Saturday, 11 January 2014

Bandit Country: What is a consultant?

I have revealed how to make a character in Bandit Country and a sample Consultant. So what happens next? What does your Consultant do?
For the Player
Consultants work in the field of Risk Mitigation. Companies such as Risk/Reward, the firm that reached out to Ammar (our sample character), send them to the parts of the world where large capital investment projects (Large Projects) have been made, usually in support of extracting mineral, energy or agricultural resources. And that's where things get complicated.
Millions are invested to extract Billions and specialists are required because these projects are always raised on the promise of building educational and continuous improvement opportunities for the locals. So your Consultant is in-Country assisting local projects according to their Specialties. Ammar for example usually works as a Transportation Systems Consultant. You are on loan to the locals from the benevolent Large Project investors to help make good on the promise that the project will improve the community as a whole.
But that isn't the whole story is it?
You are also a spy. You are watching the human terrain looking for the tipper, the agent of change. You are trying to figure out what will happen next and who will do it. For this you need networks. With your team you will build a priorities list and start recruiting. You will spread a net for rumours and hearsay and will begin to bracket. You will find out who is probing and who is planning. You will identify them and their plans. You will define their structure and fill it with names, locations and capabilities. Then you will determine a response and craft the groundwork. This is called a Package. The Package includes the Threat, it's structure and links to major players, its capabilities. locations and habits. The Package also includes a basic action plan with built in logistics. The Consultants pass the Package to their Firm and they shop it to the stakeholders, foreign intelligence and security services who will pay millions for a concise threat disclosure with organic action plan/ logistics.
Everyone meets for Margaritas and slaps on the back and then redeploy to do it again.
Unless it goes horribly wrong in which case they are either dead, incarcerated or abducted.

Who needs Consultants in the era of the NSA?
The NSA, GCHQ, the Chinese Ministry of State Security, Iranian MISIRI and other Intelligence stakeholders have the realm of signals intelligence all sewn up. They know who is calling who and what they are saying. They have access to the phones and computers. They have access to the infrastructure that carries and switches the data and the vast clouds that hold the data that inform the transactions of the internet. 
The kinds of threats that the Consultants hunt don't use the internet. They don't carry phones. They don't have ipads. They build networks of their own where disposable human links tie them to a fringe of one time electronic communicators. 

For the GM
Running Bandit Country allows you to layer two discordant narratives and have fun with the result. 
Consultants work with local project management on what is typically a specific community improvement project. It could be to do with improving water quality in a city, roads and transport infrastructure linking a port , access to crop harvesting technology, etc. Or they might be involved in a broader national or regional project like a hydroelectric dam or training police forces. This project will threaten to use far more time than they have available and each member of the team will be involved in different aspects of the project or completely different projects. There will be dramas, accidents, bad weather, labor tension and all the other things that happen when money is the sole accelerator for a large project.
At the same time the Consultants are building a Package. The real money in the game they are playing is in the shadowy hand of a major intelligence agency. They need to start recruiting and get some ears to the ground. They need to find a threat that is saleable. They need to develop some contingencies and start shopping it on the market. The more Threats they find the more assured their parent company is in its role as a Risk Mitigator to the Large Project. This game can be warmly heroic in the sense of the Consultants uncovering and shopping the solution to a serious terrorist plot. It can be bleakly cynical in the sense of the Consultants building a network and converting it into a straw-man threat, ensuring the triumph of fear when it is shopped to an Agency of the key investor nation.

Consultant, welcome to Bandit Country.