Cyclopaedia 10: Espionage

Welcome to Cyclopaedia 10: EspionageCyclopaedia is a monthly article on the InnRoads Ministries website as part of the Resources series.  As a kid, I grew up watching Get SmartMacGyverMission ImpossibleSix Million Dollar Man, and Wild Wild West. I also tried to watch James Bond movies whenever they were on TV with Sean Connery being my favorite bond. I loved watching spy shows to see all the cool gadgets, learn about international locations, and to revel in the suspense of how the agent would get out of yet another dire situation. In high school, I sought out Ian Fleming‘s James Bond books and became so enamored by the stories that I read every book in the series over one summer. Just thinking about espionage stories brings the song Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers into my head, in fact I am humming along to it as I write this intro. Early in my roleplaying hobby, I was introduced to the James Bond 007 and Top Secret RPGs which filled many evenings with saving the world from super villains and evil organizations. Now I enjoy modern spy thrillers of cinema and literature and board games with espionage themes. So let’s lead a life of danger!

If you have questions about this article or topics you would like me to consider researching for future Cyclopaedia articles, please leave a comment below.



Espionage, sometimes simply called spying, focuses on obtaining secret information in the service of a government, for a company, or independently. Colloquially, it is called the second oldest profession. While the real world work of espionage can be dangerous and spectacular, the day-to-day nature of it can also be rather boring research, surveillance, and meeting contacts. Literature and cinema have glorified and romanticized the work of spies and intelligence agencies expanding upon their clandestine missions, infiltration, sabotage, intelligence gathering, assassination, and super technology…plus adding super villains, secret societies and organizations, and massive hidden bases.

Spying is an ancient art. The Christian Bible talks of Joshua, Caleb, and ten other spies entering the Promised Land. Sun-Tau writes of deception and subversion in his Art of War. Most early empires utilized spies to expand and succeed in their conquests. Military intelligence has been the key to knowing the enemy and triumphing in war. Today, government agencies are devoted to intelligence gathering and some corporations fund and support industrial espionage.

The modern spy novel really came of its own in the 19th century, developed during the World Wars, and gained prominence during the Cold War. Cinema quickly jumped into spy stories even in the silent era because of fears of the Great War. The Cold War of the 1960s brought spy literature and films to their peak. From serious political thrillers to farcical over-the-top romanticized comedies, spies were everywhere. Books, TV Shows, and Movies each had their famous spy of choice who became household names (Agent 99, James Bond, Matt Helm, Emma Peel, Jim Phelps, Maxwell Smart, Napoleon Solo, John Steed, Simon Templar, etc.).

The political unrest and threat of terrorism today breed renewed interest in espionage, in the news and as entertainment.

Espionage Story Elements

Spy stories can be realistic or fantasy-based, but they often have common elements we recognize quickly that draw us in. These elements are based in reality but can quickly veer into the world of science fiction.

  • Acronyms
  • Agencies
  • Evil Organizations
  • Exotic Locales
  • Gadgets
  • Global Threats
  • Hidden Bases
  • Super Spies
  • Villains

Following are sources of information pertaining to Espionage to assist prospective game masters, game designers, writers, and storytellers in knowing where to start their research.



One Fight, One Team: The 9/11 Commission Report on Intelligence, Fragmentation and Information
By de Bruin, Hans
Source: Public Administration, v84 n2 (June 2006): 267-287

Whether Spies Too Can Be Saved
By Cole, Darrell
Source: Journal of Religious Ethics, v36 n1 (March 2008): 125-154



Above Suspicion
By McInnes, Helen

by Maugham, Somerset

Assignment to Disaster
By Aarons, Edward

The Bourne Identity
by Ludlum, Robert

Casino Royale
By Fleming, Ian

The Day of the Jackal
By Forsyth, Frederick

Death of a Citizen
By Hamilton, Donald

East of Farewell
By Hunt, E. Howard

Eye of the Needle
By Follet, Ken

Flight of the Intruder
By Coonts, Stephen

The Hunt for Red October
By Clancy, Tom

The Impossible Virgin
By O’Donnell, Peter

By Deighton, Len

The Manchurian Candidate
By Condon, Richard

The Mystery of Tunnel 51
By Wilson, Alexander

Night Soldiers
By Furst, Alan

Operation Mincemeat
By Macintyre, Ben

Our Man in Havana
By Green, Graham

The Riddle of the Sands
By Childers, Robert

Run, Spy, Run
By Avallone, Michael and Moolman, Valerie

The Scarlet Pimpernel
By Orczy, Baroness

Second Ministry
By Cory, Desmond

The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century
By Knightley, Phillip

The Secret Agent
By Conrad, Joseph

Secrets, Lies, Gizmos and Spies: A History of Spies and Espionage
By Coleman, Janet Wyman

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
By le Carré’, John,

The Thirty-Nine Steps
By Buchan, John

Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy
By le Carré’, John



1955: The War of Espionage – Tabletop Game
Ace of Spies – Tabletop Games
Agents of Oblivion – RPG
Agents of SMERSH – Tabletop Game
Agents of S.W.I.N.G. – RPG
City of Spies: Estoril 1942 – Tabletop Game
Cold War: CIA vs KGB – Tabletop Game
Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War – Tabletop Game
Conspiracy – Tabletop Game
Conspiracy X – RPG
Covert – Tabletop Game
Danger International – RPG
Espionage! – RPG
GoldenEye – Computer Game
Inkognito – Tabletop Game
James Bond 007 – RPG
Leverage – RPG
The Laundry – RPG
Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes – RPG
Metal Gear Solid – Computer Game
Night’s Black Agents – RPG
Ninjas & Superspies – RPG
No One Lives Forever – Computer Game
Over the Edge – RPG
The Resistance – Tabletop Game
Spector Ops – Tabletop Game
Spies! – Tabletop Game
Splinter Cell – Computer Game
Spycraft – RPG
Spy Hunter –  – Computer Game
Spy or Die Trying – Tabletop Game
Top Secret – RPG



24 – TV Show
39 Steps
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – TV Show
Alias – TV Show
The Americans – TV Show
Archer – Cartoon
Austin Powers
The Avengers – TV Show/Movie
The Bionic Woman – TV Show
Bourne Identity
Bridge of Spies
Burn Notice – TV Show
Casino Royale
Chuck – TV Show
Covert Affairs – TV Show
Danger Man/Secret Agent Man – TV Show
Dark Angel – TV Show
Despicable Me 2
Dollhouse – TV Show
Get Smart – TV Show/Movie
Homeland – TV Show
I Spy – TV Show
Jake 2.0 – TV Show
James Bond movies
La Femme Nikita – TV Show
MacGyver – TV Show
The Manchurian Candidate
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – TV Show/Movie
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Man With One Red Shoe
Mission: Impossible – TV Show/Movies
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
North By Northwest
No Way Out
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
Patriot Games
The Prisoner – TV Show
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
The Saint – TV Show
Scarecrow and Mrs. King – TV Show
The Scarlet Pimpernel
She Spies – TV Show
The Silencers
The Six Million Dollar Man – TV Show
Spies Like Us
Spooks – TV Show
Spy Game
Spy Kids
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Three Days of the Condor
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
True Lies
Vantage Point
Wild Wild West – TV Show
Zero Dark Thirty



CIA Headquarters Tour

Churchill War Rooms

International Spy Museum


Spy Museum Berlin



Robert Baden-Powell
James Bond
Belle Boyd
Giacomo Casanova
Julia Child
Sean Connery
Mansfield Cumming
William J. Donovan
Fritz Joubert Duquesne
Ian Fleming
Nathan Hale
Mata Hari
William Melville
Roger Moore
Kim Philby
Sidney Reilly
The Rosenbergs
Allan Pinkteron
William Stephenson
Elizabeth Van Lew

I hope you find these resources informative and inspiring for your adventures, storytelling, or game design.

Stay Creative!

T.R. Knight

( If you would like to save this list of resources as a convenient PDF for later reference, you can find that HERE )


He is a freelance editor, proofreader, and writer in the game industry. He is also a Husband and Caregiver to his wife Angie, Father of Twins Emily and Rachel, Foodie and Hobby Chef, and Director of Academic Technology/Associate CIO at Taylor University. You can learn more about T.R. at his blog

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