The Moscow Rules

From Wikipedia

The Moscow rules are rules-of-thumb said to have been developed during the Cold War to be used by spies and others working in Moscow.

The rules are associated with Moscow because the city developed a reputation as being a particularly harsh locale for clandestine operatives who were exposed. The list may never have existed as written.

I can see the rules being renamed as “The Terra Rules” (or “Home Rules” after Terra was taken by the Imperium), “Capital Rules” (for SolSec Agents), or even “Zhodane Rules”.

Quick double-take at “…to be used by spies and others working in Moscow.” I find that little addendum intriguing. With the serial numbers filed off, it could be the basis of a very interesting Traveller campaign!

Agent Tony Mendez wrote:

Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood for conducting operations in the most difficult of operating environments: the Soviet capital. By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense.[1]

In the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., the Moscow Rules are given as:[2]


Assume nothing.
Never go against your gut.
Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
Do not look back; you are never completely alone.
Go with the flow, blend in.
Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
Lull them into a sense of complacency.
Do not harass the opposition.
Pick the time and place for action.
Keep your options open.

Surprisingly useful, even for several non-covert Traveller campaigns. The ones I put in bold looks particularly useful for a small PC crew on a mission, working far from home, preferring to keep a low profile and avoid making (additional) enemies unnecessarily.

“Assume nothing.” has all sorts of great non-lethal applications, and does well even in low-powered, low-danger, strongly pro-social Traveller campaigns. Definitely my favourite in the list!










Other rules which have been circulated around the Internet and used in fiction include:


Murphy is right. (i.e., “What can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.”)
Any operation can be aborted. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
Maintain a natural pace.
Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. (Borrowed from Muhammad Ali.)
There is no limit to a human being’s ability to rationalize the truth.
Technology will always let you down.
Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is an enemy action. (Taken from Ian Fleming‘s novel Goldfinger)
Do not attract attention, even by being overly careful.

“Any operation can be aborted. If it feels wrong, it is wrong,” feels perfect in my mind.

“Technology will always let you down” can make a grown man cry, sometimes. In a setting as dependent on good tech as Traveller is, there should be entire fiction genres based on tech problems!

“Do not attract attention, even by being overly careful” — this is the only rule that isn’t always useful, everywhere. There will be times when you want the enemy/mark/bad guys to look at you… and not at a certain sneaky someone, slippimg into position.









About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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