The Agency
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Basic Information

The Agency is a somewhat shadowy government department that serves as an institutional character in (mostly) modern RPGs and speculative fiction.

What exactly the agency does depends on the setting - they may be a formally regulated intelligence agency or more along the lines of secret police and may deal with anything from crime to aliens or supernatural monsters.

They may also be heroic, villanous or anything in between - sometimes this will depend on whether or not the PCs or protagonists work for them - and may serve as patron, opponent or backdrop. Or all three, depending on size and complexity. If The Conspiracy exists, expect it to have some sort of finger in the agency … which may be considered to be the whole conspiracy by less ambitious fantasists.

Depending on how "black" the agency is, it may possess legal enforcement powers, or may equally rely on deniability and have a far wider range of sanctions. Particularly black agencies may also have some less than admirable sources of funding. If there are gadgets or magical items that are useful in the context of the agency's work, expect it to have them and provide them to the PCs (either on an issue basis or after they've finished killing its agents, depending on role).

Unless cinematically incompetent, the Agency is still a rather daunting opponent to work into a campaign, but may still be a viable antagonist. Suitably powerful PCs also stand a reasonable chance against this sort of enemy.


Some examples of The Agency:
The Initiative (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Delta Green (Delta Green RPG)
Aegis and The Black Book (Conspiracy X RPG)
Hadrian's Wall (Grimm)
The Laundry, The Black Chamber/NDD and others (The Laundry novels and RPG)
Bureau 13 (Bureau 13 RPG)

1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A government agency can be an extremely tricky opponent, especially for more lawfully inclined characters, as the more overt variety is prone to throw policemen (or worse, soldiers) at its opponents, whom most people are liable to have qualms about killing, without risking its own agents. Even for those who have no particular problem with killing the law enforcement or armed forces of their own nation, that's still an awful lot of combat without actually harming the agency's own people.
  • Likewise, most modern agencies are quite capable of harassing, arresting and even killing a PCs friends, relatives and pets without much in the way of legal redress and those morally responsible for the crimes - agency directors and senior managers or even ministers of state - are likely to be protected by the full resources of the nation.
  • As noted, The Agency may be a useful source of unusual gadgets and weapons.
  • Players can always tell when things have gone badly wrong when bits of The Agency's people are spattered all over the walls … still, it's entirely within the cinematic tradition for a random bunch of civilian misfits to succeed where highly trained professionals have failed…
    • For less cinematic GMs, rule that the Black Ops teams succeeded in killing off the worst of the problem, allowing the PCs to mop up and claim victory. For example, the Warriors from a bug hive were all killed by the operators, leaving the PCs to bump through the surviving workers and kill the queen … or equally the operators killed the queen and disrupted the hive mind, making the surviving warriors a lot less dangerous. Plus, there's lots of useful kit lying about everywhere…
    • For Half-Life: Opposing Force fans, there may also be the small matter of preventing The Agency from detonating their nuke … or indeed spirit nuke as they pull out.
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