Friday, April 29, 2011

I is for Intelligence

If you're new here: This whole A to Z blogging lark was supposed to take place during April. Well, that didn't work for me, so I'm doing it now.

Our subject is using the old SPI wargame Freedom in the Galaxy as the basis for a roleplaying game, using the Chaosium's old Worlds of Wonder boxed set as the basic rules.

What I'm doing with the A to Z is exploring different aspects of this project as I work on them. This is all a work-in-progress, but I'm confident it'll lead to something cool.

As always, comments are invited.

Not the attribute, not the level of smarts among the players, I'm talking about intelligence in the military sense. (And yes, I know, "military intelligence" is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp. There, that's out of the way.)

When I start my game, I'll give the players a mission and let them carry it out.

But after that? I'm going to let them decide.

And how, you may ask, will they decide? Well, they'll have to find out some things, won't they?

That's what Military Intelligence is all about. Finding out where the enemy is, and what he's capable of, and what he plans to do.

History is rife with examples of epic failures of military intelligence. Pearl Harbor. The Battle of the Bulge. These are strategic surprises that proved devastating.

There are lesser examples; the panzer divisions at Arnhem on the eve of Operation Market Garden. The presence of American carrier groups northeast of Midway Island (a failure for the Japanese).

Which brings up a point: Every intelligence failure for one side is an intelligence success for their enemy.

It was US codebreakers who broke many of the Japanese codes, allowing us to figure out that they were going to attack Midway. Without that, we might have gotten smeared yet again. Because of that, we knew that Yamamoto was going to be traveling in a Mitsubishi "Betty" on 17 April 1943 -- and we sent up a flight of P-38s to shoot him down.

Finding stuff out that the enemy doesn't want you to know is fun. And games are supposed to be fun. (I think TSR's Top Secret was a great game -- and it'd have been even better received if it had included a Raise Dead spell of some sort, and not just the fortune and fame points it had.) I was really happy to see that there was a "Gather Intelligence" mission -- but that was just for finding out Planetary Secrets (about which more in a future post).

So this is one of the kinds of things I'll have my players do in my game (unless they decide they hate it, in which case I'll abandon the plan -- I'm not married to it; I just think it'll be fun). Either way, it'll happen -- whether by the players or by NPCs.

(And NPC Intel summaries would give me even more chances to put obstacles in the path of the players...)

So Intelligence can be your friend. But some friends are less than helpful...

No comments: