Are you into secret-agent RPGs?

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Do you play or GM secret-agent or clandestine-action RPGs without fantasy elements or an SF setting?


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I just watched an interview with Dabney Coleman from when he got his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and he said he still had fathers and sons coming to him about how influential Cloak & Dagger was to their relationship with their dad/son.
 
I played some Top Secret/S.I. back in the day. I think one of the tougher hurdles is the solo play versus crew transition. Most popular action-espionage media either have a superspy, or one superspy and the terrified person being dragged along. There are fewer crews depicted, which means for an RPG, some of the better campaigns will resemble caper movies rather than 007 films in structure. The genre can range from talkie psychological thrillers to covert para-military operations, all with a lot of potential for play.

For me, probably the strongest draw would be a French Resistance game. Nazis, modern but not ulta-tech, some really tough and sneaky characters, political and ethical ambiguities in the leadership.
 
I agree that duet games (one GM and one Player) go with the espionage genre very well. I’ve played Top Secret 1E a few times duet and it works well for that. As you say team games always seem to end up being raids or capers. My favorite time period for espionage is by far the Cold War though.
 
For me, probably the strongest draw would be a French Resistance game. Nazis, modern but not ulta-tech, some really tough and sneaky characters, political and ethical ambiguities in the leadership.
I've run SOE/Resistance games using C7's World War Cthulhu and that works very well with the usual party structure game. Games using the later WWC Cold War have worked less well but were still loads of fun. My own favourite espionage period is that between the wars, mid to late 30's with the combination of Nazi's, refugees. stateless persons and spies all mashed together.
 
The closest that I've come to wanting to run this type of campaign is with Cryptomancer, though I would want to use a different system.
 
I played some Top Secret/S.I. back in the day. I think one of the tougher hurdles is the solo play versus crew transition. Most popular action-espionage media either have a superspy, or one superspy and the terrified person being dragged along. There are fewer crews depicted, which means for an RPG, some of the better campaigns will resemble caper movies rather than 007 films in structure. The genre can range from talkie psychological thrillers to covert para-military operations, all with a lot of potential for play.
While any movie of this type tends to focus on the lone hero, I think there are solid examples of team representation without falling fully into paramilitary action. The Mission: Impossible movie series has a superstar hero, but none of the movies are solo outings. The first is a team (although they die quickly), the second is mostly a solo affair, the third has a clear team, and 4-7 are all team affairs.

The TV shows Alias and Nikita also have clear heroes, but by season 3 of Alias, there is essentially a team. Nikita starts out as a duo, but is definitely a team by the end of season two.

Even something like The A-Team or The Losers - veering closer to "military" - have a clear team dynamic.

I think in gaming terms, your spy team just needs solid niche protection, and then missions that need a diversity of approaches to solve the problem.
 
I'll play the newer edition of Top Secret (New World Order) at cons. I prefer scenarios drawn from real world situations rather than over the top Bond action with organizations that acronym in capital letters and periods between letters.
 
I'll play the newer edition of Top Secret (New World Order) at cons. I prefer scenarios drawn from real world situations rather than over the top Bond action with organizations that acronym in capital letters and periods between letters.
Me too...but my players seemed a bit confused:grin:!
 
I'll play the newer edition of Top Secret (New World Order) at cons. I prefer scenarios drawn from real world situations rather than over the top Bond action with organizations that acronym in capital letters and periods between letters.
Love to have you in one of my games at a con. That is the type of mission I run. Origins, GaryCon, GameHoleCon, TotalCon, or U-Con.
 
I do love a good secret agent game, it's always been one of my favorite genres in any media. James Bond was one of my first RPGs and along with that I own Justice Inc., Ninjas and Superspies, Mercenaries Spies and Private Eyes, Nights Black Agents and Danger International all of which could all be used to run a secret-agent game...so I probably should, and I will, run one soon.
 
I don't want to derail the thread, but this looks interesting. Do you plan on having hand-drawn art, or will it all be photographic as on the preview page?
I did choose to do photographic art for this one because I thought it fit the mood better (since the game is explicitly inspired by movies and TV). I did start the project with hand-drawn art and it just wasn't working.

Thanks for looking into it!
 
I did start the project with hand-drawn art and it just wasn't working.

Understandable. I asked only because I'm thinking ahead to the inevitable moment I decide to print pages from the PDF (which I presume you'll include) and dealing with the images. Will you have a "barebones edition" to address that issue?

And if you haven't thought that far ahead, I won't blame you. :smile:
 
Understandable. I asked only because I'm thinking ahead to the inevitable moment I decide to print pages from the PDF (which I presume you'll include) and dealing with the images. Will you have a "barebones edition" to address that issue?

And if you haven't thought that far ahead, I won't blame you. :smile:
That is an excellent point that I will legitimately say I hadn't thought of. Since I pay for layout rather than doing it myself, let me find out what the expense would be to produce that. If it's not prohibitive (and/or the KS does very well), I'll do it.
 
Sorry to continue the thread drift, but I did think of something else. It *is* already planned for the book to have an appendix with all the "frequently used in play" stuff without any photos. That may address your concern in itself.
 
Anyone familiar with anything new regarding spy RPGs? I know the game I mentioned upthread, Double Zero, has been revised and has a lot of materials out now. I also know Shadow Ops is coming to Kickstarter soon, written by the guy behind the Fight! 2E.
Edit: ...and ninja'd by the author.
 
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I love Cold War spies. I played the original Top Secret but our game was post-Cold War and I was disappointed by that (as well as by the rules). I picked up the Chaosium Monograph Berlin '61, but still haven't played it.
 
Considering I’ve been writing about dead drops, number stations, hideouts, cells, heat and cyphers this week, you’d think so. Though I think it’s more technothriller.
 
Oh, OK; twist my arm.

The core system is most similar to Sentinel Comics (which was my primary inspiration), but I guess it shares some DNA with Cortex also. Skill Checks and Attack Checks are rolled with 3 dice: your Attribute, your Skill, and your Stress die. Normally, you are looking at the center die for the result, but many circumstances might require you to look at the highest die or the lowest die instead.

There is no setting in the book. Instead, there are a lot of guidelines for how to build a setting that works best for the genre of the game. As noted in posts above, it is a more action-oriented spy game. In fact, I note explicitly that the kinds of actions the game is designed to emulate would actually mean you were a pretty poor spy! But I think explosions are more fun than forensic data analysis.

One of the strongly suggested elements of any setting is that the agents (i.e., the PCs) have a reason to be persistently paranoid. In my current campaign, the agents were burned in the first session and have been on the run from their former employers ever since. In another game, the agents were undercover in an enemy organization.

I have attached a character sheet that could provoke further questions. Important note: This is not the "official" character sheet for the game. This is something I threw together in Word to use in playtests. The official sheet hasn't been designed yet. I want to stress this because I know some people judge whether or not they'll even look at a game based on the character sheet!

Finally, if they should be split off into a new thread, I'm happy to do that.
 

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Oh, OK; twist my arm.
Well, you are the author of a game called Fight! The Fighting Game RPG...::honkhonk:


twisting-arm.jpg
 
Finally, if they should be split off into a new thread, I'm happy to do that.
I'd be happy to see it. :smile:

And I think that you would get more appropriate attention under a specific heading. I'd guess that a lot of the new-game and system junkies aren't reading this thread but would read one about a new spy-fi game.
 
Played the original Top Secret and James Bond games--loved both of those but it's been a long spell. What current games like this are out there these days?
 
Played the original Top Secret and James Bond games--loved both of those but it's been a long spell. What current games like this are out there these days?

As you loved James Bond 007, I would suggest Classified, which is a mechanical retroclone with modern weapons and vehicles and other minor updates.
 
Classified makes positive changes that are so obviously simple (in hindsight). Like reducing the points in character creation. It simplifies the math and doesn't affect the game negatively.
 
Double Zero by Lightspress Media has a really cool treatment of the James Bond 007 ruleset, as well. I really like the dice mechanic for Double Zero. The way the author reworked the die mechanic, you no longer need the tables.
 
Double Zero by Lightspress Media has a really cool treatment of the James Bond 007 ruleset, as well. I really like the dice mechanic for Double Zero. The way the author reworked the die mechanic, you no longer need the tables.
A game without tables is like a day without sunshine



I kid, I know some people prefer to play without tables and it is cool there are options for both camps.
 
Double Zero by Lightspress Media has a really cool treatment of the James Bond 007 ruleset, as well. I really like the dice mechanic for Double Zero. The way the author reworked the die mechanic, you no longer need the tables.
I really dislike it. You can't get marginal ("acceptable") successes on difficult tasks— if the task is difficult all successes are "standard" to excellent.

On easy tasks you can succeed on a multiple of five, getting an "acceptable" result, or with a good roll you can get better results. But on the hardest tasks only a multiple of one succeeds, which means that, although you often fail, whenever you do succeed the result is "excellent": double damage on an attack etc.

So for example a Double Zero character with a Dexterity of 13 takes a shot with a pistol at Hardest difficulty. On a roll of 01-13 they get an Excellent (double rolled damage), and on a 14–00 they fail.

Whereas if a James Bond 007 character with a Fire Combat PCS of 13 takes a shot at EF 1, on a 01–02 they get a QR1 (damage about half of damage class), on 03 they get QR2 (damage about 45% of damage class), on 04-07 they get QR3 (damage about a third of damage class), on a 08-13 they get QR4 (damage about a quarter of damage class), and on a 14–00 they fail.
 
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