Friday, May 20, 2011

Genre Mining: A Team of Specialists

In an attempt to complete many of my interrupted series, here's the last of my campaign premises for the espionage genre.

Three, Four, or More

Well, unless you're a smaller gaming group this isn't really a choice. If everyone wants to play a continuing character (rather than the 'guest-star' option which you should really reserve for players who show up late or are unpredictable in their attendance), then you've gotta take the team of specialists approach.

In this approach, different members of the team have certain specializations that they're awesome at, and other areas that they're not so hot at. Ideally, the team should be well-rounded so that all the missions have all the bases covered.

I only really have one TV example that really comes to mind right now.

Mission: Impossible

A game based on the campaign premise inspired by this TV show will need the following archetypes:

The Mastermind -- this is the role that Dan Briggs had in the 1st season, and Jim Phelps had in all subsequent incarnations until he was unceremoniously killed off in the modern movie series. He is the primary contact with the folks handing out missions, puts together his Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team from a list of specialists, and does the core planning for the mission.

This role can be one of the players who really likes planning things out, or it can be an NPC who essentially lays out the details of the mission that the rest of the PCs have to enact.

The Face -- a beautiful woman who's also a fast thinker and capable of keeping in character, this role performed by top model and actress Cinnamon Carter (descendant of John Carter? Nah…) when she would essentially lower the guard of the powerful male figures either as a flirtatious woman of substance or as a sophisticated damsel in distress.

There is a certain immunity to the criticism that some women might raise about a female spy being so beautiful that this role imparts: part of the role's requirement is being a femme fatale! She can't be plain looking or merely attractive (unless the mission role calls for it); she must be attention grabbing. And this normally requires it being more that skin deep: charisma, social skills, and class are also a requirement.

Of course, the other roles which were traditionally filled with males can certainly be shifted to female ones.

Gadget Guy -- an expert in electronics and mechanics, apparently with sufficient access to difficult-to-get materials, would build all the necessary gear for implementing this portion of the mission. This was the role of "Barney" Collier.

To prevent this role from becoming a "build and turnover" type of role, the type of gear he builds should probably require him to operate them or perhaps have some kind of inherent fragility, necessitating his presence for fixes or tweaks.

Strong Man -- ostensibly the muscle in the team, the nature of espionage missions often relies on this as a last resort. "Willy" Armitage (Armitage, eh? Interesting) also acted as a critical support character, often procuring a lot of the gear needed by the mission, and graced with excellent timing and surprising social skills.

Chameleon -- master of disguise, accents, languages, mimicry, and sometimes magic tricks and sleight of hand, this role was performed by Rollin Hand and then later The Great Paris.

Of course, every frickin' member of the team has had to play a role -- some more challenging than others -- during the course of a mission, so this is certainly a way to keep the game fresh. In fact, I remember one mission where Rollin had to portray a deaf man, and had to pretend he didn't hear a gun being fired right beside his ear (CON roll? Fate points?)!

Furthermore, some episodes involved the mission going wrong somehow, requiring the team to compensate and adjust, just like RPG adventures!

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