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Steed as a Wizard Spy

Wizard Spy Template

"What enables the wise sovereign to strike and conquer; and achieve things I beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge." - Sun Tzu, "The Art of War"

In many cultures, information gathering is the main use for magic. A wizard who gathers information remotely (e.g., with a crystal ball) or indirectly (e.g., by consulting the gods) is a seer. One who seeks out information by going into an area personally is a spy. His spells serve the same purpose as the bugs, disguises, "truth serum" and other gadgets used by high-tech spies. The difference is that spells are far harder to detect and don't have to be smuggled into secure areas, making magic a potent tool for espionage!

For the purpose of this discussion, a "spy" is someone who gains access to an area, possibly covertly or under false pretenses, in order to gather information and deliver it to his superiors. He usually works for the diplomatic, military or security forces of a nation or corporation. Some of these agencies also employ infiltrators who are experts at killing or stealing, but these are covered separately under Assassin and Thief; counterintelligence agents are covered by Law Enforcer.

Spies use many techniques. Entering a secure area requires ability at deception (bamboozling guards, disguising oneself, forging an invitation) or physical infiltration (approaching after dark, climbing fences, opening locks). More often, spies are asked to gather publicly-available information, like official speeches or the insignia of troops on parade, without revealing their presence. Such missions exploit the implicit "security clearance" that comes with citizenship or employment in many places, which means that the spy must be familiar with foreign languages and customs.

Inside the target area, the spy must actually procure the information he's after This process can be simple (writing down information that's in plain sight) or complex (cracking a safe), subtle (seduction) or direct (kidnapping and interrogation). The spy must then get this information back to H.Q., which may involve encoding it first, then dropping it off or smuggling it back using a variety of exotic means. Finally the information may require detailed analysis, because it is either in code or only a small piece of a larger puzzle.

This discussion only touches on the highlights of spycraft; those who wish to learn more should see GURPS Espionage

Design Notes

Attributes: A spy must be quick-witted, and agile enough to get away with sneaking around, so we pick DX 12, IQ 14.

Advantages: Aside from Literacy and Magery, we offer appropriate social advantages (Alternate Identity, Diplomatic Immunity, Military Rank, Security Clearance), traits useful for information gathering (Alertness, Danger Sense, Empathy) and those common to cinematic spies (Appearance. Charisma, Luck, Voice). Language Talent and Strong Will are also handy.

Disadvantages: Spies have risky assignments to carry out (Duty), and being a spy is usually at least a minor Secret. Other traits reflect the loyalty (Fanaticism, Sense of Duty), nosiness (Curious) and cinematic flaws (Creed. Lecherousness, Overconfidence, Paranoia, Trademark) often attributed to spies.

Primary Skills: We offer two classes of skills: one set for smooth-talking undercover men (Acting, Disguise, Fast-Talk, languages, and Social skills), the other more suitable for black-clad sneaks (Camouflage, Climbing, Lock-picking, Shadowing, Stealth and Combat/Weapon skills).

Secondary Skills: These include information-gathering skills (Lip Reading, Research, Speed-Reading), skills for getting the truth out of people (Detect Lies, Interrogation, Psychology), Area Knowledge for locating objectives, Heraldry for identifying flags and insignia, Holdout for smuggling and Writing for reports.

Background Skills: These consist of a wide variety of the more technical skills sometimes possessed by spies.

Spells: We include a broad selection of spells for disguise (e.g., Dye, Illusion Disguise), infiltration (e.g., Lockmaster, Teleport), information gathering (e.g., Copy, Far-Hearing), interrogation (e.g., Compel Truth, Mind-Search), passing reports (e.g., Delayed Message, Telepathy) and stealth (e.g., Invisibility, Mage-Stealth).

Spy [150 points]

Attributes: ST 10 [0], DX 12 [20], IQ 14 [45], HT 10 [0].

Advantages: Literacy [10], Magery 2 [25] and 20 points in Alertness [5/level], Alternate Identity [15], Appearance [5 or 15], Charisma [5/level], Danger Sense [15], Diplomatic Immunity [20], Empathy [15], Language Talent [2/level], Luck [15], Military Rank [5/level], Security Clearance [2/level], Strong Will [4/level] and Voice [10].

Disadvantages: Duty (To agency, 9 or less) [-5] and Secret [-5], plus -20 points in Curious [-5 to -15], Fanaticism [-15], Greed [-15], Lecherousness [-15], Overconfidence [-10], Paranoia [-10], Sense of Duty (Nation) [-10], Trademark [-5 to -15] and higher levels of Duty (up to Extremely Hazardous Duty [-20]) or Secret (maximum [-30]).

Primary Skills: One of:
1. Acting, Disguise, Fast-Talk and a foreign language, all (M/A) IQ [2]-14 and one of Diplomacy (M/H) IQ-1 [2]-13, Savoir-Faire (M/E) IQ+1 [2]-l5 or Sex Appeal (M/A; HT) HT [2]-10.
2. Camouflage (M/E) IQ [11-14, Climbing (P/A) DX [2]-12, Lock-picking/TL3 (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Shadowing (M/A) IQ [2]-14, Stealth (P/A) DX [2]- 12 and 2 points in Combat/Weapon skills.

Secondary Skills: Any four of Area Knowledge (any) (M/E) IQ [l]-14, Heraldry, Holdout, Interrogation, Lip Reading, Research, Speed-Reading or Writing, all (M/A) IQ-l [l]-13, or Detect Lies or Psychology, both (M/H) IQ-2 [l]-12.

Background Skills: Any two of Administration, Cartography/TL3 or Surveying/TL3, all (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13 Cryptanalysis/TL3, Cryptography/TL3, Forgery/TL3 or Intelligence Analysis/TL3, all (M/H) IQ-2 [1]-12, or Conspiracy Theory (M/VH) IQ-3 [1]-11.

Spells* (base spell level 14, 13 with VH): One point was spent on each of the spells below:

Communication and Empathy [3]: Sense Emotion-14, Sense Foes-14, Sense Life-14
Illusion and Creation [2]: Illusion Disguise-14, Simple Illusion-14.
Knowledge [2]: Aura-14, Detect Magic-14.
Light and Darkness [2]: Colors-14, Light-14.
Making and Breaking [3]: Copy-14, Dye-14, Restore-14.
Meta-Spells [1]: Scryguard-14.
Mind Control [3]: Alertness (VH)-13, Keen Ears-14, Keen Eyes-14.
Movement [1]: Apportation-14.
Sound [7]: Delayed Message-14, Far-Hearing-14, Hush-14, Mage-Stealth-14, Silence-14, Sound-14, Voices-14.

Plus any two of the following sets:

1. Communication and Empathy [10]: Borrow Language-14, Compel Truth-14, Lend Language-14, Mind-Reading-14, Mind-Search (VH)-13, Mind-Sending-14, Persuasion-14, Soul Rider-14, Telepathy (VH)-13, Truthsayer-14

2. Earth [1]: Seek Earth-14. Knowledge [8]: Analyze Magic-14, Glass Wall-14, History-14, Identify Spell-14, See Secrets-14, Seeker-14, Trace-14, Wizard Eye-14. Water [1]: Seek Water-14.

3. Light and Darkness [10]: Blur-14, Continual Light-14, Dark Vision-14, Darkness-14, Hawk Vision-14, Hide-14, Infravision-14, Invisibility-14, Night Vision-14, See Invisible-14.

4. Mind Control [10]: Bravery-14, Charm-14, Daze-14, Emotion Control-14, False Memory-14, Fear-14, Foolishness-14, Forgetfulness-14, Loyalty-14, Suggestion-14.

5. Movement [10]: Ethereal Body (VH)-13, Flight (VH)-13, Hawk Flight (VH)-13, Levitation-14, Lockmaster-14, Locksmith-14, Manipulate-14, Teleport (VH)-13, Teleport Other (VH)-13, Undo-14.

* Spells include +2 for Magery.

Customization Notes
An interesting alternative is to lower IQ by 1 and use advantage points to buy Eidetic Memory 1 [30]: the classic spy ability of perfect recall. Players should run this by their GM, as many GMs feel that Eidetic Memory is potentially unbalancing.

While Enemies and Reputation may seem appropriate at first glance, they usually mean that a spy's cover has been blown. Most spies should not start out with either trait.

Using This Character
Since magic is rather fantastic to begin with and since a wizardly spy has a lot of ground to cover, this template uses the 150-point starting level suggested by GURPS Espionage for cinematic spy campaigns. This makes it most appropriate for a NPC (probably a foe) in a 100-point campaign, but ideal for a PC in a higher-powered game. This template is optimized for a standard TL3 Fantasy game, but can easily be upgraded to higher TLs by adding technical skills such as Electronics Operation or Photography.


"GURPS Wizards", 1998



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

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