Central Intelligence Agency
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Basic Information

The Central Intelligence Agency is a United States Government Agency that conducts espionage, clandestine and covert operations, as well as paramilitary actions abroad. From 1947 to 2004, the CIA was the US's primary intelligence organization, and provided direction to all other intelligence agencies. After 2004, most of it's leadership and oversight roles have been transferred to the DNI (Director of National Intelligence), and since 2001 the U.S. Intelligence Community has grown immensely. Within the CIA itself, some of the most interesting work is done by the Special Activities Division of the CIA's National Clandestine Service. The main duty of the CIA is to provide intelligence reports.

The CIA is also sometimes referred to as The Agency, The Company, or OGA - which stands for Other Government Agencies, a term used when folks outside the CIA (but within the Government) are talking behind the CIA's back.

Unsurprisingly, the CIA makes an excellent candidate for the prototype of The Agency.


The CIA is the successor to the wartime Office of Strategic Services. The CIA was created as part of the National Security Act of 1947, which was signed into existence by U.S. President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1947. It was tasked with spying on other countries, and specifically with providing support to anti-communist organizations within other nations.

Here's a list of events that the CIA can be tied to, or can allegedly be tied to. It's mostly compiled from a book published in the 90's, so I'm sure it's missing several of their more recent schemes and exploits.

Not to mention the training and arming of auxiliary forces of various kinds in any conflict in which the US was even tangentially interested - Al Qaeda, as above, was amongst the fallout of efforts to raise Afghan and Pakistani auxiliaries against the USSR.

See Also:


4. Non-Fiction Book: The CIA's Greatest Hits by Mark Zepezauer
5. Non-Fiction Book: International Spy Museum Handbook of Practical Spying by Jack Barth
6. Non-Fiction Book: The CIA Catalog of Clandestine Weapons, Tools, and Gadgets by John Minnery

Game and Story Use

  • The CIA is a staple of the espionage genre, especially during the Cold War.
    • In the post-9/11 landscape, US espionage activities are conducted by an alphabet soup of different 3-letter Government Agencies, assisted by all sorts of private contractors. Choose three letters at random, and you're good to go. But if the game is set between 1947 and 2001, all the real action is with the CIA.
    • The CIA (and now the larger intelligence community) is labyrinthine and secretive. You can have good-guys and bad-guys within the organization. Even agents who are officially on the same side, and have similar morality, could easily end up working at cross purposes - at least until someone higher up realizes what's going on. Of course, it's all so compartmentalized, that it's no one has the big picture and an inter-agency conflict could run indefinitely. Complex plotlines with plenty of confusion, betrayal, and double-agents are perfect.
  • The CIA was signed into existence less than a month after the Roswell UFO incident. This fact is certainly intriguing, and has lots of potential for gaming. Is the CIA a smokescreen for Majestic Twelve, or is it the other way around? You could add all sorts of UFO-related topics to that big list of CIA projects.
  • The CIA publishes a World Factbook which is a useful source of information about other countries.

Building This Character

According to WikiHow, CIA case officers all must be physically fit US Citizens, with at least one college degree. Of course, the Agency also employs numerous contacts, informants, and assets beyond just case officers, and some of these will vary significantly from what's described below.
Character Level

  • This can vary a bit, depending on your take on the espionage genre, and how they're going to interact with the PCs. Often, CIA agents are presented as powerful, high-level operatives with great skill and limitless resources. Other times, they're shown as blundering incompetents.



  • Linguistics is a must. Give every CIA Case Officer the ability to speak at least one of the following languages in addition to English: Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Greek, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Pashto, Russian, Serbo-Croatian and/or Turkish.
    • That list came from WikiHow's list of languages currently in high demand at the CIA. If your campaign is set in the Cold War, the middle-eastern languages (Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Pashto, and Turkish) may be somewhat less common. Tailor the list to match your setting.
  • Science, Repair and Engineering are useful skills, too, as CIA Case Officers end up in all sorts of unusual situations, and may need to understand technical specs or field-strip bizarre equipment.
  • Every agent has at least a bachelor's degree. They should have a well-rounded base of skills, and one or two high specialties.
  • Stealth, Security, Surveillance, and combat skills such as marksmanship or melee, are taught (along with many other subjects) in a 6-to-8-week training course Camp Peary, but then have to be honed "on the job". Established agents in the field will be quite skilled, but new recruits or those working a desk job might have just a few days of instruction in any given topic. Those who work for the Special Activities Division or National Clandestine Service will have such skills at very high levels. It is not unknown for CIA operations to recruit former special forces personnel for field roles … and these types can be expected to start at skill levels far above normal people.

Special Abilities

Flaws and Hindrances

  • Depending on the lens you're using to look at the genre, you could easily see corruption or overzealous patriotism.
  • Most agents know lots of secrets they can't discuss. Some are bound to have powerful enemies. A web of connections and betrayals can certainly help to keep the campaign lively.
  • In systems with Sanity or Humanity rules, the agent who's "seen too much" may be a little unstable.


  • CIA agents will often carry credentials placing them as working for the US State Department, giving them a generic official-ity but retaining plausible deniability about exactly which agency, department or office they work for.
  • Those crazy gadgets you see in spy movies? A lot of them are real, or inspired by something real. Lock-picks built into belt buckles, one-shot disposable guns built into fountain pens or toothpaste tubes, knives hidden in shoe soles, etc. Any agent in the field is likely to have a couple such clever devices in their hotel room or personal kit.

For the cynic the Steve Earle song The Gringo's Tale gives an interesting career arc for a CIA agent - recruitment from the military, a career of black operations followed by being betrayed and disavowed by the agency and left to live out his life in exile as a renegade…

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