I had an interesting thought this morning, while I was pondering spies, intelligence agencies, lawyers, and law enforcement. Arkham Horror uses Clue tokens as a game resource (necessary for achieving one of the main victory types), and they represent an ongoing investigation into the goings-on in Arkham.

But what if the idea were taken a step further? What if information itself could be considered an abstract resource, like money? It could be bought, sold, traded, and spent. Spies protect or steal important information, while others make it, store it, and convert it into other commodities. It’s only valuable under the right circumstances.

Sometimes data is records about the movement of products, or the payroll of all the employees in a rival corporation, and sometimes it’s the exploits of an adventurer (whether good or ill). Sometimes that information is Smaug’s missing scale, and sometimes it’s the location of the lich’s phylactery where he stores his life force.

So, what if information were a separate resource that could be handled just like wealth, using similar rules (if not the same)? I mean, sometimes you can bribe a monster in the dungeon (however rare an occurrence that might be) and at other times you may be able to talk your way out with just the right kind of information.

How do you gain information? How do you make, buy, sell, or trade information? If you’re in trouble, how do you use it, fake it, or destroy it? When it’s the key to your survival, how do you protect it? When you’re hired, how do you steal information? Does information require special transportation? Handling procedures?

Cryptography, translating from Greek to mean “secret writing,” is the study and/or practice of hiding and moving information. Often (not just on television), the most effective way of exploiting some secret info is to keep it secret after learning it, and then act on it with no one knowing you know it. Ah, the fine art of deception.

But how do you make the stock and trade of spy thrillers playable in a casual game without huge amounts of preparation? How do you roleplay it? Good question.