When you’re a spy, your job is your life— literally. You have no friends who aren’t expendable, no ID that’s not fake, no possessions except those that can be stuffed in a suitcase or left behind without a thought. But when you’ve been blacklisted, with your assets frozen and passports flagged, you lose everything, and everything changes. Your training tells you a couple things: find a place to lay low, figure out who you can rely on or exploit, and do whatever it takes to get back in.
But you don’t have a wealth of developed assets any more: you don’t have a network of co-workers and false identities and owed favors. All you have, all you are, is you. So you make nice with the few people who’ll have you, and rely on them more than you should— but if you’re too cold or uncaring, they’ll turn on you. And if you care too much, the people who are after you will exploit them to hurt you. And if you cared about them at all, you wouldn’t care about them even a little.
When you love a spy, whether it’s your boyfriend or daughter or army buddy or brother, it’s like being a member of a religion you didn’t sign up for. You’re just supposed to trust them: when you don’t know what’s going on, when you’re being lied to, when you see the person you care about act like a monster— you’re supposed to believe. And you have to believe, because a crisis of faith could mean damnation for both of you. You have to assume the best intentions, because if you blow his cover or undo her handiwork, you could both die.
But as much as your boyfriend or daughter or army buddy or brother might play God, it’s your job to bring them back to humanity. It’s been a long time since they’ve felt truly loved, and without someone to care about you, right and wrong becomes awfully blurry. When you’re paid to play a monster, sometimes the role catches up with you— so they need you. You need to believe in your loved one so that no one dies, and you need to be vigilant so that they keep their soul. And just hope to God you don’t get broken in the process.
Blowback is a game where you play spies blacklisted after a job goes awry, and the people who care about them. You can play this game with 3-5 people, and while playing it as a single game session is fun, it’s designed for long term play. It’s heavily inspired by the American television show Burn Notice and movies like the Bourne trilogy. As much as Blowback is about pyrotechnics and car chases, it’s a fish-out-of-water premise: spies stranded without their agency, normal people swept up in intrigue. And, like all multiplayer games, it’s about relationships— how much can you ask of someone, how much can you disappoint them before they turn their back on you?
76 pages, full color, 9x7 PDF.