In Altered States, my alt-history technothriller Shadowrun campaign, Player Characters are Intelligence Officers and Special Forces “Operators” working for the mysterious Office for Strategic Analysis. The OSA serves as a campaign patron, offering material support, intelligence, and mission assignments for the party. (For example, the “in-game” campaign background documents, complete with classic Shadowrun-style annotations, are excerpted from OSA briefings.)
The reasons for this are two-fold. First, in the genre most protagonists work for some sort of intelligence organization. Jack Ryan (from Tom Clancy’s novels) works for the CIA, James Bond for Britain’s MI6, the protagonists of Harold Coyle’s novels work mainly for the military.
Second, the nature of the campaign requires some sort of support network. If ordered to India, the players need contacts, information, and equipment, and a patron organization is best suited to provide it. In this game, the OSA replaces the grab bag of “Mr. Johnsons” seen in Shadowrun.
As an agency, the OSA us uniquely suited to that purpose. It’s a multi-function agency, specializing in gathering and analyzing intelligence, making strategic projections, dispatching covert special forces units (akin to the CIA’s Special Operations Group), and even providing financial support to special research projects (much like DARPA). Its multiple operations are designed to provide Special Officers (including the PC’s) with the support they need to carry out dangerous missions around the globe.
The OSA is much less bureaucratic than the modern CIA, NSA, or Department of Homeland Security. In spirit it calls back to WWII’s Office of Strategic Services under “Wild Bill” Donovan, and it carries out many of the same functions. (In fact the name of the agency is a deliberate name check of the OSS.)
I must also confess that the OSA takes specific inspiration from the Department of Military Sciences in Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series. The nature of the DMS is perfectly suited to a technothriller campaign, and I borrowed elements and ideas freely. The OSA also bears some similarities to Clancy’s “Campus”, from his later books featuring Jack Ryan, Jr.
That said, the OSA is entirely my creation, and errors in the forthcoming writeup are entirely mine. No blame falls on either Clancy or Maberry on that front.