The handler of handlers, moving spies about all over the world. Often The Chessmaster
. Typically he is cold and dour, though sometimes he has a heart of gold. Easily made a villain though sometimes at least an antihero. Few main protagonists are Spymasters. The reason, of course, is that the hero has to be where "the action" is. Which is seldom in an office.
Compare Knowledge Broker
for when the Spymaster is operating freelance.
Religion and Myth
- Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III, Code Name "Archangel" in Airwolf. It is stated in the fluff that he is able to "move the Sixth Fleet". Which is a mistake, because that happens to be whatever is in the Mediterranean at the time, not a specific carrier group.
- Alias had a villainous example in Arvin Sloane, and heroic examples in Jack Bristow and Marcus Dixon.
- Babylon 5:
- It's easy to forget that whoever happened to be in charge of the Rangers at any particular time had this as their primary mission, until the Shadow War broke out and the Rangers was remade into a Badass Army.
- To a lesser extent, Commander Ivonova sometimes filled this role, gathering information from different sources for Captain Sheridan, in line with her role as the station's Executive Officer.
- And in the last season, Micheal Garibaldi, then later Tessa Holloran filled this role for the Interstellar Alliance.
- G'Kar also did this for the Narn Resistance. Needless to say, with Babylon 5 pretty much being a City of Spies, you run into a lot of characters being The Spymaster for various governments and organizations over the years.
- The Ancient in Beastmaster knows all there was, is and will be (he makes reference to humanity's future). He teaches this in a lesser extent to his sorcerers, who he gives a magic crystal ball to see anything they please, item which apparently he doesn't need to see himself.
- "Management" from Burn Notice (probably- we still don't know all that much about them...)
- Colonel Hunter from Callan.
- Chuck has General Beckman.
- "Control", Robert McCall's former boss in The Equalizer.
- The Chief in Get Smart.
- Mary Spalding on Intelligence.
- Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock
- Clayton Webb on JAG was this. He was also a chessmaster.
- Mr Waverly in The Man From UNCLE.
- In The Sandbaggers, Neil Burnside is a rare example where the spymaster is the protagonist. Of course the focus of the show was on the strategic side of espionage, so it fits.
- Harry Pearce in Spooks.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enabran Tain, the only head of the Obsidian Order to ever survive long enough to retire. When the Dominion decided to crush the Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar as a prelude to invading the Alpha Quadrant, they lured him out of retirement to destroy him as well: even in retirement he was simply too dangerous and powerful to ignore.
- Forgotten Realms has a lot of Cloak and Dagger stuff. The most interesting case is Inselm Hhune, a member of Knights of the Shield inner circle. For supporting Tethyr's new queen he was given a duchy not requiring much ruling and the post of spymaster. The fun part is that Lord Hhune quietly hates his king (he planned to marry the queen himself), but knows that Haedrak works with Harpers opposing his semi-secret society and got more than enough damning information on him. Since he has no clear idea how much the king is aware of his personal spy network, Lord Hhune just to be on the safe side surrenders more information that he'd like to, which in turn raises the risk of infiltration.
- Caius Cosades from The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind is the local Blades (Tamriel's CIA) Spymaster. Normally, he poses as a stoner.
- Bonus points for "spymaster" literally being the name of his rank within the organization.
- The announcer in Team Fortress 2 is this to her respective team, and possibly the instigator of the battle since her voice sounds the same for both sides (which isn't out of place in the game).
- It has been recently confirmed that the announcer is indeed controlling both sides of the war, and goes so far as to cause a war-like battle between two enemies who became friends, simply to keep that fact a secret.
- Guild Wars' Nightfall campaign introduces the Order of Whispers, a secret organization tasked to watch against evil, and the return of a certain forgotten god in particular. Their Crazy-Prepared leader is known only as The Master of Whispers. Lucky for you, he's also a Badass Grandpa - he joins your team once the time comes to stop spying and start kicking ass.
- In World of Warcraft we have Mathias Shaw, leader of both SI:7, the Kingdom of Stormwind's intelligence agency, and the more secretive and morally grey Stormwind Assassins.
- Fallout New Vegas has Vulpes Inculta as the leader of the Frumentarii, who doesn't exactly conform to the trope as he's often afield and being directly involved in the actions he commands.
- As of version 1.2, the Van Graffs are heavily implied to have shades of this, as if you complete Cass' quest the "good" way, they somehow realize you were the one who exposed their plots to the NCR and become permanently hostile.
- Radiant Historia has Heiss, head of Specint, which deals in espionage and other sneaky business. Specint's existence is not a secret, and interestingly there is some tension between them and the army.
- Varric Tethras is referred as "Dwarven Spymaster" in Dragon Age II, though it can be a borderline Informed Ability since you don't actually see him do any spying or intelligence-gathering (which kinda means he is just that good). In fact, he has a veritable spy network spanning Kirkwall to gather intelligence first for the Dwarven Merchant Guild and his merchant brother, then for Hawke.
- You do get a few hints, mostly just those few people that were just leaving as you came in to talk to him.
- In the later parts of the first Neverwinter Nights, a female Player Character can strike up a romance with Lord Nasher's spymaster, who is given a surprisingly complete backstory but nevertheless has approximately zero actual influence on the plot.
- Yancy Westridge and Albatross in Alpha Protocol (the former runs the eponymous Government Conspiracy, the latter runs The Conspiracy).
- In Crusader Kings there are five council positions: Chancellor, Marshal, Steward, Lord Spiritual and Spymaster. Having a better spymaster than your enemies is crucial to discover plots and execute your own.
- Produce enough Spies in a Total War campaign and your faction leader might pick up a Spymaster as part of his Standard Royal Court. Though this does provide a global bonus to your espionage efforts, such tactics will increase your leader's Dread rating.
- This page might as well have the picture of Markus Wolf of STASI/HVA on top of it.
- Stewart Menzies of the British Secret Service was like the classic Spymaster of fiction too. Somehow the profession just seems to breed people like that.
- Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the first head of the Secret Intelligence Service, whose particular party trick involved stabbing his false leg with a penknife. To this day heads of SIS are called "C".
- Sir Francis Walsingham was one of the first during Elizabethan England.
- "Wild Bill" Donovan led the American OSS (precursor to the CIA) during World War II. As his nickname suggests, he was anything but cold, dour, or reserved — essentially he was the Boisterous Bruiser running a spy agency.
- Alan Dulles, a somewhat stiff Boston Brahmin was Chief of Station for the OSS in Switzerland and later boss of the CIA. One of his curious tactics during World War II was to make it as obvious who he was as he could and then wait for recruits to show up. Interestingly that worked quite well and he got one or two very useful moles.
- In the USSR, being head of the KGB made you pretty powerful. Beriya made a power-grab after Stalin's death and lost, being executed. Yuri Andropov won, spending two years as General Secretary before dying.
- J. Edgar Hoover.
- Benjamin Franklin. When he returned from France after The American Revolution Congress did an audit of his expenses. When asked about some money that was missing Franklin replied effectively that they didn't want to know. Likely at least some of that was money he had spent on intrigue and strange doings.
- Chances are that at least some of that money went to him financing his pirate fleet. Yes, Ben Franklin hired out pirates on the British, you can't make that up. Sadly, it... didn't work out for a number of reasons.
- On that same note, George Washington skirts this trope. He was known for actively deploying spies during The American Revolution to bring him back information about the British on top of his role as Four Star Badass. In a case of self-lampshading, however, it got to the point that juggling both these responsibilities became a bit overwhelming, and wrote back to a spy who sent him a report apologizing for forgetting who he was and what he was doing, and could he please reiterate his mission.
- Isser Harel, the second director of Mossad (full translated title: Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations) and the Shin Bet (usually translated as the Israel Security Agency), was one of these. He was also quite nebbish and his personal life was dominated by his wife. The story goes that his neighbors thought he was a mid-level bank employee, rather than one of the most powerful men in Israel.
- In World War II, Winston Churchill had William Stephenson as his spymaster, better known by his Code Name, Intrepid.