I’ve been busy working on a world book for the Fate Core role-playing game system. It’s turned into an interesting exercise in world-building. In the process, I accidentally created a series bible.

ESPionage is based on The Faith Machine, my psychic espionage thriller. This body of work consists of a novel, two novel outlines, half a dozen short stories in various stages of completion, and a comic book pitch, not to mention a notebook full of incomplete ideas. I had a lot to draw on. Spilling it out on the page was easy. Organizing and filling that information’s given me a new perspective in the material.

For example; early on I based the spy lingo for psychic phenomena on poker and card expressions. But I hadn’t got further than ‘Card’ means psychic. The glossary of a game book can’t stop at one word. That’s not even a sidebar. So then…a team of Cards, that’s a Hand, clearly. And an agency that operates multiple teams, that’s a Table. Many nations will have more than one Table, like a casino or House. Then the entire psychic espionage community at large, that’s the Strip.

Organization’s the bomb, yo.

And not just details. This goes for themes too. I received a piece of advice at the Writers’ Coffeehouse; At the beginning of a novel make a list of six things the story is, and six things it’s not. This isn’t for the audience. It’s for the author. But it made a good introduction for the game book:

  • ESPionage is stale beer with martini moments, more Jason Borne than James Bond. It takes its queues from John le Carré with an occasional nod to Ian Flemming. A secret world that’s less about good guys verses bad, and more about getting the job done whatever the cost.
  • ESPionage Cards are the most powerful individuals who ever lived, but still have to watch their backs. A bullet to the skull doesn’t care how powerful the brain inside was.
  • ESPionage is about characters with mental disorders living their lives and doing their jobs, without being defined by their conditions.
  • ESPionage is about characters getting their hands dirty in the field. It’s not about rooms full of servers crunching data.
  • ESPionage is about teamwork. A small group of talented agents who depend on each other to accomplish the mission and look out for each other. It’s not about calling Homeland Security for help with a threat. Sometimes, Homeland Security is the threat.
  • ESPionage is about a secret war with many sides. Nations, terrorists, gods, and ghosts pushing forward with their agendas at the cost of anyone who gets in their way. It’s not about safety or working toward retirement. Once you’ve played on the Strip you’re in the game for good.

I’m closing in on a first draft. If everything goes right, I’ll run it online and make a YouTube channel out of it.

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