to Contain them].

I don't know why I mentioned that there.

Right. Kickers.

Yes. Some sort of thing, that, as Ron put it, changes the situation.

You're a spy, with a double life. What if one of them ceases to be?

That's been Bond's kicker since the first film, just about. He has had no personal life [ooh! What if that's a Network too?] until he got married, and then, well, she died.

You, as a spy, are the connection between two worlds that don't belong together. [how sorcerer is that?].

What happens when they cross?

There's your kickers.

drew
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2002, 08:57:41 AM »

Woops, hang on... I'm suddenly confused...

Let me go back a reread...

Ok...  I was confused there for a sec, I there are in fact two (or more) semi-divergent ideas rocking around in here.

jburneko's

Quote
I'm particularly fond of the Over-The-Top larger than life stuff that specializes in very human but extraordinarly strange villains such as the James Bond films and the original Avengers TV Show.


and

erithromycin's

Quote
I'd been thinking a little on these lines for a cyberpunk game, but hey, sharing's what we're on the electronical interweb for, non?

Daemons come in three flavours:

Networks [Inconspicuous], Agents [Passing] and Objects







I initialy read this post, and thought "ah, supernatural secret agents!  cool, more secret than MI6, more dangerous than the KGP, better financed than the CIA...and with a demon for a partner."

I was thinking occult espionage.  

The idea of making situations and organizations into demons abstracts things a bit too much for me... I have trouble relating to demons if they arn't at least somewhat personal.  I was also still keyed into my 'historical sorcerer' thing using a WWII occult intelligence agancy as the jumping off point (mix in HELLBOY with that Avengers, Bond, and Prisoner).



So are we talking about spys with demons or making the normal mundane elements of a spy's life INTO demons?  'Real' supernatural creatures, or metaphorical ones?
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erithromycin
Member

Posts: 159


« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2002, 09:17:09 AM »

Oh. I'm getting carried away with my Daemons are things thing, rather than the usual daemons are daemons thing.

Yes, the hellboy approach is cool, hell I love the guy myself, and there's Hellblazer and all that other stuff too.

That's cool, but it's not odd enough for me.

When I play/run sorcerer, my daemons are rarely daemons. They're networks, and the like. They function in the same way, because what ron has given us is a set of rules that characterise interactions between people and entities with powers between those of people and gods. The classical, etymogical, original definition of daemons.

For me, sorcerer is about dealing with powers greater and more dangerous than ourselves. That's why _what_ daemons are intrigues me, and why I play with the concept so often.

There's no reason why occult espionage wouldn't work [though it might tread on ground daemon cops does], what I'm really after is turning spying into a scary place full of monsters.

I mean, come on. What's more terrifying? Facing down a KGB assassin with an animated garrote in an alleyway, or standing alone, in a dark room talking to a mirrored wall, trying to justify your actions and hoping that the hissing noise in your ears isn't poison gas, but residual tinnitus, knowing that if you do get out of this alive your employer's going to send you back into danger, and meanwhile, you've got to earn a bonus so you can get Samantha's braces because the medical plan doesn't cover them, but there was that offer in Prague that you didn't tell Section about, and all you'd need to do is put that box somewhere in the Compound, and you could take Margaret on holiday, for the first time since your honeymoon, or, if it came down to it, pay for the divorce, and we all know what happens if you can't pay for the divorce, just look at Jorgenson and his wife, when it turned out he was taking those Red List missions just to get away from the arguments, and when the enemy forcibly debriefed him it looked like he was trying to kill himself so she'd get death benefits, but Section got hold of it and reclassified that ambush in Caracas as suicide, and she didn't get anything, not even the house, and I wonder if I've got time to get some flowers and stick them by the plaque or if I should get the flowers anyway and give them to Margaret, and "Yes Section, I was aware of the risk but as the mission profile stated civilian casualties were acceptable, as long as the operation itself was not compromised", and I wonder who was in the Superbowl, I used to love football.

Ahem.

Yes, I'm talking about turning the "normal mundane elements of a spy's life INTO demons".

Metaphorical monsters tend to be scarier.

drew
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
joshua neff
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2002, 09:21:25 AM »

I like the "metaphorical monsters" spy idea. Networks, contacts, gadgets...very, very cool. I'd prefer that over the "occult spy" thing myself (& I generally like occult-y stuff). Nice use of the Sorcerer rules without being limited to the idea of demons as literal demons.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
erithromycin
Member

Posts: 159


« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2002, 11:17:47 AM »

Covers may prove an issue.

Unless it's simply a measure of how good you are at being someone else?

Oh. Wait. I've just had a genius idea.

Your 'Covers' on ops are Parasites. They provide a modicum of Cover themselves, but have needs and desires of their own. The better researched and backgrounded an Identity is [with documents, dossiers, and the like], the more likely it is to be something you can cope with. Anyway, that seems to be the bulk of it.

Though you could throw in the Pact stuff from Sword, because a lot of it would probably help, especially with regard to other networks.

So, Jesse, in answer your questions:

Yes, I, at least, have thought of doing this, but only a little. All this is what happens when you give this forum a ball to run with.

Yes, the general themes of Spy Thrillers are compatible with Sorcerer, as long as you look in the right places, at the Human costs of this kind of life.

In fact, most things are probably compatible with Sorcerer. You just have to find the daemons. That's perhaps the most important thing I've seen in Sorcerer. Ron's given us, as I said, a set of rules for the interactions between people and entities more powerful than themselves. All you need to do then is find out what those entities are.

That's half the fun, so yeah, Jeff, it is nice. After all daemons are a metaphor. Might as well use them as such, eh?

Anyway, to go back to your initial point Jesse, what are your neat chase mechanics?

What kind of spy game were you thinking of running?

What do you think? Is what we've been discussing here capable of meeting your needs [because I sure as hell want to use it], or do you want something lighter?

Oh. Hang on. I'll go reread your post.

Ok. Well, maybe you could make their bases daemons? I think if you wanted to do an almost cartoony game like that you could use Sword, and then most everything falls into place.

Daemons are henchmen, gadgets, and glamorous assistants. You banish henchmen by defeating them in combat, gadgets require a demonstration for you to bind them, and you sleep with the bond girls to get them to change sides. Sometimes it doesn't work. Humanity would then be almost redundant. Hmm. Perhaps you could use it to represent confidence? A bit like Will, I suppose, but there's likely enough gap. Especially if you could add it to key rolls.

I'm going to stop now. I've got a game to write for tonight. Hmm. Unless I make them play Handlers.

drew
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2002, 01:54:08 PM »

To each his own.

It just seems like using the sorcerer/demon thing to represent spy situations with no supernatural element... well, it just seems like a redundant convulution.  I mean, if you want ALL the above mentioned spy elemtents in a pure spy game... it seems like any number of existing espionage friendly games would do the job without needing to bend the definitions of the game over backwards to fit.

Yes, I can cut up a Picasso and paste it together so it makes a neat collage... but is it worth it?

If you are talking about adapting the MECHANICS of sorcerer to another kind of game entirely, well no problem.  The die mechanics works quite well.  But I hardly think trying to warp the demon rules to fit abstract and unrelated situations is... well... to be frank... even required.  

Simply, I don't think the demon metaphore- especialy as framed by Ron- is entirely relevent.  Do you bind a gadget?  Not a good fit.  Banish an enemy agent?  Again, it seems like a stretch.  It makes a fair metaphore, but in actual play it just seems like it would be a pain in the ass.


To use the mechanics for an over-the-top Bond style spygame, a quick and dirty rename & conversion might be in order:

Scores

Action:  physical stuff; fighting, skiing, sky diving.  
Cool:  Confidence, Witty one-liners, seduction, lieing, seeing through lies
FX:  stunts.  Ability to sieze the scene and do crazy stuff

Derived Scores

Rank:  equal to best score; represents what kind of gadgets, how much influence, and what kind of help the agent can draw on.

Secrets:  starts at 1.  If Secrets ever rises above Rank, you get Shiped of to The Island.  You gain Secrets when you do TOO well.

Cypher:  just how SECRET are you?  Like cover, but never really rolled.  It starts equal to your best score, but tends to get worse as you get more famous.  Occasionaly getting plastic surgery or faking your own death helps increase it.  






Don't even worry about the demons.  Everything that this could cover is just an element of actual play, not relegated to rules.  If you want a darker style spy game, then just screw the players over more often.  It's all about tone.  

Also, I hate redundancy.


Anyhow, as I said, to each.. etc.
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