Friday, May 6, 2011

[Espionage] Agency Evaluations

For some reason, as I alluded to in a previous post, I'm reluctant to give these spy characters for Gamex aspects in the conventional manner (i.e., a list of aspects). I'm pretty enamored with the idea of making the character sheets look like agent dossiers -- which, BTW, is a really productive mini-obsession when you know nothing about graphic design and try to do everything with Word -- and a straight-up list of aspects just doesn't mesh with that. It'd wreck it, in other words. I mean, I'm not deluding myself into thinking that nothing on the sheet will break the illusion, but anywhere I can avoid that sort of thing, I will.

To that end, I'm thinking of couching aspects in one or more brief paragraphs of "Agency Evaluation." Actually, it'd be one paragraph for an Agency Evaluation -- relatively objective facts about the agent -- and an Agent Self-Evaluation, which would be more subjective, qualitative statements. And maybe a third for Background/Affiliations.

But as flavorful as that is, it's not really doing the trick, aspect-wise. So to bridge the gap, I'd take a page from HeroQuest and underline, say, five or six phrases. Those are your aspects. Then I'd let the player underline another two phrases during play to add more aspects from the paragraphs provided, as they wish. Or maybe I won't underline anything, and they can underline stuff themselves -- but in that case, the embedded aspects would be pretty obvious, but the players would at least get the joy (joy!) of deciding which ones they'd pick.

Of course, this means that I'd have to write enough excess material in those evaluations to allow for some genuine choice in terms of finding new aspect fodder, but that seems like a small price to pay for something that could be pretty cool for the player. My only real fear is that the aspects will end up serving the needs of the paragraph rather than being bang-zoom aspects in their own right. Y'know?

Lemme see if I can illustrate what I'm talking about here:

Background/Affiliations 
Attained the rank of Major in the British Army Special Air Service, then recruited into MI6 where he quickly advanced to Special Agent status, codename 7777. Oxford-educated with advanced degrees in Political Science, International Studies, and Psychology.

Agency Evaluation 
Agent Pierce possesses an impressive variety of skills, including excellent focus and self-discipline in high-stress environments, mechanical aptitude, and fluency in nine languages. Pierce has a range of combat training, as would be expected: A world-class marksman, he's also studied aikido under Minoru Mochizuki and distinguished himself as a national fencing champion at Oxford. Despite his education and background, in the field Pierce is best used as a blunt object, and consistently favors brute-force solutions over lateral thinking when left to his own devices. Psych profile indicates a degree of disassociation from others that nevertheless lends him a willingness to make tough mission-critical decisions. Recommended assignments: Surveillance, Elimination.

Agent Self-Evaluation 
Let it be said of me that I am at all times a consummate professional. Whether fighting for England as a loyal Briton in the SAS or in British Intelligence or fighting for the world as an agent of F.A.T.E., the mission comes first and foremost. 

Hrm... it's a little clunky, but I'm not sure that means it can't work. I'll continue to massage it. I actually think Agent Connor Pierce here is a rather tricky one to start with; he's all business, and rather devoid of some of the quirks and personality edges that the other PCs have. It might be fun to have each agent do a "Peer Evaluation" of another agent, to get some more out-there aspects in the mix.

UPDATE: Wait! In the shower today I thought of something totally better. (It's where I usually get my totally better ideas.) It'll let me list aspects without wrecking the agent-dossier aesthetic. And it will immediately look cool as soon as the sheets are presented to the players. When I have character sheets together, I'll post them here.
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