Wednesday 13 May 2020

Spy Thriller Engagement Roll

Right now our group is playing a game modelled on Night's Black Agents: burned spies fighting a conspiracy of vampires.

I say modelled, because we're using the Ironsworn RPG as the rule set. It's been making the rounds, so we thought we'd give it a try. Ironsworn has great support for solo play, so why not try it as a five-player GMless game?

Well.. I think we're way out of its sweet spot. GMless games need some sort of scene framing rules, or some way to divide up roles at the table. (See The Quiet Year or Microscope for good examples of that.) On the plus side, Ironsworn has tons of handy random tables that help provide answers on the fly for when things go wrong, unexpected plot twists, and so on.

One table that I'm hankering for, however, is a genre-appropriate "engagement roll". Once we've identified a target, this gives us some way of figuring out how the scene starts instead of playing out the whole approach. ("Rolling for surprise" in D&D is the archetypal engagement roll.)

Having an engagement roll lets us repeatedly start in medias res, and helps keep the pace brisk.

For example, when you learn about the warehouse where the deal went bad and the party decides it's their next target as part of this session, just press fast forward, roll 2d6 and find out where the action resumes.

When you've engaged your target, as play begins..
They're compromised. You're on your way in; one of you is already in deep cover
You've made your approach and you're on the way inside
You've been able to assess for some time
You have a short time to assess the situation before it gets dynamic
They've been spooked and/or tipped off
You've been made, and they've prepared for you specifically.
Compromised! Someone on your team, or your whole mission serves them.

Modify to taste - roll with advantage if you have useful intel and/or mission support, and with disadvantage if you've failed to maintain a low profile in some way, or if the target is especially sophisticated or hardened.

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