Eye in the Sky

First playtest at LARP HOUSE, Minneapolis, 4 October 2019
Running at The Smoke 2020, 10-12 January 2020

6-7 players, 4 hours (including debrief)
by Malcolm Campbell.

The Premise

A British-led intelligence operation close to the border of Pakistan is using an American drone for overwatch. Players are military, legal and political decision makers for either the British or American team. The optional 7th player is an unexpected observer from the Pakistan embassy. How will they all cope when the mission changes and their rules of engagement are no longer clear?

The game is an exploration of the morality and effectiveness of using drones as a weapon of war. Different characters will have different ethical concerns about when and how to use drone weapons, and those will be tested as events unfold.

The leaders of a joint British-American intelligence operation are sitting in a room in a secure location in England, remotely directing the operation by issuing orders to British agents on the ground, local military units, or the American drone on overwatch.

Themes

This game includes themes of drone warfare in Pakistan, terrorism, threats to civilians (possibly including children), and political/miltary ethics. Some small changes can be made to the storyline in advance, but in general if these themes are difficult for you, this might not be the right game for you to play.

There are no sexual assault themes in this game and players will be asked not to introduce them, even off-screen.

Play Style

The game begins with a workshop in which players select character templates and complete them, also working with each other to determine past relationships between the characters.

During the course of the game, the players will work down a stack of cards which depict events unfolding on the ground in Pakistan. Orders they issue to the drone or agents on the ground result in cards being added to, to removed from the deck – so there is a delay between issuing orders and actions resulting.
There are branch points within the deck of events, so player actions can significantly alter story flow. Tension and moral ambiguity rises through the story until the characters must use lethal force – or choose not to.

The game ends when the last card is drawn from the deck, or when players decide to launch weapons from the drone.

We’ll wrap up the game by jointly deciding what the consequences of the characters action, or inaction, are – and then discussing some context on the history and ethics of drone warfare in Pakistan.

Game Resources