II&E: Helping Form Match Function
for GURPS Infinite Worlds
by Phil Masters
"They call the Intervention Service the I-Cops, and a lot of the time, sure, they do cop stuff. But when did you ever hear police work called intervention, maybe outside some crazy PR-speak? No, they get a lot of jobs that'd make most cops quit the force, and they handle 'em in ways that any real, honest cop would call broken. Minimum, they have to do more undercover and plainclothes stuff than any legit force I've ever heard of. And sometimes, it's plain old-fashioned B&E.
"Likewise, they call the Penetration Service scouts, and a lot of the time, they're out there playing Davy Crockett, riding the wilderness and ducking arrows. But did Davy Crockett ever have to infiltrate a society 200 years ahead of his own, or work in deep cover in a place where saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could crash the whole of history?
"Face it -- we need people who can handle stuff that ain't cop- work and ain't scouting. And we need to have them available 24-7. The team we don't talk about because they don't exist are good at that, probably, but there's only a few of 'em, and they get the really wacky jobs, and, well, they don't exist. So never mind the PR headache, we're going ahead with II and E."
-- Colonel John Yarborough, Infinity Patrol (formerly of Denver PD), 2025.
GURPS Infinite Worlds (building on Chapter 20 of the Basic Set) provides a rich and adaptable context for cross-time adventuring, in the form of the Infinity Unlimited. But the Infinity Patrol in that book is designed to handle the sort of issues that Infinity is officially expected to face. The kind of interesting problems that the book describes -- the ones that players are going to find interesting, anyway -- too often fall slightly outside the scope of any one part of Infinity's organization structure. Faced with a paperback book from 1985 turning up in a Renaissance echo, or the need to extract Giordano Bruno manuscripts from Azoth-7, or sabotage on a Reich timeline, or the impulse to contaminate the culture of Nergal, it's not clear which division, or even which service, should be sent in -- at least until someone has discovered more about the task in hand.
One answer which Infinity often uses, especially when such problems blow up as unexpected emergencies, is to throw together an ad hoc team, taking whichever agents are available at the time, from whichever divisions, and trying to find some with appropriate skills. In game terms, this is fine for one-off scenarios, but makes a continuing campaign hard to sustain. It's also a recipe for ulcers among senior Infinity management; no organization likes to have to improvise its way out of regular crises, and the administrative hierarchies of every division which has provided personnel is likely to try and claim authority over the problem, or at least to assert its interest. (This isn't just bureaucratic empire-building; every division is responsible for protecting its own people unless they're formally seconded elsewhere for extended service, and officers feel that responsibility keenly.) There's a sense that Infinity's formal structure doesn't always fit its needs.
Which is where the Investigation, Infiltration, and Extraction Section (informally known as the Firefighters) comes in. It's a non- canonical but logical addition to the Infinity structure, and if it looks like a blatant excuse to put together teams of PCs -- well, that just shows that Infinity needs PCs. It not only provides more or less permanent multi-disciplinary teams who expect to tackle the unexpected, it also provides a context for training them in the sort of skills that they'll actually need, as opposed to those which fit the official Infinity model.
Firefighters have to be flexible above all else. One week they'll be investigating a dead agent-in-place on Lucifer-5; the next they'll be on Steel finding a lost Tech Division vulture team; after that they'll be working out whether it was an out-timer who just invented the aerosol can on Dixie-1. Sometimes the Patrol can send a team with expert knowledge of a particular line, but if they had enough resources to do that regularly it wouldn't be the Patrol. So mostly, Firefighters improvise. But to get away with improvisation in timelines where their accents and assumptions should mark them down as weird, they have to be quick with the cover story -- and sometimes, just as quick with the hypo of Eraser.
II&E is a new element in the Infinity command structure, just a few months old in its developed form, and it isn't much known to the general public as yet. Unlike ISWAT, there's no deep-deep secrecy here; it's on the books, under its own name, and Infinity spokespeople can and do talk about it if a reporter or Interworld Council representative asks. However, they don't mention it unprompted, because (a) part of its job may involve a certain amount of rule-bending and dirty trickery from time to time, and (b) nobody in Infinity is 100% sure that it'll work as yet, so they'd rather retain the ability to shut the whole thing down with minimum fuss if it all goes bad.
Formally and for payroll purposes, II&E is a subdivision of the Intervention Service Security Division, under the command of Colonel Charlotte Telemann. If anyone does ask, it's described as a set of specialist investigation teams, with the ability to go into short-term cover on a wide variety of timelines. Unlike an ordinary police force's plainclothes investigation department, members are evidently expected to resolve the problems they encounter as often as possible, rather than yelling for uniformed backup to make big arrests -- but hey, that's just part of the Infinity agent ethos.
All this is, in fact, largely true -- but it's only part of the truth, as the name of the subdivision makes rather obvious. II&E is essentially an emergency response unit, albeit with a substantial investigative capability; in fact, the first part of many of its missions consists of finding out what the current problem is, after the finely honed instincts or rampant paranoia of some agent-in-place or Infinity high-up have decided that some clutch of anomalies or stray clues smell of trouble. Sometimes, team members have to infiltrate societies on other timelines, or even criminal groups based on Homeline, in the course of their investigations -- and sometimes, they have to recover lost gear or stuff fallen through nexus portals, or even pick up samples of weird out-time technology, or eliminate dangerous magical manuscripts, or bring home rogue agents gone too deep for a simple Internal Affairs bust, or stray tourists too perverse and willful for regular Search and Rescue.
Hence, II&E wants a wide variety of skills. It recruits from anywhere within Infinity that these can be found, preferring to take on agents with at least a year or two's field experience in other divisions; however, those other divisions have a natural preference for holding onto their good, experienced people, so II&E often has to take what it can get. Most of its members -- about 70% of the headcount -- are drawn from the Intervention Service, but it has a clear need for the sort of skills often found among the members of the Penetration Service, and it is actively seeking to cross-recruit. Any rivalries between the two services are a relatively small problem here; the real difficulty is that most Scouts joined Infinity because they wanted to be explorers, and aren't terribly enthused by the idea of becoming undercover cops and occasional burglars. Frequently, the most effective recruiting pitch that II&E can use is to point out that its members get to see a wider variety of different timelines than many Scouts, who often get stuck in a particular world or type of work.
These agents are organized into teams of between four and seven agents, mostly with the rank of Patrolman and mostly each under the command of a single Agent. Quite often, a team will be sent on a mission incomplete, because one or two members are recuperating from injuries, on leave, or off on training courses, or lack some utterly essential skill for this specific job. Teams tend to be kept together, though, partly because they'll have been assembled with at least an attempt to identify complementary skills and personalities and partly because they tend to build up a fair degree of mutual loyalty. Still, ad hoc group assignments may occasionally be unavoidable even within II&E, and some degree of personnel transfer and reassignment does happen. Also, the flipside of looking for tight, unforced team loyalty in groups that have to work alone, undercover, away from supervision, is that if team members do somehow prove incompatible, Infinity would rather reassign one or two people than cause a disaster by trying to enforce unsustainable discipline. A certain amount of shaking out of team rosters is accepted as part of the ongoing process of making II&E work.
The teams in turn are supervised by HQ staff with the rank of Captain, almost all of them with a Justice or Security Division background and the manner of a hardened police dispatch officer. Each of the captains manages between four and six teams; the subdivision also has a few Lieutenants on the strength, deputizing for Captains when they're otherwise occupied or indisposed or leading especially well-regarded or unusual teams. While Colonel Telemann is acquainted with the strengths, weaknesses, and personal records of every team, and will try to assign each task that comes in to a specific and appropriate team, she's a very busy woman, and not always in the office; many jobs go straight to whichever Captain currently has most people free at present, and he's then expected to decide for himself which of his teams is the least worst for this job. Despite this general willingness to delegate problems, the middle-to-high ranks of Infinity, in the annoying way of bureaucracies, are sometimes forceful about asserting themselves and passing down detailed policies when they don't like the way that the teams seem to be operating. Telemann is sometimes seen within II&E as a little too willing to let this attempted micromanagement through -- but she does have a tricky job, and she's still learning what does and doesn't work.
Very Special Teams: One option which II&E is considering, and may implement very soon, is teams selected for specific features or potential. The first such which is likely to be deployed is an all-female team, preferably all with low-tech transport skills, capable of operations along Eleusis Alesia, (see GURPS Infinite Worlds, page 79), and also effective for infiltration missions into matriarchal societies, investigations within royal harems, and countless other special tasks. From a game point of view, all this could justify pretty much any sort of common party background or ability, if the GM or players could think of some reason why such a team focus might be seen as serving a purpose.
Patrol Internal Relations
Most members of the Patrol -- certainly most I-Cops in the field -- understand what II&E is, what it does, and why it's probably necessary, and there is little overt friction. Some agents, especially those used to working at HQ or in uniform, such as Intelligence back-office staff or Customs and Inspection, may see it as dangerously undisciplined, and a number of middle-ranking officers resent its tendency to poach some of their best or most promising agents. There have been one or two jurisdictional disputes with Justice, Nexus Oversight, and regular Security Division teams, but these remain isolated incidents for now. Special Ops agents joke about II&E's lack of hitting power and tendency to call for backup whenever some nasty man pulls out a slingshot, but actually rather appreciate the way that II&E keep finding them so many interesting targets.
There is some suspicion among senior officers that Firefighter improvisation sometimes leads to too much cooperation with people who are supposed to be "the enemy," including Cabalists and even Centrum agents from time to time. Certainly, Internal Affairs feels the inevitable, instinctive suspicion of any Internal Affairs department towards unorthodox undercover investigators. It may or may not have infiltrated II&E.
It is, of course, impossible to generalize about ISWAT, but many of its agents may regard II&E either condescendingly, as a pale imitation of themselves, or more respectfully, as people sharing a burden while being stuck with slightly more bureaucratic oversight. The Interworld Council bureaucracy has a pretty good idea what's going on in II&E, and reserve judgment for now -- but any troubleshooters they send in to find out more are likely to be as coolly cynical as ever.
The following is a "mini-template" which can be added to any of the standard Infinity templates on pp. 186-187 of GURPS Infinite Worlds to produce an effective II&E team member: The template costs 15 points, and the suggested starting level for an II&E campaign is 200 points; these are notably capable agents. In fact, most have typically served in at least two other divisions before they join the Firefighters, and usually find uses for every skill that Infinity has taught them within a few missions. However, because other divisions don't like losing people they regard as good, a lot of those who are permitted to transfer over are the ones who are slightly too enthusiastic, idealistic, cynical, or plain weird for their previous officers' tastes, which may show up on their character sheets.
(Actually, II&E is developing a slight reputation as a career graveyard, although if it does expand, it's going to need to acquire new senior staff from somewhere . . .)
Advantages: 10 points from among Cultural Familiarities [1 each], Languages [varies], Cultural Adaptability , Sensitive , or Social Chameleon . GMs can add additional options, such as Talents, as they see fit; anything that makes the specific character stand out as especially suitable for II&E duty can be appropriate.
Disadvantages: Nothing is required beyond the standard Infinity Unlimited set. However, note that II&E characters aren't usually assigned to a single timeline or undercover mission on Homeline for an extended period, and hence don't usually qualify for the Secret disadvantage. (Their cover stories for undercover work, while crucial, tend to be short-term improvisations.) Therefore, any based on a Penetration Service template will have to take alternative disadvantages, or find the points elsewhere. On the other hand, whichever division they came from originally, II&E service makes an Extremely Hazardous Duty disadvantage entirely appropriate.
Skills: Acting (IQ) , and any three of Climbing (DX- 1), Criminology/TL8 (IQ-1), Detect Lies (Per-2), Disguise (any TL) (IQ-1), Driving (any) (DX-1), Electronics Operation (Security, any TL) (IQ-1), Fast-Talk (IQ-1), Interrogation (IQ-1), Lockpicking (any TL) (IQ-1), Makeup/TL8 (IQ), Observation (Per-1), Psychology (Applied, if the GM is drawing the distinction) (IQ-2), Riding (Equines) (DX-1), Savoir-Faire (any) (IQ), Smuggling (IQ-1), Streetwise (IQ-1), or Traps (any TL) (IQ-1), each costing 1 point. Skills acquired from a Division Skill list cannot count towards this template; II&E demands breadth from its agents. Conversely, the best II&E agents usually have one or two of these skills at a notably high level.
Note that, unlike the templates in the book, this one defines an ideal, rather than the expected product of a formal training course. All too many II&E members lack this template, although competent team leaders and senior officers try to steer their people towards this pattern.
Team Leaders: A team leader has Rank 2 (+5 points). Most acquire Leadership and Tactics skills, if they don't have them already; the Patrol makes short, intensive military-style training course available to anyone who's just been promoted.
II&E members never have the skills they need for the latest mission, and those missions tend to be important. Hence, members get fairly high priority for additional training and refresher courses. Languages are particularly popular, as is acclimatization for a wide variety of known cultures (giving Cultural Familiarity), while military-style intrusion training (primarily improving Stealth skill) is widely seen as the key to staying alive.
Funny Little Secrets: While languages and Cultural Familiarity are often essential for infiltration work, the immediate need in many cases is for the ability to, well, lie convincingly. In addition, some II&E missions are, frankly, burglary jobs, or involve dealings with the rougher side of various societies. Hence, II&E has found the budget to recruit a small group of expert civilian trainers in such things. Members can take courses Acting and Fast-Talk, along with Lockpicking, Stealth, Streetwise, etc.
Many of these instructors have some kind of intelligence background (although some were just brought in from the entertainment business), so they can reasonably refuse to talk about their personal histories in response to casual enquiries. This is convenient in many ways, because some of them have downright shady pasts. Fortunately, someone in Liaison Division was able to find people in Homeline police forces who had old professional acquaintances who were now looking to go straight -- or who would at least consider it if offered good money to pass on their skills instead. There aren't many of these people -- most "criminal technical" skills can be just as well taught by honest security experts -- but II&E wants the best training it can get, wherever it has to go for it. The training available to members thus even extends to the basics of the con artist's craft.
Despite this, and contrary to some rumors within the I-Cops, II&E doesn't actually have any former professional criminals in its actual teams; Colonel Telemann wants professional-grade agents, not potential rogues. Those specialist trainers with illegal backgrounds are carefully watched, and not cleared to learn much about Infinity's activities. Still, they do represent a potential security vulnerability; professional thieves and confidence tricksters are by definition untrustworthy people, and even those trying to go straight are susceptible to temptation, or to exploitation by their old friends.
Even Funnier Secrets: Lastly, despite the above comments, the need for maximum flexibility may sometimes lead II&E to recruit field agents from outside Infinity -- and, just possibly, even from outside Homeline. Normally, an out-timer with enough potential to justify breaking secrecy would end up in ISWAT, but there are some borderline cases, and Colonel Telemann has been fighting her corner hard in this respect. (Her colleagues differ over why this might be; she may mean what she says about needing such exotic agents, she may have a relatively dubious opinion of The Secret and be working towards a more liberal policy in Infinity in general, or she may be empire-building.) However, an out-timer needs to have very special abilities indeed to justify such recruitment -- magical talents are one possibility -- and to pass a fairly stringent psychological assessment, checking for reliability. II&E has also managed to acquire a couple of Homeline-born low-end psionic talents.
* * *
With many thanks to Roger Burton West for running the campaign which helped crystallize many of the ideas in this article, and for inputs and commentary.
Article publication date: June 30, 2006
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