Sunday, 30 March 2014

Bandit Country: Why?

I am turning my attention to laying down some serious track towards getting Bandit Country written. I see the roleplaying blogoverse is brimming with nostalgia as the Northern hemisphere begs for Spring time so I have decided to join in.

I have always loved espionage stories. The depth of commitment, the price paid, the marginal reward and the lack of recognition. The first Roleplaying Game I ever bought was Top Secret 1st ed from TSR in 1982. I realize that every game I have ever run has really been an espionage story.

But espionage is a hard genre to find in fiction and film. That might seem like a strange statement but almost everything that claims the espionage genre is just themed action, mystery or conspiracy. Bourne isn't espionage, Bond definitely isn't espionage and neither is Jack Ryan (at least in the films). A good test is whether the protagonist recruits someone to perform a task, usually by lying to them. Another test is whether the protagonist's key objective is to solve a mystery that is actively being concealed from them. If so, it's probably a conspiracy story. If the protagonist is fully aware of their objective but is unable to immediately attain it (thus the recruiting of assets who can bridge to the objective) it is probably espionage.

Bourne is action/conspiracy with espionage trappings. Recent Bonds are the same. Older Bonds are Action/mystery. Burn Notice isn't espionage, it's procedural investigative mysteries (conspiracy for some episodes) with pithy tradecraft voice overs.

Espionage is pretty much anything written by John le Carre; try `The Little Drummer Girl'. It is rare to experience a spy story from the point of view of the asset. `Spy Game' is a great espionage film that also proves that you can incorporate action sequences without breaking the convention. Same with Munich.  

My favorite espionage film isn't even generally thought of as being one. It is categorized as an action drama and was generally disliked and poorly reviewed. It has 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB rates it at 6.2/10. On the other hand it meets the criteria to actually be an espionage film and absolutely sets the template for what a Bandit Country consultant is and does.