ESPionage: A Prisoner, a Heist, & a Betrayal

by | Jan 25, 2022

The playtest of the ESPionage, the role-playing game of psychics and spies, has begun. Based on my second novel, The Faith Machine, I’ve run one-shots at conventions with pre-generated characters before, but this is a full campaign… that opens with a one-shot with pregens.

Good adventures showcase the feel of a setting, and the potential within, without rigid definitions of form or style. A one-shot has more utility but limited scope. As a novelist, I have a greater appreciation for the longer arc of a campaign. So, I would have both, tying them together, a one-shot to give a little taste of ESPionage before it segues into the campaign. The PCs first mission will be to steal the object the pregens just stole, and the pregens transform into recurring antagonists trying to steal it back.

The Set-Up: Rainbow Intelligence Services has a problem named Mrs. Brown; one of their psychic agents has proven too powerful and impulsive to keep in play. So, the higher-ups have ordered Rainbow to bring Brown to the Bullpen, a holding facility for dangerous psychics, until they decide what to do with her.

Rainbow’s resources are already stretched thin. Losing an agent is going to hurt. Turning her in will damage morale among Rainbow’s other psychics. But there are a couple of silver linings: A Texan attorney with a lot of money and an Indian agent with some money and access to the Bullpen’s security systems. They both want a notebook of cowboy poetry rumored to be left in the Bullpen’s prisoners’ effects.

The players will turn Mrs. Brown over to the Bullpen. While inside, use the Indian agent’s biometric to access the prisoner effects. Retrieve the notebook, placing it in the hands of the Texan, one way or another.

A Prisoner, a Heist, & a Betrayal. I’ve been running Blades in the Dark with my playtest group through 2021. The players have developed a strong team dynamic. However, the adjustment from Blades to Fate will take us some time. Blades is built for the players to jump right in and figure things out as it goes. Fate rewards planning, creating advantages to be leveraged later. As a Fate GM and as the author of a product for publication, I have more to prepare. This session -1 went well. It took about 4 hours of playtime, a good length for convention play. The players picked the Overwhelmed Analyst, the Japanese Don Quixote, and the Paragon of 80s Action. The pregens were flexible enough to have utility outside their comfort zones. The Analyst led effectively, the Samurai distracted the guards with social engineering, and the Hero John McClaned his way through the facilities air vents and bluffed his way out with the notebook. The Bullpen and its staff were well-defined, so I never lacked for obstacles to throw in their way. Next time, I’d like a run-through with Mrs. Brown as a PC for some player vs. player action. And I need to revise the Indian agent. When the Overwhelmed Analyst discovered her High Concept, ‘Enigmatic Field Agent,’ her reaction was, “I ready knew that!” Next session: Team building.
A Prisoner, a Heist, & a Betrayal


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