A Walk in the Shadows
Every agent has a Drive, a motivating factor that propels him into the storyline and motivates him to act as a thriller character ought. Drives prevent players from making boring, cowardly choices for their characters. They don’t require foolish or suicidal recklessness, just the same degree of courage and initiative you’d expect from a heroic protagonist.
When playing roleplaying games, we sometimes tend to overprotect our characters, who we identify with more directly than we do the lead characters of books, movies, or TV shows. This habit can bring the story to a halt as the PCs hunker down and avoid trouble when they ought to be leaping into it with loaded guns or confident swagger. Even when you can work around this tendency, it feels discordantly out of step with the sorts of stories that inspire the game. Drives remind us to break this habit. Most of the time, a Director who realizes you’ve slipped into overcautious mode and are holding up the progress of the story can spur you to action simply by reminding you of your Drive. He might explain to you why your Drive would spur you to action. Better yet, he could prompt you to explain it.
When invoking Drives, Directors should take care not to guide the player’s specific response to the situation. The goal is to lead the player to move forward, not to force a particular choice. Avoid this by listing several viable choices, if the player has been stumped by his own caution.
If the player digs in and refuses to have his character move, the Director may assess a stress penalty. This reflects the agent’s loss of concentration as he acts against his fundamental nature.
The cost of all Investigative spends increases by 1, as does the Difficulty of all General tests, until the agent returns to form. The typical game unfolds without a single stress penalty coming into play, as players willingly follow the path they themselves have chosen.
On the other hand, if the character really dives in and lives his Drive, possibly at great risk to himself, the Director may allow the agent to refresh 1 or 2 pool points from any General ability, reflecting the inner certainty that comes of following deep-seated psychological motivations.
This reward is limited to once per session per player.
You might have been motivated by abstract or material concerns when you first dropped off the grid, but over the months or years, that all fell by the wayside. The real reason to be part of a crew, you came to realize, is for the intense bond between men and women who depend completely on each other for their lives and livelihoods. Your team might be a criminal gang, or a crew of mismatched and cynical professionals. But deep down, they’re like a family to you. The ties you’ve forged under fire are in many ways stronger than blood. No value is more important than personal loyalty. No people matter more than your teammates. And for them to survive, you have to kill the things that want to kill them.
Nowhere Else to Go
After you got out of the service (whatever it was), you were a directionless vagabond. Despite the many useful talents you picked up in your old life, you were unable to make a go of it alone. Without family, friends, or opportunity, you bounced from one low-end, no-future job to the next. This dispiriting period may have been marked by addiction, depression, or some other self-destructive behavior. Your path crossed with one or more of your teammates by random accident. (You can decide how this happened now, or wait to improvise the details of this backstory incident so that it dovetails with a storyline in progress.) Finally your real life seemed to begin, with all of those wasted years seeming merely a prelude to it. The team and their jobs have been your life; evil threatens that. You plan, act, and counter ferociously, as if afraid that a single failure will send you spinning back into those days of soul-crushing despair.
You joined up thinking of Rambo or James Bond. Maybe you just wanted to prove yourself at first, but now you know the truth: there’s nothing better than surviving danger. You feel a new kind of alive when you’re closest to death. Nothing beats live fire for high stakes; not sex, not sports, not gambling, not coke. Maybe your team calls you an “adrenaline junkie,” but they’re sure glad to have you take point. When you know where to aim, you go in guns blazing, pitying people who will never know the feeling.