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Burn Notice

February 3, 2010 1 comment

This is a show I have seen about six times or so.  I really like it, but it comes on at 10:00 pm Eastern.  At 10:00 I turn into a pumpkin.  The only times I’ve seen it is when it is on during the day or when I have to stay up late.  Every time I have watched it a thought occurs to me:  This would be a great plot for a role playing game.

The Plot

It exemplifies a (probably) note-heavy GM’s twisting plot.  There is an overarching meta-plot.  Michael was a CIA agent who got fired (burned) for some reason  I’m sure fans of the show know.  He was stranded in Miami (poor guy) with his accounts frozen and his papers canceled.  He can’t go anywhere.  This is the meta-plot but the show follows one-episode subplots as well.  In one episode Michael and crew must bust an insurance fraud ring that is threatening the widow of one of the ring’s “employees” that has died in one of their operations.  This show’s plot has nothing to do with the meta-plot but it gives them something to do while the meta-plot is exposed.

This episodic style would serve as a great, involved meta-plot with one-session to three-session subplots or episodes.  This allows for an extended campaign that can develop over time but action and intrigue that can take place on a per-session basis.  It also leaves the floor open to having cliff-hangers from the meta-plot.  This style of episodic action with a meta-plot would also allow for a great “sand-box” type game.  Open adventure hooks that PC’s can latch onto or ignore at their leisure while the meta-plot goes on with or with out them makes for a constantly moving adventure that the players would usually have a vested interest in.

The PCs

Michael Westen is a spy, plain and simple.  He is skilled in all the ways spies should be skilled, I guess.  The fact that he has been burned hasn’t done anything to what he knows.  His is the main plot hook.  He is trying to find out who burned him and how to undo it.  He also has many enemies from his undercover days.  They try to kill him.  This provides a lot of the hooks and action that the PC’s could follow in a game.    This character would be dangerous in an RPG because if his player didn’t make it one night, there is a good chance that there would be no game that night.

Fiona is ex-IRA.  She’s bomb-happy and extremely familiar with the operating end of  firearms.  She’s also Michael’s sometimes-ex-girlfriend.  This makes for romantic tension in the show which can be pretty fun if handled well by the players.

Sam is former military intelligence.  He has contacts in very high places.  He has also been asked by the feds to keep an eye on Michael for them.  He helps Michael find out info about the people he helps and their enemies.  His contacts also serve to keep the meta-plot moving forward.

The mix of these PC’s gives cover to most situations “the party” finds itself in.

The NPC’s

As I’ve only seen the show a few times, the only recurring NPC I know of is Michael’s mother, Madeline  (played by Sharon Gless).  She lives in Miami and seems quite happy to have her son home.  (He’s not happy about it.)  She hates what he does for a living, except that she sees him help people.  She has also seen him screw people over in order to serve the greater good.  As an NPC, Madeline would be showing up during a few operations as a complication.  In a couple she would be the only person who has the talents to get something Michael and gang need, so he has to play the dutiful son.

Other NPC’s would be more minor:  Michael’s old contacts, Sam’s contacts in the intelligence community, the person needing Michael’s services this week, the villain of the week.

Government operatives who are targeting Michael would be more major as they work within the Meta-plot.

The person who burned Michael -whoever that is- would be a major NPC.  The thing to remember is this person has an agenda.  Burning Michael was probably a means to an end, not an end.  While Michael is trying to get his job back the mystery man will be working on his agenda.  He thinks his reasons are good.  Money?  Love?  Order?  Control?  War?  Environmental activism?  I don’t know if any of these have been addressed as reasons behind Michael’s burn, but any would work.  More importantly they would serve as good leads Michael and friends would have to follow up even if they are red herrings.

The Burn Notice game could last years or weeks, depending on how long it was fun for everyone.

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