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Steed as a Cinematic Spy

Cinematic Spy

Everyone knows the cinematic spy. He drives hot sports cars with fancy gadgets. His work takes him to Rio, Las Vegas and Monte Carlo. He dallies with beautiful women on every mission. He knows the customs of every land and can seem informed on the most abstruse of subjects. when carried to extremes, the cinematic spy can become a parody. However, this type of agent can appear even in realistic campaigns. Espionage attracts daredevils, and competent daredevils can become successful indeed.

The cinematic spy of movies is a professional. He may conceal his identity on a mission, but he draws his paycheck as a secret agent. He works for a government agency, which supplies him with technological gadgets. His employers also assign him his missions, which usually involve direct action against clear villains. Action, not politics, dominates the adventures of the idealized spy.

In real life, the flashier a spy's career, the more likely he is to be an amateur. Actual spy agencies take secrecy far more seriously than movies mare it see~ Flamboyant agents represent a liability. Furthermore, in the real world, spies seldom enjoy the luxuries of simple operations or clear-cut moral boundaries. Therefore, those with a penchant for swashbuckling must operate outside of established agencies, and forge a career of their own.

Real-life agencies use cinematic spies for the most dangerous and questionable of operations. They want no ties with these unreliable operatives. Controllers of daredevil spies hesitate to give their agents any traceable equipment. If the real-life cinematic spy fails, he finds himself completely alone.

Agencies dispatch the cinematic type of spies as troubleshooters. These highly visible operatives can seldom maintain a believable cover for any length of time. Instead, they travel the world, going to places where their employers need sudden, extraordinary action. Cinematic spies perform break-ins and assassinations. Cinematic spies snatch defectors from enemy territory and make secret forays across hostile borders. Cinematic spies set up smuggling rings which feed arms to guerrillas. Cinematic spies can do almost anything - except operate the quiet, long-term undercover operations which produce genuine espionage data.

Whether one wants a realistic campaign or not, the cinematic spy makes an excellent PC. The Game Master may send these agents on adventures of any sort Cinematic spies can operate in Paris one week and Ecuador the next, bringing variety to the game. Players need not give all their characters Hollywood personalities, but their assignments should reflect the color of the cinematic spy.

Typical Advantages, Disadvantages and Skills: Attractive Appearance, Charisma, Combat Reflexes, Strong Will, Lecherousness, Overconfidence, Carousing, Disguise, all combat skills, Fast-Talk, Forgery, Holdout, Languages, Savoir-Faire and Sex Appeal.

British Intelligence Services
Agencies that Steed 'may' have been associated with, officially or unofficially.

MI5 (Military Intelligence 5)

In 1909, Britain established MI5, officially known as the Security Services. This department performs counterespionage inside Britain. MI5 has no powers of arrest. However, its agents pursue their work with flair, hatching elaborate schemes to recruit double agents and spy on spies. These efforts often lead MI5 into overseas operations of disinformation or actual espionage. Therefore, a job at MI5 often leads to an espionage career with MI6. In WWII, many of the best guerrillas of the Special Operations Executive came from MI5.

MI5 divides its responsibilities among six branches, identified by letter Branch A conducts administration. This branch includes MI5's liaison with the War Office, known as "Room 055." Branch B is the counterespionage branch, which manages active field officers. Branch C performs internal security. Branch D cooperates directly with military units. Branch E investigates foreign citizens within Britain. Department F conducts overseas activities. This includes colonial operations, anti-smuggling measures and liaisons with foreign intelligence services.

During WWII, MI5 had its headquarters in the prison Wormwood Scrubs. It currently conducts operations from 21 Queen Anne's Gate, in London. Scotland Yard also figures prominently in MI5 operations, because the agency must delegate its official arrests to the Special Branch. Special Branch officers also provide court testimony for MI5 agents, thereby protecting the spies' identities.
This agency reputedly employs about 2,500 personnel. MI5 subjects each of these agents to exceptionally strict security checks, administered by Branch C. These investigations involve extensive interviews and background checks. MI5 employees can also expect occasional surveillance from their agency.

MI5 has always maintained liberal policies on people of other races and cultures. During the period in which Britain controlled India, a great number of ex-colonial police became agents of MI5. These officers, with their experience in Oriental intrigue, proved adept at rooting out European espionage. They also retained ties to their home country. During WWII, MI5 could boast that every village in India contained an informant of theirs.

Although the title "MI5" remains in use, this agency has officially changed its name to "DI5" (Defense Intelligence 5).

MI6 (Military Intelligence 6, Secret Intelligence Service)

MI6 enjoys a reputation as the world's most secret agency. England's strict Official Secrets Act allows this agency to avoid the unwanted publicity given to other intelligence organizations in the West. Exact estimates vary, but most people believe MI6 to have roughly 3,000 intelligence officers in the field. Researchers believe that this agency has a budget of about 30 million dollars. The agency has its headquarters in Leconfield House, London.

The British have valued spies throughout their history. Today's British Secret Intelligence Service traces its history to Sir Francis Walsingham, a statesman of the 1500s. Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, served in this early espionage service as an undercover agent against British subversives. In 1909, the British spy agency divided into bureaus of internal security and external espionage. In 1911, the foreign department became MI6.

Like many old British institutions, M16 maintains an atmosphere of gentlemanly tradition. Officials usually come from the same British public schools and place great emphasis on their "old-boy networks." The head of the SIS customarily identifies himself as "C," after Captain Mansfield Cumming, the agency's founder (The James Bond tradition of referring to the chief of SIS as "M" is inaccurate.) Countless other traditions give this agency its color.

The Secret Intelligence Service officially limits its operations to gathering information. When WWII broke out, MI6 detached a department known as Section D to perform more violent operations. Section D became the Special Operations Executive, an agency devoted to sabotage and unconventional warfare.

The Secret Intelligence Service prefers inexperienced agents. Although MI6 officers may receive intensive training, they delegate most operations to ordinary people. As mentioned before, untrained spies have an easier dine passing themselves off as innocents. They also prove easier to control. Furthermore, the British experience teaches that human beings can draw on their pluck and wits to survive in even the most dangerous situations. Typical British agents include the author Somerset Maugham, who operated in Switzerland during World War I, and Odette Sansom, a mother and housewife who infiltrated France during WWII. Mrs. Sansom performed an exemplary job as an agent. Following her capture, she resisted repeated torture by the Gestapo and survived prison until her rescue in 1944.


"GURPS Espionage", 1992


Steed as he would appear in the Top Secret RPG.

A spy may also be a Wizard Spy in magic based games.



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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Revised: January 29, 2009.

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