Continuing with the adaptation of Night’s Black Agents to Eclipse Phase, the vampire conspiracy game has a list of backgrounds for clandestine spy groups that would work well for a Firewall cell. As an Eclipse Phase GM, one of the first questions people ask me are “what are the classes” or “what positions are there?” People want to make sure their group has all bases covered, but I don’t really have a set list for them. In part it depends on what the game’s focus will be but it would be handy to have a starting point.
The list below isn’t everything, but it’s a good start. GMs can use this list as a beginning for advising players making characters. In addition to what’s below you might want specialists in particular subcultures or experts in certain Academic fields.
Just as in contemporary spy stories, the analyst tracks digital and physical traffic patterns. In Eclipse Phase, these are sometimes the same thing. Analysts would have high ratings in Interface, Infosec, Kinesics, and Perception. They specialize in watching spimes, using facial and gait recognition, and they usually have Profession skills that let them understand what the opposition might be up to.
Just like in Night’s Black Agents, the asset handler has high ratings in Networking and he pulls in favors through his rep networks for the team. They don’t need to have set contacts as with Night’s Black Agents, but they’d be able to contact anyone in their network on the basis of their reputation. They might also have good Language skills to communicate with any potential new assets in a way that makes them most comfortable.
In areas dominated by hypercorps, the bagman can be the same sort as described in Night’s Black Agents. They find untraceable accounts to secure credits for the cell in order to get equipment, bribe money, or transportation. For more clandestine matters or for areas that use reputation economies, the bagman might be more like the asset handler but for equipment. They use Networking skills focused on scientists, roboticists, gatecrashers, or others who have specialized equipment expertise.
Someone specializing in explosives (setting them or disarming them) can be a real advantage when going up against terrorists, TITANs, or paranoid Brinkers. The role can be expanded to a general industrial expert, though, with abilities to work on nanoswarms and hab systems as well. They can create any mayhem you could wish whether sending disassembler swarms into a hydroponics lab to destroy just the plan life, planting a shaped charge to bring a Martian hab dome crashing down into a subterranean cavern, or rerouting the carbon scrubbers on a beehive hab to vent CO2 into the command center. Or, you know, stopping someone else from doing that.
The black bagger fills the role that rogues or thieves typically do in D&D. They are security experts, both in strengthening it and in subverting it. They know how to sneak past security spimes, how to maintain a low profile while moving through a crowded hab, and how to distract guards in order to enter a secure area of a facility. They are silent and careful, able to leave no trace even in the age of the panopticon.
When a black bagger doesn’t do a good enough job at leaving no trace, or when someone inexpert has to do it, the cleaner goes to scrub the scene clean. This is especially important when a public situation gets out of hand and an operation might be compromised. Firewall has eraser squads for taking care of bad situations but the proxies help those who help themselves, as the saying goes. If your cell has a cleaner with you, then you can call up your handler to say “something came up with the job but it’s handled” instead of begging for help.
Forgers in the transhuman future do more than just create fake documents. A good cobbler needs to be able to fake mesh IDs, surveillance logs (video and just about any other sense you can think of), fabbed objects, and even brainscan patterns. Invaluable cobblers could do all of these things for a cell, but some might have a specific repertoire and then good Networking and g-rep to find friends in low places who can handle the rest.
Professional con artists are a must-have for cells working in populated areas undercover… that is to say, all of them. In the past, a good cuckoo might have three or four identities simultaneously switching between them fluidly. Transhuman cuckoos, though, can switch faces, identities, language skills, and anything else they want with the proper implants and software. A cuckoo working for Firewall might maintain dozens of false identities, possibly even at the same time thanks to alpha forks out in different parts of the solar system.
It might seem like the hacker is doing the lion’s share of work for a Firewall cell considering that everything is linked by wireless signal, but in this setting plenty of people have computing skills of one sort or another. Any role on this list requires some amount of Infosec and Interfacing to be totally effective. Hackers have those skills maxed out, however, and likely some Programming, Academics (Computing), and other skills that make them experts in subverting computer systems as well as computer subculture. Hackers can take on the opposition’s computer systems as well as advise you on where to get quality simulspace mods, who to talk to about black market fabrication blueprints, and what program the hab security forces might be using.
Good old Human Intelligence doesn’t disappear in the future (although it is usually called Transhuman Intelligence). Investigators have good interrogation skills and perception skills, as well as contacts with law enforcement and good working knowledge of local legal systems. Investigators may be specialized into the laws of a certain polity (Extropian, Jovian, Planetary Consortium, etc.) but they should have a wider familiarity in order to advise cells moving around a lot.
Morphs might be products, but it’s good to keep them in working order. Spending time in a healing vat is faster and cheaper than buying a new morph and resleeving (to say nothing of acclimating to one’s new body) so having a good medic on the team is important. They might secondarily offer other important skills such as morph design, implant surgery, and body modification or they might at least know someone else who does. In particular, having equipment (and/or blueprints) for medical equipment will go a long way towards keeping a mobile cell operational.
To quote from Night’s Black Agents, a mule moves thing across borders: “drugs, girls, fellow agents, antiquities, defectors, stolen cars, a mysterious silver briefcase, you name it.” Smuggling is still alive and well in the transhuman future and a lot of it is unchanged, aside from adding a few new items like morphs, fabbers, and drones. A lot of the time, however, mules transport data rather than physical goods. Getting restricted blueprints, illegal AGIs, and state secrets past customs agents’ scanning equipment means that Eclipse Phase mules have more computer skills than those of Night’s Black Agents.
Another profession that hasn’t changed much in the future, the muscle of a cell throws in when matters get physically serious. The only difference here is that you have to worry about a combat morph as well as combat skills. Don’t put your eggs too much in either of these baskets: not having a combat morph means your muscle agent isn’t optimized while leaning too much on your morph means that you’ll lose your reliability in a fight if you switch bodies.
Surveillance and counter-surveillance are a job that every cell needs to worry about. With the panopticon, even when you aren’t being tailed the opposition can retroactively tail you by looking through archived spime footage. The watcher has to work with the black-bagger, then, to stay off the grid but when your cell is the party doing hte trailing you know how to set things up. Importantly you know how to establish (and break) Faraday cages to protect your digital data. You might also have computer skills (or even double as the cell’s hacker) so that you can watch for and through sniffer programs and subverted mesh systems.
Like the cleaner, the wet worker is a role that Firewall can provide for you but you’ll be in a much better position if your cell has they’re own. Transhuman assassins have to take a lot more into account, most notably that their targets have backups and a cortical stack to worry about. A wet worker in Eclipse Phase needs to collect the stack of their targets after the kill, and if the concern is memories or knowledge they also need to corrupt backups at least up to the point where the target learned whatever they shouldn’t have. Wet workers might kill someone and destroy backups in order to erase a witness of some TITAN monstrosity (in which case a short-term wipe is fine) or they might remove a researcher pursuing dangerous matters (in which longer-term destruction is called for).
Not everything has wheels, but having a competent pilot/driver is essential for many operations. Cells might see this as one of the less critical for a cell’s roster in general and they’re not totally wrong. You can always fall back on someone from a network or on the vehicle’s native AI, but if there’s any kind of chase or tricky maneuvering to be done you want a competent and loyal person at that helm.
Mechanics do for machinery what hackers do for computers. They modify the cell’s devices, repair damage, and bypass the opposition’s machines. In a sense they also function like a medic for those cell members in synths. They can rely on Networking and Profession skills to find difficult items as well and they might be able to use legal blueprints to make components that can be combined and modified into illegal or gray market items.