« Home | Campaign idea by the Incredible Hatboy: European ... » | and then, you could just do this... Christopher L... » | The Archetypal Hero Campaign I've just started re... » | Have you ever looked at the stars? Have you ever l... » | In Search of the Sufficiently Sophisticated Strat... » | Deluge II maps "Deluge II is a Diplomacy variant.... » | Tom Wham designed many brilliant, elegant games ba... » | Other People's Ideas Over on RPG.net, Sandy Antun... » | Link of the Week Omniglot, a fascinating website ... » | Dream Park, Sorta So, you have all these game ide... »

Deep Cover, Deep Magic

I'm just starting to read Spycraft, the d20 espionage rpg published by AEG. This line in the introduction caught my attention: "By removing outside influences, the Great Game of espionage becomes a contest of skill and daring that only the boldest and most cunning can survive." This is not the first time I've seen espionage referred to as "the Great Game" -- the character of Silk in David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean fantasy series speaks of it in the same way, for example.

For some reason this made me think of magic, sometimes referred to as the Art Arcane, Ars Magica, the High Art, or simply the Art. What could be made out of combining the High Art with the Great Game? Would you simply have "magic-powered" espionage, substituting "wand of magic missile" for "sniper rifle", and so forth? That's not really what I'm thinking of, though no doubt some of that would be part of the setting.

Partly what I have in mind is the sort of political/mystical intrigue involved in the "freeform games", LARP events for Ars Magica run by the fellows over at Machiavelli Games in Britain. (Milo read the whole thing, maybe he'll come around and tell us a little about it.)

I'm also thinking of the sort of stories told in the Hellblazer comic book series, involving hidden serious threats to the modern world from powerful, evil arcane creatures, and the bitter, cynical people like John Constantine who fight in the shadows to protect humanity. Knowing the Deep Magic and Dark Arts can save your ass, and the world - but always with the chance of damning both.

But finally, I'm thinking that the players get to become powerful practicioners of the Art, involved in complex and obscure struggles for power that don't mean simply blowing up your foes with a well-placed fireball (though sometimes that happens, too). The players may get involved for money, or love/hatred for humanity, or revenge, or desire for power, or any other reason. But over time, in the end, the players keep going because it's the struggle. It's the Game. It's the Art. And there are no last stands, no final victories or utter defeats, because the only true defeat is to be permanently eliminated from the Game, and the only true victory is to be a master of the Art.

And of course, all this fits nicely back into the next game I'm running, a "movie of the week" special (a one-shot), yet another game concept of John's called Section 8. Which is why I'm reading Spycraft in the first place. I have to stop reading all this stuff, I've got too many game ideas to run already. Also, Milo's been trying to get me into Ars Magica for a few years now, and he's totally going to kill me after reading this.