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Game masters
operations manual




OPERATIVES ............................................... 3
OPERATIVE CREATION ................................ 3
ROUNDING OUT AN OPERATIVE .................. 12 Design Bill Logan
ORIGINS ..................................................... 17 Co-Design Larry Moore
SKILLS ...................................................... 18 Editing Jim White
aka T.W.Wombat
OUTFITTING ................................................ 21 Cover Art Khairul Hisham
MORAL CODE............................................ 29 Illustrations Octavirate
MARTIAL ARTS MANEUVERS ..................... 30 2
Louis Porter, Jr.
FIREARM MANEUVERS .............................. 32 Bradley K McDevitt

OPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT ....................... 32 1

Some artwork copyright Octavirate
GAME GUIDELINES.................................... 49 Entertainment, used with permission.
ACTIONS .................................................. 49 Some artwork copyright LPJ Design, used
with permission.
BONES ...................................................... 51
Some artwork copyright Bradley K. McDevit,
GETTING HURT ......................................... 52
used with permission.
GETTING HEALED ...................................... 52
INITIATIVE ................................................ 53 LICENSING
COMBAT ....................................................54 Covert Ops role-playing game™ is copyright 2013
and is a trademark of DwD Studios, used under the
FLOWCHART CHASE SCENES .................... 55 Creative Commons License (specifically, the
CONDITIONS.............................................. 57 Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0); Some Rights Reserved. To
SOCIAL INTERACTION ................................ 57 view this license, visit:
Or send a letter to:
OPERATIVE CREATION ............................. 14 Creative Commons,
GAME PLAY ........................................... 60 444 Castro Street, Suite 900,
Mountain View, CA 9404.
For specific details, appropriate credits, and updates
MASTER VILLAIN GENERATION .............. 64 to this license, please see:
MISSION GENERATION........................... 65

GAME MASTERY ....................................... 68

STORYTELLING TECHNIQUES .................... 68
THEMATIC ELEMENTS ................................ 81
LEARN THE LINGO .................................... 92




We at DwD Studios had a much bigger book in mind for Covert Ops. Much of it has
been reduced, streamlined, or removed entirely as a direct result of play testing.
Some of it was just too cool or too difficult to part with; most of that is in this book.

Covert Ops is a lite role-playing game. Some folks define “lite” differently than we
do, but in our opinion page count has at least something to do with it. So that’s
why we decided to create this separate book. We hope it helps you become a
better Game Master… or entertains you at least.



An operative in Covert Ops can technically be built pretty quickly. Roll a few dice,
make a few choices, and write a bunch of stuff down. But players will want to
relate to their operatives, and you’ll want them to want to play often. Players are
happiest when they’re able to create the operative they imagine without rules
getting in their way. However, it’s also valid to strictly enforce the rules and tell
players they’ll have to develop their characters into the operative they envision.

When Game Mastering operative generation, you basically have two options.
These options won’t necessarily reflect how you run your games; operative creation
is a different thing from storytelling or game mastering a mission.


In this method, you listen to the needs of your players and bend any rule that gets
in the way of their envisioned operative. If a player opts to roll his ability scores, for
instance, and ends up with nothing over 45% then he’s not going to be happy
(especially if everyone else got stellar scores). Tell him his die rolling offends you
and give him the fixed ability set to distribute: 65, 60, 55, and 50. If he rolls an
origin that makes absolutely no sense to his concept, but lacks any remaining bones
to spend on choosing a different one… work with him. Tell him you didn’t see the
dice and you’d like him to re-roll. If anyone else complains, tell them you’ll give
them one reroll too. Just do whatever it takes to make the players make operatives
they’ll enjoy playing.

In this method, you enforce the rules strictly. That doesn’t mean you should be
mean, of course. If a player has a vision of how his operative should be but the dice
take him in a different direction, encourage him to spend bones to help direct the
operative to meet his concept. Or, encourage him to accept what he rolled and to
work with it. Tell him to be open and creative to embracing this background and
incorporating it into his concept. Let him know that through development point
expenditure, he can grow his operative into the character he envisioned.


It is recommended that you gather your intended gaming group together and go
through the steps of operative creation together during your first session. This


game works best when each operative has a special role. A good strategic response
team consists of several specialists, all working together expertly. If the operatives
work together, one will want to play a combat specialist, another a stealthy
infiltration specialist, another will want to play the role of the pilot, another the
controller. Someone could play the faceman, another the sleuth. If operative
generation is done individually, the team will be less cohesive and your job will be
more complicated because you’ll have to find ways to challenge an unbalanced
team while not exploiting its weaknesses.

Consider this optional ability score generation method. It was considered for
inclusion in the core rulebook to allow for a consistency between abilities and skills
but was dropped because it was inconsistent with previously-released games using
the d00Lite system.


Select one ability which is primary to your character concept. Then select one
which is secondary. The other two are considered typical. You don’t have to write
which is primary or secondary on your operative dossier; simply make a mental
note of it or lightly write a “P” or “S” next to the abilities (erase after the next step).

Next, roll on the following table once for each ability, using the column which
applies. Note that a “typical” ability can still result in a high score if players roll well.


00-02 55 45 35
03-09 58 49 40
10-21 61 53 45
22-38 64 57 50
39-60 67 61 55
61-77 70 65 60
78-89 73 69 65
90-96 76 73 70
97-99 79 77 75

Players may choose to spend a k if they’re unhappy with a rolled score. Simply
allow the player to reroll (and continue to do so until he scores a higher result). If a
player wishes to reroll a score which is already quite high, consider just increasing
the score by +5 (if typical), +4 (if secondary), or +3 (if primary) to avoid waiting for a
hundred rerolls.



Okay, so your operatives have scores. What do they mean? Clearly it’s obvious when
compared one against another; everyone knows an operative with a STR score of 60 is
stronger than an operative with a STR score of 55, but how much stronger? The lists
which follow provide some descriptive explanations.

…15 Terminally weak, terminally ill, very young children or frail elderly.
16-30 Very poor strength possessed by youth and elderly. May be able to lift own
weight with extreme effort, but only because this person is likely puny.
31-45 Below average strength, perhaps normal in size and stature but has never done a
hard (or perhaps too many) day’s labor. Lowest STR score that a player operative
should possess. Able to lift own mass unless severely overweight.
46-55 Typical strength. Currently (or once) accustomed to the sweat of hard labor.
Common STR score for player operatives. Can lift own body mass along with worn
and carried gear fairly easily. Can dead-man carry another operative.
56-70 Very strong. Regular weight lifting or blessed genetic makeup. Can carry a
struggling human. Either very heavy or very athletic looking.
71-85 Extreme weight lifter strength. Highest likely STR for an operative. Only
obtainable through extreme weight-lifting, intense exercise, or chemical aid. Can
carry a couple humans and still haul a heavy backpack.
86… Olympic-level weight lifter. Extremely difficult to maintain this weight without
eating a lot of proteins and engaging in intense weight lifting exercise. Rarely tires
and possesses fortitude that defies conventional belief. As long as his convictions
align with his employer, this is the perfect operative.

…15 Feeble athletic ability. The disabled or elderly. Can’t really run and certainly can’t
jump. Must be very careful with all movements to avoid falling or making some
kind of accident. No operative could survive with a DEX this low.
16-30 Poor hand-eye coordination. Possessing no training and poor ability. Very careful
movements, falls a lot, and wears the bruises and scratches of the truly clumsy.
31-45 Below average agility and coordination. Can manage well enough but isn’t
probably winning any dance contests. Minimum DEX for a player operative.
46-55 Typical maneuverability, balance, and aim. Average for player operatives. May
possess some level of formal training, and likely engages in occasional exercise.
56-70 Very athletic with an extremely steady hand. Engages in regular training and
exercise. Probably has some level of athletic coaching, superior talent, or formal
training (or all three).
71-85 Extremely athletic. Can manage just about any sport effectively, could even make
a career of it. Extraordinary talent mixed with regular training. Can perform
gymnastics and acrobatics quite easily.
86… Olympic athletic ability. Amazing levels of natural balance, grace, and
coordination mixed with intense regular training. Someone with this level of
training and talent can win medals in the Olympics. As long as his convictions align
with his employer, this is the perfect operative.



…15 Feeble intellect. Has trouble understanding all but the simplest of machines.
Possesses a fair grasp of own native language but any other language has a thick
accent. Likely possesses no completed formal diploma. Impaired or diminished
perceptive ability. Often distracted or unaware of surroundings.
16-30 Poor deductive capacity, limited education, poor instincts, or a little slow on the
uptake. Otherwise perfectly functional in society. High school education, perhaps
with some skilled professional training. Can grasp complex machines and
technology if shown how. Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.) below 100. Is unlikely to be a
master of one, but has knowledge of a fair number of topics.
31-45 Below average perception and logic. Most people fall into this general category,
possessing an I.Q. of around 100. Probably some vocational training, a professional
certification, and an excellent grasp of own native language. Possesses a diverse
amount of knowledge about a fair number of topics.
46-55 Typical powers of deductive reasoning with a common eye for detail. Probably has
1-3 years of college behind him. Plays Sudoku and/or Mahjong and can manage
crossword puzzles. This is the most common range for player operatives. I.Q.
probably between 105 and 115. Reads a little and is knowledgeable about a large
number of topics, with key expertise in a few.
56-70 Perceptive and sharp. Many operatives fall in this category. Good enough grasp of
linguistics that regional dialects can be discerned and copied. Can work through
complex puzzles and can draw inspired conclusions from given facts. Probably has
an I.Q. of around 120 and is a college graduate. Can grasp complex cutting edge
machines and improve what he grasps. Possesses a large amount of knowledge
about a vast array of topics. Can do well on Jeopardy.
71-85 Extremely intuitive, vastly knowledgeable, and able to deduce creative conclusions
from seemingly few clues. Likely possesses one or more college degrees, perhaps
even possesses a PhD or MD. Has an I.Q. above 130. Usually figures out “who did
it” before ever reaching the last chapter of a book, though probably reads a variety
of books and publications all the time. May even possess a patent or two, and is
able to accomplish great academic things.
86… Genius intellect. Seems to know everything about everything, and whatever he
doesn’t know he has the capacity to discern from very few clues, facts, or written
works. Possesses an I.Q. above 140, and likely has a PhD from an ivy league
university, and may even have more than one. Can perform calculus in his head.
May even possess an eidetic memory. Sees patterns and connections that others
cannot, leading to conclusions that change our understanding of the universe. As
long as his convictions align with his employer, this is the perfect operative.

…15 Feeble willpower and presence. Is probably very unlikeable, quiet, or annoying.
Probably fails to uphold convictions when they become obstacles. Easily persuaded
or brainwashed. Not an acceptable WIL for operatives.
16-30 Poor determination and charisma. Functional within society, but isn’t very
persuasive and lacks presence. Doesn’t speak well in front of crowds but makes
friends well enough.



31-45 Below average mental fortitude. Can withstand a casual level of interrogation or
torture, but isn’t prepared for torture or prolonged interrogation. Makes and
keeps lifelong friends, but is perhaps a bit shy or socially limited.
46-55 Typical human willpower. Can be stubborn about things when needed. Can resist
temptations and apply solid convictions against common obstacles. Can withstand
moderate levels of interrogation and very low levels of torture before breaking.
Manages perfectly well in normal society, but might feel out of place in social
situations which are not common to the operative.
56-70 Very willful. Makes friends and allies with minimal effort. Most people
automatically like this character. Can maintain personal convictions against nearly
all obstacles. Doesn’t become addicted to things easily. Can withstand impressive
amounts of torture and interrogation.
71-85 Extreme mental fortitude. Can resist interrogation without breaking a sweat. Can
fool a lie detector with effort. Will endure intense hardship before ever considering
violating convictions. Makes friends and lovers with a smile and a nod. Can even
endure intense torture without giving up information. Captivates crowds when he
speaks, if that is his intention. Cannot be mentally conditioned unless he chooses
to allow it. Cannot be hypnotized.
86… Indomitable mental fortitude and force of presence. Sees personal convictions as a
force of nature which cannot be violated. This operative cannot be conditioned or
brainwashed, and is all but immune to both torture and interrogation. He can
integrate into any social situation nearly flawlessly, and can convince just about
anyone to assist him with some time and effort. He has a presence which, if he
chooses to use it, practically fills a room and can invoke fear, desire, or
brotherhood. As long as his convictions align with his employer, this is the perfect


Everyone knows that a level 2 skill is better than a level 1 skill, right? Well how much
does it really mean? How far could an operative with a level 3 skill get along in a
profession which relies heavily on that skill?

The first thing to remember is that skill level only represents knowledge, training, and
experience. Talent plays a huge role in an operative’s overall skill (which is why all skill
scores are derived from ability scores). Players wanting to increase their overall skill
percentage score should weigh whether development points are better spent increasing
a skill’s level or the ability score upon which its score is built. Additionally, when viewing
the level breakdown below, players shouldn’t think their starting-rank operatives are
mere minions or disrespected apprentices. Player operatives possess a high amount of
talent and unlimited potential, which is why they were recruited in the first place.
Although they are untested, they are respected.

Remember that skill is not the same as profession, despite the way they are named. A
soldier, for instance, likely possesses skill levels in soldier and martial artist, and a good
soldier would take levels in leader and scout as well. Players shouldn’t feel like they are



boxed into seeing skills as “character classes” but as individual broadly-reaching skillsets
whose roles are typical for several types of professions/careers.

1 Novice. Apprentice. Internship. First year or so of experience. Still considered to
be learning. Someone with training, experience, or knowledge, but not all three.
This is a nice skill level from which to start a career, especially if you have high
potential. Some employers prefer to hire people of this skill level because they can
be molded, and do not come to the table with false knowledge and inaccurate
assumptions. However, the entry-level wage for someone with this level of ability is
2 Journeyman. A couple years of experience or perhaps an associate’s degree, or an
apprentice with a high amount of experience or knowledge. Could perform the job
functions of a career which relies on this skill and earn a fair entry-level wage. A
character can actually obtain a high level of respect and ability with this degree of
skill alone, once he proves himself through acquired experience and knowledge,
especially if his skill is balanced by a high degree of natural ability. This is an
important milestone for an operative’s path to excellence, and can be acquired fairly
quickly (a single mission is usually enough to earn an operative enough DP to raise a
skill level from level 1 to level 2).
3 Professional. A few years of experience or perhaps a bachelor’s degree. This is a
typical skill level for someone who performs the functions of a career professionally.
It represents a level of skill which is no longer learning (except to stay current) but
also adding to the collective knowledge base of a profession. This is a level of skill
that most operatives strive for because it marks the beginning of excellence, though
it also marks the begging of the point of diminishing returns on development point
expenditure (from this point onward, it is unlikely or impossible to earn enough DP
from one session to purchase a level upgrade).
4 Expert. Several years of experience or perhaps a master’s degree. An expert is
highly sought and well paid. Experts can often be sought for training, and might
even have innovations which have been professionally published. The character has
a lot of respect in the professions which rely on this skill, but is relatively unknown
outside those professions.
5 Elite. Vast experience or perhaps a doctorate degree. Well respected and has a
reputation world-wide for excellence, even among professions not directly related to
the skill in question. People don’t become elite just chasing a paycheck; they are
devoted to this skill. Elite operatives don’t just train others, they write the books
from which training is derived. People quote the wisdom of people with elite levels
of training and experience.
6 Master. World renown for talent, training and experience by all professions and
social circles. Vast knowledge, expert training, and years of experience have made
this operative the best there is at what he does. People become novices because
they want to emulate this master. This operative defines a profession.




Skills are not “Character Classes” or professions, despite similar naming
conventions. A soldier profession, for instance, isn't just someone who shoots
things and blows things up. A soldier (by profession) is normally also capable in
hand to hand combat, many are capable pilots, scouts or thieves (recon scouts or
other special forces), or have skills in tech or science, etc. Some are leaders as well.
However, the soldier skill only covers shooting things and blowing things up. To be a
very effective soldier requires a lot of training in various skills, one of which is called
"soldier." Similarly, there is no "spy" skill. An effective spy is someone with a
diverse collection of skills. Likewise, many scientists have technical skills, etc.

Some skills are very broad in scope while others are somewhat narrower, but that is
by design. We wanted to avoid "dump" skills - skills that are there just for the sake
of completeness, not really to be all that helpful in game. Most RPGs have these.
Many players avoid them unless necessary. The more useful a skill is to action and
adventure, the more narrowly focused it is in these rules.

Academic, for instance, is by far the broadest skill, and could have been several
different skills. But in a lite game designed for fast-paced action and adventure,
how would having more skills impact the pace of the game? So instead we made a
single Academic skill and forced those who take levels in it to specify a “focus” to
help narrow down their particular flavor of academics.

In short, we intentionally aggressively categorize certain skills. In the end, all 10

skills are worth taking, either because they have a very direct impact on action and
adventure (a part which we all enjoy), or because they're sufficiently
comprehensive and broad-reaching that you get plenty of options for the DP

Generally, if you’re running a regular game with the same players, they’ll work
together to build their operatives so that they can accomplish just about anything
Command throws at them. You should of course encourage this. Ultimately,
operatives will need to have abilities which cover all four of the following

 Confiscation – Thief skill levels or a very high DEX score which provides a
decent default thief score. Operatives are often called upon to steal
things, plant evidence, infiltrate bases, or avoid alert guards.
 Elimination – Soldier and/or martial artist skill levels, or a very high STR or
DEX score which provides a good enough default score for soldier and
martial artist skills. Fights are not only inevitable, but common.



 Transportation – Someone with pilot skills or a very high DEX score which
provides a decent default pilot score. Operatives are often forced to drive,
fly, or operate vehicles in stressful situations.
 Investigation – Someone with detective and/or academic skills, or
possessing a very high LOG score to have a sufficient default detective
score. Operatives must often look for clues, analyze information, decode
messages, etc.

But sometimes you don’t have a whole team of players, just one or two. Or
sometimes you’ll GM a session for players whose operatives were generated before
they ever sat down together. That’s where you have to give some consideration to
balancing the team. There are basically 3 ways to do it.


Tailor the mission to the capabilities of player’s operatives. This option is generally
easy if you’re creating missions yourself. If you’re using a pre-written mission,
you’ll have to read it thoroughly and remove or modify sections which rely on skills
for which your player’s team lacks capability. For instance, if a published mission
has players facing a large battle when they are low in the Elimination category, give
them a way to talk their way out of it, sneak past the enemy, etc. Alternatively you
could keep the encounter in place but reduce the number of enemy combatants to
give the operatives a fighting chance.


Provide an NPC or two who has capabilities where your player’s team is deficient.
You can create the NPC operative yourself, or you can use a predefined operative
archetype. It is up to you if you want to force the players to pay for such skilled
backup with their equipment allowance. Command has a lot of field operatives,
and they want to assure mission success as much as possible.


Hand out levels to the deficient players free of charge, explaining that they just got
back from supplementary operative training. If you do this, be fair to all players.
You can give everyone a level in the same missing skill, or can give a level in a
different skill to each operative, but don’t invalidate the usefulness of a player’s
operative by making everyone as capable as he is at something which was his initial
character concept. It’s not fun if everyone can do one another’s job. Don’t bother
deducting the cost of the added skill (3DP) from that session’s development point
award; it’s not really worth it in the grand scheme of things.




Players roll on the following table to determine where Command sent them for
training. After determining the location, players may select one of the options
presented for that training center locale. This table uses locations from the
optional broad brush-stroke SECTOR setting provided in the core book. If not using
that setting, adjust as necessary.

Players may spend a bone to choose a training center rather than accept the one
rolled, or to choose two options for their rolled training center.
1 Beijing  Speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, or Mongolian
 A criminal contact in a triad or tong
 +10 to pilot skill checks (if have at least 1 level in Pilot)
2 Brussels  Speak French, Spanish, Italian, German, or Dutch
 A European law-enforcement or counterintelligence contact
 Has a family member, friend, or contact in MERK
3 Tokyo  Speak Japanese
 A 3-point gadget of your design permanently assigned
 +10 to Academics checks (if have at least 1 level in Academic)
4 New  Speak Hindi, Bengali, Pakistani, Nepali, or Pashto
Delhi  3-points of unsanctioned gear, Command seems to look the other way if
they learn about gear.
 Has an arms-dealing contact somewhere in the Middle East.
5 Sydney  Owns a large piece of property in the Australian outback
 An Australian secret service or mercenary contact
 +10 to Scout skill checks (if have at least 1 level in Scout)
6 New  Owns a beat-up outdated gray sedan (refurbished police car)
York  A New York Police Department contact
 +10 to Thief or Detective skill checks (choose one. Only receive bonus if have
at least one level in chosen skill).
7 San  Speaks Spanish
Diego  Tanned, good-looking and benefitted from a personal trainer (+10 to WIL
checks dealing with the opposite gender)
 Has access (clearance, knowledge of a secret entrance, etc.) to the Archive.
8 Sao  Speak any one extra language
Paulo  Has a Brazilian contact in ABIN (intelligence agency), or a favor from a
Brazilian wealthy business owner.
 Is owed a favor from a highly skilled Brazilian hit man.
9 Istanbul  Speak Turkish, Kumanji, or Arabic
 One extra martial maneuver (if have at least 1 level in Martial Arts)
 Has a Turkish criminal, government, or espionage contact
10 Moscow  Speak Russian, Chechen, Armenian, Georgian, or Ukrainian
 Has a contact in the Russian secret service or among the enigmatic and still
present KGB.
 Harsh weather training, +10 to Scout checks (if at least 1 level)




Use these tables however you see fit to help round out an operative. None of the
results of these tables affects ability scores, skills, or anything statistical on the
operative dossier, though things like vision correction and number of native
languages may or may not be something you’re willing to leave up to dice.


00-49 Female 00-75 Right
50-99 Male 76-98 Left
98-99 Ambidextrous

ROLL HEIGHT ------ MALE ------ ------ FEMALE ------

00 Extremely Short 5’2” 118 lbs 4’9” 90 lbs
01 Very Short 5’3” 124 lbs 4’10” 93 lbs
02 Very Short 5’4” 130 lbs 4’11” 96 lbs
03 Short 5’5” 136 lbs 5’ 100 lbs
04-05 Short 5’6” 142 lbs 5’1” 105 lbs
06-07 Below Average 5’7” 148 lbs 5’2” 110 lbs
08-09 Below Average 5’8” 154 lbs 5’3” 115 lbs
10-29 Below Average 5’9” 160 lbs 5’4” 120 lbs
30-49 Average 5’10” 166 lbs 5’5” 125 lbs
50-69 Above Average 5’11” 172 lbs 5’6” 130 lbs
70-89 Above Average 6’ 178 lbs 5’7” 135 lbs
90-92 Tall 6’1” 184 lbs 5’8” 140 lbs
93-95 Tall 6’2” 190 lbs 5’9” 145 lbs
96-97 Very Tall 6’3” 196 lbs 5’10” 150 lbs
98 Very Tall 6’4” 202 lbs 5’11” 155 lbs
99 Extremely Tall 6’5” 208 lbs 6’ 160 lbs


00-02 Skinny -30 lbs 00-24 Young 12+1D yrs
03-08 Very Thin -25 lbs 25-74 Typical 15+2D yrs
09-16 Thin -20 lbs 75-99 Mature 18+3D yrs
17-27 Lean -15 lbs
28-41 Below Average -10 lbs ROLL VISION CORRECTION
42-57 Average +/-5 lbs 00-69 No Correction Required
58-71 Above Average +10 lbs 70-89 Glasses or Contacts Needed
72-82 Husky +20 lbs 90-99 Glasses Needed*
83-90 Heavy +30 lbs * Although not common, some people
91-96 Very Heavy +40 lbs cannot use contacts.
97-99 Obese +50 lbs



ROLL NATIVE LANGUAGES (used instead of making LOG check) ROLL HAIR TYPE
00-74 Monolingual 1 Native Language 00-29 Straight
75-94 Bilingual 2 Native Languages 30-69 Wavy
95-99 Trilingual 3 Native Languages 70-99 Curly


00-14 Black 00-04 Bald
15-37 Brown 05-14 Buzzed
38-53 Blond 15-29 Short
54-68 Auburn 30-49 Medium
69-76 Chestnut 50-69 Shoulder-length
77-84 Red 70-84 Long
85-91 Gray 85-94 Very long
92-99 White 95-99 Cut it, Rapunzel
Males: Roll twice and take lowest result.
ROLL EYE COLOR Females: Roll twice and take highest result.
00-04 Black
05-34 Brown
35-49 Blue
50-64 Green
65-74 Hazel
75-84 Amber
85-94 Gray
95-99 Two different, roll twice




Although the process of creating an operative is detailed in the Covert Ops core
rulebook, presented below is a detailed step-by-step example. Refer here when
something is unclear from the book. Some additional sidebar notes contain
additional concepts, ideas, and explanations for the GM.

Joshua wants to create an operative and grabs a blank copy of the operative
dossier, 3 bones, several dice, and a pencil. He follows the steps outlined in the
core rulebook.

Origin – There is an optional 1. ORIGIN

alternative to using Origins on Joshua rolls on the Origin table and gets
page 17. You can allow a player “Diplomat.” This isn’t at all what he wanted. The
to have a second option from
GM informs him that he can cash in a bone to
their origin by spending a bone.
choose a different result. He doesn’t want to give
Abilities – Joshua didn’t, but he up a bone (he wants to save them for in-game use
could have spent one of his bones later). He decides to keep the roll and focuses on
to improve a score. If he wanted the concept of an “interpreter.” Joshua decides his
a higher WIL, for instance, he’d ace pilot used to travel around the world as an
spend that bone and roll until he interpreter helping large corporations and
rolled a better score than 62. If governments settle contract disputes before he
he wanted to get an even higher became an operative. He chooses the option that
DEX score, he could even roll until
gives him a level 1 Academic skill and notes it on
he got a score above 71, though
you’d all have to have patience
his sheet, intending to pick up Pilot in step 3.
while he rolled for a while. If
using the predefined scores a 2. ABILITIES
player may spend a bone to reroll Joshua rolls ability scores as follows: 65, 62 70 and
one of those scores as well. 71. He envisions an ace pilot who can fly anything,
carries a gun and wears a baseball cap. He looks at
Skills – Players don’t have to the skill list and notes that pilots use DEX. He
place any of their starting skill assigns STR 65, DEX 71, LOG 70 and WIL 62. These
levels in skills which have been are excellent scores; Joshua is excited about his
labeled primary or secondary. In
fact, some players prefer not to,
placing levels in skills which
cannot be used unskilled so their
operative has more diverse Next Joshua records Pilot as his Primary skill and
options on their first few Academic as his secondary (it fits his new concept).
missions. Two skills require you He then records level 1 for Pilot and focuses in Air
to select a focus; you can allow vehicles. His origin gave him a level 1 academic
players to spend a bone on a skill, and he focuses in “linguist,” which allows him
second focus, giving them more to select another starting language. He chooses
diverse starting options. Arabic, and decides much of his corporate
interpreter past centered on the Middle East.



4. DESCRIPTORS Descriptors – Help players pick

Joshua has something in mind by reading descriptors that are easy to
through the creation process. He records “Afraid demonstrate during game play.
of the dark” and “Likes to show off”.
Moral Code – Not all people know
5. MORAL CODE their moral convictions on all things
Joshua picks guiding aspects for his operative’s until those convictions are truly
moral code. He sees his operative as very kind tested. This is especially true with
young people. If you’d like, you can
(he helps those in need), totally focused (keen
allow a player who is struggling
focus on the task at hand, that’s what pilot with making decisive choices on
training taught him), somewhat selfish (he likes moral code to wait until the
to get his way now and then), very honorable (he character’s moral code comes into
is loyal to his teammates) and totally brave (he question and then define them.
won’t give up a fight). He records these on his This allows more freedom of choice
sheet and likes how his operative is shaping up. for a player to play his operative
during early missions while he
6. OUTFITTING seeks answers to internal
Joshua’s operative has an equipment allowance questions. Don’t just do this for
of 6. He’s used to a certain lifestyle and picks expedience; offer it only when
Traveler’s Lifestyle for a cost of 3 and a bullet someone is truly torn about their
proof vest for 3 more. He records these along operative’s morality. Also note that
there is an optional alternative to
with the operative pack and semi-auto pistol
using moral code, see page 29.
(with spare ammo upgrade) he gets for free.
7. FINAL DETAILS Outfitting – Players don’t need to
Joshua goes through the checklist: spend all their initial equipment
allowance now. Doing so during
 He would have a score of 70/2+10=45% for
operative creation helps to build a
academic but adds +10 since it’s his secondary
character concept, however, and
skill, so he has 55%, which applies to uses of the player should be encouraged to
linguistics or researcher. spend some to pick some signature
 Since his LOG score is 70, he records 70/2=35% gear. Opportunities for pre-mission
for detective skill. outfitting do not always present
 He gets a 0% score in leader, since it can’t be themselves, so being prepared is
used unskilled and he has no levels. better than having a pool of
 He records 65/2=33% for martial arts. unusable points on an operative
 He has to record 0% in medic. dossier. Also, there are several
 Pilot gets to be 71/2, +10 for his skill level, +20 optional rules relating to outfitting,
for it being his primary skill = 66%. Awesome. including the use of cash instead of
He decides not to specialize so he can pilot all the standard equipment allowance
land and air vehicles equally. system, see page 21.
 His scout score is 70/2=35%.
 His soldier score is 71/2=36%. Not winning any Final Details – It might look like a
shooting contests until he can spend DP. lot of math, this process goes much
 His technician score is 0% since he can’t use it smoother and quicker than it
appears in the example text!
 He records his thief score as 71/2=36%, not
horrible but not great.


Describing Operatives – There are
Now that he has all of his skills done, he records
several items on the sheet to help
the following: players envision their operatives:
 Joshua records English as a native language. age, gender, height, weight, and a
He also speaks Arabic (due to the Linguist more general “Appearance” entry
focus of his Academic skill). He makes a LOG where a player may note anything
check and succeeds, so begins with fluency in he wishes, from hair color and
one more language. He chooses Mandarin, length to eye color. Specifying a
and his interpreter concept is coming nationality or race in the
together nicely. appearance section might be
 He records 65/2=33 body points (BP). His GM helpful as well. None of this
informs him he’s pretty rugged, since a minor matters mechanically, since all
NPC has only 10BP. humans are equal statistically, but
 Since his DEX and LOG are both 65 or higher, it helps players envision their
he benefits from an INIT score of 3. A man of operatives. If you want your
action; he’ll get to act first much of the time. players to use them, there are
some optional tables provided in
 Since his DEX and STR are both 65 or higher,
this chapter; see page 12.
he records a 10 for his MOV score.
 Since Joshua didn’t spend any of his bones
Background – Each operative has
during character creation, he records 3 for an origin, but what is his story?
his bones score. How did he get recruited by
 He records 1 for rank and 0 for development Command to become an
points (DP). operative? What is he trying to
 Since he has a bulletproof vest, he records DR accomplish in life, what are his
score of 5. It’s not going to keep him alive in ambitions? Although little room
a heavy weapons fight, but should keep him exists on the operative dossier for
from being killed by a single bullet or two. elaborate stories, GMs should
 For his semi-auto pistol he records 36%, encourage players to develop rich
damage 2D+5 (normally 2D+2, but his DEX background stories (which must be
bonus adds +3), range M, ammo 10. He approved, of course) for their
hopes he doesn’t have to fire his weapon in operatives. To encourage this, you
the first mission or two so he can improve it should consider “throwing a bone”
later through development. to any player who, within the first
mission, provides a solid
He names his operative Maverick (“Mav”) background story for their
Kendall, a citizen of the USA and describes him character. This suggestion isn’t
as a tall, lean man with black hair and dark mandatory, but it helps you to
build better missions which
brown eyes. In his former career he was an
challenge not only the skills and
experienced interpreter travelling the globe to talents of the operatives, but
assist in negotiating contracts between various engages the players themselves in
corporations and governments. Now he’s a pilot solid role-playing and character
operative working for Command. development.

Cliché Operatives – Encourage your players to model their operatives off characters from
their favorite stories, shows, and movies. Especially those players who sit down to make an
operative but don’t have a unique concept of their own. Being able to relate to your
operative is important, and imagining him doing the things you want him to do is much easier
if you already have an imaginative basis from which to start. Don’t be concerned if the
players create cliché stereotypes – they’re only cliché because they work.



Origins are a replacement for race selection in other
games. In BareBones Fantasy RPG, for instance,
characters are built with a race selection, followed by
skill and ability determination. In Covert Ops, or
in the modern world in general, race is just a
cultural/cosmetic thing and doesn’t carry with it
any modifiers. Players can be any race or
nationality they choose.

However, they do have backgrounds, professions,

etc. We call this an operative’s Origin. This helps
define the character’s upbringing prior to becoming
an operative working for Command. Some effort
was made to create a list of origins which is
comprehensive by its categorical nature, not by its
exhaustiveness. Therefore, players shouldn’t need you to
create new origins to help define their background… just pick
one which categorically is similar to what they’re looking for.


You don’t HAVE to use the origins list. If you’d prefer, simply
replace the origins step in character creation (step 1) with
the following. Just allow players to roll one of the following
background benefits or spend a bone to select instead:


00-19 Gifted Add 5 to an ability score.
20-34 Experienced Place a level 1 in a skill.
35-44 Well-Equipped Add 6 to Equipment
45-54 Established Traveler’s Lifestyle and add 3
to Equipment Allowance.
55-64 Quick Add 1 to MOV.
65-74 Alert Add 1 to INIT.
75-84 Tough Add 5 to BP.
85-94 Talented +10 to an ability check under a
specific circumstance.
95-99 Diverse Subtract 5 from lowest ability,
then re-roll twice, ignoring
results of 95+


There are no skills which represent an operative’s ability to run fast, jump high,
climb well, swing from a rope, balance on a branch, etc. Acts of athletic ability use
straight ability checks. If a player wants to represent his operative’s athletic skill, he
should buy up his dexterity and strength scores.

Where are they? You may get a player who asks how he would explain that his
operative is a carpenter, baker, sculptor, etc. These types of things are not
necessary to codify in this role-playing game. Skills represent broader archetypical
classifications of ability and training appropriate to the genre, not specific finite
application of non-adventuring ability.


If you want a player’s operative to have a non-adventuring background that might
come into play occasionally, you could always suggest that he specify it as one of his

For instance, an operative has a descriptor of “skilled painter.” This might not often
come into play, but a creative player could demonstrate it in imaginative ways.
Encountering people who know of the operative’s more known paintings could
result in some fun role-playing. Also, a player might demonstrate his descriptor by
relying on his composition experience and knowledge to identify where a concealed
compartment might be in a painted object… by considering how he would have
hidden it by creative application of color or texture.

Descriptors don’t give you bonuses to actions, but when players demonstrate them
during play they get rewarded by gaining bonus development points, which helps
them excel in other things. You should be able to handle most non-adventuring
skills and abilities using descriptors. If you think a player’s request necessitates a
new skill with more adventurous use, read on.


To create a new skill, specify four aspects or abilities. These might be simple and
self-evident (see the pilot skill) or might have some complexity (see the leader skill),
but all the aspects should be within scope of, and not a duplicate of, those found. If
you cannot come up with four unique aspects, then perhaps the skill isn’t broad
enough to work within the scope of this categorical skill system. Next, decide which
ability score would be used for most of the skill’s aspects and whether or not the
skill’s aspects can be used unskilled. Lastly, decide whether or not specialization
should be allowed. Normally, specialization is only appropriate for non-combative
skills (to prevent “min/maxing”). Describe the types of specializations that make
sense for the skill in question.



A player wants to make a skill called “merchant” to represent the fact that before
joining Command his operative was an arms dealer. You decide he should have the
ability to spot a bad deal (or a good one!) with a skill check in case someone tries to
pass faulty merchandise. The first aspect you give him is “appraise.” Easy enough.

Next, selling high and buying low is a real game of economics which is normally a
focus of the academics skill, so you decide to leave economics out of it. Instead,
you focus on a second aspect, “haggling,” which allows the merchant to make a skill
check to lower an asking price of one item by an amount equal to his merchant skill
level (minimum cost 1, may only try once per mission) when outfitting for a mission.

Next, a merchant knows where to find what he needs. Because of his intimate
familiarity with markets (black or otherwise), the merchant operative can make a
skill check to learn where and if an item can be acquired. He may do this once per
session. This doesn’t give the merchant the means to get it, but he discovers where
he can obtain it. He announces to the GM what he wants and makes a skill check.
If successful, the GM tells him where he can get his hands on it. The player likes this
suggestion but asks if it can work both ways: if he can use the ability to know a
fence or dealer who would be willing to pay for contraband or other obtained
goods. The GM likes this and decides to name it “market scrounging.”

Three out of four aspects are done. The player and GM scratch their heads and
come up with another aspect: what merchant could survive with bad press? A
merchant, if he is to be successful, needs to be a master of public representation
and spin, needs to be able to sell a product and let his company look good doing it.
The GM calls this ability “spin doctor” and it allows the merchant to make a skill
check to identify spin, create spin, or to oppose it. Although this one is a bit more
story-based than the others, it’s a valid niche to fill in the skill list.

The GM looks through the four aspects. Appraise sounds like a LOG act, while
haggling sounds like it would require WIL. Market scrounging and spin doctor both
sound like they would use LOG, so he decides the skill is based on LOG and records
it as “half LOG plus 10 x merchant level.”

Since this isn’t a combat-related skill, the GM decides to allow area specialization,
defining it as “specific types of products or markets” which allows an operative to
pick “arms dealing” as an area of specialization, thus permitting the player’s original



This skill represents training and experience in making deals, appraising valuables,
or obtaining goods from obscure sources.

Score: Half LOG +10 per merchant level.

 Appraise – Represents knowledge of the quality and authenticity of works

of value. With a skill check, the approximate value of an item may be
assessed, as well as the presence of a phony.
 Haggling – During outfitting section of a mission, this operative can haggle
for a better deal. This allows him to (with a skill check) lower the cost of
any one item by an amount equal to his merchant skill level. The cost of
the item may not be reduced lower than 1.
 Market Scrounging – Once per game session, the merchant can make a
skill check when he or his team needs to obtain something. If successful,
the merchant knows who has what is needed. This doesn’t give him the
means to obtain it, only the knowledge of where he may go to get it.
 Spin Doctor – Being a master of spin and reputation management, this
allows the merchant to make a skill check to identify spin (lies designed to
manipulate public opinion), create spin, or oppose it. This is an open-
ended story-based aspect of the merchant skill.

Specializing: Many merchants specialize in one type of market or even a specific

product. Normally, your score represents your ability to appraise, haggle, scrounge,
or spin any type of market/product. If you specialize, however, you receive a +10
bonus when your area of specialty is concerned. In other markets or products you
have a -10 penalty. You can only specialize at the time of operative creation, and
cannot change your specialization later.


Defining statistics modeled from real-world firearms is a very subjective process.
Every expert and hobbyist has his own take on what makes a weapon fire
accurately or have more stopping power, and few will agree on these things. If you
desire more complexity in your games and want to try to model real-world
weapons, you can use these optional guidelines.
1. Start with a base weapon from the outfitting tables.
2. Apply one or more of the following, each increases the cost by +1:
 +5 accuracy bonus to hit
 +5 bonus to thief checks to conceal the firearm from search (only
handguns and sub machine guns)
 +1 damage bonus per bullet
 More bullets in the magazine (up to half normal ammo limit)
 +1 range category (S to M, for instance)
 Upgrade the firing action (make a pistol fire bursts, for instance). For the
sake of modeling real-world weapons, mention the firing action with
specificity; some weapons fire only short bursts, for instance.
3. Apply one or more of the following, each decreases cost by -1:
 -5 accuracy bonus to hit
 -5 bonus to thief checks to conceal the firearm from search (only for
handguns and sub machineguns)
 -1 damage bonus per bullet
 Fewer bullets in the magazine (up to half normal ammo limit)
 -1 range category (M to S, for instance)
4. For additional changes, apply firearm "upgrades" as normal, creating new
upgrades where necessary to accommodate a real-world weapon.
5. Specify ammunition caliber (.357, .44, 9mm, etc.). This eliminates the question
about whether or not scavenged ammo can be used by the operative’s firearm.
6. If desired, note the firearm's firing action (single action revolver, double action
revolver, or semi-automatic). Although this has little to no effect in game
mechanics it may help some players better imagine the situations their
operative’s experience.


You are creating a Glock 38, so you start with a semiautomatic pistol. It fires a fairly
large caliber bullet (.45), so you might apply a +1 damage bonus per bullet for a cost
of +1. You believe it’s fairly concealable, allowing a bonus of +5 to any thief skill
check to conceal it for a cost of +1. The Glock's magazine holds only 8 bullets, this
lowers the cost by 1. You believe the manufacturer mass produces the weapon and
doesn't specifically target military use and believe the weapon has a -5 modifier to
accuracy for a cost of -1. Note that this system works for creating firearms of every
type and size.



Action: Semi-auto Type: Pistol
Accuracy: -5 Damage: 2D+3
Range: Medium Conceal: +5
Ammo: 8 Caliber: .45 GAP
Cost: 3


Action: Semi-auto Type: Pistol
Accuracy: +5 Damage: 2D+3
Range: Medium Conceal: +0
Ammo: 7 Caliber: .45 ACP
Cost: 4


Action: Semi-auto Type: Pistol
Accuracy: +0 Damage: 2D-1
Range: Medium Conceal: +10
Ammo: 10 Caliber: .22 LR
Cost: 2


Action: Semi-auto Type: Pistol
Accuracy: +0 Damage: 2D+2
Range: Medium Conceal: +5
Ammo: 15 Caliber: 9mm
Cost: 5


Action: Revolver Type: Pistol
Accuracy: +0 Damage: 2D+3
Range: Medium Conceal: +0
Ammo: 6 Caliber: .357
Cost: 2


Action: Semi-auto Type: Pistol
Accuracy: +5 Damage: 2D+1
Range: Medium Conceal: +10
Ammo: 6 Caliber: 9mm
Cost: 4

As mentioned, these are just one possible way these guns

could be statistically represented in these rules, other
firearm enthusiasts’ opinions will vary.


If you want the added detail provided by specific types
of ammunition, consider these options. This adds
more complexity to the game and is provided only for
those wanting the added detail. Either the initial or
any additional purchased ammunition payloads can be
of any of the following types.

 Armor Piercing – Weapons of this type would have a damage rating of -2 lower
than normal for the weapon type from which it is fired, but ignores DR from non-
hardened targets. It is not considered “penetrating” but can get through most
armor worn by enemy operatives. It normally passes through opponents and has
a clear exit wound.
 Full Metal Jacket – This is the assumed normal bullet used by operatives. It is
versatile and is best selected for unknown situations. It often travels through
opponents and can clear glass and small shrubbery.
 Jacketed Soft Point – This ammunition has a soft point rather than a hollow one,
but can get through armors a bit better than hollow points. Double any DR this
ammunition comes into contact with. For instance, if fired at someone in a bullet-
proof vest, the DR is considered 10 instead of 5. However, if fired at an
unarmored target, damage is increased by +2.
 Jacketed Hollow Point – This type of ammunition is not very effective against
armored targets. The damage of this bullet is increased by +3, but reduce the
damage rolled by half if the target has any DR at all. For instance, if a gun
normally has a damage code of 2D+3 and is loaded with Jacketed Hollow Point
rounds, then it has a damage code of 2D+6. If fired at a target with DR of 1 or
higher, however, all damaged is halved before applying against that DR.
 Glaser Safety Slug – This type of ammunition is designed to eliminate potential
damage to targets behind the intended one. It won’t penetrate too deeply into a
target’s body. This makes it less effective against armored opponents (-1 to
damage) but the operative who fires it and gets a critical failure can rest assured
he won’t likely be killing innocent civilians. Note that this type of bullet also
generally shatters on impact with a solid surface, reducing ricochet and also the
chance that the bullet’s fragments can be traced back to the registered owner’s
 Tracer Rounds – This type of ammunition includes small pyrotechnic charges in its
base. While the bullet is in flight, it leaves behind an ignited trail of light. Tracer
rounds aren’t normally used except in fully automatic weaponry every fifth round.
This helps a shooter to follow the bullet trajectory and make aiming corrections. If
desired, you can include tracer rounds in your fully automatic weapon’s
ammunition payload to grant a +10 to hit on any subsequent bursts fired in the
same turn (this doesn’t fully offset the multi-action penalty, but it helps). The
obvious nature of the trajectory illumination gives away the position of the firer,
however, so operatives should avoid tracer rounds for stealth missions.


If you’re looking for some plausible gadgets, you can
look no further than the internet. You’d be surprised
how many spy gadgets can be found. What follows is
an example list of ten actual gadgets from the real
world operatives might select, all of which are
plausible (cost of 3).

 Audio Jammer – This small hand-held

device emits white noise (tones emitted
on all wavelengths simultaneously). With
a simple 9v battery it protects the voices
in a single large room from being picked
up effectively by audio recording
equipment (“bugs”). Although not
fool-proof, white noise generators are
an old technology that works well
against civilian-grade surveillance
 Auto Drone – This appears much like
a common, if expensive, remote control
helicopter or airplane. It can be launched by, and includes control
software for, a linked to a cell phone. This aircraft can be set up to repeat
a patrol pattern, and has built-in electronics to stream high definition video
back to the controlling smart phone. The camera has 120 degrees of
rotation and can zoom up to 4x optically (much more digitally). Pictures
can be taken and stored on the phone. The auto drone will continue its
patrol activity for up to 8 hours before it loses its charge and falls to the
ground. Although by default it only includes high definition video
recording, an improbable version might be equipped with other types of
electronics (infra-red, radar, or even jamming equipment).
 Coin Gadgets – This is a small, simple gadget. It looks like a quarter or a
one Euro coin. It can be twisted and transformed into a key that fits most
handcuffs. Other coin gadgets can be shifted open to reveal a small
compartment for holding a surface-mount microchip or micro SD memory
card. There are even coin gadgets that can reveal a razor-sharp titanium
knife blade capable of causing surgical-level damage to targets.
 Envelope X-ray Spray – This aerosol can sprays a non-conductive non-
photo reactive chemical onto normal paper (envelopes typically) and
makes the paper temporary translucent enough that you can read the
papers contained within. The effect lasts only around 30 seconds, then
quickly evaporates away and leaves very little trace, unless chemically


 GPS Wristwatch – The wristwatch is one of the best places for a gadget,
and there exists a few of them in real life. The GPS wristwatch gives
accurate (to 3 meters) positioning (including altitude), including the ability
to program a home point, and the watch will point to it to help someone
find their way back home. Some GPS Wristwatches might also include a
signal broadcast option… great for calling for an extraction or silently
alerting a teammate, but bad if someone’s looking for your operative
digitally! Oh yeah – it tells time as well.
 Hypodermic Ring – This ring includes a small hypodermic needle which can
be shifted into place. A single dose of substance can be contained in the
ring, to be dispensed into someone. The injected toxin typically causes
paralysis or unconsciousness, but could also be quite deadly. The ring is
somewhat small, so it only works with very potent toxins or on targets with
a low body weight.
 Identification Pen – This special pen contains a camera and can be
programmed to identify the facial structure of a single person. If the
person whose facial structure has been programmed is photographed
(which occurs silently and without flash), a small blue design strip changes
color to green. This can be used to help identify someone in disguise, since
it doesn’t use simple optical recognition but a host of physical
characteristics to make its identity analysis. The pen can also be used to
take photographs, though lighting must be good since it does not include a
 Keyboard Monitoring Flash Drive – This small flash drive fits into a USB
port on a computer. It silently monitors keystrokes and takes screen shots
of computer information at specified time intervals or when certain
definable criteria is met. Illegal in many states, this device stores all of this
information in an encrypted file and emails it to a foreign address or stores
it for later extraction. Great for finding typed passwords and identifying
illegal activity.
 Multi-function Counter Surveillance Detector – This hand-held device has
many types of detectors. It is able to detect radio-frequency transmitting
devices, telephone security systems, laser listening devices, even hidden
cameras by their visual and radio-frequency signatures. It detects wireless
devices as well as GPS systems and other transmitters. It is a must-have
for the concerned spy.
 Video Recording Sunglasses – Basic polarized sunglasses (designer, of
course) which include a micro-sized video recording camera. The lens is a
small pin-hole in the bridge of the glasses and records an amazing 35
frames per second across a 72 degree wide angle. It even has a built-in
microphone. It will record up to 4 hours of high definition video with
stereo audio, and can take still pictures on demand with the touch of a
small button on one side.



If you’d prefer a campaign setting in which players are freelancers rather than
operatives working for Command, you may be interested in considering this option.
Instead of using equipment allowance, operatives will just have money. This has
certain campaign-changing results, but works for certain styles of game play.

Certain things are missing from the cash-based equipment tables – such as backup
personnel and lifestyles, but replacing them are hireling wages and a categorical list
of goods and services such as meals, clothes, etc. This is a bit more micro-managed
than the equipment allowance system, but allows you the flexibility of finding prices
online for things and having a price available for players.

Use normal operative creation rules to determine how many points of equipment
allowance each operative begins play with. Then use that number on the following
table to determine operative starting money (equal to $1,000 plus one month’s
disposable income) and what holdings they have. An operative’s holdings can vary
over time through game play, as will his wealth. But this is all too complicated to
provide mechanics for and is up to the GM and players to manage. After noting an
operative’s holdings and disposable income (which already includes upkeep of their
holdings – players don’t have to pay rent) and starting funds, the equipment
allowance score is eliminated and no longer used.

6 $ 500 Struggling studio apartment, bus pass
9 $ 1,500 Middle-class apartment, motorcycle or car
12 $ 6,000 Well-off house, car
15 $ 30,000 Wealthy business, large house, car, motorcycle
18 $ 100,000 Filthy Rich large business, mansion, summer house,
2-3 cars, yacht


Each month they’ll gain money equal to their RANK (PER OPERATIVE)
disposable income, which they can use how they
1 $ 100/day
see fit. However, how much should they charge
2 $ 250/day
for missions? Five hundred dollars apiece? A
3 $ 500/day
thousand? It all depends on the operative’s skills
4 $ 1,000/day
and their needs. As a general guideline which
5 $ 2,000/day
may or may not apply to your style of play,
6 $ 3,000/day
consider the following rates based on operative



Traveler’s 2,000/mo Revolver 500 Dirtbike 2,000
Extravagant 20,000/mo Semi-Auto Pistol 600 Motorcycle 4,000
Submachine Gun 900 Subcompact car 10,000
COVER IDENTITY COST Semi-Auto Rifle 800 Compact car 12,500
Shotgun 500 Midsize car 20,000
Simple 1,000 Muscle car 50,000
Assault Rifle 2,000
Complex 10,000 Sports car 100,000
Sniper Rifle 3,000
Flamethrower 400 Luxury car 50,000
BACKUP COST Rocket Launcher 500 Jeep 25,000
Basic 2,500/mo SUV 30,000
Basic Group 7,500/mo FIREARM UPGRADES COST Hum-vee 35,000
Skilled 4,000/mo Bayonet +50 Minivan 30,000
Commandos 15,000/mo Ceramic Polymer +COST Full-sized van 35,000
Expert 5,000/mo Passenger van 38,000
Concealed Spring Holster +250
Small pickup 20,000
Extended Magazine +50
Pickup truck 28,000
GADGETS COST Heavier Caliber +COST
Monster truck 200,000
Plausible 1,000 Improved Sights +500
Delivery truck 40,000
Laser Targeting System +500 Semi truck 150,000
Improbable 10,000
Recognition Grip +500 Bus 60,000
Super-science 1 Million
Silencer/Suppressor +250
Helicopter 250 ,000
Cold Weather 500 OTHER WEAPONS COST Cargo Helicopter 10 Million
Demolitions 500 Axe 50 Propeller Plane 200,000
Disguise 500 Bow or Crossbow 250 Corporate Jet 10 Million
Forensics 500 Brass Knuckles 10 Cargo Jet 20 Million
Infiltration 500 Club 10
Medic 750 Knife 50 WATER VEHICLES COST
Operative 500 Nightstick 25 Jet Ski 10,000
Researcher 500 Nunchucks 25 Sailboat 20,000
Science 750 Pepper Spray 20 Speedboat 30,000
SCUBA 500 Spear 75 Yacht 100,000
Surveillance 750 Staff 30 Personal Submersible 250,000
Survivalist 500 Stun Gun 35 Team Submersible 2 Million
Technician 500 Sword 150
Briefcase Full 1 Million Auto Tire Repair +5,000/tire
of Money GRENADES COST Communications +10,000
Common Items 100 Fragmentation 50 Eject Seat +3,000
Expensive Item 2,000 Flash-Bang 25 Gliderwings +COST
Smoke 25 Hardened +COST
Very Expensive 100,000+
Incendiary 40 Heavy Armor (DR30) +TWICE
Plastic Explosive 200 Identity Change +HALF
Mine 250 Light Armor (DR10) +HALF
Leather Jacket 100 HEAVY WEAPONS COST Offroad Conversion +10,000
Bardentic Clothes 500 Cannon 7,500 Oil Slick +500
Bullet Proof Vest 500 Machine Gun 5,000 Performance Boost +HALF
Impact Suit 750 Rocket 8,000 Remote Control +9,000
Body Armor 2,500 Missile 10,000 Security +2,000
Self-Destruct +10,000
Bomb 7,500
Sensor suite +12,000
All costs are in dollars ($) and are guidelines only. Smoke Screen +500
+HALF, +COST, +TWICE means its cost is based on the Speedster +HALF
item being upgraded (half, full, or two times the base Spikestrip +500
cost, respectively). Stealth Technology +COST



A great deal of effort was made to try NOT to have exhaustive lists of all possible
equipment. Imagine having to buy boxes of bullets and empty magazine boxes,
keeping track of all that? Imagine needing some duct tape on a mission and
everyone going through lists and lists of what they have in their spy packs to see if
anyone brought it? Secret agents and paramilitary heroes always seem to have
what they need for a mission, so why shouldn’t the player’s operatives do the
same? On the other hand, shouldn’t players have to keep track of their gear? Not
having what is needed is sometimes the catalyst for additional fun objectives of
acquiring those things. Acquiring things in pursuit of mission objectives is part of
the fun of being a resourceful operative too, right?

To try to balance this, we designed Standard Equipment Packs. Players spend some
of their equipment allowance deciding what types of mission objectives to be
prepared for. If the operatives are being dropped into a jungle and have to make
their way to the other side of an island to infiltrate a secret enemy base, they might
all want survivalist and infiltration packs. In the core rulebook it mentions examples
of the types of things contained in such packs, but these are intentionally vague and
include verbiage such as “etc.” and “includes equipment such as.”


When a player describes an action to you that requires special gear, ask him if he
has such gear on his operative dossier. He will likely reply with what standard
equipment packs he has and it’s up to you to judge whether or not those packs
include such a piece of special gear.

For instance, if the players want to photograph a weapon silo’s control panel from
100 yards away, let them know their operative pack satellite cellular phones lack
the resolution to get such an accurate photo. If one of the players announces he
has a surveillance pack, then it’s obvious they have what they need. But what
about if someone has a forensics pack? Does that include a camera with a sufficient
zoom lens? That’s up to you to arbitrate.


Since it’s your job to arbitrate whether or not various equipment packs include the
gear the players need, you can also make those decisions based on the needs of
your story. If the players need to affix something to something else, you might
decide they have what they need in their various packs without even asking them,
simply because it’s not important to the mission at the moment. However, if you
felt that it was important to the story that they not perform that action – or better
yet, if you have something planned for the story when the players go to look for
what they need – then feel free to tell them they lack the gear, and let them know a
way they might get what they need. Letting story dictate equipment availability
arbitration is a great way to help move the story along directions you’d prefer.


The moral code system presented in the core rules helps you define your
operative’s personality and moral compass. In addition to this, or in place of it,
consider using this optional system.

In this system, players must define their loyalties. They may pick any number of
people, places, concepts, or groups to which they have loyalty. They list them in
order on their operative dossiers. For instance, one operative may be loyal to
Command, their Country, and to their Team. Another might be loyal to their Team
and then to Command. These two operatives prioritize things very differently,
placing the importance of their team in different perspectives.

Some GMs may wish to enforce that all players list where they rate “self” among
their loyalties. Someone who places himself before his team will certainly react
differently to certain situations than one who places his team before himself.


Players choose their loyalties, but may change
them over time with the permission of (and at
a rate determined by) the GM. For instance,
at the end of one mission (or session) a GM
might allow a requesting player to shift his
loyalty order one step, swapping the
position of two things. Or he may allow
them to append another loyalty to the
end of the list (like loyalty to a lover).
Over time, a new loyalty might make its
way to the top priority of the operative.

When a mission objective or concept
causes his loyalties to conflict, an
operative will have to make a
WIL check to choose a
different path than the one
called for by their highest
conflicted loyalty. For instance,
if an operative is loyal to his team and then
to Command and is given a mission to spy on his
own team, he would have to succeed in a WIL
check to pull it off. Otherwise he’d come clean to his team
that Command wants him to spy on them.



The maneuvers found in the core rulebook should give a lot of options for
operatives. The quantity of them is about right to allow diversity among fighting
styles of a number of operatives, while not overwhelming players with an ever-
growing list of maneuvers from which to choose. Although future supplements may
indeed contain new maneuvers to use against (and by) your players’ operatives,
don’t be afraid to create new maneuvers yourself if you need one to meet a clever
player’s fighting concept.

Martial arts maneuvers were not meant to be a MARTIAL ARTS BELT

min/maxer’s toolkit, though many players see them SKILL LEVEL COLOR
that way. Similar to “feats” or “talents” or 1 White
“advantages” found in other games, martial arts 2 Yellow
maneuvers are specific to unarmed fighting and should 3 Green
limit their application thusly. If you want to make your 4 Brown
martial arts skill a bit more of a focus in the campaign, 5 Black
you can assign belt ranks to the skill levels, as shown 6 Red
on the table at right.


Before approving a new maneuver, read through the existing maneuvers carefully
to make sure your new one is needed. Sometimes another maneuver accomplishes
the same thing with a slightly different mechanical technique or maneuver name. If
you’re certain the new maneuver is needed, try to limit its bonuses or power to a
very specific application of activity. Although some maneuvers do indeed give
bonuses to your operative in other ways (such as adding to INIT or MOV), try to
prevent maneuvers which are always in effect. Creating too many maneuvers
which are always in effect will put far too much emphasis on the martial artist skill
in the game. Of course, if you want your campaign setting to focus more heavily on
martial arts, then perhaps you’d enjoy adding many more specific maneuvers. The
choice is yours.

As an option, force players to have their operatives seek out a mentor, teacher, or
school/academy of martial training. Gaining a new maneuver doesn’t happen
automatically when they gain their level, they instead have to go to their academy
or mentor and learn new moves, which takes time and is only possible between
missions. This can also be used as a plot tool when the mentor/teacher informs the
player that he has learned everything the mentor knows, and he has to seek a new
mentor. Additionally, missions might come from unusual sources and a martial arts
instructor can show the operatives avenues for new adventures if used cleverly by
the GM. Note that if you are using the optional loyalty rule from the previous page,
you might enforce the player specify where his mentor rates among his loyalties, as
this could become a source of conflict within a story.



Mentors may require the operative behave in a certain manner or adhere to a set of
principles that might be difficult under the operative’s defined moral code. If the
operative violates the tenets of the philosophy then the mentor might strip him of
his belt and refuse to teach him further. This is just a story element; the operative
doesn’t lose levels of his skill nor does he forget maneuvers.

Another option for a martial artist focused setting is to have anyone who takes a
martial artist skill to pre-define his fighting style. That is, roll or select all the
maneuvers he will ever get for his fighting style in a list with room to place
checkboxes next to them. As he gains levels in the skill, he takes the next maneuver
in the list, in order. If he wants to have a maneuver not covered in his fighting style
then he has to find a new mentor/teacher with a new style. It is difficult to change
a fighting style after finding a new school. To unlearn what you know and learn the
maneuvers of the new style will take time (between-mission) and effort (perhaps
requiring DP expenditure, STR or DEX checks, or whatever the GM desires) to catch
up and learn the new style.

If you want to have a more martial arts focused campaign, consider allowing players
to pick a weapon other than their bare hands to which the martial arts maneuvers
apply. The rules work as normal, but the operative gains all the unarmed bonuses
when using a melee weapon instead. If you allow this, it makes a game where
some people can do amazing things with swords and staves, but as long as the bad
guys can do it too then you have a balanced system (though a bit more to keep up

A player who wants to have martial training with more than one melee weapon
would have to buy the skill multiple times, each having its own skill level.
Alternatively, if you want to allow martial melee weapons to be a bit more
common, consider adding the following new maneuver to the list approved for use
by players:

Weapon Kata – an operative with this maneuver can use all of his other martial arts
maneuvers with one chosen melee weapon (sword, knife, etc.). To have martial
training with more than one weapon, select Weapon Kata more than once. To
maintain this martial training with a weapon, the operative must practice with it
regularly. If the operative buys or finds a different weapon than that which he
trains with, he must train for at least 2 days with the new weapon to gain these



Not all marksmen are soldiers. Some folks are ROLL FIREARM MANEUVER
just interested in shooting a pistol and not a lot 00-03 9mm Master Key
else. To them, it’s unimportant to be trained in 04-07 Arms Dealer
the use of heavy weapons or demolitions. In 08-11 Awkward Stance
order to represent these “gun-fu” artists, the 12-15 Breaching
following optional system is provided. It is not a 16-19 Casting
new skill; rather, it provides an additional 20-23 Catch & Fire
optional rule for use with the soldier skill. 24-27 Cleaning
28-31 Dead-to-Rights
A soldier skill normally has four aspects (like all 36-39 Fire from Melee
skills in this system): Pistols, Rifles, Gunnery, and 40-43 Fire into Melee
Demolitions. If using this optional system, a 44-47 Firearm Awareness
player may replace “demolitions” with a new 48-51 Fire-on-the-run
aspect called “Firearm Maneuvers.” 52-55 Guns Akimbo
56-59 Insanely Cool Moves
If soldier is your operative’s primary skill, he is 64-67 Quick Draw
permitted to gain two firearm maneuvers per 68-71 Rapid-fire
skill level. If soldier is your operative’s 72-75 Shot in the Dark
secondary skill, he is permitted one firearm 76-79 Signature Weapon
maneuver per skill level. If soldier is neither 80-83 Snap Shot
primary nor secondary, he receives one 84-87 Swift Load
maneuver at levels 2, 4, and 6. This is consistent 88-91 Take it in the Shoulder
with the martial maneuver rules from the 92-95 Trick Shot
martial arts skill. You may roll or choose from 96-99 Well-Maintained
the table (as the GM permits). Firearm


This allows the operative to shoot at a The operative gains an international
locked door (mechanical or electronic) arms dealer as a connection, similar to
and guarantee (with a skill check) that those gained by the detective skill. He
the door will become unlocked. Either may call upon aid from this dealer for
the lock mechanism is obliterated or weapons, defenses, ammunition,
the electronics glitch in such a way that certain vehicle upgrades, information,
it opens. The only risk is that if the etc. It won't be free; it typically comes
soldier skill check fails, the lock (and with the cost of an owed "favor" for
door) is now quite jammed and can't be which the operative must later repay.
opened without tools, time, and/or Note that if the player refuses to return
explosives. the owed favor, his arms dealer asset
can quickly become a pain in the butt.



You can shoot normally even when not The operative can clean a “hot” firearm.
in an ideal firing position (hanging up- That is, remove the serialization and
side-down, leaning out of a doorway, markings, modify the bore to change
dangling on a rope, etc.). No penalty the bullet casing markings, etc. The
should be assigned to the operative weapon is now clean - untraceable by
with this maneuver for poor footing or all legal means. Even the most astute
imbalance. forensics expert will be unable to trace
the bullet back to the specific firearm.
When not in combat, the operative DEAD-TO-RIGHTS
automatically does the maximum The operative makes a hit roll against
damage for his weapon when shooting an opponent but doesn't apply damage.
a door, machine, or other structure. Instead, he has the foe "dead to rights"
Damage is tripled for shotguns, based and can choose to apply the damage
on the assumption the shotgun is (that is, actually fire the bullet) at any
loaded with special breaching rounds. time thereafter as long as he maintains
his drop on his opponent. This is usually
CASTING used to capture someone, who would
The operative makes his own bullets. In be a fool to attempt anything other
game terms, assume all firearms he than surrender. Taking damage or
obtains from Command have the "Spare making a hit roll against anyone else
Ammo" upgrade, giving him one extra while holding someone dead-to-rights
reload. This spare ammo upgrade can breaks the drop on the opponent.
be of any of the types of ammunition
shown in the Variant Ammunition EXTENDED RANGE
section, page 23. When taking one or more actions to
aim, increase the base range of a
CATCH & FIRE weapon by one increment (one
This allows an operative to catch a increment max). Thus a pistol could be
firearm (from another teammate, or as effectively reach Long range, and a
a result of a disarm martial maneuver) sniper rifle could hit just about anyone
in such a way that he may instantly the sniper could see.
prepare it for firing (switch off safety,
cock the hammer, etc.) and squeeze off FIRE FROM MELEE
a shot without incurring any additional GMs may disallow or impose a penalty
multi-action penalty. Actually catching to someone firing a weapon when he's
the weapon in this way requires a engaged in melee combat. With this
soldier skill check (which may or may maneuver, the operative can fire his
not have multi-action penalties based firearm freely whether he's currently
on the situation) but firing it directly engaged in melee or not.
afterward incurs no additional multi-
action penalty.


FIRE INTO MELEE upgrades are purchased separately. If

GMs may impose a penalty to someone the operative also has Casting, both of
firing at an opponent who is engaged in these pistols receive the Spare Ammo
melee with another combatant. upgrades.
Although other modifiers may exist, this
maneuver immunizes you against such INSANELY COOL MOVES
a penalty. This maneuver works identically to the
martial arts maneuver of the same
Knowledge of firearms and the types of
people who use them allows the POINT BLANK SHOT
operative to make a soldier skill check The soldier with this maneuver receives
to determine firearm-related situational a +10 modifier when firing at someone
conditions, such as whether or not within 2 spaces. This modifier stacks
someone has a gun concealed in an with all other maneuver modifiers,
ankle holster, or which vehicle in any making someone a very dangerous
given parking lot has the highest chance combatant in close quarters in the dark
of having a firearm in the glove if rapid-firing a signature weapon.
compartment. Firearm Awareness
can also be used to assess the
threat level of someone aiming a
firearm, such as whether or
not they've fired before, if
the safety is on or off,
or even if it is loaded. QUICK DRAW
With a successful soldier skill
FIRE-ON-THE-RUN check, you can instantly draw a
Your operative weapon, prepare it for being fired
is trained to (switch off the safety, cock the
shoot while hammer, etc.), and squeeze off an
running, initial shot with such speed that an
compensating for the opponent is considered surprised.
bounce of his arm and This only works if it is done at the
coordinating the angle of beginning of a firefight. Without this
his gun appropriately. If maneuver, an operative would have
you perform a running to make a DEX check to draw the
action you may fire at an weapon, then have a multi-action
opponent without an additional penalty to shoot it.
multi-action penalty, though other
penalties may still apply. RAPID-FIRE
With two rapidly fired shots
GUNS AKIMBO you increase your chances of
If the operative receives a pistol from hitting your foe at the
Command outfitting, he automatically expense of wasting a bit of
gets two for the same cost. Any ammunition. You get +10 to


hit but only one of the two bullets is combat. This counts as an action and
assumed to hit its mark. This maneuver increases your multi-action penalty for
cannot be used when firing automatic any actions which follow, but itself
bursts. requires no rolls.


An operative with this maneuver is able The operative with this maneuver is so
to shoot at human targets in the dark in tune with bullet trajectory and timing
based on the sounds they make. No that he can, in place of a normal
penalty is assessed as long as the target disadvantaged DEX-based resistance
is within 5 spaces. Beyond that, check against a bullet, use his full
darkness is too restrictive for this Soldier skill. If he succeeds, he takes the
maneuver to be effective. shot in the shoulder. If using the
optional hit location system from page
SIGNATURE WEAPON 54, he may choose areas 4 or 5 as he
The operative gains +5 on any soldier wishes. If not using this optional
skill when shooting his personally system, he takes half normal damage
modified and maintained gun. This gun bullet.
needs to be specified when selecting
this maneuver. Operatives may take TRICK SHOT
this maneuver multiple times to have You may ricochet a bullet off an
more than one signature weapon, but extremely hard surface, knowing how
may not apply it multiple times to the the bullet will respond. This allows you
same weapon. to make a normal hit roll against an
opponent around obstacles, as long as
SNAP SHOT you can see him. Although your
Having a gun in your hand while your knowledge of trajectory and bullet
adrenaline rages is a comfort to you, deformation is vast, you can't keep the
clearing your mind and allowing you to bullet from losing some of its
make fast decisions well. Add +1 to speed/effectiveness: the bullet will
your initiative score by taking a -10 to cause half normal damage when it hits.
your soldier skill when shooting that
turn. To receive this benefit, you must WELL-MAINTAINED FIREARM
have a firearm in your hand. After The operative takes such good care of
getting to roll the additional initiative his firearms that once per session he
die (or receiving an extra initiative card may ignore a critical failure rolled while
if using the alternative rules on page shooting. The player announces he's
53), you don’t have to actually fire your using his one-time-per-session ability
firearm. and the GM should keep track of it.
Then he rerolls the failed roll. Of course,
SWIFT LOAD nothing is stopping the dice from
Your operative automatically succeed at betraying the player and critically failing
reloading a weapon that only takes one again.
action without rolling any dice while in


Operatives should be given development points (DP) after each game session in
accordance with the guidelines found in the core rulebook. Some additional
clarifications, options, and ideas follow.

The rate of operative development is intentionally quick in lower ranks. This helps
the player quickly achieve the type of operative he envisions. It helps him build his
concept. Right around rank 3, however, development slows down quite a bit.
Players shouldn’t get disheartened during this period; it is a time of character
development, story building, and fun.

As a GM it is up to you to determine how fast or how slow to allow players to

develop their characters. At the recommended rate of development operatives
receive around 4-6 DP per session. It is technically possible to earn 10 DP in one
session, though if you follow the checklist properly this is highly unlikely. Two of
the DPs are for the players to dole out; these you have no real control over. The
rest are yours to decide as GM. You can choose to use the checklist or decide for
yourself how much to give. Some published adventures may give guidelines at the
mission’s conclusion, and some might leave it totally up to you.

Sometimes a player will disregard rank. He won’t care about gaining Bones, earning
a codename, having a base of operations funded, etc. These operatives typically
dump their development points into a single skill, trying to be the best there is at a
very specific thing. That’s fine, though it leads to a one-dimensional operative – a
one-trick pony. It is difficult to balance your missions, enemies, security systems,
and encounters against such a player’s operative because you have no rank value
which properly assesses his level of power. For such a character you can estimate
his rank as being equal to his highest skill level, +1 more if he has an ability score of
100 or more. This works as a quick & dirty method.

Everyone knows that an operative earns certain perks at each rank he attains.
These are normally increases in equipment allowance, extra bones to reflect his
acquired taste for dangerous situations, or campaign-related bonuses like
codenames, team formation, or bases of operation. However, GMs wishing to give
more incentive to achieve ranks can consider using this optional system. In this
system, each time an operative achieves a new rank (except the first rank, which is
automatic and built into operative creation), allow the player to roll on the
following table. These are in addition to the benefits all operatives receive with
rank according to the core rulebook.


Operatives gain access to a black market
(an illegal source for weapons, defenses, ROLL BENEFIT
and equipment). Only weapons, 00-04 Black Market
defenses, vehicles, and equipment packs 05-09 Bodyguard
may be purchased on the black market. 10-14 Command
Everything in the black market costs 15-19 Computer Guy
twice the normal amount but is not 20-24 Concealed Weapons Permit
considered “signed out” and the 25-29 False Identity
operative can keep what he purchases. 30-34 Fence
For instance, an operative has an 35-39 Get Out of Jail Free
equipment allowance of 12. He spends 6 40-44 Informant
points buying an Infiltration Kit on the 45-49 Line of Credit
black market (twice the cost of a normal 50-54 Mr. Smith
equipment package) and has only 6 55-59 Munitions Contract
points left for outfitting for his mission 60-64 Offshore Account
by Command outfitting. At the end of 65-69 Personal Trainer or Guru
the mission, as long as he didn’t lose it, 70-74 Personal Transport
he still has the infiltration kit but it’s 75-79 Provisioning Contract
free. In this way, an operative can 80-84 Safe House
acquire a lot of equipment “off the 85-89 The Lab
books” – but remember, this is all 90-94 Universal Transit Pass
unsanctioned gear and the operative 95-99 Choose One
loses it if it’s discovered by Command.

The operative is considered a valuable asset and is assigned a rank 1 operative as a
bodyguard. You can use one of the archetypes or build the bodyguard using normal
operative creation rules. This becomes an NPC in the operative’s team, though may
need to prove loyalty to the operative’s team first. The bodyguard is assigned the
specific mission of protecting that specific operative, but will take any risk he/she
believes is prudent to protect other members of the team as well. The bodyguard
gains half the number of DP as the owning operative (round down) if he is involved
in any given mission. During the mission, the GM may control or may allow the
owning operative to control the bodyguard. If the bodyguard dies in the line of
duty he will be replaced by a new rank 1 bodyguard.

An operative with this benefit gains authority over a group of raw recruits. These
are considered three “Backup Personnel” – armed gunmen 55 (semiautomatic
pistol or rifle) with +5 to their scores per operative rank. They can be left back at
Command Headquarters if desired, or can be considered on-hand, able to be called
on comlink at a moment’s notice to come in and provide backup. They are loyal to
Command and to the operative who commands them, in that order, and therefore


will not perform duties which the personnel believes is against the agenda of

The operative knows a guy. A computer guy. He probably lives in his parent’s
basement and collects comic books, but that doesn’t matter. He can hack anything,
some things even Command technomancers can’t hack. He’s an expert in the field
of hacking and encryption/ decryption and can be used as a vital technical resource.
The computer guy isn’t loyal to the operative, though he does like the cool things
the operative brings him. The GM should use the computer guy to help forward
stories. Sometimes he knows things or can shed light on things that the players
wouldn’t possibly be able to figure out without his special brand of techie know-



Normally operatives have to deal
with local and state laws when it
comes to carrying weapons on
missions. But an operative with
this special permit is given
permission to wear his weapons
anywhere he goes, even in the
company of the President of the
United States. He’s considered
an asset to the nation and is
afforded a special level of
authority. He need not waste
time coming up with solutions on
how to get his weapons to a
foreign site; he can even carry
them on commercial flights.

The operative gains an additional cover identity. The GM should help work this into
the story, but the new identity should be at least as good as a “Simple” cover
identity. If rolled a second time, it can be improved to a “Complex” cover identity.
This doesn’t take up any of the operative’s equipment allowance to have or

The operative gains access to someone who can sell stolen or pre-owned
merchandise. Operatives normally tend to acquire equipment pretty easily.
They’re supposed to turn it in to Command after a mission, but sometimes they
hold onto it in case they need it later. This is unsanctioned, but they try to do it
often. But what if they want to get rid of it? Turn it into spendable equipment
allowance so they can get something they really need (especially if they have access
to the Black Market). Once an operative has a Fence, they can turn acquired
unsanctioned equipment into spendable equipment allowance. The exchange rate
is 4:1. That is, for every four points of gear they give their Fence, the get 1 point of
spendable equipment allowance. This new pool of points can only be spent on
lifestyles, vehicles, or other things commercially available without military or illicit
means. If using money instead of equipment allowance, adjudicate as you wish.


Operatives often run afoul of the law. Most of the time, they end up staying the
night in jail before posting bail and going free. Sometimes they avoid the law
altogether because of these potential mission setbacks. An operative with this
benefit can get arrested and not break a sweat. As soon as they reach the station
to be booked and processed, someone will barge in and flash credentials that make


the arresting officer angry as he watches you walk

free. You’re not above-the-law, but if you are
arrested for performing duties related to your
normal job function you won’t have to worry.

The operative gains an informant. The GM should
work this into his ongoing story, but the
informant is very knowledgeable about a great
many things. He takes risks to give the operative
information often necessary to complete a
complex mission. Informants are plot tools for a
good GM to use to forward a story, but they
normally won’t risk their lives to help an
operative. They have their own secret agendas,
and maybe they’re manipulating the operative
like a pawn on a game board?

The operative has access to funds in the form of
loans. Maybe he has a relative with a big bank
roll. Maybe he has a business on the side and can
use funds from it for a time. Whatever the
reason, the operative can increase his equipment
allowance for a mission by up to +50% by
borrowing from his next mission. If he does so,
his next mission will be a bit more difficult, but
sometimes this is vital to the success of a mission!

Normally all missions come from Command. If
players have a martial arts mentor and you are
running a game which has this focus, some
missions come from their teacher. An operative
with a Mr. Smith, however, has a special path to
gaining missions. Sometimes these missions align
with Command, sometimes they do not. The
missions gained through Mr. Smith require the
operatives to use what they have on hand. They
cannot report to outfitting to get equipment.
They cannot get backup. If your campaign
doesn’t support such freelance operation among
the operatives, consider having the Mr. Smith be
another operative or assistant director whose
allegiance surpasses the politics of Command


Headquarters, and he pulls strings to get

missions for operatives which he knows
will forward the goals of Command.

The operative gets special permission in
this contract to always have spare
ammunition for his weapons. Any
weapon he signs out during outfitting
can be assumed to come with the “spare
ammunition” upgrade free of charge.

The operative has a secret bank account.
It begins with an equipment allowance of
1. Each mission, he can devote unspent
equipment allowance to the offshore
account. When this totals 50, he can
empty the account by turning it into a
“briefcase full of money” which he can
use in-game without having to return it.
If questioned where he got all that money, the operative will have to come up with
a pretty convincing story to keep Command from declaring it unsanctioned gear
and demand it be turned in!


The operative gains access to a personal trainer or mental guru who helps him
achieve the best out of his mind, body, and/or soul. This benefit allows the player
to increase his lowest ability score by +5 as a one-time bonus. And with all other
NPCs gained as rank benefits, a trainer or guru creates new roleplaying and mission

The operative is assigned a rank 1 pilot NPC who is assigned to tote the operative
around wherever he needs to go. You can use an archetype or may build the
driver/pilot yourself. The NPC comes with either a car or a helicopter, and typically
becomes the main chauffeur of the group, toting them about the globe as needs
arise. The pilot gains half the DP as the owning player. As he gains rank, he uses his
gained equipment allowance to gain better or upgraded vehicles. He doesn’t
normally come along with the operatives on an adventure; he normally is the pilot
and nothing more. During a mission the GM may control the pilot or may allow the
owning player to do so.


An operative with this benefit can eat out anywhere he wants. He can go to fast
food places or the fanciest of eateries and not worry. This is similar to an
extravagant lifestyle (at least for eating), but the player doesn’t have to pay for it
with is equipment allowance. At the GM’s discretion, a provisioning contract can be
used for entertainment of other sorts as well, but not for transportation.

The operative gains a safe house. It might be ownership of a small warehouse, a
condo at the sea shore, or a small house in suburban America. It might even be in a
foreign country. The GM should help define the safe house and why it is in the
possession of the operative (perhaps he inherited it? Won it in a game of poker?).
Operatives needing a place to lay low can use it for a while. Secrets only last so
long, however, and any time the operatives rely on the safe house there is a 5%
chance it is discovered by someone.

Operatives who need something analyzed usually bring it back to Command. But
what if they worry that Command is compromised? This operative has access to a
lab. If he isn’t an Academic himself then assume this benefit gives him access to a
lab and a contact there who is capable of performing analysis. This might be a
university or a medical facility, or maybe even a forensic lab belonging to a police
precinct. The GM should help work this into the story. The operative can send
samples to this lab as well as to a Command lab – sometimes two different labs will
give different information, especially where politics and security clearances are


The operative has a special pass which
allows him transit on any/all modes of
transport. He can flash this pass to taxi
drivers, limousine drivers, bus drivers,
airline stewardesses, even fishing boat
captains. Anyone who actually knows
what the pass means will know the
operative has been afforded special transit
privileges. Functionally, this is similar to
having a Traveler’s lifestyle except that
players can have a lot more fun with it.


This is an optional rule. A string represents influence, leverage, or clout the
operative has over organizations and people of authority. They are like the contacts
and information sources provided by the detective skill, but on steroids. While a
detective will tell you he "knows a guy" someone with strings can make a phone call
and quarantine a town or enact a no-fly-zone over a major city.

Strings are purchased like skills but do not appear in the skill list. They do not need
to be purchased, and an entire team of operatives can excel in their fields without
ever having to acquire such power. With power comes responsibility, and some
operatives just don't need the headache (they have enough to worry about dodging
bullets and planning heists). You may not have more strings than your current rank
minus 1. Thus, a rank 1 operative may not purchase a string. Once he reaches rank 2
he might consider spending some development points on acquiring a string. A rank
6 operative cannot have more than 5 strings to pull.

Strings have levels, just like skills, but do not have associated ability scores. Instead,
their scores are calculated with a base value of 25 +10 per string level. You use this
score when pulling strings.

The GM and player must work together to explain how the operative has gained
such power. It may be as simple as your handler taking you aside and telling your
operative someone high up the chain of command is impressed with your
performance and has granted you certain privileges unavailable to most operatives.
Or depending on your style of play, it might be leverage you’ve come across such as
compelling blackmail material over someone in high authority.

A string may be used only once per mission (not per session; GMs must keep track if
a string was used in a multi-session mission). A player simply holds his hand up to
his ear like making a phone call (or use a cell phone as a prop) and role-play that
he’s calling someone. He describes the effect he’s looking for to his pretend phone
partner so the GM can hear ("This is Williams. I need all satellite data you have for a
10-mile radius of my current location over the past 10 days."). Then it's time for a
string check, against which the GM may apply any situational modifiers he deems
necessary (suggestions exist in the descriptions below). If successful, the player
hangs up his phone ("Very good. Standing by to receive.") and the GM describes
what happens. If unsuccessful there is neither a benefit nor ill effect ("Sorry guys,
dead end; no satellites have been in range for the last 10 days."). Successful or not,
the string is used for the remainder of that mission.


As normal, a critical success and a critical failure are possibilities. The GM

determines the effects of this, but a critical failure might include a warrant for your
arrest, a huge fine from a government agency, or getting someone fired in the
organization(s) involved.

Remember that there can be story-based consequences to pulling strings. For

instance, quarantining an area to serve as cover to some illegal activities may draw
suspicion from a local detective who wants to know more about the quarantine,
who might then stumble upon the illicit activities you tried so hard to obscure. The
GM won't make bad things happen every time you pull strings, but power comes
with a price and over-use of strings can have unplanned setting-related side effects.


Operatives who have strings might not want to be a slave to the dice. Sometimes
your plan for mission success absolutely relies on pulling a string. Although bones
can of course be spent on re-rolls, sometimes your operative needs those bones for
when the bullets start flying. That’s when you might want to consider spending
equipment allowance on your string.

You don't HAVE to devote equipment allowance. But if you do, your planning pays
off and you will automatically succeed in pulling the string without having to roll
dice. The cost to assure success is simply 3 equipment allowance, +1 for every -10 of
penalty to the desired effect.

For example, your group is outfitting for a mission, and your team decides that your
plan for mission success will include grounding all flights in the state of Ohio, and
one of you have the "No-Fly Zone" string. Knowing that the desired effect would
normally carry a -20 adjustment ("All air in a specific state"), your group decides to
set aside 5 equipment allowance (base 3 plus 2 because of the -20 modifier). As a
benefit for your careful planning and devotion of resources, you won't be a slave to
dice later and can be assured there is someone standing by to enact your plan. If
your team didn't allocate the equipment allowance, you could still enact the desired
no-fly zone with a successful string check with a -20 modifier (and could even spend
bones on re-rolls to help assure success) but this way it’s guaranteed.



The table at right shows the list of strings
00-08 Armed Extraction
available in this book. Other string ideas are 09-17 Criminal Pardon
possible, but must be worked out between 18-26 Data Grid Manipulation
the player and the GM. Although it is not 27-35 Fly-by
necessary, a die roll column has been added 36-44 Forensics Expertise
to this table. A GM might use this when 45-54 Jurisdiction Warning
randomly determining the strings possessed 55-63 Media Outage
by powerful enemy henchmen or master 64-72 Money Magic
villains. Player operatives can’t have all the 73-81 No-Fly Zone
82-90 Quarantine
91-99 Satellite Access

The operative able to pull this string has ADJ EXTRACTION (CHOOSE ALL THAT APPLY)
pull within some military group, such as +0 Arranged rendezvous point for
the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or military extraction
National Guard (or even some -20 No uniforms or insignia (or some
international mercenary group). type of modified uniform or insignia)
Operatives must arrange in advance a -40 No pre-arranged pickup point.
pickup location, and will have to make Operatives will signal for location and
their way to the arranged rendezvous extraction will occur impromptu
point within a reasonable time-frame.
The military will be waiting, able to protect the operative's escape and perform the
extraction. Other options may exist, as the situation and GM arbitration permits.

The operative who can pull this string likely has pull over a mayor or perhaps even
the President of the United States himself. A criminal is pardoned and set free. Of
course, anyone who does this for you is going to hold you responsible for anything
that happens as a result. Operatives sometimes have to make deals with
undesirable people, and sometimes that means getting someone despicable out of
prison. The operative can even use this ability to get himself out of a sticky situation
when he finds himself behind bars.


Various departments within various governments maintain a large amount of data
about its citizens. Additionally, there exists private databases which maintain
financial, academic, and other types of information. Even search engines hold data
specific to log-ins, which clever queries can tie to specific individuals. The bottom
line: big brother is watching. But what does "big brother" tell people who look into
such data? Being able to pull this string represents power over an agency such as
the National Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security, or the
Department of Justice.


An operative capable of pulling this string is

able to affect what people find when
performing detailed searches through these +0 Cause searches to return no
various organizations, including data mining
+0 Flag person’s info as “classified”
that requires court orders to view. An -10 Modify someone’s financial
operative can have someone's identity history
disappear completely off the grid for a -20 Mark someone as a person-of-
limited duration (eventually software will interest, wanted in connection
red-flag such inconsistencies and recover). to some type of crime, etc.
Alternatively, strings could be pulled to hide -30 Invoke a nation-wide man-hunt
economic data, affect credit scores, affect for someone
search engine data, etc. The operative could ADJ DURATION (CHOOSE ONE)
even have someone identified by the grid as +0 A single 24-hour period
a person of interest, wanted for -10 A few days
investigation for some crime, or even invoke -20 A few weeks
a nation-wide man-hunt for the person -30 A few months
specified. The power wielded by pulling this -40 Permanent manipulation of data
string can screw up someone's life.


The operative who is able to pull this +0 Simple fly-by
string is able to get a military jet to fly -10 Fly by at very low altitude
overhead. Just having a jet appear on -10 Create a sonic boom when passing
command can be an intimidating sight, specific location
-20 Riddle the area with machine gun fire
but by asking for certain other favors and
(designed to intimidate, but some
accepting a modifier as shown at right, collateral damage could occur)
other things may be asked of this military -40 Drop a bomb in a specific location on
jet fly-by. a designated target/building

Many investigative branches of local, state, and federal law have forensics
departments. An operative able to pull this string has some sort of pull or power
within a very powerful forensics group such as that possessed by the Federal
Bureau of Investigations. The operative can send samples to them or arrange for
samples to be picked up by field operatives. Analysis might take some time but can
be performed for the operative without anyone else being told of the analysis.
Normally an organization such as this would require a federal warrant to investigate
certain things, but by pulling this string civil rights and freedoms can be overlooked.

Operatives find themselves running afoul of local law at times. With talent, training,
and equipment designed to break laws and ignore civil liberties, operatives are
embodiments of the phrase "probable cause." An operative able to pull this string


can get someone high up the legal chain of command to call off a police
investigation of an area or group, forcing them to reluctantly back off. They won't
like it, but they'll leave. Operatives pulling this string likely have pull over an
organization such as the Drug Enforcement Agency or the Federal Bureau of
Investigation or some other organization able to trump local jurisdiction. If trying to
pull this string to ward off a federal investigation the penalty is -20. If the crime
being investigated is severe, other penalties to the string check may apply.


This string can be pulled to disable all +0 Single home or business
communication in an area. This includes -10 Large building complex
any radio broadcasts, internet -20 Neighborhood, town, or city block
connectivity, land line and cellular -30 An entire large metropolitan city
phone coverage, and even short wave ADJ DURATION (CHOOSE ONE)
radio interference. The area will be +0 A day or so
literally comms-dark. The operative's -10 A few days
own ability to communicate similarly will -20 A week to ten days
be affected as well, so the operatives -30 A month or more
should plan for such a contingency.

There aren't too many real-world organizations that have this kind of power, but it
is reasonable to assume such power might someday exist in the hands of the
department of Homeland Security.

The operative able to pull this string has pull ADJ MONEY (CHOOSE ONE)
over someone or some institute capable of +0 Tens of thousands
shifting tremendous amounts of money -10 A few hundred thousand
around electronically. They can get money -20 A cool million
transferred digitally to an account for a -30 Up to a hundred million
duration, though the money is not real and -40 One billion dollars
bank computers will eventually red-flag it and ADJ DURATION (CHOOSE ONE)
an investigator will settle the account +0 A few hours
properly. The higher the amount of money and -10 A few days
the longer it needs to appear real the harder it -20 A few weeks
is to manage, as per the following tables. -30 A few months

Clever players will use money magic to

blackmail people or to set them up to be arrested for receiving bribes or payment
for state secrets or worse. Money magic could also be used to help establish a
cover identity by arranging a brief appearance of a Swiss bank account overflowing
with discretionary cash.



This string enacts a government-enforced ADJ NO-FLY AREA (CHOOSE ONE)

grounding of all air traffic in a specific region. +0 Single airport in a city with
No plane may receive clearance to take off more than one
from any runway. Any planes found in the air -10 All air above specific city
are ordered to land at the first available -20 All air in a specific state
location able to handle its size. Enacting a no- -30 All air in large region (eastern
fly zone interferes with the lives of many seaboard, etc.)
people and industries, and often attracts -40 The entire country
media attention or unwanted police ADJ DURATION (CHOOSE ONE)
investigations. Therefore, the broader the +0 A few hours
desired effect, the more difficult it is to pull -20 A few days

This quarantines a location by orders
from the Center for Disease Control,
+0 Single family, person, or home
World Health Organization, etc. It will
-10 Apartment building, large building
carry the full weight of enforcement by complex
local/state authorities or even the -20 Neighborhood, town, or city block
National Guard if in a large enough -30 An entire large metropolitan city
population center. Nobody can come in
or out of the quarantined area, and
+0 A day or so
everyone within is subject to inspection -10 A few days
for whatever outbreak you specify. The -20 A week to ten days
duration and area of effect of the -30 A month or more
quarantine can vary, suggested
adjustments to the string check are
shown in the tables at right.

Spy agencies have a lot of information, ADJ IMAGERY OR VIDEO DATA (CHOOSE ONE)
some of it legal and some not so much. +0 Specific area (complex, building, etc.)
Some of it is obtained through careful -10 From within last few weeks
control of a myriad array of satellites. -20 From within last few days
Yet more comes from unmanned drones -30 From within last few hours
capable of photographing and video -40 Live and streaming to operative’s
recording with various types of optics. computer or encrypted cell phone

The operative able to pull this kind of string must have some type of leverage or ally
in the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security, or some
other similar agency (perhaps even outside of the United States). Imagery might be
delivered to an operative via an arranged exchange by a field operative, or might be
streamed to a computer or smart phone.



Action checks shouldn’t bog down game play. If the player
wants his operative to get on a scooter and run to the local
hardware store – that doesn’t require a check of any sort.
Outside of combat, you can assume players can effectively
run without making DEX checks. Players don’t have to make
WIL checks every time their operatives talk to an NPC. Only
use dice to help with the tension and the storytelling, not to
decide everything.


One question that seems to come up a lot: when should you use skill checks and
when should you use ability checks? The answer to this one is easy… if there is a
skill which governs the action the operative is attempting, use a skill check. If there
is no skill designed to cover that action, use an ability. That means you’ll use ability
checks for a lot of things not covered by the skills, especially when it comes to social
interaction, general knowledge, and general athletics.

It’s a good idea for you to jot down the basic stats of the operatives. Sometimes
you’ll have to make skill or ability checks for them, without their knowledge. After
all, if you tell a player to make a detective skill check and he fails, the player is now
on alert and thinks he’s missing some important clue. Don’t do this too often,
though, as players do enjoy rolling dice themselves.

Sometimes players need to work together to accomplish something. Like a team of
operatives working together to defuse a complex explosive. These are called
cooperative actions, and the following is a suggestion on how you might arbitrate
such a scenario. One operative (presumably the one with the highest score) is the
primary acting operative. Each helper whose chance to succeed at the same action
is within 20 of the acting operative’s will give a bonus of +10 to the chance of
success. All cooperating operatives must be able to communicate with the acting


For instance, a player’s

operative has a 60% chance to
succeed at disarming a complex
security system and is being
assisted by two operatives who have
45% and 35%. The 45% is within 20 of
the acting operative’s score, so his
assistance gives him a +10 to succeed.
The second assisting operative doesn’t
help much, providing no statistical
bonus. The acting operative has a 70%
chance to disarm the security system.

To help build tension and suspense, some
GMs may want to use extended actions to
accomplish longer tasks. Examples of
activities which might qualify as an
extended action include hacking into a
computer system, cracking a safe, bypassing a
complicated security system, breaking a code, or analyzing a
sample of blood in a lab to determine its nefarious properties. This is an optional
rule that some GMs may enjoy using, while others will find it restrictive.
Extended actions are rated by a point value. The higher the point value, the longer
it takes to accomplish the extended action. A player must make a check each turn
(only one per turn). If he succeeds, he earns a success point. If he fails, he loses
one. On a critical success, the operative earns 2 points towards success. On a
critical failure, he loses all points and fails outright; he cannot succeed at this task.
When the agent accumulates success points equal to the action’s point value, he
succeeds. Otherwise the extended action continues for another turn.
For instance, a safe might require a 3-point extended thief-20 check. An operative
with a thief skill of 60% makes a check once per turn (before initiative is rolled)
while his team mates hold off a security guard force. If he succeeds in his 40% roll,
he has earned a point towards success. If he fails in his roll (which is more likely),
he’ll lose a point of success. Unless that thief spends bones or does something to
raise his chances of success, he’s doomed to fail.


Some actions take hours, days, or even weeks to complete. These aren’t technically
“extended” actions by the traditional sense (they’re not used for cinematic tension
during a combat). The amount of time such actions require (such as engineering
new technologies, book writing, extended research, etc.) should be determined by
the GM based on the situation, and between missions. The number of and
modifiers for any such roll is purely based on the GM’s assessment.


“Bones” are meant to allow for even more action and adventure
than the game system already permits. They allow players to
throw caution to the wind now and then and try something truly
epic, heroic, and dangerous. Also, in a world where bullets are
deadly and flying at the operatives, bones can be the key to
survival. Below are a few clarifications.
Bones have no impact during operative development. They cannot be used
between sessions nor be saved up; each new game session players start with a
number of bones equal to their Bones score. Their only use is in-game… use ‘em or
they’re wasted.


When players seem to be holding back, not taking too many
chances, reserving ammunition, or overly concerned about
poor rolls… find a reason to throw one a bone. Just pick
up a token (or whatever you’re using for bones) and
toss it to them, along with a reason (“okay that was
funny… you deserve a bone for that”). Getting more
bones into circulation will encourage their use, and
will reward behavior you find entertaining to the
group. Bones can be used in this manner to help
get players who seem a bit bored to do something
When you throw a player a bone, he can
hold onto it or spend it, but it only
lasts until spent or for the duration
of the session. Remember that
all bones are reset at the
end of a session so that
players begin each new session with a number of
tokens equal to their Bones score. For this reason,
make sure players know which encounter is the final
one (it’s usually obvious) lest they never spend their


During playtest, some GMs thought to use bones as
rewards at the end of a session, given out like
development points. This doesn’t work; players
reset their bones total each new session, so it’s


Operatives are going to get hurt. Sure, their players will spend bones to avoid
getting damaged, and will roll resistance checks, but the character will eventually
get hurt. When this happens, their body points (BP) deplete. But that’s boring…

Don’t just tell players they get hit for 11 points of damage. Be descriptive and use
that description in your game. “The bullet rips into your right shoulder. You know
it went clean through by the sound of the bullet slamming into the door behind
you, followed by an unsavory splash caused by its exit wound. You take 11 BP


When you describe the damage the operatives sustain, you should use those
wounds in story. For instance, after receiving a nasty wound which you describe as
being in the lower abdomen and hurting horribly, an operative sprints (trying to
catch a fleeing foe). You tell him “you’ve opened your abdomen wound wider,
thoroughly staining your shirt with blood.” You could even tell him to sustain
another 1 or 2 BP damage if you’re trying to make the situation seem dire. Then
later, when trying to sneak disguised past some sentries, have a guard notice the
blood staining the front of the wounded operative and spoil his disguise.

If you’re looking for specific injuries (a shot in the arm, leg, abdomen, etc.) take a
look at the optional hit location system later in this chapter, page 54.

Encourage the binding of wounds directly after an encounter. Players can restore
5BP of damage recently sustained after a fight, just by saying they’re doing so.
Since it’s unlikely operatives have time to spend in a hospital or in surgery, this is
likely the only type of healing most operatives will receive.

Assume operatives who end up in hospitals recover 4BP per day under expert care.
Command picks up the cost for this, players don’t have to worry about it (if using
cash instead of equipment allowance, hospital stays cost $100 per day; Command
has fairly decent health insurance but nothing is free.). Hospitals can also take care
of many types of infections, diseases, toxins, etc. Assume one of three levels of
required care: light, moderate, or intensive. A symptom you consider to require
light care can be healed by a hospital in a few days. A malady you consider to
require moderate care will require a week or so. Intensive care can take several
weeks or more. Individual GMs may rule how they wish.


Initiative should be rolled every turn. It is not recommended to roll just once for an
entire encounter; although it reduces the number of rolls, it leads to a predictable
sequence and removes the chaos that should pervade a good actions scene.


It is up to you, as GM, whether all of a person’s stated actions must occur on his
initiative or if he may take additional actions at a later time in the turn. Both are
acceptable ways to manage a combat turn as long as you arbitrate consistently.

During a session there are a lot of dice thrown around: initiative, resistance, ability,
skill, damage, etc. One option is to use a special deck of Covert Ops Initiative Cards
instead. These cards have numbers on them and work just like initiative dice; deal a
number of cards to each player equal to their INIT score. The player chooses one
and places it in front of him, returning the rest to the GM. The GM collects
initiative cards at the end of a turn, and re-deals at the beginning of next turn.
Reshuffle when depleted. There are two special cards (both are optional, remove
either from the deck if you prefer straight initiative numbers):
 Wild – A player with a Wild initiative is very fortunate: he may take his actions
whenever he wishes during the turn, even interrupting initiative of another
person. If he prefers, however, he may exchange the Wild card for a
randomly-drawn replacement and instead impose a setback of his choice
(approved by the GM) on his enemy: a gun jams, a vehicle breaks down or
runs out of fuel, a trap triggers prematurely, etc.
 Skip – A player with a skipped initiative doesn’t act that turn. Yeah, it sucks…
unless it happens to the bad guys. Of course, if you have an INIT score higher
than 1 then you probably won’t select the skip card. A player can spend a
bone to replace a Skip card with a randomly-drawn replacement.


Bullets are deadly. A group of minor NPC minions toting DIGIT HIT LOCATION
submachine guns can easily cause player casualties. To 0 Head
help keep operatives alive, consider this optional rule. 1-2 Chest
When using this system, players record body point totals in 3 Abdomen
each of nine hit locations. Each location receives a number 4 Right Arm
of BP equal to STR/2. A STR 55 operative has 28 BP for the 5 Left Arm
6 Right Hand
head, 28 BP for the chest, etc. When someone is shot, use
7 Left Hand
the ones die of the hit roll to determine where he was hit. 8 Right Leg
If a player rolls 36 when shooting an enemy, damage will 9 Left Leg
be applied to area 6, the right hand.
 Wounded – When a location is reduced to half, it is wounded. Apply any
restriction you wish. Examples include penalties to rolls or WIL checks to
use the body part while gritting through pain. Wounds should help tell a
story and therefore are free-form, lacking specific rules.
 Disabled – A hit location reduced to 0 BP is disabled. If the head, chest, or
abdomen is disabled so is the character, like normal. If any other body part
is disabled, the operative has to make a WIL check at the beginning of each
turn to see if he can ignore pain long enough to take actions.
 Skill Levels – If the attacker has skill levels, he can bump the hit location a
number of points up to his skill level. For instance, if a player kicks a foe in
area 5 and has 2 levels of martial arts, he can choose that hit to be in any
area between 3 and 7.
 Called Shots – Operatives who wish to can make a called shot. That is,
choose the body part rather than rely on randomness and skill bumping.
The penalty is -20 for the chest or abdomen, -40 for any other location.
 Bursts – When hit by a burst, assume all damage applies to a single body
part, for simplicity.
 Healing - Normal healing rules apply. All body parts heal 2 BP per day, each.
However, each body part is individually treated by medics. First aid after an
encounter can patch 5 BP to only one location recently wounded.
 Minor NPCs and Animals – Minor NPCs and animals have no hit locations,
just a single pool of BP. Describe hits against them any way you wish.
 Armor – Although not realistic, it is simplest to assume all body parts are
protected by the DR of worn armor. It’s an abstraction of the armor’s
protective nature to make game play simple.
 Cover – Any hit to a location obviously behind protective cover should be
applied to the cover structure, not to the operative’s hit location.
 Unusual Damage – for unusual types of damage unassociated with
someone’s hit roll, simply use common sense to apply where damage is
endured (electrical shock damages the chest, ingested poison hurts the
abdomen, a fall damages the legs, etc.), or roll 1D one or more times.



In the core book, chase scenes were simplified into distances 7

and hazards. While that works great for the majority of


circumstances, there are times when a GM wants a little


more direction in his chase. Use this optional system 6

to provide such direction.



When a chase scene is inevitable, sketch 20 or so circles on a 4


sheet of paper. Draw lines connecting them, creating a 8

diagram that looks something like what is shown at right.

Place a number in each. The lines represent roads, and 3

the circles represent intersections or hazard points. If you

want to get tricky, you can place arrows on some of the lines, representing one-way
streets, and can show overpasses or underpasses with comments next to the roads.

On a separate sheet of paper (or the same sheet if you write small) jot down all the
numbers you just wrote then roll 1D for each one (or choose the results you wish)
using the following table to create a map reference key.


1 Dead End Have to stop and turn around. Traffic halts, bridge is out, or
some other obstacle restricts travel completely. If you had
other lines drawn to/from, all of them end in a dead-end.
2-4 Potential There is something an operative can use to try to place a
Hazard hazard in the way of another vehicle. Nearby awning pole, very
tight alleyway turn, newspaper stand, etc. If operative
succeeds in piloting check, pursuers now have a hazard to face.
5-7 Hazard Something has occurred or is in the path that, if the operative
wishes to continue, must be overcome through impressive
driving techniques. Dirt ramp to jump vehicle over moving
train, tight opening, wrong way on one-way street, traffic jam
with narrow opening, closing automated door, drawbridge
rising, etc.
8-9 Endangered Someone gets in the way and will be harmed unless operatives
Innocents do something. May require piloting checks, or just yelling to
“get down” or even stopping the vehicle to assist (letting foes
get away), etc.
10 Lost ‘em Operatives who go here enter an area whose traffic is such that
they will lose their pursuers or prey. This may be desirable or
might be the worst fate possible, depending on situation.



Each turn, piloting operatives must make a pilot check to advance to another circle.
If they fail, they must choose a different path (and make another pilot check with a
multi-action penalty) or not move at all (meaning the pilot failed to gain enough
distance to reach the next landmark area). A pilot may always opt not to move

Operatives have a 2-circle visibility range, and no more. If you get more than 2
circles away from pursuers or prey, you have lost them. If in the same circle as an
enemy, consider range to be Short. If one circle away, range is Medium. If two
circles away, range is Long. Beyond that you lose sight of your enemies.



There are several conditions in the core rulebook which can affect operatives. In
order to keep things flowing quickly and to help you remember all of these,
consider using a deck of Covert Ops Condition Cards (available where this book was
purchased). These cards have the names of the conditions, as well as a text
summary of their effects. When a player’s operative is weakened by some effect,
slap a “Weakened” card in front of him. It’ll help everyone remember he’s affected
by that condition, and serve as a reminder to help the player role-play his
afflictions. You can remove conditions or add them as desired, simulating the
growing stress of combat on an operative.

There is no skill which represents an operative’s ability to persuade people, nor is
there a skill which represents how intimidating or imposing an operative can be.
This is intentional. For the most part, social interaction is managed through role-
playing. Listed below are a few ways players might try interacting with others and
suggestions on how you might handle this interaction through game mechanics.
These are just guidelines. You are the one who must decide whether a player’s
good role-playing succeeds or not. If you decide to let the dice make these
decisions for you, you may end up with some frustrated players.

Bribery is a special classification of persuasion, where someone is given something
he wants in exchange for something. Since actual cash isn’t handled in this game in
any conventional way (exception: see page 26), the overall effectiveness of a
monetary bribe will depend on an operative’s lifestyle. Treat bribes as a normal
persuasion situation (see below), but apply a modifier to the operative’s LOG score.
Money is used to sweeten a deal, and the more money an operative has, the more
money he has to offer. An operative with no purchased lifestyle: +0; an operative
with a traveler’s lifestyle: +10; an operative with an extravagant lifestyle: +20. If a
player thinks it’s important, he can also spend bones in the normal way to affect
this roll, representing yet more money thrown into the mix.

Through good looks, smiles, warming glances, and general fellowship, the operative
tries to make someone trust him enough to tell him secrets or to help him. Charm
is a hard thing to teach. People are either charming or they are not. Players can
turn on the charm through role-playing. A well-placed smile and a wink can go a
long way, but charm can be delicate; a wink and smile can come off creepy. For this
reason, leaving things up to dice can help. A simple WIL check can help decide if
someone’s attempt at charming behavior is well-received. This normally doesn’t
require an opposing roll, but if an operative rolls a critical failure when trying to


charm someone, that person is forever immune to the operative’s charm. He or

she “sees through” any further attempts as phony.

Unlike other methods of social interaction, deception is actually something which
can get better with training and practice. The operative tries to misdirect someone
(or outright lie to them) in some convincing way to give up secrets, answers, or to
perform some action. Deception is part of the thief skill. A simple thief skill check is
usually enough to pull off a single deception convincingly, but if the recipient of the
misdirection has any reason to believe there is a deception afoot, then a LOG check
can be used to turn the deception into a contest. But don’t just roll dice. If both
succeed in their checks, role-play it out. Have the deceived person poke holes in
the deception and give the operative a chance to amend his deception. Let the
back & forth go on until someone is a clear winner and the victim becomes
deceived or the operative’s deception becomes obvious.

This is when someone is questioned, yelled at, tortured, or made to feel
uncomfortable, sometimes over and over again until he “cracks” and finally gives
away his secrets or performs some action. Interrogation can be very non-heroic. It
often falls into a moral gray area, and is not for all operatives. Depending on how
important the information or activity is, morals can be pushed to their limits as the
“ends justify the means.” Interrogating and trying to get someone to crack might
take a long time, several hours or days in fact. Have players describe what they
want to do to try to make their
captive crack. Whoever is leading
the interrogation then makes a
detective skill check contest against
the WIL of the captive. You can
apply modifiers based on several
factors, such as application of “good
cop” and “bad cop” ploys, physical
abuse or torture, etc. The
interrogation continues until there
is a clear victor in the contest. Most
people can eventually be broken,
but if the captive succeeds critically
he cannot be cracked during this
captivity, no matter how long it
takes. If the interrogators succeed
critically, they didn’t crack their
captive – they broke him and he
lapses into a sad insanity and is of
no further help.


Intimidation is meant to cause someone to make a quick decision based on fear.
Some people are not very intimidating. Some people are such imposing figures that
a stare which lasts more than a second or two reduces people to cowering fools.
Players can intimidate by making a WIL contest against the person they’re trying to
intimidate. Unlike many contests, don’t keep rolling from turn to turn until there is
a victor. Just roll once. On a success, the victim performs whatever action was
intended (such as “drop that weapon!”). On a failure, the victim is not impressed
and is unaffected. On a tie (that is, if both the operative and the victim pass or fail
their rolls), the victim will hesitate but they won’t do the thing requested.

This is the act of convincing someone of some fact through facts and argument (or
to convince him to take some action because of those facts). Although it relies on
LOG to pull off, it is performed against someone’s WIL score. Normally, persuasion
can be done through role-playing (and should be). If you want to let the dice do the
thinking, make it a single-roll action contest using the persuader’s LOG score against
the victim’s WIL score. If successful, the victim is persuaded to believe what the
persuader wants. If unsuccessful, the victim cannot let go of his stubborn beliefs or
refuses to accept the validity of the facts presented and the persuasion fails. On a
tie, the victim sees the point of view as fact, but really isn’t fully convinced that he’s
wrong enough to change his mind.

Seduction is the act of using your gender
and the basic carnal needs of the human
body to win someone over. When charm
isn’t enough and you really need to get
someone to open up to you, there’s no
better venue for getting someone to reveal
things than in bed. In the case of
seduction, your operative has to really have
some time on his hands and first has to win
over the target through charm. Once
charm has worked, the operative can move
on to full seduction with a WIL check.
Against an unwilling target, this could turn
into a WIL contest, while the operative and
his target engage in innuendo, banter, and
word play. If the seduction is successful
(unless you’re gaming with your wife), it’s
best to just say time passes and tell the
player what he learned during pillow-talk,
then fast forward to the morning after.


Some game mechanics might be a little hard to follow when reading these rules.
What follows is a series of examples to help you be a better GM.


There have been a lot of game rules thrown at you in this section. In this example,
many of the concepts will be shown to work together to help create exciting
situations of action and adventure.

We join the action as two rank 1 operatives, Brice Blackwater (played by Bob) and
Charles Corbin (played by Michael), are entering into a Boston airport coffee shop
with a briefcase in hand. They’re supposed to find their contact (Operative Krycek)
and swap briefcases with him, verify the contents of the case, then exit the coffee
shop and bring it to Command headquarters in the city. Simple. The players
thoughtfully set up a rental car (thanks to their traveler’s lifestyles) before coming
to the coffee shop so they can make a quick getaway if necessary.

GM: As you enter the coffee shop, the comforting smell of fresh ground imported
beans greets you.
Michael: Can you describe the customers?
GM: There is a man in a turtleneck sitting at a table alone in one corner with some
sort of e-book tablet in hand, two young women in business attire gossiping over
images in a popular magazine, and one man in a striped suit sitting near the
restroom reading a newspaper with a familiar briefcase near his leg.
Bob: That must be our mark… Krycek.
Michael: I’m holding our briefcase. I’ll walk over to the counter and order a coffee.
When it comes, I’ll go sit next to our mark.
Bob: I’m going to have a seat somewhere near a corner where I can see everyone.
I’m going to keep an extra careful eye on the guy in the turtleneck.
GM: Okay, you order your coffee and wait a few minutes, trying not to look
unnatural. Soon your coffee comes and you pay for it. You walk over and sit next
to him and he doesn’t move.
Michael: Okay, he’s playing it cool, I can do that. I’ll place my briefcase next to his
and finish my drink.
Bob: Anything happening with turtleneck guy or the girls?
GM: Nope. Michael – give me a detective skill check.
Michael: [rolls dice and rolls less than his detective skill score] Success.


GM: You notice a few blood drops on the newspaper Krycek is reading. He’s not
Michael: Great.
Bob: [putting a finger against his ear and whispering] “Corbin, let’s speed this up,
I’m looking suspicious since I didn’t order anything.”
Michael: [whispering] “copy.” I’ll finish off my coffee and reach down and grab his
case, stand up and head into the bathroom with it.
GM: Okay. As soon as you enter the bathroom, the two women stand and one
whirls around, long gun appearing in her hand with a suppressor attached, eyeing
turtleneck guy and Operative Blackwater. The other girl heads towards the
Bob: Crap. [finger against ear] “Corbin – unfriendly comin’ at ya.” I’m going for my
gun and ducking down behind my table for cover.
GM: Operative Corbin heads into the bathroom and hears the warning from
Blackwater. What do you want to do?
Michael: Real quick I want to open the case and verify the contents – this might be
a setup.
GM: You notice the case has been tampered with but whoever did the tampering
failed to open it. You know the combination, do you open?
Michael: Yes if I can do it quickly.
GM: You thumb the combination and open the case, noticing an integrated
computer system displaying some kind of schematics… this looks like the case were
sent for. You hear the door open behind you. Everyone roll initiative.
Michael: [rolls two dice for his operative’s INIT score, rolls 5 and 7] I rolled 7.
Bob: [rolls one die for his INIT score] 8.
GM: [knows the women are minor NPCs and they automatically have an initiative of
5] Okay Operative Blackwater is first.
Bob: Okay, I don’t know their intentions so I’m going to try to intimidate her into
putting down the gun. I’ll aim my gun at her while resting it on the table for better
control and say “Drop the gun, sweetie, you’re not equipped to handle me.”
GM: Nice. Give me a WIL check to see how effective you are. Guns are pretty
persuasive, and your role-playing was good, so I’ll give you a +10.
Bob: [rolls dice, fails WIL+10] Nope… not very convincing.
GM: [rolls dice for the minor NPC] She’s not impressed. Operative Corbin hears the
door open behind him, your turn, Michael.


Michael: Okay – I want to close the case while spinning around and slamming the
intruder with it. What do I use for that?
GM: Well… I would call that a melee weapon. Let’s treat it as a club. Give me a
martial arts roll.
Michael: Really? It takes martial arts training to swing a briefcase at someone?
GM: To do it well, yep. Anyone can do it though, even without training.
Michael: Okay… [rolls dice against his unskilled martial arts score] I miss.
GM: You swing the briefcase and the small woman ducks very low and steps back
outside the doorway. Now it’s the women’s turns. She brings her gun forward to
fire it [rolls dice, scores a hit] and hits you. Want to try to dodge?
Michael: Dodge a bullet? Wouldn’t I be at a disadvantage and have to cut my DEX in
GM: Yes, and you’d have another -20 since this is your second action this turn. Or,
you could spend a bone and automatically succeed in your resistance check without
having to roll.
Michael: [throws the GM one of his bones] I slam the door shut and dive to the
side, letting the bullet blast a hole in the door.
GM: Okay, I’ll allow that. Bob, your opponent’s turn, she takes a shot at you [rolls
dice] and misses. The bullet zings past you and slams into the woodwork inches
from your head.
Bob: Can I return fire?
GM: You may, but it’ll be at a multi-action penalty of -20 since your first action was
to intimidate, though I’ll give you +10 for resting your pistol on the solid table
Bob: [rolls dice, using his Soldier score -10] I miss. Can I double-tap?
GM: Third action would be at -40, though I’ll still give you the +10 for bracing your
gun on the table surface.
Bob: That doesn’t leave me much of a chance to hit, but I’ll give it a try [rolls dice
and fails, but rolls doubles] crap, critical failure.
GM: Your bullet misses but hits the wall in the back, splintering wood and creating a
spark as it hits electrical conduit. The lights go out in this shop and in this section of
the airport. Baristas scream. The emergency lights come on but they’re very dim.
All aiming actions are at -10 for the rest of the encounter, including you in the
bathroom, Michael.
Michael: [finger to ear] “Thanks, Blackwater. Maybe leave the shooting to me from
now on.”


The combat continues. Operatives Corbin and Blackwater get schooled by the two
women for a while until they finally defeat them. They make a hasty escape before
the police arrive to investigate the gun shots. During all this, the guy with the
turtleneck somehow slipped out the exit, leaving the operatives wondering if he
was a scared bystander or an enemy operative.


Mark sits down to prepare for play. He doesn’t want to use the default setting
provided in this book (or decides to run a series of missions based on his own
imagination) and so decides to start with a villainous organization. He grabs dice,
pencil and paper.
1. Organization Size. Mark rolls 27, a medium centralized organization. It has three
master villains (sounds like three missions in the making, unless he can make his
master villains survive the player’ operatives for a few missions) and one
headquarters location. He’s not going to let the players know where the
headquarters is in the beginning… he’ll save that for much later.
2. Organization Locations. This should be pretty easy, since there is only one
location. Mark rolls 99: Roll Twice. He rolls twice more and gets 58 and 40. The
location of this organization’s headquarters is a Digital Nerve Center and a Training
Center. The villainous organization is starting to take shape… it’s very technical and
is churning out minions. He rolls for its location and finds that it is located in (rolls
75) Belgium. For a descriptor, he finds that this enemy headquarters (rolls 18) has a
local counter-intelligence agency unknowingly under its control.
3. Organization Agenda. Mark rolls 81. This organization’s primary existence
centers around the agenda of revolution. Its leaders are unhappy with some
government or another and actively seeks to bring it to its knees.
4. Wrapping Things Up. He does a little searching on the internet and finds that
Belgium has a German/French influence, and is located near the Netherlands (a
major hub of travel). This sounds interesting. Belgium has an espionage agency
called SV (Staatsveiligheid, or simply “State Service”). He notices that the previous
Director of State Security (Koen Dassen) resigned after a controversy over losing
sight of a suspected Kurdish terrorist, and has been replaced by new Director Alain
Winants. He decides to use this real-life leadership shift as the manner by which his
organization has covertly taken control of the State Service! Although there is a bit
more work for him, Mark is happy with how this is shaping up. He decides the
organization seeks the end of the European Union, and Director Winants is a pawn.
He tinkers with a German to English translation website and calls his organization
KUVER, an acronym for Koenige Umstuerzen VERband, which loosely means
“Covenant for the Overthrow of Kings.” He even plans to use the oversight of
suspected female terrorist Fehriye Erdal by former Director Dassen as a plot hook
for the first mission! All he has to do now is generate his master villain for his first
series of missions.



Mark was happy with his villain organization KUVER, and decides it’s time to make
the master villain he’ll use for his first series of missions. He gets out another piece
of paper and starts rolling some dice.

1. Master Villain Type. Mark rolls 40 and learns that his first master villain is or was
an operative or spy. He things about this – since KUVER’s headquarters is a digital
nerve center, he could make his villain a hacker type, but decides that’s not
sufficiently dangerous sounding and decides he’s a former member of SV (Belgium
State Security agency), a very skilled operative with a French background.

2. Motivation. Mark rolls 87: Renewal. His villain believes a governing body is
flawed and must be recreated anew, no matter what the cost. Why does he feel
this way? Perhaps he was left for dead after a mission, or abandoned while in need
behind some enemy lines? Which organization does he want to wipe out, the
Belgium government? The EU?

3. Power Base. Mark rolls 33 – political power. The villain has some kind of
political power. Maybe he’s a member of the Ministry of Justice in Belgium? Or
maybe he’s just wealthy and influential in commerce and holds sway over policy
because of that? Mark decides this villain isn’t the one in politics himself, but that
he controls politics in some way. Maybe his power base is due to influence he holds
over the newly installed Director of State Security in Belgium? Yes… that’s it. He
has power over him because of secret intel he has pointing at the new Director’s
involvement in a scandal. He uses this influence to force the Director to help push
through laws and falsify intelligence reports.

4. Statistics. Mark builds the enemy villain. He builds him using normal operative
creation rules and makes him rank 2 (since this is to be scaled for use with rank 1
operatives). For descriptors, he rolls 41 and 02. He has a special weapon made just
for him... and is an albino. He creates a cool pistol using the specific firearm
guidelines and applying several firearm upgrades. He names the villain Dax Pascal,
and builds a legend around his disappearance from the SV and how they blamed
him for the death of his partner and a mission gone wrong, which resulted in
retaliation from some very dangerous enemies against his only living family. This
should sufficiently inspire his villainy.

5. Henchmen. Mark rolls 51. The villain has 2 henchmen. They’ll be rank 2! He
builds one as a really strong power-house of a man, with a really high STR and
martial arts training. The second he builds as a female hacker type. It takes some
time to generate these enemy henchmen but he’s happy with the results. He
decides Barden (the brute) works for Pascal because he’s an old and dear friend of
his ex-partner, and has pledged his life to helping Pascal succeed, sharing in his


goals. Alaina Jolie (the hacker) is a young goth girl who is an absolute wizard at
technology. She and Dax Pascal are lovers, but that is not the source of her loyalty;
she works for him because he’s making her rich.

6. Minions. Mark rolls 79. The minions of Dax Pascal are very capable agents of
KUVER, trained by him personally. A “standard minion encounter” is with 1D/2 of
them, small strike teams. He notes their score is 75% and that they have an
equipment allowance of 12. He gives them bullet-proof vests (3), semi-automatic
pistols (3), one flash-bang and one fragmentation grenade (3), and equips their
pistols with silencers, a spare ammo magazine, and heavier caliber upgrades (add
+3 to pistol cost) to make them seem more spy-like. He records the standard
minion encounter as follows:

1D/2 Secret Agents 75% (silenced semi-automatic pistols M 2D+4 ammo

10, spare ammo, bullet-proof vest DR5, flash-bang, frag grenade).

Now Mark has an enemy organization, a master villain, a couple of henchmen, and
minions. He knows his organization has two more master villains, but decides to
wait to create them at a later date. He hopes to get a couple of missions out of Dax
Pascal before the operatives defeat or capture him. Next he wants to sketch out a
plan for the first mission.


Mark already has his organization and master villain, and already knows he has two
henchmen and some stats for minions. He doesn’t yet have a mission to send the
player’s operatives on. He grabs another sheet of paper and starts rolling up ideas.
Mark rolls 20 and finds that his first mission will have 3 areas. This is a fairly typical-
sized mission.

He rolls and determines his first mission area will be (61) Residence, some kind of
apartment or condo or house or something. It has a descriptor of (84)
“splintered/smashed.” Their objective here is (62) “information.” They’ve come
here to learn something. This would be easy if not for their obstacle, which is (19)
“endangered innocents.” This seems like an innocent beginning to an adventure
(pun intended). It might need some enemy activity, but he’s not sure yet. He
decides to roll the other two areas before committing to a story.

The second area is (58) “Remote,” an island, outpost, etc. It is (61) “old/ancient,”
maybe some ruins on a remote island? They have to go there with the objective of
(24) “Confiscation,” they have to steal something that someone else has or wants.
That would be easy except for the obstacle of (88) “Persuade Other.” Mark’s not
sure about this one… nothing’s coming to mind and he might reroll or deviate from
the rolled story. He decides to roll the last area first.


The third and final area is a (11) “Decadence,” some kind of fancy place. It has a
descriptor of (18) “columned with arches.” The operatives must (04) “Activate”
something, but have to deal with (45) being hopelessly “Outgunned.”
So now Mark has to try to build a cohesive mission from these building blocks. The
first area might be what brings them into the larger mission, a simple first step that
uncovers the larger plot. It seems by the third area that the main plot is something
that must be deactivated. Maybe a bomb or some kind of doomsday device? Mark
also wants to integrate his master villain Dax Pascal and his henchmen and KUVER,
his enemy organization. He decides there is some kind of weapon Pascal has
organized which is going to be used, and the operatives uncover the plot. He
doesn’t want this final encounter area to be KUVER’s headquarters, just a location it
is using for this activity.
The mission begins simply. The operatives are to go to the South American summer
home of Dr. Koehler, a scientist who developed an innovative communications
satellite but disappeared before he could see its successful activation, which
occurred a few days ago. Unknown to many, Dr. Koehler was a science Operative
working for Command, and they are interested in his disappearance. Koehler’s
daughter and heir, Isabel Koehler, is currently vacationing in the summer villa and
they are to question her and look around for any clues.
When they arrive, they find that the villa is full of people partying. The villa, which
overlooks an awe-inspiring cliff over the gulf, is suddenly targeted by a huge meteor
which falls from the sky with incredible fury, a strange green tail in its wake. It
strikes the house, and screams can be heard from within. Above, in the sky,
another two meteors are barely visible, coming towards the house. The operatives


see Isabel dangling from a splintered balcony, among other party guests. The
operatives will likely try to rescue people before the other meteors strike.
Once they rescue Isabel, she tells the operatives she doesn’t know what the hell is
happening, and she doesn’t know anything about her father’s work or
whereabouts. She mentions her father was always down under the villa in an
underground lab. The operatives explore the destroyed villa (likely take samples of
the meteors), and enter the old lab. Inside, they find evidence of Dr. Koehler’s
work, which wasn’t a communications satellite at all. It was a weapon designed to
bring asteroids down on targets… and the operatives just witnessed its first test!
Hopefully they think to gather evidence.
When the operatives return to Command (probably with Isabel for protection) they
learn that this wasn’t the only location where meteors struck the earth. A hotel in
Munich and a subway station in London were also hit. An organization calling itself
KUVER has claimed responsibility and is demanding the immediate disassembly of
the European Union, or promises the next attack will remove leaders from each of
its constituent governments. The EU has one week to comply.
Command analyzes Koehler’s work and identifies that the satellite makes use of a
unique and very valuable ferrous crystal found on an island located in the
Caribbean. Command scientists believe that if they had a sample of the crystals
that they could build something to disrupt the satellite and disable this weapon.
The operatives are immediately sent on the next phase of their mission, to acquire
one of these crystals. They travel to the island where they must explore old ruins in
search of the crystal, but they soon realize that Barden (one of Pascal’s henchmen)
and minions are also there looking for crystals. They likely have a firefight, and if
possible Barden will escape without a crystal. As the operatives recover from the
battle, they find a crystal and take it back to Command for analysis.
Back at Command, the operatives are given a device that uses their crystal. They
must attach it to the device which controls the satellite. Command has pinpointed
the signal as originating from a site outside of Liege, Belgium. Operatives are sent
there with the device. When they arrive, it is an old castle with great arches and
columns, covered with soldiers. Minions are everywhere and the operatives are
totally outnumbered and outgunned. They cannot storm in or they’d be killed.
They have to somehow sneak into the castle, locate the control room, and
deactivate it using the provided device (which they carry around in a backpack).
Once they apply the device, they’ll realize that it’s not only deactivating the control
system, it’s calling the meteors down on the castle, and the devastation will be
amazing. The operatives must try to get out before the devastation, but will end up
in a final encounter with Pascal, Barden, and Alaina Jolie (Pascal’s techie
henchman). The battle with the henchmen and minions will take place while the
castle is being pelted with meteors; destruction everywhere. In the chaos, Pascal
should escape. If they’re lucky, so will the operatives.



The bulk of this book has been about the operatives the players portray and the
game mechanics surrounding their use. This chapter switches gears and discusses
good story-telling techniques (which apply to any role-playing game, really) and
thematic elements which apply only to this genre of game play. Becoming familiar
with this chapter isn’t totally necessary to becoming a GM, but it just might help
you become a better GM.

Writers of screenplays and books have several literary devices, techniques, and
elements they use to effectively tell their stories. Some are better than others for
telling certain types of stories. The same is true of GMs.

Foreshadowing is a literary device writers use to present prophetic fore-knowledge
hinting at what is to come. In novels, the hint is often more for the reader than for
the characters (who often don't get the hint until too late).

As you stand on the summit and look out over the ruins of the city, you
watch a large hawk circle around, looking for food. You smile as you watch
a ferret standing in plain sight but in the shadows of the large bombed-out
building, knowing that the hawk can’t see it in the darker shadows. The
ferret goes about its normal chore of searching for edibles; occasionally
glancing up at the sky to make sure its hunter can't see it. To your surprise,
the ground opens up under the unsuspecting furry critter. An underground
tunnelspider claims another prize. So intently was the ferret focused on the
obvious predator, it never considered the hidden one. You shake your head
and pick up your gear, ready to head down into the ruins.

Like most literary devices, foreshadowing can be borrowed to enrich your

roleplaying experience. Scenes of foreshadowing (like the italicized text above) add
a new layer to your storytelling, and provide players with a perspective they
normally wouldn't have while rolling dice and moving around on a map. Unlike
characters in a novel, the target audience of the foreshadowing IS the operative - or
rather, the player who controls the operative.


In the above example, if later the operatives were skulking through the described
ruined city and heard the sound of an approaching enemy helicopter coming after
them, they might be wise enough to remember the ferret-like creature and dart for
the darker shadows of the buildings. While they do, have an unexpected encounter
occur from a direction they weren't expecting! If they caught the foreshadowing,
they’ll be prepared enough to be scouting in unobvious locations while hiding from
their hunters.

Indirect Foreshadowing – Sometimes the hints of what is to come is obvious, but

sometimes it's more subtle. For example, in the classic story of Romeo and Juliet,
both of the ill-fated main characters announce openly to one another that they
would rather die than live apart. Such a statement, alone, means one thing. But
when you look at what happens later in the story, you recall what was said earlier
and it gives far more meaning to the words you recall. Proper use of subtle
foreshadowing can cause the story to grow in depth – not by the events occurring
now, but by enhancing and strengthening the events that occurred prior.

There are dangers to foreshadowing, of course. Overuse of this device can cause
the players to have too much knowledge of what is to come. Similarly, if the
foreshadowing is too subtle then many players might miss the hints.

If done properly, foreshadowing can dramatically add power to your storyline. In

the movie The Sixth Sense, most viewers had no idea of the status of Bruce Willis'
character, despite all of the many clues: no communication with anyone around
him, people ignoring him, always wearing the same clothes, never being actually
shown to travel or drive, etc. Once we learn of his dark problem, these other things
all made sense and added profound impact to the story.


Sometimes a foreshadowing leads to nothing. Sometimes, an operative sees
something that seems somehow important and meaningful, but carries no meaning
into the story. Red herrings are helpful because they keep players from always
knowing that every description of detail is an important clue. They can also be
helpful to muddy the water when things are far too clear to the casual observer
(like adding a handful of extra suspects to an investigation). Red herrings are
another literary device, details which alone add interesting pieces to the whole of a
story but have no real impact on the main plot.

Random encounters, scenes of dramatic diversions... all of these things are typically
red herrings. Clever GMs will add details to help make the world seem real and
relatable to the players, to give them a sense that more is going on than a group of
trained operatives saving the diplomat’s daughter.

Red herrings can sometimes add enough interest that they spark later creativity.
For example, when visiting an outpost in a third-world country, the players find that
there is a revolution going on. They aren’t a part of it, but it causes them some
difficulty traveling on the highways through checkpoints and finding their contact
(who has become embroiled in the revolution). Later, they encounter a squad of
revolutionaries who mistake the operatives for members of the local government.
Through good role-playing or fast guns, the players safely navigate their operatives
through the situation and get out of that country. The war had nothing to do with
anything... but added depth to the encounter with their contact. Later, if a GM is
inspired to do so, he might develop an entire series of missions that involves the
revolution and its impact on the rest of the world, all because the players seemed
to enjoy the red herring he threw at them during this mission.

Perhaps a bit over-the-top for a role-playing experience, allegory is when all the
elements of a story as a whole are representative of something else entirely. This
technique turns an entire story into one large metaphor. Because the GM isn't in
complete control of the story (the players control the operative's actions), it is
difficult to have a complete story behave allegorically. That doesn't mean certain
parts of a story can't be allegorical.

Allegory shouldn't be obvious. For example, if you know a great deal about World
War II and would like to add elements of it into your campaign, don't do it
obviously. Create situational and political allegories to the Weimar Republic,
drawing from your wellspring of knowledge on the subject. Don't do the obvious; a
Master villain named Adolph Hitler who commands legions of his gray-coated
soldiers is probably too much. When using allegory, use it as a framework. If clever
players draw parallels to things from our own history or present, which will help the
player become immersed in the story without the need to have obviously derivative


There is a point in every story that you remember the
most. It's where all the efforts, trials, and
tribulations of the main characters finally
culminate into some sort of amazing scene or
series of scenes that make the story's wrap-
up inevitable. It's often where the
operatives face their main antagonist,
and victory and defeat sit poised
as equal eventualities. In the
movies, the climax is accompanied
by a rising dramatic musical score.
It's the climax of the story that drives
us to rise from the edge of our seats
and either gasp in worry or cheer in
triumph. In a role-playing game, the
climax is one of the most important
parts of the adventure. Many
excellent gaming sessions have
been plagued by poor climaxes.

An adventure can have all of the elements that make a story memorable and epic,
and then fall horribly flat when the operatives breeze through the main conflict in
an unmemorable manner. This is called Anti-Climax, and can break an adventure.

Confessions of a Bad GM – I have learned this lesson the hard way. I ran a
mission (after a lot of X-Files watching) where the operatives had to rescue
a powerful empath because she was the key to breaking down the mental
defenses of a captured alien who crashed on Earth in the arctic. The only
problem was that the empath was being held in a classified US government
prison. Since the government wouldn't cooperate (the empath was simply
"too dangerous" and was being kept sedated and her powers suppressed),
the operatives were hired (along with appropriate warnings of plausible
deniability) to sneak into the government prison, secure the release of the
prisoner empath, and escape, delivering her to Command at an obscure
location where the alien was held.

The mission was great, the story solid, and all was enjoyable. But I didn't
plan well for the climax of the story. The players succeeded in the prison
break-out, dragging along a drugged empath girl (who turned out to be
only twelve!) as she slowly came to her senses. Once she was in front of the
dangerous alien (my story's sad climax) she released an empathic blast that
knocked everyone unconscious. The operatives woke up along with
everyone else, with the alien and the girl dead. Story over. Players yawned.


The mission lost its impact and depth because the players lost interest (they
were just along for the ride) during the climax.

GMs should be careful not to craft a masterful adventure plotline where

the climax doesn't directly involve the player operatives! They’re the main
characters of the story and need to be involved in some fashion. In
hindsight, I should have had aliens show up to reclaim their lost pilot… and
let the players deal with a very powerful foe while the empathy tried to get
information from its mind. This example wasn’t the last time I mixed
science fiction with my Covert Ops, but it was the last time I excluded the
players from the main story’s climax.

When telling a story (of any type) you’ll lose the attention of your audience when
you allow long lulls in the progression of the main plot. Players will lose interest if
they have to wait for you to look up answers or procedures. Know your rules, and
when you don’t know something, judge quickly and move on.

There is nothing wrong with making an incorrect judgment. Some players are by-
the-book “rules lawyers” and might seek to correct your quick judgment. Stick by
your guns: you’re the GM and this is a game system that relies on a strong GM role.
Just be polite and say “I’ll make sure to read up on those rules by next session, but
this is how I’m doing it for now to keep the story flowing.”

Every game has them… moments where the players get to shine, do something so
cinematic that the image of it is talked about for many years to come. Roleplaying
games are great for those moments.

It takes a while to learn to recognize those moments. Skilled GMs feel them coming.
They’re not always at the climax of the story, though they often are. Sometimes
they come by complete surprise when someone rolls a critical success (or failure!)
when his chances of success are abysmal. Sometimes the great moment doesn’t
happen on its own and you have to make it happen, often to fix a broken situation
(especially when dice betray everyone and jeopardize a mission). It’s important to
really make the moment memorable by adding a moment of descriptive drama to it
to spruce it up. The player is going to remember it, so make it a great memory.

Noah was playing an ex-marine with an anger management issue, and he

and the rest of the operatives had been shot down by members of the
Redhawks, a notorious band of thugs and killers they were sent to disburse.
He started getting really into the situation, I could see it in his eyes. He was
worried for his operative and was wondering if he or any of the others were
going to survive this mission. Out of bones and wounded, he even looked
like he was on the verge of having no fun whatsoever…


I told him to roll a WIL check. He didn’t know why, but he rolled it anyway.
Since one of his descriptors was “anger management issues” I thought it
might be a good moment for him to fly into a heated (and helpful) rage. He
rolled, and even with his operative’s 68 WIL score, he failed with a critical
failure. In frustration, Noah says “Of course, a critical failure… what was I
rolling for?”

“Well, Mr. Anger Management Issue… your adrenaline builds up in you

over the damage to the chopper and the jeopardized status of the mission.
Your anger has become too much for you and you’ve become gripped by an
amazing rage that would make a mountain shake with fear.”

Even though the rage might not be enough to save him, I knew I had to let
him have this moment. I could see it in his defeated face. Even though I
helped it along, the dice helped even more by coming up with double nines:
the memorable moment of the adventure was here. I threw him a bone
and said something like the following:

“Time slows for you… everyone else feels a single heartbeat but you feel
like that heartbeat stretches out for many seconds. The storm strengthens,
the rain coming down in the alley with great power – as if providing a
soundtrack to the impending burst of rage you’re about to unleash. The
remaining Redhawk’s eyes widen when they see you stand up in the
wreckage and stare them down. They somehow sense your building surge
of raw power – Roll initiative…”

This isn’t something done often in role-playing games, but give it a try, it’s quite a
bit of fun for the players. A cut scene is where the focus of the storytelling cuts
away from player activities, and you narrate a scene to them. This sometimes gives
the players knowledge their operatives won’t have, and should only be done if you
do indeed want them to know the information you’re presenting (and trust the
players not to use this “above-board” knowledge to influence how they play their

One good use of cut scenes might be at the close of a game session where the
mission has not yet been concluded. The players, ready to break for the evening,
might enjoy you describing a scene where the main master villain is reporting to his
superiors the failures caused by the operatives’ activities.

Fade in. Metalwork walls enclose a control room where a tall man rubs his
temples, anger fading to a false calm mask. He turns away from the
computer screen, leaving the fearful operators looking at one another in
concern. The tall man walks into another room and closes the door. Metal


walls give way to heavy oak furnishings in a rustic private study with no
windows. A few taps on a computer terminal and one wall displays a
counsel of four suited people, their faces shrouded in intentional shadow.

One of the shadows speaks: “You had one job, Mr. Jacobson. By now the
White House should have been rubble, and your agents in place. Where is
the mayhem you promised?” The threat is implied, and received.

Jacobson tries to put on his best smile and replies: “Everything is going
according to plan, Sirs. I had those buffoons of SECTOR taking care of a
diversion. Rest assured your mayhem is coming.”

Another shadow: “It had better come. We’re sending a specialist to assist
you, he will lead a team to keep those operatives out of your way for the
rest of your… plan. If you fail us again, our specialist will be instructed to
dispose of you. Understood?”

“Understood.” Jacobson flicks off the view screen and hurls a heavy object
from his desk at the screen, shattering it. Fade out.

In the above example, unless the operatives already learned of these things, their
players are now aware that the main enemy of the mission is named “Mr.
Jacobson.” And that he works for a group of four anonymous men. They know Mr.
Jacobson’s base of operations has metal walls and that he maintains a private study
where he likely keeps important information. They learned that their actions of the
session might have been in dealing with a diversion – or was that just a lie told by
Jacobson to his employers? They also know that next mission a “specialist” is
coming to help take care of them. But the most fun thing of all is that they learned
they are getting under Jacobson’s skin, and that’s priceless.

This is a storytelling technique that can be of great use to a GM wanting a longer-
term campaign. In this technique, there is something important that must be
uncovered. It is so important that knowledge of it will change the world, or at least
a nation. It has to be big.

Maybe aliens are real and the government of the United States is made up of them,
in disguise. Maybe there exists a clandestine organization behind the major events
of the world… guiding events towards some amazing agenda. Maybe some historic
event was concealed from us all by the church and scholars who controlled the
documenting of history itself. Whatever it is, it has to be big for this to work.

The information isn’t obvious. Players won’t learn of the truth in one session. They
won’t even learn of the truth in one mission. They will learn layers of truth, each
one leading them up to another layer which eventually reveals the ultimate truth.


A GM should number six lines on a piece of paper. At number 6, he writes his

ultimate outrageous truth, such as “Nazi Germany is alive and well and living in a
lunar base on the dark side of the moon, building up an arsenal big enough to
retake the world in 2025.” Next, at line number 5 and leading to line number 1,
provide five additional facts which lead to this discovery. Make each one progress
towards the next. Perhaps number five states “There is a secret organization called
IZAN living on Earth whose German agents silence conspiracy theorists or anyone
who gets close to the truth.” Now we have a master villain organization. Eventually
lead the layers down to number 1 which might be something like “German rocket
scientists were in high demand after the war, helping to get mankind to the moon…
but never to the dark side.”

Now you simply try to reveal one of these layers at a time to the players. Don’t
feed it to them; allow them to uncover it as a meta-plot streaming through all their
other missions and adventures. Sprinkle information here and there and let them
build conclusions. Let them learn that there is a bigger truth out there, that people
are dying to protect it, and that it will change the world. Don’t even feel like you
have to mention it in every session, or every mission. Some missions are exactly
what they seem. But you’ll be surprised how many missions you run that, with a
little creativity, can be turned around to be a part of this grander storyline.

Once they reach number 5, the next session should be the big one. It is here that
the meta-plot comes to a mega-conclusion. But what does it mean? Does the
campaign end? Story over? Do the operatives thwart it? Or does the world
change? Then what? Once the final layer of the story comes to fruition, it is up to
you what to do.

The mission (or the “adventure”) shouldn’t be a stand-alone entity. Even missions
designed for a single night’s session should have broader implications. This section
discusses the who, what, why, where, and when of a story, including the player’s

All NPCs are characters, even the minor ones. All characters should have depth to
them, even the most unimportant ones. This is one of Stephen King's greatest
strengths. You should feel free to use voices (change the pitch or add an accent, or
even just speak at a different volume) or speaking patterns (speak slowly or use
certain phrases or regional dialects and slangs). Don't be afraid to give life to
merchants, guards, politicians, and corporate suits.

Characters need to have consistency. Of course, part of the key to making a stable,
believable setting is consistency. If you are capable of using a British accent, then


make sure to use it for all British characters and non-player characters. Players will
expect it. If an operative gambles at a casino on Los Vegas during a mission and
befriends the dealer, if he later visits that same casino he might enjoy visiting that
dealer again, and will notice if he talks or acts differently than before!

But consistency isn’t just about what voice you use. Mannerisms can be just as fun
when defining a consistent and memorable NPC. You can use facial expressions or
body language to represent the specific mannerisms of a character: put your hand
on your belly, close your right eye, whatever. Players will associate those actions
with that character whenever they see them, and this can be worked into stories.

The tell-tale stance of Mr. Smith – My play group’s character’s employer, a

slow-speaking Mr. Smith, always stands with his feet pointed outward and
his hands clasped behind his back. Every time the players have meetings
with him, I rise from my seat and stand in that manner, speaking in my Mr.
Smith voice, a soft and dangerous tone.

Once, when the operatives were sent on a mission to escort some valuable
nuclear cargo other operatives secured from a foreign dictator, they got
curious and opened them up on the way only to find them empty. They
turned their truck around and came back to discuss this with Mr. Smith.

Worried about possibly being blamed for theft, they stealthily approached
the parking garage where their truck was originally parked, scouting out
the area. They could see - in the shadows - someone was conducting an
inspection of crates that looked identical to the empty ones in their truck!
There were too many armed thugs for them to get involved, but they did
notice that the one selling the crates stood with his feet pointed outward,
his hands clasped together behind his back. The buyers were from another
country, but the players never learned which.

They knew not to fully trust Mr. Smith after that point, and still verify
everything he tells them. If Mr. Smith wasn't good at getting them jobs,
they'd have ditched him long ago!


Player Characters. But it’s not only the

importance of the non-player characters
a GM has to cater to – the Player
Character (PCs), although controlled by
the players rather than the GM, take a
great deal of consideration.

When overseeing operative generation,

it is important to help ensure the players
are happy with their operatives. Players
bore quickly of a character they can’t
enjoy. Each player has different reasons
why they might not connect. For
younger, less experienced role-players,
it’s often just about statistics. Allowing a
re-roll of a terminally low score might be
all that it takes, and what’s the big deal
about that?

Other players prefer their operative to be potentially epic in nature. It’s not that
they need their operatives to be statistically superior to anyone. Quite the contrary;
they prefer an operative with a terminal flaw or two to round out their general
awesomeness. For many, it’s all about the operative’s background and what lies in
store for him. For some, spending a little extra time and effort tying a character
into the storyline and helping to prepare the character for grander things is vital.

For some players, having an opportunity to add a great amount of detail is

important. These players want to know an operative’s family structure, number and
names of siblings, and know a great deal about the operative’s past. When GMing
for players such as this, make sure to help develop these things about such an
operative, and to work these things into the storyline.

There has to be a reason the operatives immerse themselves in a setting and face
conflicts. What is it that the players must have their operatives accomplish?

Having a great setting and interesting characters are a good start, but if the
characters have no carrot to dangle in front of them, how can they be led to
struggle against the main conflict?

Exposition. Part of the difficulty with providing the players with goals is figuring out
how to give them those goals. If they have an employer (such as working for
Command), it gets pretty simple: they are called into a mission briefing room and
provided with their goal. This is a really easy way to do it in the beginning, and


sometimes leads experienced operatives to strike off on their own and become

But sometimes the goals of a mission come from other sources. Some of the most
memorable missions have goals that the players themselves come up with (like
returning to a place of a previous session in order to retrieve something they lost or
wish to claim).

If the players are freelance, or you wish to give them a mission in an unusual way,
there are a number of ideas you can draw from. Sometimes, the operatives are just
in the wrong place at the wrong time, and events transpire that launch them into a
series of connected adventures. Or a simple routine activity in their daily lives turns
out to be far from routine. Don’t forget the letter from a loved one or contact
begging for their help.

Obviousness. Some GMs prefer to make sure the players have an obvious specific
goal. As a player, most people want to know what their operatives should be
focused on or they get bored and start spinning or stacking dice. As a GM, I hate it
when I have to lead the players along because they’re doodling on their operative
dossiers unable to focus. It’s important to keep the players aware of the goal,
remembering the goal, and focused on it.

If the goal of your mission is to survive an attack, keep your story focused on the
survival. If the goal of your mission is exploration, don’t let an encounter with mafia
thugs derail the storyline and focus the mission on conflict against the foe.

Personal Goals. Some players design operatives with personal goals, and this is
great. As a GM you should be thankful for it because it helps serve as a springboard
for further adventure. For these players, they measure the success of their
operative against the yardstick of his defined personal goals.

One operative’s family was killed during the political struggle between two
corporations when disputes over mineral rights turned violent. The player stated on
his operative dossier that his goal was to see all dirty corporations topple. During
game play, each time there is an opportunity to stand in opposition to the forces of
an obviously corrupt corporate official, this character gets involved. The success of
such an operative isn’t measured in development points and attributes… it’s
measured by his own passion.

If one or more players have personal goals, be careful not to make all adventures
center around just a few operatives at the exclusion of other players’ fun.

Single-sitting adventures involve conflict of one type, but this isn't what is being
referred to here. When a GM prepares an adventure for the players, he should


always keep his mind on the overall conflict. It's the conflict that defines why the
characters are heroes. And face it – even though they’re spies or mercenaries or
whatever, they are the heroes of the story. It's the adversity the player characters
face that defines them and makes them stand apart. It’s a vital part of a role-
playing game.

Conflict in a role-playing game is even more important than it is in conventional

storytelling media. Players thrive on the action their characters face. Even the
greatest role-players enjoy imagining their characters struggling against adversity
only to emerge victorious in the end. The greater the conflict, the sweeter the

Villains and lackeys are an important part of any conflict. They are tangible beings
against which all blame may be thrown. It's easy to target a fictitious villain with
your indignation. It's therapeutic to finally defeat the foe that’s been the source of
all the problems the player's characters have faced. It’s not always necessary to
make the main villain a single person. There are many cults and cadres, groups and
corporations that all make excellent villains.

However, conflict should not be merely a list of enemies to face. Some of the
greatest stories from movies and books have struggles against powers and
principalities that aren't personified by a tangible force. Players may struggle
against their own inner demons, against the mistakes of their past. They may stand
against a force of nature or a catastrophic ill-fated prophecy. Even though this is a
game of paramilitary and espionage adventure, there’s no reason the stories can’t
involve destiny.

When defining your adventure's conflicts, you need to consider the farther-reaching
conflict that can help define the character's struggles for many adventures to come.
The players may not even be aware of the true nature of their conflict during the
first few adventures.

For example: Characters facing lackeys of a corrupt official might face off only
against the lackeys in the first mission, discovering that it is the corrupt official
behind it all. The next mission might result in learning that there is a conspiracy
among many government officials. After several missions, they eventually learn that
Varaghest Corporation is behind it all, a clandestine villainous organization with far-
reaching influence. They have hypnotized the officials into their current state of
indecency. As their missions lead them along this chain of discoveries, they
eventually learn of several resistance groups fighting against the corruption of
Varaghest Corp. Over time, the operatives find that their main struggle isn't against
the lackeys, isn't against the corrupt government. The main conflict of their story is
the struggle to lead the many resistance groups into one force capable of dealing
with Varaghest Corp!



Consistency. Your players want a consistent setting. That is not to say it must be
stable – just consistent. You should keep notes of what you place where in the
game world. If you describe that there is a giant statue of Tomas Kincaid (some
early explorer who gave up his life to save a settlement) located in the center of the
largest port city in some country, make sure you describe it every time the players
land there. Elsewhere, have an NPC use a comparative statement like “as large as
the toes of Tomas Kincaid” – the players will feel immersed in your setting and your

A Living World. The entire game world is alive with activity. The earth turns, people
live and love and war, new things are discovered. The world isn’t a totally static
place where the players are the only dynamic element. It’s important to have things
happening in the world that aren’t a part of the player’s involvements. Sometimes
these backdrop story elements work their way into the player’s adventures in the
form of subplots. Sometimes they are catalysts for entire new storylines. Even if the
players have no involvement at all, make things happen, even if they become red
herrings to the central storyline.

Using Newspapers. If you’re running regular sessions of Covert Ops, you should
keep up with international news. Using the internet, newspapers, or magazines
should suffice. Using elements of events going on in the real world will help anchor
the operatives in reality, despite their larger-than-life nature. This suggestion
cannot be understated.

Exciting Locales. This is more of a cinematic element than a literary one. The
players will become more excited about their setting when they find themselves in
unusual locations that fill their mind with images and ideas. A really cool location
will be memorable.

In the Indiana Jones movies, Professor Jones finds himself in ancient temples,
hidden crypts, and old underground cities. In Star Wars, the act of turning off the
deflector shields around the Death Star becomes a daring raid on a storm trooper-
infested jungle moon.

Filling the location with interesting things can be as cliché as you’d like. Go ahead
and borrow from existing imagery from movies and books. It’s your setting, but it’s
everyone’s experience. If a character finds himself in a situation that his player can
relate to because of a movie he’s seen, it only adds to his ability to become
immersed in the experience of the setting. Another interesting way to spruce up an
adventure location is through creative application of environmental forces at work:
gravity, rain, storms, atmospheric density or gaseous makeup, lava/magma, or just
about anything else you can imagine. Having a climactic encounter with your main
enemy on the shores of a lava lake in a base built into an active volcano makes for
an interesting final encounter!


There are common elements to an espionage story that should be considered while
building missions and game sessions for your players. These help make a mission
memorable by creating situations the players have all seen on favorite spy movies
and television shows or have read in books. They give players a sense of the
familiar while providing role playing tropes that work in the espionage genre. GMs
should familiarize themselves with these and try to work one in when possible.


In modern espionage stories, a bullet seems to solve a lot of problems. Shoot at a
lock to prevent someone from gaining access to a room. Or to unlock a door. Or
shoot at an electronic gadget to destroy it or knock loose some glitch. Shoot at a
critical weak point on a helicopter and the whole thing blows up. These elements
work great for cinematic styles of high espionage but fall short of reality.


There is a prisoner and one or more of the operatives must convince the guards
they have a grudge against him. They must act as if they are going to interrogate,
intimidate, or hurt him. Secretly, the prisoner is the operative's ally and they are
left alone with him by the guards to conduct their nefarious activities. But the
operatives must convince the prisoner they're on his side, work out a plan with him
or let him know they're going to get him free somehow... all without letting the
guards know the operatives are secretly allied with the prisoner.


The operatives are on a mission in a foreign land. The mission objective becomes
unachievable, their cover is blown, and all extraction opportunities are used up.
This is when the operatives learn that they are field operatives, and therefore are
burnable assets. Don’t let the players forget that they aren’t irreplaceable. If
Command needs to, they’ll abandon the operatives, deny association with them,
and generally leave them for dead. Of course, being the crafty lot they are, the
operatives will rise up from these ashes and save the day. And then they can have a
long talk with whoever gave the order to leave them stranded in unfriendly

In this element the team is caught doing something illegal and it’s recorded! They
start their day watching the news (or maybe Command approaches them) and see
video footage of them stealing something. It’s not them, it’s a well doctored video.
They must work to clear their names and catch the people responsible. As an
interesting twist, maybe the video is real and really shows the operatives, but it
only appears they are doing something illegal because of circumstances. Either this
is pure coincidence that it appears illegal or the actions they are taking were
intentionally orchestrated to catch them in seemingly illicit action.


This is another very common theme element for GMs to use in their missions. The
operatives must get through a checkpoint (a militant one with barbed wire,
machine guns, and many soldiers) or must pass some kind of intense scrutiny (metal
detector at the airport, group of very tough bouncers at a club, etc.) to gain
entrance to or safe passage to a destination. It will require them to use deceit,
trickery, or very good role playing to convince the checkpoint guards or technology
that they are supposed to be allowed passage. This becomes a potential turning
point for the mission, because if they fail then it can change the course of the story
significantly (resulting in captivity or perhaps turning a stealth operation into a full
frontal assault from one slip of the tongue).


This one doesn’t need a lot of explanation: cool guys walk away (often in slow
motion) while the fiery explosion fills the background behind them. Add cinematic
moments like this into your story to give that familiar feel of style, confidence, and

In this thematic element operatives take out a few guards or stumble on the
laundry room and have instant disguises. But one of them is now mistaken for the
person whose uniform he wears and this leads the story down an unintended path.
Eventually a tense moment occurs where someone who actually knows the real


uniform owner is coming and the ruse is going to be ruined, and maybe jeopardize
the mission.


This element can be difficult to pull off since you have a lot of player-knowledge at
the table. The team wakes up with implanted memories or no memory of recent
events in their lives. Suddenly events happen and they're in trouble with Command,
a law enforcement agency or some rival. They have to work to find out the events
they can’t remember or undo the implanted memories in order to clear their


This is a very common thematic element, where one or more operative is captured
or comes upon the location of the main enemy and there is no combat. Instead,
they sit together and dine (or gamble at the same table, or dance together at a
party, etc.) talking amiably while sprinkling the conversation with threats. This
shouldn't result in a fight; it is a roleplaying opportunity that players who enjoy high
espionage will latch onto and act out.


This thematic element is named for the nautical trick of flying a flag of one color
and then hoisting the Jolly Roger at the last moment to reveal a ship’s true nature.
It is a common ploy for a group of operatives to dress like another organization
(maybe even showing falsified credentials) in order to place the blame for their
activities on a rival organization. The player’s operatives can pull this trick to put
negative press on a rival organization, or enemies (or even allies!) might pose as
operatives of Command to force their involvement in some critical operation.


In this thematic element, the players need to question or defeat someone who has
been taken as a prisoner, and they must get into prison. Of course, the easy way is
to commit a crime and get thrown there… but clever players can come up with
other ways. After all, a prison was designed to keep people in, not out. Getting in
should be the easy part.


Despite the name of this game, some operatives may like to be a bit more overt.
When asked their name, instead of announcing something easily forgettable and
fake such as “John Smith” or “Mr. Johnson” they proudly announce their real name.
“My name is Blake… James Blake.” In real life, operatives conceal their identity,
even maintaining multiple identities to double-conceal the truth. But in this trope,
you tell just about everyone you meet who you really are, making it easy for them
to look you up in their super villain database. Or maybe the operative doesn’t tell


his real identity, but walks around in a trench coat and fedora and keeps to the
shadows, cigarette in hand… making anyone who sees him think he’s a spy.


Although the espionage world is full of deep shadows and dark secrets, this secret is
hidden in plain sight. A hardware store might turn out to be a concealed military
base of an enemy. A phone booth used every day by normal people can, when a
certain number is dialed, provide a secure signal to Command. The broadcast dish
beaming a control signal to the satellite in space which you must stop turns out to
be a Ferris wheel closed down “for maintenance.” GMs shouldn’t hide everything
in plain sight, of course, but doing so occasionally helps remind players that their
shadow war wages in the midst of civilian society and collateral damage could be


There are two distinct types of overall themes used in spy missions. Usually, good
stories include elements of both. High espionage refers to fancy cars, posh parties,
small pistols, seduction and impossible villains with larger-than-life plans, style and
charm. Low espionage takes place on gritty streets, in nightclubs or corner bars,
includes mafia bosses or drug lords whose plans are all but believable and real -
perhaps taken from our everyday newspapers. GMs should make efforts to use
these extremes within his sessions. While familiar to players, they help show the
dichotomy of secret agent life.

One of the most surprising mission
objectives that Command might
give to operatives when they screw
up and blow cover is “leave no
witnesses.” No matter how
benevolent your version of
Command, always consider that
some secrets are worth killing to
protect. This is a great way to
question the morals of the
operatives. Do they have what it
takes to do this? Or do they allow
witnesses to live along with
assurances of silences? Have they
just created a liability they have to
look after for the rest of their


An operative or NPC needs to get a message to someone. He hands them numbers
on a piece of paper or disk. What do they mean? The operatives will need to
match the numbers to a book. Only with the correct book can the code be
deciphered. The book might be common or rare, but getting the book is part of the
solution. Once the book is found, the numbers correspond to page numbers,
sentence numbers, and word numbers. When the cipher is worked out, the
operatives will finally understand what they must do next. This plot device can
work well in a game like this. GMs could actually work out the code themselves
from a real book and keep it handy near the game table. Have the operatives
engaged in combat or something intense while one of the players actually works
out the cipher (tell him how it works, then make him work it out while the battle
rages around him). When he works out every letter, the battle becomes less
important and the operatives must get away to follow the instructions deciphered.

An operative (one of the player's or an NPC) is given a mission where it is his
objective to incite rebellion among some group, layering lie on top of deception.
This provocateur is now so deeply mired in his deceptions that his allegiances are
impossible to discern. The operatives must either be the provocateur(s) and deal
with the distrust of their peers and Command, or they must work with the
provocateur and hope they can best him at his game of lies and web of deceit to get
what they need or want; they must manipulate the manipulator.


This thematic element can be seen in many spy and military movies. It refers to the
act of fast-roping down a free-hanging rappel line into a battlefield and usually
occurs out of low-flying helicopters (probably black) and might include swinging
through windows to storm a building. In this trope, the operatives seemingly come
out of nowhere. The helicopter might be heard but only a moment before the
operatives hit the ground ready for action. Players whose operatives use
equipment allowance for backup and then call them in at a crucial moment can
expect this kind of entrance. Players who are sent in to secure a location might be
the ones doing the fast-roping. However it happens, make it cinematic and cool.


In this common thematic element, the operatives must visit a location early in the
mission where they notice some extremely odd colored mud (or leaves, or scent, or
something). Later in the mission, when trying to figure out someone's identity or
allegiance, one of them notices this unusual colored mud (or leaves, scent, etc.) and
the operatives realize where that person's been and it drops all the clues in place.
This works best if it is the players themselves who think to ask about it ("I know,
which one of them has red mud on his boots? That's the man who's been to the



This is a fairly common thematic element where an operative is posing as a bad guy
and to convince other bad guys of his authenticity, he has to shoot one of his fellow
operatives. Players doing this might decide that instead of adding their DEX and
soldier bonuses to damage, they wish to subtract it from rolled damage instead.
But in a case like this, remember: a critical failure on the attack roll could be deadly!
This ploy is more fun for the players if it’s impromptu instead of planned. The
undercover operative simply pulls out his pistol and shoots his old friend in cold
blood; very convincing to the bad guys. When the player’s operative recovers from
being shot, he should distrust the undercover operative... after all, he shot him!


It’s the swiss army knife of operative gadgets: the super spy wrist watch. For some
reason, an enemy will frisk you and take everything away from you – except your
watch. All manner of gadgets could be built into a wristwatch, regardless of
whether or not they would actually fit. GMs should be permissive of gadgets placed
in wrist watches, but limit them to one-use items. After all, only so much tech can
fit in that small a package.

Operatives become knowledgeable about many things that most people will never
know. Information is the primary weapon in the world of espionage. Some
information turns out to be pure fiction – exposed by the truths uncovered during
the operatives’ missions. But sometimes, just sometimes, fiction mirrors real life
and players should open their mouths in astonishment and ask: “That’s real?!”
Examples include the “Men in Black,” or “S.H.I.E.L.D.” from the Marvel Universe. Fit
one of these into the backdrop of your campaign setting and watch the players
embrace it!

"I could tell you, but trust me, you don't want to know." In a world of cloak and
dagger, loyalty and trust are important because organizations control information
access. Sometimes to protect you, sometimes to control you. The espionage world
is full of secrets. It can be both frustrating and fun for the operatives not to have all
the information, or to be restricted from having it when they look for it, simply
because they're not authorized to know the answers they seek. During the mission,
the operatives come to know the information and realize why it was kept from
them... and are warned by Command to forget what they learned or they will have
to mitigate the information leak permanently. This plot element can be used by the
players too, when their operatives are dealing with NPCs hungry for the full story.



There is a weapon which seems to fire one way but really fires the other. Or maybe
it's a machine that the switch for "on" really shuts it off and vice-versa. Whether
the device is designed to fire backwards or is a result of operative or enemy
tampering, the operatives know about it and at a time when nothing else will work
they must trick a seemingly unstoppable foe into using the device on them... which
will actually backfire. Note that the backfiring device need not be a handheld
weapon - it may be a plot device rather than a physical one. For instance, a
powerful agent assassin who has had hypnotic manipulation to kill the person he
sees when a word is spoken might have to be tricked into saying the word himself...
while looking in a mirror. The suicidal rage which ensues would also qualify as the
backfire ploy.


Although this is a minor thing, it is fun to add to the story. GMs should keep a
clipboard nearby with some papers clipped in. When playing an authoritative figure
from Command, pick it up and hold it. Refer to things on it. Scratch a note. Appear
to cross off something. What's on the clipboard?! Players will see someone holding
a clipboard as an authority figure whose pen strokes are affecting their career or (if
you play it up well enough) the policy of nations. This prop is fun in other ways as
well. When the player's operatives must dress up in disguise or must deceive
someone and they're playing the role of an authoritative figure, hand them the
clipboard and let them try it. Fear the pen over the sword... and fear the clipboard
over the pen!



The master villain has the operatives cornered, trapped, and all but defeated. He
should pull a trigger and end all his opposition outright. But he doesn't. Instead he
takes a moment to monologue and then leaves, activating the death trap. The
actual death trap need not be a mechanical or actual thing - it might be a firing
squad or huge group of armed thugs. It might even be something truly freakish like
blasting a hole in the ceiling of a subterranean desert base and locking the
operatives in as sand pours down atop them to bury them alive. Whatever the
source of the "death trap," operatives must show innovation in overcoming it but
while they do so the master villain gets away. GMs might use this thematic element
in the midst of a mission, to allow a later final confrontation at the mission's climax.
Or he might use this at the end of a mission, resulting in a recurring villain for a later


This one can’t be used too often or the players will stop trusting everyone.
Someone the operatives must interact with isn’t what he or she claims. His loyalties
are either divided between two organizations (Command and the FBI, for instance)
or belong fully to some other organization. The operatives probably discover this
when it is too late and a figurative dagger is already dug into their collective backs,
or they’re staring down the barrel of a pistol when they least expected it. The
double agent thematic element works best if it’s a roleplaying scenario, not a pure
combat one. Why did the double agent sell out? What has he told the other side
about Command? Is there any path to redemption, or can this only end in the
player’s operatives and the double agent going for their guns?


The operatives are hiding in a hotel, laying low. There is a knock at the door. It’s
room service - and now the situation becomes tense. Is it an enemy agent
concealing a gun under the towel he’s carrying? Or maybe there is a bad guy
dressed up as a mail man. He knocks, has someone sign for a package (forcing them
to open the door wide enough to get it), looks at the signature to make sure it’s
really the person he’s after, then walks away as the package timer counts down to 0
before exploding. Or maybe the players themselves could adopt this common
thematic ploy and pose as delivery men to gain entrance to a location or to deliver
an explosive package to the enemy base.


A common espionage story element is when there is something being held in some
facility. It is usually in a computer or safe, or maybe some other type of security
location. The operatives must retrieve it. Doing so will not be easy. When you
focus a piece of your story around a heist like this, force there to be a situation that
caters to every operative’s specialty. If the group contains a techie thief type, then
there exists some kind of surveillance system that must be modified or bypassed. If


your operatives have someone who’s very athletic, then giving them rappelling gear
or specialized climbing gadgets will do the trick. Or maybe one of the operatives is
a smooth talking seductive type who has to try to convince an enemy general to
“have a drink” with her, where she drugs him and lifts his fingerprints to gain access
to a location. The heist should be elaborate and well-planned. Of course, things
might go smoothly and they might never alert a single guard. But then again,
maybe they’ll end up all split up doing their tasks when all hell breaks loose. The
elaborate heist is a fun and re-usable plot hook.


Another common trope in espionage movies and books is that the CIA isn't really
the good guy. They know things they don't let on. They kill without discretion.
They operate above the law and without oversight. They build empires and bring
down despots without the authority or knowledge of the United States
government. In contrast to this, the FBI is often viewed as good. They place
themselves in extreme personal danger to seek the truth, even if it means crossing
paths with the evil CIA. Since Command is a mysterious employer, they might be
associated with or arrayed against one or both of these groups. Be consistent with
who wears the white and black hats in your campaign setting so the operatives
think they know who they can trust... then spring a surprise on them once in a while
to make them wonder just who the good guys really are.


This element can be a straightforward search and rescue, the return of someone
recently kidnapped, locating a target that has gone off-grid, or finding a specific foe.
The team is sent to find someone and bring them back. Sometimes the
disappearance is simply to lure operatives into a trap. The trap could be nefarious
or simply to speak with them, maybe gather information and capabilities. Bad guys
sometimes just want to flaunt their pans and give operatives a chance to join their
side. Other elements center around a specific foe who is a danger to someone
important and must be found. In other twists the target went off-grid because of
information he came across and is in hiding, maybe the team will sympathize with


In this story element, there exists a list of the names and identities of all operatives
who work for Command (or perhaps a rival organization). This list shouldn't exist,
but of course it does. The list becomes the main topic of a mission. Either it is
stolen and the operatives must recover it and do damage control (by capturing or
killing whoever has seen it) or the operatives must obtain it and use it as leverage
against someone. In the wrong hands, the NOC list can be used to systematically
bring down Command (or the organization to which it applies) and therefore they
will stop at nothing to make sure it is recovered.



Operatives enter a place where the thing they
seek is supposed to be located, maybe the
location of an elaborate heist, or maybe their
own hotel rooms. When they reach the door,
it’s slightly ajar. Operatives then enter, guns in
hands, to find a completely ransacked locale.
Furniture overturned, mattresses cut open, etc.
Maybe some minions were sent to search the
operative’s hotels for information or clues. Or
maybe some enemy henchman team got to the
room before the operatives. Did they find what
they were looking for?


Whether you’re emulating high espionage or
low espionage (or just pure military operations
against terrorist groups), a common thematic
element is the super-science gizmo. It operates
off the assumption that technology is at the
cusp of becoming truly amazing (and
dangerous) and there are enemies who are a
bit further along the path than the rest of the
world. In this trope, a villain develops (or
forces someone to develop) a super weapon (or
super device) that can make him unstoppable.
He might try to blackmail world governments,
or he might ask them to surrender to him. The
operatives are either sent to stop him, or
stumble upon his plans. This type of thematic
element usually ends in the destruction of the
gizmo and all people who know its secrets
(intentionally or otherwise), or at least
destruction/ depletion of rare raw materials
needed to make it work. It’s most fun when
this is coupled with the backfire ploy and the
device is used against its creator. Super-science
gizmos should be plot devices created by the
GM and they can do whatever the GM wishes.
The GM need not be consistent either. If he
needs the gizmo to work, it works immediately.
If he wants it to take 10 turns to power its
capacitors, then it takes 10 turns. No specific
rules govern gizmo creation or use.



This is a typical espionage idiom. Operatives are conversing with someone they
have no reason to distrust. It might be a store clerk or the waitress at the diner.
When suddenly the person says an operative’s name. Clever players will pick up on
it and announce “I never told you my name…” and then the deceiver’s real purpose
is thrust upon them. Other common uses of this idiom are when confidential clues
are mentioned by someone who shouldn’t know, “I never said the victim was a


In this situation, players have important evidence (an encrypted hard drive, a
damaged memory stick, a hair sample from the killer, etc.) which they cannot
analyze themselves. The evidence is sent to the lab while the operatives continue
their mission. But whatever path they take to try to complete the mission, at the
last moment they'll be contacted by an urgent call from Command with results from
the lab... turning everything upside down and showing that the operatives made
incorrect assumptions. This new evidence is not refutable and now the operatives
must respond.


In this thematic element, the operatives must deal with a foe (henchman or the
main villain of the story) who used to work for Command as an operative. He
knows all the tricks and tactics, and seems to have thought of everything (jamming
their methods of communications, knowing the limits of what they can and can't
do, etc.). The villain, if he's charismatic enough, might try to convince the
operatives that they are wasting their time applying loyalty to Command and will
gloat over how Command places money and public opinion over the safety of the
operatives. The players must show extreme creativity in defeating this type of foe
by thinking outside the box.


This is great to give to low rank operatives. Give them a mission and inform them
that they are only supposed to take pictures, videos, or whatever. A real operative
team is sent for the more important piece of the mission. Invariably, something
goes wrong and the raw recruits must then accomplish the mission themselves. If
all goes well, they might even end up rescuing the other failed team. During
debriefing after the mission, they will be commended on their field decisions and
the failed operatives chided. The operatives may have just made a rival, or they
may have just made great friends.


The operatives or an NPC knows they're being listened to by eavesdroppers or
electronic surveillance. A quickly scribbled note "they hear us" and a quick point at


the bug informs all of the problem. This thematic element is where the operatives
and NPCs must carry on a false and believable conversation with one another for
the sake of those listening, often to give them false information or to hide the real
conversation (which is going on via hand signals and note writing).


To help players immerse themselves in the fun of a paramilitary or espionage
mission, learn the language of spies. Below is a list of espionage-related terms.
Learn them and sprinkle into the game freely. The more the players start talking
like this, the more they’ll be into the genre! This information is reprinted (with
permission) from the list of spy terms on

ACCESS AGENT – a talent spotter, performs reconnaissance for recruiters.

ACORN – slang for someone who is performing an intelligence function.
ACTION DIRECT – an underground group in France.
AGENT – a person under the control of an intelligence agency or security service.
AGENT-OF-INFLUENCE – a deep-cover agent with influence among the members of a
target group.
AGENT PROVOCATEUR – a deep-cover agent who feigns enthusiastic support while
tempting the target to incriminate himself/herself through action or words .
AIS – Argentina's intelligence agency.
AL AMN AL-KHAS – Iraq's security service.
AMAN – one of Israel's intelligence agencies.
AMERIKA – underground metaphor for a fascist USA reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
ANALYSIS – drawing conclusions about raw information by assessing its significance and
by collating it with other information.
ASALA – underground group in Armenia.
ASIO – Australian Security Intelligence Organization.
ASIS – Australian Secret Intelligence Service, a department of ASIO.
ASSAULTER – a member of a SWAT team responsible for making a forced entry.
ASSET – an agent (or operative).
AUM SHRINKYO – underground group in Japan with expertise in germ and chemical
AVB – Hungary's security service, the Allami Vedelmi Batosag.
BACKSTOP – an arrangement between two persons for the express purpose of
substantiating a cover story or alibi.
BAG JOB – surreptitious entry, break and enter.
BAKIN – Indonesia's security service.
BATF – a US security service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
BETTY BUREAU – FBI slang for a female support person who has worked for the FBI her
entire career.
BfV – Germany's security service, the Bundesamt fir Verfassungsschutz.
BIRDWATCHER – slang used by British Intelligence for a spy.
BLACK-FLAGGED – an agent or intelligence officer who is to be interrogated and
summarily shot if apprehended.



BLIND DATE – the first meeting with an unknown person.

BLACK PROPOGANDA – a smear campaign, usually consisting of character assassination.
BLOWBACK – unexpected negative consequences of spying activity.
BLOWFISH – a mathematical algorithm for computer encryption of text that purportedly
can only be cracked by brute force if the pass-phrase is unknown.
BLOWN – detected.
BLUE-ON-BLUE – friendly fire, inadvertent hostile engagement between allies.
BND – Germany's intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst. Literally translated
as the Federal News Agency.
BONA FIDES - proof of a person's claimed identity.
BOX – slang for Britain's security service, MI5.
BREVITY CODES – a system of code-words used by members of a surveillance team.
BRICK AGENT – an FBI agent who works inside a field office. Also see STREET AGENT.
BRIDE AGENT – an agent who acts as a courier from a case officer to an agent in a
denied area.
BRUSH CONTACT – a clandestine, momentary contact between two agents who are
passing information, documents, or equipment.
BRUSH PASS – same as brush contact.
BSS – Belgium's security service.
BUCAR – an FBI car.
BUG-ON-A-CHIP – slang for USA's Clipper chip.
BUPO – Switzerland's security service.
BURNT – burned, completed exposed. See BLOWN.
BVD – Netherlands' security service.
C4I – Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I)
CALL-UP – a police term meaning a situation where a SWAT team has deployed.
CAMP X – Canada's secret domestic training base.
CANNON – a thief who steals back the inducement offered by the spies to an informant,
defector, etc.
CARIBINIERI – Italy's federal antiterrorist police.
CARNIVORE – computer program designed by the FBI to allow the FBI to collect
electronic communications from a specific user targeted in an investigation.
CASE OFFICER – operations officer, controller.
CBI – India's security service.
CENTER – KGB HQ in Moscow
CHASE CAR – a security detail or bodyguard vehicle that follows the subject.
CHEATING – command of the target from in front of the target during floating box
surveillance. See also COMMAND OF THE TARGET.
CHENG PAO K'O – China's intelligence agency.
CHICKEN FEED – low grade information fed through a double agent to one's adversary
with the intention of building the credibility of the double agent.
CHOBETSU – One of Japan's security services.
CIA – a US intelligence agency.
CNT – an acronym for crisis negotiation team. CNTs are used by police in situations
involving hostage-takers or barricaded suspects. The name CNT is a misnomer – their
true role is not to negotiate, but rather to obtain intelligence to facilitate an assault by



the SWAT team, and to distract the suspect to divert his attention from the coming
COBBLER – a spy who creates false passports, visas, diplomas and other documents.
COMINT – acronym for communications intelligence.
COMM – a small note or other written communication from an underground
organization or one of its members. They are typically written on cigarette wrappers,
chewing gum wrappers, etc.
COMMAND OF THE TARGET – active visual observation of the subject of the
surveillance operation. Used during pedestrian and vehicle surveillance. See also
COMMANDO – a civilian, military, or paramilitary combat group using irregular tactics.
Commando can refer to an individual, a cell, a squad, or the organization as a whole.
COMMIT – a surveillance operative performing the commit function is watching a
location to determine the direction that the target takes (or "commits" to).
COMPROMISED – breached security status.
COMPUTER FORENSICS – Investigation of a computer system believed to be involved in
cybercrime. Also used in espionage to retrieve intelligence from stolen laptops or pcs.
CONG AN BO – Vietnam's security service.
CONSUMER – a person or an organization on an intelligence agency's distribution list.
Also see PRODUCT.
COOKED – a mixture of genuine and fake material provided via a double agent to one's
COUNTERESPIONAGE – activities to impede the efforts of hostile intelligence agencies
engaged in espionage against one's own nation, allies, and citizens.
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE – activities to impede or thwart the efforts of hostile
intelligence agencies attempting to penetrate or compromise one's own intelligence
COUSINS – slang for CIA.
COVER – persona, profession, purpose, activity, fictitious image maintained by an
undercover operative.
COVERT ACTION AGENT – a spy who works to reorient an entire nation's politics in
favor of his country.
CS GAS – a form of tear gas, full name ortho-chlorobenzalmalanonitrile, used by cops,
SWAT teams, and the military.
CSE – Canada's signal intelligence agency, Communications Security Establishment.
CSIS – Canada's security service.
CUT-OUT – a mechanism or person used to allow agents to pass material or messages
securely; also an agent who functions as an intermediary between a spymaster and
other subagents.
COURIER – delivers documents, money, etc.
DAM – France's military intelligence agency.
DANGLE – a spy who poses as a walk-in to penetrate the other side.
DARPA – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (USA).
DATA RECOVERY – bureaucrat-talk for the backdoor built into all US-exported crypto
software since 1998.
DCSS – Denmark's security service.



DDIS – Denmark's intelligence agency.

DEAD DROP – a physical location where communications, documents, or equipment is
covertly placed for another person to collect without direct contact between the
DEAD-LETTER BOX – same as dead drop.
DEAD-LETTER DROP – same as dead drop.
DECOY – distracts adversary's attention.
DEEP-COVER AGENT – permanent cover.
DEFECTOR – a person who has renounced his/her country of citizenship.
DGI – Cuba's intelligence agency.
DGSE – France's intelligence agency.
DHS – Department of Homeland Security - USA agency
DIA – a US intelligence agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency.
DIRTY TRICKS – covert sabotage carried out by a security service or intelligence agency,
ranging from pranks to assassination.
DIVERSION – distracts adversary's attention.
DLB – acronym for dead-letter box. Also see DEAD DROP.
DOPE BOOK – a notebook kept with a sniper rifle for the purposes of recording the
atmospheric conditions, range, lighting, and resulting hit or miss of every shot fired.
DOPPELGANGER – a look-a-like. See also LOOK-A-LIKE.
DOUBLE-AGENT – simultaneously serves two adversaries (often with their knowledge).
DRY CLEANING – active counter surveillance and anti-surveillance against pavement
artists and wheel artists.
DS – Bulgaria's security service, the Drzaven Sigurmost.
DSD – Australia's signal intelligence agency, Defence Signals Directorate.
DST – France's security service.
DUBOK – Russian term for a dead-letter box. Also see DEAD DROP.
E&E – Evade & Escape
EARS ONLY – material too secret to commit to writing.
ELEMENT – a five-man SWAT team consisting of a team leader, scout, rear guard, and
two assaulters. The rear guard provides cover for the scout.
ELLIPTICAL CONVERSATION – says one thing but means another.
ENIGMA – the machine used by the Germans to encode messages during WWII.
EQUESTRIAN POSTURE – an effect produced by rigor mortis whereby the cadaver sits
upright as if riding in a saddle, with arms outstretched.
ESCORT – the operations officer assigned to lead a defector along an escape route.
ESPIONAGE – clandestine collection of intelligence by a non-domestic intelligence
ESS – acronym for environmentally stable strategy, a concept used in strategic game-
ETA – an underground group in Spain.
EVOC – an acronym for Emergency Vehicle Operation Course, taught at the FBI academy
in Quantico
EXECUTIVE ACTION – assassination.
EXFILTRATION – a clandestine rescue operation designed to bring a defector, refugee,
or an operative and his or her family out of harm's way.



EXPATS – short for expatriates, citizens of a country who have taken up residence in
another country and are helping to define its culture.
EYES ONLY – documents that may be read but not discussed.
FALN – an underground group in Puerto Rico.
FALSE FLAG RECRUITMENT – impersonation by a spy while recruiting an informant,
defector, agent, etc.
FBI – a US security service.
FDS – One of Mexico's security services.
FIBONACCI SYSTEM – a system of non-carrying addition used for one-time pad codes.
For example, (Fib) 999 + 222 = 111.
FILLING – the act of inserting material in a dead drop.
FLAPS & SEALS – the tradecraft involved when making surreptitious openings and
closings of envelopes, seals, and secure pouches.
FLIP – a U Turn made by the target during a vehicle surveillance operation.
FLOATER – a person used one-time, occasionally, or even unknowingly for an
intelligence operation.
FLOATING BOX – a method of surveillance where a team of operators establishes a
containment box around the target wherever he/she goes.
FMLN – Frente Farabundo Marti para Liberacion Nacional, an underground group in El
FOLLOW – a surveillance team is executing a follow when they are shadowing a moving
target. See also FLOATING BOX. A follow begins when the target exits the stakeout box
and a surveillance operative attains command of the target.
FOOTFALL DETECTOR – vibration sensor designed to detect walking humans.
FORENSICS – The use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in
criminal or civil courts of law.
FOUR-BAGGER – disclipline of an agent by FBI headquarters, consisting of censure,
transfer, suspension, and probation.
FRA – Sweden's military signals intelligence agency.
FREQUENCY FLOODING – a technique that allows an ordinary telephone to become a
covert listening device.
FRIEND – slang for an agent, informant, or mole providing information to a handler.
FRIENDS – slang for Britain's secret intelligence service, MI6.
FRONT – a legitimate-appearing business created by an intelligence agency or security
service to provide cover for spies and their operations.
FSB – Russia's federal security service, responsible for counterespionage.
FUNKSPIEL – impersonation during electronic communications. Derived from the
German phrase for "radio game".
FUNNY PAPER – slang for the counterfeiting and forged documents section of an
intelligence agency or security service.
GCHQ – Britain's sigint agency, Government Communications Head Quarters.
GIA – an underground group in Algeria.
GID – Iraq's main intelligence organization, Da' Irat al Mukhabarat al-Amah
GRAYMAIL – Threat by a defendant in a trial to expose intelligence activities or other
classified information if prosecuted
GHOUL – agent who searches obituaries and graveyards for names of the deceased for
use by agents.



GRU – Russian military intelligence, the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye.

GSS – Israel's security service (also called Shin Beth)
GUAN-XI – an access agent for China's intelligence agency
GUOANBU – one of China's security services.
GUSTAV WEBER – Hitler's double, used by the Fuhrer's bodyguards to stymie the Allies
as to his whereabouts. Shot in the forehead immediately after Hitler's death.
HAMAS – an underground group in Palestine (now in power).
HANDLER – a case officer who is responsible for handling agents in operations.
HARD MAN – an experienced operative who can survive in a hostile environment and
who has killed.
HARD TARGET – a surveillance target who is actively maintaining secrecy and may not
reveal that he/she has detected the surveillance team.
HEZBOLLAH – an underground group in Lebanon, alleged to have operating units in
Latin America with links to major drug dealers.
HONEY POT – Mata Hari, Raven, lady, femme fatale; a female agent using romance to
compromise a target.
HONEY TRAP – Slang for use of men or women in sexual situations to intimidate or
snare others.
HOOLIGAN TOOL – a specialized tool much like a crowbar, developed by fire
departments for prying open doors and windows. Also used by SWAT teams.
HOSTILE – term used to describe the organizations and activities of the opposition
HOSTILE RECRUITMENT – recruitment by threat or force of an uncooperative informant,
mole, or agent-in-place.
HUMINT – intelligence activities involving people rather than electronic eavesdropping
or communications interception.
HUNTING PACK – slang for surveillance team.
IAKHBAL – Israeli police unit that fights organized crime.
ICBM – an acronym for instant calm breath method, a way to overcome the flight-or-
fight reflex (panic). Also reduces hyperventilation.
ICBM – Intercontinental Bardentic Missiles. Capable of international nuclear assaults
from almost any range
ILD – one of China's security services.
ILLEGAL – an intelligence officer operating in a foreign nation without the protection of
diplomatic immunity.
IMINT – acronym for image intelligence.
INFILTRATION – the secret movement of an operative into a target area with the intent
that his or her presence will go undetected.
INFORMANT – a legitimate member of a target group providing intelligence to the
surveillance team.
INFO WAR – Information Warfare, modern propaganda through (mis)information
INNOCENT POSTCARD – a postcard with an innocuous message sent to an address in a
neutral country to verify the continued security of an undercover operative.
INTELLIGENCE OFFICER – a trained member of an intelligence agency, an employee on
INTERPOL – international police body that coordinates the intelligence gathering and
investigative activities of member police forces.



INVESTIGATIVE SPECIALIST – the FBI's name for a surveillance operative (vehicle or

foot). Pay grade GS-7 to GS-10. See also SSG.
IRA – an underground group in Northern Ireland.
ISTIKHBARAT AL ASKARIYA – Libyan military intelligence.
ITAC – an acronym for International Terrorist Assessment Center, located in Washington
JARKING – bugging or sabotaging a weapons cache, often rendering weapons unusable.
JETRO – one of Japan's intelligence agencies.
JIHAZ AMN AL DAOULA – Egypt's security service.
JOE – a deep-cover agent.
JRA – Japanese Red Army, an underground group in Japan.
KEMPEI TAI – Japan's secret police.
KEYLOGGER – A software or hardware device or program used to capture the
keystrokes any actions of a computer user, often without their knowledge.
KGB – Kometet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti. The premier spy agency of cold war
K-LINE – SVR internal security and investigations section.
KOANCHO – Japan's counterintelligence and security service.
L-PILL – a poison pill used by operatives to commit suicide.
L5 – 4096 bit encryption algorithm
LADY – honey pot.
LAKAM – one of Israel's intelligence agencies (Ministry of Defense).
LEGEND – the faked biography of a deep-cover agent.
LETTERBOX – a person who is acting as a go-between. Also see CUT-OUT.
LINK DIAGRAM – connections being analyzed in a complex police investigation or
counterespionage case. See problem-solving matrix.
LLB – an acronym for live-letter box, an address used to receive communication to be
forwarded to an intelligence agency. See also DLB.
LOOK-A-LIKES – decoys used to confuse hit squads and surveillance teams.
LSD – an acronym for d-lysergic acid diethylanide, a hallucinatory drug discovered in
1943 by Dr. Albert Hofmann, a researcher at Switzerland's Sandoz corporation, a
pharmaceutical manufacturer.
M-19 – underground group in Columbia.
MASINT – measurement and signature intelligence; uses elements that do not fit into
the traditional scope of IMINT and SIGINT.
MASKIROVDA – Russian name for deception techniques designed to fool US spy
satellites. Recently used by India's counterintelligence agency to conceal nuclear testing
from the CIA.
MATA HARI – honeypot, femme fatale,
MBRF – one of Russia's intelligence agencies.
MERCURY FULMINATE – an initiating agent for detonating PETN. See PETN.
MI5 – Britain's security service. K Branch is responsible for counterespionage, F Branch
for countersubversion, C Branch for security of sensitive government installations.
MI6 – Britain's intelligence agency.
MICE – an acronym for money ideology compromise ego (methods used by intelligence
agencies and security services to ruin a target).
MILF – Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Yes, we know this has another colloquial meaning.



MINI MANUAL OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA – an underground operations manual by

Brazilian freedom-fighter Carlos Marighella. Contains 41 chapters. Banned in many
MIN/MAX – a concept in strategic game-theory.
MITI – one of Japan's intelligence agencies.
MOLE – a penetration agent.
MONTENEROS – an underground group in Argentina.
MOSSAD – one of Israel's intelligence agencies, noted for its expertise in wet affairs.
Literally translated as "institute". Never referred to as the MOSSAD, but rather simply
called MOSSAD.
MST – Landless Rural Workers Movement, an underground group in Brazil.
MUKHABARAT – Libya's intelligence agency.
MUSIC BOX – Slang for Clandestine Radio
MUSLIM UIGHUR – an underground group in China.
NAKED – a spy operating without cover or backup.
NAICHO – one of Japan's intelligence agencies.
NARCOTHERAPY HYPNOSIS – CIA interrogators use hypnosis to force regression in the
prisoner to make him believe he is talking to his spouse.
NEUROLINGUISTICS – a branch of psychology used by intelligence agencies and security
services to covertly manipulate unsuspecting human targets.
NEUTRON BOMBARDMENT – used by security services like Britain's MI.5, America's FBI,
Germany's BfV, and France's DST to detect microdots and invisible writing in postal mail.
Originally developed by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Britain for use
by MI.5.
NIGHTCRAWLER – a talent spotter who prowls bars and nightclubs looking for
government employees, military personnel, etc. who can be compromised using booze,
drugs, or sex. Also see TALENT SPOTTER.
NINJAS – slang for members of a SWAT team.
NITROUS OXIDE – an anesthetic inhalant used to render sleeping targets unconscious
during surreptitious entry by goon squads.
NMI – Norway's security service.
NOC – A spy with Non-Official Cover. A fake or real private sector job used by a case
officer as a cover.
NOTIONAL AGENT – Made up or nonexistent secret agent, usually used for a source of
fabricated information or the means by which such information was obtained
NSA – US intelligence agency and security service, the National Security Agency.
NSS – Bulgaria's security service.
NSTL – the FBI's national security threat list
NUGGET – British term for the bait (money, political asylum, sex, or career opportunity)
used to offer a potential defector
NURSEMAID – Russian term for the security service officer who accompanies
delegations to other countries to prevent anyone from defecting.
OBS – Croatia's intelligence agency, the Obavestajna Bezbednostna Sluzba.
OP – observation post.
OFFENSIVE PENETRATION OPERATION – infiltration of an agent into a target group or
OFFSITE – a covert FBI site or facility situated away from a field office.



OG – an acronym for original gangmembers, now in their thirties and forties, who supply
cocaine and heroin to street gangs.
ONE-TIME PAD – an unbreakable code system that works by adding the numeric value
of the plaintext with a randomly-generated code string (the one-time pad). Also see
OPEN-SOURCE – Intelligence gained from public materials.
OSA – official secrets act, usually a law to enable governments to conceal their mistakes
from their own population.
OSINT – open source intelligence; an all-source process which includes HUMINT, IMINT,
SIGINT, and MASINT which analysts must understand and integrate to produce the best
possible intelligence.
OSS – Office of Strategic Services; U.S.'s WWII intelligence, sabotage, and subversion
OUTRIDER – a wheel artist responsible for ensuring that the target does not get outside
the floating box of surveillance vehicles. See also FLOATING BOX.
OVERT TARGET – deliberately attempts to draw attention and drain the resources of an
intelligence agency or security service. Occasionally a decoy.
PARALLEL-LINE/INCIDENTAL-CAPACITANCE – a method of telephone, telex, and
communications eavesdropping that is virtually undetectable.
PAROLES – passwords to identify agents to each other.
PATTERN – the behavior and daily routine of an operative that makes his or her identity
PAVEMENT ARTIST – outdoor surveillance specialist operating on foot.
PEEP – photographer.
PERIMETER SURVEILLANCE – is used to alert the surveillance team when the target
enters or leaves a specific area.
PETN – Pentaery-thritol tetranitrate, a plastic explosive favored by intelligence agencies
and security services. See mercury fulminate.
PFLP – an underground group in Palestine.
PHOTINT – acronym for photo intelligence.
PIG – Russian intelligence term for traitor.
PICKET SURVEILLANCE – focuses on times and places when target is likely engaged in
activities of interest to the surveillance team. Also called chokepoint surveillance.
Named after the openings in a picket fence.
PICKUP – when the target of a surveillance operation is first spotted inside the stakeout
PINHOLE CAMERA – video camera with fiber-optic lens attachment.
PLAINTEXT – the original message before encryption.
PLAYBACK – to provide false information to the enemy while gaining accurate
information from him or her.
POCKET LITTER – Items in a spy's pocket (receipts, coins, theater tickets, etc.) that add
authenticity to his or her identity.
POSSE COMITATAS – a Latin phrase that loosely means power of the people.
PROBLEM-SOLVING MATRIX – a grid-based notation system used by police investigators
and counterespionage officers when dealing with complex cases.
PRODUCT – finished intelligence that has been evaluated by an intelligence agency and
is ready for distribution to consumers. Also see CONSUMER.



PROFESSIONAL NAME – nom de guerre of a spy.

PROFILE STOP – a random stop and search by police, based on a suspect's race,
minority status, economic status, religion, physical appearance, travel status, location,
PROFILING – Stereotyping a group or "type" of person to assess potential dangers,
PROVOCATEUR – an operative sent to incite a target group to action for purposes of
entrapping or embarrassing them.
PSB – one of China's secret police agencies.
PSIA – one of Japan's security services.
PSY-OPS – Psychological operations. The practice of controlling a target to force him to
choose to take a specific action without being overtly coerced.
PSYCHIC COMBAT – a condition of active psychological warfare operations between two
covert adversaries.
PSYCHODYNAMICS – the CIA's psychological profiling system, used in combination with
psychobiographic analysis.
QUANG BO – Vietnam's military intelligence agency.
QODS – One of Iran's security services.
QRF – quick reaction force.
RADINT – acronym for radar intelligence.
RAID – an acronym for Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection, consisting of teams of
National Guardsmen who assist civilian authorities after a suspected
biological/toxin/chemical attack on a population center.
RAVEN – a honey pot.
RAW – India's External Intelligence Agency
RCMP – police agency in Canada similar to the FBI in the USA. Acronym for Royal
Canadian Mounted Police. Also known as RCM Police.
RCMP SECURITY SERVICE – counterespionage, counterintelligence, and counterterrorist
branch of RCMP. Also known as RCMP SPECIAL SERVICES.
RED BRIGADE – an underground group in Italy.
RENT-A-GOONS – operatives proficient in hand-to-hand combat, used as muscle
support when direct physical confrontation is likely.
RESISTANCE – a civilian underground organization, consisting of cells (1 to 10 persons),
circles (a group of cells), and sections (a group of circles).
RG – France's police intelligence security service, Renseignements Generaux.
RING – a network of spies or agents.
ROLLED UP – when an operation goes bad and an agent is arrested.
ROSCOE – handgun.
RUSE DE GUERRE – subterfuge
RZ – an underground group in Germany. Literally translated as revolutionary cell.
SA – FBI special agent.
SAFEHOUSE – a dwelling place or hideout unknown to the adversary.
SANITIZE – to delete specific material or revise a report or other document to prevent
the identification of intelligence sources and collection methods.
SAPO – Sweden's security service.
SASHA KVAP – Russian mole inside Hitler's bunker during the final months of World War
II. Subsequently poisoned by the KGB in 1955.



SAVAK – one of Iraq's security services.

SCIF – acronym for Secured Compartmentalized Information Facility (in Fort Gillem, GA,
USA) where Clipper is housed (rumored to have already been penetrated by agents of
China's intelligence agencies).
SEMTEX – a military explosive suitable for sabotage and terrorist operations.
SECRET CLASSIFICATIONS – Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, and (SCI) Special
Compartmentalized Information.
SERE – an acronym for survival, evasion, resistance, and escape.
SERVICING – the act of removing material from a dead drop.
SET UP – to begin to conduct surveillance on a target.
SEVENTY-ONE YARDS – according to FBI statistics, this is the distance at which a typical
police sniper will hit his mark 90% of the time.
SHOE – False passport or VISA
SHIN BETH – Israel's security service (also called GSS).
SHINING PATH – an underground group in Peru.
SMERSH – KGB assassination group. Officially disbanded. The name derives from the
Russian phrase "death to spies".
SIDE – Argentina's security service.
SIGINT – signals intelligence (interception of electronic communications)
SINN FEIN – the political arm (party) of the IRA.
SIS – one of Britain's intelligence agencies, the secret intelligence service.
SIT REP – situation report.
SIX – slang for a police officer, police cruiser, or a police patrol. Used as a warning in the
criminal community.
SLEEPER AGENT – an inactive deep-cover agent.
SLUZBA BEZPIECZENSTWA – Poland's security service, also called the SB.
SOFT TARGET – an easy surveillance target, untrained and unaware of surveillance.
SOG – an acronym for Special Operations Group, FBI agents who conduct surveillance.
Incontrast, SSG is composed of non-agents. See also SSG.
SOS – dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot. Originally stood for “Save Our Ship” but
is now used as a distress signal in any situation, naval or otherwise.
SPECIAL BRANCH – the security branch of the British police.
SPLASHED – describes a bodyguard whose client has been assassinated. Also see WET
SPOOK – a spy.
SPY – any member of an intelligence agency, security service, police agency, resistance
movement, guerrilla group, or other organization engaged in covert intelligence-
gathering activities.
SRI – Romania's security service (rumored to be made up of former members of
Ceausescu's secret police).
SSG – an acronym for Surveillance Specialist Group, which is what the FBI calls a
surveillance team. See also INVESTIGATIVE SPECIALIST. See also SOG.
SSS – Georgia's security service.
STATION – post where espionage is conducted
StB – Czechoslovakia's security service, the Statni Tajna Bezpecnost.
STINGBALL –flashbang grenade used by SWAT teams to disperse crowds and disorient
barricaded suspects. Throws off rubber fragments when detonated.



STREET AGENT – an FBI agent whose work takes him to various locations. Also see BRICK
SVR – one of Russia's intelligence agencies, the Slnzhba Vneshnei Razvedaki.
SWALLOW – a female agent employed to seduce people for intelligence purposes.
SWARMING – overfilling a location with surveillance operatives. Often used in psy ops
as a means for controlling the target's environment.
SYNTHETIC HEMOGLOBIN – a component used in carbon monoxoide detector alarms.
Radiation weapons developed by DARPA will set off these alarms.
TALIBAN – underground group in Afghanistan.
TARGET – the victim of surveillance, the subject.
TECHINT – technical intelligence; analysis of fielded equipment for training, research,
and the development of new weapons and equipment.
TERMINATED – murdered.
THE TAKE – information gathered by espionage.
THERMAL IMAGER – a heat-sensitive surveillance video camera and display.
THREE Bs – Booze, broads, and bucars. The three temptations of FBI agents.
THROW PHONE – a cellular telephone thrown to a barricaded suspect by the SWAT
THROWAWAY – an agent considered expendable.
TIMED DROP – a dead drop that will be retrieved by a recipient after a set time period.
TRADECRAFT – The methods used in clandestine operations such as espionage. The skill
acquired through experience in a trade; often used to discuss skill in espionage
TRAFFIC ANALYSIS – methods for gaining intelligence from the patterns and volumes of
messages of radio intercepts.
TRIADS – Asian organized crime gangs.
TRIGGER – a surveillance operative who is watching the target's vacant vehicle, home,
garage, office, restaurant etc. and who alerts the rest of the surveillance team when the
target is spotted.
TUPAMAROS – an underground group in Uruguay.
U-2 – the world's most famous spy plane, developed by the U.S. specifically for
intelligence collection in the thin atmosphere 55,000 feet above the Soviet Union; it is
still in use today.
UACB – FBI acronym for Unless Advised to the Contrary by the Bureau.
UNCLE – the HQ of any espionage agency or service
UNITED RED ARMY – an underground group in Japan.
UNS – Croatia's security service, the Ured za Nacionalnu Sigurnost.
UNSUB – an unknown subject in a surveillance operation.
UOP – Poland's security service.
USSA – slang for a USA reminiscent of the oppressive totalitarianism of the former
VCP – vehicle control point.
VEVAK – Iran's intelligence agency.
VICKIE WEAVER – American citizen probably murdered by the FBI. A landmark case for
many concerned Americans.
WAHABI – a Saudi Islamic underground group.
WALK-IN – an unsolicited volunteer.



WATCH-LIST – people targeted for routine surveillance.

WET JOB / AFFAIR – results in death of target or major bloodshed. Also see SPLASHED.
WHEEL ARTIST – an outdoor surveillance specialist operating in a vehicle.
WILDERNESS OF MIRRORS – a spy operation so complicated that it is no longer possible
to separate truth and untruth.
WINDOW DRESSING – ancillary materials that are included in a cover story or deception
operation to help convince the opposition or other casual observers that what they are
observing is genuine.
X RAYS – used by intelligence agencies and security services to pick key-locks and to
deduce the settings for combination locks. Equipment fits in a standard briefcase.
YAKUZA – A criminal organization from Japan. One of the world's largest.
ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY – an underground group in Mexico.
ZERO-OUT – the range at which a weapon's sights will produce a bull's eye hit.
ZHONGYANG LIANLUOBU – one of China's intelligence agencies.
ZOU-HOU-MAN – back door access to a protected target (as used by China's intelligence




9MM MASTER KEY ................................ 32, 81 C
CALLED SHOTS ............................................ 54

A CASTING ................................................... 33
ABILITY CHECK ................................. 17, 18, 49 CATCH & FIRE ............................................ 33
ABILITY SCORE ....... 1, 4, 5, 7, 14, 17, 18, 36, 41 CAUGHT ON VIDEO ...................................... 82
ACADEMIC ....... 6, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 42, 45 CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL ....................... 48
ACTION CHECKS .......................................... 49 CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY ...............SEE CIA
ADOLPH HITLER .......................................... 70 CHARACTERS ............................................. 75
AIR FORCE ................................................. 45 CHARM .................................................... 57
ALLEGORY ................................................. 70 CHASE SCENES ........................................ 1, 55
ALONE WITH THE PRISONER ........................... 81 CHECKPOINT TURNING POINT ......................... 82
ANIMALS .................................................. 54 CIA ...................... 48, 89, 93, 94, 98, 99, 101
ANTI-CLIMAX ............................................. 71 CLEANING ........................................... 33, 95
ARMED EXTRACTION .................................... 45 CLIMAX .................................................... 71
ARMOR ......................................... 23, 27, 54 CLIMB ...................................................... 18
ARMOR PIERCING........................................ 23 COIN GADGETS ........................................... 24
ARMS DEALER ...................................... 19, 32 COMBAT ........................................ 1, 54, 101
ARMY ................................................ 45, 98 COMMAND ....................................37, 93, 94
ASPECTS .................................. 15, 18, 19, 32 COMPUTER GUY ......................................... 38
ATHLETIC ABILITY .................................... 5, 18 CONCEALED WEAPONS PERMIT ....................... 39
AUDIO JAMMER.......................................... 24 CONDITION .................................... 1, 57, 101
AUTO DRONE ............................................. 24 CONDITION CARDS ...................................... 57
AWKWARD STANCE ..................................... 33 CONFISCATION ....................................... 9, 65
CONFLICT .................................................. 78
CONSISTENCY ............................................. 80
BACKUP PERSONNEL .................................... 37
COOPERATIVE ACTIONS ................................ 49
BALANCE ................................... 5, 18, 28, 36
COUNTER SURVEILLANCE .............................. 25
BEIJING .................................................... 11
COVER ............................................... 54, 99
BLACK MARKET..................................... 37, 39
COVER IDENTITY ................................... 39, 47
BLACKMAIL .............................. 43, 47, 90, 92
CRIMINAL ...................... 11, 45, 96, 102, 104
BODYGUARD.............................................. 37
CRIMINAL PARDON ...................................... 45
BONES ........... 3, 4, 11, 14, 16, 17, 36, 44, 50,
CUT SCENES ............................................... 73
51, 52, 53, 57, 62, 72, 73
BREACHING ............................................... 33
BRIBE................................................. 47, 57 D
BRIEFCASE FULL OF MONEY ........................... 41 DATA GRID MANIPULATION ........................... 45
BRUSSELS.................................................. 11 DEAD-TO-RIGHTS ........................................ 33
BURNABLE ASSETS ....................................... 82 DECEPTION............................. 58, 85, 98, 104
BURSTS .................................................... 54 DEMOLITIONS ............................................ 32



DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY . 45, 48, 95 FORENSICS ..................................... 28, 33, 46

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE .............................. 45 FORENSICS EXPERTISE .................................. 46
DESCRIPTIVE DAMAGE.................................. 52 FORESHADOWING ....................................... 68
DESCRIPTORS ........................................15, 18 FULL METAL JACKET ..................................... 23
DETECTIVE ........ 10, 15, 32, 43, 44, 49, 58, 60
DEVELOPMENT POINTS .. 8, 9, 15, 16, 31, 36, 37,
GADGETS ............................................ 24, 27
DEX ........................................... SEE DEXTERITY GET OUT OF JAIL FREE .................................. 39
DEXTERITY ................. 5, 9, 10, 14, 16, 18, 31,
GETTING HEALED .................................... 1, 52
34, 35, 49, 62, 86 GETTING HURT ....................................... 1, 52
DISABLED.................................................. 54
GETTING IN IS THE EASY PART ......................... 83
DISEASES .................................................. 52
GLASER SAFETY SLUG ................................... 23
DP ........................... SEE DEVELOPMENT POINTS
GOAL ....................................................... 77
DR .............................................. 16, 23, 54
GPS WRISTWATCH....................................... 25
DRESS UP MISHAP ....................................... 82
GUN-FU ................................................... 32
DRUGGED AND FORGOTTEN .......................... 83
GUNS AKIMBO ........................................... 34

ELIMINATION ..........................................9, 10
HAGGLING ................................................ 19
ELITE ......................................................... 8
HEADQUARTERS ................................... 37, 41
ENEMIES AT THE TABLE ................................ 83 HEALING ................................................... 54
ENEMY ORGANIZATION .............................1, 63
HELLO, I’M A SPY ........................................ 83
ENVELOPE X-RAY SPRAY................................ 24
HIDDEN CHECKS.......................................... 49
EQUIPMENT ALLOWANCE...... 10, 15, 26, 28, 36,
HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT ................................ 84
37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 52, 65, 85 HIGH ESPIONAGE VERSUS LOW ESPIONAGE ........ 84
EXPERT .................................................8, 27
HIT LOCATION ................................. 35, 52, 54
EXPOSITION ............................................... 77
HOSPITALS ................................................ 52
EXTENDED ACTIONS ..................................... 50
HYPODERMIC RING ...................................... 25
EXTENDED RANGE ....................................... 33
EXTRAVAGANT LIFESTYLE .........................42, 57
IDENTIFICATION PEN .................................... 25
F INDIRECT FORESHADOWING .......................... 69
FADE IN .................................................... 73
INFORMANT ........................................ 40, 97
FADE OUT ................................................. 74
INITIATIVE ....................... 1, 35, 50, 53, 61, 73
FALSE IDENTITY .......................................... 39
INITIATIVE CARDS ........................................ 53
FBI ...................... 46, 88, 89, 92, 93, 95, 96, INSANELY COOL MOVES ................................ 34
98, 99, 101, 102, 103 INTERROGATION ......................................... 58
INTIMIDATION ........................................... 59
FENCE ...................................................... 39
INVESTIGATION ............................... 10, 47, 94
FIGHTING STYLES ........................................ 31
ISTANBUL ................................................. 11
FIRE FROM MELEE ....................................... 33
FIRE INTO MELEE ........................................ 34
FIREARM ................ 21, 23, 32, 33, 34, 35, 64 J
JACKETED HOLLOW POINT ............................. 23
FIREARM MANEUVERS ..............................1, 32
JACKETED SOFT POINT .................................. 23
FIRE-ON-THE-RUN ...................................... 34
JAIL ......................................................... 39
FLASH DRIVE .............................................. 25
JOURNEYMAN .............................................. 8
FLY-BY ..................................................... 46
JUMP .............................................. 5, 18, 55
FLYING FALSE COLORS .................................. 83
JURISDICTION WARNING ............................... 46
FOCUS .. 9, 14, 15, 16, 19, 30, 40, 73, 88, 100



NEW YORK ................................................ 11

K NO-FLY ZONE ............................................. 47

NON-ADVENTURING SKILLS ............................ 18
KUVER .............................. 63, 64, 65, 66, 67
NOVICE ...................................................... 8

LEADER ..................................... 7, 15, 18, 95 O
OFFSHORE ACCOUNT ................................... 41
LEAVE NO WITNESSES .................................. 84
OPERATIVE CREATION .................... 1, 3, 14, 20,
LIFESTYLES ..................................... 26, 39, 60
LINE OF CREDIT........................................... 40
26, 36, 37, 64
LIVING WORLD ........................................... 80 OPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT ........................ 1, 36
ORIGIN ............................................ 1, 14, 17
LOG ................................................ SEE LOGIC
LOGIC ........................... 6, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, OTTENDORF CIPHER ..................................... 85
OUTFITTING ......................... 1, 15, 19, 20, 21,
19, 20, 57, 58, 59
LOYALTY ....................... 29, 30, 37, 65, 86, 91
34, 37, 40, 41, 44

PERSONAL GOALS........................................ 78
MANEUVERS .............................................. 30
PERSONAL TRAINER OR GURU......................... 41
MARINES .................................................. 45
PERSONAL TRANSPORT ................................. 41
MARTIAL ARTIST ........................ 1, 7, 9, 30, 31
PERSUASION ........................................ 57, 59
MARTIAL MELEE ......................................... 31
PILOT ............................4, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16,
MASTER ...................................... 2, 8, 64, 70
MASTER VILLAIN ..................................... 1, 64
18, 41, 55, 56, 72
POINT BLANK SHOT...................................... 34
MEDIA OUTAGE .......................................... 47
PRESIDENT .......................................... 39, 45
MELEE .................................... 31, 33, 34, 62
PRIORITIZED ABILITIES .................................... 4
MEMORABLE MOMENTS ............................... 72
MERCENARY ........................................ 11, 45
PRISON .........................................45, 71, 83
PROFESSIONAL ............................................. 8
MERCHANT ......................................... 19, 20
PROVISIONING CONTRACT ............................. 42
MINIONS ............................................ 65, 67
PROVOCATEUR .............................. 85, 92, 101
MINOR NPCS ............................................. 54
PULLING STRINGS ........................................ 43
MISSION ... 3, 8, 10, 16, 19, 20, 28, 29, 31, 36,
37, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67,
70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, Q
82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 88, 89, 91, 92 QUARANTINE ............................................. 48
MISSION GENERATION ............................. 1, 65 QUICK DECISIONS ........................................ 72
MONEY .............................................. 26, 47 QUICK DRAW ............................................. 34
MONEY MAGIC ........................................... 47
MORAL CODE .................................... 1, 15, 29
MOSCOW ........................................... 11, 93
RANDOM ENCOUNTERS ................................ 70
MR. NICE GUY .............................................. 3
RANGE ............................... 6, 16, 21, 33, 43,
MR. SMITH .......................................... 40, 76
56, 95, 97, 104
MULTI-ACTION PENALTY ... 23, 33, 34, 35, 56, 62
RANK ................................. 7, 16, 26, 36, 37,
MUNITIONS CONTRACT ................................ 41
41, 43, 60, 64, 91
RANK BENEFITS .......................................... 36
N RANK ESTIMATION ...................................... 36
NATIONAL GUARD ................................. 45, 48 RAPID-FIRE ................................................ 34
NAVY ....................................................... 45 RED HERRING ............................................. 70
NEW DELHI ................................................ 11 RED MUD ON THE BOOT ............................... 85



RICOCHET ............................................23, 35 THE BACKFIRE PLOY ..................................... 87

RUN ................................. 3, 5, 9, 18, 34, 39, THE CLIPBOARD OF DOOM............................. 87
40, 46, 49, 63, 75, 80 THE DEATH TRAP ........................................ 88
THE DOUBLE AGENT..................................... 88

S THE DREADED DELIVERYMAN ......................... 88

THE ELABORATE HEIST .................................. 88
SAFE HOUSE .............................................. 42
THE EVIL CIA .............................................. 89
SAN DIEGO ................................................ 11
SAO PAULO ............................................... 11 THE HUNT FOR MR. X ................................... 89
THE LAB.............................................. 42, 91
SATELLITES ..................................... 43, 48, 98
THE NOC LIST ............................................. 89
SCOUT ............................................ 7, 15, 95
THE RANSACKED ROOM ................................ 90
SECTOR ...............................................11, 74
THE SUPER-SCIENCE GIZMO ........................... 90
SEDUCTION ............................................... 59
THEMATIC ELEMENTS ............................... 1, 81
SETTING ................................................... 80
THIEF ....................... 9, 15, 21, 50, 58, 88, 93
SHOOTING FRIENDS IN THE BACK .................... 86
TOKYO ..................................................... 11
SHOT IN THE DARK ...................................... 35
TOXINS............................................... 25, 52
SHOTGUNS ................................................ 33
SIGNATURE WEAPON ................................... 35 TRACER ROUNDS ........................................ 23
SKILL ... 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19,
TRAINING .............5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 18,
20, 21, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 43, 49, 20, 30, 31, 41, 46, 58, 62, 64, 93, 103
TRAINING CENTER ................................... 1, 11
50, 53, 54, 57, 58, 60, 103
TRANSPORTATION ....................................... 10
SKILL CHECK ............................. 19, 32, 49, 58
TRAVELER’S LIFESTYLE ............................ 15, 17
SKILL LEVELS ....................................... 1, 7, 54
TRICK SHOT ............................................... 35
SKILLED BACKUP ......................................... 10
SKILLS ........................... 1, 4, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14,
16, 18, 19, 26, 32, 43, 49 U
SNAP SHOT ............................................... 35 UNIVERSAL TRANSIT PASS.............................. 42
SOCIAL INTERACTION ................................1, 57 UNSANCTIONED ........................ 11, 37, 39, 41
SOLDIER .......... 7, 9, 15, 32, 33, 34, 35, 62, 86 UNUSUAL DAMAGE ..................................... 54
SPECIALIZATION .............................. 18, 19, 20 USING WOUNDS IN STORY ............................. 52
STANDARD EQUIPMENT PACK ........................ 28
STORY LAYERS ............................................ 74
VARIANT AMMUNITION .......................... 23, 33
STORYTELLING ........................................1, 68
VEHICLES .............. 10, 14, 15, 37, 39, 41, 100
STR ........................................... SEE STRENGTH
STRENGTH ............ 5, 9, 14, 16, 18, 31, 54, 64
STRENGTH .................................................. 5 W
WAIT – I NEVER TOLD YOU MY NAME ............... 91
STRICT ARBITER ............................................ 3
WAITING ON THE LAB ................................... 91
STRINGS ............................ 41, 43, 44, 45, 46
WAS ONCE ONE OF US .................................. 91
SURVEILLANCE ................... 24, 28, 88, 91, 93,
94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 100, 102, 103, 104 WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SURVEILLANCE MISSION 91
WEAPON KATA ........................................... 31
SWIFT LOAD .............................................. 35
WELL-MAINTAINED FIREARM ......................... 35
SWISS ARMY WATCH ................................... 86
WE'RE BEING BUGGED ................................. 91
SYDNEY .................................................... 11
WIL ........................................ SEE WILLPOWER
WILLPOWER .. 6, 11, 14, 19, 29, 49, 54, 57, 58,
T 59, 61, 73
TAKE IT IN THE SHOULDER ............................. 35
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION ..................... 48
THAT’S REAL?! ........................................... 86
WOUNDED ................................................ 54
THAT'S CLASSIFIED ...................................... 86





Game masters
operations manual
Not everyone’s flavor of espionage is the
same. Deciding what should stay in the
core rulebook and what should not was
honestly quite difficult for us at DwD
Studios. In the end, we opted to err on the
side of compatibility and simplicity, to get
rules out of the way and put action,
adventure, story, and characters in the
forefront. If you like what we’ve built, the
core rulebook is what you need. But we
knew some people would want more
options, and that’s where this book comes

Filled with a number of modular optional

rules, full examples, elaborations, and a
host of GM tools, this book is designed to
give Game Masters all they need to help
build an espionage or paramilitary game
suited to their individual tastes. Want hit
locations? It’s in here. Variant ammo?
Check. Specific model firearms? Got it.
Want to use cash instead of equipment
allowance? Yep, it’s in here. Gun-fu
maneuvers? All this and more, waiting to
be sprinkled with imagination.