Espionage Conflict - Populate the Assets/ Challenges

Hi everyone, I wasn’t able to find the answer to these questions so thought to post specifically. Apologies of it exists elsewhere (please point me to any other links etc).

When creating an espionage conflict map, the players assets (spies) are typically what are deployed, and as I understand it, they can create informants and drop surveillance devices using momentum to “create” them. My question is, how should the GM Populate the opposing forces/ assets? ie. enemy spies, security measures and surveillance devices? Are we to only utilize the assets available to the opposing NPCs or, simply generate what we think is appropriate?

Also, when starting the conflict for espionage (or any conflict really) should the GM reveal all assets and traits “on the board” to the players? It isn’t clear if that is the case, although moving boldly would suggest they can move an enemy asset, so, they have to be able to see/ move it. How should this be handled? I would prefer to only reveal opposition that the PC spies become aware of, but again, not sure how that limits the conflict mechanics for moving boldly or subtly.

I also assume any tests at the Architect level are PC stat-line against an enemy NPC profile, ie PC Spymaster vs. enemy Spymaster. The espionage assets just allow them to act, and perform movements and deployment of informants/surveillance equipment and security elements. Correct?

This would suggest it is “easier” for a Rival house to infiltrate the PC’s house, given the conflict map likely would only be populated by the PC assets available to them (assuming they’re not deployed elsewhere!). Is this correct? Or would the GM add assets to it, in addition to what the PCs have access to, as they deem appropriate?

There are a number of ways to do this, so its really up to you.

I had a lot of fun at Gen Con this year running an espionage for a single player.
I started with a zone for the person his House was investigating and offered 3 paths from that representing contacts that the House knew existed, but not the nature of.
The player then applied assets to investigate and if rolls were successful they revealed more of the map. When they knew the nature of the zone they could decide what to do to neutralise, turn or interrogate the area or person it led to.
In this case I improvised as we went and we built a story with the player picking assets in lots of different ways to uncover the map. Once they had it all uncovered, and his agents had turned, neutralised or threatened every other zone he returned to the main contact and said ‘I’ve just torn your network apart, are you going to play nice or do I have to destroy you?’

While I was improvising, you can do the same with a preprepared zone map the GM gradually reveals as the players investigate. It all depends on their initial intelligence.
(You could run an espionage where the goal is to uncover the network but not alert the enemy you are investigating, lots of investigation and stealth rather than assassination and interrogation)
It was a really good session, I really wished we’d filmed it and put it on the site as an example as the player was great about using all manner of assets and approaches.

As always with tests, the results depend on the approach.
Its up to the GM to say ‘ok, you went in like this and the roll was a success, so you can probably learn this’ rather than say ‘a successful test means you always learn this’.
In this way different approaches might gain different results of different trips.

When it comes to populating the zones themselves, that is really covered by the difficulty.
Investigating an area zone with high difficulty means there is a lot of security.
Investigating a person with high difficulty might mean they have assets in play or a lot of security.
Its up to the GM to decide if the roll should be against a set difficulty to infiltrate (usually for an area) or make it a contest to neutralise/intimidate a zone that is a person.

Hopefully some of that is useful. We really must do a video sometime! :slight_smile:


Hi Andy,
Thanks for the response on this. While it is a bit vague, I think generally the rules are a framework at best for this, at least how it is presented in the book. A video (or a few) would really help. I think the ambiguous nature of this is why, in most actual plays, we don’t see GMs using Espionage or Intrigue very much (if at all). The esoteric nature of how to populate the conflict map and enemy assets should definitely be expanded on in a guide or something. Perhaps a longer term objective (infiltration of rival house’s inner circle from “scratch”) at the Architect level could be used? The example in the book is the PC herself (ie Kara Molay) doing the infiltration, but, what if she had spy assets doing it for her? The book also needed to state where the enemy assets came from (I see now they were likely made up based on what might make sense). Heck I’d volunteer to be a video participant if you guys wanted to walk through some scenarios.

My player group is generally very rule bound, wanting to clearly know that they can do x with y and expect that its “fair”. Lots of experience with Alien RPG for example. This “as and when” style approach will take some getting used to. Perhaps I’ll post a play example here from my game next time we try to run espionage conflict. Hopefully that is ok to post here!

Again, thanks Andy for your input so far.

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Generally the advice for all combat is ‘its all the same’.
Essentially you move assets into position and when in the right position you attempt to defeat the opponent. All that changes is the nature of what zones, assets and objectives actually are in the narrative, the rules are always the same.
But I will look at us doing a video! :slight_smile:

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