Tag Archive for espionage

The Imposters anthology

My microgame LOVEINT has been expanded and revised to be included in The Imposters anthology, currently on Kickstarer. If you like any of my games, or any weird little games about conspiracies and paranoia, then you should consider backing it.

Al Amarja Today!

al amarja today logo
I wanted to GM a short campaign of Over the Edge, the classic rpg of surreal conspiracies. The biggest problem with the game, I figured, was that there was no clear core activity for the PCs to pursue as a group. So I decided to frame the game with the PCs as journalists, working for Al Amarja Today! (the island’s leading newspaper). this gives them a good reason to work together, and a good reason to go poking into every weird conspiracy and event on the island.

Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I rewrote the actual rules from scratch. Again. This new version bears basically zero resemblance to the last time I rewrote Over the Edge. I borrowed significantly from tinyFate, Archipelago III, Itras By, Gumshoe and Small World to make a totally new system:

Al Amarja Today
Al Amarja answer cards

So far, playtests indicate that seven is too many players for me to handle with this game, but not much else. I’m really unsure on the number of traits people get, the number of available answers, the ratio of Yes and No cards, etc. These all could be off wildly, but only further playtesting will let us know.


LOVEINT (noun) 1. The slang term used by the NSA surveillance analysts to refer to the misuse and abuse of intelligence capabilities to observe the activities of romantic rivals, potential or former lovers. 2. The 200 word RPG I wrote about the same.

Operation CD Kingfisher-3

Operation CD-Kingfisher-3 is my entry into the annual One Page Dungeon Contest for 2013. It is a system free espionage adventure. It would probably work great in World of Secrets.

World of Secrets

world of secrets

World of Secrets is my attempt to hack John Harper’s excellent World of Dungeons into doing something it wasn’t intended to do, like running a low-key, morally ambiguous espionage drama. Can your team infiltrate the Pakistani embassy in Paris, get access to their computers and get out before their security notices? Will paranoia and mistrust tear your team apart? Will your life as a spy make it impossible to live a life as a regular human being?

[D&D] Tao Zi, Githzerai Avenger

Tao Zi is my current D&D 4e PC, a Githzerai Avenger who has been exiled to the mortal world for mysterious reasons.

[D&D 4e] Amaranthus Hawkweed, Pixie Ranger

It’s not his fault that the raid on Cripple’s Gate went wrong, but he’s fighting as best as he can to get back to the Feywild and get his rookie subordinate fixed up.

Amaranthus has been doing this sort of thing for too long, and he’s getting too old for this shit.

Amaranthus Hawkweed is a PC I made for a friend’s Halloween gaming session. The first page has Amaranthus’s out-of-combat abilities, then the second has his in-combat abilities. And then you get his too-long backstory, and some life sized pictures of Amaranthus and his wounded charge Bilberry.

[Reviews of Games that Don’t Exist] Allegory Mystery

There’s a thread on Story-Games.com where people write reviews of RPGs that don’t exist. I have had way too much fun writing a couple of these, and wanted to preserve them here. Here’s one:

Tom the Dancing Bug’s Allegory Mystery RPG (featuring Billy Dare)

Allegory Mystery at first looks like a Sea Dracula knockoff. Cartoon characters, absurdity, mystery investigation, the whole deal. Only this time we have humanoid cartoon characters, a la Tintin, and recursive literary meta-critique replacing the dance contest. The game is probably bet summarized as “House of Leaves meets Scooby Doo.” I don’t know if that clarifies anything, though.

It’s the last part that really causes problems. You’re supposed to have your PCs symbolize the subtext of their own story in order to manipulate the outcome towards the end that you want. So suppose you want to have your teenage spy clamber across the Berlin Wall. (The setting is “somewhere in the 20th century”. Nazis, Communists and bomb throwing anarchists all appear as antagonists.) You might accomplish this by explaining how your protagonist represents youthful optimism triumphing over cynicism. Or you might argue that crossing the Berlin Wall back into West Berlin is analogous to the Hero’s homecoming at the end of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Your opponent, however, might argue that your job as a spy is symbolic of a larger morally ambiguous world of international politics, or that the Berlin Wall represents the fundamental divisions between humans: you will never fully know or understand anyone you meet. Either interpretation implies the same thing for the story: you fail to make it over the wall and be reunited with your girlfriend, and instead you are shot dead by the border guards.

So you and anyone else involved gives their critique of the story so far (in character), then the group decides which interpretation is correct and the story unfolds from there (“Haha, you neglected to pay attention to the neo-Marxist subtext of your own soliloquy. Victory is mine!”). The rules are unfortunately a bit vague on what happens if the group can’t agree on which is the right interpretation, which is quite unfortunate.

I’m real keen on trying this out in play, but the rest of my group is wary. They want the meta-critique to be encompassed in a more traditional mechanics like Sea Dracula’s dance-off. “Why can’t we have a yodeling contest, and the winner can then describe their analysis of the story?” they ask. I tried to explain to them that literary analysis is really just another performance art, but they didn’t buy that.

(Even if I did get them to play, I know one guy would be going for Jesus allegories everywhere. Biblical parallels are broken, yo.)

Still, it seems like a cool system. I’m working on a hack to run Doctor Who as the triumph of romance and intellect over brute force and cynicism. Now I just have to convince my friends to play it.

Shakespeare 2985

SHAKESPEARE 2985 is a game I wrote for Graham Walmsley’s Alternative Game Chef. It’s a science fiction espionage murder mystery do-it-yourself alternate reality game about interpreting poetry and failing thermal dampeners.

Yeah, I guess it’s a bit odd.

Fortune Cookies and Nuclear War

Fortune Cookies and Nuclear War
Fortune Cookies and Nuclear War – booklet form

An attempt to write a roleplaying game in a single paragraph. After writing, I determined that a few line breaks would improve readability. Nonetheless, it’s short enough for you to print 9 or so copies on a page, and print them out on cardstock and get something close to business card sized. Then you can carry it around in your wallet, until you’re bored in a Chinese restaurant. Or stick it as a sticker on the wall of your favorite Chinese restaurant. Or insert in the menus.

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