Burn Notice as Campaign

I’ve been able to watch episodes of the USA Network‘s  Burn Notice. It’s the story of a spy–Michael Weston–who has been declared “unreliable,” and loses everything his life as a spy had afforded him. He is barred from leaving Miami or “dire consequences” will ensue. He spends his time in Miami trying to figure out who burned him and why, and also helping people (a la the Equalizer) for various reasons. He’s aided by his ex-IRA ex-girlfriend–Fiona–and his best buddy, who is both ex-Navy SEAL and informing on him (with his knowledge) to the FBI–Sam. Miami being Michael’s hometown, he is also in regular contact with his Mom (Sharon Gless).

The episodes are injected with humour and with faux spy-knowledge. I don’t know, maybe Matt Nix, the show’s creator has insider knowledge of espionage tricks and techniques, but it seems very much like fictionalized espionage to me.

This matters not at all. Burn Notice has great characters, great dialogue, and so far I haven’t seen a poor episode.

And it got me thinking of adapting Burn Notice as a campaign. Last night, I actually dreamed up fantasy, Victorian, modern, and SF campaigns based on it. The funny thing was that when I broke it down into characters, I realized it was very similar to the A-Team. Now at first, I compared it to the Equalizer, but Robert McCall tended to work alone. Michael has Fiona and Sam to back him up. When I gave them roles, I considered Michael the leader (and planner), Sam the fixer, and Fiona the muscle. So other than Howling Mad Murdoch, you have the A-Team (Hannibal = leader, Face = fixer, and BA =muscle). It also led me to add a fourth wheel.

In the TV show, Michael is uber-competent, and he builds a lot of the cobbled together devices the team uses. In a game, no character should outshine the other, so the techie/builder role of Michael becomes a separate role, kind of an “expert” or techie.

These basic four roles are consistent through all the campaigns I dreamed up. They vary slightly (the techie role in fantasy and Victorian because more of a craftsman/jack-of-all-trades), but they are present in all.

Next, Burn Notice as a fantasy campaign.

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  1. not a d20 Modern setting? This is what I want to run it as..

  2. I did do a modern BN seed (http://swordsedgepublishing.ca/?p=30) but tweaked it. BN out of the box makes an awesome modern campaign.

  3. I’m going to be running a sci-fi version in GURPS soon. The PCs will all have nanites in their blood that will allow them to download whatever skills they need for that mission (they aren’t starting the campaign burned, they wouldn’t be given the highly expensive and experimental nanites otherwise, but who knows where the campaign will lead – I certainly never do). The nanites will also have other functions, but I haven’t finalized that list yet, but injecting a few into a computer to function as a wireless hacking interface is one of my favorite options. The game will otherwise be set in the present, or possibly the near future.

    We flatly refuse to allow players to play canon characters (other than from their own canons, of course), so they won’t actually be Mike & Co., just as you suggest. But your breakdown of the characters, including splitting Westen into two, will help a lot with creating their NPC entourage.

    There’s a great article called “Gaming the Movies: Burn Notice” in Knights of the Dinner Table #160 (the one with the Transformers-inspired cover). It’s a highly useful two-and-a-half pages of advice on running Burn Notice campaigns. My only complaint is that it’s about running actual BN instead of about running a BN-inspired campaign, but it’s still chock full of helpful advice.

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